Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greenwich in the NYS Library

Some of you may know that I am working on my Master's of Science in Information Science (MSIS, formerly MLS) at the University at Albany, SUNY. I have one semester left & hope to graduate just one month after my 10 year anniversary as your Town Historian!

Today I had an interview at the New York State Archives in Albany, & it got me wondering if there were any collections relating to Greenwich. Well, The NYS Archives only deals with governmental records. So, unless the town or village governments sent records to the Archives it's unlikely they have any relating to Greenwich.

But, what about the New York State Library? They have a "archives" as well called Manuscripts and Special Collections. Running down their list of finding aids (documents that contain descriptive information regarding records in a collection) I came across the following listing...

Stevens, Mary J.
Letter. (1852). 1 item.
Collection Call Number: 20420

Letter of Mary J. Stevens to her mother, describing her new life as a teacher in Greenwich, New York. She complains about Greenwich as a place populated by "Old Bachelors and Old Maids".  

I might have to request this item to take a look at what else Miss Stevens says about our fair town in 1852.

The NYS Library has some other interesting things. I recommend you take a look at their online finding aids. I found collections & records relating to suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Belva Lockwood, Amelia Bloomer, & an interesting collection of correspondence between one of my grandmother's favorite authors, Frances Parkinson Keyes & Eleanor Roosevelt.

I also found a collection of the New York State Association Opposed to Women Suffrage records. I will have to look at those & see if I can locate anything on Mary Arthur McElroy.   The NYS Archives finding aids can be searched by clicking here.  

& after my interview today, I took a look at the NYS Museum (in the same building). I highly recommend a new travelling exhibit from the Smithsonian being featured; 1934: A New Deal for Artists. Some of the paintings are of Upstate NY, & the labels are very descriptive.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Calling all Revolutionary War fans...

To commemorate their 75th Anniversary (2013), Saratoga Battlefield (AKA Saratoga National Historical Park) has put out a call for photographs of people working at &/or enjoying a visit to the park. You may have noticed this in the last couple of issues of the Greenwich Journal & Salem Press, but if not I'm here to let you know about it.

If you bring your photographs to the battlefield they will scan them & give you a copy of the CD. It is unclear in the article if the battlefield wants to keep the originals or they are simply keeping the scanned images. I have sent an e-mail to the battlefield about this & hope to hear back soon.

Park Ranger Tisha 1998

Many of you may not know that I worked at the battlefield. It was my 1st history related job right out of college in the summer of 1998. I was a seasonal Interpretive Park Ranger. I had the uniform & everything!

Tisha in colonial garb at the Schuyler House 1998

My mom made both of my colonial outfits. This is the fancy one.

Charles Martin painting the Schuyler House 1978

 After some analysis, it was discovered that the Schuyler House was yellow & green. Philip Schuyler rebuilt on the site of the brick house burnt by Burgoyne's retreating army in 1777. But in 1978 it was being painted white. Here my gramp, local painter & roofer Charles L. "Pepper" Martin, paints the house with some assistance from a four-year-old me & my three-year-old "little sistar" Heather.

Old Saratoga Historical Association 1969

 I love this shot. My grandma, Jacqueline A. Martin (nee Drew), is seated center. My mom, Tamaris A. Dolton (nee Martin), is standing 2nd from the right. My "big sistar", Emily Catherine Dolton, is the little girl on the left.

I highly encourage any of you to share images & stories of your visits to the battlefield. They will accept up to 20 images per family/individual.

Happy 75th Anniversary Saratoga National Historical Park!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Everlasting Lights 2012

OK, so I am blogging a little late tonight. (Or a little early this morning, a day late.) But I had e-mails to answer & my daughter was with me. (Sans math homework so it went better than last week, but I still wound up listening to One Direction, et al from her Ipod.)

Anyway, my daughter suggested I write about the Everlasting Lights. The trees looked so lovely in the dark tonight. We took a few pictures. The ceremony took place over the weekend with founder Elaine Kelly's brother, Larry Wilbur, reading the names of all the loved ones being remembered. Debi Craig played harp. Paula Sawyer, Brad Kelly & Marc Luther sang. Supervisor Idelman said a few words. Pastor McCaskill spoke. There are 45 trees this year. Take a stroll through The Commons and view them by day or night.

45 trees lit up in memoriam

slightly enhanced closeup of the 45 trees on display

Everlasting Lights 2012

& here is Sarah McLachlan singing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (Lyrics by the late Kim Gannon, former Greenwich resident, but you know that already.) Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Daughter & a Visitor

I have my own "Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day" going on. My daughter will be with me at the office for the next few weeks. I am hoping to have a project for her to work on next week. I haven't decided if it will be research related, or helping me sort through my office. Maybe I could have her research & write one of my upcoming blog posts!

FYI: Take Our Daughters to Work Day began in 1993 as a project to increase the self esteem of girls by exposing them to a parent's workplace. The initiative, started my Gloria Steinham & the Ms. Foundation for Women, has grown to include sons. It also encourages people to reach out to relatives such as nieces, nephews, grandchildren, & non-relatives like children in shelters. The next one is April 25, 2013.

I also had a visitor come in tonight. Mr. Ken Perry came in looking for birth records. Ken has been coming to the office  for years, & is currently researching African & Caribbean Americans who lived in Greenwich & Easton. Tonight he was looking for information on the Mayo family; Alec, Estell (nee Miles) & their children. Ken has been looking up census information on & was wondering if any of the children were born here. Unfortunately, I was only able to find Sheldon Alec Mayo (b. 4 January 1917) in the town of Greenwich.

