Since fall means back to school time, I thought you might be interested to learn a little about the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse.
The Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse is one of the historic buildings preserved by the Columbia County Historical Society, and run as a museum. Each year, visitors of all ages, including modern school kids, come to learn about life in a one-room school.
The Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse was built around 1850, and served as a school until 1945, as Kinderhook District Number 6. The name “Ichabod Crane” comes from the character in the Washington Irving story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Irving was a frequent visitor to Kinderhook, and the character of Ichabod Crane was inspired by his friend Jesse Merwin, who was a school teacher in Kinderhook. Jessie Merwin didn’t actually teach in the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse… it was built to replace the one-room school that he taught in!
One-room schools, like the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse, were built all over the county. Before school buses, schools had to be close to where students lived. In larger cities or towns, some larger schools were built, with classes for different grades, like we are used to today. In the country though, schools were small. At the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse, one room held students in grades one through six!
The class was seated with the youngest students in the front, and older students in the back. Some times the teacher would work with the whole class all at once. Other times, students were asked to do seat work at their desks (independent work) while one grade at a time was called up to the lesson bench in the front of the room for a lesson.
When students got to school, they would drop off their hats, coats, and boots in the cloakroom. The Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse has one cloakroom for boys, and one for girls (You can see the doors to the two cloakrooms in the photo above, located at the center, and right side).
School desks were a little different than the ones we use in schools today. Each seat is attached to the desk behind it. This desk has a little pot that would hold ink. Students would write with a pen dipped in the ink. Here I am, practicing my penmanship! Sometimes, a naughty student would dip the ponytail of the student sitting in front of him into the pot of ink!
There was no running water inside the schoolhouse. If students needed to go to the bathroom, they went outside, to an outhouse. For drinking water, a student was sent outside to fill a bucket at a well or stream. Students might drink out of a dipper (think of all the students drinking out of one dipper… what germs!), or bring their own collapsible cup from home.
There was also no furnace in the schoolhouse. All of the heat came from a wood burning stove. Students’ families were asked to supply wood to the school to keep the students warm. Sometimes students today are asked to bring a box of tissues to share with the class… aren’t you glad you don’t have to bring firewood?!?
What do you think, would you like to go to a one-room school like the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse, or do you prefer school like it is today?
A couple weeks ago, Jan Franz van Hedgehog-Orange-Ekaert invited me to visit him at his home, Stoddard Corner bookshop in Hudson. I love books (you can read about my visit to the Hudson Children’s Book Festival here and here), and Jan Franz told me they had lots of interesting historical books and documents, so I decided to check it out. Here I am with my hosts, Jan Franz the hedgehog and Peter Pherson, the shop’s proprietor (owner).
I had a lot of fun exploring the shelves. There were little books, that were my size…
…and big books that I might need some help reading!
There were familiar books (many of the books in this photo were published by the Columbia County Historical Society) about local history.
Stoddard Corner carries many old books and manuscripts (a book or document written by hand, not printed— that means there is usually one one of them! For example, diaries, letters, and even hand-written pieces of music are manuscripts). As you can see by the top book in the photo below, I got to see some autograph books. In the 1800s and early 1900s, people kept autograph books, and would have friends sign the pages (kind of like we do with school yearbooks now). Maybe I should get myself an autograph book and collect signatures from all the great history loving people I meet!
There were diaries in the shop, including several that were kept by farmers. It was not uncommon for farmers to keep a daily log, with notes about the weather and their crops. It would have been neat (and very helpful, if you were a farmer trying to figure out when to plan seeds) to be able to look back at records of what the weather was like on a particular day for the previous ten years!
A big thanks to my friend Jan Franz van Hedgehog-Orange-Ekaert. I had a great time checking out the books and manuscripts at Stoddard Corner!
In honor of women’s history month, I thought I might introduce you to some important women in Columbia County history, and artifacts from women in Columbia County. First up, Samantha Littlefield Huntley.
As you can see from her photographed portrait, Samantha Huntley was an artist. She was born Samantha Littlefield, but her family called her “Mantie.” The family home was in Watervliet, just to our north!
In 1884, she married Frank Huntley, and they had a son, named Grant, in 1887. Samantha Huntley then began her career as an artist. She studied art in both New York City and Paris.
Huntley liked to paint portraits. She painted New York Governor Martin Glynn (who was from Valatie… I’ll write about him someday too!). She also did portraits of children, military officials, and archbishops. You can see a scan of a catalog from an exhibition of her paintings that was held in 1911 (online here).
So what does Samantha Huntley have to do with Columbia County? In 1923, she built a home and studio on William Street in Kinderhook! During her years in Kinderhook, she even painted a portrait of a prominent Kinderhook resident… Postmaster Jul Johnson.
I love all the details she included in the background. Could you guess that Jul Johnson had something to do with the Postal Service if I hadn’t mentioned it first?
P.S. The education team here at CCHS wanted me to mention that both the photograph of Samantha Huntley, and the portrait she painted of Jul Johnson, are included in a lesson plan that is available online! Visit the Columbia County Historical Society’s website, then go to “Education,” “Online Resources,” and click on “Portraits”
Once again, I thought I would celebrate Presidents’ Day by celebrating our 8th president, Martin Van Buren, who was from Kinderhook. Last year, I made a quick visit to his house (I’m still hoping to get a tour of the inside, when they open for the season!).
This year, I thought I would show you a neat object from our collection that features a painted portrait of Martin Van Buren… a sled!
This portrait was made in 1841, the last year Martin Van Buren was in office as president. The back of the sled has an inscription (writing) that tells us a little about the history of the portrait. It says: “Presented to William Cornell By his Friend J. Brooks, Jr. Albany, N.Y., 1841, Painted by Donald Fisher.”
We don’t know why the artist, Donald Fisher, decided to paint the president on a sled (but I think its pretty appropriate today, since Presidents’ Day is in February!). We also don’t know much about William Cornell or Donald Fisher. We have found some records about a “J. Brooks, Jr.” in Albany, who might have been the person who gave the sled— he owned a grocery store in Albany. We don’t know why he choose this kind of present for his friend though!
How did you celebrate Presidents’ Day? Did you spot a portrait of one of our presidents today (hint: did you use any money today?)?
This card is not colorful, like the printed valentine’s, but it has a sweet poem written on beautiful lacy paper:
"Your form as fair as ever painter drew,
Your matchless eyes, of clear and deepest blue
The magic which lightens up your face,
Your silvery tones, your thoughts expressed with grace,
Your gentle temper, manners, all combing
To make me choose thy for my Valentine
You’ll wonder who has send you this,
But that’s the puzzle for you, Miss,
And yet I have but little doubt,
That if you guess you’ll find me out,
No other motive have been mine,
For sending you this Valentine,
Except my friendship to express,
And wish you health and happiness.”
