Friday, October 31, 2014

Flesh Eater...

The native peoples of the Mohawk Valley and surrounding region had their fair share of scary tales as well.  Much like fables told by their European counterparts, these tales were often told to impart and re-enforce some cultural beliefs.  But there may be times when the story resembles reality, and the horror still curdles blood.

The Mohawks were known to be fierce in battle, and because of the Iroquois Confederacies strength there was much resentment among other nations.  This brought about a series of attacks by French forces and their Native allies that ravaged the valley and surrounding areas in the late 17th century. 

Many of those French allies would speak of Iroquois cannibalism, and how that evil would transform men into creatures of evil.  Nations told tales of ferocious humid beasts, such as the Wendigo or Chenoo, that were indeed thought to have once been a person but now were so corrupted into evil as to seek out the flesh of other humans. 

After those attacks, Mohawks along the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River sought to rebuild and re-enforce their position – not only as strong allies of the British, but among their neighboring native nations.  Over the next several decades they acculturated into a way of life much like those Europeans they lived near and allowed to live amongst them.  There was a fort built, and a period of relative political/military stability. 

There are occasional mentions in the papers of soldiers garrisoned at forts all along the valley, of the strange practices they witnessed of distant lights, that traveled unlike anything they had seen before and ghastly sounds from the forests at night.  When these lights and sounds would increase in frequency, reaching a hair rising crescendo on a solid night of mid-winter, all would suddenly stop.

After a while, several of these soldiers – whether it was by talking with Mohawks or by hearing words from others who had – realized that the something supernatural had been occurring.  In an era of religious fever such as the evangelical awakening, the torment of the devil and witchcraft was not something that one could be reborn from. 

The Mohawks too seemed much more on edge, and as the years of the increasing terror passed largely un-reported to higher levels of command, it wasn’t until after the war between the French & British that decided control of the continent those military officials took greater heed.   Bitter resentment began to boil over near the fort and village.  Some on both sides blamed the other for the un-natural events that came during the night. 

Near starving, it was said, the beast would come for the flesh of man, woman or child to satiate its evil appetite.  Little would be seen but a trail of blood dragged into the dark reaches of the snow covered trees. 

Could this beast still be starving to this day?

Very little was mentioned on the matter as the American Revolution spring, and eventually the Mohawks were mostly displaced.  Yankee or Yorker settlers moved onto the land and it’s noted that occasionally some would hear the screams deep in the forests on a cold winter’s night.

But for this it has been said, is that the hunger the beast feels now is not wrought from cannibalism of flesh, but of that of dignity and soul, consumed by greed. 

Canal Break of Men's Souls...

Flooding between the years of 1898 and 1904 was severe and caused repeated breaks in the canal walls in and around Fort Hunter.  One culvert was replaced twice in the same year (May & August) for example.  However after the major spring flooding in 1904 that saw much of the hamlet inundated by ice and water is when some intense labor began…and reportedly still continues.  Men working feverishly to fix the canal in order to re-open it to navigation are said to still be toiling along the prism today. 

While there are hushed stories told and most are unwilling to discuss things seen yet unknown along the canal in Fort Hunter, a few documented occurrences give details about the canal work that still continues.

1924 – in July of 1924 the Pulaski Democrat newspaper in Pulaski, NY was the only print to pick up the story of a lone stranger seen wandering the hamlet, often at dusk and always covered in mud.  While the people in town were reluctant to discuss the sightings, no one was willing to explain why they were and that brings greater speculation.  Perhaps, as mentioned in the Democrat, the fact that people recognized the face of a long dead laborer wearing those dirty clothes.  The paper quotes an anonymous man as stating many recognized the person they called a stranger as a Mr. Wilson who had labored as a young man along the canal until his untimely death to influenza in 1917. 