Afterward Ken & I got chatting about African American migration. Known as the Great Migration, blacks began to leave the South in 1913 after cotton prices fell & the boll weevil decimated crops. The 1915 floods in the Mississippi River Valley just made things worse. Tack on Jim Crow Laws, & black sharecroppers had little choice. They left in vast numbers.

World War I was raging in Europe & President Wilson was trying to keep the US neutral. European immigration was down & the North needed workers. Many southern black farmers wound up in urban centers like New York City, Chicago & Detroit, taking jobs in factories. But some were recruited by northern farms to work the fields. This brought a number of blacks to our rural area. Alec & Estell Mayo left Virginia during this period & came north to work on a farm & raise their children. Another forgotten story that a historian is trying to piece back together. Ken's next stop? The Washington County Archives.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shall We Dance Greenwich?

Last week I discussed the Union Village Academy & it's founder & first principal James I. Laurie. This post is about his sister Mary Lourie Mattoon & her connection to a movie musical.

Mary Lourie was the granddaughter of James Irvine, the 1st supervisor of the Town of Jackson, and the daughter of George Lourie, officer in the War of 1812, which is currently celebrating its bicentennial. Her other brother Thomas B. Lourie was a local farmer. In June 1846 she married missionary Stephen Mattoon & they sailed for Siam (now Thailand) that July.

Stephen was the 1st US Consul in Bangkok from 1856-1859. Then he served as pastor of the First Church of Bangkok from 1860-1866. During this time he was engaged in translating the New Testament into Siamese & did not return to the US until the completion of this project in 1866.

During her time in Siam, Mary was involved in teaching the local girls English & how to become good Christians. She gave birth to one boy, Lourie (1850) who died in infancy, & two girls, Mary (1854) & Emma (1857). The Mattoon's also adopted a Siamese girl the called Esther. The family, minus Stephen, returned home in 1864 due to Mary's (mother, not daughter) poor health.

The family lived in Ballston Spa in Saratoga County, NY for a few years until Stephen took a position in North Carolina. The Mattoon family reocrds are held at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia.

The Mattoon's were in Siam at the same time Anna Leonowens was teacher to the Siamese Court (1862-1867). Mary Mattoon is a minor character in the King and I a musical adaptation of Mary Landon's 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam. I love musicals & will gladly give the King and I another viewing to catch Mary Lourie Mattoon!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Education in Union Village

In the early 1830s, a Union College graduate named James Irvine Lourie came to Union Village (the present village of Greenwich) to start a private school. The venture proved a success, & in 1836 the Union Village Academy was formed with Lourie as principal.

James Lourie grew up in Jackson, & attended the Cambridge academy. In 1840, he resigned as principal & began practicing law with the Honorable Judge Charles F. Ingalls here in the village. Also in 1840 he married Mary Harriet Robinson. In 1854 he was elected to the NY State Assembly & became an ardent supporter of the Temperance Movement. In 1868 he was elected county surrogate judge. Judge Lourie died July 13, 1888.

The 1st building of the Union Village Academy stood where the Presbyterian parsonage stands. In 1849 the academy built the large brick building at 6 Academy Street.^ In 1869, the academy became part of the free public school system in Greenwich. By 1907, the building was condemned & sold to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge (IOOF). A new high school building was constructed on Gray Ave. The story goes that the Gray Ave site was decided by a vote of 277 to 276. The loosing site was on Bleeker St.* The  new high school building burnt in 1926 & had to be reconstructed.

Union Village Academy after it was sold to the IOOF

In 1850 Union Village Academy had 135 students. By 1937 the Greenwich School District had 756 students. Current enrollment is 1153 students.

Noteworthy students during the early years of the academy...
Daniel Anthony (brother of Susan B.)- governor of Kansas
Reverend James A. "Ticonderoga" Tefft- missionary to the West Coast of Africa
Chester Alan Arthur- 21st President of the US

^ Now the current home of the Village of Greenwich offices, the Greater-Greenwich Chaber of Commerce, the  Greenwich Youth Center, & the fire department. The addition to the building is now condemned & the fire department is search for a safer location.

* Much of the above information can be found in History of Secondary Education in Washington County by Roscoe L. Williams. Originally produced as a Master's thesis in 1937, it was published in 1991 by the Fort Edward Historical Association & is available at their gift shop.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vote! (Please)

You guessed it! It's my annual "Get out the Vote" plead. & I have some rough statistics to share regarding the last presidential election.

First, let me mention the sign incident at the Susan B. Anthony Childhood House in Battenville. As I stated in a previous post on this blog, we should be very careful when trying to put words in the mouths of historical figures. It is one thing to debate about it, but their words and deeds should be viewed in the proper historical context, not superimposed upon today's political climate. I have my own ideas of what "Aunt Susan," her sister Mary, & the other suffragists would say based on my own understanding of history. My views are shared by others, & still more would disagree. Plus government employees and government agencies are not supposed to publicly favor any certain candidate. (The exception being that elected officials can endorse certain candidates as you know.)

BUT... The one thing that Susan B. Anthony would want us to do is VOTE!

In the 2008 Presidential Election between Barack Obama & John McCain 2,447 ballots were cast in the Town of Greenwich. McCain received 1,075 votes to Obama's 1,326 votes. Of the remaining 46 votes 26 were for Ralph Nader.

