Tag Archives: Religion

Schenectady Reformed Church Archives Talk

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Dirk Mouw, winner of the New Netherland Institute’s (NNI) 2010 Annual Hendricks Award and featured speaker at NNI’s 24th Annual Meeting, will return to the northernmost part of New Netherland Sunday, November 13, 2011.

He will speak at the First Reformed Church of Schenectady’s weekly Forum, following the 10:00am worship service. The Forum is held in the Poling Chapel, 11:15am – noon. Mouw will speak about Archives of the First Reformed Church: Stories they Illuminate, Facts they Reveal, and Mysteries they Still Hold. Original 17th and 18th century church records, written by founders of Schenectady and the Church, will be shown.

After the Forum there will be a Brunch at the Stockade Inn – 12:15pm, $20/person, across the street from the church. An afternoon Workshop will follow at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue – a block’s walk around the corner from the Inn. Dr. Mouw invites anyone having early colonial documents, especially any in Dutch, to bring them for a “Show, Translate & Tell” session. Documents in the historical society’s collection will also be part of the program.

Mouw is translator of the De Hooges Memorandum Book for the New Netherland Institute, and he is an authority on the history of the Dutch Reformed Church. Currently a Fellow of the Reformed Church Center, he received the 2002 Albert A Smith Fellowship for Research in Reformed Church History. He is the author of a short biography of Schenectady’s first minister, Petrus Tesschenmaecker, who was killed in the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. Mouw is co-editor with two Dutch historians of Transatlantic Pieties: Dutch Clergy in Colonial America, which includes his Tesschenmaecker biography and will be in print by early 2012.

Mouw’s writing that won the Hendricks Award, Moederkerk and Vaderland: Religion and Ethnic Identity in the Middle Colonies, 1690-1772, rejects the myth prevalent in histories of the Middle Colonies, that the inhabitants of what had been New Netherland and their descendents quickly abandoned their churches and cultural identity, melting into the society and ways of English or American rule. Records in the Archives of Schenectady Reformed shed light on the people of the northernmost part of New Netherland Colony, showing how they remained faithful to their heritage and churches despite the changing colonial linguistic, governmental and religious environment around them.

Mouw earned his doctorate at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, following a master’s degree in history at the University of Iowa and a bachelor of arts in history and philosophy from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mouw’s work involving Schenectady is of special interest this year as it is the 350th anniversary of Arendt van Curler’s 1661 founding of Schenectady. As Mouw rejects certain historical accounts, scholars, historians, archaeologists and artists in this area have been making discoveries that are leading to new interpretations of Schenectady’s history.

The Forum is open to the public. First Reformed Church of Schenectady, 8 North Church Street in the Historic Stockade, Schenectady, NY 12305 Two church parking lots, Stockade Inn parking lot, and street parking; one block from Bus Station.

1st Jewish Congregation Torah Scroll Exhibition

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Rare and centuries-old liturgical objects, manuscripts, maps and other historic artifacts—including a Torah scroll rescued from the hands of British troops during the American Revolution — will be on loan to the New-York Historical Society beginning November 11, 2011, for the installations The Resilient City and Treasures of Shearith Israel.

The presentations of Treasures of Shearith Israel and The Resilient City at the renovated and transformed New-York Historical highlight the history of religious freedom in New York City and honor the first Jewish congregation to have been established in North America—a congregation that remains vibrant and active today, and is a neighbor of New-York Historical.

Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in 1654 by the first Jews to settle in North America: a group of 23 immigrants who came to New Amsterdam from their previous place of residence in Recife, Brazil. From 1654 through 1825, Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City. The congregation met in rented quarters until 1730, when it constructed its first building, which was located in downtown Manhattan on Mill Street (now known as South William Street). Many of the furnishings from the 1730 building are now installed in an intimate chapel, called the Little Synagogue, in Shearith Israel’s current home, consecrated in 1897, on the Upper West Side.

The Torah Scroll will be on display in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court in the Rotunda of the New-York Historical Society, where it will be surrounded by four late-20th-century views of the New York cityscape by artist Richard Haas. This installation will establish a dialogue between the city’s past and present and help reinforce the underlying themes of diversity, tolerance and resilience that are also addressed in inaugural installations presented in New-York Historical’s new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, where visitors may explore the history of the United States as seen through the lens of New York. The many other significant objects on loan to New-York Historical from Shearith Israel will be displayed in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture.

These loans have been facilitated Norman S. Benzaquen.

Photo: Congregation Shearith Israel, (founded 1655) New York, 1897 building. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Expelled Abolitionist Being Honored

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On the Hamilton NY campus from which he was expelled in 1847, George Gavin Ritchie will be honored in 2011. Ritchie’s expulsion from Madison University (now Colgate University) for his antislavery activities did not deter him from continuing to fight for abolition. Family, supporters, and others will gather in Golden Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 22, 2011 to participate in ceremonies to induct Ritchie into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro NY.

Nellie K. Edmonston & William E. Edmonston, Jr. write in their nomination of Ritchie to the Hall of Fame: “George Gavin Ritchie, editor of the first student newspaper at Madison University (at that time a Baptist Seminary; now Colgate University), was expelled for publishing his editorial, “Equal Suffrage and the Religious Press” (Hamilton Student, January 15, 1847) criticizing the voters and churches of New York State for not supporting equal suffrage for black males in the election of 1846. From this time forward his life was consumed with the cause of abolition.”

