Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ben's Bridge - who is Ben and why is a bridge named after him?

I hope you have had a chance to read my Our Towne Bethlehem article about the Selkirk Rail Yard. If not, here's a link - go quick because a new article will be up for January.  http://www.ourtownebethlehem.com/

The cover photo is of a young girl on Ben's Bridge.  As I type this, the bridge that carries Old School Road over the rail yard is coming down and the legacy of Ben Giovannetti will be lost.

Old timers remember it being called Jericho Bridge.  While the Jericho place name is no longer recognized, the little hamlet once boasted a small community of farm families and a one room school.  Today's Jericho Road, Route 53, once continued from 9W over the bridge and on to South Albany (another little recognized hamlet) and South Bethlehem. You can follow Rt 53 on a modern map connecting Jericho Road, Old School Road, and South Albany Road.

In the late 1980s and early 90s there was an effort to close the Jericho Bridge, and a counter movement by residents to keep it open. The bridge was saved. and in 1993 it was renamed  to honor Ben Giovannetti, unsung bridge hero.

To read more about the controversy, pop on over to the Spotlight archive at the Bethlehem Public Library and search on "Jericho Bridge"

Sadly, just 25+ years later, despite the objections of many, Ben's Bridge will shortly, if not already, be no more.  Curious? Check out the I Care About Ben's Bridge Facebook group for photos.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Erlenwein and Simmons Road

This is for the woman I met at the Delmar Farmer's Market on Saturday. I am sorry to admit I forgot to get her name or contact info.  She asked me about the pillars at the entrance to Simmons Road in Glenmont.  One has the name Erlenwein on it.  "Who or what is Erlenwein?" she asked.

The entrance to Simmons Road.

The connection is through family - as many connections are in doing historical research.

According to the obituary I found, Mrs. Katherine L. Simmons of Glenmont was the wife of Harry Simmons, and the daughter of Martin Kramrath and Catherine Erlenwein Kramrath.

The obit is from the Knickerbocker News, January 27, 1941

To make a nice neat story, I am going to assume that Katherine and Harry Simmons are the ones the road is named after.  So, Erlenwein is her mother's maiden name.  Now I am filled with more curiosity.  Which house was theirs? What are the other names on the pillars?  Why did they put those names on the entrance pillars? Time for a road trip to Glenmont!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Henry Hudson wait....what??

While searching for images of Henry Hudson for a talk I am giving today - this came up.  Yes, that is a Pokemon card.

And this line came up on a biography website:

Place of death: In or near the Hudson Bay, Canada.

That's right, in or near the Hudson Bay. Which is correct, just an odd way of phrasing it. On his fourth voyage of discovery, Hudson and crew were forced to spend the winter in the subarctic on the shores of the bay that would bear his name. Ill-prepared, low on food, it was a harrowing experience.  Come spring, what was left of Hudson's crew refused to keep exploring, set Hudson and others adrift in a small boat and then headed back to England. Hudson was never heard from again.  And the few starving men that managed to limp back into port were all tried for mutiny.  So, an interesting turn of phrase that hides a tragic story.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rupert Wiltsie: A Bethlehem Veteran

In honor of Veteran's Day, I give you these snapshots of Rupert Wiltsie of South Bethlehem.

The son of George and Ada, Rupert Wiltsie was born  May 21, 1889 in South Bethlehem. He enlisted at Albany on April 4, 1918 and served with the 308th Field Artillery. This unit fought during the battle of Saint-Mihiel (Sept 12-15, 1918) and the Meuse Argone Offensive (Sept. 26 until the Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice.) Both of these are in France. He was discharged at Camp Dix, NJ on May 26, 1919 with the rank of private 1st class.

After the war, Wiltsie returned home to South Bethlehem. He was living there with his parents during the 1925 NY census where he was listed as a fireman at the quarry (Callanans). By the 1930 US census, Wiltsie was married to Nettie, living in Ravena and still working at the quarry - now as a well driller.

Note the handwritten "Back from France" on the top picture.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Then and Now: 895 Delaware Avenue UPDATED with airplane info

While tidying up my digital files this morning, I came across this snapshot.  It is a building I see every time I come out of the Bethlehem Y.  And yes, there appears to be some sort of aircraft on the right.  Maybe someone out there knows the story?