Using the statistics from the 2000 census, there were 4,896 residents in the Town of Greenwich. 25.9% were under the age of 18 in 2000. That means that 8 years prior there were roughly 3,628 potential voters here. That means about 1,180 people in our town did not vote. That's nearly 1/3 of the population in our town did not vote. (View results for yourself here.)

I would love to see greater voter turnout in this 2012 Presidential Election year. 100% is probably to "pie in the sky," but 75% would be amazing!

Sample Town of Greenwich ballot courtesy of the Washington County Board of Elections.

Other samples of local ballots can be found here.

Polling places can be found here.

If you are unfamiliar with all of the candidates please check out the local races in the Greenwich Journal & Salem Press or the Post-Star.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Glass Negative Victory! (maybe)

Mom & I went to an event at the Greenwich Free Library last night.

K. Walter Grom, former Siena College Professor of German Language, History & Culture, presented a slide show on "General Philip Schuyler's Grand Vision" (i.e. the canal system). Most of the history presented I was familiar with having worked at the Saratoga National Historical Park in 1998, and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site  in 2000. I knew that Schuyler was instrumental in the implementation of the canal system in NY, however, due to the sloth of the State Legislature (shocking, I know) the Champlain Canal wasn't started until 13 years after Schuyler's death in 1804.

The Champlain Canal, also known as "Schuyler's Ditch," was started in 1817 and completed in 1823. This brought an immense amount of commerce into this agrarian economy. Various businesses began to flourish, like clay works and the Lowber Lime Kiln. Mr. Grom mentioned potatoes and ice, saying that there were ice houses up & down the canal system.

The slides were particularly interesting because many of them were images of Schuylerville in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. During the slide portion came the surprise. One of his slides was of the Liberty Wallpaper Company building. It was along the canal near current lock 5 just north of Schuylerville. I was so excited to see the facade of one of the images from that stack of glass plate negatives dropped on my proverbial doorstep a few years ago.

Liberty Wallpaper Building? the canal and tow path are to the right

Now to do some research & try to find some information on Liberty Wallpaper!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Historians Make Mistakes

I made a mistake in one of my posts. This comes as no surprise to me. I am just happy that a reader told me. So many times mistakes unacknowledged & wind up in a paper or a book.

So, "Thank you" to Bill Ruddock for letting me know my error. I have fixed the image issue.

I hope you also like the new image at the top. It is also the header on the Town of Greenwich, NY Facebook page. (Have you "Liked" it yet?) I like to keep them the same, kind of a marketing technique. Below you can see the front & back of the postcard.

postcard sent to Miss Marnie Kallihan in Wells, VT

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Uncommon Archives Usage- Archives Month

First, let me apologize for the generic-ness of this post. It does not specifically pertain to Greenwich history, but I think it will be of interest to you.

I earned my undergrad in History from SUNY New Paltz in 1998, & have been contacted for money countless times. However, in recent years New Paltz has been sending out an occasionally interesting magazine. I received the latest copy the other day & came across a very interesting article about another alum from the History Department.

In the Alumni Profile*, Anders Parker ('95) talks about going to the Woody Guthrie Archives located in Mt Kisco, NY ( What I find so intriguing is what came out of that visit. They weren't writing a scholarly paper, or a book, Anders and his musical colleagues were there doing research to compose songs. They used previously unused Woody Guthrie lyrics to create contemporary folk renditions for the album "New Multitudes," a near pitch-perfect tribute to Guthrie in the year of his 100th birthday. (for a more in depth look at this project see below.^)

This project illustrates the power & use of archives. They can be utilized for so much more than genealogy & historical research. Archives can help bring beauty into the world. They can continue the legacy of an icon. What project will you use archives for? Designing a quilt? Inspiration for a poem or children's book? Research for a play or documentary? Visit me in the Town Offices, or visit the Gill Room in the basement of the Greenwich Free Library. Visit the County Historian or the Washington County Archives in Fort Edward.


The above video about Parker and company using the Woody Guthrie Archives is from Rounder Records on YouTube-

If you are interested in the album, check it out on Amazon-

* The New Paltz Magazine, Fall 2012, p.18

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Explosive documents- POW!

Some of the things if my office are so interesting that I just have to share. I have many completed applications for "A LICENSE To purchase, own, possess, transport or use Explosives" from residents and businesses in the Town of Greenwich from 1945-1974.

These forms came from the NYS Department of Labor. If someone needed to use explosives for business or home use, they would come to the town clerk's office and request an application. The completed application would then have to be signed by the town clerk. The applicant had to state their reasons for requiring the use of explosives. The following lists the main reasons listed and their frequency.

  • 65- remove stumps/ rocks from fields
  • 15- general contract work
  • 15- roadwork
  • 12- reloading shells/ hunting
  • 7- general use of farm
  • 2- splitting wedges for pulp wood
  • 1- build a silo
  • 1- cellar
  • 1- water pipeline for house
  • 1- sewer line
  • 1- sink oil tanks
  • 1- chemical research

Explosives application- Stevens & Thompson Paper Co. 1951
 An example of the Explosives application. The above document is dated  January 10, 1951 and is signed by Town Clerk, Elizabeth Wilson. The Stevens & Thompson Paper Co. needed the licence "for our ground wood operation- splitting wedges on pulp wood". At that time the application fee was 25 cents! One copy went in the town clerk's file, one copy went to the "nearest police authorities", and one went to the sheriff.

