Tag Archives: Schenectady

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.

The History of Medicine in Schenectady County


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On Thursday, November 17, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., the Schenectady County Historical Society will host an evening of talks and a book signing highlighting the history of medicine in Schenectady County. This event is free and open to the public.

Dr. James Strosberg, MD will discuss the history of the Schenectady County Medical Society and the role of physicians in caring for Schenectady’s population. Dr. Strosberg is the Historian and a past President of the Schenectady County Medical Society. He is the principal author of Two Centuries: Caring for a Community: The Medical Society of the County of Schenectady Bicentennial, 1810-2010, a bicentennial history of the Schenectady County Medical Society. Copies of Dr. Strosberg’s book will be available for sale and signing.

Frank Taormina will speak about the life of Dr. Daniel Toll, an original member and second President of the Schenectady County Medical Society. Frank Taormina is a retired teacher and school administrator and a frequent speaker at Schenectady County Historical Society events.

For more information, contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, by phone at 518-374-0263 or by email at librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

Genealogy Day at Schenectady Co Historical


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The Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) will be hosting a Genealogy Day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at SCHS, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. Participants in Genealogy Day at the Schenectady County Historical Society will explore many possible ways to uncover your family history.

Genealogy Day will feature four speakers. The morning speakers, Phyllis Budka and Alan Horbal, will focus on their experiences in researching Polish and Polish-American genealogy. Genealogist Nancy Curran will discuss using New York State vital records in tracing your genealogy. Chris Hunter, Curator at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium, will speak about the resources available for researching your GE ancestor.

The afternoon portion of Genealogy Day offers participants the opportunity to explore the resources available at the Grems-Doolittle Library. The Librarian and library volunteers will be on hand to field questions, assist researchers, help participants get started in their genealogy research, or brainstorm strategies to overcome “brick wall” genealogical research problems that appear too difficult to solve.

Pre-registration for Genealogy Day is suggested, due to limited seating. The cost of admission for the day is $5.00; admission is free for members of the Schenectady County Historical Society. Attendees are asked to bring their own bag lunch. Beverages and desserts will be provided by Grems-Doolittle Library volunteers.

Genealogy Day Schedule for Saturday, October 29

9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.
Pieces of Me
Speaker: Phyllis Budka

“To me it is a mystery why I must study history” – Those cheeky words form the opening line of Phyllis’ poem that appeared in “The Watchtower,” the Mont Pleasant High School student newspaper, over 50 years ago. Her recent research in family genealogy has awakened her interest in European history and she suddenly feels like a human archeological dig. Phyllis Rita Zych Budka was born in Schenectady and attended St. Adalbert’s School, McKinley Junior High and Mont Pleasant High School. She received a degree in Russian Language from the University of Rochester. In 1964, she married Alfred Budka, also a native Schenectadian. Phyllis earned a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Union College in 1982. Phyllis and Al owned a welding supplies firm at that time. In 1991, Phyllis became a GE employee and retired in 2008. She has three children and seven grandchildren.

10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Research in Southern Poland and Hints for You in Doing Research in Poland
Speaker: Alan Horbal

Alan Horbal will share his experience in doing genealogical research in Poland and present strategies and tips for learning about your ancestors from Poland. He has worked as a volunteer at the National Archives and Record Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts since 2001, where he instructs users on how to use government records in their research. He has also taught courses on genealogy research at Williams College.

11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Vital Records in New York State
Speaker: Nancy Johnsen Curran

This talk will concentrate on the valuable Department of Health vital records indexes at the NYS Archives in Albany. Nancy Johnsen Curran is an experienced genealogist who focuses on the capital region of New York State. Her research takes her to the NYS Library and Archives in Albany as well as to repositories such as courthouses, historical societies and cemeteries in the area. In the fall 2011 semester Curran will teach a course on genealogy research at Schenectady County Community College. Curran is a member of the board of trustees of the New Netherland Institute and has served on the board of the Schenectady County Historical Society.

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Lunch Break – Please bring your own bag lunch; drinks and desserts will be provided.

12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Using the GE Archives for Genealogy Research
Speaker: Chris Hunter

Learn about the variety of resources that are available for researching your GE ancestor, and about digital initiatives that will improve accessibility to valuable sources like the GE Schenectady Works News employee newsletters. Chris Hunter is Curator at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium, and has overseen the Museum’s industrial history archive since 2000.

