Monday, September 3, 2018

History Happenings in Bethlehem September and October 2018

Wow - there are lots of local history events this month and next!
Here's a listing with links to more info.


Sundays in September and October
The MUSEUM of the Bethlehem Historical Association is open from 2 to 4 PM. The Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum is at 1003 River Road, Selkirk.

Sunday, September 16, 9:30 AM
Bethlehem’s Magical History BICYCLE Tour – part of the 2018 Hudson River Valley Ramble.  Contact John for more info and to sign up – or call 518-225-4209. Meet at the municipal parking lot at Four Corners in Delmar.  Yours truly will be meeting the group and sharing some history - and no, I will not be riding a bike!

Tuesday, September 18 and 25, 3 PM until closing
A FUNDRAISER to benefit the Friends of the Slingerland family Burial Vault. The Garden Bistro 24 in Slingerlands has pledged a portion of all sales after 3 pm on the 18th and 25th.  There is a special 3 Course Menu featuring locally sourced ingredients and an extra special Restoration Burger!  Stop in and enjoy some wonderful food (or do take out!) and help support the restoration of the vault.

Thursday, September 20, 7 PM
Mohicans in Bethlehem History and Today, a TALK by Bonney Hartley, historic preservation officer for the Stockbridge Munsee Community, at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum, 1003 River Road, Selkirk.

Saturday, September 22, 10 AM
Historic Cemetery WALK Elmwood Cemetery in Selkirk with Town Historian Susan Leath.  Register with the Bethlehem Parks and Recreation Department.  
Email sleath@townofbethlehem for more info.

Thursday, October 4, 6:30 PM
Beer and Pretzels Fundraiser at the Bethlehem Historical Association.  Come hear Richard Muggeo TALK about Beer, Brewers and Beverwyck and enjoy a cold brew.  Visit for more info.

Saturday, October 6, 10 AM
Historic Cemetery WALK at Bethlehem Cemetery in Delmar with Town Historian Susan Leath.  Register with the Bethlehem Parks and Recreation Department.  Email sleath@townofbethlehem for more info.

Thursday, October 18,
7 PM
 Geology, Landscape and the Iroquois Homeland a TALK presented by Chuck VerStraeten  at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum, 1003 River Road, Selkirk.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

J. W. Dessert's Delmar Postcards

I just love old postcards and I hope you caught this month's Our Towne Bethlehem where I write a little bit about their history - especially Bethlehem ones of course.

In the process of researching the article, I looked closely at them searching out any small details.  And guess what I noticed....there is a group of Delmar ones that are numbered sequentially and I am 99.9% sure they were all published by the same person! How cool is that? I never made that connection before.

So here they are, in order.  The big mystery - what about number 319?  It has got to be out there somewhere!  Found it thanks to a careful reader!  Scroll all the way down...

A Group of Villas  MII314

Delmar Fire Engine Co. No.1 MII315
Delmar Fire Engine House MII316

Kenwood Avenue MII317

Delmar Public School  MII318

A Few Cozy Residences MII320

Kenwood Ave with M E Parsonage MII321

Adams House MII322

Here's the back of one of them.  Look closly along the left side and you'll see who published it....
J W Dessert "The Druggist" of Delmar N Y.   Because I can't help myself, I had to find out more about him.

Joseph W. Dessert (1873-1968)  of Chestertown, NY graduated from the Albany College of Pharmacy in 1896. For a time he had a drug store in Chestertown, but in  1912 he opened one in Delmar.
This is a clip of a national publication that noted the Delmar opening

In 1912 and 1913 he advertised often, and what pops up the most are ads for Folley Kidney Pills.  Below are some clippings.  I like the one with the motorcycle the best - you could get one in Normansville!  All are from 1912 in the Altamont Enterprise. 

Joseph's first wife was Carrie.  She died in 1909.  His second was Georgia.  Joseph, Georgia and their daughter Alice were in Bethlehem for the 1920 census, but in 1930 and 1940, they were living in Albany.  And that is about it for J. W. Dessert, druggist and postcard publisher!

Update - September 26, 2018

Thank you careful reader Jas Yolles for pointing me in the direction of this postcard!  Below are the front and back of #319.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bethlehem Bikes!

I hope you enjoyed this month's Our Town Bethlehem about bicycles.  It was intended to be a short summer piece, mostly photos with long captions.  Then I started researching cycle paths and side paths and was totally hooked.  Pop over to  and give it a read.  While you are at it, pop over to  for a great article and map of those local side paths.

One story I did not expand upon in Our Towne is the one about the John Kemp Starley and the Rover safety bicycle.  It is fascinating! 

Starley's safety bike came out in 1885.  I imagine he called it the Rover because one could rove over the roads freely and safely.  He designed it in response the to dangerous Penny Farthing or high wheel bikes.

Top is a high wheel, bottom is the classic "safety" bicycle.

