Tag Archives: Miscellaneous

May 1775

Tomorrow, May 11, will be the 198th anniversary of the taking of the ship LIBERTY, renamed from KATHERINE in honor of Philip Skene’s wife. This was effected by sailors and marines under the direction of Captains Brown and Sloan whom Benedict Arnold had sent to Skenesborough to finish the work intended for the Green Mountain Boys. The ship was taken down Lake Champlain and fitted out as a warship. Thus it became the first armed war ship of the United States Navy.

On May 9, 1775, occurred the capture of Skenesborough by the Green Mountain Boys under Captain Samuel Herrick. This capture took place during daylight hours. Another account reports that Captain Barnes from Salem arrived at dusk with another force for the same purpose. This brought the first military action of revolutionary nature into New York State and our community.

Perhaps many saw the account in the POST STAR May 3 that repeated the legends. In some respects true and in most false, even to the date of the capture, that are shallowly researched and written up sensationally to the discredit of Whitehall. The Town Historian sent a letter to the editor of that paper attempting to refute the implications.


James Lonergan of Mount Defiance gave a stirring talk before the Veterans of the Big “T” on that mountain Sunday, May 6. In giving a short history of the area and lauding our beautiful scenery, he gave to Skenesborough and so Whitehall its rightful place in the Revolutionary story that so many historians omit, for here it was that the first ships of the United States Navy were constructed for the fleet that saw action in Valcour – action that gave to us our United States.


Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Times – May 10, 1973

Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends


It is always a source of satisfaction to have readers of this column offer corrections or give additional material on a subject. Experience teaches that other sources when uncovered may refute what once was believed to be the final word. Good examples are the many “facts” about Philip Skene that were copied for so long and still are.

The cannon on the armory lawn were given to the Howitzer club and are the property of that club, not of the armory. The early 60’s found the wooden frames badly weathered and the club caused concrete forms to be made. The cannon now rest on a firm base. They are symbols of Skenesborough’s heritage.

Watch for the announcement that the old canal has been put on the National Register. In the village the bed has been filled in but the old wall of a section is seen as a wall of Riverside Park. The stone structure, constructed by Melancthon Wheeler in 1819, is still a sturdy formation. Parts of the canal can be seen in the fields south of the village with trees outlining the past on the side.

The Historical Society of Whitehall voted to provide an additional 50 copies of the “Introduction to Historic Resources in Washington County, New York.” The 5000 copies printed by the county are nearly all sold. These left will be the last to be sold by the Historical society. Besides by members of the society, the greater number of the books was sold from Tony’s Newsroom, Gerri’s Newsroom, The Whitehall Times, Marion’s dress shop and Macleod’s.

The National Survey of Washington County is continuing. This consists of a record of structures over 50 years old in each town with some history of it and a brief notation of its architectural features. This includes pictures of the buildings and means many interviews of the owners. Mrs. Sally Brillon of the Washington County Planning Board, who directed the “Introduction”, is carrying out the project with the assistance of town historians and many volunteers. The Historical Society is sponsoring this project in Skenesborough.

Besides the individual structures, maps are being prepared. An example is one of cemeteries, abandoned, destroyed sites, and present. Recently this column had a list of such in Skenesborough. Readers furnished other site locations not in any available lists. There will be a map for churches, schools, quarries, rock formations, etc. Assistance is asked for any information on homes and buildings.

Among the “lost” mansions of Skenesborough is that of Cook’s mansion on the Granville road. All of the other mansions have been pictured but I have been unable to locate a picture of this mansion that was in existence not too long ago

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Times – October 12 1986

Changes in Living

Someone a hundred years ago undertook to compare ways of life before then with their present. Some of these practices many of us can remember.

Food is always a subject of interest. Many people today, young and middle aged, eat no breakfast, drinking a cup of coffee only for the day ahead. In days past there were three meals a day. Breakfast in winter was salted ham and hot cakes. New Orleans molasses, very black and thin, was the common “sweetin” ‘ for buckwheat cakes. Refined molasses was scarce. In early teaching days I remember my astonishment when I saw my landlord eat a regular breakfast of, pork chops and pie — always pie for breakfast.

