Author Archives: Guest Contributor

The Burned-Over District and Mexican Revolution


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francisco-i-madero-bhimaWhen Halley’s comet, that star with the quetzal’s tail, flared across Mexican skies in 1910, it heralded not only the centennial of Independence, but a deeply transformative episode, the Revolution launched by Francisco I. Madero on November 20, what Javier Garciadiego calls “the true beginning of a process, the birth of the modern Mexican state.” The great chorus of Mexican historians agrees. And yet, almost unknown and curious as it may sound, a vital taproot of this revolution lies in the Burned-Over District of New York State.

As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I have learned to appreciate that fact can be stranger than anything one might imagine. Before returning to the Burned-Over District, a word about Francisco I. Madero and how I came upon his Manual espírita, this until now obscure and yet profoundly illuminating book – at the very least for understanding Madero himself, why and how he led Mexico’s 1910 Revolution, and the seething contempt of those behind the overthrow of his government and his assassination. Continue reading

Guest Essay:
Path Through History Highlights Historic Assets


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PrintWhat follow is an guest essay by Mark Castiglione – Acting Executive Director, Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Path Through History Workgroup Liaison; and Ross D. Levi – Vice President, Marketing Initiatives, Empire State Development

Even though few states have had as much impact on history or are home to as many authentic historic attractions, New York State has not always come to mind for history lovers as quickly as places like Boston, Philadelphia, and Virginia.   In an effort to help change this perception, Governor Cuomo created the Path Through History [PTH] initiative to draw attention to New York’s unparalleled history and grow heritage tourism throughout the state, and through it promote economic development and create jobs. As we conclude the busy summer travel season, it’s worth noting how far we have come in promoting heritage tourism in New York as well as the future opportunities that exist to expand the effort. Continue reading

John Wolcott: Pinpointing Fort Nassau 1614


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dutchalbanymapFort Nassau: the first Dutch trading house built in North America, was constructed on Castle (Westerlo) Island on the Upper Hudson where Albany is. It was but a small redoubt, yet deemed the acorn from which sprouted the American Middle States. This trading post lasted only three years and was badly damaged by a spring freshet and abandoned. Eventually even its ruins were silted over and forgotten.

In 1796, Albany contemplated a plan to acquire patents for water lots and extend South End streets opposite the north end of Castle Island, out into the Hudson River. It was similar, on a smaller scale, to the way Manhattan expanded out into the Hudson and East Rivers. In the course of finally implementing this in the 1840s, dredging was found necessary to adjust the upper end of Castle Island and Island Creek to accommodate the plan. Continue reading

150 Years Ago A NY Man Languished In Andersonville


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Rollin O. Sanford, farmerRollin O. Sanford died on July 29, 1864 while a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. His only son, Rollin J, was born that very same day in Hopkinton NY, twelve hundred miles to the north, in what is now the Adirondack Park. While there are countless stories of tragedy and heartache that occurred during the Civil War, this story seemed especially poignant, since it involved our family.

Rollin O. Sanford, described as a large and powerful man, was the tenth child and youngest son of Jonah and Abigail Greene Sanford. He was a farmer in Hopkinton, married to Ermina Roberts, with whom he had two daughters, Lillian and Jeanette. “Nettie”, the younger daughter, died in November 1863 at age two, one month before Rollin went off to war. Years later Lillian wrote about the death of her little sister and how her father “held Nettie in his arms as her little life went out”. Continue reading

NY Maritime History: An Historic Battle with Pirates


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BHC1109On the morning of June 10, 1723, just before the break of dawn, a British warship stationed out of New York spotted two sloops sailing less than 50 miles south of Long Island. The captain of the warship, Peter Solgard, was all but certain the sloops were trouble. Three days before, he had been warned by a sea captain about a pirate crew under the command of a notoriously violent captain, Edward Low. But in the HMS Greyhound that morning, Solgard did not attack. Instead, Solgard tacked and set a southerly course, keeping the pirates in view but not approaching, “to encourage them to give him chase.” Continue reading

The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley


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Jacobs_Worlds_9781438450971What follows is a guest essay by Jaap Jacobs and L.H. Roper, authors of the newly published
The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley.

As the proverbial schoolchildren know, the Englishman Henry Hudson (c. 1570–1611) conducted his 1609 exploration of the river that bears his name on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. In the same year that Hudson sailed north up the river, trading, fighting, drinking, and negotiating with Native Americans on the way, a Frenchman named Samuel Champlain made his way south from the St. Lawrence River. His trip was not a voyage of exploration and Champlain was not the leader of the expedition. Yet it too involved interaction with Native Americans, culminating in an armed encounter on what later became to be called Lake Champlain between Huron and Algonquian Indians and their French friends on the one side and the Haudenosaunee of the Iroquois Confederacy on the other side. Continue reading

375th Anniversary of The Bronx Celebration Planned


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Jonas Bronck CenterOver the years much has been written about Pieter and Jonas Bronck.  Pieter is responsible for the erection of the Bronck House in Coxsackie, Greene County, NY, 351 years ago.  Jonas is considered the founder of  the Bronx.

Over the years there has been much confusion about the relationship of these two individuals – father and son, brothers or cousins.  Both were Swedish and there is strong evidence that they were related.  I prefer to accept research done by Shelby Mattice, Curator of the Bronck Museum.  Ms. Mattice has concluded that the two men were first cousins and shared the same grandfather.  Today I would like to focus a bit on Jonas Bronck because this year the Bronx is commemorating the 375th anniversary of the year Jonas first settled there. Continue reading

Bill Hosley: A Call To Localize Humanities Funding


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Peale The Artist in His MuseumI value the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). I have been a grant review panelist and recipient of grants. Indeed Acting NEH Director Andrea Anderson was the program officer I worked with 30 years ago on “The Great River: Art & Society of the CT Valley” (1985). Without NEH, that project would have been impossible.

I have always had a passion for local history and small museums and especially house museums. I started out in one in Vermont in the 1970s. I am not one who thinks there are “too many house museums.” I think there is too little equity in the way public funds and private foundations involved in the arts and humanities are distributed. I am concerned that too little of that support reaches down to that half of the museum industry comprised of organizations that are small. Continue reading