Washington County Agricultural Fair [1975]

Many are now wending their way this week to Greenwich to attend the oldest chartered agricultural county fair in the Northeast. It also has the distinction of having the largest agricultural machinery display in New York State, second only to that of the New York State Fair.

One booth will be identified by its sign: Washington County Bicentennial 1975-1980. In it will be stressed arts and crafts of the County’s communities. Whitehall’s contribution this year is the Senior Citizens’ historical quilt with 48 blocks containing appliquéd and embroidered pictures and signs of Whitehall. Whitehall has long had displays at the county fair, especially those of the two Granges and the 4-H in the Grange Hall.

What about the very early years of this oldest chartered fair? Like many Organiza-tions it had its forerunner. In December, 1818, a group of interested citizens met at the Sandy Hill (Hudson Fa11s) Court House with the Hon. Asa Fitch, father of the historian, in the chair. They decided to form a constitu tion for an agricultural society and made a plan for its constitution. The first item of business was a plan to protect its members from horse thieves, Two months later, February, 1819, at the home of Joseph Rouse in Argyle, 40 members signed the constitution. Melanction Wheeler was the signer for Whitehall.

Wake up” meetings were held in various towns for the ‘Farmers’ Holiday” as they were called; really friendly gatherings for one day. In September, Whitehall Wiswell’s Tavern hosted this town’s fair.

During the following years special events were held. In 1822 there was a plowing match with the plowers in white frocks and spears of wheat in their hats. In 1825 in Union Village (Greenwich) five dollars was awarded to the female who shall appear in full dress, as far as practicable, of her own domestic manufacture.”

In 1826 in Argyle first place was given to one who could plow 1/8 of an acre in the best manner, turning a furrow four to five inches wide and nine to eleven inches deep in less than 45 minutes with horses or 60 minutes with oxen. One year a prize was given to a lady equestrienne but it was discontinued because more attention was paid to that than to the animals and produce.

On 4 August 1842 the Washington County Agricultural society was organized. This year it was held in Greenwich and for the first time the interest the ladies participated in the events of the day was noted in 1843. In I844 at Greenwich a subsoil plow was exhibited.

The fairs were now rotated from town to town, the choice being the town that would donate the most money. In 1848 the 8th annual Fair and Cattle Show was held in Argyle. The report of the New York State Agricultural society for 1849 stated that the annual meeting of the society was held at Phoenix Hotel in Whitehall with John H. Boyd president. Unfortunately the report of the county fair was not given, though awards were made to Isaac Wood for 373/4 bushels per acre of wheat, to Nathan Jackson for corn, 92 bushels, and to Andrew Wilson for corn, 91 bushels, all of Whitehall.

In 1860 there was a three day fair because of the Civil War. The fair was omitted in the next two years. In 1863 Salem promised to furnish ground and buildings if the fair would be held there regularly for eight years. In 1865 the fair continued for four days and Horace Greeley was the speaker. A main feature at all the early fairs was an oration.

This year prizes were offered for the fastest trotting horses. In 1971 an agreement was made for the next ten years for the fair to be held on ground between Sandy Hill and Fort Edward with the society receiving the benefit of 25 acres of ground, the buildings, and $2500 bonus. Thus were the seeds of the present Washington County Agricultural Fair sown.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – August 21, 1975

Museum Opens for 18th Season [1976]

Skenesborough Museum is now officially open for its 18th season [in July 1976]. The theme “Whitehall – Navy, Lake, Canal, and Railroad” suggests the: type of exhibits displayed.

The Navy Room in the new Judge John J. O’Brien Memorial wing contains the Edward G. Farmer model of the 1776 Skenesborough Harbor and the Vergennes Shipyard of the War of 1812. Pictures and artifacts give further details.

The large room in its exhibits places emphasis on canal, lake and railroad history. Other exhibits tell of Whitehall history in fire department and farm and home implements. The names of the other rooms are the War Room, the Doll Room, the Admiral Potter Room, and the Skene’s Room gives a hint of their exhibits.

Rearrangement of the exhibits following the Horizon addition to the museum will continue. The assistance of many volunteers has made the opening possible at this time.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 1, 1976

Window Displays [1976]

Bicentennial displays of the organizations are beginning to fill the store windows for the Old Home Week observance.

In Sach’s Jewelry store the Rural Charity Club’s aims — Faith, Hope, Charity — are explained delightfully in words and serio-comic models.
In Aiken’s restaurant the Senior Citizens have placed articles that suggest a century ago in the home — women’s dress with apron holding a water pitcher and candle stick, a child’s traveling trunk, Dresden plate sofa and locket, stand with doilies cushion, braided rug, and bouquet of dried flowers.

Broadway Market window contains Mettowee Valley Business and Professional _ Women’s Club objectives for women with streamers that lead from an enlarged picture of its emblem.

In TexGas window are the implements that recall a small home industry of candy making of Mattie and Bella Henry. The peanut roaster, the cart used in drawing the candy bags, the scales, marble and hook that pulled the taffy are displayed.

In Jumbo’s IGA Market is the exhibit of the Elementary School Art Club. It is a mural – with a center eagle spread 1776-1976, with 16 individual posters surrounding it, expressing each child’s bicentennial conception.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 1, 1976

2nd Bicentennial and Dedication

How can a community have two bicentennials within 17 years? Easy, if that community is Skenesborough. And how can a museum have two dedications within that period? Again, easy if it is Skenesborough Museum.

Skenesborough Museum was created 17 years ago during the town’s bicentennial year, for it was founded in 1959. This celebration coincided with the 350th anniversary of the discovery of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. This year, 1976, the birthday of the nation, a wing was added to the museum and dedicated to the memory of Judge John J. O’Brien who among other community services helped in alerting the legislature to the fact that Whitehall is the Birthplace of the United States Navy.

