Tag Archives: Agricultural History

CFP: Sugar and Beyond Conference Planned

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The John Carter Brown Library seeks proposals for a conference entitled “Sugar and Beyond,” to be held on October 25-26, 2013, and in conjunction with the Library’s Fall 2013 exhibition on sugar in the early modern period, especially its bibliographical and visual legacies. The centrality of sugar to the development of the Atlantic world is now well known.

Sugar was the ‘green gold’ that planters across the Americas staked their fortunes on, and it was the commodity that became linked in bittersweet fashion to the rise of the Atlantic slave trade. Producing unprecedented quantities of sugar through their enforced labor, Africans on plantations helped transform life not only in the colonies but also in Europe, where consumers incorporated the luxury commodity into their everyday rituals and routines.

“Sugar and Beyond” seeks to evaluate the current state of scholarship on sugar, as well as to move beyond it by considering related or alternative consumer cultures and economies. Given its importance, sugar as a topic still pervades scholarship on the Americas and has been treated in many recent works about the Caribbean, Brazil, and other regions. This conference thus aims to serve as an occasion where new directions in the study of sugar can be assessed.

At the same time, the connection of sugar to such broader topics as the plantation system, slavery and abolition, consumption and production, food, commodity exchange, natural history, and ecology has pointed the way to related but distinct areas of inquiry. Although sugar was one of the most profitable crops of the tropical Americas, it was not the only plant being cultivated.

Furthermore, although the plantation system dominated the lives of African and other enslaved peoples, they focused much of their efforts at resistance around the search for ways to mitigate or escape the regime of sugar planting. The organizers thus welcome scholars from all disciplines and national traditions interested in exploring both the power and limits of sugar in the early Atlantic world.

Topics that papers might consider include but are not limited to the following:

–The development of sugar in comparative context
–The rise of sugar and new conceptions of aesthetics, taste, and cultural refinement
–Atlantic cultures of consumption
–Coffee, cacao, and other non-sugar crops and commodities
–Natural history and related genres of colonial description and promotion
–Imperial botany and scientific programs of agricultural expansion and experimentation
–Alternative ecologies to the sugar plantation
–Plant transfer and cultivation by indigenous and African agents
–Provision grounds and informal marketing
–Economies of subsistence, survival, and resistance
–Reimagining the Caribbean archive beyond sugar: new texts and methodological approaches

In order to be considered for the program, send a paper proposal of 500 words and CV to jcbsugarandbeyond@gmail.com. The deadline for submitting proposals is December 15, 2012.

The conference organizers include Christopher P. Iannini (Rutgers), Julie Chun Kim (Fordham), K. Dian Kriz (Brown).

Photo: Havemeyers & Elder’s, later Domino, sugar refinery in New York City in the 1880s. Photo courtesy wgpa.org.

Dangerous Jobs in NY History: Produce Manager?

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While researching stories that deal with history, I enjoy finding offbeat items, things that have happened in the past, which allows me the liberty to stretch the definition a bit and label them as history. Work can’t be all dullness and difficulty, and these items help make it fun. Which brings me to a list of some historically dangerous occupations: farming, logging, mining, and … produce manager?

Sounds ridiculous, right? Thousands have entered those other three occupations knowing full well the potential downside. Produce manager, on the other hand, seems pretty safe. But what would you choose—a job with the risk of injury, or a job that might one day “produce” your worst nightmare?

If you’re squeamish, you’d have to be bananas to choose the latter. But who in the Adirondacks and North Country, on our own home turf, ever expects to be attacked by scorpions or tarantulas? But it has happened, and far more than once.

Here are a few tidbits from the world of those bravest of souls: produce managers.

In 1891, a fruit vendor in Watertown was handling bunches of bananas when a scorpion slammed its stinger into his hand. Few scorpions can actually kill humans, but that hardly makes any scorpion attack more acceptable. In this case, quickly applying a tourniquet and rendering first aid lessened the victim’s suffering. The scorpion was said to be about six inches long.

In 1933, a two-inch scorpion stung Herb Sloan of Heuvelton (St. Lawrence County) three times. Suffering what was described as excruciating pain, he received first aid from a doctor and was then rushed to the hospital as his body temperature rose dramatically. He was accompanied by his attacker, who rode along in a jar.