Come on down & check 'em out. (The "sinking oil tanks" & "chemical research" are interesting....)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writer's Block & the Historian (A Tale of Woe)

Currently, I have writer's block. More specifically, I have no idea what to write about this week. It is more like blogger's block. Is there such a thing? I think the only "cure" for writer's block is writing, so instead of succumbing to it, I have decided to write anyway. Bear with me...

On the way in to work tonight, I was thinking about writing about Cossayuna Lake, but the words weren't flowing. I'll think about that one, do some more research & write about the "Lake of the Three Pines" another time.

When I walked in the door of my office I thought I had another topic. The "above the fold" article in the Greenwich Journal & Salem Press is about why the Chester A. Arthur dollar coin is not circulating. But instead of writing about it I just "shared" the post on the Town of Greenwich Facebook page (Which if you haven't "liked" it yet you should because it is very interesting.)

Signs that welcome people to our town on all major roads
Next, I looked through various files, binders & boxes trying to find something that sparked & crackled with inspiration. Nothing. Here I sit with nothing. I can't even come up with a good picture.

Try me next week. I'll have a good one! (I hope.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Gale's of Galesville

My personal & professional experience with other public historians has been one of generosity. If one of us comes across a document or artifact that does not fit with our collections, we do a little research & find out where it might belong, then we send a letter of inquiry to see if anyone wants the item. If it is wanted, we ship it out for free with the idea we will pay it forward to the next public historian.

AB Sherman's account book for John Gale's estate

The Town of Skaneateles Historian, Elizabeth Battle & I had just such an exchange in 2009-10. Elizabeth had in her office a letter & account book that did not belong in Skaneateles. The letter is dated March 9, 1839 & is addressed to "Mr A.B Sherman P.M. Galesville Washington Co N.Y." It is from  F.R. & C.M. Townsend of Troy. The account book belonged to AB Sherman regarding the late John Gale's estate.

When I received the letter I thought, "Galesville? Of course if belongs here." With just a bit of searching I was able to find a file on the Gale's in the family name files here in my office. What I did not expect to find were photographs. The images are photos of paintings of the Gale family including Amander Bryant Sherman & Caroline Matilda Gale. The photos came from a Gale ancestor in California who was in contact with former Town of Greenwich Historian, Jane Haverly from 1975-78.

Caroline Matilda b. September 17, 1818, was a daughter of John Gale, founder of Galesville (now Middle Falls). Caroline married Francis R. Townsend of Troy, NY. Caroline's sister Mary Elizabeth married Dr. John E. Newcomb of Whitehall, NY. The mother of the two girls was Remember Mary Brown Sherman. A.B. Sherman was her son from a previous marriage (Brown being her maiden name). So, A.B. was John Gale's step-son &, more than likely, executor to his estate.

detail of letter to Sherman from his half-sister Caroline & her husband
 So, I must thank Elizabeth Battle for taking the extra time to find out where two random items in her office belonged. Thanks to her generosity, I now have a better idea of the Gale-Sherman family here in Greenwich.

Oh, you may be wondering what the P.M. stood for after AB Sherman's name. He was the first post master of Galesville/ Middle Falls.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


On a recent trip to Massachusetts, I visited the Lowell National Historical Park in the city of Lowell I love old mills, as does my mother & daughter. One particular mill is the Boott Cotton Mill where they made cotton cloth on large, mechanized looms. In the "Mill Girls" exhibition nearby there is some talk about the strikes that occurred in Lowell. This got me thinking about the Dunbarton here in Greenwich & their one strike...

In October of 1937 a union was formed at the Dunbarton in Greenwich. (The Paterson & Kearney, NJ & Anniston, AL plants were already unionized by this time.) A 10% wage increase was agreed upon in May 1938, but was revoked in February 1939 after the US & Great Britain signed a reciprocal trade agreement. This made imported linen thread cheaper, thus hurting the market for US produced thread & twine. Both NJ mills strike & shut production down.
Odd Fellows Hall in Greenwich where strike meetings were held

After an unenthusiastic strike meeting the day before, only about 20 workers picketed the mill on February 13, 1939. Estimates have Greenwich strikers at 12. Nine days later only about 10 workers were striking. A February 25th meeting has workers severing ties with the Textile Workers Organization & forming an independent union. By mid-March all workers were back at the Greenwich mill. Workers at both NJ mills were still out on strike.

The NJ strike ended on April 19, 1939. Workers gained some ground with the wage reduction changed from 10% to 7%, essentially giving all workers a 3% raise from pre-May 1938 wages. Greenwich's independent union was recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB). 40-hour work week, time & a half on Saturday, one week vacation, & no pay reductions for one year were also approved. The Union hosted a party at the White Swan Hotel on October 14, 1939. Dinner was brought to the boiler room for Sam McCune, the only employee left on duty that night!

For more information:
*Ruddock, W. Linen Threads and Broom Twines: An Irish and American Album and Directory of the People of the Dunbarton Mill Greenwich, New York 1879-1952. Bowie, MD: Hertiage Books, 1997.
^ Reciprocal Trade Agreement:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fascination with commemorative plates

I'm not sure why I am fascinated with commemorative plates. You know the ones I mean. Your grandmother may have had a few displayed on the wall in one of those metal, spring things... Or maybe they were in the back of the china closet. My grandmother had a few that I have inherited. Some I may not keep because I don't really have a connection to them, but others will be bound for display.