UPDATE on the airplane:

Henry Klett bought the plane from the military after WWII.  He flew it home and when it was not air worthy any more, he placed it in front of the Klett Company. Klett instructed pilots during the war and used a similar basic trainer at Dos Palos Airport in California.  Dos Palos was activated June 24, 1943 as a U.S. Army Air Forces primary (level 1) pilot training airfield.

Here's a now photo - thank you Google!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Getting distracted at the Smithsonian - A Clarksville quilt

Per usual in my pursuit of historical inquiry, I am distracted by the National Museum of American History's searchable website.  Did you know a unique piece of Clarksville history somehow found its way to the Smithsonian?

The picture below really doesn't do it justice so follow this link for a lovely color photo.  http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_556249

It is a red and white embroidered coverlet from 1922 that was probably used as a fundraiser for the Clarksville Reformed Church.  Each of the 48 flowers has 12 petals covered with various names and inscriptions.  Most petals are simply names or signatures.

Here's what is written on the petals of one flower:

Rev. Boyce
His wife
Their dog
Dec 8th

Another flower has only two names, Clara Weidman and Faith Weidman along with beautifully embroidered flowers within the flower petals. Right next to Clara and Faith's flower is one that is clearly an  advertisement - carefully written out on each petal is the following:

Motor Cars

Remember this is 1922!

Go to the website above and zoom in and around on the petals and you'll find lots of Bethlehem/New Scotland family names like Houck, Slingerland, Relyea, Pangburn and Glenn just to name a very few.

And yes, I know Clarksville is not in Bethlehem, but what a wonderful snip-it of local history.

And just because I can, here are three old Clarksville postcards.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mid Century Bethlehem at the library

Head on over to the Bethlehem Public Library to take a look at the exhibit I just installed today.  Mid Century Bethlehem features Bethlehem images from the 1950s and 60s.

Like these two guys...

and this gal...

(This young woman is Diane Hunter and I hadn't had the picture up on the wall for two minutes before someone stopped by to say they remembered her from high school.)

Or how about this street scene...

See more pictures at the library!
The show will be up for the month of October, which just happens to be Archives Month.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gerritje Van Schaick Ten Eyck

If you read this blog, you know when it comes to history, I am easily distracted.  This week it was Box 61 that did the trick. I opened the lid to find inside what is probably the oldest thing in Town Hall - an indenture from 1760.  That's well before there was even a United States, never mind a Town of Bethlehem.  It makes for fascinating reading.

Here's the first few lines as best as I can make out.

This Indenture made and conclused this fourteenth day of January in the fist year of the Raign of our Soveraign Lord George the third of Great Britain france and Ireland King Defender of the faith Between Gerritie Ten Eyck widow and Relect of Coenradt Ten Eyck of the City of Albany in the Provence of New York of the one part and Tobias Ten Eyck of the same place the other Part Witnesseth that the said Gerretie Ten Eyck for and in Consideration of the sum of fourty Pounds Current Money of new York to her hand paid … She the Said Gerrretie Ten Eyck hath bargain and sell Alein Release and Confirm unto the said Tobias Ten Eyck.. forty Morgans of the undivided low or meadow lands In the Patant of the Half Moon in the County of Albany…

There are all kinds of interesting items to explore just in that little piece.

 What is an indenture exactly? It is simply a deed, written contract or sealed agreement.  Dictionary.com goes on to point out that the documents have "edges  correspondingly indented as a means of identification."  Ironically, the document here is not indented at all.  It is one giant paragraph.

King George?  Yes that King George of Revolutionary American history.  He reigned in Great Britian from 1760 to 1801 - hence the date of this item being 1760.

And who is Gerritie Ten Eyck beyond a "relect" of her dead husband?  (A relic - a surviving trace of something - or someone as in this case).  A quick hop over to the People of Colonial Albany website reveals she is Gerritje Van Schaick, born in 1687, daughter of Anthony Van Schaick and Maria Vanderpoel.  (By the way, Van Schaick is mentioned in the indenture as having been granted the land since 1672.)

Let me just quote Stefan Bielinski's glimpse into her life.

 Gerritje  was born in September 1687. She was the eldest daughter of Albany residents Anthony and Maria VanderpoelVan Schaick. She grew up in a large family in the Albany homes of a wealthy businessman and landholder.
Just past her seventeenth birthday, Gerritje married silversmith
 Coenradt Ten Eyck at her father's Albany home on September 24, 1704. Seven months later, the first of her ten children was baptized in the Albany Dutch church.