Unfortunately, we don’t know who wrote it (or who they sent it too), but we know it was written by someone in Hudson.
On this one, the writer glued some colorful printed pictures on the front, and penned a poem inside:
"The clouds that rest on the mountains breast
It kissed by the viewless air
And the western breeze kisses the trees
And woes the flowers to fair
And the weeping willows are kissed by the billow
And the day stare kisses the sea
Then why not dearest, loveliest, fairest
Give a kiss to me
And the bright moonbeam kisses the stream
The hill and the peaceful vale
And the shady bower at eves hour
Is woo’d by the nightingale
And the lily and the rose each flower blows that
Are kissed by the forest breeze
Then why not dearest, loveliest, fairest
Give a kiss to me
And the clasp the earth
And moonbeams kiss the sea
What are all of the kissing worth
If thou kiss not me
Receive this tribute gentle maid
From one who loves the dearly
Nor think his language idly said
Tis written most sincerely
I take this leafe as it is sent
For ne’er were words more truly meant
Here is a tribute for you to see
Seek and find the writer if you can”
This one is from some one who must have liked poetry, but maybe wasn’t so good at writing it. Rather than a hand-written poem inside, it has a printed poem… just like buying a card at the card store today that has a poem in it! The lacy cutout paper on the front is certainly pretty:
Oh! deem not that the heart is sad
Ah no! ‘tis but the trace of love.
Kindness may make the face look glad,
But love alone the heart can move.”
Whether you are a poet, or not, I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day!
Since it is my first year not hibernating through the winter, I’m learning about some of the fun things people have done in Columbia County to pass the time in the cold weather. One way that people had fun (and still do!) when it got cold was ice skating. Columbia County has many lakes and ponds that are perfect for ice skating once they froze over.
Skating was such a popular pastime in Hudson that the Hudson Skating Club was formed in the middle of the 1800s. In fact, skating was really popular all over, and many towns and cities created skating clubs. The Hudson Skating Club published rules for proper behavior on the skating pond in the Hudson Weekly Star newspaper on January 11, 1862. The rules stated:
No stones, sticks, cigar stumps or other obstructions shall be thrown or left upon the ice.
No improper language, swearing, or indecent behavior will be allowed on or near the ice.
Persons are forbidden to break or cut holes in any part of the ice.
No sleds will be allowed on the ice without permission from a member of the Ice Committee.
No persons allowed to remain on the ice while a RED SIGNAL is displayed from the building.
No gentleman allowed in the building without a ticket.
I guess most of the rules would still be pretty useful at the skating pond today!
Here is a pair of ice skates that are in CCHS’ collection:
They were made some time between 1875 and 1900. They look a lot different from the skates people use today, don’t they?
This postcard shows people skating on “Lake Underhill” in Hudson (today, it is called “Underhill Pond”):
The postcard is from 1910. If you look closely, you can see that the people are dressed quite differently than we might to go ice skating today- most women wouldn’t wear long dresses to go skating!
Do you like to ice skate? Do you go to Hudson to skate on Oakdale Lake (which is right near Underhill Pond, and still hosts ice skating in the winter), or do you have another favorite spot?
Hopefully the groundhog (seen here in an image from our Rare Books Division) doesn’t see his shadow today - if he does, that, of course, would mean six more weeks of cold, hard winter. But if he does, NYPL has you covered. Drop into one of our nice warm libraries for many, many, MANY…
Happy Groundhog’s Day… and Happy Birthday to me! (and also a very Happy Birthday to our library volunteer, Vieve!)
Groundhog’s Day is the day that people look to highly trained meteorologist (a person, or groundhog, who studies the atmosphere and weather patterns) groundhogs for the weather report. They want to know if we’ll have six more weeks of winter, or if spring is on its way.
I suppose you’re probably wondering where I went. You see, groundhogs are not big fans of the cold and snow, so we spend our winters hibernating. We hibernate in a burrow underground. After we spend the fall eating and eating and eating (so that we have enough energy to get through the winter), we get cozy in our burrow, and go into a deep sleep… until Spring!
But this year, I just couldn’t sleep! I dreamed about all the neat historic places I visited last summer, and all of the nice people I got to meet. So, I decided to come back early. The staff at CCHS told me I was welcome to hang out at the museum (which has heat!), and they even gave me a scarf to help keep me comfy.
I guess I should have realized that it would be nicer to spend my winter in the museum, but there was another reason I decided to hibernate this year. You see, groundhogs don’t drive… so I need a ride to get to a lot of the places I like to visit. The staff and volunteers at the museum are so nice about taking me where I want to go. Ashley, the educator, is often the one who takes me, but I knew that she would not be available this winter… because she had a baby! I just had to meet this newest, youngest historian at CCHS. Maybe she’ll join me on some adventures some day!
Here we are… the camera caught us right after she told me a funny joke!
So that’s where I’ve been for the last couple of months. I’m excited to be back, and I’m working on some fun posts for the next couple of weeks. Did you learn about any interesting history stories while I was asleep?
I thought I would share this postcard from our collection, and some historic Halloween games with you today.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween parties were a popular way to celebrate the holiday. On Halloween, people thought that the spirit world and the living world were closer than usual, and that it was a good time to try to tell your fortune, or get a glimpse into the future. Fortune telling games were popular at parties. Here are two that you can try today:
1. Learn your future from a bowl of seeds or beans, from the Kiddies’ Halloween Book, 1931
-Fill a bowl with dry pumpkins seeds, dry beans (lima beans, pinto beans, split peas…), m&m’s… something small and dry.
-Dip a spoon into the bowl, and fill it with seeds.
-Recite this poem, reading one line for each bean in your spoon. The line you end on is your fortune:
One seed shows you’ll get a letter,
Two a dish you’re going to break.
Three seeds, you’ll hear some good news,
Four, a ride you soon will take.
Five, you will be disappointed,
Six, you’re going to meet a friend.
Seven brings you a surprise,
Eight some money you will spend.
Nine shows there’s pleasure coming,
Ten, you’ll have something to wear.
Eleven, you will take a trip,
Twelve, some good luck you will share.
Thirteen seeds, you’ll have a fright,
Fourteen, your future days are bright.
#2: Learn your future through some objects you can find around the house!
-Fill saucers or small bowls with the following objects: a key, a stone, a rubber band, dirt, and water.