1960 – three boys – whom chose to remain nameless because their parents did not want undue attention, reportedly set out late one evening near the end of June into the woods and fields surrounding what is known as Empire Lock for the general mischief that children of roughly age 12 can conjure.  They got more than they bargained for however, as into the twilight they wandered along the old canal, they happened to come across several burly men moving earth.  Fearing they would be caught they took to flight losing their shoes along the way and it was upon their return home they realized the unearthly nature of the men they saw.  To stave off punishment they knew would be coming from their parents upon recognizing they were barefoot, the boys admitted to their indiscretion and explained in detail the men in the canal that night.   

1983 – A lost dog brought a woman face to face with transparent men along the old canal.  A local woman who asked to be called only “Denise” was walking her dog “Tootise” around 9pm on an evening in May, when the dog – having sniffed something well beyond curiosity – yanked loose from her hand the leash and dashed away.  “Denise” gave chase but was soon unable to locate her beloved canine.  Having nearly given up, she turned back to walk toward Main Street and discovered her dog gently tied to a nearby tree by its leash, staring into the darkness of the old canal.  As she approached the shaking dog she felt eyes upon her as if she was being watched and looked into the darkness to see the form of men standing along the opposite bank.  She recalled they all wore dark pants, with torn and dirty linen shirts and held tools in their hands.  They stared at her, two with snarled faces like they were wincing in pain, and over the course of a few moments they faded into the darkness.  She later reported this to her family and has since stated that “Tootie” never ran off again and refused to walk past that section of the canal.   

One could only conjecture why these apparent apparitions would still linger along the canal as their work has been done, and no record tells of harm, death or maiming occurring during those repairs.  Is there some energy that keeps them on their task, to trudge and toil in perpetuity?  Who else has seen these ghostly figures working along the canal in Fort Hunter?


Dead Man Still Seeking Escape Along the Bike Path?

There are often stories told about portions of the Erie Canalway bicycle path as it meanders across the state using old towpaths and railroad beds as its course.  The history that occurred along the corridor seems to still be alive, even flourishing it is noted.  But not all of that is of this earthly plain. 

Fort Hunter Frieght Station
May 1917
On the eve of US involvement in WWI a man by the name of Philipo Leiscone, age 30, was shot dead by soldiers of the New York State Militia.  Leiscone was a railroad section hand who broke away from militiamen after being detained and searched relating to a stabbing of one Corporal Cipperly during an altercation with four men.  Privates Gorman & Landregan fired when Leiscone refused to halt, killing him. 
The Lake Placid News
May 18, 1917
The railroad freight station near where this occurred is long gone.  Trees have grown, populations have shifted and the railroads and canals of that era are seemingly a distant dream.  But perhaps Leiscone still wanders the tracks, seeking his escape.  Cyclists report eerie cold breezes on the stillest most humid summer day as they pass through that part of the bike path. 

Falling into Insanity - Resonating from the past...

Lock # 30 & Browns Cash Store -  bridge in background

In March of 1889, during another phase of Erie Canal enlargement, Charles Seible fell off the Fort Hunter canal bridge abutment near Lock #30. This lock, well known to locals as the site of Brown’s Cash Store, was a lift lock that allowed elevation change either onto, or off from the Schoharie Creek Aqueduct.  As the 1880’s saw the largest flow of traffic on the canal – with the highest tonnage peaking at 4million in one season – the enlargement was meant to facilitate better movement of goods and people. 


Adirondack News
St. Regis Falls
March 2, 1889
However, for Charles this proved costly.  His injuries plunged him into insanity that was reportedly detailed by hallucinations that he was being chased by animals.    About three weeks after his fall, Charles obtained a revolver and proceeded to begin shooting at his family.  His wife, three daughters and two sons fled and were physically unharmed.  As he stormed off his property he traveled along the canal towpath, firing his revolver at passersby and teamsters in the direction of Amsterdam.  Officers John Brown & John Sults were able to arrest Charles after he expended all of his ammunition and took him to the Amsterdam jail where he was declared insane.  Charles Seible was then sent to the Utica Asylum.
There were court proceedings taken against Hughes Brothers Contractors of Syracuse, NY by Charles’s family, as the company was thought negligent and liable for not properly securing or guarding the open abutment.  The entire matter was a tormenting situation for the family, and Charles completed his days as a ward of the state. 

