A rainy day doesn’t dampen opening

Crowds show up for Fort Klock opening day

Sophia Lenigk of Niskayuna works at a tape loom used in colonial times to make ties for aprons and petticoats Saturday during the seasonal opening weekend at Fort Klock on Route 5 in St. Johnsville. The program will continue today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

By ERIC RETZLAFF

The Leader-Herald

ST. JOHNSVILLE — Town resident Darren Bellen showed up at the blacksmithing session at historic Fort Klock Saturday not just because of the colonial history.

“I like the hands-on work–the art of it,” said Bellen, an employee of the county Department of Public Works.

Amateur blacksmiths Jordan Mauro of Gilmantown, Colin Roy of Round Lake and Ryan Walton of Kingsbury were plying a trade long ago out of common use.

An amateur cooper, Bob Allers of Deansboro shows visitors a barrel-like jug he made Saturday during the seasonal opening weekend at Fort Klock on Route 5 in St. Johnsville. The program will continue today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Walton took up the hobby because “it sounded like fun.” Pounding redhot steel into desired shapes is just an extension of his real work as an auto mechanic. “I hammer on things for a living anyway,” he said.

Mauro has a side job making custom items such as railings, and Roy built a 14-foot sculpture in Round Lake.

Before machinery and mass production took over making implements, people relied on blacksmiths for all kinds of tools and utensils for home and work.

At 1:30 today, a ladle-making competition, like the TV show “Forged in Fire,” will be held as Fort Klock continues its seasonal opening weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. The fort was built in 1750.

Despite persistent rain, people visited Saturday. “We passed by it [Fort Klock] a hundred times and always wanted to stop,” said Dan Engert of Ilion, who likes history, including the Revolution.

Richard Hamell of Rush exhibits a "story belt" that signifies the tribes in the Iroquois Confederacy Saturday during the seasonal opening weekend at Fort Klock on Route 5 in St. Johnsville. The program will continue today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Similarly, Tom Farrow of Okiskany Falls said, “We were just driving by and decided to drop in.”

Irene Peters of Albany, a woman of Mohawk descent, displayed wampum, which is made from seashells. While people often use these as jewelry, the Indians used them for “ceremonial purposes” and for “treaty belts” that signified an agreement.

“Indians didn’t understand the breaking of treaties,” said her friend, Christine Thompson of Albany. “Their word was their bond.”

Nearby Richard Hamell of Rush, an adopted Seneca and college professor emeritus, exhibited the “story belt” made of wampum–some used to tell stories or document treaties, such as a belt symbolizing the tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. “Belts are documents,” he said. “They were sacred.”

Sheri Crawford of Bridgeport displayed colonial toys, such as tops, none of which were electronic.

Jordan Mauro of Gilmantown displays a spoon he made during a blacksmithing exhibition at Fort Klock on Route 5 in St. Johnsville Saturday. This and other colonial displays will continue today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the historic site's seasonal opening weekend. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Another colonial craftsman was Bob Allers of Deansboro, a veteran re-enactor, who decided to become a cooper, a person who made wooden cups, buckets and barrels. “It took me 10 weeks to make my first bucket, and it leaked like a sieve,” he admitted. They actually hold water now.

Toni Lasher of Scotia and Chris Osinski of Middleburgh were costumed in a colonial kitchen, and other people were exhibiting colonial baking outside. Lasher said she’s been “doing living history since 1974” but decided to settle down to assist a historic site that doesn’t get government money.

Also indoors, Sophia Lenigk of Niskayuna demonstrated the use of a tape loom, which produces cloth tapes to tie up aprons and petticoats.

“I like the detail,” she said. “My family introduced me to re-enacting” as a way of learning history “instead of reading a book.”

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