-Put on a blindfold, or close your eyes (no peeking!).
-Slowly wave your hand over the saucers, while you recite the alphabet. Stop your hand when you get to “z.” The saucer that your hand is over will tell your fortune:
A key: good luck
A stone: you will build a house
A rubber band: you will live a lively or “snappy” life
Dirt: you will make a trip by car
Water: you will have clear sailing and a happy life
I hope everyone gets a good fortune, and has a happy and safe Halloween! I guess I should go figure out a costume to wear… I was hoping for some candy, but the staff at the museum told me that you only get candy if you have a costume! Maybe I can recycle my Mardi Gras mask?
The other day, I was paid a visit by an internet friend (and fellow furry museum mascot), Bull Moose on the Loose! Theodore Moosevelt, as he is known, traveled all the way from Buffalo, from the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, where he works. He was actually in Kinderhook visiting our friends at the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site (MVBNHS), and took the chance to swing over and say hello. This year, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign for President, Theodore Moosevelt is travelling the country, visiting National Parks. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran for the Progressive Party, also known as the “Bull Moose” party- that’s why they hired a moose as a mascot!
Since Theodore Roosevelt was a young lad during the Civil War, and then, as an adult, served in the military, I thought I would show Bull Moose our Civil War Exhibitions. We started at the Columbia County Museum, in the exhibition Civil War Panorama: Columbia County 1860-1865.
We checked out the soldier’s guard room, and tried our hand at 1860’s card games:
We looked at the “Wide Awakes” transparency- the Wide Awakes were a political party that supported Abraham Lincoln (just like the Bull Moose Party supported Theodore Roosevelt), and the lantern was carried in a parade, with a lantern inside:
We also took a look at the 34 star flag from the Steamboat Oregon. The flag was sewn by Sarah and Clara Clark, the daughters of the steamboat owner William H. Clark. It might have flown on the Oregon on the night that it took soldiers from the 128th regiment down the Hudson River to New York City, on their way to the Civil War. The US flag only had 34 stars for a very brief time. In fact, Abraham Lincoln was the only President who served under the 34 star flag. I gave Bull Moose a quick test: how many stars were on the US Flag when Theodore Roosevelt was President?
Answer: 45, until 1908, then a 46th was added (for Oklahoma) at the end of his Presidency!
Bull Moose was interested in learning what life was like during the Civil War, so we headed next door to the Vanderpoel House of History, to see the exhibition Home and Away, Columbia County During the Civil War.
First, we tried out life as Civil War soldiers, and had some coffee, out of a tin muckett, in a tent:
I took Bull Moose’s daguerrotype. He was not so happy about how long you had to sit still to have a daguerrotype taken… by the time Theodore Roosevelt was President, photography had gotten a lot better, and the process was much quicker:
We also checked out the uniform and equipment a Civil War soldier would have had to carry and wear:
Then, we learned about life on the home front. It looks a lot nicer- not hot wool uniform, better food, more comfortable chairs- but it wasn’t easy too. Most people knew a relative or friend who was serving in the war, and they would have been worried about them, and whether or not they were safe. Letters and the newspaper would have helped them keep in touch, but news didn’t travel nearly as fast as it does today!
Before Theodore Moosevelt hit the road, we posed for a couple more photos on the front stairs of the Vanderpoel House. Here we are with Ann, a fantastic volunteer both at CCHS and MVBNHS, who coordinated our visit:
And here we are with educators from the two sites- Ashley from CCHS, and Dawn from MVBNHS:
I really enjoyed finally getting to meet Bull Moose on the Loose! Thank you to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site for sending him on such a cool journey, and for his hosts at the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site for bringing him over to visit while he was in town!
Visiting Harvest Faire at Crailo State Historic Site, Part 2
On Tuesday, I wrote about the first part of my visit to Crailo State Historic Site for Harvest Faire… my tour through the house. Today, I thought I would focus on the great people I got to meet who were there for the festival.
First up, the tinsmith, Art Thorman:
The CCHS staff tells me that Art has been a part of a CCHS event at the Luykas Van Alen House before, but it was before my time, so it was nice to finally get to meet him. Art is a tinsmith, and makes many useful items out of sheets of tin. In the photo below, you can see some of his wares that were for sale: a funnel, a ladle, an ear trumpet (a tool that was used by people who were hard of hearing… they held it up to their ear, and it amplified the sound), several different styles of wall sconces (candle holders that hung on the wall, and reflected the light from candles), and some cups.
I also met Tom Hooker Hanford, who is a musician and storyteller. Tom studies music from different periods in history, and put on a beautiful show with singing, storytelling, and puppets, based on 16th and 17th century songs. He even sang a song about Pinkster, a Dutch holiday that was celebrated in Albany (and elsewhere). I loved getting to meet Tom’s beautiful puppets!
Next I met Stuart Lehman, who told me a bit about early medecine. Below, you can see me with some of the remedies that would be used by doctors to heal all sorts of ailments. I’m not sure how much good all of them did for humans, but I certainly learned that it was not a good time for groundhogs. Can you believe that a powder, made from groundhogs, was used to treat some illnesses!?! Yikes!
Stuart also brought some leeches, which were used for bloodletting. Placed on a patient, leeches would suck out the patient’s blood. This was believed to help treat many different diseases.
Herbs were frequently used in the home to treat illnesses. Here I am with a selection of some of the common ones that might have been found in a house like Crailo:
I left the back yard at Crailo very happy that I live in a world with modern medicine!
In the front yard, I met Arthur Kirmss, who showed me how wampum was made. Wampum are white and purple beads made from shells. They were used as a type of currency for trading between the Dutch and the Native American groups in the area. To make wampum, Arthur starts with a piece of shell. The purple and white ones are from the Quahog clam. Since the pieces of shell are so small, he uses a special stick, with a notch cut in the end, to hold onto them. He adds water to a flat piece of stone, and rubs the shell pieces round and round, until they become smooth and round.
Once the shell pieces are the right shape, he has to drill holes in them to make beads. He uses boards drilled with holes to hold the beads, and a special drill made with a stick and a sharp metal point.
A bow is used to make the drill spin.
Once the holes are drilled in the beads, they are polished. Then they could be strung into strands, or woven into belts.
Arthur also brought along some historic Delft tiles… just like the ones in Crailo and at the Van Alen house!
I met some very friendly reenactors, who portray Dutch life in the 1600’s & early 1700’s. They do a lot of demonstrations about Dutch food and cooking.
