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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Chester A. Arthur - Hoosick

Corner of South Street and Route 7 - Hoosick
From The Hoosick Township Historical Society February 2004 Newsletter (Editor: Phil Leonard; Museum Curator: Charles Filkins):

Chester Arthur lived in the Hoosick area around the 1850s. His father was a Baptist minister and pastor of the Hoosick Baptist Church. The family lived on Hill Road and the home is still being used.

He was born on October 25, 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont. Years later a book was written untitled “How a British Subject Became President of the United States”. This book claimed he was actually born in Canada but took the birthday of a brother that died as an infant and was born in the United States. The book claimed that when he received the nomination for vice president he simply appropriated the birthday of his dead brother.

In an interview in 1932, Julia Plant, a lifelong friend of the Arthur family, stated that Chester Arthur lived on the Hill Road when he was in his early twenties and was attending Union College. The family lived five years in Hoosick and Arthur came home often by stagecoach. He studied to be a teacher and lawyer. His sister Mary Arthur McElroy, also a Hoosick resident, acted as his official White House hostess. Information in biographies and on the Internet fail to mention President Arthur’s connection with Hoosick. Locally it is said he taught at the Old Stone School House but the literature only states that he became schoolmaster in North Pownal after college in 1849. He went back to Union College and received his Master’s degree in 1851 and in 1853, at age 23, joined the law firm of Culver and Parker in New York City as a clerk. Chester Arthur can be found listed in the 1850 census of Hoosick.

In 1880, during the Republican National Convention, he was selected as the running mate of James Garfield. The assassination of President Garfield in July, 1881, elevated him to the Presidency. Since he had been the second choice of Garfield many in the country thought that he would be an ineffectual leader. “During his administration he supported the Pendleton law for civil service reform; vetoed the act prohibiting Chinese immigration for 20 years; supported the Tariff Act of 1883 and Edmunds law prohibiting polygamy in the territories. Three transcontinental railways were completed his term. He spent only three years, 166 days as the President. He was unable to get the nomination of his party in 1884.

By the end of his term in office Chester Arthur had become a widely admired president. Publisher Alexander McClure wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired....more generally respected.” He died of a heart ailment in New York City on November 18, 1886 at the age of 56. He was buried with other members of his family in the Albany Rural Cemetery, Albany, New York.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Down With the Rent" Banner

The above photo of the historic "Down with the Rent" banner located in the Grafton Town Hall suffers from glare and is somewhat hidden behind a bell that was removed from one of the town's churches. But its story is interesting. The write-up below was in a brochure made available at the Town Hall.

The Anti-Rent Wars were fought throughout the Hudson Valley of New York State on land manors from the late 1830's through 1850's. Although it is a little remembered chapter of New York history today, it had significant political and economic implications at the time which continue to resonate even today. An archaic feudal land holding system was in existence from the 17th through the 19th century on the estate of the Patroon of Albany and Rensselaer counties, and of other estates in the lower Hudson Valley. It gave farmer tenancy to the lands in perpetuity, but blocked the sale of the property to the men who worked the land. After many years of lax rent collection, large back rent accounts accrued in Rensselaerwyck Manor.  This vast holding was comprised of 3/4 million acres and had more than 3,000 tenants. When the so called "good patroon," Stephen Van Rensselaer died, his will specified that all back rents be collected immediately to settle his debts. The tenant farmers were stunned and dumbfounded. Efforts to collect these back rents made delinquent farmers desperate. They organized a political movement known as the Antirenters Party whose symbol was the hatchet held by the Indian on the banner. It lobbied for legislative redress, electing enough members to constitute 1/8 of the legislature from 1842-1847. Many meetings and assemblies were held. Local Anti-Rent Associations were formed including the Grafton Anti-Rent Mutual Protection Association. They had at least 62 dues paying members including Peter Hydorn. [Rensselaer County Historical Society] Meanwhile the farmers withheld further rent payments. Sheriffs and their deputies were dispatched to collect the rents or evict the farmers and their families and auction off household goods to pay back rents. Farmers resisted, dressing in calico "dresses" and leather masks to disguise themselves. They called themselves Calico Indians. Tin dinner horns were used to summon neighbors for help when the sheriff arrived or when bands gathered to dissuade tenants from paying their rent. Armed resistance included threats and acts of violence including one in Grafton in 1944. A band of about 36 Calico Indians approached Elijah Smith who was cutting wood for the Patroon. The heated exchange led to the gunshot death of Smith.

Another documented anti-rent activity in Grafton was the preaching by Rev. Peter Stover on the tax collection. The so-called taxes or fees of 3 cents per acre of leased land were imposed on members of the Grafton Ant-Rent Association. Some of the monies were used to fund the costs of attorneys in lawsuits related to the Anti-Rent activities. Other documents suggest some of the monies were used to buy ammunition for Calico Indian members. [Grafton Historical Society - Hydorn Collection] This is reported to have split the Methodist congregation and 25 families left the church.
Finally, legislation was enacted and a constitutional amendment was passed at the state constitutional convention in 1846 which made it illegal to lease land for agricultural purposed for more than 12 years. The wars died out in the 1850's. A few small remnants survive to remind us of the conflict.

