Sunday, November 19, 2017

Not Just Any Old Barn

The Wemp Barn, Feura Bush, NY
 The Old Wemp Barn, Fort Hunter, NY
(Image source:

Not Just Any Old Barn

 By: Jenny Galough

   I recently visited Feura Bush, New York and in my travels, I stopped to explore the Wemp Barn on Onesquethaw Creek Rd. The Wemp Barn, originally erected in Fort Hunter, NY in the early 1700s was located on Queen Anne St at the Wemp Homestead. In 1989, the dismantling, relocating and re-erecting began and was completed in June of 1990. I frequent the Towpath and various trails at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, the trails span from Amsterdam to Fort Hunter, New York right along the beautiful Mohawk River and original Erie Canal. While exploring the trails, I was able to see the original site of the old Wemp Barn.  Desiring to learn more, I stopped to ask a few questions at the Visitor Center in Fort Hunter and did a little research on the Dutch Barn Preservation Society’s website then mapped out my adventure to Feura Bush.   

   After travelling for about an hour, the first thing I noticed upon arrival was the beautiful park-like setting that the WempBarn is now situated on. There is a road-side Historical Marker in place highlighting its origin and a very friendly “Visitors Welcome” sign that made my heart skip a beat because I knew I wanted to go beyond the fence to get closer. I walked the barely-there paver path and was greeted with another sign honoring the skill and craftsmanship that went into the construction of the Historic DutchBarn. After getting closer, the rustic grandeur of the barn becomes more apparent. The size, although a bit scaled down from the original, is almost overwhelming but still very impressive. Along the left side, I immediately noticed the outline of where the original side doors would have been located, they have since been closed up and the two doors at either end of the barn are the only functioning doors to gain access. While I was not able to go inside, I was able to peek through a large opening near the front left door to see the large beams that support the structure.  The beams seemed massive, (maybe 8” by 8”) compared to present-day construction.  Another thing I couldn’t help but notice, was the texture of the wood on the outside of the barn. At first glance, you would think it would be jagged and leave behind splinters, however, the weathering, age and distress of the wood was smooth and almost soft under the palm of my hand. I stood there, amazed by the process of dismantling an entire barn and moving it to a new location, in that moment, I couldn’t help but think about the journey this barn had taken to be located where it is now.  After completing a full lap around the property, I took one last look and was excited and honored that I was able to link the Wemp Barn in its current location of Feura Bush, NY back to its original location of Fort Hunter, New York, definitely an adventure worthwhile.

(ALL IMAGES by Jenny Galough)


Jenny Galough is a guest contributor to our blog and is a resident of Amsterdam, NY.  Jenny has recently taken a greater interest in Schoharie Crossing, using the trails almost daily and attending several programs or events over this past season.  She has also been sending along some great photographs of the site from her adventures as well as these programs.
Jenny has provided this article and images for our online and newsletter publication.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The First Bridge

Service Lives On

     A while back a small group of people from California stopped into the Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center as they vacationed and decided to add a bit of genealogy and heritage to their journey.  A gentleman in the group asked what information was had at the site about a particular drowning in 1814.  Surprised that the staff was aware of the fateful evening that Christian Service lost his life crossing the bridge over the Schoharie Creek, the group enthusiastically stated they were descendants of that family.  Here is what the 1892 publication, The History of Montgomery County by Washington Frothingham mentions about that occurrence – one of many tragic episodes of life lost attempting to cross the Schoharie.

“The first bridge of any importance ever built over the Schoharie creek was that constructed in 1796 at Fort Hunter by Major Isaiah Depuy…After its completion a stage route was established along the south side of the river from Albany to Canajoharie and adjacent settlements.  In 1814 Christian Service, a tanner and manufacturer of boots and shoes, living in [the town of] Florida, was drowned while attempting to cross this bridge.  The accident occurred in the night, the ice having carried away the eastern portion of the bridge, a fact unknown to the unfortunate man, who urged his team with a whip, and they leaped into the water, carrying himself and the sleigh with them.”

     The group mentioned that in tracing the family history they had come across information regarding his drowning death, but other branches of the family tree were hard to trace as the surname has gone through several spelling variations.  Since they were on a schedule and had to be on their way north, the visit was short but future correspondence is expected.  The site has a State Board of Education historical marker that mentions the bridge that existed over the creek prior to the original Erie Canal at that location.  Various methods across the waterway have been available for centuries -  as covered in a previous edition of the Friends Newsletter - even each of those had changes over time. 