They were also working on a dyeing project. I was especially interested to hear about the dyeing because we just did a project during our “Summer History Days” program, where we dyed cotton fabric using red cabbage. The ladies at Crailo were dying with walnuts. They were experimenting with small pieces of different kinds of cloth- cotton, linen, wool, and silk. You can see the chart next to the dye pot, where the four different cloths were tested for different amounts of time, or in different dye pots.
There were also some reenactors making household items from wood. How do I look in the wooden shoes?
Finally, before I finished my day, I checked out the wares that were for sale from the suttlers (traveling sales people). It was a little cool and breezy by the river, and I rather liked this wool work cap!
I had a great time visiting Crailo State Historic Site for Harvest Faire, and learning about Dutch life in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Thank you to the staff and volunteers for inviting me, and making me feel welcome!
Visiting Harvest Faire at Crailo State Historic Site, Part 1
This weekend, I took a little road trip to Rensselear County, to visit Crailo State Historic Site. Crailo is a Dutch house (like the Luykas Van Alen House), but it was built a little earlier (around 1707 for the first part), and it is a bigger house than the Van Alen house (at least after a couple of additions and changes early in its life). I choose to visit this weekend, because Crailo was holding their Harvest Faire… and I love a good festival!
Crailo is located in the city of Rensselear, right on the East bank of the Hudson River. That is the city of Albany that you can see on the other side (or Beverwyck, if we were in the 1600’s).
Crailo was part of the manor owned by the Van Rensselaer family. The house was built by Hendrick Van Rensselaer. As different generations lived in the house, they made updates, changes, and additions.
Here is the front of the house. You can see the Dutch door was half open- useful for letting in a little breeze, but keeping out any animals wandering by (luckily, they let me in!). Look closely at the windows, and you can see the leaded diamond pane casements (each window is made up of small, diamond shaped pieces of glass, held together by pieces of lead). It is likely that the windows at the Van Alen House originally looked like this. There are lots of other details in the architecture of Crailo that are similar to the Van Alen House, if you look closely: the shutters on the windows, the soldier bricks above the windows and doors (bricks that are set vertically, over openings in the house, to make them stronger), and even the brick bond (the pattern that the bricks are laid in) with rows of headers (the short end of the bricks) and stretchers (the long side of the bricks).
I decided to start my visit to Crailo with a quick tour of the house. Unlike the Luykas Van Alen House, Crailo is mostly set up with exhibitions, rather than rooms that look like someone was living there. The first exhibition I checked out was about archeology. It explained how archeologists have learned a lot about life for the Dutch in the area in the 18th century by looking at the layers of stuff they left in the ground! Bits of ceramics and glassware, metal objects like shoe buckles, and leftover bits of food like oyster shells, animal bones, and seeds, can all tell a lot about people who lived long, long ago. Below, you can see a diagram that gives an idea of how archeologists look at the layers they find in the ground. Things that are at the top (closest to the ground level today) are the newest, and things that are further down are older.
Upstairs at Crailo, there is an exhibition that tells about what it was like to be a child growing up in New York in the 1700s. My favorite part was seeing the clothes children would have worn… can you imagine dressing like this every day? In many ways, clothing was less practical than it is today. There were no zippers, snaps, velcro, or even safety pins to hold your clothes together, so instead, they used ribbons or chords (tied together), buttons, or even straight pins (ouch!). There was one item that I think is great though. Look at the hat that the mannequin all the way on the left is wearing. It is called a pudding cap, and is like a padded helmet for toddlers. When they were just learning how to walk, a pudding cap would keep their heads safe if they fell down or stumbled into something- smart!
The exhibition also had doll and instructions on how babies used to be swaddled. In the 18th century, babies were wrapped very, very tightly, in many layers of fabric- so tightly that they could not move at all! Unfortunately, all that tight wrapping led to a lot of injuries and illness. Today, we still swaddle babies, to help them sleep, but not nearly so tight! How do you think I did with my 18th century style swaddling?
There is one room at Crailo set up to look like it might have in the 18th century. In this photo, you can see the jambless fireplace (without sides), lined with Delft tiles, just like we have at the Van Alen House! (sorry for the blurry photography, I was being a good museum visitor, and not using the flash on the camera)
After my tour of the house, it was time to check out all the other offerings at Harvest Faire. More on Thursday…
P.S. If you get a chance to visit Crailo, make sure to keep an eye out for some photos from the Luykas Van Alen House… they were used in one of the exhibitions, and in the video!
Read about the first part of my visit to the Columbia County Fair here.
After I finished up my shift working at the Landmarks Visitors Collaborative booth in the fair house, I had some time to explore a little more of the fair. My first stop was the Heritage Village. In the Heritage Village, a variety of talented craftspeople demonstrate historic and more modern crafts. It was a lot of fun to watch them, and see how things are made!
Here I am with John Clum, learning how to make baskets. Baskets like the ones he makes might have been used by farmers in the earlier days to bring their produce to the fair.
I learned a bit about rug hooking from Joann Pino. She makes beautiful wall hangings and rugs by pulling pieces of recycled fabric through holes in a piece of burlap. For example, that beautiful gray color that she was working with might have originally been a pair of gray wool pants.
I also got to meet Dick Brooks.Dick is a very talented wood carver, and also a bit of a local celebrity. He writes a very funny column that appears in the weekend edition of the Register Star and Daily Mail! Here he was showing me a piece he was working on, a small gnome-like creature. Once he finishes carving his pieces, he paints them, and they are very beautiful.
After I made my way through the Heritage Village, I checked out some of the other exhibitions at the fair. Agricultural exhibitions have always been a huge part of the fair. They include the animals I got to meet. In fact, the fair was created as a way for farmers from all over the county to get together, learn about new practices on their farms, and even compete.
Craft and art exhibitions are also a big part of the fair. I started out by checking out the photography exhibition.
I also checked out displays by the garden clubs from different towns, some beautiful quilts, and some very tasty looking foods (next year, maybe they will ask me to be a judge, so I can taste the pies, pickles, cakes, and other goodies).
Next, I headed over to the wool building. As you can probably guess by the name, the exhibits there all have to do with wool… wool that has been sheared off of sheep, wool that has been spun into yarn and dyed, wool knitted items, felted wool things, and wool hooked rugs.
Here I am with some of the fleece from the sheep:
If it hadn’t been so hot out, I might have jumped right in, it looked so cozy!
There were lots of beautiful animal themed hooked rugs, but sadly none with a groundhog.
Finally, I have to show off this beautiful pair of knitted wool socks. They were made by one of CCHS’ volunteers, Sue Charboneau! Sue also makes beautiful hooked rugs, and helps with the setup of all the wool items in the wool building.
