Summer is the season to explore our history
Back when ‘slides’ were 35mm color transparencies you ‘took’ with a camera and projected on a large screen via a ‘carousel’ projector, I compiled a photo-lecture presenting a comprehensive portrait of our Fulton, Montgomery and Mohawk Valley historic sites — the purpose being to stimulate my audiences to visit them, join their supporting organizations, attend their events, and develop an enthusiasm for our past, nor is there any better time to visit our area historic sites than now, during their summer open hours.
School’s out! Not to sound dramatic, but you, parents and grandparents of our local young people, are the enablers of the youngsters in your family. You possess the ability to broaden their understanding of our local history by taking them to visit our museums and historic sites, where pageants, colonial craft demonstrations, music, games, guided tours, and other educational, fun activities relating to local history will be occurring regularly.
What area historic sites are nearby to visit?
In Fulton County, Johnstown is home to the Johnstown Historical Society’s Museum and it’s two additional buildings — the Drumm House and Blackhorse Tavern.
There’s also the 1772 court house and jail, the Colonial Cemetery, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton birthplace marker, Johnson Hall State Historic site, and the Johnstown School Museum.
In Gloversville, there’s the Fulton County Historical Society’s County Museum. Mayfield’s Rice Homestead has open hours, Caroga Lake has its Caroga Historical Museum, Northville hosts the Northampton Historical Museum and Paul Bradt Museum, and Peck’s Park opens its school museum. The Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum at Vails Mills, Route 30, represents the culture of the Adirondacks, past and present.
In Montgomery County along the Mohawk, additional locations present themselves. At Amsterdam, there’s the Walter Elwood Museum, which provides many child-friendly events throughout the summer, and we understand the nearby Iroquois Indian Museum has reopened.
Proceeding west on Route 5, the Montgomery County Historical Society’s Old Fort Johnson, the 1749 home of Sir William Johnson provides a guided tour.
Continuing west, the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine and Museum just west of Fonda is a particularly important site for children interested in Iroquoian Indian culture, and Kateri’s story is very impressive: also climb the hill behind it to visit the 1660’s Iroquoian village site where Kateri once lived.
The Iroquois Indian Museum at Howes Cave contains archaeology, a children’s museum, and nature trail.
Proceed west to Nelliston, cross the Mohawk, pass west through the village of Fort Plain, and you’ll quickly arrive at the Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park, which interprets this important Revolutionary War fort.
You’re now on Route 5S, and if you continue west, you’ll observe both the 1769 Indian Castle Church, the 1750s era Herkimer Stone Church, and conclude the trip in this area by visiting the Gen. Nicholas Herkimer home.
Return through Nelliston to Route 5, turn left, and you’ll shortly arrive at historic circa 1750 Fort Klock, home of Johannes Klock, interpreted as an 18th century working farm, and a mile beyond discover the Palatine Settlement Society’s 1747 Nellis Tavern, which includes carefully-reproduced wall stenciling.
Return to Palatine Bridge, take Route 10 north into Stone Arabia. You’ll soon pass the site of the Battle of Stone Arabia on the right, and a few miles farther, on the left you’ll observe two churches — the 1792 Lutheran, built of wood, and the stately stone 1788 Reformed Church. Behind the Reformed Church lies the graveyard containing the remains of Col. John Brown, commander of Fort Paris, killed Oct. 19 1780 at the Stone Arabia battle.
I’m not suggesting one visit too many these historic places in one day of course, particularly with small children. This article merely shows the potential for many pleasant and local summer excursions.
Some really interesting sites require longer daytrips.
At Cooperstown, there’s the Farmer’s Museum and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On another occasion, travel by the Thruway to Rome to experience the recreated Fort Stanwix, once under siege by British Col. St. Ledger’s army in August 1777, and by the way, there’s a Denny’s across the street. Oriskany’s historic site is also nearby.
The Iroquois Indian Museum near Howe’s Cave allows children opportunities to explore Iroquois history and archeology.
The Cherry Valley Museum, in Cherry Valley village below Route 20, features a diorama dramatically depicting the 1778 Cherry Valley Massacre.
Let’s not forget the Erie Canal. Fort Hunter’s Schoharie Crossing Historic Site has just completely redesigned its canal museum.
Amsterdam’s Walter Elwood Museum, Johnstown Historical Society’s Museum, and the Fulton County Historical Society Museum in Gloversville, all have exhibits presenting local 19th and 20th century life and industry.
Lastly, travel east from Amsterdam on Route 5S, and just past Rotterdam Junction to visit the circa 1670 Mabie home, the oldest known building in the valley, and its excellent interpretive museum.
All of these sites frequently offer family-friendly historic activities, for free or low-admission, and have websites listing these summer events and hours. Consult the N.Y. Path Through History website, and for Fulton County, see 44lakes.com/things-to-do.
Do this before your trip so you can understand and explain to your children where you’re going and what they can expect to experience.
Children are naturally inquisitive about Indians, forts, battles and frontier life. They enjoy day trips, and no doubt will remember these summer sojourns that create an awareness in them of our historic past. It’s up to you empower them.