New Guinea: A researcher strives to uncover the lost history of the 19th century black settlement of Auburn

The Cayuga County Historian’s Office is working to uncover more details about New Guinea, the early 19th-century Auburn settlement founded by free blacks.

The Historian’s Office review is being conducted concurrently with a historical review commissioned by the City of Auburn. The city’s review was ordered after hearing a proposal to build a parking lot at the former New Guinea site, according to The Citizen.

The Historian’s Office review is led by Jessica Armstrong, a research assistant who decided to delve into the history of the colony in hopes of learning more about the community and its people.

The settlement covered both sides of Osborne Street, then known as Mechanic Street. There is only one extant map, created in 1837, which shows the name of the colony as “New Guinea: Colony of Negroes” with seven black squares which appear to represent houses.

Harry and Kate Freeman would be the founders of New Guinea. The Freemans were probably enslaved in the Guinean region of West Africa at some point, hence the name of the colony. They arrived in the area that would become Auburn in 1793 with Auburn’s founder, Colonel John Hardenbergh.

One resident, Larry Leubner, spoke out against the proposal to build a parking lot at 118 Osborne Street at the March 1 planning council meeting. He suggested the city buy the land and turn it into a public park.

The State Historic Preservation Office is currently conducting a review of the site.

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