Monday, August 7, 2017

Q&A w/ David @ Schoharie Crossing

Saturday, July 22, 2017

2017 Not Just For Kids Storytelling series


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spring 2017 Newsletter

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter!

View in .pdf by clicking HERE

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Renovations Update at Schoharie Crossing

We wanted to share these images of the work being done inside the Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center.

These are from a couple weeks ago but you can see the progress being made from our last update.  The floor has been covered to protect it as work continues.  Since these photos were taken: painting has been done and molding, as well as new baseboard heating casements, light fixtures, and switches installed.  Fixtures in the bathrooms have also been installed – along with a real snazzy wainscoting. 

As you can see, the first floor layout has changed dramatically.  We will welcome guests with a new traffic pattern, as well as a new exhibit and visitor experience.  The space is scheduled to re-open with the art exhibit Views & Vistas: the Natural and Build Environment of Schoharie Crossing on July 8th during our annual Canal Days weekend.  In September, installation and opening of our new Erie Canal exhibit will occur.  More details soon on that!

Thank you to everyone in the Friends group, NYS Parks, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and NYS Council on the Humanities for their work, their funds and their inspirational participation on this project!

Hope you can join us at several of our terrific events and programs scheduled for the 2017 season.  Follow us on Facebook and check out our NYS Parks Page for the most up to date information.

Take the wander through:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Revisioning the Present with an Old Lens: Tin Type Photography

Craig Murphy of Glens Falls Art has been developing something amazing the last few years!

As a photographer and artist, Murphy has started a mobile studio that he uses to keep alive the process of wet plate tintype photography.  More about this experience can be found on their website:

Here is a time-lapsed video of Murphy creating a tin type at the Yankee Hill Lock location of Schoharie Crossing on April 22nd, 2017. 

We are pretty excited that Glens Falls Arts has visited the site several times in the last few months to take images in this "old style" and bring to life the way the site looks now through a historic lens - literally. While the site has a collection of images dating to the 1860's of portions of what is now Schoharie Crossing, being able to revision the way the features look today is remarkable.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Our Wonderful Winter 2017 Newletter!

   Thanks for checking out the Friends of Schoharie Crossing Winter Newsletter.  If you'd like to receive newsletters when they are originally released, please consider becoming a member using the form at the bottom of this page.  
   If you have ideas for future articles or would like to submit information, please use the contact form to your right.  

     Thank you for liking, commenting and subscribing.  

Click to enlarge:



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Old Canawler on Packet Boat Luxury

   While looking into another subject, an article in The Daily Leader newspaper from October 2nd, 1897 sprang up.  The Daily Leader was a newspaper that served the Gloversville, Fulton County, NY area from 1887-1898. And while Gloversville was known globally for its fine leather and – of all things – gloves, republished articles of interest from all over are commonly seen in its pages.  The article that popped out was one such reprint; from the Rochester Post-Express.
   A reporter documents tales of the old Erie Canal from a locktender who had worked the canal for fifty years - first as a driver then as a tender.  The locktender of Lock 65 in Rochester, Daniel Hibbard, recalls the luxury of Packet Boat travel. 

(click to enlarge images for clearer reading)

Found in the Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 6 from 1887, Hibbard was making a fine salary of $45 per month* in the decade before this article ran.

Not much else has been uncovered about this Dan Hibbard at the moment, but his recollections on Packet Boats of the Erie Canal are nonetheless pretty interesting as well as exciting!

As a side note, Hibbard referenced the Wagner Car - another tie to local history as the former Webster Wagner House (as it was known) stood in Palatine Bridge, Montgomery County, NY. Just down Rt 5 in the Mohawk Valley from Schoharie Crossing.

Lock No 65 north wall of the north -towpath- chamber alongside I-490 west in Rochester NY
-- Photograph by Fred Wehner August 2007:   Sourced from:

*Estimated rate of conversion to value in 2017 dollars -   $1,105.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Nostalgic Schoharie Crossing Moment

A Nostalgic Look Back...

