Tag Archives: Mohawk River

The Mixed Multitudes of the Mohawk Valley

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mohawk-valley-plaquePeacefully sharing a space-time continuum does not come easily to our species. The challenge of doing so was played out in colonial New Amsterdam/New York in the 17th and 18th centuries especially from Albany and Schenectady westward throughout the Mohawk Valley.

There, and north to the Champlain Valley and Canada, multiple peoples who had not yet become two-dimensional cliches struggled to dominate, share, and survive in what became increasingly contentious terrain. Battles were fought, settlements were burned, and captives were taken, again and again.

By the 19th century, much of that world had vanished save for the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. By the 20th century, that world existed in state historic sites, historical societies and local museums, Hollywood, and at times in the state’s social studies curriculum. Continue reading

A Journey into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-1635

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Journey into Mohawk and oneida CountryIn 1634, the Dutch West India Company was anxious to know why the fur trade from New Netherland had been declining, so the company sent three employees far into Iroquois country to investigate.

Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert led the expedition from Fort Orange (present-day Albany). His journal includes the earliest known description of the interior of what is today New York State and its seventeenth-century native inhabitants and it is now issued in a revised edition as A Journey into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-1635: The Journal of Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2013; Translated and Edited by Charles T. Gehring and William A. Starna). Continue reading

Paddling Through History: Renewing the Two Row Wampum

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Leaders w Anrust_b“We need a global solution. We need to set aside our differences. Our leaders are not paying attention. Washington is filled with millionaires. What the hell do they care? They are out of touch. We are losing time. Now is the time for people to come together and act to protect and heal our environment. If we do not act now no matter what we do it will be too late.” said Oren Lyons, a member of the National Council of Chiefs and the Faith Keeper of the Onondaga, standing on the shores of the Hudson River on a overcast Sunday morning to the hundreds of people gathered.

Four hundred years ago the Dutch and the Iroquois, the Haunensaunee or the “People of the Long House”, the league of five nations of indigenous people known as the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca, made an agreement to live and trade in harmony, and to respect and care for the natural environment, an agreement symbolized by a two row wampum belt. Continue reading

Canalway Closures: Flooding Hits Erie Canal Communities

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04_Trail20130628-DSC_4087-452x299Just as the eastern section of the Erie Canal was set to reopen from previously flooding closures, heavy rain fell onto already saturated ground late Thursday night and into Friday, causing creeks to rage out of their banks throughout the Mohawk Valley.

The torrent flooded several canal communities from Little Falls to Fort Plain, leaving a path of destruction, closing an Eastern portion of the Canal and some sections of the Erie Canalway Trail, and halted the replica canal boat Lois McClure. Continue reading

Tell Me… Exactly Where is The North Country?

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north county eben holdenWhen New Yorkers say with pride that they come from the North Country, strength, courage and rugged individualism can be seen written all over their faces. In addition, everyone knows they have the ability to withstand abnormally cold and miserable weather, and to survive natural disasters, such as the Great Ice Storm of 1998. But, exactly where is the North Country?

Yes, it is in the northern part of New York State, but north of what? Yonkers? Albany? The Erie Canal? The Adirondacks? Continue reading

Schenectady Baseball History: The Mohawk Giants

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MohawkGiantsTalk-007When you discuss Negro baseball, most people think of names like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell.  These were some of the biggest stars in the professional Negro leagues.  However, this was not the only place where you could see Negro teams play.  Throughout the country there were independent teams, like the Mohawk Colored Giants.

The Giants got their start in 1913 under the organization of Bill Wernecke.  Although this was seasonal work for these ball players, they were full time paid players.  By offering full time jobs, Wernecke was able to lure players into Schenectady from all over the country.  The Giants would play their home games at the nicest ball field in Schenectady, Island Park.
Continue reading

Saving Cities: Learning from Melanie Griffith

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One of my favorite movie scenes is from Working Girl when Melanie Griffith explains while riding up the elevator with Trask and Indiana, how she came up with the idea for the corporate merger. It wasn’t as if she had been thinking about anything even remotely related to it. Her insight derived from a chance juxtaposition perceived by a mind willing to learn and open to new possibilities. Continue reading

Peter Feinman On New York’s ‘Ruin Porn’

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Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.

