William Storum – Bicentennial Biography No. 25

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.

Hundreds of Runaway Slaves came through Chautauqua County on their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad. The Storum farm in Busti was a well documented stop.

The history of the Underground Railroad in Busti is associated with the efforts of several men, most significantly, William Storum. The Storum farm was located on Sanbury Rd., about a mile to the southwest of Busti corners.

A free black man, William Storum came from Connecticut and his wife, Sarah, came from Massachusetts. The Storums had eight children, three sons and five daughters. Their family was held in high esteem by their neighbors and the community. Their farm was a stop on the Underground Railroad and used to aid, hide, and assist runaway slaves on their way to Canada.

One of the Storum’s daughters, Catherine Storum, married Lewis Clark on February 25, 1860. Clark was a runaway slave himself and he gained fame as a writer, lecturer, and abolitionist. Harriet Beecher Stowe used his life to develop her character George Harris of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” One of the Storum’s granddaughter, Amelia, married the son of Frederick Douglass.

In 1850, Seven fugitive slaves from Virginia had reached Busti by way of the Underground Railroad. One of the slaves, Harrison Williams, decided to remain in Busti and work on the Storum Farm. In September, 1851, the owner of Williams from Virginia, a slave catcher, and Sheriff Cotton from Fredonia, caught Williams while he was outside milking a cow. It was the only time a runaway slave would be captured in Chautauqua County.

The Storums never left Busti. Sarah died in 1856 and William in the 1880s. They are lying in unmarked graves and their graves have not been found in any of the Busti cemeteries.

Ref: Albert S. Price – History of Chautauqua County, NY and its People; Town of Busti History – Underground Railroad

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– J. Sample

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