Timbuctoo, New York

Location: East of Lake Placid, NY

Photo: Amy Godine, Permission Pending

Lyman Epps, Timbuctoo Settler
Photo: Permission Pending

Garrit Smith, U.S. Congressman and Founder of Timbuctoo, New York Photo: Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons


Timbuctoo, New York

The name Timbuctoo recalls the famous town in the Mali Empire in West Africa.

“In a small rural cemetery here, a white marble gravestone is the only evidence of a moment in New York State’s history that few people have heard of…”

Buried there are the remains of Lyman Epps, a sheep farmer and the most prominent settler of Timbuctoo, a black pre-Civil-War hamlet in the Adirondacks that offered thousands of black men from Brooklyn to Buffalo 40 acres of free land, a gift from a white abolitionist real estate baron.

The abolitionist, Gerrit Smith, gave away 120,000 acres of his land, beginning in 1846, hoping the Adirondack wilderness would offer refuge to black families eager to leave the poverty of urban cities and to acquire the means to vote….” (Christian, Nichole, “North Elba Journal; Recalling Timbuctoo, A Slice of Black History.” New York Times, February 19, 2002)

“John Thomas was born into slavery in Maryland and was an Underground Railroad passenger. He took Mr. Smith’s Timbuctoo offer of 40 acres in Franklin Falls in 1846. The story is told that when slave catchers showed up in town, local white men stated that not only was Thomas armed and willing to fight to the death, he would have the backing of many in town who were on his side. The slave catchers went away. ” https://www.saranaclake.com

Timbuktu, Mali

“Home of the prestigious Koranic Sankore University and other madrasas, Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, recall Timbuktu’s golden age.”  World Heritage Convention


Christian, Nichole M. “North Elba Journal; Recalling Timbuctoo, A Slice of Black History”. New York Times, 2/29/2002. Accessed 10/2/2020.

The Quintessential Black Farmer: Dreaming of Timbuctoo • GROUNDSWELL”. 21 February 2012. Accessed 10/2/2020.

“Dreaming Of Timbuctoo – Tang Museum”Tang Museum. Accessed 10/2/2020.

Press-Republican, ROBIN CAUDELL. “Take 2 of ‘Dreaming of TimbuctooAccessed 10/2/2020.

“John Brown “Dreaming of Timbuctoo” exhibition at Whallonsburg Grange July 3–9 – Lake Placid, Adirondacks”www.lakeplacid.com. Accessed 10/2/2020.

  “The History of Timbuctoo: An African-American Hamlet in the Adirondacks”www.adirondack.net Accessed 10/2/2020.

“Timbucto | Adirondack Experience: More than a Museum”Adirondack Experience. Retrieved 2019-11-2 Accessed 10/2/2020.

Museum, RJ Lara with research support from The Winterthur; Garden; Library; Delaware, the University of. “The Lyman Epps, Sr. Homestead – Southwest Corner of Lot 84, Township 12”UpstateHistorical. Retrieved 2019-11-20. Accessed 10/2/2020.

“Black History in Saranac Lake | Saranac Lake, Adirondacks”www.saranaclake.com. Retrieved 2019-11-20. Accessed 10/2/2020.

African American History in the Adirondacks”. 11 October 2016. Accessed 10/2/2020.

(NCUGRHA), North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association. “NCUGRHA – People & Places – Essex County”www.northcountryundergroundrailroad.com.

“Parks & Trails New York :: Celebrating Juneteenth and Timbuctoo”www.ptny.org

“A Musical Conversation: Blues at Timbuctoo Fest returns to Lake Placid – Lake Placid, Adirondacks”www.lakeplacid.com.

“Paul Smith’s College VIC — Dreaming of Timbuctoo Traveling Exhibition – 29 July – 10 September 2012”www.adirondackvic.org.