Tag Archives: Religion

Women’s Day Exhibit Features Saint Marianne Cope


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Marianne CopeWomen’s Rights National Historical Park announces the opening of an exhibit about the work of Saint Marianne Cope, entitled “Saint Marianne: Blessed Mother of the Afflicted.” The exhibit will open on Friday, March 8th in celebration of International Women’s Day.

The exhibit will explore Saint Marianne’s life work with the Sisters of Saint Francis, which began in Syracuse, New York and culminated in Hawaii with patients afflicted with Leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. Continue reading

Spain’s Gift to Catholic New York


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St. Peters c. 1785It is hard to imagine now but in the 18th century New York City and much of the rest of the thirteen British colonies of America, it was practically illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Widespread anti-Catholicism was a side effect of the Catholic-Protestant wars of 17th century Europe and the geo-political rivalries between the English Crown and the allied Franco Spanish Kingdoms for control of the Americas.

The anti-Catholic animosity – Leyenda Negra the Spanish called it – was ingrained into the psyche of the largely Protestant British immigrants who came to dominate North America in the wake of the arrival of the Pilgrims and other fundamentalists in the early 1600s. Continue reading

Elijah Hunter: Revolutionary War Spy


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first baptist church ossiningSpying was a major component of the strategy and the tactics of the American Revolution. However it’s only recently that historians have focused on the intrigues, subterfuges and skullduggery that were used by all sides. Except for the spying of British Major John Andre, his collaboration with Benedict Arnold, and of the failed spying of Nathan Hale, undercover intelligence gathering operations during the Revolution is a mostly forgotten aspect of that conflict.

Nonetheless, spying was quite common in that era and George Washington was its chief proponent.  Washington made full use of the 1700s tools of the spy trade including invisible ink, hiding messages in feather quills, and small silver balls for hiding messages that could be swallowed in the event of capture. He also encouraged forging documents and making sure they fell into British hands. Continue reading

Preservation Fight At Manhattan Underground RR Site


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Abigail Hopper GibbonsManhattanites are agitating on behalf of the home of one of the city’s leading 19th Century agitators–Abigail Hopper Gibbons. She and her husband James S. Gibbons ran a strongly documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan, at what is now 339 West 29th St., near 8th Avenue.

A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Bureau of Standards and Appeals, over a developer’s decision to add fifth floor to the four-story building, in violation of historic preservation rules.
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Peter Feinman: NY and The End of the World


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It is with deep regret and heavy heart that I have the onerous task to inform you that once again the world has come to an end. The passing of our beloved planet marks the third time in this still young century when we endured this ignominious ending to our long history.

First came the secular Y2K ending, then the Christian rapture in 2011, and now the Mayan recycling of 2012. The ending of the world has become as frequent as the storms of the century. We scarcely have time to catch our breath before once again the world will fall over its cliff into an abyss from which it can never recover. Continue reading

Schoharie Crossing Announces Temporary Exhibits


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The Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center is presenting two small temporary exhibits for the 2012 season (May 1- October 31). The exhibits are available for viewing during the regular Visitor Center Hours: Wednesday- Saturday 10AM to 5PM and on Sundays 1PM to 5PM. The Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and is located at 129 Schoharie Street in Fort Hunter, five miles west of Amsterdam, off Route 5S.

The larger of the two exhibits is entitled “Celebrate 300: Centuries of Fort Hunter History and New Discoveries.” It addresses the 300th anniversary of Fort Hunter and the Queen Anne Chapel, its rich history and recent archaeological discoveries. Fort Hunter, built in 1712, was a British frontier fort; 150 square feet with four corner blockhouses.

Queen Anne’s Chapel served as the center of Christian spiritual life for the settlers of European decent in the area and the surround 600-person Mohawk Village of Tiononderoge.

The other smaller exhibit will show photos of the recent Hurricane Irene flood damage and the recovery effort at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site.

For more information about Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, call the Visitor Center at (518) 829-7516. You can also find them on Facebook.  

Photo: Normally high and dry, Putmans Store (and the adjacent Enlarged Erie Lock 28) at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site filled with water on August 29, 2011. Photo by Howard Ohlhous, Courtesy National Park Service.