“In the face of public repudiation and humiliation by the faculty, he continued publication of the paper in Hamilton, NY, first as the Hamilton Student, then as the Hamilton Student and Christian Reformer, and finally as the Christian Reformer, an organ fearlessly devoted to abolition and other reforms. He advocated antislavery through editorializing, reprinting letters and articles from other abolition and mainstream papers announcing abolitionist meetings, and voicing support for his contemporary and colleague, Gerrit Smith. The Hamilton Student was the voice of abolition and reform in Central New York during its brief history.”

Born in Scotland in 1820, Ritchie died at an early age of 33 (Frederick Douglass’ Paper March 25, 1853). In those short years Ritchie preached antislavery from many pulpits in New York and served on local, state, and national anti-slavery committees. The Edmonstons will explain much more of Ritchie’s life and legacy in a lecture on George Gavin Ritchie at 2:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium, as part of the Upstate Institute Abolition Symposia during the afternoon of October 22.

The Ritchie induction to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) is the result of the first public nomination submitted to NAHOF. Nellie K. and William E. Edmonston have lived in Hamilton, NY for nearly 50 years. Both are retired teachers: Nellie was a Speech-Language Pathologist at the Sherburne-Earlville Central School and Bill is Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience/Psychology at Colgate University. Both have published in their respective fields; Nellie, professional articles and a language comprehension test for young children; Bill, professional articles and three professional books. From1989 to 2005 they had a small publishing company (Edmonston Publishing, Inc.) that specialized in original letters and journals of the American Civil War.

Nellie created the original and at the time only biographical article on upstate abolitionist George Gavin Ritchie as a presentation to the Hamilton Fortnightly Club in 1994 and as a contribution to the 1995 Hamilton Bicentennial Book. In 1997 Edmonston Publishing released Four Years in the First New York Light Artillery. The Papers of David F. Ritchie. David F. Ritchie was the son of George Gavin Ritchie, and it was through the publication of his Civil War papers that the Edmonstons became good friends with the Ritchie family.

With the development of the National Abolition Hall of Fame in 2005, the Edmonstons recognized the importance of nominating the local abolitionist and martyr to the cause, George Gavin Ritchie, whose story had lain in archival obscurity for nearly 160 years. Now his story will be properly preserved.

The public is encouraged to attend and participate in the “righting of Ritchie.” Admission to the evening induction ceremonies is $5 at the door. Admission to the 2:30 Ritchie is $5 at the door. (Admission to all four afternoon programs is $8.) Colgate students, faculty, and staff are free. Information and registration for other events of the day is available at www.AbolitionHoF.org, info@AbolitionHoF.org, and 315-366-8101.

A Teacher Open House at the Gage Center

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The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, NY would like to share with teachers the opportunity to learn more about Matilda Joslyn Gage, an important local historical figure on Thursday, September 22, 3:30-5:30 pm.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1824-1898) was involved in the Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad. Along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gage was a major figure in the Women’s Rights Movement. With them, she co-authored The History of Woman Suffrage.

She was a supporter of Native American sovereignty and a proponent of the total separation of Church and State, she was the author of Woman, Church and State.

Because of her strong, liberal position on religious freedom, she was written out of history books until recently.

Gage’s ideas are as relevant today as they were in the 19th century and this is a great way to bring Central New York history into your classroom and promote discussion of the past and contemporary issues.

Materials for lessons, activities, and curriculum packets available.

For more information, call 637-9511.

Event: Spiritualist Fox Sisters in Petersboro

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Spiritualism was born in the spring of 1848 when Margaret and Kate Fox heard strange rappings in their Hydesville NY bedroom. Within two years the two “Rochester Rappers” with their sister Leah were touring the country communicating with spirits. The Free Church of Peterboro was one site for the rapping demonstrations. “Scraps of paper in the Gerrit Smith Papers showing questions posed to a spirit medium … revealed that the family attempted to communicate with their loved ones, including Fitzhugh and Peter, after they had died,” according to one historian.

At 2 pm on Sunday, July 24 the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro will host programs on 19th Century spiritualism with particular attention to the Fox Sisters and Peterboro’s connections to the spiritualism movement. The program is open to the public and free.

The featured speaker Nancy Rubin Stuart (Osterville, Mass) will present Maggie Fox, Victorian America’s Reluctant Spiritualist. Upstate New York teenager Maggie Fox (1833-1893) rose to national fame as Victorian America’s “reluctant spiritualist.” Young and beautiful, Maggie’s alleged ability to communicate with spirits in America’s first séances of 1848 astounded the press, and made Maggie and her sisters the darlings of Broadway. Maggie inspired hundreds of imitators, and fascinated the most prominent men and women of her era, among them Horace Greeley, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Todd Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William James. After a passionate love affair and secret marriage to distinguished Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane in 1856, during which Maggie promised to give up mediumship, her life took surprising twists and turns, culminating with a startling confession in 1888 at the New York Academy of Music. The lecture is accompanied by slides of Maggie Fox and her era.