1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Q&A in the Library and Open Research Time with Library Volunteers

Explore the resources available in Schenectady County Historical Society’s Grems-Doolittle Library, including family files, photographs, family genealogies and lineages, church records, cemetery records, vital records indexes, wills, deeds, local and New York State histories, maps, collections of personal papers and organizational records, genealogy publications, and more. The librarian and library volunteers will be on hand to assist researchers and answer questions.

For more information about Genealogy Day, or to pre-register, contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, by phone at 518-374-0263, option “3”, or by email at librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

Historic Preservation ‘Code Green’ Workshops


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The Preservation League of New York State and The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) are presenting around the state a series of a two-day CODE GREEN workshop designed for contractors, architects and other building professionals.

The workshops focus on energy conservation issues of interest to those who work in older buildings, but who do not specialize in historic preservation or historic structures.



For example, a contractor hired to insulate a 1920s residence or an architect who wants to understand the application of air sealants for a mixed-use building rehabilitation would come away with information that would help them better serve their clients. Participants will receive technical information on the Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State – 2010 and its applications for historic buildings in both classroom and field presentations.

The first workshop will take place Monday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 8am-4pm each day. Day one will take place at Schenectady County Community College, Stockade Room 101 (78 Washington Avenue, Schenectady); day two includes a field session (1:00 to 4:00 p.m.), at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue.

Registration costs $75 for 2 days, lunch included. Continuing Education credits are available for Architects: 6 LUs/HSW for each full-day of the two-day workshop, totaling 12 LUs/HSW for the two days. AIA members will also receive SD credits.

This is the first of a series of CODE GREEN workshops the League will present across New York State in the summer of 2011. Information on additional workshops is available on the League’s website.

Additioanl workshops will be held in Syracuse (June 16 and 17). Plattsburgh (June 23 and 24), Buffalo (July 14 and 15), Hempstead (August 4 and 5), and Elmira (August 18 and 19).

Union College to Aquire Adirondack Library


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Union College has entered into an agreement with the private conservation group Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT) to purchase a building complex in Niskayuna that includes the former home of the noted Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer (1908-1996) and a modern addition that houses the Adirondack Research Library.

The decision to acquire the two-acre property on St. David’s Lane and preserve and expand its use as an educational learning center “reaffirms and builds upon the College’s long connection to the Adirondacks,” college officials said in a prepared statement.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to provide a home for and advance the College’s curricular and co-curricular offerings related to mountains, wilderness and waterways in general and to the Adirondacks in particular,” said College President Stephen C. Ainlay. An anonymous donor has made it possible for the College to purchase the property.

The property is located on a two-acre parcel of land, three miles from the Union College campus, adjacent to the adjacent 111-acre H. G. Reist Wildlife Sanctuary, which is stewarded by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club. The complex includes a 2,400 square-foot Dutch replica home built by Schaefer in 1934 used for offices and meetings and a 3,900 square-foot addition completed in 2005 that houses additional offices, conference rooms, and the Adirondack Research Library.

The library, which contains more than 15,000 volumes, as well as extensive collections of maps, photographs, documents and the personal papers of some of the region’s foremost conservationists, was the creation of Paul Schaefer. The building is surrounded by award-winning perennial gardens that have been maintained by Garden Explorers of Niskayuna and a bluestone amphitheatre used for public lectures and musical events.

PROTECT was incorporated in 2009 following the consolidation of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks with which Schaefer was associated for many years and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. “PROTECT has elected to focus its activities within the Adirondack Park, prompting the organization to begin exploring appropriate uses for the building and protection of the highly respected library,” the College’s statement said.

President Ainlay noted that Schaefer once taught a course on the Adirondacks at the College and in 1979 was awarded doctor of science degree for his conservation efforts. Union alumni and members of the faculty have been involved in the Adirondacks for well over a century. Numerous faculty members have conducted research in the Adirondacks and incorporated it into their courses. The College also has hosted a number of academic conferences and symposia centered on the Adirondacks, and the six-million-acre Adirondack Park is a destination for student field trips.

The College will explore collaborative partnerships with other colleges and universities involved with the Adirondacks, as well as museums and preservation groups the statement said.

According to David Quinn, treasurer of PROTECT, when the transaction is complete the Adirondack Research Library will be transferred intact to the College on permanent loan, to be managed by Union’s Schaffer Library.

“Union College will provide the quality of stewardship the place deserves,” said Quinn. “The building and library and the history they represent will be associated with a first-rate institution of higher learning and the public and park will be the ultimate beneficiaries.”

