Tag Archives: Mohawk River

Tell Me…- Exactly Where is The North Country?

north county eben holdenWhen New Yorkers say with pride that they come from the North Country, strength, courage and rugged individualism can be seen written all over their faces. In addition, everyone knows they have the ability to withstand abnormally cold and miserable weather, and to survive natural disasters, such as the Great Ice Storm of 1998. But, exactly where is the North Country?

Yes, it is in the northern part of New York State, but north of what? Yonkers? Albany? The Erie Canal? The Adirondacks? Continue reading

Schenectady Baseball History: The Mohawk Giants

MohawkGiantsTalk-007When you discuss Negro baseball, most people think of names like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell.  These were some of the biggest stars in the professional Negro leagues.  However, this was not the only place where you could see Negro teams play.  Throughout the country there were independent teams, like the Mohawk Colored Giants.

The Giants got their start in 1913 under the organization of Bill Wernecke.  Although this was seasonal work for these ball players, they were full time paid players.  By offering full time jobs, Wernecke was able to lure players into Schenectady from all over the country.  The Giants would play their home games at the nicest ball field in Schenectady, Island Park.
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Saving Cities: Learning from Melanie Griffith

One of my favorite movie scenes is from Working Girl when Melanie Griffith explains while riding up the elevator with Trask and Indiana, how she came up with the idea for the corporate merger. It wasn’t as if she had been thinking about anything even remotely related to it. Her insight derived from a chance juxtaposition perceived by a mind willing to learn and open to new possibilities. Continue reading

Peter Feinman On New Yorks Ruin Porn

Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.

As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) “‘-feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation- a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks”. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. Continue reading

Fort Hunter: Who Owned The Fort? Talk Tuesday

Tricia Shaw, the education coordinator at Schoharie Crossing, will share her latest research in a lecture entitled “Who Owned the Fort?” sponsored by the Friends of Schoharie Crossing on Tuesday.  The presentation will explain the Fort Hunter’s history and trace the families who lived at the confluence of the Mohawk River and Schoharie Creek including the Mabee, the Enders, the Putman, the Wemple and the Voorhees families.

The talk will emphasize the importance of intermarriage between these families. Also how the settlers intermingled and influenced the Native population will also be discussed. The lecture will be followed by refreshments and the August meeting of the Friends of Schoharie Crossing. All are welcome to attend- the meeting and lecture are both open to the public.

The event will be held Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 6:30pm at Enders House, located adjacent to the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site Visitor Center, at 129 Schoharie Street, Fort Hunter, NY 12069.

For more information about this event or how to join the Friends of Schoharie Crossing, please call the Visitor Center at (518) 829-7516. For more information about New York State Parks, visit our website at www.nysparks.com. Find us on Facebook.

Annual Waterford Tugboat Roundup Returns

Tugboats will Roundup the weekend after Labor Day in Waterford after taking last year off due the effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The Tugboat Roundup is an annual event in Waterford, celebrating the maritime heritage of upstate and interior New York at the confluence of the Hudson River and New York State Canal system. The Roundup begins on Friday, September 7 and concludes on Sunday afternoon, September 9.

More than 30 tugboats, workboats, barges and other craft are expected along the Waterford wall at the entrance to the Erie Canal. The festival takes place in front of the Visitor’s Center at the foot of Tugboat Alley and kicks off with the Tugboat Parade on Friday afternoon which starts at the Port of Albany, coming into Waterford in late afternoon.

The Mohawk-Hudson chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers will be recognizing the Waterford Flight of Locks as a significant American Engineering achievement on Sunday at noon during the Roundup. The flight is a two-mile long series of five locks, critical to the success of the “modern” Erie Canal when it was built in the Nineteen Teens (it opened in 1917).  Boats are raised from Hudson River level more than 180 feet into the Mohawk River above Cohoes.

Additional land displays include local crafters, artists, food tents, historical displays and local organizations. The American Red Cross, continuing in their efforts to help the region recover from last year’s storms, will have a tent at the festival for more information and donations. Local fire departments, always at the ready, will also have information areas.

Live music with local musicians will take place throughout the weekend, kicked off on Friday afternoon with canal and river balladeer George Ward and including other local bands such as “All Nite Long,” “Yesterday’s News,” “Flood Road,” Nixie Dixie Cats,” “Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers,” “Lawson,” “Scott Stockman with Big Blue Sun,” and wrapping up with the “Boys of Wexford” on Sunday afternoon.

Fireworks will take place on Saturday evening at 8:00.

More information on the event, and the complete schedule can be found online. Check out video just released by the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce: http://youtu.be/69rO-PkJwfA

The Tugboat Roundup is organized by the Town of Waterford with the support of sponsors.

Photo: The 2008 Tugboat Round-Up, Courtesy Duncan Hayes, NPS  (Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor).

Say Cheese: When New York Cheese Was King

It’s a little known fact that the cheese industry in America owes a lot to New York State. Milton Stewart has set out to set the record straight with Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese Was King, the story of the era when the premier cheesemaking region of the United States was in Central New York, chiefly in the Mohawk Valley.