Rubin explains that her purpose is neither to prove nor disprove the veracity of spirit communication, but rather to illustrate how 150 years ago the Fox sisters’ introduction of that idea swept through America and why it continues to fascinate people today. Maggie’s story is important, Rubin believes, because of passion – the passionate longing that 19th C. Americans had to once again talk with their beloved dead, and the passionate romance between Fox and Kane.

This Speakers in the Humanities event, which is free and open to the public, is made possible through the support of the New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Speakers in the Humanities program has linked distinguished scholars with diverse audiences since its launch in 1983, bringing the best in humanities scholarship to thousands of people at hundreds of cultural organizations in virtually every corner of New York State. This program is just one of the ways the New York Council for the Humanities helps all New Yorkers to lead vibrant intellectual lives by strengthening traditions of cultural literacy, critical inquiry, and civic participation.

After Stuart’s presentation, popular local performers and sisters Darothy DeAngelo and Sue Greenhagen will provide a light-hearted look at early spiritualism with a vignette of the Fox Sisters during a rapping session enticing the spirits of some “dearly departed.” DeAngelo portrays Maggie, and Sue portrays Kate.

Beginning at 1 pm, Michael Keene will sell and sign his recently published book by The History Press: Folklore and Legends of Rochester: The Mystery of Hoodoo Corner & Other Tales. The book includes the story of the Fox Sisters, as well as the anti-Masonic hysteria of the early nineteenth century and the unexplained disappearance of former Mason, Captain Morgan. Keene worked for twenty-five years in the financial services industry as a financial planner. He is also the producer of an award-winning 2008 film Visions, True Stories of Spiritualism, Secret Societies & Murder, which, in part, inspired his new book.

Copies of Town of Smithfield historian Donna Burdick’s paper “Spirited Women – and Men & Their Unpopular Causes” will be on sale at the Peterboro Mercantile for the benefit of the Peterboro Area Historical Society. Burdick’s document describes Spiritualism as it was introduced and “practiced” in Peterboro. Burdick refers to written accounts of medium sessions and spiritualism conferences.

The Gerrit Smith Estate and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until October 23, 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information:

Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134-006; call 315-280-8828 or visit www.sca-peterboro.org

Peterboro: Harriet Tubman, Maggie Fox Lectures

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The New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities Program will provide two free presentations for the 2011 Peterboro Heritage Summer Programs.

On Sunday, July 17 at 2 p.m. at the Smithfield Community Center (5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro) the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will host Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History presented by Milton C. Sernett Ph.D. Syracuse University professor emeritus. Then, on Sunday, July 24 at 2 p.m. the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro) will host Nancy Rubin Stuart and her program Maggie Fox, Victorian America’s Reluctant Spiritualist.

Milton C. Sernett’s illustrated talk tells the story of how a black woman, once enslaved but self-liberated, became the dominant symbol of the Underground Railroad and an inspiration today for American of diverse backgrounds and reform interests. The audience will hear of the exciting findings of the latest research regarding Tubman the historical person, and of the many ways in which her life has been celebrated by writers, artists, and other creative spirits. Dr. Sernett has completed a book on the interplay of myth, memory and history during the years when Tubman was being canonized as an American saint.

On Sunday, July 24, in a talk accompanied by slides, Stuart will describe the Fox Sisters’ rise to national fame as communicators with spirits, the prominent people that followed Spiritualism in the 19th Century, and the history of young and beautiful Maggie Fox after she gave up her mediumship. Rubin will illustrate how 150 years ago the Fox sisters’ introduction of spirit communication swept through American and why it continues to fascinate people today.

These programs are free and open to the public. More information can be found online, by e-mailing mail@sca-peterboro.org or calling 315-280-8828.

The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 14 to October 23 in 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information: Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134, National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134.

Launched in 1983, the Speakers in the Humanities program brings the best in humanities scholarship to thousands of people at hundreds of cultural organizations in virtually every corner of New York. Speakers in the Humanities lectures are made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Legislature, and through funds from the Gladys Krieble Delm.

Excellence in Preservation Awards Announced

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The Preservation League of New York State has selected the interior restoration of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany to receive an award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.

The League’s statewide awards program honors notable achievements in retaining, promoting and reusing New York State’s irreplaceable architectural heritage.

“As the lengthy exterior restoration project continues on this Patrick Keely-designed Cathedral, the Awards Jury felt that it was fitting to recognize the completion of the interior restoration effort,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “After a century and a half of continuous use, the ornate interior has been returned to its former glory.”

Contributing to the success of this project were Reverend William H. Pape, Rector, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; Elizabeth Simcoe, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany; Laurence F. Wilson, Lynn Webster, Robert N. Pierpont and Katherine Onufer, Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects; Richard Zandri, Geoff Miles, and Ed Kaczynski, Zandri Construction Corporation, A. Curtis Wilsey, P.E., Quantum Engineering Co. PC; Dennis Fleischer, Ph.D., MuSonics; Naomi Miller, FIESNA, FIALD, LC, Naomi Miller Lighting Design; and Jack C. Healy, P.E., Ryan-Biggs Associates, PC.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, completed in 1852, is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture. The building’s grand interior features a ribbed vaulted ceiling with ornate cast plaster bosses and robust clustered columns creating a series of archways throughout the space. Last painted in 1946, the interior was a monochrome brown. Close inspection revealed that much of the plasterwork was in need of repair, and water-damaged walls, ceilings, and cracked and gouged moldings were visible throughout the structure. The interior restoration is part of a decades-long effort to restore and rejuvenate the Cathedral to ensure that it continues to serve as a landmark of architectural excellence for the city of Albany.