Sloan later described what happened. “I ran my hand in among the bananas, when I suddenly felt a sharp, burning sting. When I yanked my hand out, I saw this ugly-looking thing attached to my fingers. Its jaws were clamped tight and its tail was whipping around. Three times it whipped its tail and ran the sharp needle at the end of it deep into my finger. I finally shook it off, and managed to get Dr. Mulholland without delay, then lost no time in getting to the hospital.”

In 1937, Medric Gandron, manager of the Whitehall (Washington County) A&P, likewise suffered a scorpion attack on his finger, requiring medical treatment and a recovery period.

Another job hazard for fruit handlers was tarantulas, and St. Lawrence County has had more than its fair share of incidents. Claude VanPelt of Gouverneur was bitten by one in 1901, and when William Kory of Potsdam was hanging bananas in his store, a tarantula with a six-inch leg-span fell to the floor. Kory escaped unscathed.

Like Kory, others had close calls but weren’t actually bitten, though the shock of finding a tarantula likely had lasting psychological effects. In 1910, at Long’s fruit store in Alexandria Bay, employee James Pollock was startled when one latched onto his shirt and tried to bite through the sleeve. And Fort Jackson’s Gladys Nichols, after grabbing fruit from a bag over a period of several days, discovered she had all the time been reaching into a tarantula’s adopted home.

Less lucky was Cliff McIntosh of Morrisburg. Talk about your nightmares―a tarantula got inside his clothes and bit him several times before it was killed. He endured extreme pain and swelling and was treated by a doctor.

Ed Chase, a store clerk in Whitehall, was bitten in 1920 by a tarantula that latched on so tightly, he couldn’t shake it off. A stick was used to remove it, and a doctor later amputated the tip of Chase’s injured finger.

Sol Drutz, owner of the Star Market in Saranac Lake, was unfortunate enough to have two spider stories connected to his store within a two-year span. Employee Margaret Duquette was bitten during the first episode, requiring “extensive medical treatment” before she recovered.

Then, in 1935, according to the Lake Placid News, “A lady tarantula, dreaded spider of the tropics, chose a Saranac Lake meat market as the ideal spot to hatch her young.” It was the store-owner’s mother, Annie Drutz, who had the pleasure of discovering the intruder.

In each and every instance above involving scorpions or tarantulas, there was one consistent factor: bananas. So remember that if a problem arises, you heard it here first―eating bananas can lead to serious health issues.

Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Fenimore Lunch Lecture Series Spotlights New Exhibits

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Food for Thought, the popular lunch-and-lecture series at the Fenimore Art Museum, offers an in-depth understanding of the museum’s new exhibitions, including Tasha Tudor, G.C. Myers, and New York in the Civil War.

All Food for Thought programs are held on Wednesday from 12:30-2:30 pm at the Fenimore Art Museum. The museum offers two discounts: NYSHA members receive $5 off. Register for three or more Food for Thought programs at once, receive $2 off.
September 12: In Plain Sight: Hidden Gems of Native American Open Storage

Join Eva Fognell, Thaw Collection Curator, as she offers a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s Study Center, which houses open storage of the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. Appreciate the extraordinary range of art produced by North America’s first artists, including ritual objects, ceremonial clothing, pottery, and basketry.

September 19: Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed

Learn about America’s most prominent folk artist as Paul D’Ambrosio, President and CEO, explores the William Matthew Prior exhibition (on display through December 31).

October 10: On the Home Front: New York in the Civil War

Join John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections, as he shares Civil War artifacts from the On the Home Front exhibition. Objects tell us so much about the past and the history of those who made and used them. Learn about New York State and its place in the American Civil War through lively discussion.

October 17: Tasha Tudor Around the Year

Come for a heart-warming discussion and tour of Tasha Tudor Around the Year, an exhibition from the Norman Rockwell Museum. This exhibition illuminates beloved author and illustrator Tasha Tudor and stirs the imagination through the artist’s iconic art and greeting cards. Co-curator Jeanette Chandler Knazek reflects on the changing seasons and special celebrations as depicted by Tudor.

October 24: Oral Histories of New York’s Farm Women

Professor William Walker of the Cooperstown Graduate Program plays excerpts from oralhistory interviews with women who have lived and worked on farms in central New York State. Using recordings available on the website CGP Community Stories, Dr. Walker leads a discussion of the varied experiences of women in the agricultural heartland of the state.

November 7: Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of G.C. Myers

Guest curator Gary C. Myers joins us in a discussion and tour of his contemporary exhibition, InternalLandscapes. Learn first-hand from the artist in this amazing exhibition of paintings that provide moments of stillness and encourage reflection and a renewed sense of purpose.