The Village of Greenwich Sesquicentennial committee decided to have a commemorative plate made for the 1959 event. It was produced by Kettlesprings Kilns in Alliance, OH. Kettlesprings Kilns began in 1950 to create a plate for Alliance's bicentennial, & grew from there. They still produce commemorative items like plates, mugs, tiles & bells (

Greenwich Sesquicentennial plate 1959
Our plate is green, of course, with the sesquicentennial logo in the center. Around the outside are various buildings in the town. Notice the tiny witches between each building.
  • White Swan Hotel (1851)
  • Upper Dam (1860)
  • Stevens & Thompson Mill
  • Mowry-Blandy House
  • Dorr Park & Van Ness House
  • Greenwich Central School (1927)
  • Typical toile (in my favorite- red)
  • temporary home of Susan B. Anthony*
You might think that I like these plates simply because of my interest in local history, but I think it's more than that. There is the sentimentality associated with my grandmother, but there is also the design element. I love toile^, a French fabric, usually linen or canvas with pastoral scenes printed on using one color. My favorite is red, but more often found in blue or black. These plates remind me of toile.

Well, I guess I do know why these plates fascinate me after all!

* I'm assuming this is the house the Anthony's moved to after the Panic of 1837, when they lost their home in Battenville.
^ or

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lansing Prouty, Age 4

I just read an interesting article in the 2004 edition of the Journal of the Washington County Historical Society. If you have never heard of it visit their booth at the Washington County Fair next week & pick up a copy or two, or order online ( There are many fascinating local stories held within the pages, like the one I am going to tell you about.

In 1848, Lansing N. Prouty was a four year old boy living with his brother, George, mother, Sarah (nee Angell), & father, Franklin in Galesville (now Middle Falls), NY.  That summer he came down with diarrhea, fever & cramps. The only doctor in town diagnosed dysentery. By August 26th, Lansing was dead, possibly the victim on E. coli or amebiasis, microorganisms believed to be the common causes of dysentery.

Map of the home of Lansing Prouty & family 1848*
You may be asking why I am mentioning Lansing. Well, history for me is about anything and everything. Yes, I admire people like Susan B. Anthony, or George Washington Carver because of what they accomplished. But, I study history because of all the untold stories; the people & events that have been forgotten. That is what this article represents to me, a reminder of why I am here writing this blog, why I became an historian. Lansing's story was uncovered because of a road. By the discovery of his gravestone during routine, preliminary research before & during road construction, this little boy's story was unearthed & told so that he may live on.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't Put Words in the Mouth of an Historical Figure

The other day on Facebook, I came across a news story posted by WRGB, our local CBS station, & I nearly posted a comment. Why did I stop myself you may ask? I didn't post the comment because I stopped & thought about what I was in the process of writing. I re-evaluated what I was writing & realized that it was reactionary &, quite possibly, wrong.

No, this is not going to be an entry about how people need to think before they write something, whether on Facebook, or otherwise (though they should). It is more specifically about how we should not assume we know a person because we learned a few factoids about their life. If you are confused, I will start from the beginning...

The headline I saw on Tuesday (8/7/12) was "Union College snags a top spot as one of the best party schools in the country! Newsweek and The Daily Beast's annual 'Top Party Colleges' list ranks Union College at #5..." My pithy reply was going to be about how alum like 21st President of the USA Chester Arthur must be so proud (sarcasm, blah, blah, blah...). Then I thought about what I have read about Arthur & his family over the years, & stopped. Just because I am an historian, doesn't know I what a person from the past would think about something that happens in the present. I might be able to speculate, but I am not a presidential scholar. I'm not Thomas C. Reeves* or Zachary Karabell^. Even they might not even to presume Arthur"s opinion on whether Union College is deserving of the #5 Party School in the country, & they have written biographies on Arthur.

Here is what I do know, of the Top 25 Party School ranked by Newsweek, Union is one of only six schools with an undergrad population below 5,000. They are the ONLY college on this list without a single arrest for drugs or alcohol made on campus. On campus disciplinary action (DA) for drugs and alcohol was pretty high however. DA for drugs in 2011 was 129 out of 2,260 students (5.7%), which was more in league with the University of Colorado at Boulder (1,404 out of 26,530 or 5.3%). DA for alcohol was at 25.9% with 586 incidents.

Arthur's opinion? Who knows. As a lawyer, he was sworn to uphold the law & underage purchase of alcohol is against the law. I will say that he & his sister Mary McElroy refused to bend to Frances Willard and the Temperance Movement by continuing to serve alcohol in the White House. Arthur was fond of a drink, though I have not read anything to suggest he was an alcoholic. Mary was a skilled hostess, & her parties during the season were well-received. I can only speculate, based on the time period, how Arthur would have felt about drug use...

For more information on Chester A. Arthur
* Reeves, T. Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. 1975.
^ Karabell, Z. Chester Alan Arthur. New York, NY: Times Books. 2004.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I Need Some Finding Aids

By now, I'm sure, that my titles do not shock you. Most of you are scratching your heads wonder what "finding aids" are & why I need them. I will tell you.