As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) “‘feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation; a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks”. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. Continue reading

Fort Hunter: ‘Who Owned The Fort?’ Talk Tuesday

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Tricia Shaw, the education coordinator at Schoharie Crossing, will share her latest research in a lecture entitled “Who Owned the Fort?” sponsored by the Friends of Schoharie Crossing on Tuesday.  The presentation will explain the Fort Hunter’s history and trace the families who lived at the confluence of the Mohawk River and Schoharie Creek including the Mabee, the Enders, the Putman, the Wemple and the Voorhees families. Continue reading

Annual Waterford Tugboat Roundup Returns

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Tugboats will Roundup the weekend after Labor Day in Waterford after taking last year off due the effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The Tugboat Roundup is an annual event in Waterford, celebrating the maritime heritage of upstate and interior New York at the confluence of the Hudson River and New York State Canal system. The Roundup begins on Friday, September 7 and concludes on Sunday afternoon, September 9.

More than 30 tugboats, workboats, barges and other craft are expected along the Waterford wall at the entrance to the Erie Canal. The festival takes place in front of the Visitor’s Center at the foot of Tugboat Alley and kicks off with the Tugboat Parade on Friday afternoon which starts at the Port of Albany, coming into Waterford in late afternoon.

The Mohawk-Hudson chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers will be recognizing the Waterford Flight of Locks as a significant American Engineering achievement on Sunday at noon during the Roundup. The flight is a two-mile long series of five locks, critical to the success of the “modern” Erie Canal when it was built in the Nineteen Teens (it opened in 1917).  Boats are raised from Hudson River level more than 180 feet into the Mohawk River above Cohoes.

Additional land displays include local crafters, artists, food tents, historical displays and local organizations. The American Red Cross, continuing in their efforts to help the region recover from last year’s storms, will have a tent at the festival for more information and donations. Local fire departments, always at the ready, will also have information areas.

Live music with local musicians will take place throughout the weekend, kicked off on Friday afternoon with canal and river balladeer George Ward and including other local bands such as “All Nite Long,” “Yesterday’s News,” “Flood Road,” Nixie Dixie Cats,” “Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers,” “Lawson,” “Scott Stockman with Big Blue Sun,” and wrapping up with the “Boys of Wexford” on Sunday afternoon.

Fireworks will take place on Saturday evening at 8:00.

More information on the event, and the complete schedule can be found online. Check out video just released by the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce: http://youtu.be/69rO-PkJwfA

The Tugboat Roundup is organized by the Town of Waterford with the support of sponsors.

Photo: The 2008 Tugboat Round-Up, Courtesy Duncan Hayes, NPS  (Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor).

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

Archaeology Theme For Schoharie Crossing Canal Days

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Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter (Schoharie County) will be hosting the 28th annual Canal Days Celebration on Saturday, July 14 and on Sunday, July 15, 2012 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission and parking are free.

Canal Days is dedicated to the historical significance of the Erie Canal and its impact on New York State. However, due to damaged caused by last fall’s Tropical Storm Irene and the unearthing of the remains of Fort Hunter for its 300th anniversary, there will be an archaeology theme and a focus on Schoharie Crossing’s earlier 18th century history as well as the 19th century canal history. Continue reading

Battle of Oriskany Recreation Planned For August

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To commemorate the 235th Anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany in the American War for Independence, the Continental Line and British Brigade Revolutionary War re-enactors, will depict the various New York battles of 1777 on the weekend of August 4 – 5, 2012 at Gelston Castle in Mohawk, NY. Participants can witness the local militia company from Mohawk Valley confronting the King’s Regulars, Loyalist, and Native Americans, in the re-enactment of the “Battle of Oriskany”. The “Battle of Oriskany” is one of a series of event that will be recreated August 4 and 5, 2012 at Gelston Castle, just 15 minutes south of the towns of Herkimer and Mohawk, NY.

