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Catherine Dickes Harris

Born on 6-1-1809. She was born in Meadville, PA. She later died on 2-12-1907.
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Catherine Dickes was born June 10, 1809 on a farm near Meadville, Pa. At age 19, she married her husband, an Erie, Pa. man. They came to Jamestown in 1831. They built a small house at what later became 12 West Seventh St. Mrs. Harris' was a tall and slender with a refined and intelligent face. She was a woman of a peculiarly sunny and happy disposition, generous, thoughtful and unselfish." She was well known in the community for her skills as a natural doctor, nurse and midwife. The house at 12 West Seventh grew over the years, with additions being built as necessity dictated. Today's house bears little or no resemblance to the original. However, the role played by that original little house is not forgotten. Although only 16 feet in length, it is maintained that Mrs. Harris could hide as many as 17 runaway slaves at one time in the attic.

During the years preceding the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, she harbored untold numbers of runaway slaves, furnishing food and medical care as well as refuge. Defying the Fugitive Slave Law, she risked fines of $1,000 and up to six months in prison to help her fellow man. Unmindful of her own safety, she played the deadly game of hide and seek, one of the few blacks in the United States to maintain a station on the torturous trip between the southern states and Canada.

In 1881, 17 years after the close of the Civil War, the little house served as the site for the birth of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Jamestown, where most of the city's 120 blacks who attended were freedom-seekers. Catherine Harris died Feb. 12, 1907, nearly 98 years of age. She had been active up to the last few weeks before her death from pneumonia.

I chose Catherine Harris because, one day I was visiting my grandmother and on her refrigerator she had a magnate of a lady, and I asked her who it was. She told me that it was Catharine Harris, and from that day on I was interested in who this lady was. The Uncrowned Queens essay contest allowed me to educate myself on the importance this magnificent women had on Western New York.

1st Place, Grades 7-9
Nicholas Grazes
Grade 7, Native American Magnet