In 1897, J.K. Starley & Co became the Rover Cycle Company.  After J.K.'s death, the company carried on manufacturing motorcycles and Rover motor cars.  One of its first cars was the Rover Eight two-seater, and eventually we have the iconic Land Rover brand of automobile and even the modern day Range Rovers.  While the corporate structure has certainly changed over the years, it still all ties back to the original Rover bicycle!  Pop yourself over to  for more info. And check out these pictures of the Rover Eight

I read about Starley in Carlton Reid's Roads Were Not Built for Cars which expands on the idea that early bicycle enthusiasts lead directly to the take over of the roads by automobiles. (PS I was able to borrow this book through the Bethlehem Public Library's eBooks program.)

And finally, I found this great picture at the Albany Institute website. Now I am wondering about the the connections between bicycles and sewing machines!

Photo circa 1895 from the Albany Institute of History and Art

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Family Dynamics

Just for fun, here's a throw back for your Thursday afternoon...

The little girl is Marge Terrell and that is her mother giving her the side eye.  Circa 1912 - Marge was born in 1907.  The photo was taken at the family farm on Long Lane where Sabic is today.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Delmar Fire Hall postcard

I am always on the lookout for old Bethlehem postcards and found this one a while back at an antique show.  And it is a gem. Until I saw this, I had never seen a picture of the old Adams Hotel with the Delmar Fire Hall sign over the door.  The dealer said the post card itself dates from 1915 to 1920. 

The writing on the back is interesting too.  It is written in pencil and seems old but is not dated or signed.  Below is the transcript.  It certainly leaves one wondering about the who and the why.
This is the building where we go each election day to safe-guard our rights. I wonder how many others like myself have had them taken from them by the very ones who was trusted with them.

PS: The old Adams House is located on Delaware Avenue at the corner with Adams Street.  It is now the Chabad Center.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Delmar Post Office under construction

In the continuing saga of old things that come my way, enjoy these pictures of the Delmar Post Office under construction.  Be sure to look in the background for some long gone Four Corners houses and buildings. All photos taken by Garret Dillenback of Slingerlands.

June 3, 1939

June 3, 1939

June 27, 1939

June 27, 1939

August 28, 1939

September 28, 1939

October 29, 1939

January 2, 1940


Be sure to check out the website of the Friends of the Slingerlands Burial Vault and help us preserve a little cemetery that memorializes a family that had a huge impact on the Town of Bethlehem.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Slingerland Family Burial Vault - HELP

I am one of those people who loves old cemeteries.  To me they are a direct connection to people of the past.  I enjoy walking the rows and wondering about the families there.  What is their story? Who are they? How do they fit into the history of the town or village? How are they remembered?

That's me on the right along with Bob Mullens, Sue Virgilio and Kathleen Bragle at the vault site back in January. 
Thank you Times Union for the photo.  Go to their web page for some great articles...
Are you aware of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault?  I've known about it since
before I was town historian.  It is tucked away off of New Scotland Road, behind the old Mangia property,  and, when I first encountered it, a wreck, over grown and vandalized.  I was sad to find out the town owned it.  In fits and starts they would go in and hack back the weeds.  But they always grew back. 

Surely you are aware of the Slingerland family?   We've got a hamlet named after them and individuals named Slingerland still live here.  I know lots of stories about them.  Like the fact that John I Slingerland was a raging abolitionist even tho (or maybe because) his family had owned slaves.  Like the fact that the first Slingerland in our area, Tenuis, in the late 1600s got in trouble with both the Mohawk and the Mohican Indian tribes when he tried to buy land here.  Or how about  William H who got the Suburban Water company going?  Or his daughter Grace who was essential to running the company after he died?  Or how about Tunis who fought in the American Revolution while his four sons remained loyal to the British? I could go on and on about Slingerland family connections in Bethlehem.

So, the vault has been on my radar.  Then, quite a few things lined up to make this the opportune time to focus on the vault and get it property restored.  The Mangia property had sold, development proposals were being floated and conversations about the historic character of the neighborhood were happening.  I met Sue Virgilio, a direct descendant of John I Slingerland who is buried in the vault, who was thrilled to discover the vault, but not so thrilled about the condition.  I knew we had a new town administration starting in January 2018.

Now was the time to make a fresh start and focus on the future of the vault.  I helped organize the Friends of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault and we are committed to preserving the vault, making it accessible once again to the public, and keeping the maintenance ongoing into the future.

And we need your help.  It is hard to ask people for money, but I am going to do it right now!

We need your money!  Any amount big or small is greatly appreciated.

Please give to help restore this neglected part of Bethlehem history - the Slingerland Family Burial Vault.  If we all come together as a community, we can make this gem shine.

Pop over to the website for pictures, progress reports, budgets and the all important DONATE  button.


We've got a GoFundMe too!

Thank you so very much!