Guided Tours at the Shaker Heritage Society


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The Shaker Heritage Society is offering guided tours of America’s first Shaker Settlement. Tours will run every Saturday beginning May 5th through September 29th. Participants will learn the story of the Shakers, a group that played important roles in shaping local and national history. The grounds also house a historic herb garden, chickens, turkeys, and oxen, the grave of Shaker founder Mother Ann Lee and other important Shakers in the Shaker cemetery.

Guided tours begin the 1848 Shaker Meeting House at the site of America’s first Shaker settlement. The historic site is adjacent to Albany International Airport off of Heritage Lane. Tours begin at 1:00pm. There is a suggested donation of $5.

For more information visit www.shakerheritage.org or call 518-456-7890.

New Books on Yates County History Published


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The Yates Heritage Tours Project began in 2010 when four friends – all active members of the Barrington History Group, the Dundee Area Historical Society and the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society – got together with the goal of telling local history. They have published their first two books on the region, with a third on the way.

The first, a book on Jemima Wilkinson, The Public Universal Friend (the first American born woman to found a religious movement) titled “The Unquiet World” features a companion audio CD self driving tour of historic sites relating to Wilkinson and her followers, the Universal Friends, who created a settlement on the New York frontier in 1788.

They have also published a small book titled “Architecture in a Small Town” which covers architectural styles beginning with 1790 through today in Penn Yan, NY. The book lists each style with its characteristics and illustrations and includes a glossary of terms and a map showing the location of each structure. Though focused on Penn Yan, the book is a handy reference the architectural styles of buildings you find in other towns, villages and cities.

A third effort, “Penn Yan and How It Got That Way” about the history of Penn Yan is expected to be released soon and will also include a companion audio CD walking tour of of Penn Yan’s Main Street historic district.

“The Unquiet World” and “Penn Yan and How It Got That Way” are written by Frances Dumas, Yates County historian and the public historian for both Penn Yan and Milo NY.

Yates Heritage Tours products can be purchased on their website or through local vendors such as Longs’ Cards & Books on Main Street in Penn Yan, New York and the Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society on Chapel Street. For more information you can reach Yates Heritage Tours via email at YatesHeritageTours@gmail.com or by phone at (315) 536-2491.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.

See New St. Peter’s Church Exhibit First, Free


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Visitors to the Albany Institute of History & Art on Friday, March 2 from 5–8 PM can enjoy a free sneak peak at the museum’s newest exhibition, St. Peter’s Church: 300 Years of History & Art before it’s officially opening on March 3. The event is in association with Albany’s 1st Friday art walk, showcasing the art scene in downtown Albany. The show, running through April 29, will examine the role St. Peter’s Church has played in shaping Albany and the upper Hudson Valley.

The exhibition showcases the distinguished history of St. Peter’s Church in Albany, New York, which begins in 1708 when England’s Queen Anne sent missionaries to establish friendly relations with the Iroquois.

A gambrel-roofed masonry edifice with a bell tower was completed in 1715. Located on State Street, just below present day Chapel Street, it was the first Anglican Church built north of New York City and west of the Hudson River. In 1802 Albany architect Phillip Hooker designed a new Federal Style church near the same location, which Richard Upjohn of New York City, well-known for his Gothic Revival Style replaced in 1860. His son, Richard M. Upjohn added the impressive bell tower in 1876.

The richly decorated interiors include work by leading artists designers including windows designed by the English artist Edward C. Burne-Jones and fabricated by the William Morris Company of London in 1880; the chancel windows made by Clayton and Bell of London in 1885; and the rose window over the State Street entrance made by the Tiffany Company in 1892. Drawn from the collections of St. Peter’s Church and the Albany Institute, the exhibition includes the rarely seen 1712 Queen Anne Communion Service, land grants, portraits, furniture, drawings, prints, maps, and photographs arranged to highlight the history of the church and its role in the historical events that molded the region.