In 1851, Jesse William set up what is considered the first cheese factory in America in Oneida County. It was also in New York that Professor Xerxes A. Willard became the nation’s most respected spokesman for the “associated dairies” concept in his drive to create higher standards in cheese making. Continue reading

Archaeology Theme For Schoharie Crossing Canal Days

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter (Schoharie County) will be hosting the 28th annual Canal Days Celebration on Saturday, July 14 and on Sunday, July 15, 2012 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission and parking are free.

Canal Days is dedicated to the historical significance of the Erie Canal and its impact on New York State. However, due to damaged caused by last fall’s Tropical Storm Irene and the unearthing of the remains of Fort Hunter for its 300th anniversary, there will be an archaeology theme and a focus on Schoharie Crossing’s earlier 18th century history as well as the 19th century canal history.

The Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center will be open for the duration of the events which includes the “Little Short of Madness” and “Celebrate 300!: Centuries of Fort Hunter History and New Discoveries” exhibits. Michael Roets will be conducting a live archaeological dig throughout the weekend with the ongoing potential of new discoveries. Topics in archaeology will be addressed throughout the weekend with special talks and walking tours in prehistoric, industrial, landscape archaeology and cemetery restoration.

Other history related activities include Joe Doolittle presenting stories about the Mohawk Valley on Saturday, David Cornelius presenting information about Mohawk Lifeways on Sunday and Beverly Cornelius doing basket weaving demonstrations on Sunday. Both days the Circuit Spinsters will be demonstrating fiber arts such as spinning and weaving.

Canal Days 2012 will feature live entertainment on the main stage:

On Saturday, the Veeder Guitar Jazz Duo will perform from 11:00 am to 12:15pm. The Dependants will follow performing from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The Dependants are the hottest young pop/rock band around, having won Montgomery County’s 2010 Battle of Bands. Also all the members are under the age of 19. On Sunday Eric Marczak will perform Native American flute music from 11:00 am to 12:15 pm. Sunday afternoon will feature the bluegrass band Dyer Switch from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Children’s Activities include a petting zoo and pony rides from Dream Pony will be set up both afternoons. Also a Native American Kids Craft tables will feature four different Native crafts for children aged 4 to 13, each craft will be $3.00 from noon to 3pm each day. Sparkles the Clown will be stilt walking and juggling on Saturday. There will be a reptile display and on Sunday magician Evil Dan will be on hand.

Also, the Tri-County Power Association “Field Days” will have Old Time Steam and Gas Engines on display with demonstrations of antique agricultural and household machinery both days. Cheryl Bielli will be available both days to draw caricatures. Food such as hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage, fried dough, fresh squeezed lemonade, and ice cream will be available. There will be a silent auction under the Friends of Schoharie Crossing Tent on Sunday.

Canal Days is sponsored by the Friends of Schoharie Crossing, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors and the Occupancy Tax, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

For more information about this alcohol free event, call the Visitor Center at (518) 829-7516.

Photo: Schoharie Aqueduct, showing the canalway (Courtesy Wikipedia).

Battle of Oriskany Recreation Planned For August

To commemorate the 235th Anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany in the American War for Independence, the Continental Line and British Brigade Revolutionary War re-enactors, will depict the various New York battles of 1777 on the weekend of August 4 – 5, 2012 at Gelston Castle in Mohawk, NY. Participants can witness the local militia company from Mohawk Valley confronting the King’s Regulars, Loyalist, and Native Americans, in the re-enactment of the “Battle of Oriskany”. The “Battle of Oriskany” is one of a series of event that will be recreated August 4 and 5, 2012 at Gelston Castle, just 15 minutes south of the towns of Herkimer and Mohawk, NY.

“This is a great opportunity to witness our common heritage as Americans” says Mitch Lee, event organizer and Commander of the 1st New York Regiment. “Spectators can arrive on Saturday, August 4 at 10 am to view living history demonstrations and battles from the 1777 New York campaign.” “The site will have 1,500 reenactors and trades people representing the military culture of the American Revolution,” explains Lee. ”There will be lectures, demonstrations and activities though out the weekend and on Saturday night there will the premiere of a pageant play called ‘Drums along the Mohawk’,” added Lee.

This event has been made possible by private funding from many Mohawk Valley businesses and the Safflyn Corporation. Lee points out in a time when historic sites are understaffed and under funded, volunteer units who recreate the American Revolution are still moving forward with plans to commemorate special dates and places in New York history.

For more information visit oriskany235th.org.

Canal Life: Near Tragedy on the George W. Lee

In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River intersection: south led to Albany and New York City, and north was the path of the Champlain Canal, which ran from Waterford to Whitehall, at Lake Champlain’s southern tip. Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island.

At the mouth of the river was a dam, maintaining calm water so the boats could cross the river, and about 500 feet upstream from the dam was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank of the Mohawk to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old- his ten-year-old son- and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, an angle much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge, over the dam, to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam- three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river- two men swimming for their lives in icy water- and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photos: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island- A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.