According to William H. Pape, Rector of the Cathedral, “The restoration brings to life many of the architectural details that were hidden by the last painting of the interior more than 60 years ago. The color palette was painstakingly researched, and is based on the completed interior of 1892. The historic terra-cotta colored faux-stone scheme is frequently perceived by visitors as real stone. The base color and hand-applied glazing is warm, welcoming and maintains a sense of awe. “

The award will be presented at the Preservation League’s Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony in New York City at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 12th at the historic New York Yacht Club, 37 West 44th Street.

The complete list of award winners is: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Interior, Albany County; The Franklin Building, Jefferson County; The Knox Building, the New York Public Library Exterior, and Pierpont Morgan’s 1906 Library Interior, all in New York County; 1844 Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, Onondaga County; and Montour House, Schuyler County. Uncovering the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life in Wayne County, New York: 1820-1880 by Judith Wellman and Marjory Allen Perez will be honored as an outstanding publication. CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity in Syracuse will be honored for organizational excellence. Howard Kirschenbaum will be honored for individual excellence for his contribution to historic preservation in the Adirondack Park.

“In New York State, the preservation and reuse of our historic buildings is fundamental to the economic revitalization of our cities, towns, and villages. The League’s annual Awards program allows us to share preservation success stories that may one day serve as inspiration to others,” said DiLorenzo. “Each year, we are impressed by the number and variety of laudable nominations, and this year was no exception. We are delighted to present this award for the interior restoration of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and to give the effort the statewide recognition it deserves.”

The Preservation League’s Excellence in Historic Preservation awards program is funded by a generous grant from the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Foundation of Miami, Florida.

Photo: Interior of Albany’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, courtesy MCWB Architects.

Rockland County: St. Johns in the Wilderness

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In a quiet corner of Rockland County, just a few miles from downtown Haverstraw, NY, stands St. Johns in the Wilderness Episcopal Church. Today it is a reminder that there was once a small but thriving community there, long since grown over.

Located near present day Lake Welch in Harriman State Park, St. John’s was constructed in 1880 through the patronage of Mrs. Margaret Zimmerman, a wealthy New Yorker, as a memorial to her husband John who had died suddenly while they were honeymooning in Palestine. Mrs. Zimmerman (who never remarried) had a retreat estate in Tuxedo Park and enjoyed hiking throughout the area, ultimately buying the land where St. John’s now stands.

In June of 1880, the cornerstone was laid and named for St. John the Evangelist and on November 23rd of the same year, the church was dedicated and officially opened for services. Three years later, Mrs. Zimmerman and Mrs. Carey, director of this church, founded a parish school for orphaned boys from New York City.

That Much Good Might Be Done: St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness, the Legacy of Ada Bessie Carey and Margaret Furniss Zimmerman, is a historical biography of these two 19th century women who devoted much of their lives operating the school and the chapel for the poor families of the Ramapo Mountains. The book details both their efforts and the history of the church.

The author, Odessa Southern Elliott, was caretaker at St. John’s for 30 years. She collected data locally and from around the world. She obtained the memoirs of Dora Ruth West, Mrs. Carey’s adopted daughter; and Sean Furniss, the great-great-great nephew of Mrs. Zimmerman shared his family research with her.

Copies of the book are available at the Harriman Park Visitor’s Center located between exits 16 and 17 on the Palisades Parkway for $15. For more information, call: 845-786-5003.

19th Century Divorce, Shakers Subject of Author Talk

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Ilyon Woo, author of The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times (2010), a new work of popular history set in the Capital Region, will discuss the book at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, October 21, 2010, in the Shaker Meeting House, 25 Meeting House Rd, near Albany International Airport. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library on the UAlbany uptown campus. Sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Shaker Heritage Society, the events are free and open to the public.

Ilyon Woo’s first book is a highly-praised work of popular history set in the Capital Region. Eunice Chapman is compelled to seek custody of her three children after their 1814 abduction by her estranged, alcoholic husband James, who elected to become a member of the Shaker community. James, who had sold the family home in Durham, New York, absconding with the money and leaving his family destitute, first brings the children to live at the Watervliet Shaker Settlement, located near what is now the Albany International Airport, before taking them into hiding at another Shaker site in New Hampshire. Much of the action also takes place at sessions of the New York State Legislature, where Eunice is compelled to use “feminine wiles,” and a previously untapped talent for public speaking, in order to win lawmakers over to her cause.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Debby Applegate called the book “masterfully written, deeply suspenseful, and filled with fascinating facts and insights,” and National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick said, “Woo brings the past to life in all its wonderful strangeness, complexity, and verve…. This is what history is all about.” 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner in nonfiction, John Matteson said, “A writer of extraordinary empathy and great resourcefulness, Ilyon Woo has transformed a neglected historical record into a vivid evocation of an era and an amazing tribute to a remarkably tenacious woman, Eunice Chapman. Meticulously researched and compellingly narrated, ‘The Great Divorce’ will stand beside the work of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the pantheon of American women’s history writing.”