These Ten Eycks lived in the first ward where Coenradt was a prominent silversmith, businessman, and city official. Over the next decades, their fortunes were bolstered by substantial bequests from Gerritje's family - the Van Schaicks. By the late 1740s, they had moved across State Street to a "good house" in the third ward.

Gerritje lost her husband early in 1753. She inherited the use of his property and was a well-known Albany householder for the next decade. Eight of her children married and raised their own families in Albany and its hinterland. Her son, Jacob, became mayor of Albany in 1748. Daughter Anna Margarita married future mayor John Barclay in 1771.

In November 1756, widow Gerritje filed her will. It named her seven living children as beneficiaries of her real and personal estate. The will passed probate in October 1768. Gerritje Van Schaick Ten Eyck had lived in Albany for close to eighty years.

And what about "morgans" of land?  According to a wikipedia article,  morgen is Dutch for morning so a morgen of land is the amount the could be plowed in a morning. Around 8500 square meters - I have no idea what that is in acres.

While I am unsure how this particular document ended up in box 61, there were, and are, lots of Ten Eyck's in Bethlehem.  I am sure there is a family connection!

Gerretie's signature, sideways because of Blogger, not Gerritje!

An update about the word "relect."

I was at a cemetery in Schoharie over the weekend and found a grave stone with the following wording:

Nancy E Settle
Relict of
Freeman W. Warner
Wife of
Marcus Shafer

So the word is relict which Dictionary.com defines as a remnant or survivor or widow. But I was still close with relic!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Bethlehem Midget and The Center Inn

Cleaning out my Adams Street "office" has turned up some gems.  Just unearthed a stack of the Bethlehem Midget from the fall of 1959.  Here's an example with a great ad from Handy-Dandy Cleaners.

 I am sure more of the Midget will be turning up here.

 For now, I leave you with two pictures of the old Center Inn on 9W in Glenmont.  One from the archives and one from the Midget.  Hard to believe these are the same place. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Five Rivers Photos and Postcards

In the ongoing saga of Things That Show Up On My Desk (especially now that I actually have a desk at Town Hall) I received an envelope stuffed full of photos and postcards. They show  Five Rivers from back in the day when it was part of the Civilian Conservation Corp. On the negative side, I do not know who donated them.  On the positive side, a then and now article is born.  Look for it in the September Our Towne Bethlehem.

(And again, sideways.  Sorry.)

Read more here:  http://www.friendsoffiverivers.org/node/105

Monday, July 20, 2015

What's in a name?

So this popped up on my radar - and made me laugh out loud.

It is from Museum Bulletin 173, published November 1, 1914 by the New York State Museum.  Looking at the front page table of contents, past the report on the Condition of the New Museum and under the Report of the Geological Survey you find the Board of Geographic Names.

Skipping deeper into the bulletin, past the drawings of the snazzy new exhibit cases and the pictures of the Saratoga fault,  one comes to page 44 and the report from the Board of Geographic Names.

And an author with an attitude.

My favorite:   GLENMONT: Hamlet. Fancy Name.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


So, it has been a while since I have posted.  June and early July have been hectic.  The Daughter graduated from Bethlehem Central High School and we celebrated my mom's 90th birthday with a picnic and family reunion.  Big doings in the Dempsey-Hardy-Leath family.

While thinking about graduations, I trolled through the town's collection of old photographs and came upon this gem.

This is 1926 eighth grade graduating class of Elsmere School. In the back row, second from right is Allan Hogancamp.  His portrait is below.

With a little time to kill this morning, I noodled around on the internet to see what I could find out about Allan.

The 1925 NY census has the Hogancamp family living on Kenwood Avenue in Elsmere.  Frank and Grace have 4 children, Allen age 12, Walter age 11, Ralph age 7 and Marion age 4.  (Son Paul would join the family in 1930.) Frank is a baker - the previous NY census in 1915 lists him as a confectioner.  Also in the home in 1925 is Susie Hogancamp, age 64, Allen's grandmother.

Susie (aka Susan Elizabeth Whalen Hogancamp) was married to John Hogancamp who died tragically of a fractured skull due to a railroad accident in Delmar in 1892.  Susie and John are buried at Albany Rural.

The family was active with the Delmar Reformed Church, Allan served with the military during World War II, married (newspapers consistently refer to Mrs. Allan Hogancamp - I think her name was Clara) and the couple had one daughter - Carol. They lived on Elsmere Avenue.  Allen served with the Elsmere Fire Department and died at age 68 in 1981.