Schenectady/Nijkerk Council’s Colonial Festival Dinner


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The Schenectady/Nijkerk Council Invites you to this year’s Colonial Festival Dinner Tuesday, February 8, 2011 with Historical and Marine Artist Len F. Tantillo
Bob Cudmore, Master of Ceremonies at the Glen Sanders Mansion, One Glen Avenue – Scotia, New York

The Schenectady/Nijkerk Council has roots to about 1630, when Arendt Van Curler from Nijkerk established the trading outpost that would become the City of Schenectady. In 1909 the Dutch churches in Nijkerk and Schenectady exchanged tablets memorializing this connection. City-to-City exchanges between inhabitants of the City of Schenectady and the City of Nijkerk have been in existence since 1984.

3:30 p.m. – Throughout Evening, Exhibit
Tantillo’s Works with Maps of Early Schenectady & Latest Findings from Archaeological Excavations in the Stockade Historic District Select works by Len Tantillo available for purchase.

4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Heritage Seminar – Conversation with Len Tantillo
Bill Buell, Facilitator, Developing Schenectady’s Historical Legacy

6:00 p.m. Cocktail Hour, Hors D’oeuveres, Cash Bar

7:00 p.m. Dinner
Len Tantillo, Illustrator of life and places in early New York Historical Painting: Schenectady Works

Individual Seminar/Dinner combination ticket $60
Seminar only ticket $20
Dinner only ticket $50

Become a Sponsor of the Colonial Festival Dinner with Seminar/Dinner combination tickets & recognition in the program

A Patroon’s Table: $1000 for 10 tickets and the host receives an unframed Tantillo print

An Old Dorp Table: $750 for 10 tickets and a 10% discount on up to two Tantillo prints

Stockade Settlers: $150 for 2 tickets and reserved seating (Yes a single person may be a Settler at $75)

For more information call Laura Lee Linder at 518-882-6866

Schenectady Event: Mohicans Making History


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On Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 2 P. M., Shirley W. Dunn will present a lecture at the Schenectady County Historical Society at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. The lecture will be based on her most recent book, “The River Indians: Mohicans Making History” (Purple Mountain Press, 2009). A major part of the talk will be about Arent Van Curler’s close connections with Mohicans living around Beverwijck, connections made through a village, his farm at the Flatts and various purchases of Mohican land. Also included will be details of Mohican sales to the Dutch along the Mohawk River which indicate that the site of Schenectady, as well as the Cohoes Falls, were in Mohican territory prior to a Mohican concession to the Mohawks in 1629. Refreshments at 1:30 pm will precede the talk.

Schenectady ‘Genealogy Day’ Event Saturday


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On Saturday November 6th the Schenectady County Historical Society will explore the many possible ways to uncover your family history during Genealogy Day, an event that will feature several speakers along with open hours in the library. Frank Taormina, a retired teacher and long-time Schenectady resident, will describe the history of the ethnic communities of Schenectady as he shows us the City’s many places of worship: churches, synagogues and mosques. Bob Sullivan, librarian at the Schenectady County Public Library and webmaster of Schenectady Digital History Archive, will explain how to mine the wealth of the Internet to locate historic newspapers on the Internet. During the lunch hour Kim Mabee, a community volunteer and tireless family researcher, will share the story of her own research on the Mabee Family of Rotterdam, NY.

The afternoon of Genealogy Day offers participants the choice of sitting in on a beginning genealogy class or exploring the resources of the Grems-Doolittle Library. Nancy Curran, a genealogical consultant, will be on hand in the library to field research questions. Curran is an experienced researcher well versed in using the New York State Department of Health vital records indexes at the New York State Archives. Katherine Chansky, librarian at the Historical Society’s Grems-Doolittle Library, will talk about ways to begin a genealogy project. She will share some tips on organizing family records, suggest Internet sites to visit, and demonstrate
Family Tree Maker software.

Reservation are recommended. Participants will be asked for a 5 dollar donation to benefit the Historical Society. Lunch is bring your own bag lunch; cold beverages and homemade desserts will be provided by Grems-Doolittle Library volunteers.

Genealogy Day Schedule Saturday Nov. 6th :

10:00 am – 10: 45 am Churches of Schenectady by Frank Taormina. This PowerPoint presentation by Schenectady resident Frank Taormina, will explore the ethnic character of the City of Schenectady’s places of worship. Taormina was a social studies teacher for ten years, a school administrator and for many years the principal of Niskayuna High School. He has been president of the Schenectady County Historical Society and is a frequent speaker at SCHS events.