A graduate of Yale and Columbia, Ilyon Woo has been interested in the Shakers since girlhood. In 2000 she starred in a short film directed by celebrated African American film pioneer Charles Burnett about the inter-generational divide between a young Korean American woman and her grandmother, set against the backdrop of a Little League baseball game. In recent days, she has been working on dramatic readings of portions of “The Great Divorce,” which have been staged at Harvard University’s Fruitlands Museum and other venues.

For more information contact the New York State Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or visit www.albany.edu/writers-inst.

Online: John Timon – Buffalo’s First Bishop

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New York History Review has just published online John Timon – Buffalo’s First Bishop
: His Forgotten Struggle to Assimilate Catholics in Western New York

 by Paul E. Lubienecki. Timon assimilated Catholics and Catholic women into the culture of western New York and established Catholicism while battling the local Protestant clergy and the Catholic hierarchy. You can read more about him here.

Mr. Lubienecki is a doctoral student of History at Case Western Reserve University. His dissertation topic is on the history and influence of the Catholic Church on the American labor movement. The article can be found here on the New York History Review website

Illustration: Bishop John Timon Bust, The Right Rev. John Timon, Bishop of Buffalo, 1847-1867, plaster, A. Pellegrini, Buffalo, 1885. On display in 2002 at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

Women and Divorce: 19th Century Outrage-21st Century Strategies

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The Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, in collaboration with co-sponsors Adrienne Rothstein Grace, Certified Financial Planner, and the Western New York Women’s Bar Association, will present “Women and Divorce: 19th Century Outrage/21st Century Strategies,” an evening of speakers on the topic of the changing rights and history of women and divorce in New York State on Thursday, August 26, at 7 p.m.
at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Court (at Elmwood Ave.).

Keynote speaker Dr. Ilyon Woo is the author of The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times (Atlantic Monthly Press). The book tells the story of Eunice Hawley Chapman, whose husband left her, taking their children, and joined the Shakers, a reclusive religious sect. At the time, a married woman in her circumstances had few rights and no legal identity. Chapman sought unprecedented intervention, and fought hard for the return of her children, rallying even the State legislature. Dr. Woo will speak on the topics addressed in her book. She will also sign copies of the book, which is available in the Museum’s gift shop

Attorney Carol A. Condon will address present-day New York State divorce law. New York is the last state in America to consider putting no-fault divorce laws on its books. Condon is a member of the Family Law Committee of the Bar Association of Erie County, and of the New York State Bar Association. She is a frequent speaker and author on topics related to divorce and family law. Condon is the past president of the Western New York Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York.

Co-sponsor Adrienne Rothstein Grace, Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, will present information specifically on the topic of divorce financial planning. Rothstein Grace has a widely varied background in financial services. She is currently with Mass Mutual/The Buffalo Agency. In concert with attorneys and mediators, Rothstein Grace helps clients in divorce gain clear ideas of their financial position, outline different settlement scenarios, and forecast long term effects.

The event is $7.00; Free to Historical Society and Western New York Women’s Bar Association members. For more information log on to www.buffalohistory.org, e-mail bechspr@bechs.org, or call 873-9644 x319.

Rensselaer County Historical to Offer Walking Tours of Troy

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The Rensselaer County Historical Society will offer walking tours of historic downtown Troy on Saturday mornings, leaving from the Market Table at the Troy Farmer’s Market at 10:30 am. “Our walking tours are a fun way to stretch your legs, and learn about the history that surrounds us,” explains Mari Shopsis, Director of Education for the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Each week brings a different theme for the tours, which are led by Historical Society staff and frequently incorporate historic photographs and readings from letters and diaries. The tours last approximately an hour. Cost: $5 for not-yet-members of the Historical Society/members free.

HISTORY WALK: Troy’s Great Fire of 1862
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 10:30 – 11:30 am

One of the most formative events in Troy’s history happened on May 10th, 1862 when within just a few hours a major bridge over the Hudson and more than 500 buildings in the city were destroyed by a huge conflagration known even today as “The Great Fire.” Using excerpts from newspapers and the letters and recollections of people who lived through this event, you will walk back into history as you retrace the progress of this fire and see what impacts this disaster had – not only locally, but nationally.

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, May 15, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Underground Railroad Walking Tour
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Troy was a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the 19th century. This walking tour will highlight the sights associated with the African American community in the first half of the 19th century. Included will be sites associated with the famous rescue of escaped slave Charles Nalle by thousands of Trojans and the now famous Harriet Tubman.

FAMILY HISTORY WALK: History Underfoot and Overhead
Saturday, June 5, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

History is everywhere in Troy. Families with kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this interactive walk through Troy’s past. We’ll look at the buildings around us for clues that tell us about the past and get hands-on with history. You’ll come away saying “I never knew that about Troy!”