This banner is a significant artifact because it is a unique object of this historical period which had both political and economic implications for the state. It is also an excellent example of folk art of the period.

The banner belonged to Peter T. Hydorn (1812-1876), a Grafton resident and documented member of the Grafton Anti-Rent Association.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Poestenkill Fire Company


The Poestenkill Fire Company Main Street station has a nice hall that can be rented. I was impressed with it when I attended a recent meeting of the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance held there and I also have a friend whose daughter's wedding reception was held there to good reviews. (click here for details).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Grafton Lakes State Park

Grafton Lakes State Park - Second Pond
Grafton Lakes State Park is not just for the summer. There are 2,500 acres, 4 ponds and 25 miles of hiking trails.  Cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing in the winter is very popular. Snow shoes can be rented  and a section of Long Pond is plowed for ice skating.  The park staff maintains a nice Facebook Page that allows you to stay informed on what's happening.

The Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park do a lot to complement the work done by the top-notch full-time park staff.  Take a look at the work they've been doing restoring Dickinson Hill Fire Tower.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Berkshire Bird Paradise Sanctuary

Navy Seals Rescue Wounded Afghan Eagle

Berkshire Bird Paradise Sanctuary, located at 43 Red Pond Road in Petersburgh, is one of the largest and best known bird sanctuaries for disabled and injured birds in the United States. It is open May through October.  The above video from a year ago gives an idea of the good work done by them and features comments by Barbara Chepaitis who authored the book Feathers of Hope on the place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Halo 'Round the Moon

We're on the backside of a full moon on the Plateau. The other day, I posted a photo of it, with a halo around it, silhouetted by some hemlocks for the RPL daily banner photo. My inexpensive Canon PhotoShot SD780 didn't do it justice. But I got to thinking about the halo 'round the moon.

According to the Farmer's Almanac, "A lunar halo is caused by the refraction, reflection, and dispersion of light through ice particles suspended within thin, wispy, high altitude cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. As light passes through these hexagon-shaped ice crystals, it is bent at a 22 degree angle, creating a halo 22 degrees in radius (or 44 degrees in diameter). A double halo, sometimes with spokes, may be seen on rare occasions when light reflects off water or ice."

For more additional information on this phenomena, check out What Makes a Halo Around the Moon?Moon Light Effects: Moon Rings, Mood Dogs and Other Moon Light Phenomena... and Moonbows, Moon Dogs, and Moon Pillars: Lunar Optical Illusions.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vonadeau Wine & Spirits

70 South Main St., Berlin
Here's another excuse to visit the village of Berlin: Vonadeau Wine & Spirits. Owner Cheryl Thibodeau has a beautiful shop that I believe stands out from anything Bennington, Williamstown or Troy has to offer.  The Photo Gallery on the shop's website provides a sneek preview of what's behind the shop's quaint exterior.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ruebel Farms Flower and Garden Shop

18435 NY Rt 22 - Berlin
Ruebel Farms Flower and Garden Shop has high quality perennials, annuals, herbs and dried flower at very reasonable prices. Right now the focus is on holiday wreaths and kissing balls. Owner Judy Ruebel's superb customer service will bring you back again and again. Check out the Ruebel Farm's Facebook page for more information.

Holiday Kissing Ball Purchased from Ruebel Farms

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hoosac School

Located on Pine Valley Road, just off NY 7 in the Town of Hoosick, The Hoosac School, founded in 1889, is a coeducational, college preparatory school enrolling boarders and a few day students grades 8 through postgraduate. While welcoming students of diverse religious backgrounds, the school retains its historic affiliation with the Episcopal Church through its on-campus chapel. The 350-acre campus is the site of the former Tibbits family estate, adjoining the 850-acre Tibbits State Forest.

Hoosac's History webpage is quite interesting. Here are my favorite tidbits from it:
  • The late Burgess Meredith, the distinguished American actor, graduated from Hoosac in 1926.
  • The Mansion has a tunnel leading beneath the campus down to the Hoosic River. It was sealed at both ends in 1952. The tunnel is rumored to have been used as an escape route when the Tibbits estate was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
  • Owen Wister, the 19th century American novelist, wrote his classic, The Virginian, while a summer guest of the Tibbits family here on the campus. His story is the prototype of all Westerns.
  • LeGrand Tibbits, our founder's brother, gave a band of gypsies permission in the late 1800's to camp at the Old Stone School House on the corner of our property. They finally left in 1965. Rumor ties LeGrand romantically with a gypsy princess during his youth.

Tibbetts Hall (former Tibbits Mansion)
A brownstone Gothic mansion constructed in 1860, houses administrative offices and a girls dormitory.
Blake Science Center

How many high schools have their own observatory?


A beautiful campus with a view of the Taconic Mountains and an 850-acre state forest in their backyard!