According to the Society of American Archivist (SAA), a finding aid is a "tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records" that "includes a wide range of formats, including card indexes, calendars, guides, inventories, shelf and container lists, and registers" or a "description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials" "that places the materials in context by consolidating information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders."*

1968 report by Stan Anderson
Now you know why I need some. No? I'll explain.My office is a cluttered concoction of various materials from 5 or 6 past historians. There is little rhyme or reason. The filing system was terrible, & only slightly better now. My predecessor, Cathy Sharp Barber, did create an inventory with accession numbers and everything. (Accessioning has to do with categorizing museum collections, &since there are objects, not just papers, I understand why she chose that route. I probably would have done that as well back in 2003, since my experience was in museums and historic sites.) But it is not enough.

I'll give you an example. I found this very interesting looking report prepared by Stan Anderson of the Soil Conservation Service, USDA in 1968. It is entitled An Appraisal of Outdoor Recreational Potential: Washington County, NY. The report is rather interesting. The opening pages discuss the history of the county & they read well. The rest of the report covers why Washington County would make an ideal place for various recreational enterprises.

places of interest in the southern part of the county
I had no idea that this report was looming on my shelves. & that means I would not be able to access it for my own research or to assist a visitor. Now, I am thinking like an archivist or librarian, not necessarily a historian. However, I feel it is important for me, as a public historian with a collection, to function as an archivist. Therefore... I need finding aids to help me find stuff.

Which means, I think I've found my next project! Wish me luck!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is she going to talk about voting? Again? (soap box alert)

As you all know, I love the Women Suffrage Movement. Are you bored yet? I hope not. I try to keep it interesting. Maybe my giddy fascination with Susan B. Anthony, the 19th Amendment, Votes for Women postcards, et al, is enough for you to keep reading.

This post is also about my grandmother, Jacqueline Aileen Martin (nee Drew). My grandmother never learned how to drive. My mother, her eldest daughter, lived down the road & drove her many places. That is one of the reasons that my siblings & I were so close to Nanny. That's what we called her as kids, but it morphed to Gram once we got to high school.

She & my mother used to go grocery shopping every other Thursday morning. They usually went to the Super Shop 'N Save (now Hannaford) on Quaker Road in Queensbury. My younger sister would ride in Nanny's cart & I would ride with Mom. It was a sort of divide and conquer technique. If Heather & I were together we would keep badgering Mom until she couldn't take it anymore. It was easier to stay on budget (& more sane) to separate us. If we were lucky Nanny would buy us each a 25 cent box of animal crackers!

As I have mentioned before, I am helping my mother clean out my grandparents house. In it I have found some treasures to add to the Town of Greenwich collection. One is a pay receipt to my grandmother. Since it is dated 11/06/1975 I am guessing it was her pay for being an election inspector. That means she was an election inspector for 30 years, maybe more.

Election Inspectors earned $2.10 per hour in 1975

Town of Greenwich Supervisor Nelson's envelope
Primary season is fast approaching. Then will come the Presidential election, with some Senators, & all of the Reps too! No matter what your party affiliation, or lack there of... get out there & VOTE!
  • For all of the people who can't vote.
  • For all of the women who struggled for 72 years to vote.
  • For Blacks who were denied voting rights under Jim Crow.
  • For American Indians, many whom did not obtain equal suffrage until 1948.
  • For citizens that are denied the right to vote.

Root of Democracy stamp series- note the Election stamp

For more information on the history of voting in the US-

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Saratoga Springs History Museum & Bolster Collection

As I sit here trying to think of what to write about each (almost) week, I usually think of this idea that I had when I decided to start this blog. the idea was to not only write about Greenwich History, but to also write about local museums and research facilities, being an historian, & offer book reviews. So, I have decided to write about a place I visited recently.

The Saratoga Springs History Museum in the Canfield Casino is in Congress Park in downtown Saratoga Springs. If you have not been there in awhile, or not at all, I highly recommend it. They have 3 floors of exhibits & there is something for everyone. There are gorgeous dresses, a new exhibit on Kaydeross Park with vintage games, the furnishings of the Walworth family, & a ghost exhibit. The gift shop is great too! But when I was there last week, it was not to view the exhibits. It was to talk about old papers and negatives.

The Beatrice Sweeney Archives contains many documents pertaining to local people & businesses. One such collection is the Caffe Lena papers. In 1960 Lena Spencer opened Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs  & it is the oldest continuously operated coffeehouse in the US.

The George S. Bolster Collection contains over 325,000 negatives from 1855-1980. These negatives are from photographers such as Harry B. Settle, Seneca Ray Stoddard, Jesse S. Wooley, & George Bolster himself. Reprints of these photographs are for sale on their website, or by visiting the collection on Monday, Tuesday, or Friday from 10:00-3:00 p.m. (appointments are appreciated).

Some of the George S. Bolster Collection in storage boxes

Part of the Beatrice Sweeney Archives

The Bolster Collection & Sweeney Archives are amazing local resources to utilize in research. Whether you are an author writing a book about the area, like Geoffrey O'Brien (The Fall of the House of Walworth) or a resident looking for an image to hang in your living room, I encourage you to look right in your own backyard & discover what is right there!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Historian's bookshelf

Have you ever gone over to someone's bookshelves and just looked at the titles they have? I do it all the time. If I have an appointment somewhere, & there are books on a shelf, I will look at them no matter what the subject matter. I will look to see if I recognize any of the titles. I don't really care what they are about, I'm just happy there are books on a shelf.

I look at friend's bookshelves even though I know what is on them. I look to see if there is anything new, or anything I might have overlooked before. I look because I might have a new interest, & will rediscover a book or author I read about recently. I look because I love books.