11:00 am – 11:45 am Digital Newspapers Online by Robert Sullivan, reference librarian at the Schenectady County Public Library and Trustee of the Schenectady County Historical Society. Bob will give a survey of assorted Internet sites where the public can find digital historic newspaper collections. He will also discuss the wealth of information available through Newsbank and Google/Gazette.

12:00 noon to 1:30 Lunch Break Guest Speaker, Kim Mabee, Mabee/Mabie/Maybee/Maybee: Soup to Nuts. Kim Mabee has spent years adding her own genealogy research to the extensive Mabee family genealogical record. A member of the Maybee Society, she describes herself as a “professional volunteer.” Kim has taken leadership roles
in a variety of area organizations including president of the Sacandaga PTA, President of the Schenectady County Historical Society, and Volunteer registrar for the Highland Soccer Club. She has received awards for her community service and takes pride in being a life-long student and self-taught scholar. From the summer into the fall season Kim is the “butter lady” at the Historic Mabee Farm in
Rotterdam Junction, NY, teaching hundreds of school children on farm tours how to make homemade sweet butter and giving lessons in farm-based traditions of the Mohawk Valley.

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Beginning Genealogy by Katherine Chansky, Librarian/Archivist for the Grems-Doolittle Library. Katherine Chansky has been working in local history and genealogy for over 10 years. She will share suggestions on organizing your family records, setting up files in Family Tree Maker, and identify several Internet
website for the beginning genealogist.

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Library Open Hours with Nancy Johnsen Curran. Curran is a genealogist and experienced researcher. She will be available in the library to brainstorm answers to your genealogy questions.

On any project, a thorough search of the Internet may lead to intensive local research in nearby counties’ courthouses, historical societies, libraries and churches.

An important resource is the New York State Library and Archives, one of the leading repositories in the country. For 20th-century research, New York State’s vital records are familiar territory. Other holdings consulted may include colonial wills, tax records, military records and prison records, as well as the unique documents
in the Manuscript Collection. Nancy Johnsen Curran brings many years experience locating family history in these records in the Capital region. She is a member of the board of trustees of Schenectady County Historical Society and the New Netherland Institute, the membership organization in support of the New Netherland Research Center. Curran brings to genealogy research a discipline instilled by many years in print and electronic journalism. Experience as a feature writer and
columnist is called into play, as she presents factual history in readable, interesting form. Her website address is www.nancycurran.com.

The Schenectady County Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305. The building is wheel chair accessible with off-street parking.

For more information contact Katherine Chansky at (518) 374-0263 or email librarian@schist.org. Find directions to SCHS at www.schist.org.

Study of Schenectady Development Online


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“Shovel Ready: Razing Hopes, History, and a Sense of Place: Rethinking Schenectady’s Downtown Strategies” is now available at the Schenectady Digital History Archive.

A thought-provoking discussion of downtown development in Schenectady in the second half of the twentieth century, “Shovel Ready” is Christopher Spencer’s master’s thesis in city planning (MIT, 2001) and analyzes the reasoning behind Schenectady’s development plans from the 1924 report of the City Planning Commission to the Downtown Schenectady Master Plan of 1999, which is also available at the Schenectady Digital History Archive.

The Schenectady Digital History Archive is a service of the Schenectady County Public Library and a member of the NYGenWeb, USGenWeb and American History and Genealogy Projects and the American Local History Network, dedicated to making information about Schenectady’s heritage more accessible to researchers around the world.

Faces of Schenectady Seminar Announced


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Due to the interest generated by the exhibit “Faces of Schenectady: 1715 – 1750” as well as brand-new research, support from the First Reformed Church of Schenectady, and generous grants from the New York Council for the Humanities, and Schenectady County, the Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) is offering a two day seminar this October.

Participants will be able to experience, first hand, new research related to eighteenth-century art, politics, and culture in Schenectady County. Along with one-of-a-kind lectures, SCHS is also offering a one-on-one gallery talk with co-curator Ona Curran and a 17th century Dutch Luncheon made possible by the Glen Sanders Mansion!