So, that's what I found out in an hour's time on the internet.  I am sure there is more out there regarding the Hogancamps - they seem to have been active community members.

Monday, June 29, 2015

July 4, 1956 Drive Carefully! Swim Sanely! Have Fun!

Thinking thoughts about the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

Found this ad from the June 28, 1956 Spotlight.  Times haven't changed that much have they?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Honor of Memorial Day: The McCulloch Brothers

In honor of Memorial Day, I give you two veterans buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in South Bethlehem: brothers Stephen and David McCulloch.  Both died in service to their country during the Civil War.

Both have write ups in The Heroes of Albany A Memorial of the Patriot-Martyrs of the City and County of Albany by Rufus Clark.  Hop on over to


 and go to page 806.

David served with Company D of the 44th New York State Volunteers.  He was captured in action at Mine Run Virginia and died at Andersonville Prison in Georgia.  While the tombstone reads 1863,  New York's Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts says he died March 22, 1864.

Clark writes in Heroes:     He was a kind boy, a dutiful son, and a generous and noble hearted brother....His officers and comrades award to him the highest praise for his uniform good conduct; his cheerfulness under privations and sufferings, and his noble bravery upon the battle-field.

Stephen served with Company B of the 10th Regiment New York State Volunteers. He died August 27, 1863 of disease at Bonnet Carre, Louisiana.

From Heroes:     He was a youth full of enterprise, ambition and intelligence.  He had, too, a very affectionate disposition, and was beloved by all who knew him.  He possesses the same spirit and feelings in regard to the war that fired the soul of his brother.

Clark concludes his section on the McCulloch brothers with words that should resound during this and every Memorial Day.

To the parents who thus gave up two sons for the country, the sympathies of a grateful nation should be cordially extended. 

Searching for Patrick Callanan

Not too long ago I had an enjoyable time searching for the grave of Revolutionary War veteran Patrick Callanan down at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in South Bethlehem.  You can read more about Callanan in June's Our Towne Bethlehem.  For now, this is how my search went.

Entering the gates.

Patrick's historic marker.

Not this Callanan.

Not this one either.  

Not these two

or this one.

Wait, maybe that one.  The tipped one that looks really old.

Success! Patrick's names and dates are just barely visible.
Patrick Callanan
Who died October the 4th 1824 aged 89 yrs

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Native American Projectile Point

In the continuing saga of things that turn up on my desk, I present this photo.

That is a Native American projectile point carefully bagged as part of an archaeology survey.

It was a vivid reminder for me that Bethlehem's history goes way, way back with significant occupation by Native Americans before good old Henry Hudson made his famous journey.

It also reminds me of my undergraduate days at the University of Rhode Island where one semester I actually had a paying job in an archaeology lab typing various and assorted stone artifacts.

So, after hasty and thoroughly unprofessional scrutiny, and a visit to http://www.projectilepoints.net/, I am calling it an Otter Creek from 6,000-4300 BP.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Genealogy Talk and Vital Records

I am getting ready to give a talk at the Bethlehem Public Library about genealogy and vital records held by the Town of Bethlehem.*  It is a Powerpoint, so I was looking for illustrations and I took this quick photo.  

And then got totally distracted.

The picture here is from book #2 of the Register of Vital Records. Births, marriages and deaths are recorded  The pages in this book are an intriguing look into the everyday lives of Bethlehem people. The death register is especially poignant.

This particular page is the first one of the death section  with 35 records from June 15, 1894 through October 26, 1894.  35 records sounds so impersonal - it is really 35 people.

The youngest is Chester A. Glasser age 3 months and 24 days who died July 27 from "cholera (infantum)"; the oldest is Charles Hungerford, age 88, who died October 26 from cystitis (senile debility)"

What really caught my eye were the drownings - four of them on this single page.  A truly intriguing story emerges when one reads the four listings.  With of course more questions than answers.

On June 3 we have Henry Ling age 46 years, 10 months.  He is married and a mason.  Born in Germany, he has lived in the U.S. for 26 years. There is no father's or mother's name but both are indicated has having been born in Germany.  Place of death: Kenwood Creek. Cause; Submersion.

Next on August 4 is simply "unknown" a "Negro". Place of death: "found in Island Creek." Cause: apnoea** (submersion).  Note; Reflecting mores of 1894, the form asks for "Race if other than White."

