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.