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, June 12, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Spiritual Troy
Saturday, June 19, 2010; 10:30am – 12:00 pm

This special 1.5 hour walking tour looks at the history of Troy through the history of its houses of worship. Early settlers, increasing diversity, changing populations – all these stories are illustrated by the development of Troy’s religious institutions.

HISTORY WALK: Who Worked Where
Saturday, June 26, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

From night soil removers to buttonholers, night watchmen to steamboat captains – the occupations of 19th century Trojans will surprise and intrigue you. For this walking tour we explore the streets of downtown Troy to see who worked where – and why.

NYC’s Trinity Wall Church Offers New Blog, Online Resources

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Trinity Wall Street, the Episcopal Church in Lower Manhattan founded in 1697, has started a new blog. The Archivist’s Mailbag is an effort to publicize the archives and attract scholarly researchers interested in the church’s long and complex history. Multimedia Producer Leah Reddy says that “We like to say that the archives are ‘the history of New York that nobody knows’, as they only recently became fully accessible and they stretch back to the earliest days of New York City history.”

Trinity Wall Street’s archives go back to 1695, making them an excellent resource for students of history–as well as those who want to shape the future. Trinity’s Archive was made fully accessible for the first time in 2003. In addition to its own history and the history of the city, Trinity’s records shed light on the development of the Episcopal Church and the Dioceses of New York. As landowner since 1705, its archives detail the stories of the New York neighborhoods now known as Tribeca and the West Village. Trinity’s congregants have included Alexander Hamilton and John Jay; among its tenants were Aaron Burr and John Jacob Astor.

Information about the scope of the archives can be found online as well as a guide to the holdings.

There is also an interactive timeline and an interactive search-the-churchyard feature.

Dutch Legend: St. Nicholas and American Santa Claus

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Elisabeth Paling Funk will give a free lecture, entitled “From the Old World to the New: St. Nicholas in Dutch Legend and Celebration and the Birth of the American Santa Claus,” at the Historic Elmendorph Inn, North Broadway in Red Hook on Wednesday, December 16, at 7:30 pm; refreshments will be served after the lecture. The event is sponsored by the Egbert Benson Historical Society of Red Hook.

Elisabeth Paling Funk PhD attended the University of Amsterdam, received her BA in English, cum laude, from Manhattanville College and an MA and PhD from Fordham University. She is an independent scholar, editor, and translator.Her articles on Dutch-American and early American Literature have been published in the U.S. and the Netherlands. She is preparing her dissertation, “Washington Irving and His Dutch-American Heritage . . . ” for publication as a book. Dr. Funk is a former trustee of the New Netherland Institute.

Photo: Sinterklaas in the Netherlands in 2007.

Rarely Seen Tissot Watercolors On View

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Many of the iconic watercolors illustrating the New Testament by 19th-century French painter James Tissot, including many images related to the Nativity are on view at the Brooklyn Museum only through January 17, 2010. James Tissot: The Life of Christ includes 124 watercolors, selected from a complete set of 350 in the Museum’s collection. It marks the first time in over twenty years that any of these images have been on public view, in large part because of the extreme fragility of watercolors.

Among the scenes related to the birth of Christ that are included in the exhibition are The Annunciation, Saint Joseph Seeks a Lodging in Bethlehem, The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Magi Journeying, and The Adoration of the Shepherds.

Born in France, James Tissot (1836-1902) enjoyed a successful career as a society painter in London and in Paris before experiencing a religious vision, after which he began the ambitious project of illustrating the life of Christ, an undertaking that took a decade. It resulted in carefully researched, detailed images that were widely exhibited before rapt audiences in Europe and the United States.

In 1900, at the urging of John Singer Sargent, the entire series was acquired by the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, the precursor of the Brooklyn Museum, for the then huge sum of $60,000. The significant acquisition increased by several times, the then small art collection of the fledging museum.

A selection of images from the exhibition, including several of the Nativity-related watercolors, is available for press use.

Photo: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902) The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1886-94, Brooklyn Museum

Jews In New Amsterdam Lecture November 30th

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In celebration of the new exhibit on the roots of religious freedom in America, The Flushing Remonstrance: Who Shall Plead For Us?, written & curated by Susan Kathryn Hefti, the John L. Loeb, Jr. Foundation has generously sponsored a very exciting companion lecture entitled “Jews in New Amsterdam” by Dr. Gary Zola, Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives and Professor of The American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, in conjunction with the Museum of the City of New York, Monday, November 30, 2009 at 6:30pm. (1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street NYC).

Seating for the lecture is limited. So if you wish to attend Jews in New Amsterdam, please RSVP at your earliest convenience.

For a Special $6 Members Rate simply call MCNY at 917.492.3395 and mention “The Flushing Remonstrance” when making your reservation.

Photo: The Flushing Remonstrance, written in 1657, recognized as the earliest political assertion of freedom of conscience and religion in New York State.