It is often mentioned in hushed conversations about the strange things that happen around that section of the old Erie Canal.  As a hub of activity, it surely has seen its share of energy, and perhaps retains some psychokinetic energy.  While there may not be telltale signs or hard documented proof, the stories of Charles coming back to that fateful location, recreating over and over again that fateful moment where his life was permanently altered are persistent. 
Witness accounts report a lone man, standing near what is now the roadway, pacing as if looking for a reason to move on to the next realm.  Listen carefully if you see him, as many believe you can still hear the cries of his wife and daughters as revolver shots ring out.  They too seem stuck in this loop, seeking justice that they perhaps never found when alive. 

Ghost Barges...

This foggy morning is reminiscent of the tales once heard about the ghost barge of the old Erie Canal. 

Now, everyone knows that the canal was a twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week operation, that did not stop for such petty things like fog.  Heck that is partly the reason for those great lanterns and steadfast boys driving teams of horses and mules along the slop of towpaths.  There were however, times when the fog was so thick the boys and their trusty companions were lost to the steersman and captains. 

Many of these boys recalled to each other in the company stalls of what they saw in that fog.  Often the boys would be nursing bruises from when they conveyed what they had witnessed to company hands.  Being roughed up seemed like a sure fire way to get the boys to forget those ghost barges they’d pass in the fog.  Now, there aren’t too many primary accounts regarding these spectral ships, for it was difficult enough for young boys and deck hands to find the time to record their days on the canal let alone detail such hog-dashery as ghost barges.

Most often the sightings would be of a lone lamp light on the canal, and as the boys trotted alongside their teams – coming closer and closer, they did not hear the usual sounds of canal transport.  There were no extra throp trop of hooves on the path, the creaky whine of the boat in the water, nor voices of crew calling into the heavy air.  Many times as the shape of the barge began to show itself in the denseness of the fog, the boys swore that it would wisp away like the fog itself. 

Old rough canal men would berate the boys at mentions of the ghost barges, telling them to mind their teams and not drift themselves into the tedium of the work, for “the devil will make play things” of them. 

But occasionally they would find an old sympathetic ear among the canal store tavern patrons.  It didn’t seem strange to them that some of the most spectacular of these recounts happened in the part of the Mohawk Valley that saw the most horrific scenes of brutality.  They would conjecture the barges were more likely the rafts of Charon crossing the river Styx and carrying the untold souls of pioneer settlers, soldiers and other wayward travelers. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thanks to all - the Birthday Bash was great!

The Friends of Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site would like to express the most sincere appreciation for all of those that attended the Erie Canal Birthday Bash on October 26th!

What a wonderful way to celebrate the 189 years of the Erie Canal!

Many thanks go out to:  Wemple and Edick’s, Mohawk Harvest Cooperative, Run by Dogs – Dogsledding, Merry Hill Farm, Clear View Farm, Karen’s Produce & Ice Cream, Samdil Farm, Ernst Farm, the Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady, Jessie Jensen and Gary VanSlyke,  BUT most of all a huge THANK YOU to those that came to the site and enjoyed the celebration with us. 

Paul & John N. sell Pie Raffle Tickets
We raised money by holding a pie raffle and were gifted donations collected by Run by Dogs as well.  The funds raised will be used to provide entertaining and educational programming in the future!

As Education Coordinator, David Brooks, stated:
“This event really displayed the essence of the Erie Canal; that a community of people from diverse places and backgrounds coming together for a common cause brings forth success.  The canal system in New York State is still strong, and it does us all well to recognize our heritage as we look to the future.”

We agree, and with the bicentennial of the beginning of the canal in 1817 occurring in just a couple years – the excitement is already starting to build.  Plans are already in the works.  So, with that being said, there is no better time to bring back the feelings and sensations of Canal Fever!    