Another CCHS volunteer, Paula Van Meter, also had a fantastic rug on display, but I didn’t get a good picture. Its neat that we have such talented volunteers though!
After I finished checking out the exhibitions, it was time to check out one more important part of the modern Columbia County fair… the rides!
Sadly, I wasn’t tall enough to ride.
Did you go to the fair this year? What is your favorite part?
Last Friday, I got to attend my first ever Columbia County Fair! I did a little research on the history of agricultural fairs in Columbia County last week (you can read a bit about it here). I learned that Columbia County had at least two fairs in its history, both of which started in the 1800’s. The current Columbia County Fair, which is held each year in Chatham, was the first of two… it was first held in 1841! In fact, it is the eight longest consecutively running (happens every year) fair in New York State. For a while, the fair was held in Hudson. Then, in 1852, it moved to the village of Chatham. You can read even more about the history of the Columbia County fair here. There is also a new book about the history of the fair (which I meant to check out at the fair, but I got too busy! An article was just published in the paper about it.).
Here I am giving my special “exhibitor” ticket to the gentleman at the gate. Although I got to have some fun, this was a working trip too. The special ticket was because I had promised to work at the LVC booth in the Fair Building… but more about that later.
A major part of the history of fair has always been the animals! While there were no groundhogs (in fact, I overheard some farmers grumbling about groundhogs… oops), the fair has always included exhibitions of different kinds of animals, including cows, horses, sheep, pigs, and chickens.
My first stop was the ducks and geese. This is a pair of Toulouse Geese. They were named after the city of Toulouse, in France, where they were originally bred. They are a pretty rare breed in the United States- there are fewer than 5000 breeding pairs. Their sign said that they were quiet and gentile, so I though I would have a chat. Quiet was right though- you can see that the one in front was more interested in preening than talking to me!
Next I checked out the calves and cows. Here I am with one of the calves and the young farmer who helps take care of it:
Speaking of cows, there was one special treat that everyone recommended that I try… a freshly made milkshake!
It was delicious!
After seeing all those nice animals (I visited the sheep too, but they has just been through sheering, so they didn’t want their photos taken), and quenching my thirst, it was time to go to work for a while. Here I am at the booth that represented the Landmarks Visitors Collaborative, or LVC for short. The LVC is a group made up of many of the museums and tourism organizations in Columbia County… in other words, a lot of people who love history, just like me! Its members include CCHS, Clermont State Historic Site, Steepletop (The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society), Frederic Church’s Olana, Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, the Shaker Museum and Library, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Columbia County Tourism, and the Columbia County Lodging Association. My job was to encourage visitors to the fair to visit all of our great historic sites. You can also see a giant map of Columbia County behind me. We asked visitors to add their history story to the map- people definitely had some neat stories!
I did get to see more of the fair after my work shift was over… more on that tomorrow!
It is the start of the Columbia County Fair! I’m looking forward to my first fair as a history ambassador. I’m planning on visiting on Friday evening… I promised my co-workers at CCHS that I would help out at the Landmarks Visitors Collaborative booth, in the main Fair House (the big yellow building). You can come say hello to me from 4-7:30pm on Friday. I hope to get there early so I can walk around and check out the sites (and visit some of the many animals that are there!).
Getting ready to go to the fair got me thinking about the poster, above, from CCHS’ collection. It was part of the exhibition Inked Over, which was held at the museum in 2010-2011 (the exhibition was all about things that were printed). The poster was an advertisement for an agricultural fair that was held in Hudson in 1860. As you can see, the fair was put on by the Columbia Agricultural and Horticultural Association. This was not the same as the fair that is held in Chatham each year, which has been put on by the Columbia County Agricultural Society since 1841… for a while, Columbia County had two fairs! The fair that is advertised in the poster took place at a fairgrounds in Hudson, located near the present day intersection of Fairview Avenue and Parkwood Boulevard. You can see it here in the 1873 Beer’s Atlas:
Here is a modern view of Hudson, with the fair ground pictured in the 1873 map placed in its correct location:
The fair poster lists some of the attractions that could be expected at the fair in Hudson… some of them are very similar to things you can find at the Chatham fair today! Just like today, there were also exhibitions of “Cattle, Sheep, Swine and Poultry, Farm Implements, Household and other Manufactures, Products of the Dairy, Orchard, and Garden, Fine Arts and Mechanical Products.” The poster also lists a “trial of speed” for horses… a horse race. Horse races were part of the Hudson and Chatham fairs, but are no longer included in the fair schedule.
My favorite part of the fair poster is the engravings of the animals:
Perhaps I will get to meet some of the descendants of these animals when I visit the fair on Friday? I promise, I’ll have lots of photos to share with you, and a little of the history of the Columbia County Fair!
Last weekend, I was invited to be a guest at Historic Stuyvesant Day! The whole day was filled with activities to celebrate the town of Stuyvesant, and the people who live there. The day started off with a running race (the Ken Hummel Memorial 5K Run/Walk and Kids’ 1 Mile Chicken Run). Then there was a picnic!
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t totally cooperate for the day, but it all worked out- the festivities were moved to the beautiful Stuyvesant Town Hall (originally they were supposed to be at Ken Hummel town park).
Here I am with the Town Historian of Stuyvesant, Juanita Knott, and her son Ronald (he is the Town Supervisor). Juanita was the one who was nice enough to invite me to the festivities. She has worked very hard to preserve the history of the town of Stuyvesant, and she even wrote a book about it! There is also a little blurb that she wrote about the town on the town website.
Here I am with my friend Karen Hummel. Both the town park, where Historic Stuyvesant Day was supposed to be held, and the race that was held in the morning, were named after Karen’s husband Ken Hummel. Ken worked for many years in different offices in the town government in Stuyvesant, as well as for the Kinderhook Memorial Library and the Stuyvesant Fire Company #1. Since he did so much for the community, they honor him with a race, and with the name of the town park!
There were lots of activities at Historic Stuyvesant Day, in addition to remembering the history of the town and the families that have lived there. I met some of the members of the Stuyvesant-on-Hudson Garden Club, who were selling plants.
Before I left, I checked out some of the Stuyvesant goods that were for sale (including Juanita’s book). How do you like my hat?
I wasn’t the only animal who participated in the event! There was a cow and calf there earlier in the day (to remind us of the history of farming in Stuyvesant). Sadly, they left just before I arrived, so I didn’t get a photo with them.
Thank you to Juanita, and the Town of Stuyvesant, for inviting me to your wonderful celebration! Thank you to all of the volunteers who put together such a nice event!