Lutherans And Albany Public Lecture, Discussion

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The public is invited to a public lecture and discussion entitled “Lutherans, Albany, And the Course of History” at 2 pm, Sunday, November 15th, at Wittenburg Hall, First Lutheran Church of Albany (181 Western Avenue in Albany), part of First Lutheran Church of Albany’s 360th Anniversary Celebration. Dating from 1649, First Lutheran is the oldest congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It originated in the Dutch period and its services were originally held in Dutch. Over the centuries, the congregation has worshiped at four different sites in Albany. Its rich history parallels and interacts with that of the city and the State from the colonial period to the present. These presentations will draw on that history to illuminate important trends and developments and also make history “come alive” with stories that connect the church, its people, its city, and its state.

Four experienced historians will make presentations. There will be plenty of time for questions and comments at the end.

● John J. McEneny, Assemblyman, 104th A.D., “Religion and Government in Albany Over 300 Years”

● Peter Christoph, FLC Church Archivist, “Friendly Relations, Occasional Clashes: Christian Churches in Colonial Albany”

● Anthony Opalka, City Historian, City of Albany, “Albany’s Architectural History During First Lutheran’s 360 Years On the Move”

● Edward H. Knoblauch, Adjunct Professor, Schenectady County Community College, “Lutherans in the Atlantic World in the 17th and 18th Centuries”

Free parking is available in the Church’s two parking lots adjacent to its building.

Refreshments will be served after the presentation.

For more information, please contact the church office at 518-463-1326, or the event coordinator, Bruce W. Dearstyne, 518-456-0872, dearstyne@verizon.net

HDC Honors Thomas F. Pike With Landmarks Lion Award

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The Historic Districts Council will honor the many achievements of Rev. Dr. Thomas F. Pike with their 2009 Landmarks Lion award on October 28th, at the Players Club near his home on Gramercy Park. To learn more about the Lion ceremony, visit this site; to see one of the many things Reverend Pike is involved with currently, go to here. The following article is a preview from the upcoming issue of District Lines, the HDC’s newsletter.

Rev. Dr. Thomas F. Pike

Reverend Thomas F. Pike has helped run so many organizations devoted to preserving buildings and landscapes nationwide that when he walks around a place where he has been proactive, people stop him to say thanks. During a recent stroll through Gramercy Park, for which he currently serves as a trustee and archivist, Arlene Harrison, head of the neighborhood’s block association, came through the glossily painted black iron gates and hugged him. “We love this man, he’s very special, he’s the real, real deal,” she said. “He understands what this park means spiritually to this community.”

For four decades, Reverend Pike has served as an Episcopal rector at Manhattan churches while finding countless hours each week to volunteer as a leader at city agencies and nonprofits, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, Partners for Sacred Places, Preservation League of New York State and Partnership for the Homeless. On Oct. 28, he will receive HDC’s Landmarks Lion award at the Players Club near his home on Gramercy Park.

On a balmy afternoon in the park a few weeks ago, he was asked to reflect on his influence and quietly replied, “When I look back, I just wish I’d done more.” He attributes his lifelong interest in performing good works for historic architecture partly to his childhood in progressive intellectual circles. He grew up in Hastings, New York, where his father, Frederick, managed a newspaper and was friendly with African-American scholars including City College sociologist Kenneth Clark and newspaper owner Alger Adams. In the late 1950’s, as an undergraduate at SUNY New Paltz, the future reverend at first studied painting, then switched career tracks as calls for social change swept the United States.

“The fight for civil rights was in full swing and the peace movement was in its early days,” he recalled. Soon after he received his Yale divinity degree in 1963, he was at the frontlines of these causes. “I was arrested five times: that gives you a flavor of my life,” he said. He spent overnights in jail for alleged offenses committed while protesting workplace discrimination, giving antiwar sermons and leading marches demanding emergency housing for black families left homeless by suspicious fires.

In 1971 he was hired as rector for what is now Calvary/St. George’s—the congregation owns two 1840’s churches near Gramercy Park—and until his retirement last year he conducted numerous services there daily. In the 1970’s and ‘80’s, as he patiently dealt with repairs on those structures, fellow clergy kept plaintively telling him about their own buildings’ hefty maintenance bills and how they were occasionally resorting to demolition.

“So I became more and more revved up about preserving religious buildings,” Reverend Pike said. “I began to see the relationship between preservation and social justice.” Old churches and synagogues, he added, “enable a community to tell its story honestly, tangibly, and graphically, in a way that can’t be denied. And the diversity of American religious buildings celebrates the diversity of our whole society. If we erase the buildings, we’re rewriting history.”

Serving in his numerous pro bono posts and grants-giving roles, he has persuaded other religious leaders to adapt structures for outreach projects including food kitchens, alcohol abuse treatment programs and temporary housing for the homeless. He has also advocated for the preservation of secular buildings in struggling neighborhoods, like the humble row of freed slaves’ homes in Bedford-Stuyvesant now called the Weeksville Heritage Center. “Buildings do not have to be beautiful to have powerful storytelling capacity,” the reverend said. “Preservation is not an elitist pursuit, although it’s sometimes thought of as a rich man’s sport.”

Gratitude for his organizations’ support, he added, has come from surprising sources. “I’ve been out to a Congregationalist church in Brooklyn where a young mother living across the street in an apartment building with every window broken came up to me and said, ‘Looking out every day and seeing that steeple repaired now—it gives us a sense of peace and a lot of hope.’ I’m absolutely convinced that architecture can change lives. I like to quote the philosopher Ernst Bloch, who said that architecture is an embodiment of hope. You only fix the roof of a place when you believe your community will be there for a long, long time. Every repair is a gesture of commitment to the future.”