A commercial for Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site from 1990 was recently digitized by
Friends of SXSHS member, Halldor.  

We are very excited that this commercial, which was produced by Berkshire Films in 1990, has been digitized for a new generation to enjoy.  While the site does look somewhat different and offers a new series of programs, events, and recreational opportunities, the essence of history exploration remains the same!

Come visit the site in 2017 and help us harken the start of the Erie Canal Bicentennial celebrations!  You can follow along on the site's Facebook page for more information as well as a list of events by clicking HERE.  For more information on the amenities and history of the site, visit their website at: 



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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Little Abraham

As the specter of war lingered over the Mohawk Valley, tensions between the patriot Whig faction and the loyalist Tories grew. By 1775, Sir William Johnson was dead and the responsibility for the Northern Department of Indian Affairs fell on his nephew (and son-in-law) Guy Johnson; who had his hands full from the start.  Guy and Sir Williams son John felt under threat by committees in Albany County, but most unsettling was the fervor growing against them within their own Tryon County.  In the spring of ’75, Whig representatives from those committees met with Col. Guy Johnson and Mohawks at Guy Park Manor to negotiate terms of peace to ensure those loyal to the British Crown remained out of the fracas.

   Mohawks under Tiononderoge chief Tigoransera – or Little Abraham – attended this council.  Little Abraham struggled to convince Mohawks to remain neutral.  The overall Iroquois diplomatic stance had been neutrality with the ability to play the Americans and British against each other as they had for generations with the French and British.  Mohawks in particular found this difficult under the new circumstances, and chiefs at the two largest Mohawk castles at Fort Hunter and Canajoharie felt their control slip away as younger men were swayed toward loyalty to the King, if not only to the Johnsons. 

   Isabel Thomson Kelsay in her 1984 work Joseph Brant 1743-1807: Man of Two Worlds, declares Tigoransera “a true neutral” and that his continual pleas – especially those in coming years at Fort Niagara – were impossible against the Johnson and Butler legacy that did what it could to polish the covenant chain between the Iroquois and British Crown. 

   Little Abraham had nearly lost all control as well as the entirety of his home and community along the confluence of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River during the 1779 Sullivan campaign.  The Fort Hunter Mohawks – those few that remained in the Valley after 1777’s retaliatory strike by patriots and Oneida as counter to the ambush at Oriskany that summer – had only been spared what they had left by the interjection of Gen. Schuyler and Gen. Washington.  Both of whom recognized the efforts of Little Abraham on his stance of neutrality though still uncertain of its actual validity, and neither wished to kick the hornet’s nest so close to Albany.

   What happened between the negotiations in 1775 and then had been a difficult strain on the tenuous “peace.” John and Guy Johnson had fled the Mohawk Valley in the winter  of ’76 as three thousand Continental and Albany Militia troops under Gen. Schuyler and Gen. Herkimer advanced to arrest them.  In order to do so, this force had to pause before reaching Fort Hunter and the Lower Mohawk Castle to follow frontier diplomatic protocol that required approval from the chief for an army to pass through their land.  This combined force was proof that the Mohawk Valley had risen for the patriot cause.

   The Mohawks were outraged and Schuyler apologetically placated their leadership by attaching Little Abraham and other Elders as negotiators at council with John Johnson; though he would be arrested and removed to Fishkill while his wife Mary was held in Albany.  By spring they had been released, yet under threat again from Continental forces of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment advancing under command of Col. Dayton.  Once more, permission was required at the Lower Castle, and this time Dayton’s presumed inexperience with frontier diplomacy meant the request only increased tensions, yet allowed enough of a delay that Johnson escaped north through the Adirondacks to Canada with hundreds of loyalist followers.

   By 1780 the Valley had seen continual raids by Iroquois and Loyalist forces against homes, forts and fields that devastated the landscape as well as killed unknown numbers of residents.  Little Abraham sought throughout those years to convey neutrality and hold together the remains of his Mohawk community. In February of that year, he along with three other Iroqouis peace negotiators traveled toward the British stronghold of Fort Niagara with letter of parley from Gen. Schuyler.  There were intercepted by Joseph Brant and members of his loyalist raiding party.  The four were brought into the fort, interrogated, ridiculed by having their peace belts rejected and then cast within the depths of the bulwark.  It was in that cold, damp dungeon that Little Abraham – Tigoransera of the Mohawk – fell ill and died.  