November 14: Flags, Uniforms, and Insignia: New York State Material Culture of the Civil War
Ted Shuart, printing supervisor at The Farmers’ Museum and re-enactor with the 125th New York State Volunteer Infantry, discusses flags, uniforms and insignia of New York troops during the Civil War. Learn about New York State’s wartime history while looking at objects from the period and understand what they tell us about one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

Pricing Information: Lunch and lecture fee – $20 members/$25 non-members. Register for three or more Food for Thought programs at once and receive a discounted price of $18 members/$23 non-members per program. Call (607) 547-1461 with questions regarding pricing or the cancellation policy.

Say Cheese: When New York Cheese Was King

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It’s a little known fact that the cheese industry in America owes a lot to New York State. Milton Stewart has set out to set the record straight with Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese Was King, the story of the era when the premier cheesemaking region of the United States was in Central New York, chiefly in the Mohawk Valley.

In 1851, Jesse William set up what is considered the first cheese factory in America in Oneida County. It was also in New York that Professor Xerxes A. Willard became the nation’s most respected spokesman for the “associated dairies” concept in his drive to create higher standards in cheese making. Continue reading

John Lennon’s Travels in Ulster County, New York

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The Depuy Canal House has sat in High Falls since the 1790s when it was constructed by Simeon Depuy, “one of the most prominent citizens of High Falls, New York.” It opened, according to the Depuy Canal House’s website, as the Stone House Tavern. The tavern entered its heyday when work commenced on the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) canal to link the coal fields of Pennsylvania to the Hudson River in Kingston. This tavern sat on Lock 16, convenient to the canal men until the canal closed in 1899. Continue reading

Pre-European Agriculture in the Champlain Valley

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When I set out to write From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in New York’s Champlain Valley, I became discouraged by the mixed information coming from various authors.

While there is archeological evidence of Native settlements in Plattsburgh at Cumberland Bay, across Lake Champlain in Vermont and along the Hudson River and its tributaries, little information exists for the rest of the Adirondack Coast. Continue reading

Historic Farm Tour Focusing on New Paltz Area

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CIRCA, a tour of historic farmhouses this Sunday, June 10th, aims to highlight the rich and varied architecture that remains from the late 18th and 19th centuries, when the New Paltz area was part of the Nation’s breadbasket.  

CIRCA will feature six local homes, all of which have strong ties to this pivotal period in America’s history. Also included on the tour is an 18th century Dutch-style barn, today home to Adair Vineyards, and an artist’s studio created from a unique early 19th century stone barn.

It was the bounty of the Hudson Valley and the industrious nature of our 18th and 19th century farmers that helped feed our young country – especially burgeoning cities such as New York.

Farming in this era involved individuals of all social strata, from the wealthiest of gentleman farmers, to the hardworking tenant farmers who made it possible for the prosperous to extract wealth from the huge tracts of land they controlled.

Among the homes included on the tour is early 19th century home of Thaddeus Hait. Hait, from a well-to-do Westchester County family of the time, moved to the then newly-formed town of Plattekill. By 1828, he had accrued 153 acres, some of which is still farmed today. His home is an interesting example of how the refined Neoclassical style was interpreted in a decidedly rural setting. The result is an otherwise modest home that endures as an example of the optimism and aspiration of its builder. Outside, the home features an unusual second floor “Juliet” balcony. Inside, high style mixes with exposed stone walls and brick floors. The current owners have lovingly preserved the home and the surrounding outbuildings.

Two short miles away, as Hait staked his claim, Josiah Hasbrouck and his wife Hylah Bevier lived in a striking Federal-style showpiece they completed in 1814. This home, known today as Locust Lawn, was at the heart of a massive 1,000 acre gentleman’s farm. Josiah and Hylah, who each were descended from the earliest Huguenot settlers of the area, presided over a home truly remarkable for its time. Lived in by three generations of their family, the home was shuttered in the 1880′s – in effect turning it into a time capsule of one family’s unique history. A preserved museum home today, the home has been closed to the public for the past two years and is normally open only by appointment.

On the other end of the spectrum is a humble home owned by DuBois Hasbrouck and dating to the late 18th century. This home, built for tenant farmers, represents the lives of the families who toiled to get a toehold on the American dream. This simple one-and-a-half story home, expanded over time, still sits along a gentle stream with views of the fields all around.

Capping off the tour will be a reception at the Maplestone Inn, a substantial stone house built by John L. Jenkins and Mary Catherine Broadhead in late 18th century. Innkeepers Sean and Patty Roche have generously agreed to open their renovated streamside barn for the reception.

