Cato Freedom Historical Marker Unveiling Planned for May, 2017

Content by Deb Mackenzie

On May 20th, 2017, at 1 p.m. an ad hoc group, spear-headed by the Otsego County Historical Association, will unveil a historical marker commemorating Cato Freedom.   The group is a collaboration between the county historical association, the Oneonta Chapter of the NAACP, Hartwick College's US Colored Troops Institute, the Butternut Valley Cemetery, the Burlington Town Board and interested others.   Individual donations were obtained through a strong marketing campaign that involved displays in several town businesses, historical presentations for town/county groups and the distribution of nearly 300 free Otsego County Historical Marker books at local hardware and grocery stores.

Cato Freedom (Freeman) was brought here from Africa.  He gained his freedom by fighting in the Revolutionary War.   After continuing his service following the close of the war, he purchased a farm in Burlington, NY with his soldier's pension.   It is believed that he came to area with fellow soldiers from the same Connecticut regimen in which he served.   Along with his wife and one of two daughters, Cato is buried in the Butternut Valley Cemetery on County Route 16, Burlington.   It is through the work of Dr. Harry Matthews, Director of the U.S. Colored Troops Institute, that the story of Cato was rediscovered.   The historical marker will be located in the Butternut Valley Cemetery.

While little is known of the man specifically, the ceremony will focus on those elements of his story which are particularly transcending.   A local veteran's group will present "the colors".   Deb Mackenzie  (President of the Otsego County Historical Association), Dr. Harry Matthews and Lee Fisher (President of the Oneonta Chapter of the NAACP) will each speak.   A trumpeter from the local school district will perform Taps at the conclusion of the event.   Guests may enjoy refreshments catered by the nearby Pathfinder Village Bakery.   (Pathfinder Village is planned community for individuals with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.)   The unveiling ceremony is free and open to all. 

For more information, contact:
Deb Mackenzie
Otsego County Historical Association
PO Box 25
Hartwick, NY 13348
607-547-6564 (day/work)
607-293-6635 (evening)