Independence Day at Clermont State Historic Site, Part 2
To read about the first part of my day experiencing the Independence Day celebrations at Clermont State Historic Site with Bob the Livingston History Sheep, check here.
After Bob and I checked out the games, it was time to get serious— we wanted to learn more about the meaning of Independence Day. Lucky for us, there were some visitors who had “time traveled” all the way from the 1700’s! They were discussing the reasons they thought the colonies should declare their independence from England, or remain loyal to the King of England:
The gentleman in favor of Independence suggested that the colonies were being taxed unfairly, without proper representation in the government in England. He was also worried that the English military wasn’t giving them enough protection.
The other gentleman felt that the British army did provide protection, and that it was better to pay taxes for protection from a more highly trained army, than to be defended by the less trained militia put together by the colonies.
Visitors to Clermont were asked to cast their vote: for Independence, or to remain loyal to the King. Bob and I cast our votes on the side of the patriots (those who wanted independence). After all, we were enjoying the day at the home of Chancellor Livingston, who helped write the Declaration of Independence)!
Spending 4th of July at Clermont was really nice— I got to have fun, and I learned a lot about our country’s independence! Plus, there was a beautiful view:
Independence Day at Clermont State Historic Site, Part 1
In addition to my photos from the Civil War encampment at the Luykas Van Alen House, I also promised some photos from my visit to the Independence Day festivities at Clermont State Historic Site (and I’m a bit late, sorry!). Let me start by explaining that Clermont is a great place to spend the 4th of July, and not just because they have a great view of the Saugerties fireworks to end the evening! You see, one of Clermont’s most famous residents was Chancellor Robert R. Livingston (the “chancellor” part is actually one of his political titles, but since his father, and many other Livingston men were named Robert, we’ll call him the chancellor so we don’t get confused). Chancellor Livingston was invited to serve on the “committee of five,” who drafted (wrote) the Declaration of Independence. The Chancellor was not one of the signers of the Declaration, but one of his cousins, Philip Livingston, did.
I visited Clermont with my good friend, Bob the Livingston History Sheep (you can read about our previous adventures together here and here. The festivities at Clermont are focused on life in the 18th century— just like at the encampment, there were reenactors there, who studied what life was like in the late 1700’s. Here we are on the back steps of the mansion, decorated with patriotic bunting:
We decided to start our visit off with some historic games. There were graces (just like I tried to play at the encampment), as well as stilts! We decided to enter the three-legged race:
Despite having eight legs between us (making it more of a seven legged race), we didn’t do so well:
Congratulations to the winners though!
We also decided to try our hand at some 18th century card games, like whist:
Tomorrow, part 2: Bob and I have to vote for Independence, or to remain loyal to the King of England.
Before I start sharing my photos with you from the Civil War Encampment that took place here at CCHS last weekend, I want to make an apology.
Last week, I was saddened to hear of the news from Cedar Park Cemetery in Hudson, that twice, flags were stolen from the graves of veterans of the Civil War in the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, an organization that was founded by Veterans of the Civil War) section of the cemetery (you can read more from the Register Starhere and here). Imagine my dismay when I read the paper on Saturday, only to learn that through careful investigation, they had discovered the suspects… my fellow groundhogs! (story here).
I wish I could say that all groundhogs have a love for history like I do, but unfortunately, that is not the case. As I continue to study the Civil War, I hope that I can teach my fellow groundhogs at the cemetery (and all over Columbia County!) more about the war those soldiers fought in, and why we should respect their graves. Maybe you can help me too— as we spread the word about the history of our county, hopefully we can also spread respect for that history. It is an important lesson for both people and groundhogs!
Hi everyone, I just wanted to stop in and wish you a very happy 4th of July! I am having a very busy week… that means I will have lots of pictures to share with you later this week. This past weekend, CCHS held its annual Civil War Encampment at the Luykas Van Alen House. I got to meet lots of interesting Civil War Reenactors (people who dress like soldiers and civilians from the time of the Civil War, and who know lots about what life was like then).
Today, I started my 4th of July celebrations at the People’s Parade in the Village of Kinderhook (unfortunately, my photographer was playing in the band, so I won’t have any photos to share). It was great to see all the kids and dogs dressed up to celebrate our nation’s independence!
This afternoon, I’m headed down to Clermont State Historic Site, for their 4th of July festivities. Chancellor Robert Livingston, who worked on writing the Declaration of Independence with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Benjamin Franklin, lived at Clermont— its neat that we have such a great connection to the history of the holiday, right in our own county!
I promise, I’ll have lots of photos and stories to share with you later this week. For now though, I hope you have a fun and historic 4th of July!
Ok, time for a history quiz! Its a fun one, I promise, and no, you didn’t need to study ahead of time. For the past couple of weeks, the staff at CCHS has been getting the Luykas Van Alen House ready to open for the season. The house has no heat, so it gets “put to sleep” for the winter, while there are no tours going on. That means that the dust covers have to be taken off the furniture, the floors swept, and the small items on display in the house have to be put back in place. I tried to help out a bit, and I noticed something: there are several items that were used just for babies and children in the house. Not only that, but they aren’t too different than the things that we use today!
So, I thought a bit of a challenge was in order. First, I’ll post photos of three of the items that are in the Luykas Van Alen House, that were used by babies or children. Try to guess what each one was used for, and think of a similar item that we use today. After you’ve made your guesses, keep scrolling down for the answers.
#4: (Note: this item is not from CCHS’ collections, but it is possible that there would have been one like it used in the Van Alen House. This one is from the collection of the New-York Historical Society. You can learn more about it here.)
How do you think you did? Here are the answers:
#1: A cradle, for a baby to sleep in.
#2: A miniature pottebank. A large shelf like this was used in the house to hold dishes and cooking tools. You can see that this one is small, since it is next to a regular size chair. The Dutch liked toys for their children that were smaller versions of things that they would use when they were grown-up. That way, they could practice some of the skills they would need when they were older. Do you have (or did you have when you were younger) a play kitchen? Similar idea!
#3: This tool was called a loopwagen by the Dutch. It was used just like the baby walkers we use today, to help toddlers learn to walk. Did you notice the wheels on the bottom? If you stood a toddler up in the middle, they could use their legs to roll around the house, but the loopenwagon would help hold them up.
#4: This toy actually has several different functions: the bells make noise when you shake it, like a baby rattle, the coral on the end was good for babies who were teething, and the end has a whistle to make noise to entertain the baby.
So how did you do? Do you think you would rather use today’s toys, or ones like the Van Alen Family would have used in the 1700’s and 1800’s?