FRIDAY October 15

Exhibit Tour with Gallery Lecture Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue Schenectady NY 12305

Registration 1:30

2:00 – 3:15 Ona Curran Nehemiah Partridge: His style, use of mezzotints, English influence Clara Clack van Beek – Account ledger of Annatje Beck, tavern keeper and seller of dry goods

3:30 – 4:30 Ona Curran Peter Vanderlyn and John Heaton

Schenectady Portraits – Susanna Truax and Deborah Glen Other portraits – Albany, Hudson Valley, The Van Bergen Overmantel, the Oliver portrait

5:30 – 7:30 Evening Fare and Folklore (Additional $10.00 Fee) First Reformed Church of Schenectady 8 North Church Street, Schenectady NY 12305 Buffet and Story Telling Joe Doolittle

SATURDAY October 16

Exhibit Open 9:00 – 9:30 Schenectady County Historical Society

Registration 9:00

Lectures First Reformed Church of Schenectady

9:30 – 10:15 Susan Blakney, 17th Century Double Wedding Portrait

10:15 – 11:15 Nancy Hagadorn Ph.D., Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen Cultural Broker and Interpreter

11:30 – 12:30 John Townsend The Mohawk Prayer Book

LUNCHEON 12:30 – 2:15

2:15 – 3:00 Karen Hess The Indomitable Ariantje Coeymans: Bangles and Beads – Jewelry in Portraiture

3:00 – 3:45 Rod Blackburn Scripture Paintings

3:45 – 4:30 Rod Blackburn and Ruth Piwonka The Data Base of early 18th century paintings

4:30 – 5:00 Questions and Closing Remarks

Register online here.

Civilian Conservation Corps Program, Reunions


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On Friday, June 25th, 2010, the Schenectady County Historical Society will host a reunion of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alumni, family, & friends, from 10:00 am to noon at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY. Marty Podskoch, CCC researcher, will give a short presentation and will invite participants to share memories of the camps.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began on March 31, 1933 under President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to relieve the poverty and unemployment of the Depression. Camps were set up in many New York towns, state parks, & forests. Workers built trails, roads, campsites, dams, fire tower observer’s cabins & telephone lines; fought fires; stocked fish; and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in WW II.

A part of the history of the CCC was saved recently by the daughter of a man who was in one of the camps. She donated a CCC Schenectady District yearbook for 1937 to the Historical Society. The yearbook has a history of the District, along with photos of officers and the men at the camps. Many men from Schenectady were in Company 219 (Cherry Plain, NY); and Company 222 (Middleburg, NY).

Marty Podskoch is a retired teacher and the author of five books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, two Adirondack fire tower books: Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts, and Northern Districts and two other books, Adirondack Stories: Historical Sketches and Adirondack Stories II: Historical Sketches from his weekly illustrated newspaper column.

Presently, Marty Podskoch is conducting research on the Civilian Conservation Camps in the Adirondacks and Connecticut. He is interested in meeting individuals who may have CCC stories to contribute to his next book. Marty Podskoch will have all of his books available after the presentation for sale and signing. For those unable to attend this reunion, Marty Podskoch has planned five other reunions:

June 22 6:30 pm Oneida Historical Society, 1608 Genesee St., Utica (315) 735-3642
June 23 6:30 pm Franklin Co. Hist. Society, 51 Milwaukee St. Malone (518) 483-2750
June 26 1 pm Fulton Co. Hist. Society, 237 Kingsboro Ave., Gloversville (518) 725-8314
June 27 2 pm Bolton Landing Hist. Society, Bolton Free Library (518) 644-2233

For more information on the reunion in Schenectady, contact Katherine Chansky,Librarian/Archivist, Grems-Doolittle Library at: (518) 374-0263, librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking.

If any one has information or pictures to share of relatives or friends who worked at one of the CCC camps, please contact, Katherine Chansky (518) 374-0263 at the Grems-Doolittle Library, or Marty Podskoch at: 36 Waterhole Rd., Colchester, CT 06415 or 860-267-2442, or podskoch@comcast.net

Soap Box Derby Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum


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Seventy years after the debut of Albany’s first Soap Box Derby, the New York State Museum will mark the occasion with the opening of a small exhibition on the Derby June 8, followed by an awards ceremony at the Museum in conjunction with this year’s Albany competition. “Derby Doings: The All-American Soap Box Derby,” will be open in the Museum lobby until August 15.

The annual Capital District Soap Box Derby competition will be held in front of the State Museum on Madison Avenue on Saturday, June 12th and Sunday, June 13th. The awards ceremony in the Museum’s Huxley Theater will immediately follow Sunday’s races at approximately 5 p.m. The winners in three divisions will advance, all expenses paid, to the World Championships in Akron, Ohio later in July.

