RSS Feed

Category Archives: history

Historic Christmas Present

For the last Christmas present for my husband, Steven, I made my way to one of my all time favorite places to shop: the Ilion Farmer’s Market at Clapsaddle Farm on Otsego Street.

I’ve blogged about the Farmer’s Market many times and will no doubt do so again. It is run by folk artist Jim Parker, which is why I needed to shop there Friday. I wanted to give Steven a Parker print. Steven has a real knack for decorating, and he especially loves to hang nice things on the wall. A nice print which we can get framed seemed a perfect gift.

I decided on a picture of Herkimer which Parker designed for the village’s bicentennial in 2007. It shows an aerial view of the village with a few close ups in bubbles, most notably of my beloved Historic Four Corners. It’s matted, so we can hang it right away, while we search for a frame. Or we may decide to take it somewhere, perhaps the Frame Place in Mohawk. That might make another good blog post.

At another vendor, I purchased a handmade pin of a sleigh with Santa painted on it. Very pretty. I tried a sample of their delicious fudge, but resisted the temptation to buy any of that.

Thousand Islands Winery was there, much to my delight. I’ve been at Thousand Islands Winery several times. In fact, every time I visit some friends who live in Theresa, NY, I ask to go to the winery. I got into quite a conversation with the man there, while I sampled a few of his wines. He was especially grateful when I asked to sample the Cabernet Sauvignon, because he had to open a new bottle. He had been wanting to sip a little of that himself. I bought a bottle, to contribute to my own merry Christmas. I’ll bring it to my parents’ house and share.

While I was tasting and chatting, Jim Parker came over and said hello. I showed him my purchase (the print, not the wine), and told him how I almost never come to the Farmer’s Market without my husband but made the special trip to get the present. Jim mentioned that he had designed the print for Herkimer’s bicentennial and told me he was working on a design for the upcoming bicentennial of the War of 1812. We talked a little bit about that war (not that I know much about it), and I mentioned the book I recently read about The Battle of Oriskany by Alan Foote (and blogged about it, if you happened to catch that post). I knew I had read something about the War of 1812, but the only American history I could recall reading was the Foote book. Jim told me about a man who was a boy during the Battle of Oriskany, went on to play a role in the War of 1812, and built Clapsaddle Farm. Jim is currently reading a book about the War of 1812 which he checked out of the Ilion Library. I said I would go to the library in two weeks and ask for “the book Jim Parker just checked out.”

I just love the Ilion Farmer’s Market. And Steven loved his print. I made him open it Friday night. For one thing, when he saw the pin and bottle of wine, he would have known I went to the Farmer’s Market. Why would I go to the Farmer’s Market December 23 if not to buy my hubby a present?

Book about a Bloody Battle

Previously I blogged about going to Weller Library in Mohawk and looking for books on local history. Then I blogged about renewing the book I found. I am so glad I renewed that book! I finished it today. What a good book! Liberty March: The Battle of Oriskany by Allan D. Foote with James Morrison, Joseph Robertaccio and Alan Sterling, illustrations and maps by David Yahnke.

After a prologue about the centennial of the battle, Foote gives us background on all the battle participants: The Iroquois, the Loyalists and the Patriots (not to be confused with the ball team) (sorry, couldn’t help saying that). I was absorbed by the story of the Palatines. I could hardly believe all the crap they went through getting here from their native Germany, and all the crap they went through once they got here. Of course, Foote uses more scholarly terms than crap and goes into a lot more detail. Hey, I’m just trying to get you to read the book.

It’s always interesting to read about the background and beginnings of the American Revolution. Sometimes we get the impression that the pilgrims came over and a few weeks later Sam Adams was dumping tea into the Boston Harbor. It was a whole lot more complicated than “No taxation without representation.” The American Revolution, Foote says, was really our first civil war. We rightly feel stirrings of patriotic pride when we hear of the heroic actions of the founders of our nation, but the story is in many ways a sad one. Neighbor fought neighbor, and families were often divided.

It is a brutal story as well. The Battle of Oriskany was the bloodiest battle of the American Revolution as well as one of the bloodiest battles ever. As a percentage of all participants, more were killed or wounded at Oriskany than at Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn. Even more brutal was the treatment of many of those captured.

I noticed when reading “About the Author” on the last page that the book has one of those old fashioned check out cards. The librarian would write the patron’s card number in a column marked “Borrower’s Name” and stamp in the due date. I was pleased to see this book has been checked out a lot. I encourage you to check it out as well.

Renewing Local History

I recently gave a shout out (I love that expression) to Weller Library in Mohawk, NY (just two weeks ago, in fact), but I think a plug to a local library is always in order.

I have been enjoying the book I checked out, Liberty March: The Battle of Oriskany by Allan D. Foote (North Country Books, Utica, NY, 1998). I’ve been reading it in the break room at work, where several people have expressed an interest. One young man had seen a presentation by Allan Foote. Almost everyone has been to the Oriskany Battlefield. I mean to re-visit it myself one day soon.

The book was due Tuesday, and I wanted to renew it. I drive right by Weller Library on my way home from work, so I figured I was all hooked up. Had the book with me since I was reading it at work, library card on my key chain which I would have if I was driving, all set. Then I remembered — and felt really stupid for forgetting — I had gotten out two books two weeks ago. MacBeth was sitting on my coffee table. Damn! I wondered if modern technology could help me. When I got to the library, I explained that I wanted to renew the book in my hand and hoped to also renew the book on my coffee table. It was no problem. Let’s hear it for computers!

