Bike Tour: Champlain Canal and Rev War Road to Saratoga

On Sunday August 12, enjoy a free 20-mile guided bicycle tour along the Champlain Canalway Trail between Hudson Crossing Park in Northumberland and Saratoga Battlefield in Stillwater.

This tour will take bikers past historic sites of interest related to the Revolutionary War and the Champlain Canal. Sites include Hudson Crossing Park, Champlain Canal Lock 5, the Schuyler House, the Champlain Canalway Towpath Trail and Saratoga National Historic Park. Read more

18th-Century Day at the Historic Schuyler House

On Sunday, August 12 from noon to 5pm, the 1777 Schuyler House on Route 4 in Schuylerville, will be the setting for 18th Century Day, a free event with dozens of artisans demonstrating their crafts much as they were plied over 200 years ago when household items were handcrafted.

Visitors to the 34th annual 18th-Century Day will be able to enjoy free tours of the Schuyler House, listen to music of the period, see 18th-century Punch and Judy puppet shows, plus see artisans demonstrating 18th century crafts such as tinsmithing, blacksmithing, broom-making, knitting, rope-making, beer brewing, spinning, dyeing, soap making, butter-making, sheep shearing, and needlework. Also see colonial-era farm life activities such as discussions of farming methods, medicinal treatments and bee keeping.
This traditional event is organized by the Old Saratoga Historical Association, a non-profit educational organization that provides furnishings for the Schuyler House and promotes interest in the history of Old Saratoga, Schuylerville, Victory and the Town of Saratoga, from Native American occupation through present times.

Visitors are advised to dress for hot weather, bring water, and wear insect repellent and sunscreen. Free light refreshments will be available.

Schuylerville Area Gets Battlefield Preservation Grants

The National Park Service has announced the award of two American Battlefield Preservation Program grants totaling over $100,000 to Saratoga P.L.A.N. and National Heritage Trust, for projects in the Schuylerville area. Both organizations are members of the Hudson-Hoosick Partnership and will partner with Saratoga National Historical Park in these projects.

Saratoga PLAN was awarded $21,425 for planning and designing interpretive signs for the Fish Creek Trail, a one-mile trail along the south side of Fish Creek that is part of a six-mile historic loop linking Schuyler House with Victory Woods, the Saratoga Monument and the 71-mile Champlain Canalway Trail slated for completion in 2013. &#8220With the funds, we intend to hire an artist to help us tell the stories of Fish Creek,&#8221 said Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga P.L.A.N., a conservation organization serving Saratoga County. &#8220The site has a long history for fishing, travel, hydropower, and as an American stronghold during the Revolutionary War, when the British were forced to surrender.”Natural Heritage Trust was awarded $80,000 for a study of two colonial era battlefields at Saratoga (present day Schuylerville). As European and Native nations vied for dominance in North America a series of wars were fought between Great Britain, France and their Native allies. During these wars in the 1690s and again in the 1740s a number of battles were fought at Saratoga. This research will shed new light on the significant formative history of Canada and America and the important role of the Schuyler family.

The grants are part of over $4 million that the Partnership has generated for communities along the Hudson River since 2006. The Partnership, founded by Senator Roy McDonald and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, is a legislatively designated public-benefit corporation whose mission is to preserve, enhance and develop the historic, agricultural, scenic, natural and recreational resources and the significant waterways within the Partnership region. The Partnership fosters collaborative projects with
non-profit and governmental entities emphasizing both agricultural and open space protection, economic and tourism development, and the protection and interpretation of the region’s natural and cultural heritage.Photo: Town of Saratoga Historical Marker, Schuylerville. Photo by Bill Coughlin, courtesy the Historical Marker Database

Openings Remain For Ballston Spa Archeology Program

Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa, Saratoga County, has announced that there are a few spaces left for their upcoming Brookside Digs: An Archeology Experience program.

Individuals age 12 through adult will be able to work beside archeologists from Hartgen Archeological Associates and experience a full excavation- from the research to the digging and cleaning to the artifact analysis. These findings will help clarify Brookside’s past and the artifacts will be added to the museum’s collection. This is a special opportunity to learn about archeology and local history in a very interesting and interactive way.

