Civil War veteran/hero Joseph Lonsway, long accustomed to hard work, continued serving as a river guide (and remained hooked on fishing) well into old age. On two occasions, he nearly lost his life in fire-related incidents. In 1911, when he was 67, Joseph, with fellow guide and friend Joseph Calhoun, rushed to help fight a blaze that ultimately destroyed the Hotel Frontenac. They were together on an upper floor when the electricity failed, forcing them to leave the building. Calhoun urged Lonsway to depart first because he was older, but something went terribly wrong. In the end, Lonsway escaped, but Calhoun perished. Continue reading
In “The Road Not Taken,” poet Robert Frost wrote of encountering two roads diverging in a wood: “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
That’s life in a nutshell: it’s all about decisions. When confronted with options, we make a choice. Sometimes even the first few moments that follow can change our lives forever. Such was the case with a North Country soldier, Private Joseph Lonsway of Clayton, New York (in Jefferson County, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River). Continue reading
A talk entitled “Not Just a Sunday Man: The Civil War Story of Rev. Charles Luther Hagar, Chaplain of the 118th New York Volunteers” will be presented by Helen Nerska with music by Stephen Langdon
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) will host the presentation “Not Just a Sunday Man: The Civil War Story of Rev. Charles Luther Hagar, Chaplain of the 118th New York Volunteers” by Helen Nerska, CCHA President, and a musical composition by Stephen Langdon, Saranac Lake musician (Rev. Hagar was their great-great-great uncle). Continue reading
The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro, Madison County, N.Y. will open for the 2014 season on Saturday, May 17 and will be open from 1 – 5 pm seven days per week until Sunday, August 17. The sites will then be open on weekends until September 21 from 1 – 5 pm.
The Gerrit Smith Estate has interior and exterior exhibits on freedom seekers, Gerrit Smith, Smith’s wealth, philanthropy and family, and the Underground Railroad. This site is on the national, state, and county Underground Railroad Trail. NAHOF has the Abolition Hall of Fame exhibit and the chronology of American Abolition from the Colonial Period to Reconstruction. An exhibit on women in the anti-slavery movement was added to the NAHOF museum in 2013. Continue reading
Peterboro community organizations are finalizing program plans for the 22nd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend on Saturday, June 14 from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sunday, June 15 from 10 am to 4 pm.
The educational event is also a fundraiser for the Smithfield Community Association, a not-for-profit that preserves and promotes historic sites in the Town of Smithfield. Continue reading
Cemeteries were segregated in America until the mid-20th century. Even black veterans of America’s armed conflicts were dishonored when buried. Today, Mount Moor Cemetery stands as a monument to the twisted logic of racial discrimination. But the cemetery of approximately 90 veterans and civilians also serves as a symbol of perseverance and defiance.
The gravestones at Mount Moor endure, despite the initial efforts of the developers of the Palisades Mall to obliterate the burial ground. Continue reading
The Chemung Valley Living History Center will host the 150th Anniversary Commemoration of Camp Chemung (the Civil War Prisoner of War Camp in Elmira, NY) on May 3rd and 4th, 2014.
The event will include a re-enactment on the actual camp ground in Elmira. Continue reading
Among the interesting stories to review during this sesquicentennial of the Civil War are those of North Country families who paid an unusually high price. In covering such tragic tales, the principal difficulty lies in getting it right―no small task when the main event occurred 150 years ago. In many cases, we may never be sure exactly what happened, but the availability of digitized records has changed the game. The truth sometimes emerges to replace embellishments that appeared in the long-accepted, oft-repeated version of a story.
The Tupper family of Pierrepont in St. Lawrence County offers a fine example. There’s no question they suffered tragic losses during the Civil War, but parts of their story may well have been juiced up by reporters hoping to inspire deep empathy or poignancy. Continue reading
St. Lawrence County’s Civil War Veterans is the topic for discussion at the next St. Lawrence County Historical Association (SLCHA) Civil War Roundtable this Sunday, March 30th, 2 p.m. at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.
John Austin will tell about his project to document all of St. Lawrence County’s Civil War veterans. The North Country Civil War Roundtable is part of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which was fought from 1861-1865. Continue reading
The Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) has awarded Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) grants totaling about $80,000.
Just seven of 21 funded projects are located in New York State. $54,000 was awarded to Vermont programs while just $27,075 was awarded in New York. Continue reading
Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (the Gerrit Smith Estate) invite the public to the annual Gerrit Smith birthday party at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 8, 2014 to learn about Peterboro in 1864.
