The Trial of Horatio Hough (pronounce “huff”) is a short, but enlightening documentary film that follows a group of cavers in 2014 as they search for Hough’s Cave, a stop on the Underground Railroad on Route 26 just south of the hamlet of Martinsburg in rural Lewis County in upstate New York. Intercut with their search for the cave is the story of Horatio Hough, a farmer and resolute abolitionist who defied the status quo of his church, his community, and a nation under slavery in 1840’s America.
The film was done by Clarkson University Professor Stephen Farina, who originally screened it at the Annual Underground Railroad Public History Conference at Russell Sage College in April 2016 and has since been shown in various settings, but is currently available online at this link: vimeo.com/125483102.
This project was undertaken at the behest the Lewis County Historical Society and the Martinsburg Historical Society in an effort to preserve this story before all physical evidence of the cave and its significance was lost. Without such actions, local legends (like that of Hough’s Cave) all too quickly are forgotten or relegated to the dustbins of history.
In 1926, the State of New York began an historic roadside marker program. The first of those markers placed in Lewis County was to memorial the location of Hough’s Cave. And it still stands there today.