Whitehall’s participation in the 1959 event was initiated in three organizations, the Historical Society of Whitehall, the town board, and the chamber of commerce. At-tending the first state meeting in Albany as representatives were the late Supervisor Jerome Campbell, chamber of commerce member the late Alfred Washburn, Marion Guerin and Doris Morton of the Historical society.

From reports of these delegates, whose organizations had been talking for several years about the 200th birthday. The celebration idea caught fire and grew into a great community project. The chamber of commerce appointed Francis Layden chairman of the event; Governor Averill E. Harriman appointed James Roche Washington county chairman. The late Miss Eva Johnson became secretary, and Mrs. Thyrza Kinner, treasurer.

The Canal Terminal building, a reinforced concrete structure built in 1917, had been slated for demolition by the State of New York. Letters from Whitehall’s or-ganizations urging permission to use it as museum were recognized. It was dedicated 28 June 1959, with Miss Catharine Potter, daughter of Rear Admiral William Potter, cutting the ribbon. The following year 1960 through the efforts of the town board and the late Judge O’Brien the town received permission to use the building as long as it was used as a museum.

Following discontinuance of the building in 1932 as a canal building, it had been used as a town shed for many years. Under the leadership of Russell Terry a great corps of men and women dug tar from the floor, cleaned the walls and painted the exterior. A contest was held for a name and 29 names out of the 40 entered produced the name Skenesborough Museum.

The chairman of the Museum committee requested exhibits from organizations to fill the long building. Displays were arranged by the Grange, Sportsman’s club, Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company, the American Legion, the seventh and eighth grade art and industrial classes, the Historical society and the D&H Railway Company. Rearranged and augmented, these are still a part of the museum.

In 1958 the New York State (Legislature enacted a proclamation that Whitehall is the Birthplace of the United States Navy, a copy of which hangs in the museum. For a navy display the late Edward G. Farmer, U.S. Navy Retired, from Orwell, Vt., affectionately known as “Captain”, produced a detailed model of the Skenesborough harbor and shipyard of 1776, with models of the ships built in it. As a “labor of love”, Captain Farmer constructed this model in a period covering Jan. 4 to a June 29, 1959. It is still the main attraction of the museum, now in the Navy room of the Judge John J.O’Brien Memorial Wing.

Over its 17 years of existence Skenesborough Museum has grown slowly but steadily in acquisitions from its friends. Finances, in a low key, have been derived fromthe annual letter to Friends of the Museum and the community calendar. The smalladmission fee maintains the services. Visitors, world wide, increase in numbers eachseason and are enthusiastic in their praise of what they term a “unique” museum.

Over the years “curators” have been loyal in their labor and interest. Longest in terms of years has been Mrs. Catherine Senecal. Floyd a Coleman was a dedicated member for many years, with his knowledge of local history, his interest in detail, and the care of the physical structure. Others for shorter terms have been James Keenan, Claribel Snody, Margery Coppins, Elaine Senecal and Linda Beckwith. The present “curators” are George Greenough and Frank Brown.

The original museum committee of five members has served since 1959: Chairman Doris Morton, Vice Chairman James Roche, Treasurer Thyrza Kinner, Attorney E. Francis Layden and Marion Guerin. Over the years were added Floyd Coleman, George Greenough, Carol Greenough and Frank Brown. With a change structure and method the total membership has been increased to 11 with, Evelyn Benjamin, Robert Kana and Horace Scott, Jr.

Several years ago a suggested plan for an addition was drawn up by George Greenough. This became reality, through the town board and the Judge John J O’Brien Memorial committee. Whitehall has obtained its Horizon part of the National slogan Heritage Festival and Horizon.” The addition parallels the acquisition of the museum 17 years ago. Skenesborough Museum is not just another museum. It is one that is worthy of Whitehall’s history and one that receives the admiration of the visiting public.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July, 1, 1976

(No Title) “Philadelphia Rechristened”

Philadelpia Rechristened

The boat shown here under British colors will be flying the colors of the United States following its rechristening as the “Philadelphia” at ceremonies at the Skenesborough Museum grounds launching site on the afternoon of the Fourth of July. The ceremony will take place following the religious service in which the ecumenical churches of Whitehall will participate.

This 28-foot boat is a converted lifeboat, outfitted for sailing and also fitted for rowing. There are eight oarsman stations. A crew of ten seamen and officers will be the normal complement. The craft will be armed with cannon and various other arms.

A second boat which will be christened the “New York” will be put in service, at a later date, coinciding with the completion date anniversary of the last of Arnold’s fleet built in 1776 Skenesborough.

The future “New York” of slightly different construction, it will be on the Skenesborough grounds during next week’s festival and for some time thereafter to be repaired and outfitted in preparation for its joining the “Philadelphia” as a second ship the Skenesborough Navy.

The Celebration ‘76 Bicentennial commission has purchased the boats, which now will become property of the Skenesborough Museum and will be used to acquaint youth with the naval heritage of Skenesborough (Whitehall).

Volunteers of all ages are invited to become members of the ‘Skenesborough Navy” and to participate in reenactments and sailing exercises.

An invitation has already been received for Sept. 17, 1977, a year in advance for the boats to take part in the battle of Diamond Island near Lake George.

During the summer of 1977, the boats will be active in the Burgoyne Invasion and will be involved in the battle of Skenesborough harbor.

Individuals and organizations wishing to assist financially the support of this new venture in the teaching of Skenesborough’s history should contact either the Bicentennial commission or the Skenesborough Museum.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 1, 1976