Author Archives: Wanda Burch

Wanda Burch

About Wanda Burch


Wanda Burch has spent 42 years in historic preservation. She recently retired as site manager of Johnson Hall State Historic Site and now serves as Vice-President of Friends of Johnson Hall.

Book Discussions Focusing on Slavery Set


By on

0 Comments

paul_nathaniel_speech_cover“On August 16, 1781, Murphy Stiel, a sergeant in the Black Pioneers, a British paramilitary group based in New York City, had a remarkable dream. Stiel was sleeping in the Pioneers’ barracks on Water Street when he heard “a Voice like a Man’s but saw no body.”

The voice commanded Stiel to deliver a message to Sir Henry Clinton, commander in chief of the British forces, that he should order General George Washington to surrender “himself and his Troops to the Kings Army.” Failure to do so would mean God’s wrath would fall upon the Americans. Stiel warned that all the “Blacks in America would rise up against Washington’s forces….For…the Lord would be on their side.” Continue reading

Johnstown: St. Patrick’s Masonic Lodge


By on

2 Comments

St Patricks Lodge 2008-1I noticed that there was a report in the Leader Herald on the Johnstown Masons of St. Patrick’s lodge, so I thought this bit of history might be timely:

St. Patrick’s Lodge No. 8 (now called St. Patrick’s Lodge No. 4) in Johnstown, NY, founded by Sir William Johnson, is one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the State of New York. Sir William Johnson was raised a Master Mason on April 10, 1766, in Union Lodge No. 1, located in Albany, New York, (now Mount Vernon Lodge No. 3).Augustine Prevost, a brother of the Union Lodge, wrote to Johnson a few weeks earlier, on March 23, 1766, informing him that Johnson’s friend and fellow Masonic brother Normand McLeod, had formally notified Union Lodge of Johnson’s desire to be a master of a lodge in Johnstown. Prevost noted in the letter: Continue reading

Sir William Johnson’s Bookshelf: Millenium Hall


By on

1 Comment

Sir William Johnson’s 1774 inventory of his New York western frontier estate, Johnson Hall, revealed a superb collection of books and other reading material.

Books were a bit more difficult to acquire in 18th century Johnstown than at present, so one could presume that selecting titles was considered, even more precisely than today, by recommended taste, by familiarity with an author, or perhaps from curiosity after having read a report of the book in the newspapers that arrived from New York City or from England via a New York City agent.
Continue reading

Scholarships for Healing Retreats at Historic Adirondack Sites


By on

0 Comments

Creative Healing Connections has several full and partial scholarships available for two upcoming arts and healing retreats for women living with cancer and other chronic illnesses on September 21st to 23rd and September 28th to 30th, 2012 at Great Camp Sagamore National Historic Landmark in the Adirondacks.

Creative Healing Connections also offers scholarships for two arts and reintegration retreats for women veterans. Those retreats are August 6th to 8th and 13th to 15th, 2012. The retreat for female military spouses is sold out this year. Continue reading

Wanda Burch on Civil War Letters "The Home Voices Speak Louder than the Drums"


By on

2 Comments

On August 7, 1862, Henry Graves, physically exhausted from walking, fighting, and from four days detail digging trenches under a Petersburg, Virginia, sun and not “a breath of air stirring,” sat down and wrote to his wife, describing the importance of the imagination to survival.

He saw himself standing – not with spade in hand – but eating from a bowl of peaches in the midst of “homefolk” with his coat off, moving across the piazza, enjoying the cool breeze “that almost always is blowing fresh through there.” He told her that he often went into this place in his imagination to pass time swiftly and shared that “soldier mortals” would not survive if they were not “blessed with the gift of imagination and the pictures of hope.” The second “angel of mercy,” he said, was the night dream, which presented him even more vivid pictures of hope than any daydream. Continue reading

Celebrating the Holidays in 18th Century Johnstown


By on

0 Comments

The goal of every museum and historic site is to make history come alive in the imagination of the public. The past few days have witnessed a number of celebrations of holiday greenery, music, and feasting, commemorating early festivities in the Mohawk Valley. Most of the greenery and more usual trappings of holiday spirit that are near and dear to our imaginations and hearts did not become common in household celebrations until the nineteenth century. More common in the 18th century secular celebrations were simple gifts of trinkets or money and feasts involving food and drink. There were additional rituals in colonial New York German and Dutch households where ceremonies were brought over from their countries of origin. Continue reading

Wanda Burch: 18th Century Bed Rugs


By on

1 Comment

The question was raised on “what are bed rugs?” in a recent living history association [ALHFAM] on-line thread. Bed rugs, often spelled “bed ruggs,” were common bed coverings that appear in both 18th and 19th century house inventories. Bed rugs were inventoried in Johnson Hall in Johnstown, NY, in a 1774 inventory of household goods by Daniel Claus. Johnson Hall was built in 1763; but the inventory was completed in 1774, a common recording for wills and cataloguing household goods. Continue reading