Best of Luck to those descendants as they trace the path of their family though history – all the while creating their own.

*Editors Note: This article ran in the Summer 2015 Friends of Schoharie Crossing Newsletter


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#Spooktacularly #Eerie Canal Stories!

Let's take a journey back through the Friends blog #spooky tales from the #eerie canal!

Way back in 2014, the Friends reported on the Ghost Barges that plied their way across the canal. Foggy mornings just aren't the same since!

The following year, the blog relayed the #ghoulish information about Witches along the canal in their post: Witch in the Ditch!  Brooms where a big part of business in Fort Hunter, so there had to be some special customers!

Maybe even the good old canal cool, Mrs. Carlson picked up some of those brooms.  Though, she may now only sweep along the ghostly coils... The Cook Mrs. Carlson

Last year, the tale of those lost orphan boys was told... in Eerie Orphan the plight of those forgotten was described as guilt ate away at captains.

There was also something fairly puurrrfect about the way the Canal Cat lore was told last year. 

And if that didn't petrify you, perhaps the Stone Curse will! How the Erie was nearly never built!

Give these a read and let us know what you think!  Which is your favorite and what will keep you up at night! 


Thursday, October 26, 2017

"Man at the Pump"

“The Man At the Pump”

   There is a really fantastic and bizarre article in the Auburn Journal & Advertiser issue dated Wednesday, October 26th 1842.  The author of which provides an interesting anecdote about a grist mill water wheel that continued to spin under the force of flowing water long after the mill burnt to the ground. “There and thus, like a troubled spirit, rolled the water wheel of the woods— onward, onward, onward—and for all that we know, it is revolving there still,” the article states. 
   But this is just the writer’s set up, to deepen the understanding of his following paragraphs in which he takes on the Albany Regency and their “wisdom” in regards to projects at a standstill on the enlargement of the Erie Canal.  One such project being the great aqueduct “at the mouth of the Schoharie-Kill.”
   The enlargement of the canal was a process that started in 1836 and would last until 1862.  However, by the late 1830’s, New York and the nation was gripped by a financial crisis driving the economy into recession.  By 1839, the NY Legislature enacted the Stop & Tax Law—which simply put meant that they had to stop work on much of the enlargement in order to increase funding to fill the state coffers.  It was difficult to explain to constituents that while they may be struggling to make ends meet, the State could dole out large sums of money to create a larger canal. 
   This affected contracts all across the canal.  One of which, according to the article, created “The Man at the Pump.”  The author notes that, “ vain did the voice of wisdom and true economy plead that the leaving of unfinished works to fall into premature dilapidation, and the loss of the interest for an infinite period of time upon the millions already expended, would in the end prove the most ruinous policy that ever a State adopted. The party had decreed it — and the works must stop.”
   The article continues in describing the hundreds of dollars of work that stood as the aqueduct over the Schoharie and that only a mere $35,000 may be all it would take to put it into full operation.  Otis Eddy was the contractor for the Schoharie Creek Aqueduct, and though most of construction was completed by 1841, it was not yet part of the canal system.  The fear being that with the stoppage of work, the structure would be subject to ruin.

   “Among other things it is necessary that the bottom of the chamber should be kept flowing, or covered with water—for which purpose it became necessary to erect a hand pump to raise the water. The pump would not go of itself, and of course a man must be procured, to work it. And there stands the pump, and there stands the man.
   The water in the immense basin evaporates or oozes out, about as fast as he can raise it. —   The pump must therefore be plied continually — pump, pump, pump.”

   Within the article, the author makes pointed comments about the truth of such disastrous policy; commenting that “some of the noblest works of masonry on the line of the Canal will sustain greater injury in their unfinished state, in a single year, than the amount required for their completion.”

   We know that the aqueduct did survive that stoppage and operated until the canal was placed into the Mohawk River in 1918. Perhaps this article is also more of a commentary on the political wrangling's within the state at the time then true historical occurrence.  Though, who can ignore…

   “Oh the wisdom of modern politicians! And where is the man having bowels who will not sympathise with that lonely servant of the Albany Regency—“the-man-at-the pump?” Pump, pump, pump.”

Contributed by D. Brooks 
Education Director at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site 

Follow Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site on Facebook!  Click the logo to check out their page:
Celebrating the Erie Canal