Women Who Made History – Part 2: Harriet Green

This is the second of a three-part series saluting extraordinary individuals who are representative of historic contributions the past three centuries made by countless women while living in our River Towns.  

Harriet Green is buried at Hillside Cemetery, on Oregon Road in the Town of Cortlandt. (Photo: Hillside Cemetery)

A Property Owner of Color Who Gave Comfort to Owned ‘Property’ 

Harriet Peterson Green (1816-1886) is one of the innumerable unsung heroines of color in our area. She was married to Hawley Green, a well-known businessman, real estate dealer, and owner of a barbershop on North Division Street in the City of Peekskill.  

Hawley and Harriet, free African Americans, opened their home at 1112 Main Street as a safe house on the Underground Railroad.  

Harriet Green’s life has not led to the kind of renown associated with other heroines of the era, most notably another Harriet (Tubman), but it was no less remarkable.  

Harriet Green risked her safety to protect and feed escaped slaves

She risked her safety to offer shelter and food to escaped slaves making their way to Canada. She also owned property in her own name at a time when it was rare for a woman to be a landowner, especially a woman of color.  

The signed deed agreement for 1112 Main Street in 1837 from James Brown, a member of a prominent antislavery Quaker family, reads: “…Executed to me by the said Hawley Green and Harriet his wife.”  

The couple went on to own several other properties in Peekskill as well as a land grant of 160 acres in upstate New York, which was four times the land given to other African-American abolitionists. That allowed Hawley to vote as a landowner.  

The Greens remained active participants in the Underground Railroad through the 1860s.  Their son, William, fought in the Civil War as a corporal in the heavy artillery regiment of the Union Army.  

The Greens’ headstones are located at Hillside Cemetery in Van Cortlandtville.


  1. Hello… you may be interested in a story about my Great Grandmother. Her name is Catherine Plant Deyo who at the age of 18 made a very courageous and pivotal move in her life which provided the backbone to who I am today. In the 1880’s in Gardiner, NY she fell in love with James Wesley Sampson, a mulatto. One major detail, is that she was white. In short, she used burnt cork to hide her whiteness and with the help of friends was able to ‘deceive’ the Reverend ( he wrote on the back of the marriage certificate… he was deceived by this white girl. This secret was told to me by Susan Stesson Cohn. I have newspaper articles as well as pictures. Growing up, we were not told of this scandal… and I did not know that my Great Grandmother was white. There are so many stories that collide with Grandmother Catherine’s, I would love to share with you.

    1. Hi Donna, thanks very much for sharing that intimate personal history with us. If we are able to pursue this, we will reply to you offline at the gmail address we see for you, OK?

  2. Hello, THANK YOU and others for putting together this article portraying Harriett, a woman of color, as the heroine she was. She and her family were a very important factor in the Peekskill Underground Railroad. They knew the risk that if caught, imprisonment or even enslavement could have been the result of assisting people involved and they could have lost everything they accomplished in a time where many thought of it as just an American dream. Just to add to the story, Harriett was a member of the Oneyota’aaka (Oneida of the Iroquois Nation). The Oneida were very much involved assisting persons seeking freedom to Canada. Stories from the family stated Harriett’s mixed heritage as well as her husband Hawley, allowed her to cross lines that others could not. Harriett is my 4X Great Grandmother.

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About the Author: Caedra Scott-Flaherty