A Visit to Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
Last week, I went on a field trip to Dutchess County. Our educator, Ashley, was asked to come to a resource fair for teachers at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site and Library, in Hyde Park, NY, and she invited me along!
My first stop when we arrived was to have my photo taken with a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin grew up in Hyde Park, and continued to spend time there, even after he became president. Today, his family’s home, Springwood, is a museum, as are the Roosevelt’s cottages, Val-Kill and Top Cottage. Franklin had his Presidental Library built on the grounds of Springwood, and there is a beautiful visitor’s and conference center.
Eleanor actually has a connection to one of CCHS’ historic buildings- she actually made two visits to the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse! Her first visit was while Franklin was serving as Governor of New York State, and while the schoolhouse was still being used as a school. She stopped by, and read a story to the students there (I wish I knew which one!). Then, after the school closed, she came for the re-dedication of the building as a community center. The event was even part of a radio show.
I didn’t get to go on any of the tours of the homes this visit, but I did check out the exhibition in the library. It was called The Roosevelts, Public Figures, Private Lives. The exhibition told the stories of Franklin and Eleanor’s lives, through the huge photograph collection that the library has. I particularly liked the parts about the Roosevelt’s pets!
After I finished checking out the exhibition, the museum staff mentioned that not only was there a statue of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, but also one of Fala, their beloved dog. Of course I needed to meet an animal as famous as Fala, so I headed back to the visitor center:
By then, it was time for the resource fair (the main reason for our visit!) to start. It was hosted by a group called Teaching the Hudson Valley- they help teachers make connections with local resources, including museums! I got to meet with some great people who like to work with kids from historic sites, museums, nature centers, and even a boat! Below, you can see my photo with one of my new friends, a sturgeon who works at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum.
I’m glad I got the chance to visit the Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site! Now, back to Columbia County History…
I just wanted to drop in and leave a quick note to remind you that CCHS’ sites open for the season this weekend! This weekend is New York State Heritage Weekend. That means there are great events at many different museums and historic sites all over New York State. To celebrate, CCHS is having an open house, with free admission to the Luykas Van Alen House, Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse, Vanderpoel House of History, and the Columbia County Museum. Each site will be open both Saturday and Sunday, from 12-4pm. Come check them out! (if you need more information, please visit CCHS’ website: www.cchsny.org)
I started to tell you about my day at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival… but it was such a busy day, I only got to tell you about the history books! There were also lots of books about animals, so I was hoping to find one about a groundhog…
In the exhibitor’s room, I got to meet the Very Hungry Catepillar! He was greeting people at the table for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. They warned me not to get too close, since he was very hungry, but he was very friendly too!
I also ran into another old favorite, Clifford the Big Red Dog!
I met Nancy Furstinger, who wrote Maggie’s Second Chance, which is about a group of 4th graders who create an animal shelter to save a dog.
Next to Nancy were Bruce and Jeanette Hopkins. They have three great books, but my favorite was The Ladybug Waltz. Bruce and Jeanette happen to be our educator, Ashley’s aunt and uncle, so I got VIP treatment at their table! How do you like my ladybug hat?
Next, I got to meet Willow Bascom, who wrote The Paisley Pig. Still no groundhogs though…
I got to meet the author of the Bad Kitty books, Nick Bruel…
…and later I ran into Bad Kitty himself! I thought he was pretty nice, but I’m glad I didn’t have to give him a bath! Maybe Bad Kitty doesn’t mind groundhogs as much as dogs and babies?
Jerry and Katie Davis showed me their book Little Chicken’s Big Day. It was a very sweet story, but still no groundhogs…
Iza Trapani told me about her story The Bear Went Over the Mountain- it is a extension of the classic song, and you get to find out more about what the bear really found on the other side of the mountain!
Here I am with Doreen Cronin and her daughter. Doreen wrote a silly book about cows, called Clack Clack Moo, Cows that Type!
I met Kara LaReau, and she read me her book Mr. Prickles: A Quill Fated Love Story. It is a book about a porcupine (which I have been mistaken for!) looking for love… but still no groundhog.
So I didn’t find any authors this year who wrote about groundhogs (although I hear that last year, Susanna Leonard Hill was there with her book Punxsutawney Phyllis). Hudson Talbott, who I included in my post yesterday, mentioned that he had an idea in his head for a groundhog story… so maybe next year!
Last weekend, I attended the Hudson Children’s Book Festival with CCHS’ educators. Have you ever been to the book festival? It is a wonderful place! There is a whole school gym filled with people who write great books for children. I got to meet lots of authors, and even some of my favorite characters from books.
Of course, I had to check out the history books. Here I am with Richard Copley, who showed me 3D images from his book The Civil War: A History in3D. CCHS is working on a new exhibition on the Civil War in honor of the 150th anniversary, so I was definitely interested in this book. Mr. Copley took stereoscope views (Stereoscope views are special cards that have two slightly different images. When you view them through a special stereoscope viewer, they appear in 3D. They were very popular in the 19th century as a type of entertainment.) of the civil war, and converted them so you can view them with regular 3D glasses- neat!
I also met Anita Sanchez, who wrote Mr. Lincoln’s Chair. It is also related to the Civil War, and the story of the Shakers.
Here I am with Lesa Cline-Ransome. She has written many wonderful books on history, includingQuilt Counting, Words Set me Free,and biographies on Helen Keller, Pele, and many others! Her husband, James Ransome, illustrates her books, and also books by other authors.
Hudson Talbott read to me from his bookRiver of Dreams.It is all about the history of the Hudson River.
That was just a part of my day at the book festival… check back for part 2!
The Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Festival at Clermont, Part 3
Yesterday, I told you all about the sheep that I saw at the sheep and wool festival at Clermont last weekend, and the wool things that are made from their fleece. Today, I thought I would share about some of the other animals and people I got to meet!
Did you know that sheep are not the only animal that you can spin yarn from? Fur from several different animals can be spun… even from a fuzzy dog or cat! (I wonder if you could make a sweater from groundhog fur?) One of the favorite, and softest furs to spin into yarn is from the angora rabbit. Rather than shearing off all the fur from the rabbit first, we got to watch a lady spin right from the rabbit:
That fuzzy thing in her lap is a rabbit! Just like shearing the sheep, pulling the fur from the rabbit to spin it does not hurt the rabbit. I guess it is kind of like brushing the loose fur from your cat or dog, so it doesn’t fall out all over the place.
I also got to watch some border collies. Did you know that border collies are used to heard sheep, to help get them from one place to another? The border collies in the herding demonstration at the festival were herding ducks, instead of sheep, but they were good at what they do!