CIRCA will be held on Sunday, June 10th, from 11am to 5:30pm. Advance tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.casaulster.org or by calling (845) 339-7543. Day of tickets are $30 each. The event is presented by Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), which works to ensure that foster care is temporary and that all children can grow up in safe, loving and permanent homes. CASA was founded in Ulster County in 1987 and is one of over 950 CASA programs across the country. More information about CASA can be found at www.casaulster.org.

Ulster County: The Many Lives of Selah Tuthill’s Gristmill

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In 1788, the same year as France was moving closer towards revolution and the United States Constitution was being ratified, a young man made his way to the area that would one day bear his name. His name was Selah Tuthill. He founded what would become known as the Tuthilltown Gristmill in Gardiner, New York. Once the mill started churning out stone ground flour, it would do so continuously for over two hundred years until its second life as a restaurant and distillery. Continue reading

Holstein History, Milk Bottles and Milking Machines

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The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will hold its third annual Holstein Heritage event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, the third day of Dairy Month, at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.

Milton C. Sernett PhD will present Peterboro: Cradle of the Holstein Breed! Sernett’s interest in the history behind the New York State Holstein Association monument on Oxbow Road just north of Peterboro gave impetus to this annual event recognizing the important role that Peterboro played in the agricultural industry.

In his illustrated talk Sernett will use his research to relate the history of Gerrit Smith Miller’s importation to Peterboro of the first registered Holstein-Fresian herd in America. Sernett published the book Cradle of the Breed: Gerrit Smith Miller and the Kriemhild Herd, for the first Holstein Heritage event, and followed that publication with another in 2011 Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese was King. Both books will be available at the program, at the Peterboro Mercantile, and are online at mercantile.gerritsmith.org

Returning directly from the National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors (NAMBC), Peter Bleiberg will share information on milk bottles and their collection. Bleiberg, a resident of New Hartford and the next editor of The Milk Route, the official newsletter of the NAMBC, has been collecting milk bottles for twenty-four years. He focuses his collection on the variety of pictures and slogans that began to appear on painted milk bottles in the mid-1930’s.

To promote the use of their milk and other dairy products, dairies used images of cows, barns, babies, families, ice cream, butter, nursery rhymes, war-related scenes, and many other subjects on the backs of the colorful bottles. Peter’s presentation, entitled Marketing of Milk in the 1940s, includes pictures of hundreds of bottles and traces the advertising themes on the bottles that sat in our refrigerators and on our kitchen tables every morning.

Mike Gleason will return to the annual event with his antique milking machines and, hopefully, with copies of his book on milking machines that is in publication at this time.

The public is encouraged to attend this heritage session which broadens understanding of the rich history of Gerrit Smith and his family. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark at 5304 Oxbow Road in Peterboro has been designated by both the state and national park services as a site on the Underground Railroad.

 Exhibits on freedom seekers and abolitionists are in the three buildings on the estate that are open to the public. The site is open in 2012 on weekends from 1 -5 pm through September 23, for special events, and by appointment. Admission is $3 and free for students. For more information: 315-280-8828, info@gerritsmith.org or www.gerritsmith.org.

Illustration: A Holstein from an 1898 print.

Scything Demonstration at Saratoga National Park

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On Saturday, June 2, 2012, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM, Saratoga National Historical Park will offer a demonstration of 18th-century style scything. Imagine trying to maintain your lawn or a field using only a long, sharp blade.  Skilled living history teams will use 18th-century style scythes to clear large areas of field as they gather hay for farm animals. As they work, a park ranger will tell stories about farming and food harvesting in the late 1700s.

In the event of rain, the event will be held on Sunday, June 3, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM. For more information about this or other events, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 1777 or check their website at www.nps.gov/sara.

Illustration: Image from Benjamin Butterworth’s The Growth of Industrial Art depicting reaping grain by hand sickle during the colonial period.

Saunderskill: One of the Oldest Farms in America

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Those readers who follow my writing realize quickly that I have a special affinity for the Hasbrouck House in Newburgh more commonly known as Washington’s Headquarters, State Historic Site. Many of those visiting the site do not realize that a part of that site’s history can be traced back to Western Ulster County, New York where Jonathan Hasbrouck’s mother Elsie Schoonmaker was born and raised. Continue reading

Forest to Fields: Champlain Valley Agriculture History

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A short booklet, From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in new York’s Champlain Valley published by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Essex County and the Lake to Locks Passage Scenic Byway highlights the rich history of the Champlain Valley with a focus on the region’s farms and fields.