Thank you again to so many wonderful people that celebrated with us.

Visitors purchase sweets from Wemple & Edicks

Site Manager Janice Fontanella gets ready to begin a walking tour of the Overlook Trail
Dylan takes sign ups for the FREE Dogsled rides
John, happy winner of First Place Partial Beard

The dogs are ready!

Ready to roll! - Great fun was had by all!

See more great images on the Official Schoharie Crossing Facebook Page - Click HERE!
Thanks to Hal, Scott, Paul & Gail for the photos.
If you have photos of the event...please share with us!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Celebrate with Schoharie Crossing - and maybe win a pie!

Please come join us!

We will be raffling off homemade pies to raise funds that support programing at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site.

Raffle -
                 2 tickets for $1.00
       12 tickets for $5.00

The Friends of Schoharie Crossing have provided support to the following programs in 2014:

-Canal Days
-Not Just for Kids Storytelling
-The Comic Book Project
-Historical Lectures at our meetings every month
-National Trails Day observation
-Cycling the Erie Canal recognition
-Erie Canal Birthday Bash

*Additionally funding professional development and conference attendance for Schoharie Crossing staff in order to provide a greater service to patrons as well as the community.


A sure-fire way to help Schoharie Crossing present intriguing, entertaining and educational programs/events is to join the Friends of Schoharie Crossing.  Through your financial donation, we fund outreach programs, Not Just for Kids Storytelling, site events, Canal Days, professional development for staff, and much much more! 

But we are seeking more than just money; your resources of time and word of mouth about this great historic site are invaluable!  Share with friends, get the word out, bring buddies or family to the boat launch for a picnic, check out Putnam Canal Store at Yankee Hill and while you are on site, stop into the Visitor Center – check out the exhibit space and chat with the friendly staff.  Volunteer for our events, help maintain the canal or towpaths, help with office work or promotions – there really are countless ways to give a little bit of yourself to further the preservation of history.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New York's History Month - 30 Days & even more ways to enjoy NYS History!

Bruce Dearstyne put together a fantastic article posted on the New York History Blog regarding November as New York History Month.  In that article, along with one he authored back in June (Legislation for the Proposed NYS History Commission)
there is great information regarding the approach to history of this state IN this state.  While reading those articles is beyond worth opening the links provided, it should also be noted that the everyday public, as well as the volunteers and the Friends of heritage sites, museums, libraries and historical societies should understand more completely the task at comprehensively approaching the education of history to citizens of New York. 
Underneath it all, we as a community understand the challenges and the worth of teaching history; it is in the practice that good intension seems to fail.  Perhaps, as Dearstyne discusses, a consolidated effort by way of a commission is in order –but that will need some convincing and ideally oversight of an un-political nature. 
So, support legislation that would offer this.  Share with friends and family those supportive ideas and more so, act.  Act by writing letters, making phone calls, participating in the discussion, having your voice heard by the legislature.  We can look around us, we can listen to the news and fully understand that if we do not – as a society – teach and learn of our history, we are in fact doomed to continue making the same mistakes.  We will be doomed further by neglecting our heritage – not knowing where we come from to guide us to where we wish to be. 
There are 30 days in November.  That is 30 days to support local and New York State History with one solid voice, 720 hours to have it heard.  But that isn’t enough.  There are more than 30 days that are worth celebrating New York History – every day is the perfect day to do that.  Highlight the good, recognize the bad and forge ahead the New York way. 
Just of a few of the ways to get started:
-          Check out your local library for books on local history
-          Contact your local historical society and/or historian (The Association of Public Historians of New York State)
-          VISIT historic sites in your area
-          Share that information with people you know

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Recreational Value

Most people tend to think strictly in terms of history when they see the features of Schoharie Crossing.  A lot of patrons however witness these features while participating in exercise activities, most often as a form of recreation. 

