Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Another one of those weeks...Towpath Day, Erie Canal, and some summer FUN!

This week has been trouble and I thought I would pass all of it by and bring via the blog an event scheduled for this weekend.  My friends at the Erie Canal Park in Camillus, Liz & Dave Bebee and all there volunteers, are holding Towpath Day.  Earlier this year I spoke there to the new and old volunteers and I always marvel at the new things and the new history that is available..so here is the "skinny" on the upcoming event...really worth a visit!

Towpath Day in Camillus

The summer is heating up and as usual the Camillus Erie Canal Park on DeVoe Road in Camillus will be celebrating Towpath on August 8, from 10-4.

The park, located on the first enlargement of the canal where it crosses the Town of Camillus, is about seven miles long and features many displays on the history of the canal, the area near Gere Lock, which was lock number 50, as well as the newly restored Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct. The first enlargement of the Erie Canal was completed in 1862 with a depth of seven feet and a width of seventy feet with 32 active aqueducts at a length of 350 miles.
At the park site just off of Devoe Road is Sims Store, the centerpiece of this fun, family event!  Sims  is a replica of a store as it would have looked in the 1850’s. The actual store was located a couple miles away near Belle Isle and Gere Lock. This beautiful rustic building houses maps of the canal, photos, and models of the locks, aqueducts and canal boats and looks much the way it did during the days of travelers along this historic waterway.
This year’s theme is “Boats Afloat on the Erie Canal”! and features the Rotary 5 K Mule Skinner Race which begins at 9 AM, the Circus Boat  where there will be "kids stuff" featuring Make and Take from the Home Depot,  and old fashion games. There will boats and wagon rides with crafts, raffles, demonstrations including Mules, Lock Demonstration and  a Steam up.
The Showboat will include the Morris Dancers, Dr. Tom Dooley Chorus  and Jason  the  Entertainer/ Magician.
 So come out for a Summertime Fling with great food and music by Diamond Someday and the Soda Ash 6.

For more information call 315-391-7020.  Or go to www.eriecanalcamillus.com. Admission is Free and parking is available by shuttle cart transportation from DOT site, which is near by!

Here is a video I did for them this year...enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A bad week and thoughts of a trip to another of America's Favorite State Parks..Watkins Glen...

Beautiful Watkins Glen is a scenic wonder of the world.  They say history is a unique seductress and I know her call and often wander off to it.  We have had so much talk about Letchworth State Park that I thought I would put up a piece on America's other favorited state park Watkins Glen. 

Watkins Glen has been one of my favorite destinations for years and with all of the troubles I have faced this week I would gladly visit there and walk the hills and gorge to forget.  Its history will take you back in time to a past when it was a major destination of the wealthy!

Today it is now noted more for its racetrack and concert venues than for its wonder that people travel miles to see by coach or train.. Today it is a New York State Park and its many former owners have faded into history.

The natural gorge was situated on a parcel of land purchased by John Watkins an English man who left the property to his younger brother, Dr. Samuel Watkins. Samuel Watkins spent much money to develop the property and was responsible for improvements that included roads, homes, stores and a hotel.

His wife Cynthia remarried after his death and her new husband George Freer inherited the property at her death. The property was often referred to as the “Big Gully”. It is Samuel Watkins that Watkins Glen, originally called Jefferson was eventually named for at the insistence of Freer.

Morvalden Ells a newspaperman from Ithaca and Freer became business partners. Ells love for the glen and his ability to market the Glen to visitors with its scenic charm, is what eventually opened the Glen to tourism on the Fourth of July, in 1863. At that juncture in time it was called “Freer’s Glen: Mysterious Book of Nature”, and the rest is history!
Through Morvalden’s writings about the Glen it attracted and sold over 10,000 entrance tickets in its first year, and there after was improved yearly with additions that included resort accommodations.

A wealthy businessman, E B Parsons for $25,000, then purchased the property. Parsons continued its development until he sold it to John Lytle for a hefty $100,000. Under Lytle’s ownership the Grand Mountain House opened, a facility that could house more than 300 people.

Eventually the State of New York purchased the property from the estate of Andrew H. Green for $46,000 plus, and made it into today’s Watkins Glen State Park.
The Glen has survived thousands of years of water wear and natural disasters such as a horrific flood in 1933 after which the CCC did much repair work. Because of the flood the Army Corp of Engineers were engaged to build two dams on Glen Creek to help control the water.

It is through the loving care of all of the Glen’s owners and contributors that Watkins Glen has remained a natural historic treasure of New York State and tourist attraction for visitors from around the world.

Enjoy the video I did on a trip  there!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

That Field of Dreams feeling, stepping into the past and losing your troubles for just a moment in time!

This has been a busy week… though I actually took time to take a mini vacation mixed with work… the first in 6 years.  Only 48 hours or so long, it managed to do something special to me, something I will always remember. 