Bread was made at home, the regular item, not just for a treat. Coffee was ground afresh each, morning. The sound of the coffee grinder and the penetrating odor of the drink preceded the morning meal — experiences drinkers of instant coffee do not have.

Meals were heavy — pumpkin pie, codfish cakes along with salt salmon, pork and beans, corn bread, succotash. More meat, more grease, more hot bread, more heavy dishes, and more liquor at meals, summer and winter. Little importance was given to the necessity for good digestion or a period of rest afterwards. The diet was the same and surcharged with grease.

Thus when spring arrived, “spring fever” and biliousness came also and doctors prescribed a blue-mass pill, a dose of calomel, sulphur and molasses, or pin-cherry-black. Children were given castor oil, rhubarb and senna leaves. It was a day of strong medicine. The strong recovered, the weak died, and the mediums suffered.

People did not live as long then, and health was not as good as it is today. Dyspetics and consumptives were common. Disease and death were alluded to as”dispensations of Providence.” Tombstones had larger epitaphs and more verbosity engraved upon them. Coffins were plain; burial caskets unknown. Young people deemed it a privilege to sit up nights with, the “corpse before burial. In many cases it was a welcome diversion.

Country dry goods stores renewed their stock from the city twice a year. The arrival of “new goods” created a sensation. Stores were filled for two to three days until all the women in the village had seen the new styles. It isn’t too long ago when even village people bought flour, sugar and crackers by the barrel.

Business letters were more voluminous and formal than now and written in a precise, round hand.

Lightning rods had made their use. Many opposed them on the ground that they were insult to Deity and that it was an interference with the works and will of Providence.

Bank bills were of state banks and the farther West their locality the shakier they were.

Some household hints were: Place camphor gum with your silver to keep it bright; tobacco tea will kill worms in flower pots (not too long ago people were blowing cigarette smoke on plants for the same reason); vinegar will remove lime from carpets; rats and mice avoid chloride, of lime.

And so it went “in the good old days”.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Times – February 8, 1979

Collectibles in Whitehall

A collectible is any item that takes one’s fancy. For the ordinary person it usually is something that is fairly scarce, for search is part of the fun; something the price of which fits one’s pocket-book, for it is heartbreaking to lose a possible addition to a collection because of its high price.

A collectible can be large or small, decorative or ugly, knick knack or utilitarian. It can be glass, bottles, leather, metal, wood, paper and tin.

Some collectibles are items that have the name of Whitehall on them. During the Victorian Era that spilled over into the 20th Century, souvenir items where the vogue. Whitehall merchants secured gold rimmed six-inch plates with painted flowers or fruits with gold lettering, “Whitehall, N.Y.”

Then there were the china knick knacks with Whitehall pictures. As with post cards current there, the pictures were sent to Germany where the items were produced — small pitchers and different sized vases. Among the pictures were the armory, a view of Skene Mountain, and the harbor which was labeled the canal. One former merchant reported he had a trunk full of these when he went Out of business.

Red enamel on the top of pressed wine glasses sold souvenirs of Whitehall. A carnival glass cup with Whitehall written across the top, found in a South Glens Falls antique shop, makes one wonder if there is a whole tea set. A gold trimmed flower bedecked and covered milk glass dish could have been a pin holder on milady’s dresser. A cereal bowl with a picture of a dog found in Putnam Station advertised a Whitehall merchant. Glass paper weights featured the Champlain Silk Mills.

Many people in Whitehall are collecting such items. Some have milk bottles with the dairy names; some have bottles with the names of merchants. There are spoons, post cards, rocks of the area, advertisements. Some of each are in Skenesborough Museum but many more can be added to make the collection complete.

Collectibles are fun to acquire. The use of leisure time in searching out the desired article, the excitement when an especially rare one is found, the possible increase in value, and above all the pride of showing off one’s collection with the story of each “find” makes collecting collectibles worth while.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Times – September 22, 1977