Actually, I could be exaggerating the role of technology here. Now that I think about it, I remember that Jervis Library in Rome, NY had renewal by phone when I was a little girl. In those days, when you checked out books they stuck a card which kept was in a pocket on the inside of the book’s cover into a machine that went ka-CHUNK. In the school library, you wrote your name on the card. For my younger readers, that was a history lesson. For my older readers, a stroll down memory lane (look at me pretending I have all kinds of readers).

I was sorry to see the library was practically empty, and even sorrier that I couldn’t stay. I mean to go to Weller Library to sit and write sometime. It is the most beautiful setting. For anyone who missed my original post about Weller Library (and who reads every post? Not me), I’ll re-iterate that the library was originally the Weller family home. I don’t know from architecture, so I can’t say the style or period, but it is gorgeous.

I thanked the library lady for helping me solve one problem so easily, then headed home. Now I can continue to enjoy reading about Mohawk Valley history. Perhaps a future blog post will be a book report.

Walk into History

When I took a walk with my schnoodle Tabby on Tuesday, I armed myself with a little notebook so I could write down information from any historic markers I passed. I thought it would make my walk more blogworthy.

Steven suggested I use one of the mini composition books he had put in my stocking at Christmas. I have quite a fascination with notebooks, pens, index cards, binders, clipboards, and other tools of writing. Anyone who shares this interest (I know my Mom likes notebooks) will understand that my walk suddenly became even more interesting.

We walked by the 1834 Jail. The historic marker informed me that the jail had housed Chester Gilette during his trial for the murder of Grace Brown in 1906. I wrote it down, but in fact I did not need to. I know a lot about Chester Gilette. I even wrote a blog post about him once.

I think the other side of the marker told about Roxlanna Druse, who I believe was the last female executed in Herkimer County. That, I could have benefited from writing in my notebook. Unfortunately, Tabby was pulling me in the opposite direction, and since she had already nicely waited while I wrote about Chester Gilette, I followed her. I’ll find out more about Roxlanna for a future post.

No historic markers as we walked down Main Street. Tabby looked longingly at our church, Christ Episcopal, but it was not a good time to cross the street. Anyways, I didn’t know of any historic markers in that direction. Then she wanted to go through the park next to Basloe Library, which I agreed to since it was on the same side of the street. No historic markers, but a couple of interesting trees for her to sniff. So far a good walk for a schnoodle. For my purposes, not so much.

We walked through Meyers Park. I knew there were historic markers there. First I saw a stone fountain. At least, I guess it used to be a fountain. It’s dry now. It was erected in memory of Elisha Washburn in 1909. There may have been a story behind that, but the engraving did not say so. I moved on to the historic markers.

One told me the park had been the site of a burying ground. The graves had been moved to create the park. The other marker talked about Fred’ck Staring, also know as Frederick Starns on the Virginia frontier. He lost sons and grandsons in the Revolutionary War, and was the patriarch of a prominent southern family. The marker was erected by his descendents in 1998. Left unexplained was what Fred from Virginia had to do with Herkimer. I thought I might to an internet search and see if I could learn more, but, um, I didn’t. I guess if I was a dedicated blogger of local history, I would make time for such things. And so we come to the ugly truth about me. But I digress.

To exit the park we walked by a statue of some guy who lived from 1802 to 1890. The engraving said he was proud of being instrumental in women working for the government. I don’t know who it was, because they did not show his name, only his signature, which I found quite illegible.

So that was my historic walk. I’ll head in a different direction next time and see what I can find.

Living History

Saturday I had a chance to attend an event I have always been interested in but never had the chance to go to: Living History Weekend at German Flatts Town Park.

The event ran from Friday Sept. 23 to Sunday Sept. 25 in the park, which is located adjacent to the Fort Herkimer Church, something else I’ve always wanted to check out. Steven and I drove out route 5S Saturday morning. We were too early for the battle reenactments, but reenactors were present with tents set up and fires burning. We admired their costumes.

I heard one Union soldier asking a Confederate soldier what was the quilt tied around his shoulder for.

“That’s my bed roll,” the other soldier said, in a quit asking stupid questions kind of voice.

“That’s you rebels,” the union soldier said. “You never know when they’re going to want to lie down and take a nap.”

“We don’t have supply trains following us around,” the Confederate told him. “We have to carry what we need with us.”

“That’s not something to brag about, Mr. Confederate Guy,” I told him, but he wasn’t listening to me. I started to give Steven an American history lecture about how much better prepared the North was for the Civil War, but he was not listening either. I don’t blame him; I was being rather didactic.

We walked around the tents they had setup, and checked out the vendors as well. A band was playing. We enjoyed the music, but I did not catch who they were. We purchased a Living History Weekend t-shirt and a plate of cookies.

The historic Fort Herkimer Church was not open, but we walked around the graveyard which surrounded it. A lot of the lettering on the grave stones had worn away. Some were obviously replacements of historic markers. We found one grave marked with the name of the street we live on (I won’t tell you what that is, because I don’t need anybody walking by my house and seeing how much the grass needs mowing). Steven said he knew our street was named after a prominent local family. I’ll have to research that a little more. Historic prominent local families might be a good subject for a future blog post.

We also looked at some displays of historic artifacts. Steven said the dental instruments looked scary.

“Modern dental instruments are scary,” I said.

“Modern dentists are scary,” said a man in a uniform. I agreed, although my own dentist, Dr. Zilka, is a very good dentist who I have never found to be particularly alarming. Hey, most of us don’t like going to the dentist.

We left for home, toying with the idea of returning for the afternoon’s battle reenactment or the evening’s fireworks. I mean to watch for future events at the Fort Herkimer Church, and I will definitely mark my calendar for next year’s Living History Weekend.