The other day while walking the Overlook Trail at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and enjoying the various canal features along with the great colors of autumn leaves, I met a gentleman walking in the opposite direction.  We struck up a wonderful conversation, a lot of it having to do with the history of the site and what it was like even fifty years ago, but eventually the topic of health came up.  Wellness is probably a better and more soothing term for it – as many Americans only consider the topic of “health” in the mode of worse case scenarios, epidemics, disease and navigating HMO or other insurance quagmires. 
This lead me to ponder further, at the end of our walk – yes, since I reversed my path to continue on his along with a great and valuable conversation – the real worth of Schoharie Crossing to those in the community.  Of course there can always be a debate on this, and varying perspectives all have their right to opinions; however, what value can the site provide other than history? 
The ease in answering that question develops more complicated conversations but for now, let’s take on: Recreation.  For the purpose of this article, recreation will be deemed an enjoyable and active participation with the historic grounds and waterways.  There are several options here such as kayaking/canoeing the creek &/or river, there are the walking/jogging/running/cross country skiing/hiking & bridle paths, and notably there is a portion of the Canalway Bike Trail running through the site.  On any given day there are people accessing the Schoharie Crossing to utilize those recreational opportunities.   Regardless of how many are aware of it, they are engaging with this NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and HistoricPreservation site for better wellness. 
There are studies that provide statistical data on wellness and recreational resources like walking & biking paths, but let us not become bogged down by the numbers alone.  What is the community value in better, healthier citizens?  Physically, mentally and emotionally, people who are active are more likely to feel a greater sense of wellness.  This often translates in to other aspects of life, even financially.  Those with better wellness practices often require less sick time from work, school, or daily activities.  This also means fewer doctor’s visits and medical bills.  No wonder indeed, why so many incentivized programs exist today to encourage healthier living like staying active and eating right. 

So how does that fit into what Schoharie Crossing has to offer?  Simple, the site operates and therefore maintains vital recreational opportunities.  No additional cost of access, people may come to the site and be active. 
That’s rightbeing active, recreating and enjoying time spent on the site is a way to create wellness:  Physically, mentally and emotionally. 
The opportunities are right here and available.  Set aside some time, whether that is daily or weekly to make use of your heritage site.  Schoharie Crossing isn’t just about the past, it’s about nurturing the present and fostering the future – the history of an area retains no value if there isn’t a legacy to carry it on.
Support Wellness Opportunities @

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Really Great Upcoming Events!

Local Heritage Sites Upcoming Events 

Some great events and programs are occuring locally over the next couple of weeks.  Here is just a glimpse.

Schoharie Crossing:
* will be hosting a Writing Workshop this Saturday, Oct. 11th
* Volunteer Clean Up Day Saturday, Oct. 18th
*Story Saturday on Oct. 25th
*Erie Canal Birthday Bash on Sunday, Oct. 26th.

Fort Plain Museum

*** Wow, another really awesome program at the Fort Plain Museum! 

Not to be missed!

Old Fort Johnson
 A wonderful way to enjoy the smells, sights and sounds of autumn at Old Fort Johnson!  Take a tour!

Iroquois Museum

 *** Anyone familiar with Schoharie Crossing knows that we truly enjoy a great story! 

The Iroquois Indian Museum presents this fantastic series of Storytelling Sundays!
Mabee Farms events
Mabee Farms has a great list of events coming up!  Check one or all of these out and send our regards to Yayah & Goatgirl!


You can find out more by clicking the links provided for each site or to explore your own Path Through History - CLICK HERE!

If you have information about other great upcoming heritage events, please let us know!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Erie Canal Birthday Bash! Celebrate 189 Years!

Come celebrate the 189th Birthday of the Erie Canal at Schoharie Crossing’s annual Birthday Bash event on Sunday, October 26th from 1pm-5pm.  This year will feature land rig rides from Run by Dogs Dogsledding, a pie raffle, and a beard contest, as well as local farmers showcasing their products, a pumpkin decorating contest, cider tasting, and music. 

