Old Fort Johnson hosts tea fundraiser

Eight volunteers in colonial garb served guests during the first of two teas on Saturday at the Old Fort Johnson National Historic Site. They are, from left, top row, Madison Hawkes of Glenville, Julia Marrone of Johnstown and Betty Clough of Amsterdam; middle row, Hannah Trouwborst of Schenectady and Jaiden and Malissa Farrington, both of Broadalbin; and bottom row, Blake Lawson and Charlotte Farrington, both of Broadalbin. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

FORT JOHNSON — Madison Hawkins of Glenville has been visiting the Old Fort Johnson National Historic Site for as long as her can remember with her grandmother, Betty Clough.

So she was excited about the opportunity to dress up in colonial garb and serve visitors at the site’s old-fashioned teas on Saturday.

She said she came up from her college in Georgia to be “part of history” and “bring life into a place that was once forgotten.”

Miss Fonda Fair Julia Marrone of Johnstown and Junior Miss Fonda Fair Jaiden Farrington of Broadalbin were also among those who jumped in to help.

“We came here at summer events, and we realized they were short of help” at the teas, Farrington said.

Dressed in colonial garb, volunteers, from left, Hannah Trouwborst of Schenectady, Jaiden Farrington of Broadalbin and Madison Hawkins of Glenville, are ready to serve visitors at the Old Fort Johnson National Historic Site Saturday during the fort's old-fashioned holiday tea fundraiser. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

“This is extremely educational to put your feet in the shoes of people of the colonial period,” said Marrone.

The visitors at the tea were equally enthusiastic. Anne King of Gloversville was first introduced to the fort when the Johnstown Retired Teachers toured here.

After she came to the tea last year, “I thought it was great and invited my friends to come” this year, she said.

“I like the decorations, the tea and the camaraderie,” she said.

A total of about 110 people came for the teas, which were held at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and filled both dining areas.

Visitors at the Old Fort Johnson National Historic Site are ready to be served Saturday during the fort's old-fashioned holiday tea fundraiser. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Barbara Pawlowski, Mary Bogdan and Gloria Martuscello, all of Amsterdam, have never tired of the event.

“The three of us have come every year since it started,” said Martuscello.

“It’s really a lot of fun,” said Bogdan. “The younger generation is helping out too.”

The fort was built in 1749 by Sir William Johnson, founder of Johnstown, and later became the home of his son John in 1774. After the American Revolution, it was confiscated by American government as property owned by loyalists to King George III.

The teas and other events are fundraiser to restore the building, said Rachel Bliven, director of the Montgomery County Historical Society, which owns the fort.

Volunteers for Old Fort Johnson National Historic Site, from left, Mary Lou Kristie of Amsterdam, Brittney Belz of Schenectady and Natacha Robeson of Perth, set up small sandwiches and desserts to be served to visitors Saturday at the fort's old-fashioned holiday tea fundraiser (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

“The roof is aging out and is due for replacement,” she said. Hurricane Irene flooded the first floor up to the mantelpiece, though the contents of the first floor had been brought up to the second to save it, she said.

The historical society is working on ways to make the property less prone to flooding by the Mohawk River and the nearby Kayaderosseras Creek that flows into the river, she said.

Bliven said the fort is “one of the most important sites in North America,” was once part of a 500-acre farm, and is “the most intact of French and Indian War buildings.” The historical society gets no government money to restore the fort, she said.

Besides Hawkins, Jaiden Farrington, Clough and Marrone, the other servers for the 11 a.m. tea were Hannah Trouwsborst of Schenectady and Malissa and Charlotte Farrington and Blake Lawson, all of Broadalbin. Helping with food in the kitchen were Mary Lou Kristie of Amsterdam, Brittney Belz of Schnenectady and Natacha Robeson of Perth.