The camp will run July 30 through August 3, 9am &#8211 3pm and is the perfect program for students, teachers, families and history buffs.  Price is $275 per person. Check online for more information and call (518) 885-4000 or e-mail education@brooksidemuseum.org as soon as possible to register.

18th Century Artificers’ Encampment at Saratoga Battlefield

From 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday and Sunday, July 14 – 15, 2012, learn “how it’s made” 18th century style at a special Artificers’ Weekend at Saratoga National Historical Park, located between Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, NY.

What’s an artificer? Eighteenth century artificers were professional tradesmen working with armies to provide or repair supplies needed by the troops. Blacksmiths made and repaired iron and steel implements. Tailors sewed uniforms for soldiers. Woodworkers built or fixed wooden items like boxes, benches, or tool handles. Tinsmiths made or fixed canteens, cups, bowls, or lanterns.

If you’d like to see how common items were manufactured in early America, well before the age of industrialization, this free weekend event is a perfect opportunity.

For more information about this or other events, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 1777 or check our website at www.nps.gov/sara or our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/saratoganhp

Seneca Ray Stoddard Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum

A new exhibition has opened at the New York State Museum showcasing the works of Adirondack photographer and conservationist Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Seneca Ray Stoddard: Capturing the Adirondacks is open through February 24, 2013 in Crossroads Gallery and includes over 100 of Stoddard’s photographs, an Adirondack guideboat, freight boat, camera, copies of Stoddard’s books and several of his paintings.

There also are several Stoddard photos of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. These and other items come from the State Museum’s collection of more than 500 Stoddard prints and also from the collections of the New York State Library and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

Born in Wilton, Saratoga County in 1844, Stoddard was no doubt inspired by the Adirondacks at an early age. A self-taught painter, he was first employed as an ornamental painter at a railroad car manufacturer in Green Island, across the Hudson River from Troy in Albany County. He moved to Glens Falls (Warren County) in 1864, where he worked with sketches and paintings until his death there in 1917.

Early on he sought to preserve the beauty of the Adirondacks through his paintings but then became attracted to photography’s unique ability to capture the environment. He was one of the first to capture the Adirondacks through photographs. He used the then recently introduced wet-plate process of photography. Though extremely cumbersome by today’s standards, the technique was the first practical way to record distant scenes. It required Stoddard to bring his entire darkroom with him into the Adirondack wilderness.

His renown as a photographer quickly grew once he settled in Glens Falls, which also became his base camp for his explorations of the Adirondacks. He studied the Adirondacks intensely over a 50-year period.

Stoddard’s photos showed the challenges travelers faced in getting to the still undeveloped wilderness, along with their enjoyment of finally reaching their destination. His writings and photographs indicate that he was especially skilled at working with people from diverse economic backgrounds in a variety of settings. This was especially important as he used his photos to capture the changing Adirondack landscape as railroads were introduced and the area became an increasingly important destination for the burgeoning middle-class tourist, but also for the newly wealthy during the “Gilded Age.”

His work stimulated even further interest as he promoted the Adirondacks through his photographs and writings on the beauty, people and hotels of the region. Stoddard’s photographs showed the constancy of the natural beauty of the Adirondacks along with the changes that resulted from logging and mining, to hotels and railroads. As unregulated mining and logging devastated much of the pristine Adirondack scenery, Stoddard documented the loss and used those images to foster a new ethic of responsibility for the landscape. His work was instrumental in shaping public opinion about tourism, leading in part to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution.

The State Museum purchased over 500 historic Stoddard prints in 1972 in the process of acquiring historic resources for the Museum’s Adirondack Hall. They included albumen prints from Stoddard’s own working files, many with penciled notes. Nearly all are of the landscapes, buildings and people of the Adirondacks taken primarily in the 1870s and 1880s.

An online version of the exhibition is also available on the State Museum website at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/virtual/exhibits/SRS/ .

The State Museum will present several programs in conjunction with the Stoddard exhibition. There will be guided tours of the exhibition on September 8 and December 8 from 1-2 p.m. Stoddard will also be the focus of Family Fun Day on September 15 from1-4 p.m.

Established in 1836, the New York State Museum is a program of the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Stoddard’s &#8220Indian Encampment, Lake George, 1872&#8243-.

