Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23, 1892

Have you ever noticed how old newspapers functioned a lot like today's Facebook?

Just read the clipping below and you'll see what I mean.  And yes, I know it is tiny.  Use the zoom feature on your web browser to enlarge.

Here are a few of my favorite bits. You might recognize some old Delmar names.

"If there are any one desiring the help of an experienced cow boy, who is an experienced hand, call on C.W."

"Mr. Nathaniel Adams, an old and highly esteemed resident of this place, died Sunday morning at half past nine."

"Mr. Niles Rowe is improving slowly."

"Who ate the most chocolate cake at the reception? I know, don't you Allie?"

"It is reported that Mr. Frank Sprong has purchased a lot of Mr. Wm. LeGallez and intends building in the near future."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

August 24, 1889

Every once in a while I run across an old newspaper article that touches on a lot of historical things I have been thinking about lately.  South Bethlehem, quarries, railroads, baseball, churches.  The article below has them all.  Here are some excerpts and explanations.

In company with numerous friends of the South Bethlehem M. E. church Sunday School from the towns of Guilderland and New Scotland, we accompanied them on their excursion to Ionia Island…. The day was all that could be desired and the run of one hundred miles over the smooth tracks of the West Shore Road, with its delightful scenery, was made in about three hours.

I came across the article while looking for info about the South Bethlehem United Methodist Church - or South Bethlehem M.E. church.  There wasn't a United Methodist denomination until they united various branches of Methodists in 1968.

Iona Island in the Hudson River was a popular excursion destination from the late 1860s until 1899. The resort boasted a Ferris wheel, carousel, picnic grounds and a hotel. After a stint as a ammunition depot, it is now part of Bear Mountain State Park.

South Bethlehem's station on the West Shore Railroad was located west of South Street. Nothing remains today.
The concert over, some found their way to the ball ground to witness what proved a one-sided contest between the Unions of South Bethlehem and the Echoes of Slingerlands, in which the Union’s had decidedly the best of it.

Recently I wrote about Bethlehem and baseball - I had no idea that South Bethlehem had a team!

The return trip was made with but little delay… until we reached South Bethlehem when we were unmercifully backed off on a lonely side-track for nearly half an hour with nothing to cheer the monotony of the occasion but the bright electric lights and the occasional sonorous tones of the steam whistle from Callanan’s stone quarry.”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of tagging along with Bethlehem Senior Services when they toured the Peter K. Frueh quarry in Feura Bush - what fun that was!  With a gentle rain falling, Peter Frueh stepped aboard the van and talked about his family business.  Stone crushers and sorters rumbled in the background.  That large boulder of lime rock... broken up in about 5 seconds.  How often do you blast....twice so far this year.  Where does the stone go.... mostly for the family business - Frueh Excavating.  What is crush and run....lime rock with sharp edges that packs down... it comes in different sizes.  Who does the blasting.... we bring in professionals.

Loading stone at Callanans
Later that afternoon I gave a brief talk about the hamlet of South Bethlehem and especially Callanan's.  Callanan's stone quarry was established in 1883 by Peter Callanan and was for years a family run business.  Today, it is part of a much larger conglomerate. While I know the dump trucks full of stone still drive up South Street from the quarry - I don't know if the steam whistle still blows.

Oh and how about those electric lights?  I have read that South Bethlehem had street lights as early as 1907 - but this is 1889.  All I can say is, hmmmmm

Here's the complete article.

PS Browse back issues of the Altamont Enterprise and other newspapers at  http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Visit to the Norman's Kill

Just who is Norman and who did he kill?

I paddled the Normanskill on Labor Day - hence these thoughts.
No one as it turns out.  Living in the Hudson River Valley one must have a smattering of Dutch.  Norman, or Noorman, is Dutch for Northman, Norseman, or Norwegian.  Kill, or kil, is creek.  Therefore we have Norwegian's Creek.

So, who is this Norwegian and why did the creek get named after him?

The Norman in question is Albert Andriessen Bradt often known simply as the Noorman.  Albert was born about 1607 in Fredrikstad, Norway.  At some point, his family moved to Amsterdam, where there was a sizable Norwegian community.

On August 26, 1636 Albert and two others signed a contract with the patroon Killaen van Rensselaer to establish a new sawmill venture in van Rensselaer's colony Rensselaerswyck.  In October, Albert, his wife Annatie Barents, their two young daughters and about 35 other passengers set sail.  "Most of the men were farmers or farm laborers, but there were also smiths, shoemakers, carpenters, a millwright and a mason, all trades of necessity to the frontier community."  After an eventful crossing, the ship finally arrived at Fort Orange on April 7, 1637.  (Albert & Annatie would eventually have 8 children in total - one of whom, named Storm, was born during this crossing.)

Albert set about creating a life for himself and his family in the frontier community that would later become Albany and Bethlehem. He was a woodcutter, sawmiller, tobacco planter, orchardman, and trader.   He accumulated wealth and acreage (including some in New Amsterdam - today's Manhattan).  While a respected businessman and an elder in the Lutheran church (a somewhat dangerous prospect given the dominance of the Reformed Church at that time) he was also known to be "irascible", a difficult neighbor and a thorn in the side of the patroon.

Albert, who died on June 7, 1686, was "a man of vision in a new world, a settler in a strange land, one of the founders of a colony.  He... reached a position of respect, then watched his sons surpass him....in his later years he was separated from his wife [wife #3, not Annatie], alone and bitter, watching his children pursue a strange religion. "

All of the above quotes are from Peter R. Christoph's publication "A Norwegian Pioneer in a Dutch Colony: The Life and Times of Albert Andriessen Bradt: Miller, Merchant, and a Founder of the Lutheran Church in America."  I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book.  Christoph does a marvelous job of presenting the complicated man that is Albert Bradt in the context of his times using primary sources.  You can find it at the Bethlehem Public Library under the title "A Norwegian Family in Colonial America."  Or if you ask nice, you could read my copy.

I'll close with a quote of a quote from Christoph in describing Albert:

His complexity draws to mind an oft-quoted paradox from Martin Luther, simul iustus et preccator - "righteous and sinful at the same time."

On a further note, we'll save for another day the discussion on whether the river's name is Normanskill, Norman's Kill, or, as the sign on 9W says, Normans Kill.