From Forests to Fields is authored by Anita Deming, who has more than 30 years experience as an agricultural extension agent with CCE, and Andrew Alberti, Program Manager for Lakes to Locks Passage since 2008 (where he focuses on 21st century technology applications and local and regional interpretation and planning) and a contributor here at New York History. Alberti is also editor for the Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic Geotourism website.

Chapters cover Native American agriculture, early explorers and settlements, the agricultural revolution, farming in the modern era and a short review of the architecture and use of farm buildings and a list of resources. The authors explain the impact of the 1807 Embargo Act, the influence of the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823 on local farm trade, the grange movement, and changes in the local sheep and dairy industries, and more.

The booklet is 48 pages and profusely illustrated. You can request a copy by contacting Lakes to Locks Passage. There is a suggested $10 + S&H donation.

The Farmers’ Museum Sugaring Off Sundays Slated

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The Farmers’ Museum will play host to a springtime tradition with Sugaring Off Sundays. Held every Sunday in March (March 4, 11, 18, and 25), the event features historic and contemporary sugaring demonstrations, children’s activities and more. A full pancake breakfast is offered from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with other activities scheduled 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In the Museum’s historic village, children find activities — not homework — at the Filer’s Corners Schoolhouse. Everyone learns about spring tonics and treatments in the More House, and the blacksmith is demonstrating his craft at the Peleg Field Blacksmith Shop. Visitors are invited to have a taste of jack wax, hot maple syrup poured over snow.

On March 18 only, Native American educator and storyteller Mike Tarbell tells stories from the Haudenosaunee tradition.

The Empire State Carousel, a favorite attraction at The Farmers’ Museum, will be open. Local maple products will also be for sale.

Admission to Sugaring Off Sundays is $8 for ages 13 and up; $4 for children age 7 to 12; and free for children 6 and under. Admission includes full breakfast. No reservations are required. Visit FarmersMuseum.org for more information. Sponsored in part by Bank of Cooperstown, Otsego County Maple Producers, Sysco, and Quandt’s Foodservice Distributors.

Photo: Blacksmith Steve Kellogg demonstrates age-old techniques to visitors during last year’s Sugaring Off Sundays event at The Farmers’ Museum. (Photo by Zach Winnie)

Wind Power Has A Long History in America

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Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent. Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region.

Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails approached the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “… a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment. When the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors (in 2012, the new ones will be 492 feet high), and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photos: Above, windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground). Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks. Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown. Below, advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

33rd Annual Harvest Fest at Farmers’ Museum

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The Farmers’ Museum’s 33rd annual Harvest Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with live music both days and new activities for children.

This popular fall event brings together a wide array of artisans, vendors, performers, and exhibitors to the Museum’s alluring 19th-century setting. Guests will enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides; craft activities for the entire family; artisan demonstrations; and an abundance of delicious foods from the season’s harvest including samples of McCadam/Cabot cheese, roasted corn, baked goods, ice cream, and more. You can even try out wood planes, hand drills, and other antique tools from their large collection.

This year, the Museum again welcomes members of the Southern Tier Alpaca Association. Owners and breeders will display their animals and participate in numerous activities throughout the weekend.

Children will enjoy agricultural activities that include building a haystack; corn shelling and grinding; apple cider pressing demonstrations; ropemaking; apple bobbing; and 19th-century games in the schoolhouse. Not to mention the alpaca and canine agility courses.

Witness or take part in the excitement of an old-time pie eating contest – both Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m., sponsored by the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard.

Over 25 vendors and artisans will supply everything the season has to offer including beeswax candles, shaker oval boxes, early American tinware, baskets, Windsor chairs, and more – with demonstrations of soap making and woodworking.

Tap your toes the sounds of “Clemens Tradition,” an old time fiddle and classic country music group based in Osceola, New York, featuring the 2002 New York State Inductee to the North American Fiddler’s Hall of Fame and Museum – Jackie Hobbs and other special guests. They will perform in the Cornwallville Church, located in the center of the Museum’s historic village, each day at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. The shows are free with paid admission to the event.

See the winners from this year’s Junior Livestock Show as they make their way through the Museum’s historic village during the Parade of Champions – both days at 1:00 p.m.

To view a full listing of all the event’s activities, see our schedule online at FarmersMuseum.org/harvest.