Q&A: Douglas Cubbison on British General Burgoyne

Douglas R. Cubbison is a military historian, who authored Burgoyne and the Saratoga Campaign: His Papers (2012, Arthur H. Clark Company), which presents the documents and letters of British General John Burgoyne.
 In 1777, Burgoyne began an attempt to divide the rebellious United States in the American Revolutionary War by moving south from the British Canada to gain control of the Hudson River Valley, separating the New England states from those to the south.

After Burgoyne’s early capture of Fort Ticonderoga, his campaign had become bogged down in difficulties and ended with surrender on October 17 of his entire army after the Battles of Saratoga.
Read more

NY Harness Racing History: Eddie Peg Leg Jones

Inspiring stories of success are often rooted in the lives of people widely perceived as being handicapped, yet somehow managing to overcome daunting obstacles. A fine North Country example is Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones, who narrowly escaped death as a young boy but lost a leg in the process.

For most people, the loss of a limb might well be the focus of the remainder of their lives. But Eddie’s story is one where outstanding achievements offered no hint on the surface that great physical impairment had been overcome.

Edward Jones was born in January, 1890, in New Haven, New York, southwest of Pulaski and just a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario. Life on the family farm included hunting, and just a few weeks before his thirteenth birthday, Eddie suffered a terrible accident. While crossing a stone wall, he was struck by the accidental discharge of his shotgun. The injuries were severe, and amputation above the knee was necessary.When he entered adulthood, Eddie engaged in the horse trade, buying and selling farm stock along the western foothills of the Adirondacks. Harness racing had long been a mainstay of North Country life, and dozens of communities hosted half-mile tracks. Through his love of working with horses, Eddie was drawn to the sport, so he jumped in with one foot.The physical activity involved in training horses was challenging, but Eddie had no intentions of stopping there. He wanted to drive. Granted, it could be rough and rigorous, but it seemed a plus that this was a sport where the participant sat while competing.That was true, of course, but without a second leg to provide balance and body control while racing, Eddie would have to improvise. A thick leather pad between his body and the sulky frame was all he used for support. He learned to balance by trial and error.By the time he was 22, Eddie had proven he could drive. Using three main horses and racing at venues from Watertown to Batavia, he gained experience and earned several wins. Three years later (1915), behind five main mounts, Jones’ skills as both trainer and driver were unquestioned. At Gouverneur, Canton, Watertown, Fulton, Rome, and Cortland, he was a multiple winner. More success came at Batavia, Elmira, and De Ruyter, and at Brockport, Ontario, Canada, as well. Other forays outside of New York to Mount Holly, New Jersey, and Hagerstown, Maryland, led to more wins. In 120 heats, races, and free-for-alls, Eddie took first place 64 times, finishing outside of the top three on only 26 occasions.While training and racing horses could be lucrative, it was also expensive. Eddie was married by then and needed a steady income, some of which was earned from bootlegging during Prohibition.  He routinely smuggled booze in the Thousand Islands area until he and several others were arrested shortly before Prohibition was repealed.After that, Eddie assumed a more legitimate lifestyle, managing hotels and other establishments while continuing on the racing circuit from Buffalo to Ogdensburg. In the winter he competed in ice races, which were often as well-attended as the summer races. Heuvelton, one of the smaller venues, once drew more than 600 for an event held in February.Through the 1930s, Jones continued to win regularly on tracks from Ormstown, Quebec, to Syracuse, Elmira, and Buffalo, and many stops in between. The nickname “Easy Pickins” followed him, based on two things—his initials (for Edward Parkington Jones), and his uncanny use of pre-race strategies that helped him rise to the occasion at the end of a race.In 1936, Jones took over as manager of the Edwards Hotel in Edwards, midway between Ogdensburg and Watertown. While working there, Eddie dominated the regional racing circuit and increased his stable of horses to 16.He also began competing in Maine, but in the late 1930s, like so many others during the Depression, Jones fell on hard times. Though he was winning regularly, Eddie was forced to auction his horses, and in 1939, he filed bankruptcy. Life had taken another tough turn, and it looked like Jones, now 49, would end his career on a low note.But “Peg Leg” Jones, as he was widely known in the media, was far from average. If losing a leg at age 12 hadn’t stopped him, why would he give up now?And he didn’t. Eddie frequented the same tracks where he had raced over the years, now driving for other horse owners who were happy to have him.  Eventually, Syracuse horseman Charles Terpening hired Jones to train and drive for him. Relieved of day-to-day money worries, Eddie flourished. In the early 1940s, despite his age, he began winning more and more races, particularly behind a famous horse, The Widower.Soon Eddie was a big name in harness racing across the state, winning at Saratoga and many other venues, and competing on the Maine circuit as well. But the best was yet to come.At the end of the1944 season, Peg Leg Jones was the winningest racer in the US Trotting Association (covering the US and the eastern Canadian provinces). No one else was even close to Eddie’s total of 152 victories (86 with pacers and 65 with trotters).Such a heavy schedule surely took a toll, and in the following year, Eddie (what did you expect?) took on even more work. Driving in 437 races across the Northeast, Jones, now 55, once again led the nation in wins with 118. His blue and red-trimmed silks became famous at northern tracks as he finished in the money in 78 percent of his races.Jones had another excellent year in 1946, and continued racing and winning for several more years. In 1948, at the age of 58, Eddie set the track record at Booneville, just as he had done at Gouverneur in 1934 and Sandy Creek in 1942.In the early 1950s, Jones began entering horses at Dufferin Park in Toronto. After an illness for which he was treated in the hospital at Oswego in fall 1952, he went once again to Toronto in January. It was there that Eddie’s journey came to a sudden, tragic end.On January 7, his lifeless body was found in the tack room. Eddie’s throat had been cut, and a razor lay nearby. More than $2500 was found on him, and with no apparent motive for murder (like robbery), his death was officially ruled a suicide. No one knew for sure the reason, and the truth will be clouded forever. As one report said, “The ‘backstretch telegraph’ laid it to a jealous husband or a money deal gone bad.” On the other hand, the suicide angle was supported by the money found on his person, and the fact that he had recently been ill. It was suspected that he may have had a serious disease or was in a lot of pain.The tall, slim form of Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones would be missed by many. He won hundreds of races and thrilled thousands of spectators, and for more than four decades, the man with one leg had stood tall in the world of harness racing. Photos: Top?Saratoga Trotting Track. Bottom?Trotting scene from 1915.
The Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones story is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Scything Demonstration at Saratoga National Park