So, if you ever come to visit me in my office on a Thursday night from 6:00-8:00 p.m., feel free to look at my book shelves. Better yet... here you go.

The top 4 shelves of one bookcase

Thursday, July 5, 2012

American Tea Tray Company

According to limited sources, (an anonymous, typed page in a file folder & a few second hand accounts in the local paper) the American Tea Tray Company was started in Albany in 1851 by George L. Jones & brought to Union Village by local investors in December 1859.

The American Tea Tray Co. made, yup, you guessed it, tea trays! They actually made two kinds. One was "japanned ware" made of sheet iron, painted black and guilded. The other was "planish ware" which was white & very durable.

The American Tea Tray Co. was pretty successful, being (some say) the only manufacturer of its kind in the US. However, its fate was linked to the fall of the Washington County Bank in 1878 (more about that in the next installment). So, the American Tea Tray Co. only lasted about 20 years on the banks of the Battenkill, but I have a lasting piece of its history in my office.

American Tea Tray Company "japanned ware" tray

detail of the tea tray in the Town Historian's office
Hearsay and History: A Column Devoted to Present-Day Interest in Days Long Past. The Greenwich Journal. July 13 & 20, Aug 3,10 & 17 1949.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cleaning out Grandma's House

While cleaning out the house my grandfather built in 1972, we have encountered many strange & wonderful (& disgusting) things. My grandmother loved to collect things. There is the silver spoon collection of places she visited, & a few people brought back for her. There is the Saratoga Racetrack collectibles from the many years my grandfather worked there painting fences, the boat in the pond, & anything else that stood still long enough. But what I like most are all of the local history items & memorabilia from the USA Bicentennial in 1976.

Greenwich (NYC) Savings Bank promotional tape measure

The Greenwich Savings Bank was established in 1833. Other than that I had very little to go on until my mother began to remember....

In 1964, my grandfather, Charles "Pepper" Martin, took his daughter Tamaris to the Greenwich Savings Bank of New York to take out a loan for college. She had decided to attend the State College at Buffalo to become a Home Economics teacher. She says the bank was at 170 Main Street where the the Orthodontics office of Dr. Byrne now resides. She remembers this very distinctly, & 48 years later is baffled as to why he took her to that bank. My grandfather always did business with a bank in Schuylerville, so why did he take her to Greenwich?

Unfortunately, my mother is incorrect on the name of the bank. The Greenwich Savings Bank of New York started out in Greenwich Village in Manhattan in 1833, survived the Panic of 1893, & built a magnificent structure in 1924.* It closed it's doors in 1981 as the 16th largest bank in the US.^ It is quite possible the cinder block building at 170 Main did house a bank. Anyone know what it was called?


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Broom Twine & Shoe Thread

What? You heard right. Broom twine & shoe thread. That can only mean one thing...

You guessed it! Linen. What does linen have to do with Greenwich you may ask? I'll tell you.

From 1879 to 1952 Greenwich was the home to an (almost) continuously run linen mill. The Dunbarton Mill processed flax into study linen thread to be used  for the manufacture of brooms and shoes. Linen makes great thread because of the long, stiff fibers. Cotton has short, soft fibers and replaced linen for use in making clothes because the cotton gin, patented by Eli Whitney in 1794, made cotton cheaper to use. During the Civil War, cotton was in short supply, and linen was in demand. The Greenwich Linen Mill (1869) was built on the banks of the Batten Kill, to capitalize on the increased linen prices. The prices didn't last & by 1879 Dunbar & McMaster were able to open the doors as the Dunbarton Mill.

Some Dunbarton employees with 25 years on the job- 1945

Dunbar & McMaster also operated mills in Gilford, County Down, (Northern) Ireland and Patterson, NJ. Many of their workers came over from Ireland & settled in Greenwich (& NJ) bringing an influx of people to the small village. The Irish that came were Protestant and Catholic. They lived in mill houses which are still in use along Hill and John Streets.

The Old Gilford Mill in Northern Ireland*
In the weeks to come I'll write more about the mill, including a strike, a novel, and a tragedy...

For more information:
Ruddock, William T. Linen Threads and Broom Twines: An Irish and American Album and Directory of the People of the Dunbarton Mill: Greenwich, New York 1879-1952. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc. 1997.

* © Copyright HENRY CLARK and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence-

Edited 10/11/12- I removed the mill image previously posted. That mill image was of another Greenwich Mill, not the Dunbarton. Unable to locate a verifiable image of our Dunbarton in the town photograph collection, I opted for a more personal image. Thank you to Bill Ruddock for the clarification.
-Tisha Dolton, Historian

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adams, Mass is who's hometown?

My daughter & I needed to get away. I was finished with grad school for the semester, plus it was Mother's Day weekend, so we just up & left.

The 90 or so minute car ride was pleasant. We listened to Madonna (I refuse to listen to Ke$ha) & I only missed one turn in Adams. I was able to remedy the misdirection very quickly & in only a minute or so we were steadly winding our way through the northern Berkshires to our first destination.

There in the shadow of Mount Greylock, Massachusettes tallest peak (3,489 ft), sits an unassuming house with a small 4 or 5 car parking lot and gift shop. Have you guessed? It is the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum*. Susan and her family lived in the home until she was six years old & Daniel Anthony moved the family to Battenville. When we pulled in I was so giddy & excited, I had to sit in the car for a minute to gain my composure.