Then on September 17 is Christopher Mulson - or is it Neilson - the name is hard to read. He is 26, single and a laborer.  He was born in Norway.  No parents are listed.  Place of death: Van Wies Point. Cause: Apnoea (submersion.)

And finally another "unknown" with no specific date but listed between October 23 and October 16.  Age is listed as 30, "Don't know" is the answer for occupation and "Supposed to be German" for birthplace. Place of death: Hudson River. Cause: Apnoea (submersion.)

Aren't you curious now to know the story of these four people?  To me, the two unknowns are especially poignant. I don't even know if they are male or female.  How did any of them end up in the river?  The questions go on and on.

* The talk is Tuesday May 12, 7 pm at the Bethlehem Public Library.  Librarian Frank Somers and I are going to share resources for local Bethlehem genealogy research. Free and open to the public.

** The term "apnoea" is used three times with this spelling.  Apnea is what we would recognize today "a suspension of breathing" - altho Dictionary.com says it is a temporary suspension. In this usage the suspension was decidedly permanent.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Normansville Help Wanted Ad

Looking around the internet for what kinds of cows they had at Normanskill farm (really, and the answer is Guernseys,) I found this ad for a Single Man that  made me chuckle. 

In tiny print over on the right:

Wanted - Single Man to take charge of Cow barns.  Must be good milker and strictly temperate. C.P. Stevens, Normansville, Albany County, N.Y.

Good with his hands and not a drinker - could be on match.com  ;)

And then, in large print below the Normansville ad, is this gem.  

Now playing at Madison Square Garden Fat Stock ...

I am easily amused on this rainy Monday afternoon.

Source: The Cultivator & Country Gentleman, Volume 60. October 31, 1895. Albany, NY  via Google Books. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A New Book and a New Office

It is official - I will have a new book coming out in about a year. Last week in the mail I received my official, signed contract from the History Press.  I'll be rounding up my then and now articles from Our Towne Bethlehem and other unpublished items I have written and putting them together in a book.  32,000+ words and 60 pictures. Yikes! It is a lot of work but I am excited to make the articles available in a more permanent format.  Now, they are out for the month with Our Town and then they disappear from print, and from their website.   I'll probably include some odds and ends from this blog as well.  So wish me luck.  September 1 is my first big deadline.  We're looking to bring the book out in the spring of 2016.

In other big news, after 7 1/2 years of working mostly from home, your town historian has an office space at town hall and will be keeping office hours.  Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-noon.  Right now I am in the cubicle that is outside the supervisor's office.  Many thanks to all of those at town hall who have eased my transition to coming into the office, and thank you Robin for putting up with me invading your space!

And no that is not me on the right.  That's Katie Ladd working in the Callanan's office in South Bethlehem.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Slingerlands Players

Sometimes my job is all about serendipity.

The Bethlehem Historical Association is gathering items about Bethlehem in 1965 and I was able to lend them some posters from the Slingerlands Players.  Literally, the day I handed  over the posters, I opened an email from John L. Moore's son.  Was I interested in some of his father's artwork related to the Slingerlands Players?  Yes, yes I was.

It turns out that Moore was a graphic designer who lived in Elsmere.  He designed many, many of the promotional items for the Slingerlands Players and saved most of them.

The Slingerlands Players got their start in 1952.  Here's a clip from the November 20, 1958 Spotlight from an article called The Slingerlands Players and How They Grew:

(Love how they describe housewives!)

Productions, usually two or three a year, were put on at the Middle School and later the High School.  In 1972, they were able to buy a run down, former hotel in Unionville. It was just off Delaware Avenue on Unionville Feura Bush Road.  The Unionville Playhouse was their home until the group disbanded in the early 1980s.   For about 30 years, the Slingerlands Players were a fine example of community theater.

John L. Moore became involved with the Slingerlands Players as early as 1965 - he, his wife Hedi and their three children, moved to Elsmere in 1959.  He opened his own shop, John Moore Graphics, in 1972.  Besides his excellent graphic design work for the Players, Moore had a few bit parts here and there, worked on production design, scenery and sets.  Moore passed away in 2012. Hedi still lives in Elsmere.

When I asked his son what else I should know about his father, he threw in the tidbit that he was a long time friend of Julia Child.  Moore met her before she was a famous chef while both were in the service in World War II.