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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Sixteens

One of the most impressive feats of engineering on the Erie Canal was the overcoming of elevation change from the Mohawk to the Hudson River and in particular around Cohoes Falls.  In order to achieve this, a series of locks were required.  Within decades of the canal opening, the canal Enlargement reduced the number of locks to accomplish this, to sixteen.  These locks were notoriously known as THE Sixteen, and they were the last long push to the Hudson for many boatmen at the end of a trick from the west.

   By the 1880’s, the reputation of The Sixteens was akin to the swashbuckling “Barbary Coast,” and had provided layers of scandal for boatmen, politicians, and public works officials for decades.  In the fall of 1883, Public Works Superintendent James Shanahan – namesake of today’s E12 Lock at Tribes Hill – bluntly refuted overall charges that the section of canal was wholly corrupt from the top down.   Being familiar with The Sixteens as former Eastern Section Superintendent, he was aware of procedural corruption by lock tenders, who – for a fee – would illegitimately draw down water from the higher levels to promote a flood push to move boats quicker from lock to lock.

   This was done “when a boat is lowered in a lock it…[could]…be sent ahead by a rush of water from the upper level, so that the towing team is enabled to walk off as briskly as if no stop had been made.  But in order to get this start the upper gates of the lock must be opened…the boat is given a ‘flood send-off’ as it passes out…[of the lock].”

   The Evening Post newspaper, printed in New York City, reported on October 16, 1883 that Shanahan “took measures when navigation opened to stop this practice…” He implanted “special agent[s]” so that within a few weeks the result was the firing of twenty-two locktenders for wasting water, favoring particular boats and/or pilfering cargo.

   The day before that article ran, a delegation of boatmen convened at Shanahan’s office to herald the condition and management of the canals.  One man, who had spent thirty years on New York’s canals, stated he had not known a better season on the Erie Canal than the one just drawing to an end.  “He had just arrived from Buffalo with a ‘double-header’ – two boats in concert,” and all season noted no lack of water or incidental interruption to travel and perceived no favoritism at locks by tenders.

   The Sixteens still carried a notoriety, if not for the dubious nature of tenders, boatmen and other canal workers on the waterway, but for the ill society it kept along its wake.  Efforts to design a new method of transiting the elevation would continue to be made by state engineers, and just over a decade after the Evening Post article, the Plattsburgh Daily Press printed a piece on the concept of a steel aqueduct to replace The Sixteens.  None of the sixteen locks had undergone lengthening improvements like forty other locks on the Erie had due to cost and inconvenience.  A trip from Buffalo to Albany averaged seven and a half days, with at least four hours of this total being consumed with passage through The Sixteens between west Troy and Cohoes. 

Plattsburgh Daily Press
November 21, 1894
   The State Engineer and his assistant proposed a scheme to construct a steel aqueduct that would allow several barges to be raised or lowered 140 feet in a single locking.  Further, the idea contemplated putting two of these massive turbine driven devices side by side; however,  as the 20th Century drew closer it became more obvious that the canal would be re-aligned and primarily placed within the Mohawk River in the eastern section.  A new plan and direction emerged and the flight of locks at Waterford that exist today were created in the second decade of the 1900’s.

   The massive locks that make up the Waterford Flight is the greatest change in elevation in the shortest distance of any canal in the world.  The notorious nature of The Sixteens was a direct result of the topography that had to be overcome by engineers for the Erie Canal to be a success.  Many of the locks that made up The Sixteens still exist in the Cohoes area, however most are not accessible to the public.  A few you can be seen while passing by, if you know what to look for.

***Update (March 6th, 2017)***

Hear more about The Sixteens on Bob Cudmore's The Historians Podcast with guest Michael Barrett


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