In the autumn of 2006, we made the lengthy drive out to beautiful Schoharie, NY, in the eastern region of New York State. Our destination: The Old Stone Fort and Museum.
The Stone Fort was originally built as a Dutch Reformed Church in 1772. The names of the parishoners are carved into the stones of the walls. In 1777, an uprising of Tories in the area caused the Patriots to build a stockade around the church. Continental soldiers were garrisoned there in 1778 and 1779. During the nasty British raids on the Mohawk Valley during this time, this fort sheltered the local residents.
After the Revolution, the fort became a church again until it was sold as an armory for the State in 1857. Twenty years later, the building was given to Schoharie County as an historic site, and the Fort opened as a museum in 1888.
And wow! This was one interesting museum! Think of something–anything– and the antique version of it was displayed! Arrowheads (billions of them), buttons, weapons, dolls, uniforms, fossils, a whale’s tooth, shoe buckles from Patriot’s boots, medals, letters, 19th century- era weaponry from the Philippines (including old war shields and spears), minerals, vehicles, tools, stuffed birds, paper, deeds, documents, badges, musical instruments, dental tools, farm tools, one of the first mechanical calculators, portraits, and much more!
Here is a list of the things I found the most intriguing:
Letter written by Joseph Brant to a Patriot friend: The writing was beautiful. Either Brant took a lot of penmanship classes or he dictated his letter to a scribe. It was amazing to see.
Deeds for tracts of land: everyday, boring documents? Not these. They did have the usual mumbo-jumbo legalese found in any deed, with the signatures following; but the interesting things were at the bottom: dark brown spots and little cartoon pictures— the “marks” of the Indians who sold their land. They “made their mark” with their own blood and then drew a cartoon of their name (like, Running Wolf and Turtle Leaf).
Money: There were miscellaneous coins and bills, but the showpiece was an original Three Dollar Note dated 1776. Another note, $5, was dated 1779. These are truly rare– money was very, very rare during the Revolution.
Butler’s Rangers Badge: The original badge from 1774 or so, given to the American Loyalists who joined Walter Butler’s motley crew of murderers. Also displayed were original weapons used during the Revolution– bayonets, muskets, pistols, knives. Needless to say, my sons loved this area.
Hair wreaths: Yep. Wreaths made of hair. Typical colors, too. The display card read that women would often save hair after brushing, and after enough had been reserved, they “combed” through the strands to organize them into similar colors. They then wound the hair around a narrow pencil-like implement, to curl the strands. Then they assembled and attached the curled hair into a circular wreath. Some were adorned with ribbons. They actually hung these things on their walls.
Maxim machine gun made in Berlin in 1918: There were lots of guns at the museum. But this one was pretty impressive– it was huge and looked fierce.
Wood from Tim Murphy’s coffin: You don’t know who Tim Murphy was?!?!?! How can you not? Actually, I didn’t either, until my brainy kids informed me that Murphy was a member of Dan Morgan’s gang. If you don’t know who Dan Morgan is, well, then, shame on you! Even I know that! 😉 You’d be speaking in a British accent if not for him.
Oldest fire engine in the United States: This fire engine was constructed one year before George Washington was born. Neat!
After satiating ourselves in the Fort, we trekked across the complex to see the other buildings. They were smaller and held fewer, less interesting objects (at least, to us), but it was still very enjoyable. One building displayed antique technology: radios, microphones, stereos, televisions, etc.
A barn, one of the oldest in the state as it is from Revolutionary days, held various farm implements. A unique freedom pole and a small hay barn were outside of this building.
The Red Schoolhouse was interesting. It was a “hands-on”building. It was modeled after what a real schoolhouse would have looked like in post-Civil War days. You could sit in the small wooden desks, handle the slates, gaze at portraits of George Washington and Abe Lincoln. It was interesting. Small lesson books on each desk had examples of elementary-grade curricula.
Leafing through the curriculum example was a real treat. The mathematics section was not difficult but the language of the questions was incredibly complex when compared to our “Reader’s Digest” type of writing today. The students obviously had excellent reading comprehension skills, even at such a young age as took this elementary math.
I copied a few questions from the book:
1. How many acres of land in three fields containing 40, 15, and 25 acres, respectively?
2. For how much must I sell a horse that cost me 120 dollars to gain 25 dollars?
3. A pole is 15 feet in the air, 9 feet in the water, and 5 feet in the earth. How long is the pole?
In the back of the book were some “laws.” I am not sure if the student memorized these laws, or if these were supposed to be a help for the teacher. Read the two that I copied and note the complex language of the writing!
The Law of Readiness: When a modifiable bond is ready to act, to act gives satisfaction and not to act gives annoyance.
The Law of Effect: A modifiable bond is strengthened or weakened according to as satisfyingness or annoyances attends its exercise.
It was quite an education to peruse the schoolhouse.
I hope to go back to the Old Stone Fort, and take my husband next time. A great museum!