The reverend’s retirement last year has allowed him and his wife Lys, a former director of the city’s Council on the Environment, more time to focus on their own landmark: a clapboarded 1790 farmhouse near Camden, Maine. They spend half the year there when not visiting their three children: Jean, an architect in New York; Nicholas, an assets manager in Boston; and Thomas Jr., an Army lieutenant-colonel about to be deployed on his second stint in Afghanistan.

Receiving a Lion award, Reverend Pike said, “feels comfortable, but I feel a little unworthy, too, since I know and admire so many past Lions. But I like being identified as a lion, a kind of radical preservationist. That brings together many threads of my life.”

James Tissot’s Life of Christ Watercolors Exhibit

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The exhibition James Tissot: “The Life of Christ” will include 124 watercolors selected from a set of 350 that depict detailed scenes from the New Testament, from before the birth of Jesus through the Resurrection, in a chronological narrative. On view from October 23, 2009, through January 17, 2010, it marks the first time in more than twenty years that any of the Tissot watercolors, a pivotal acquisition that entered the collection in 1900, have been on view at the Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibition has been organized by Judith F. Dolkart, Associate Curator, European Art, and will travel to venues to be announced. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue of the complete set of 350 images, to be published by the Museum in association with Merrell Publishers Ltd, London.

Born in France, James Tissot (1836-1902) had a successful artistic career in Paris before going to London in the 1870s, where he established himself as a renowned painter of London society, before returning to Paris in 1882. He then began work on a set of fifteen paintings depicting the costumes and manners of fashionable Parisian society women. While visiting the Church of St. Sulpice in the course of his research, he experienced a religious vision, after which he embarked on an ambitious project to illustrate the New Testament.

With the same meticulous attention to detail that he had applied to painting high society, he now created these precisely rendered watercolors. In preparation, he made expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape, architecture, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land and its people, which he recorded in photographs, notes, and sketches, convinced that the region had remained unchanged since Jesus’s time. When he returned to his Paris studio he drew upon his research materials to execute the watercolors, concentrating on this project to the exclusion of his previous subject matter.

Unlike earlier artists, who often depicted biblical figures anachronistically, Tissot painted the many figures in costumes he believed to be historically authentic. In addition to the archaeological exactitude of many of the watercolors, the series presents other, highly dramatic and often mystical images, such as Jesus Ministered to by Angels and The Grotto of the Agony.

Tissot began the monumental task of illustrating the New Testament in 1886 and first presented selections at the Paris Salon in 1894 (before the series’ completion), where they were received with great enthusiasm. Press accounts on both sides of the Atlantic reported emotional reactions among the visitors: some women wept or kneeled before the works, crawling from picture to picture, while men removed their hats in reverence.

In May 1901 the 350 watercolors, newly mounted in gold mats and reframed, went on view for the first time on Eastern Parkway; records seem to indicate they remained on nearly continuous display until the 1930s. Since then, in part because of conservation concerns, they have only rarely been shown, and then only small portions of the series, most recently in late 1989 through early 1990.

Photo: James Tissot. Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray, 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum

Colonial Dutch Clergy Conference Announced

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The Reformed Church Center of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, N.J. will co-host an event titled “The Colonial Clergy Conference: Dutch Traditions and American Realities” with the Collegiate Church of New York, the Van Raalte Institute in Holland, Michigan, the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, Netherlands, and the Reformed Church in America Archives. The conference will be held September 27-28th at the Haworth Center at Hope College in Holland, Michigan and October 24th at First Reformed Church, 9 Bayard St., New Brunswick, N.J.

In Holland, Michigan, the speakers will be Dr. Leon van den Broeke, Assistant Professor in Religion, Law and Society and Director of the Center for Religion and Law at Free University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Dr. Willem Frijhof, Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at Free University; Dr. Hans Krabbendam, Assistant Director of the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, The Netherlands; Dr. Earl Wm.
Kennedy, Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Religion Emeritus at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa; Dr. Firth Haring Fabend, Fellow of the New Netherland Project and Historian for The Holland Society of New York,; and Dr. John Coakley, L. Russell Feakes Memorial Chair and Professor of Church History at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Speakers in New Brunswick, New Jersey will include Dr. Leon van den Broeke; Dr. Joyce Goodfriend, Professor of History at the University of Denver; Dr. John Coakley; Dr. Dirk Mouw, past Albert A. Smith Fellow at New Brunswick Theological Seminary; Dr. Firth Haring Fabend, and Dr. Robert Naborn, Director of the Dutch Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Also included in the day is a tour of the church’s
historic cemetery and bell tower, lunch, and an opportunity to order a book which will be based on the papers presented. First Reformed Church was founded in 1717 and the current building dates to 1765.

Further information about the event in Holland, Michigan, may be found on the Van Raalte Institute website at: http://www.hope.edu/vri/

Information about the event in New Brunswick, New Jersey, may be found on the New Brunswick Seminary website at: http://www.nbts.edu/clergyconference/