The show will be located within the Entry Gallery of the Albany Institute of History & Art, which is situated at 125 Washington Avenue, Albany. In conjunction with the show, the Institute is hosting a three-part lecture series entitled “300 Years, One Congregation” for a more in-depth look at the church and its legacy. Visit albanyinstitute.org for more information.

RELATED EVENTS:

300 Years, One Congregation: Three Buildings, Four Distinguished Architects
Sunday, March 4 at 2 PM
John G. Waite, FAIA, and Doug Bucher of John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC will present a lecture on the architectural and artistic history and legacy of St. Peter’s Church. Free with museum admission.

300 Years, One Congregation: One Faith: The Stained Glass Windows at St. Peter’s Church

Sunday, March 25 at 2 PM
Mr. Anthony Anadio will present an illustrated lecture of the stories told by the thousands of pieces of stained glass created by some of the world’s finest artisans that are part of St. Peter’s Church. The lecture will be followed by a tour of St. Peter’s to see the actual windows. Free with museum admission.

Illustration: St. Peter’s Church circa 1850 by James Eights (1797-1882), watercolor.

St. Peter’s Church in Albany the Focus of Events


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The Albany Institute of History & Art will be presenting the first of a three lecture series “300 Years, One Congregation”, about St. Peter’s Church on State Street on Sunday, February 12 at 2 PM. In this first lecture “In One City of Two Cultures, Ministering to Three Nations” the history, purpose, and influence of St. Peter’s Church in Albany will be explored by a panel of experts, including the Reverend Paul Hartt, Rector, Ms. E. Connie Powell, Church Archivist and Mr. Chris Grill, Mentor at Empire State College. This event is FREE with museum admission.

The lecture series is in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition “St. Peter’s Church in Albany”, opening at the Albany Institute on March 3 and running through April 29, 2012. The exhibition draws from the collections of St. Peter’s Church and the Albany Institute and includes the rarely seen 1712 Queen Anne Communion Service, land grants, portraits, furniture, drawings, prints, maps, and photographs to highlight the history of the church and its role in the historical events that shaped Albany and the Upper Hudson Valley.

The other two lectures included in the series are:

Three Buildings, Four Distinguished Architects

SUNDAY, MARCH 4 | 2 PM
John G. Waite, FAIA, and Doug Bucher of John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC will present a lecture on the architectural and artistic history and legacy of St. Peter’s Church. FREE with museum admission.

One Faith: The Stained Glass Windows at St. Peter’s Church

SUNDAY, MARCH 25 | 2 PM
Mr. Anthony Anadio will present an illustrated lecture of the stories told by the thousands of pieces of stained glass created by some of the world’s finest artisans that are part of St. Peter’s Church. The lecture will be followed by a tour of St. Peter’s to see the actual windows. FREE with museum admission.

RELATED EXHIBITION:
ST. PETER’S CHURCH IN ALBANY

MARCH 3–APRIL 29, 2012

The distinguished history of St. Peter’s Church in Albany, New York begins in 1708 when England’s Queen Anne sent missionaries to establish friendly relations with the Iroquois. A gambrel-roofed masonry edifice with a bell tower was completed in 1715. Located on State Street, just below present day Chapel Street, it was the first Anglican Church built north of New York City and west of the Hudson River. In 1802 Albany architect Phillip Hooker designed a new Federal Style church near the same location, which Richard Upjohn of New York City, well-known for his Gothic Revival Style replaced in 1860. His son, Richard M. Upjohn added the impressive bell tower in 1876. The richly decorated interiors include work by leading artists designers including windows designed by the English artist Edward C. Burne-Jones and fabricated by the William Morris Company of London in 1880; the chancel windows made by Clayton and Bell of London in 1885; and the rose window over the State Street entrance made by the Tiffany Company in 1892. The exhibition, drawn from the collections of St. Peter’s Church and the Albany Institute, include the rarely seen 1712 Queen Anne Communion Service, land grants, portraits, furniture, drawings, prints, maps, and photographs arranged to highlight the history of the church and its role in the historical events that shaped Albany and the upper Hudson Valley.

Illustration: St. Peter’s Church circa 1850 by James Eights (1797-1882), watercolor.

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.