The exhibition traces the history of the Derby to the summer of 1933 when Dayton, Ohio Daily News photographer Myron Scott saw three boys racing down the hill and proposed what he expected would be a one-time competition. Nineteen children showed up and Scott was compelled to arrange for another competition on August 19, 1933. Intensely publicized, the event attracted 362 contestants and about 40,000 spectators.

The first national championship which Scott called the All-American Soap Box Derby was launched the following year with promotional and financial support from newspapers, magazines and Chevrolet. In 1935, the Derby relocated to Akron, Ohio.

Albany’s first competition dates to 1940 when 15,000 people watched 100 boys compete in the first races on Clermont Avenue. The Derby was locally sponsored and promoted chiefly by Chevrolet automobile dealers and the Albany Times Union. Ongoing support from both allowed such large events to continue through the 1940s. The Derby was televised by WRGB in 1949. Racing continued off and on at various locations, with different sponsors, until it ceased in the 1970s.

However, the Albany Derby was revived in 2006, managed by Ginger Miller. Boys and girls, ages 8-18, are now invited to participate.

The Derby was also held in Schenectady at one time. Richard Russell built two cars – one in 1948 and the other in 1949 — for the annual races on Fehr Avenue in Schenectady. He constructed both of his cars in a building at the Mattice service station and Mattice Fuel Oil service facility at 1025 Altamont Ave. in Schenectady, a business dating from the 1920s. It is still operated by the Russell family, including Richard Russell and his son, Richard Russell Jr., who donated the Russell car to the State Museum in 1995.

The 1949 Russell car will be on display in the exhibition, along with a contemporary Super Stock model built by Michael Morawski in 2007. He won with it on Madison Avenue in 2008 and went on to compete in Akron later that summer. Visitors can also see a helmet worn by Russell at the Schenectady races in 1948 and 1949, a trophy won by Donald Matthews in the Albany derby in July 1941, and several photographs that appeared in the Times Union and Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

Photo: Richard Russell in his car that is on display in the New York State Museum exhibition “Derby Doings: The All-American Soap Box Derby.” This photograph was used in a Mattice ad which appeared in the Schenectady Gazette on July 30, 1949. (Courtesy of NYS Museum)

Faces of Schenectady 1715-1750 Exhibit Opens


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The recent acquisition by the Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) of the portrait of Laurens Van Der Volgen attributed to Nehemiah Partridge lead to the exhibit “Faces of Schenectady 1715-1750” running now through November 1st at the SCHS. Portraits of Schenectadians who were neighbors of Van DerVolgen in “Old Dorp” (now the Schenectady Stockade historic district) are included in the exhibit.

These twenty portraits have never been shown as a group before. Three are in the SCHS collection. Most of the portraits are in other museum collections and four in unknown locations. The portraits are attributed to Nehemiah Partridge, Pieter Vanderlyn and John Heaton. The sitters in addition to Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen include Gerrit Symonse Veeder and his wife Tryntje Otten Veeder, Caleb Beck and his wife Anna Mol Fairly Beck, Jacob Glen and his wife Sarah Wendell Glen, Deborah Glen, John Sanders, Catherine Van Patten and Adam Swarth, Helena Van Eps and Tobias Ten Eyck

Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen was an important figure in colonial New York history. He was captured by the Mohawks as a young lad during the infamous attack on Schenectady in 1690 and taken to Canada where he became immersed in native American customs and ways and learned the Mohawk language. He returned to Schenectady about ten years later. His
knowledge of the customs and language of the native Americans made him a valuable asset to the New York Provincial government. He was appointed by the governor of the province as interpreter and liaison between the natives and the New York provincial government a post he held until his death in 1742.

Laurens translated part of the Dutch Reformed Prayer book into the Mohawk language. The prayer book was printed by William Bradford an early printer in NYC in 1715. The
portrait of Laurens, another portrait of a young child and other family memorabilia were donated to the SCHS by a descendant of Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen.

There are several Schenectady portraits from this period that are known to exist but their location is unknown e.g. Barent Vrooman, John Dunbar and his wife Jeanette Von Egmont Schermerhorn and Cornelius Van Dyke. The Vrooman portrait is attributed to Pieter Vanderlyn, the other three are attributed to Nehemiah Partridge. The Society would appreciate hearing from you if you know of their whereabouts.