Schoharie Crossing will also be exhibiting a cannon used to announce the opening of the canal in 1825 that has been graciously loaned by the Fulton County Museum for this occasion.  In a wonderful display of cooperation, President of the Fulton County Historical Society, Mark Pollack and the rest of the board members have been kind enough to allow the site to showcase this item for the event. 

Additionally regional New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation crews have been adding new directional signage to Schoharie Crossing to better facilitate patron’s enjoyment of all that is offered at the over 200 acre location.  The site has also been installing new interpretive signs that illustrate and explain the history of its features, the people and events that create such a rich historical narrative. 

So please come enjoy this event and all that the site has.  There will be free walking tours available at 1:30p and 3:30p.  The event will occur on the last weekend the Visitor Center will be open for the season. The grounds of the site remain open year round from dawn until dusk.

Schoharie Crossing - 129 Schoharie St., Ft. Hunter, NY 12069 - (518) 829-7516.  For more information about Schoharie Crossing and NYS Parks, please visit:
A sure-fire way to help Schoharie Crossing present intriguing, entertaining and educational programs/events is to join the Friends of Schoharie Crossing.  Through your financial donation, we fund outreach programs, Not Just for Kids Storytelling, site events, Canal Days, professional development for staff, and much much more! 
But we are seeking more than just money; your resources of time and word of mouth about this great historic site are invaluable!  Share with friends, get the word out, bring buddies or family to the boat launch for a picnic, check out Putnam Canal Store at Yankee Hill and while you are on site, stop into the Visitor Center – check out the exhibit space and chat with the friendly staff.  Volunteer for our events, help maintain the canal or towpaths, help with office work or promotions – there really are countless ways to give a little bit of yourself to further the preservation of history.
Thank you!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Keep Your Powder Dry Ep. 1 - Fort Friday

A slightly different take on our occasional Fort Friday:

Click to enlarge

This is a Revolutionary War powder-horn featuring some great scrimshaw and was recently up for sale in Portsmouth, UK.   This is reportedly from a soldier who served in the British 7th Regiment of Foot and “features a map of the Hudson River, the famous river that flows from north to south through eastern New York State, as it was during the American revolution… The profuse engravings include depictions of wildlife (including a beaver and deer), the towns (Saratoga, Stonrabby), states (Albany), forts (Fort Hunter, Fort Henry) & tributaries (Mohawk River, North River) as they were during this era. Also depicted on this is a view of New York city, with ships underneath for the ocean that lays beyond.  The British Royal coat of arms lays on the larger, lower edge. The owner is named in a cartouche..."W.M.Gill, His horn press on"

There are several fine examples of such detailed engraving.
Engraving of personal items can be viewed as common overall during this era, much like any time of war, and oft is deemed by a more contemporary term of “trench art” when applied to relics like this.  Powder-horns are notable as they tend to lend graphic representation of a soldiers service, or at least the geographic region in which they were deployed.
Something can be said as well by the comparison of artists’ works over time, as to the conditions or strategic locations – especially when applied to frontier New York.  For example, below is a sketch created from another powder-horn that also bore a representation of Ft. Hunter – this time from a much earlier year and previously dated as 1759. 

Source: American Engraved Powder Horns, by Stephen V. Granesay, Ray Riling Arms Books Co., Phildelphia, 1965
Notice that this powder horn appears to show two structures at Ft. Hunter – possibly reference to the chapel, but as many may believe now it is possible that it more likely indicates two forts at the confluence of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River.  Documentation describes that by this time there were indeed two forts located at this site – one for a British garrison and one for the Tiononderoge Mohawks.   More on that at a later point. 

It should be noted that powder horns were used to store bulk powder despite what Hollywood misrepresents.  No foolhardy musketeer would think of pouring a cask of powder into their barrel, especially during sustained firing!  Most people are too attached to their hands and faces to attempt such dangerous loading practices.