February 21, 2011

Old Stone Fort Museum Complex

During my trip to the Adirondacks, I visited the Old Stone Fort Museum Complex in Schoharie, NY. The structure was originally erected as a High Dutch Reformed Church in 1772, but was converted into a fort after the 1777 uprising of the local Tories. After the war, it reverted back to church use until, in 1873, the State Legislature gave the fort to the County of Schoharie for preservation as a historic structure and it has operated as a museum ever since.

At the time of my visit, I found out that the museum was under renovations and would not reopen for a month. It was a sunny April afternoon, so I settled for a stroll around the grounds where I viewed a Revolutionary War cemetery featuring several monuments and stacks of cannon balls. I was soon approached by a woman who told me that she was caretaker of the facility. I explained to her that I was visiting the area from Long Island and that I was disappointed at having missed my opportunity to tour the museum. She agreed to show me around the exterior of the building and proceeded to point out to me names etched into the stone walls of the parishioners who contributed to the construction of the original church. Around the back of the fort, she showed me the hole made by a cannon ball fired during a Tory raid in 1780.

Seeing my enthusiasm and gauging that I was a trustworthy person, the lady said that it would be alright with her if I took a quick look around inside and then pulled a large key ring out of her pocket. I jumped at the opportunity and thanked her heartily. As I stepped into the fort, I discovered all of the display cases covered with tarps and coated with a layer of sawdust. Piles of 2x4s and power tools littered the middle of the floor and the place looked much more like a danger zone than a museum. For the hour and a half that followed, the woman gave me the "unofficial grand tour" of the museum, uncovering all of the antique treasures and relaying the personal stories behind many of the artifacts. I got to tap on the "death drum" which was used to march condemned prisoners to the gallows from the County Jail. I saw early typewriters, military uniforms, rocking horses, and carriages. I heard the tale of a pair of ornate wooden boxes that were made by a soldier for his twin daughters in 1778. The boxes were lost sometime after the war, but both ended up returning to the fort  to be put on display decades apart from each other. My afternoon at the museum felt more like a rummage through a dusty attic stuffed with 300 years of history than a tour. I was very appreciative of the lady for spending so much of her day satisfying my curiosity. Her kindness was amazing and this museum visit was the greatest! :)

"Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,
and He will give you everything you need."

~Matthew 6:32-33