Sponsored by KeyBank and McCadam/Cabot Cheese. Supported in part by the Southern Tier Alpaca Association and the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard. This event is made possible withpublic funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Admission to the event: $12 adults (13+), $10.50 seniors (65+), $6 children(7-12), children 6 and under and members of the New York State Historical Association are free. For more information on any of our programs, visit FarmersMuseum.org/harvest.

Senate House Hosting Apple Heritage Day

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Join Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston, NY for Apple Heritage Day on Sunday, September 25, 2011 from 12pm – 5pm in conjunction with Ulster County Cultural Heritage Week. Enjoy a variety of 18 century apple related activities to celebrate Ulster County’s long history of apple growing. Afternoon activities include pressing apples for apple cider, making apple butter over an open fire, baking apple sauce cake in a Dutch oven and making dried apple wreaths and dolls. At 1pm and 3pm enjoy the 18th century magic of Bob Olson A.K.A. Mr. Bayly and featured at 2pm and 4pm are children’s puppet shows.

Also throughout the afternoon enjoy 18th century music performed by Rural Felicity and help Senate House wish Johnny Appleseed a happy birthday, born September 26, 1774. Admission to this event is free and as usual Senate House will be open for tours. Fees to tour Senate House are $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors and children 12 and under are free.

Senate House State Historic Site is part of a system of parks, recreation areas and historic sites operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the site is one of 28 facilities administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in New York and New Jersey. For further information about this and other upcoming events call the site at (845) 338-2786 or visit the State Parks website at www.nysparks.com.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage Upcoming Events

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What follows are descriptions of three upcoming tours in Gloversville, Willsboro, and southern Clinton County, hosted by Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) that still have space available. AARCH also has a golf benefit at the end of the month in Ticonderoga.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the nonprofit historic preservation organization for New York State’s Adirondack Park. AARCH was formed in 1990 with a mission to promote better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondacks’ unique and diverse architectural heritage.

Early Industry and Architecture in Gloversville

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The city of Gloversville, unsurprisingly, developed around the glove industry, relying on the tanneries that were so abundant in the southern Adirondacks to provide leather. With the departure of this important industry, the city is now working to build a new identity. Fulton County Chamber of Commerce President Wally Hart will lead this walking tour of downtown Gloversville, exploring a stunning collection of turn-of-the-century commercial buildings in various stages of rehabilitation and learning about the city’s rich history. We’ll also visit the ornate Carnegie Library and the Glove Theater, formerly one of three theaters in town owned by the wealthy Schine family. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. The fee is $30 for AARCH and Chamber members and $40 for non-members.

The Clarks of Willsboro Point

Saturday, August 20, 2011

During the late 19th century Orrin Clark, and his sons Solomon and Lewis, operated a successful quarry on Ligonier Point in Willsboro, providing “bluestone” for a number of regional buildings, as well as the Champlain Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition to the quarry the Clarks ran a dairy farm and a shipbuilding business. This tour will visit the quarry remains; the Clarks’ homestead, Old Elm; the quarry master’s house, Scragwood; and the surrounding grounds. These buildings have remained nearly untouched since the Clarks’ occupancy, providing a rare view of life at the turn of the century. You will also be able to explore the family’s history through extensive documents meticulously organized in a private collection. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $35 for AARCH and $45 for non-members.

200 Years of Farming

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Farming has been important to the Champlain Valley for more than two centuries. On this southern Clinton County tour, we will explore a series of homesteads and farms from the early 19th century to the present day, which will collectively show how farming has changed over time. We’ll begin the day at the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum, then visit the Keese Homestead (c. 1795) built by Quaker settlers in a community called The Union. Other stops include Remillard Dairy Farm, family owned for three generations; Forrence Orchards, one of the largest McIntosh orchards in the state; and finally Clover Mead Farm, where we’ll see how organic cheese is made and sample their exceptional line of farm-fresh products. Led by AARCH’s Steven Engelhart, the tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $35 for AARCH and $45 for non-members.

Golf Tournament to Benefit AARCH

Ticonderoga Country Club

Monday, August 29, 2011

Join us for our third annual golf Tournament. This year’s event will be held at Ticonderoga Country Club. This scenic course is set in the historic Lord Howe Valley and features an open yet challenging layout. The day will include a buffet lunch; a round of golf with cart; and the opportunity to win great prizes.The format will be a four man scramble with a shot gun start. The cost is $100 per person.

Photo: Downtown Gloversville.