Our Old Times: Sir William Johnson’s forced vacations

Our Old Times: Sir William Johnson’s forced vacations

If Sir William Johnson wasn’t naturally a Type A workaholic, the life he led as Indian Superintendent certainly made him one. His letters frequently complain of on-going ailments, plus continually being annoyed almost to death by Indian-related obligations. During one period of ill health, in January 1764 for example, Johnson informed General Gage, “the Indians give me not a moments rest, being continually at my bedside.” Even when he was ill, they didn’t leave him alone. As time passed, his constant mental stressors must have considerably aggravated his physical ailments, while facing endless challenges that would have broken the constitution…
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Sir William Johnson, Johnson Hall, and historical fake news

Sir William Johnson, Johnson Hall, and historical fake news

Having served as a docent (visitor guide) at Old Fort Johnson, I’ve heard some far-fetched stories about Sir William Johnson related as absolute truths coming from the uninformed lips of visitors. Worst-case scenarios are tourists who believe Robert Chambers’ historical fiction but have never read one accurate Johnson biography. Tourist’s false and frequently comical misbeliefs about Johnson Hall and Sir William, as collected and related by former Johnson Hall Superintendent Wanda Burch, form a collection of both historical and hysterical misinformation one can hardly forget. Prominent are the ‘secret tunnel’ stories, in two versions. Version one states there was a…
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When berry picking turns deadly

Watch out whose berries you pick. While picking wild blackberries in my own neighborhood — I won’t tell you where — I couldn’t help recall another berry-picking expedition back in 1860 that went very wrong for Meco farmer Horatio Grant. In attempting to keep these articles timely, it seems only right to present this latest murder while many of us are still out there picking. At least none of you will run into Horatio. A retrospective 1898 Gloversville Daily Leader article discussed Grant’s rather unusual case, informing readers, “In 1863, counselor McIntyre Frasier was allowed one hundred dollars by the…
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Our Old Times: Mayor Gideon Green and the Soft Drink War of 1933

Our Old Times: Mayor Gideon Green and the Soft Drink War of 1933

There it was on page three of the June 22, 1932 Morning Herald, a large headline stating, “Police to Receive Orders to Treat Unlicensed Vendors of Beverages as Violators of City Soft Drink Ordnance.” Mayor Gideon Green reminded Common Council members that the law had already been on the books since 1924 and it was time to start enforcing it. Enforcing what? In case council folk didn't remember, he reiterated it for both them and the press. “Under the terms of the soft drink ordinance, anyone dispensing drinks of any kind other than coffee, tea, milk, cocoa, and chocolate is…
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Scams are nothing new

Scams are nothing new

Scams aren’t new. They existed long before the telephone, computer, and internet were dreamed of. Probably the most common, most successful 19th- and early 20th- Century scams involved selling lightning rods, and this was usually practiced against farmers whose livelihood centered around preserving their barns. The original mid-century form of lightning rod scam occurred when a slick salesman displaying phony credentials from a supposedly-legitimate, but non-existent company would convince a farmer to protect his home and barn by buying the salesman’s rods. The salesman promised a rod installer would appear shortly after the farmer gave the salesman a cash deposit.…
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Steenburgh — A really unpleasant man

Steenburgh — A really unpleasant man

April 19, 1878 is very likely the only day in New York state history when the public school of a village was closed due to a hanging, but closed it was in Fonda that fatal day when Samuel Steenburgh, who murdered Amsterdam Minaville resident Jacob D. Parker the night of Nov. 18, 1877, was sent swinging to his doom in the courtyard beside the old Montgomery County Court House. Jacob Parker was generally referred to as a farmer, but he wasn’t exactly. He and his brother lived with their mother in Minaville, and while they did farm their own property,…
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