As we passed through
York, approaching its eastern border, we came to one of the more beautiful
areas we have been in. Nestled in the Catskills
is the small community of Schoharie. Here the folks have preserved a piece
of American history in a most impressive way. On SR 30 just past Fox Creek
lies an old stone church. On the grounds surrounding the church are an
assortment of old buildings with various histories. We stopped for a while
to take in the scenery and peruse the grounds. Without question, the main
attraction here, is the old stone church which once stood as a fort.
Standing in front of the entrance, I looked over the outer wall as I listened
to a speaker (imbedded in the ground) softly tell of the church/fort and the part it played in
Revolutionary history. From this speaker I learned that the building was originally built as a Dutch Reformed Church
in 1772, and that the names of the original parishioners are carved into the stones of the walls.
This would make it older than the USA itself. In 1777, an uprising of Tories in the area caused the
locals to build a
stockade around the church. Continental soldiers were garrisoned there in 1778
and 1779. The only military action seen at the fort occurred on October
17, 1780 when a force of some 800 loyalists and Indians under Sir John Johnson
attacked. The creators of the church had intended it to stand for all
times, and thus made it of substantial stone which was quite thick. The battle
was short and the fort withstood the assault although there is a small
cannonball hole in one
part of the building. With the Revolutionary War over, the stockade was removed
in 1785 and the building went back to being a sturdy old church until 1844 when
it was replaced with the Church now in the village. The building was sold to New
York State for $800 in 1857. It again saw a military usage during
the Civil War when it was used as an armory. It was then given to the
county historical society. It opened as a museum in 1888. Finally adventuring
inside, we met Pam. This docent was to be our charming and informative
host and guide for the rest of the trip through the building. A building
that we found stuffed with all kinds of interesting and seemingly one of a kind
items that obviously had been collected over the ages for just such a
purpose. The collectors had not restricted themselves to matters of either
church or fort. The only pre-requisite seemed to be age, and these items
were really old. We started off in the Revolutionary section where there
was plenty to read. One was the story of the capture of Benedict Arnold or
more accurately put, the
capture of one Major John Andre, a British officer, whom Arnold had given the
plans to West Point to, by three young Americans lead by a David Williams.
The stories of these less know characters of the War made for some interesting
reading. Then there was a trivia question, only known to the most ardent of military historians. When was the first American Calvary charge?
You can find it in the placards in the museum. It occurred on August 13th,
1777, at the "Battle of Flockey", when the 29 men of Ulster County
Light Horse of the Revolutionary Army, under Captain Sylvester Salisbury,
charged a band of loyalists at the end of an open field the early German
settlers had called "Die Flache" or the flats, from which the corrupt
word Flockey was created.
After reviewing the Revolutionary War section we branched out to find the things that interested us the most. Laura found the table with the most fun, the toy table. This contained a hands-on example of the things that kids played with long before computers, or electricity for that matter. She is holding a toy made up of small pieces of wood attached to cloth strips. When she held it vertically at one end, each successive piece of wood would drop down and hit the one below it with a little "pop". She would then hold it at the bottom, and lift it up and the order would reverse itself.
The main room expanded out to house a myriad of table displays which showed off the more delicate items. Money used in Revolutionary times, buttons, guns, articles, deeds and such. There was a little something for just about everybody.
Across the street from the church is the old town cemetery. I never found out if it was currently still in use or not but it is well manicured and around it the historical society has placed many of the valuable buildings which they have saved over the years. Having spent part of my youth on a farm in Vermont, I loved the old Revolutionary era barn with its marvelous hand tools. No power here, unless you consider a one or two horse power driving force. But it was the smell that I loved the most. Something about a hay barn that really brings back memories. And there was an old red school house. There were some pretty interesting books inside. It is funny what people were taught a long time ago. I don't think the kids of today would understand. All in all it was a fine day's outing which I would recommend.
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