“This is a great opportunity to witness our common heritage as Americans” says Mitch Lee, event organizer and Commander of the 1st New York Regiment. “Spectators can arrive on Saturday, August 4 at 10 am to view living history demonstrations and battles from the 1777 New York campaign.” “The site will have 1,500 reenactors and trades people representing the military culture of the American Revolution,” explains Lee. ”There will be lectures, demonstrations and activities though out the weekend and on Saturday night there will the premiere of a pageant play called ‘Drums along the Mohawk’,” added Lee.

This event has been made possible by private funding from many Mohawk Valley businesses and the Safflyn Corporation. Lee points out in a time when historic sites are understaffed and under funded, volunteer units who recreate the American Revolution are still moving forward with plans to commemorate special dates and places in New York history.

For more information visit oriskany235th.org.

Canal Life: Near Tragedy on the George W. Lee

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In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River intersection: south led to Albany and New York City, and north was the path of the Champlain Canal, which ran from Waterford to Whitehall, at Lake Champlain’s southern tip. Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island.

At the mouth of the river was a dam, maintaining calm water so the boats could cross the river, and about 500 feet upstream from the dam was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank of the Mohawk to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old; his ten-year-old son; and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, an angle much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge, over the dam, to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam; three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river; two men swimming for their lives in icy water; and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photos: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island; A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

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.

Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama Planned

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Kyle Jenks, producer of Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is a native of Albany, NY. His outdoor drama will pay homage to iconic American author Walter D. Edmonds, noted for his historically accurate novels, including the popular Drums Along the Mohawk (1936). This American classic was made into a highly successful Technicolor feature film in 1939. Directed by John Ford, it starred Hollywood legends Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. Edmonds was born in 1903 in Boonville (in Oneida County, NY) and died in 1998.

The world premiere of Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama coincides with the British Brigade and Continental Line’s national Revolutionary War encampment at Gelston Castle Estate. Located at 350 Galina Lane, Mohawk, NY the estate will be home to an estimated 1,000 Revolutionary War reenactors. The theme of the weekend long festivities will be to honor the 235th anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany.

One hallmark feature of a great outdoor drama is the unique way in which the story and the site are inextricably intertwined. Historic Gelston Castle Estate is located at the epicenter of a hotbed of America’s Revolutionary War activity.

After moving to Ohio, Mr. Jenks found a concentration of outdoor historical dramas there. Once he attended a performance of Tecumseh!, in Chillicothe, OH, his vision to produce his own outdoor drama instantly materialized. According to the prestigious Institute for Outdoor Drama, outdoor dramas have the potential to make a significanhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gift impact on the local economy. Besides creating a way to increase total economic dollars to the Mohawk Valley, Mr. Jenks envisions the project to be an exciting way to connect the local citizenry with a feeling of ownership to this classic American story.

For more information about the drama, contact Kyle Jenks at 216 509 7502 or www.AmericanHeritageLivingHistoryProductions. Visit www.oriskany235th.org to learn more about the National reenactment weekend. Jenks is also offering an associated six day bicycle tour that visits the historic sites included in the plotline of the drama (See www.AmericanHeritageBicycleTours.com). Food, period sutlers (merchants), vendors and entertainers will also be present during the weekend.

Mabee Farm to Host 1700s Colonial Festival Dinner

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The Mabee Farm’s in Rotterdam Junction will play host to prominent 18th century citizens of the Schenectady area during a Colonial Festival Dinner, the featured event of the Schenectady Heritage Area’s Annual Schenectady Colonial Festival.

