Voices of the Past

FORT JOHNSON – The voices of long-silenced historical figures made themselves heard again Saturday in a candlelit Old Fort Johnson.

The fort, on the corner of Routes 5 and 67, celebrated New York State Archives Month on Saturday night with an event called “Voices of the Past,”?which featured readings from 18th and 19th century letters and journals.

Several groups of visitors were led throughout rooms of the fort and listened to volunteers, some dressed in historical garb, as they read excerpts from various documents.

This year’s event was the first after a two-year break caused by the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.

“We’re very excited to be back having our events again after two years,” Museum Director Alessa Wylie said. “It feels good to be back.”

Wylie said the event is a favorite of hers and Site Manager Scott Haefner’s.

“We love to expose the fort to people, and it’s another opportunity to do that,” she said. “As historians, we love to do research, and so it’s fun to kind of dig around and find things to read. This is our favorite event to do that for. This is also our only candlelight event, and we love it. The candlelight in the fort is so magical, especially this time of year.”

The documents presented on Saturday included an 1824 property description of the fort, a 1779 letter written by George Washington describing his plans for an attack on the Iroquois during the Revolution, an 1862 Civil War correspondence of Capt. George Voorhees describing Gen. McClellan leaving his command, journal entries of Jonathan Pearson as he traveled the Erie Canal in 1833, a letter written by Betsey Reynolds Voorhees to the Marquis de Lafayette in 1828 and then his reply and two letters written in 1773 between Sir William Johnson and John Watts in which they discussed the wedding of their children John and Polly.

This year’s Voices of the Past was Haefner’s and Wylie’s sixth time putting it together.

Wylie said they encourage people to come to Old Fort Johnson around the holidays.

On Nov. 30 and Dec.1, the fort will be traditionally decorated as it was in 1749 and open for free touring and complimentary refreshments.

On Dec. 7, there will be a holiday tea at the site. The first seating will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the second seating will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The cost will be $20 per person, and seating is limited.

Reservations are required; call 843-0300 to make one.

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