With the help of a well-trained border collie, a farmer could easily move a large flock of sheep from one pasture to another, without any escaping.
Well, that about sums up the animals I got to meet at the Sheep and Wool Festival, but what about the people?
I got to meet some of the great staff and volunteers who helped make the day run smoothly, and made sure everyone had a good time:
I owe a special thanks to Kjirsten Gustavson, the educator at Clermont, who put the festival together, and invited Bob and I to come. I didn’t get a photo with her this time, but I’m looking forward to visiting her again, and getting a tour of the inside of the house!
Speaking of the house, check out those beautiful lilacs that were in bloom along the lilac walk, on the way down to the house!
I also got to meet a lot of great kids who were taking part in the children’s activities at the festival, including my youngest fan:
So that’s it… as you can see, Bob and I had a great time a the Chancellor’s Sheep and Wool Festival at Clermont this past weekend. We learned a lot about sheep, and some other animals too. If you have a chance, go check out the festival next year!
The Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Showcase at Clermont, Part 2
Yesterday, I told you that I got to attend the Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase at Clermont State Historic Site, and I explained a little about why they hold a sheep festival there in the first place. Today, I thought I would show you some of the neat things we got to see and learn about.
Being a sheep and wool festival, I did get to meet some sheep!
A friend helped me get a closer look at the sheep, but they weren’t too interested in talking to me. In fact, they were much friendlier to a fellow sheep:
We also got to watch a sheep shearing demonstration. Shearing is when the wool is cut off the sheep. Removing the wool is kind of like getting a haircut: it doesn’t hurt the sheep. In fact, in the hot summer it makes them more comfortable!
Fred DePaul showed us how sheep are sheared using both old-fashioned shears (which look just like big scissors) and with motorized shears. Fred was very gentle, and the sheep stayed very calm. I tried to convince Bob the Livingston History Sheep to get sheared, but he decided he wanted to keep his wool coat to himself. He told me that after a sheep gets sheared, the other sheep don’t recognize it right away, and he didn’t want me to forget who he was!
Once the fleece is removed, it is washed (to get out all the grass and dirt that got on the sheep while it was still wearing the fleece) and then carded (kind of like combing the fleece to get all the knots out). Then it can be spun into yarn, and knit, crocheted, or woven into fabric!
Here I am with some fleece that still needs to be carded:
Here I am with some roving (fleece that has been washed, carded, and in this case dyed pretty colors):
Speaking of spinning, there were lots of spinners at the festival!
All of those people spent the day out in the sunshine spinning their fleece, and teaching anyone who was interested in learning about how to spin! I wonder what they will make with all the yarn they made?
Here is some yarn that was for sale at the festival, that was spun from wool, just like the spinners were making:
So while I was at the festival, I got to see pretty much the whole process of going from a sheep to a sweater!
I got to see some other neat animals too… more on that tomorrow.
The Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Showcase at Clermont, Part 1
Whew! Last weekend was busy, but I got to see a lot of neat things, and meet great people!
On Saturday, my friend Bob the Livingston History Sheep invited me to come with him to the Chancellor’s Sheep and Wool Showcase, at Clermont State Historic Site! Since it was a festival that celebrated sheep, Bob had his own tent, and was even a clue in the scavenger hunt for children. Pretty neat!
Here we are in Bob’s tent, with Geoff Benton, the Deputy Town Historian from Livingston (another friend of Bob’s).
My first question for Bob, was does Clermont hold a sheep showcase anyway? Why not a groundhog festival? It turns out that Robert Livingston (we’ll call him Chancellor Livingston, since there were a lot of Roberts in the Livingston family) became interested in Merino Sheep while he was living in Paris and serving as Minister to France. Merinos have lots of very high quality fleece. They are also good for eating (don’t tell Bob that part!). In both France, and their native country, Spain, they were highly prized and closely guarded— not just anyone could take them out of the country. The Chancellor was given permission to take four Merinos to the United States. He believed that if American farmers switched their flocks to Merino sheep, it would help the American economy: better wool made locally meant less imported cloth from France!
After the Chancellor was successful at breeding the Merino sheep at his farm, he began holding public sheep shearings. This allowed farmers to see all the great wool that the Merino sheep produced, which meant that they began buying the sheep from Livingston. These were the first sheep festivals at Clermont! In 1809, the Chancellor wrote a book about Merino sheep and breeding, called A Treatise on Sheep. There is a copy of the book in CCHS’ collection!
So now you know a little about the history of sheep at Clermont. Tomorrow, I tell you about some of the other neat things we saw at the festival.
Oh, and Bob the Livingston History Sheep… did you know he was named after Chancellor Robert Livingston? He says he can trace his ancestors all the way back to those first Merino sheep that the Chancellor brought to Clermont!
My friend Bob (the Livingston History Sheep) asked me to join him at the Sheep & Wool Festival at Clermont today. I can’t wait to meet some sheep, see the pretty wool yarn, and to learn more about the Livingston Family! Stop by and say hello (Bob is even handing out autographs!)
People Who Preserve History: Benjamin Smith and Alex Culpepper
Last Friday, I got to meet Benjamin Smith and Alex Culpepper, from the magazine Patriots of the American Revolution. Their time in Kinderhook at the village green was just one stop on their “Knox Trail Honor Walk.” So what is the Knox Trail, you ask? (I certainly did!)
The story begins all the way back during the American Revolution. In 1775, the city of Boston was under seige by British troops. The American army needed more cannons. Knox was sent, by General George Washington, on a long journey to Fort Ticonderoga, to get cannons that had been recently captured. The area north of Albany, on the way to Fort Ticonderoga was still wilderness, with very few people living there. It would have been a tough journey just getting to Fort Ticonderoga, before they had lots of cannons to travel with! They arrived at the fort in December 1775. Knox and his men used oxen and sleds to haul over 50 tons of cannons back to Dorchester Heights, in Boston! It was the extra cannons, delivered by Knox, that caused the British troops to withdraw from the city.
In 1926, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Knox’s journey, monuments were installed along the route. There is one in Kinderhook, on the village green, and one in Ghent, in front of Hogeboom’s Tavern (along Route 66).
Ben and Alex’s goal is to walk the path of Knox’s trail, from Fort Ticonderoga (NY) all the way to Dorchester Heights (Boston, MA)! The walk is not just to remember the history— they will also be raising money for several museums and historic sites along the way. You can read more about the project here. By now, they are getting close to the end of their journey. You can follow their progress on the facebook page for the magazine.