The trip was business in a way…and payment to a volunteer helper Barbara Keough… who had become enamored by the Shakers after viewing a video I owned by Ken Burns.

Ironically, the story of this year’s speaking engagement was on William Pryor Letchworth and the Shakers played an important role in his work, so I had planned to do this year’s lectures on the Shakers.

To prepare for the trip I had bought Barb a wonderful (used) book by June Sprigg called “Simple Gifts”.  It was a charming look at her college summer job for three years as a tour guide at Canterbury Village in New Hampshire.

The summer was magical for her as she became an adopted “granddaughter” in a way, of the old Shaker woman who were left and who had opened the village officially to tours as a way to educated and to preserve the rich cultural heritage of those that toiled before them in the religious sect known as The United Believers in Christ’s Second Coming…better known as “Shakers”.  The women lived in a belief that June not only came to understand, but also came to accept in an enlightened way…though not becoming a Shaker.

As she described her arrival at Canterbury Village and her view of the dusty road that led to a place that had once been a vibrant community of “Believers”…working, living, and dying in their beliefs you fell in love with Canterbury yourself.  That summer she came to understand herself and what she longed for…her “Spiritual Awakening” you might say.

As a novice guide she worked with a young man of only 13 who was the tour guide the previous year.  His father worked as a caretaker for the community and lived with his two boys in the village… it is his father before him who took people through and explained the Shakers as well as Canterbury’s history to visitors for many years…The young man's name was Darryl…someone she had become fast friends with even though he was younger.  It seems anything she wanted to know about the Shakers he shared with her, knowledge he had gained as having lived there at Canterbury for much of his young life.

The day we arrived, we were a bit hot and tired since we had gotten lost and were running behind schedule. But as we approach the village... June’s words seemed to come to life…there before us was the dusty road with a clearing at the top of the hill… lined with white and colored clapboard built structures dating from almost 200 years ago!

We bought our tickets and just caught a tour that had started a few minutes earlier.  We walked to a grove of trees where the guide gave us the story of their plantings… it seems each tree was planted by a child who lived in the village and it was their responsibility to water and nurture it… the one we stood before he said was his.
At that moment… like in the movie Field of Dreams…” all the cosmic tumblers fell into place”…Darryl of the book was our tour guide…but 30 years older.  As he spoke with so much love and knowledge of the women who in the book he called his “grandmother’s”, he made you part of that love and of their story.  His history knowledge of the Shakers was enormous and he was a fascinating speaker and guide.

As he closed the tour and left us to wander and explore on our own… he stepped out the building’s side door.  I followed him and called him by name asking him about June Sprigg who he said was now a librarian at Berkshire College. He said she was a wonderful writer…I said, “I know”. We spoke for a while of the two new Shaker converts at Sabbath Lake Maine. 

As we ended our conversation, I thanked him and said that I was so glad he was our tour guide.  He smiled and put out his large warm and firm hand for me to shake.  With his touch I felt I had been transported back through the years and knew all the people who had come before…  I was now part of them and the pages of their dusty and once glorious past.

Now as I write this I have a feeling that perhaps I left a piece of me there at Canterbury Village… in the past…now a part of it... I wonder?

***Barb and I have visited a number of Shaker Villages that are now being restored and the Hancock Shaker Village, which is in my opinion too commercial.  So I recommend if you want a trip into understanding and wish to see a Shaker Village, visit Canterbury.  It looks and feels as if the Shakers just had just left it there for us to find and become part of.

To make the trip complete… read the book “Simple Gifts” by June Sprigg… perhaps Daryl will step out of the pages of it to take you on a trip back to a much more simple time….

Here is a quick video I did of our trip... enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day, the "Reign of Terror", Louis Anthe Muller, Eaton & Georgetown history!

Muller Mansion late 1800's before it burned
Since everyone loves a mystery, and today is Bastille Day… I thought I would write a blog on Georgetown, NY and a man who many believe escaped from France to avoid the “Guillotine” and the powers that ceased the rule of the Bourbons.

Many fugitives from the ”Rein of Terror” actually came to New York State, since Americans welcomed the French who helped them win their independence from England in the Revolutionary War. 

Numbers of French royalty and their courtiers moved into upper New York State and one who called himself Louis Muller settled here in our area.  It was said that he often stopped in his journeys at the old Sage Tavern in Eaton.
Sage Tavern was the oldest stick built house
in Eaton, knocked down last year!

One of the Chenango Twenty Towns, Georgetown was formed from the two adjoining towns of DeRuyter and Cazenovia that were originally named Tromptown and Roadtown. Within its vast forest borders came a mysterious gentleman by the name of Louis Anthe Muller who in 1808 purchased 2,700 acres of land and built his “Muller Mansion.”

Through the years his true identity has lured people and historians who have worked diligently to try and solve the mystery. Muller Mansion was built like a fortress from slabs of cherry wood that were 11 feet high and up to 12 inches in thickness. The structure (house) was massive for its day measuring approximately 30 by 70 feet and had built into it what many described as an escape-way in the basement.
Some believe Muller was Charles X in hiding, others think that he was a much wanted military escapee of the “Reign of Terror” in France and an enemy of Napoleon… whatever the case the truth has never been known without question.

