Amsterdam’s Piano Man

When John Fea died on April 20, 1931, his obituary declared he was “one of Amsterdam’s best known residents.” Today he is all but forgotten.

Fea was born in Cherry Valley on April 10, 1852. He attended school in Fort Plain and Canajoharie. He was an industrious boy who earned money by selling molasses candy to passengers at the Canajoharie Palatine Bridge Railroad station. One day in 1866 a tall, thin, grizzled man and a short, stocky, burly man with a close-cropped red beard got off the train to take the stage coach to Sharon Springs. When the tall man saw Fea with his candy, he asked the short man if wanted some. He said he did. The short man had to remove his cigar to eat his candy, and eventually ended up with some of the sticky candy in his beard. You may have already guessed that the tall man was General William T. Sherman and the short man General Ulysses S. Grant. Continue reading “Amsterdam’s Piano Man”

Thanksgiving in the Mohawk Valley

Daniel T. Weaver

Thanksgiving Day 1893 was not a happy time for many people in Amsterdam, New York. The Panic of 1893 was a financial crisis which lasted four years and had a negative impact on the city. Many newspapers blamed the crisis on free trade or the removal of tariffs on American goods. The city of Amsterdam was used as an object lesson for the “blighting effects” of “the tariff wreckers.” In an account in the Amsterdam Daily Democrat published the day after Thanksgiving, Amsterdam was described as a city where “Nearly every mill is shut down. Thousands of men and women, who a year ago were employed, are on the the brink of want. A recent Amsterdam dispatch declares that the Aid and Benevolent society is attempting to care for several thousand destitute families. People daily go from house to house begging for food. Local trade is at a standstill. Various charitable organizations are making constant appeals for help. Numbers are deserting the town.” Continue reading “Thanksgiving in the Mohawk Valley”

When Guy Johnson Drank Everyone Under the Table & Other Stories From Stone Arabia (History)

By Daniel T. Weaver

It was a summer night in 1765 at a tavern in Stone Arabia (now the Town of Palatine, New York), and Guy Johnson had drunk all his companions under the table. One of them, Capt. Cornelius Cuyler, was so drunk he “gott into bed with the Landlady…She Cryed out—alarmed the Family—& sett us all a going!” So wrote Lord Adam Gordon in a letter to Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Division, on July 2, 1765, in which he apologized to Johnson for the behavior that had occurred. Johnson was there but slept through the “riotousness.” Continue reading “When Guy Johnson Drank Everyone Under the Table & Other Stories From Stone Arabia (History)”

Made in Canada: Schenectady’s Historic Colonial Era Cannon Silent Witness to History

By Neil B. Yetwin

One of the most enduring and intriguing of Schenectady’s many antiquities is the mounted cannon at the end of North Ferry Street in the Stockade’s Riverside Park. For nearly a century this imposing piece of ordnance has stood watch eastward over the Mohawk River as if expecting to defend the city against any who threatened the peace and security of its inhabitants. Schenectady historian John J. Birch suggested in 1961 that the cannon’s history “is a mystery which undoubtedly will never be solved.” Yet physical clues and scattered anecdotal evidence might shed light upon those mysteries that have shrouded the cannon for more than two centuries and perhaps help restore it to its proper place in Schenectady’s history. Continue reading “Made in Canada: Schenectady’s Historic Colonial Era Cannon Silent Witness to History”

Burning Slaves at the Stake in the Mohawk Valley (History)

By Daniel T. Weaver

The sentence of the five man court was that the prisoner “be carried to the place from whence she came + to be brot from there to the Place of Execution and there be burnt till she is dead.” The five Tryon (later Montgomery) County, New York justices were Jelles Fonda, (ancestor of Jane, Henry, Peter and Bridget), Adam Loucks (later a Stone Arabia tavern keeper), John Butler (notorious Tory raider during the Revolution), Joseph Chew (his son was Sir William Johnson’s god-child) and Peter Masten, Continue reading “Burning Slaves at the Stake in the Mohawk Valley (History)”

Rip van Winkle from Mohawk Valley some Say (History)

Washington Irving’s famous story, “Rip Van Winkle,” about a fictional man who returns to his village after mysteriously disappearing for twenty years, takes place in the Catskill Mountains along the Hudson Valley. Some people theorize, however, that in real life the story might have been influenced by a man from the Mohawk Valley—Petrus (Peter) Groot of Cranesville, about 25 miles west of Albany. Continue reading “Rip van Winkle from Mohawk Valley some Say (History)”

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