Born in Utica March 6, 1797, Smith came to Peterboro when nine years old and, with the exception of his years at college and in Congress, spent his life in Peterboro managing his land business in order to support his reform initiatives. Smith’s influence connected Peterboro to national issues. Continue reading
During this lengthy Civil War sesquicentennial. Folks whose roots lie in the North often take comfort and perhaps pride that their ancestors were on the right side of the conflict. Remarkably, “rightness” is still an issue in several former members of the Confederacy. But even if the South claims the issue was states’ rights, it was the right of a state to deprive certain humans of their own humanity. And if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. No amount of arguing will change that fact.
However, northern descendants may be a bit hasty in taking credit for the presumed correctness of their ancestors. While the record shows the country was split between North and South, we pay much less attention to the divisive effect the war had on individual towns and villages, even in the North Country. Continue reading
Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image (Viking, 2014) by Joshua Zeitz is an intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of two men. But more than that, it tells the story of the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, and how we have to come receive the idea of who Lincoln was that we have today.
Zeitz argues that Lincoln’s official secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family, in short, they were Lincoln’s closest confidantes. They read poetry and attended the theater with the President, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy in the darkest and loneliest days of the war. They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address. After his death, they took control of his papers, his biography, and his image. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln’s legacy. Continue reading
The Sesquicentennial for the Civil War honors a war which still rages on in America. An example of the ongoing nature of the war was seen in the dispute over a memorial to northern troops at Olustee, Florida, the site of the largest and bloodiest battlefield in the state.
The issue of a memorial to the northern troops who died there has been compared to the reopening of a 150-year-old wound. According to a report on the front page of the New York Times, John W. Adams, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Florida division, said “Old grudges die hard. And feelings run deep.” Another person with ancestors who fought on both sides said, “There are some, apparently, who consider this to be a lengthy truce and believe the war is still going on.” Continue reading
“150 Years Ago – 1864″ is the next topic for the St. Lawrence County Historical Association (SLCHA) Civil War Roundtable, Sunday, January 26th, 2 p.m. at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association in Canton.
Stanley Maine will lead the program and will discuss the major battles and significant events of the Civil War and the North Country which occurred during 1864. Among the significant events of 1864 were the Atlanta Campaign, which resulted in the occupation of Atlanta, Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln. Continue reading
In Spring 2014, the New-York Historical Society will present a range of exhibitions that will examine New York City architecture, fashion and photography through the lens of the legendary Bill Cunningham; the early history of African American basketball before the dawn of the National Basketball Association; the second installment of Audubon’s Aviary, showcasing New-York Historical’s collection of Audubon watercolors; and an exhibition of quilts and textiles created during the Civil War. Continue reading
Many books have been written about Frederick Douglass’ early life and later accomplishments as a famous abolitionist and orator, but Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester New York: Their Home Was Open To All (History Press, 2013), by local historian Rose O’Keefe, is the first book to bring Frederick and Anna’s family side to life. O’Keefe traces the Douglass family’s journey to the rural homestead in what is now the edge of Highland Park in the City of Rochester.
Frederick Douglass – author, orator and former slave – spent twenty-five years with his family in Rochester beginning in 1848. Despite living through some of our nation’s most bitter and terrifying times, Frederick and his wife, Anna, raised five children in a loving home with flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. Continue reading
A new biography is shedding light on an overshadowed North Country political figure, the Nineteenth Vice President of the United States. In William Almon Wheeler: Political Star of the North Country (2013, SUNY Press), author Herbert C. Hallas leaves no doubt that Wheeler was a more significant political figure than the existing literature may lead one to believe.
The book is the first and only complete biography of Wheeler, a man referred to as “the New York Lincoln,” who helped to found the Republican Party and build it into a formidable political force during the Gilded Age. Wheeler’s life is an American success story about how a poor boy from Malone achieved fame and fortune as a lawyer, banker, railroad president, state legislator, five-time congressman, and vice president of the United States. Continue reading
Union College professor Melinda Lawson will discusses how the Civil War brought about changes in American national identity, redefining the relationship between the individual and the government, and trace how the North came together as a nation and mobilized its populace for war.
Through efforts such as sanitary fairs to promote the welfare of soldiers, the war bond drives of Jay Cooke, and the establishment of Union Leagues, Northerners cultivated a new sense of patriotism rooted not just in the subjective American idea, but in existing religious, political, and cultural values. Continue reading
Each year the Archives Partnership Trust recognizes the outstanding contribution by a national figure to advance the understanding and uses of history in society at the Empire State Archives and History Award program.
This year’s program will honor Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. James McPherson with a conversation between McPherson and prominent Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. McPherson will talk about his research, Civil War history, national history, and his long career as a historian. Continue reading