Muller had large numbers of workmen (as many as 150) planting, cultivating and stocking with game and fish the area around his Mansion… and to support his employees, a community was erected nearby called Bronder Hollow. All of his business was paid in gold. Visitors would come and hunt… however all stated that Muller always traveled with two loaded pistols and an armed guard! 

Muller returned to France after Napoleon's removal leaving a wife in New York City.  He returned only once to his Georgetown estate where he found his mansion in ruin, pillaged by the man he left in charge of it.  The remains of the Muller Mansion that brought early tourists to see it in the late 1800's burned in 1912.

Today walking tours of the area are given as it has become part of the Muller Hill State Forest - once a reforestation project of the CCC, and a historic marker lies off Muller Hill Road, a seasonal road. Once you are atop Muller Hill in the quiet of the thick underbrush and forest it is hard to try to envision a palatial habitat fit for a gentleman or a King, but it was there. 

At the foot of Muller Hill Road in the Village of Georgetown lies the Georgetown Historical Society Museum where you can see more information on Georgetown, a village once called “Slab city”, and the mystery man Louis Anthe Muller.
Have French blood? HAPPY BASTILLE DAY!

Monday, July 6, 2015

This historic week in Eaton, a bit of history, and a plea to help our Old Town Museum

Another morning in this little historic town.  The Fourth of July has passed and it is only about 7 or 8 weeks until the first frost.  This week I have had a fire every night... incredible.  One year in the 1800 Ellis Morse recorded scraping frost off of the plants in his garden.  I had one 4th of July here... where we all sat around the wood stove with it blazing, eating our picnic indoors.

The history of Eaton Village and the Town of Eaton have continued now for 220 years, in a way it is just a pebble in the sand of time just like so many of the rural communities here in southern Madison County.

The horses and the wagons that carried people to this once wilderness have disappeared and in their place have sprung up horse facilities and horse farms of all variety…but these for more pleasant enterprises than hauling people and their belongings up the steep old trails.

The hills that surround the town are still steep but huge tractor-trailers whiz over them with little thought of the heavily burdened ox carts that once served the same purpose.  The wood fires are still burning, yet coal, wood pellets, and oil have overtaken their importance.

The memories of the town’s famous inhabitants have now faded, and the young do not have the time to remember their wonderful historic roots.  It seems it is not until they reach the age of retirement that they are suddenly filled with the nostalgia needed and the wish to find out about their past genealogy.

The cell phone and Internet have brought the outside world to a place where young Samuel Chubbuck stood testing and developing the pony key and sounder for S. B. Morse’s telegraph, an invention that would change the way news was transmitted across the world in the 1800s.

Gone is the factory of Wood, Taber and Morse, who developed four-wheel drive equipment that we think little of today as we watch huge John Deere equipment plowing the fields using the sisters of the first four-driver traction engines they developed.

The church is still standing and open… seeming to follow the historic past, but all the many denominations have spread out of the small villages and into the surrounding area, where stood three now stands one.  Famous preachers are now replaced with musical groups who tour to raise spirits in the ever-more connected and depressing world.

Missionaries like the Deans, Emily Judson, and the Wades have faded but some still go out via the local churches as missions, but it is not the same.

The promise of gas lights and heat at a cheap rate has gone away, though today there are more gas heads and gas lines crossing the town than ever before… yet no gas is delivered to a majority of its rural population.

Cows are really no longer family with pictures and names that are revered…now they are part of a mechanical business we call production.  Herds that once roamed free have expanded to hundreds, fed and milked, in barns, never to see the light of day.

Children no longer walk to school and return home with lunch pails in hand talking about their day to their friends along the way.  Local education that was the pride and care of the community has disappeared… replaced by central schools and huge buses that run around the town mostly empty… back and forth, back and forth.

Yes, things have changed, we now drive miles to stores rather than walk “over town” to shop locally. We spend our money at institutions run by millionaires and foreign countries rather than keep our money local, helping the butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

Doctors no longer make house calls and you can’t stop at Mrs. Chase’s for a remedy or liquid cure…now we have specialists and travel to big complexes in Syracuse. Our children leave for college and a better way of life, to never return in many cases…but sometimes I wonder… are we really better off in the modern world?  Only history will tell.

****Preserving our history is another thing this little town is trying to do.  We have put out a great little history book for its 220th official birthday, the book is available on line at www.historystarproductions.com for $10 plus shipping or you can pick it up in person from Dougherty's Pharmacy in Morrisville or Perry's in Hamilton.  Stories in the book include the history of the canal, reservoirs, and the different mills located along the Eatonbrook in West Eaton.  Also are stories on the Irish Settlement, Hooks Wilsey and a ton more.  So help us keep our history alive and well.