Ona Curran is guest curator of the exhibit and author of the catalog. Kate Weller is curator. A seminar scheduled for mid October is in the planning stages. Topics will include the portraits, the artists and the sitters, the use of mezzotints in early portraits, the use of engravings from the early Dutch bibles in paintings, early printing and the Mohawk prayer book and the role of the interpreter in colonial New York relations with the native Americans. If you have questions contact Ona Curran ocurran@nycap.rr.com or Kate Weller curator@schist.org

The Schenectady County Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady NY 12305. Hours are M-F 10a.m. – 5 p.m., Sat. 10a.m. – 2 p.m.

‘Why New Netherland Matters’ Lecture by Joyce Goodfriend


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The prevailing history of the Dutch settlers in America has been illustrated with depictions of quaint Dutch villages, and tales of characters such as Rip Van Winkle and St. Nicholas . Dr. Joyce Goodfriend offers a new look at the story of the Dutch settlement called New Netherland.

On Saturday, June 12th, 2:00 pm, at the Schenectady County Historical Society, Dr. Joyce Goodfriend will give a talk titled, “Why New Netherland Matters.” Her presentation answers fascinating questions about our founding myths and legends, including a new look at the lives of slaves in New York. Celebrations throughout 2009 of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River in 1609 inspired many researchers, Dr. Joyce Goodfriend among them, to bring to our attention the latest research on the history of early New York.

Dr. Goodfriend’s scholarly research into contemporary traveler’s accounts and her examination of period artwork reveals a more complete picture of our nation’s early
multicultural history. Dr. Goodfriend’s talk is based on an essay by the same title, in which she writes: “New Netherland may have been dissolved as a political reality by 1674, but it remained a cultural reality well into the nineteenth century, and in this guise indelibly influenced the course of history in the mid-Atlantic region.” The audience for her talk on Saturday, June 12th, will be treated to a broader understanding of the importance of early New Amsterdam and the Dutch in New York.

Dr. Goodfriend has written extensively on the subject of New Netherland including articles on religion and women’s roles. Her books include Before the Melting Pot: Society and Culture in Colonial New York City, 1664-1730; Going Dutch: The Dutch Presence in America 1609-2009 and Revisiting New Netherland: Perspectives on Early Dutch America, as well as numerous articles in collective history on Dutch New York. Goodfriend is a professor of history at the University of Denver and received her B.A. from Brown University and her M.A. and PhD from UCLA.

Only 75 tickets are available for this event. A $5.00 donation per person is requested. For reservations call (518) 374-0263, and for more information e-mail librarian@schist.org.

Schenectady County Public Library Local History Collection Unavailable


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Due to an asbestos abatement project on the second floor of the Central Library, the storage collections of the Schenectady County Public Library will be unavailable from now until approximately the middle of June, according to Bob Sullivan of the Schenectady Digital History Archive.

The shutdown will affect the bulk of the libraries local history collection, including most of their yearbooks and some of their city directories. The newspaper microfilm and the city directories on the main floor will remain accessible, as will the library’s Ancestry and HeritageQuest subscriptions.

NY Folklore – Textured Stories: The Works of Denise Allen


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The New York Folklore Society will be presenting “Textured Stories: The Works of Denise Allen” at its gallery at 113 Jay Street, Schenectady through March 26th. I asked the Folklore Society to describe Lisa’s work for us and this is what they sent:

She lived for many years in Bedford-Stuyvesant (in Brooklyn), her hometown. Her mother was a seamstress in the sense that she made a lot of the family cloths, etc. Denise, however, was not a trained seamstress. She worked as a legal secretary, and had no intention of becoming an artist. After her mother died, however, she became very depressed. She walked into a Woolworth’s store one day, saw the embroidery kits there, which reminded her of her mother, and felt “called” to take that up to feel a connection with her mother. She has been doing needlework ever since.She does a unique kind of textured embroidery, not only involving needlework, but layering and adding material onto the fabric, such as wood, cardboard, wire, etc. She also creates dolls from the original design to the finishing touches. Her signatures pieces are her story cloths, textured artwork that often tells specific stories from her own life, as well as fictional stories that otherwise capture an expressive truth.

Her work focuses on themes of African-American life, particularly in the colonial period in America, and country living. She addresses themes of slavery, traditional life, life in the country, and so on.