On Saturday, June 2, 2012, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM, Saratoga National Historical Park will offer a demonstration of 18th-century style scything. Imagine trying to maintain your lawn or a field using only a long, sharp blade.  Skilled living history teams will use 18th-century style scythes to clear large areas of field as they gather hay for farm animals. As they work, a park ranger will tell stories about farming and food harvesting in the late 1700s.


In the event of rain, the event will be held on Sunday, June 3, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM. For more information about this or other events, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 1777 or check their website at www.nps.gov/sara
.

Illustration: Image from Benjamin Butterworth’s The Growth of Industrial Art depicting reaping grain by hand sickle during the colonial period.

Saratoga National Park Opens Benedict Arnold Exhibit

Saratoga National Historical Park has opened a new exhibit: Broken Trusts, the Chequered Career of Benedict Arnold. On display through April 2013, the exhibit examines the twists and turns of Arnold’s path from active supporter of American Independence to his betrayal of his country and comrades. “People are always puzzled as to why Benedict Arnold changed sides,” notes Park Ranger Joe Craig. “At Saratoga, Arnold’s heroism was stellar, yet later the pendulum swung the other direction and he betrayed his country. Some feel his earlier gallant service should be the main and only focus &#8211 our exhibit seeks to examine some of the enigmas and contradictions of this complex man.”


“A project like this requires a great deal of work by park staff, but could only have been made possible through partner groups” notes park Superintendent Joe Finan. “Funding was provided by Eastern National, our site’s bookstore and audio recordings about Arnold were made possible through our partnership with Siena College. Their Liberal Arts Department provided excellent voice talent and their radio station WVCR, provided high quality recording facilities.”

The exhibit will be on display 7 days a week from May 10 through April 2013. For more information on the exhibit or other Saratoga National Historical Park events, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 1777 or check their website at www.nps.gov/sara

Illustration: General Benedict Arnold Wounded at the Battle of Saratoga, New York, c.1777.