Participants are likely to meet General Schuyler, soldiers on campaign, a Sachem of the Mohawk Wolf Clan, merchants or land speculators working for the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, and several members of the Mabee Family and their household. Part of the Mabee’s farm in Rotterdam Junction, the inn was frequented by military leaders, Native American traders, bateau men and many others traveling the Mohawk River. Continue reading

Celebrating the Holidays in 18th Century Johnstown

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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

Symposium on 18th Century Mohawk Valley Culture

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An upcoming symposium, “Frontier Style: Culture at the Edge of Empire, Mohawk Valley NY, 1700-1800” looks at clothing, furniture and household decorations to see what they can reveal about a person’s cultural and social status in colonial New York.

Scholars at the 2011 Western Frontier Symposium will discuss the interactions of the Mohawk, Dutch, English, German and slave cultures within this region, their traditions of costume and household design, and their perceptions of each other.

The two day symposium will be held October 15-16 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY. Participating experts in 18th century design and the region’s cultures include Phillip Otterness, David Preston, Timothy Shannon, George Hamell, Mark Hutter, Robert Trent, Mary Elise Antoine and others.

“Frontier Style” looks closely at daily life in the 18th century Mohawk Valley, when this region was the western edge of colonial New York, a frontier space where European and Native American communities were both neighbors and trading partners.

In that diverse multicultural world, personal objects from everyday life like painted German chests or Iroquois body art revealed cultural roots and traditions. Stylistic choices also could suggest a person’s career aspirations, as when decorating exclusively with imported British goods or wearing the latest London fashions.

Symposium presentations include the basics of Mohawk Valley “dressing for success”, local fashions for every budget, regional furniture and architecture, as well as discussion of the dominant ethnic and social cultures of the period.

Admission to the symposium is $20.00 per day with a discount for advance registration. A special symposium package available by advance registration only includes admission to the presentations, printed copies of the papers, box lunches both days, a reception with the speakers and a special 18th century dinner for $135. Registration forms can be downloaded from the web link below.

The biennial Western Frontier Symposium has presented the latest scholarly research about the history and cultures of the Mohawk River Valley since 2005. It is sponsored by a collaboration of regional historic sites and organizations: Old Fort Johnson, Palatine Settlement Society, Montgomery County History & Archives, Johnson Hall State Historic Site, Herkimer Home SHS, Schuyler Mansion SHS, Crailo SHS, Fort Plain Museum, Fort Klock, Historic Cherry Hill, Old Stone Fort Museum, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and the Costume Society of America.

More information and registration forms are available online.

Papers to be presented October 15-16, 2011 include:

* David Preston – “The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Iroquoian Borderlands, 1720-1790”

* Phillip Otterness “Neither French, nor English, nor Indians: The Palatine Germans of New York”

* Erica Nuckles – “The Dutch had a very bad Opinion of Me”

* Clifford Oliver Mealy –“ Slaves in the Mohawk Valley, 1750-1800”

* Tim Shannon – ”Dressing for Success on the Mohawk Frontier: Hendrick, William Johnson, and the Indian Fashion”

* George Hamell – “Native American Body Art”

* Scott Meachum – “Native American Calling Cards: War Clubs & Pictographs”

* Mark Hutter – “High Style in the Hinterlands: 18th Century Design for the Fashionable Consumer”

* Kjirsten Gustavson – “Colonial Clothing in Upstate New York”

* Michael Roets – “18th C Mohawk Life: Lower Castle Archeology”

* Wanda Burch – “Collecting Cultures: Sir William Johnson’s Cabinet of Curiosities”

* Cindy Falk – “Mohawk Valley Architecture: Cultures Built in Stone & Wood”

* Rabbit Goody – “Household Goods: 18th Century Fabrics for the Home”

* Robert Trent – “Mohawk Valley Interiors & Furniture: The Stylish Home‘

* Mary Antoine – “German Folk Arts in Upstate New York”

* Deborah Emmons-Andarawis – “Shades of Gentility: Philip Schuyler and Philip Van Rensselaer” (sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities)

* Ron Burch – “Music in the Johnson Family” (lecture & concert)