After her son was killed in 9-11 (he worked in Tower 1), and her husband barely escaped (he worked on the 97th floor as a drafter for the Port Authority), she became extremely despondent. Because she had always been fascinated with country life after seeing a county fair event that had come to Brooklyn when she was a little girl, she and her husband decided to move up to upstate NY and live on a farm. She moved up to Palatine Bridge, and has been living there among the Amish for the past several years. She has a wonderful relationship with her neighbors, some of whom contribute wooden frames for her art. She has been working on a 9-11 story cloth, and recently completed it. It is now under consideration to be placed at the 9-11 Museum that is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Newspaper Vital Records Index Reaches 50,000 Entries


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Bob Sullivan of the Schenectady Digital History Archive at the Schenectady County Public Library has announced that the organization’s obituary index has passed the 50,000-citation mark. The index includes scattered records from Schenectady newspapers before 1822, more complete coverage from 1822 to 1858, some later 1800s, 1902, 1993 to mid-1995, and Dec. 2005 to date. Some other papers from neighboring areas are also included from 2005 to date including regional papers such as the Saratogian, the Gloversville Leader-Herald and the Glens Falls Post-Star. Also available are some years of the Hamilton County News, the Business Review, the Jewish World and the Evangelist.

Most of the newspapers are available in the collections of the Schenectady County Public Library or the Schenectady County Historical Society. See “What Newspapers Are Included?” and “How May I Obtain Copies?” at the top of each obituary page for more information about specific dates and holding libraries.

The index can be accessed here http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/vitalrecords/

Folk Concert to Benefit NY Folklore Society, May 29


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Witch tales from Otsego County. The famed Binghamton spiedie sandwich. Irish ballads sung in New York City. African-American spoken word genres. North Country quilting. The work rituals of Saratoga racetrack workers. What do all of these have in common? These are a few of the rich and varied traditions of New York State, which the New York Folklore Society has been documenting and helping to preserve since 1944.



To help celebrate sixty-five years of the Society’s work, and to coincide with the release of the latest issue of Voices, the Society’s bi-annual journal, the New York Folklore Society announces “Voices: Roots & Branches of New York Folk Music”, a benefit concert to be held on Friday, May 29, 2009 in Schenectady, New York at 7 p.m.

Featured performers include Joe Bruchac, Abenaki storyteller and flute player and his son Jesse Bruchac; Adirondack singer/songwriter Dan Berggren; multi-instrumentalist John Kirk and Cedar Stanistreet; ballad singer Colleen Cleveland; Sengalese drummer and dancer Fode Sissoko; and performer/interpreters Kim and Reggie Harris. The concert will be held at Proctor’s Theatre, 432 State Street, in Schenectady, NY.

A Reception/Meet the Artists party will precede the concert at 5:30 p.m. in the Robb Alley at Proctors. The concert begins at 7 p.m. (Reception and Concert: $41.50, Concert only: $21.50). All proceeds will benefit the New York Folklore Society, a service organization dedicated to the study, promotion, and continuation of New York’s diverse folklore and folklife. Tickets are available through the New York Folklore Society, at 518-346-7008, or at http://www.proctors.org/events. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible.

49th Annual Schenectady Stockade Walkabout


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With a slogan that says “Party Like It’s 1662,” the Schenectady County Historical Society, the Stockade Association and the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation present the 49th Annual Stockade Walkabout and Waterfront Faire on Saturday.The Walkabout showcases the oldest continuously occupied historic district in the United States, which was designated the first Historic District in New York state in 1962. During the event, from 11 a.m to 5 p.m., you can interact with historical characters from Olde Schenectady, stroll through the neighborhood, tour privately owned 18th- and 19th-century homes, visit historic churches, view the Stockade’s only archaeological dig and join an archaeological tour or an architectural tour.

The Walkabout House Tour includes: guided tours of historic homes, churches and public buildings; an archaeological dig at a historic house garden; an architectural tour; an archaeological tour; historic boats along the Mohawk River; carriage rides along the river path and through the streets; children’s activities in the park; live music and refreshments throughout the day; an antique car exhibit; guided tours of the old Erie Canal; and Colonial artisan demonstrations and fine crafts.

Tickets for adults purchased in advance are $18, and the day of the event are $25; tickets for children younger than 12 are $7. Park free at Schenectady County Community College and other public lots.

The free Waterfront Faire features arts and crafts vendors; family activities; live entertainment and music; food and refreshments; carriage rides; Schenectady County Faire — Colonial artisans and demonstrators; and an authentic bateau and turn-of-the-century launch boat.

For more information, visit http://www.stockadewalkabout.com. You can also find information or purchase tickets with credit cards by calling 374-0263. Tickets can also be purchased at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady, NY 12305.