Greenwich Town Historian (me) in front the house

My daughter in what was probably the stock room for Daniel's store

An intern painted representations of little Susan for the gardens

There are some period furnishings in the house, but nothing original to the family or home. The main floor is open for tours and contains suffrage, temperance & abolition memorobelia. there is informative signage throughout & little take-away brochures. The upstairs is for staff, but you can glance up the stairwell.

I plan on going back this summer for an event with Penny Colman, author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World, which I have just started. Hope to see you there!

Some items of interest from the gift shop... The Mother of Us All: An Opera is available of CD, but the gift shop has the LP for sale. Awesome!

The Mother Of Us All on vinyl

And nothing says "Happy Golden Annivesary of the Passage of the 19th Amendment" like hairspray. You think I'm kidding? In 1970 Loreal launched suffrage hairspray in scented & unscented! I am so buying one when I go back this summer!

Loreal's Suffrage Hairspray circa 1970

Mount Greylock from the Anthony's yard

For reference:
Penny Colman's book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World is available from your favorite book store (ISBN 9780805082937)
The Mother of Us All: An Opera on CD (1992)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Anniversary to me!

April 24, 2012 (aside from being my 38th birthday) marked the beginning of my 9th year as Public Historian for the Town of Greenwich. My office is just as chaotic as it was in 2003. I still have three filing systems fighting for dominance. There are boxes I have not explored the contents of.

So, has anything changed? Yes, I now have a computer that is pretty current. In 2003, the computer in my office was from when I graduated from high school (Saratoga Central Catholic, Class of '92). I have a printer/scanner that is quite handy for blog posts. There have been some new editions, like those great dry glass plate negatives (see 4/7/11 & 5/18/11 blog posts). I created this blog. I started a Facebook page, even though there are only 14 "likes" so far. I need 30 to start getting stats. It's a small goal...

Below is the Town Office Building on 2 Academy Street. It used to house the Washington County Home for Aged Women. The Town Historian's office is were the two bottom corner windows to the left of the porch are.

Washington County Home for Aged Women postcard
Oh, and on May 16th I will be at the Greenwich Seniors meeting. I will bring some of the ephemera and photographs along to see if anyone can help me pinpoint some locations and put names to faces.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Iroquois Pulp & Paper

I tend to write these blog posts by the seat of my pants. I rarely have an idea of what I am going to write about before I come to work on a Thursday evening. That's probably why some posts are awesome & some are mediocre at best.

Anyway, as I began searching through the beautiful clutter that is this historians office, without a clue what tidbit would present itself to me, I came across the ephemera from the bicentennial, sesquicentennial, and centennial celebrations. As I was carefully thumbing though the items, I found myself leafing through the Village of Greenwich Centennial Program from Summer 1809. On the back cover, I spotted the most amazing image. It took me a moment to realize, truly see what I was staring at.

The image of the Iroquois Pulp and Paper Co. in Thomson startled me. The mill is laid out along the Hudson River. Northumberland is in the foreground siting along the Saratoga County side of the river. When you look closely, you can see the Champlain canal and the island it created. Behind the factory, are the mill houses, and just to the right of the water tower is the large white cupola of the big Victorian. But what is most shocking to me is the openness. The miles and miles of treeless fields. Now it is very wooded and overgrown.

Iroquois Pulp & Paper, manufacturers of hanging papers c.1809

I wonder if I could get a photograph now from a similar vantage point, maybe on Stark's Knob?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy Earth Day STOP!

Did you know that Greenwich High School has a student organization specifically devoted to recycling? I did not. This is their 40th anniversary!

According to an article on the school website Student To Oppose Pollution (STOP) was started in April 1972 by Linda Austin. "The club began as a monthly recycling campaign which collected 11 tons of paper, nine and one-half barrels of flattened cans and 23 barrels of crushed class in its’ first month of operation.  Linda continued as advisor of S.T.O.P. until her retirement in 2001."*

The first Earth Day was celebrated on March 21, 1970 in San Francisco & a few other cities. It wasn't until 1990 when it became a global phenomenon under the direction of Denis Hayes & the Earth Day Network

Ron Cobb's 1969 Ecology Symbol^

Happy Earth Day Anniversary to the students and educators who have made S.T.O.P. an important part of the Greenwich CSD & the entire Greenwich community. Celebrate by bringing your recyclables to Greenwich High School on Saturday, April 21, 2012. For more info see the link below... or check out our Facebook page!

For information on Roadside Clean-up this weekend in Greenwich, Easton & Argyle, pick up a copy of today's Greenwich Journal and Salem Press. accessed 4/19/2012
^ This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Attribution: WiscMel at en.wikipedia accessed 4/19/2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter postcards (& 'Like' us on Facebook!)

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter. Here are the Easter postcards from Mary Moriarty's collection. I especially like the one with the Easter Bunny riding an egg carriage with another bunny & a chicken pulling like stagecoach horses!

sent to Miss Nellie Moriarty 30 March 1907

sent to Miss Mame A Moriety 12 April 1906

sent to Mary Moriarty 30 March 1907

address side of the postcard shown above

sent to Master Paul Moriarty 30 March 1907

another 1907 postcard for Mary from NYC

from Madeline to Mary in 1907

another card from the same hand as #3 above
&... I have finally gotten around to creating a Facebook page for Town of Greenwich History. Here is the link Come check it out. I'll add local history events to the Facebook page as I find out about them too!