Wednesday, January 16, 2019

March 21st, 2019 - Talk at Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, NY

Date: Thursday, March 21st, 2019 at 7:00 PM

The Wardrobes and Fashion of 17th Century Hudson Valley

We'll dive into the wardrobes and hampers of some of our earliest settlers. Including the farmer Jan Gerritsen & Goertje Huybertse 1664, the Dutch doctor Gysbert van Imbroch & his French wife Rachel Monger de la Montagne 1665. We'll find out why Icelandic, Flemish and Native American stockings were used and why the textiles serge and laken were all important. We'll also get to know the Dutch 'vlieger', the fabulous 'tabaard' gown and a surprise garment from the far east that was popular with both the Dutch and French. We'll use primary sources from personal probate inventories to bills of lading and even shop and store inventories to uncover how the people of the Hudson Valley dressed from the 1630s to 1700.

Their information:

Historic Huguenot Street
88 Huguenot Street
New Paltz, NY 12561

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

March 16th, 2019 - Two Talks at Boston History Camp !

I will be giving two talks at the March 16th, 2019 Boston History Camp ! Below are the titles and descriptions.

Four Yellow Love Drawers: A (Early) Modern Married Couple's Wardrobe

Why would a good man need bright red drawers? Why are hers yellow? And what were love drawers? We'll dive into the personal wardrobes and hampers of New Yorkers and explore the various types, colors and styles of drawers that were worn on the streets of 17th Century Manhattan. 

Vikings in New York and Delaware

While the raiding of other people comes to an end in the 12th century, Viking culture and material goods continues on in Iceland and the Faroe Islands through to the 14th Century. Icelandic and Faroe Island knitwear, textiles such as wadmal and other goods made from the same technology introduced by the Vikings will be imported to New Sweden and New Netherland through to the middle of the 17th Century.

See You There !

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

NYS Museum Diorama Updated

American Museum of Natural History

In NYC -  The American Museum of Natural History's 1930s diorama has words put over the glass explaining which parts are not based on primary sources, and what the primary sources actually say.

For instance, the Indigenous women in the background are laborers... but in reality according to court and legal records they would have taken leadership roles and been involved in negotiations and trade.

The American Museums of Natural History's choice to do this is a great example of how to bring to light how pass examples, while not meant to be inaccurate, can be used to explain how primary sources can be used to improve our accuracy in understanding our pass. 

I am curious to know if they point out the clothing issues such as the lack of leggings and bags? 

It would be interesting to see a new diorama of an accurate image even if smaller in clothing for the spring or fall time. 

Friday, November 16, 2018


We slept here in this house, and ate large quantities of pumpkin, beans, and venison so that we suffered of no hunger here but fared as well as it is possible in their country. I hope that everything shall succeed.

This is a repost from last year for the other half of the viewer that did not get to read it. 

For Thanksgiving I am sharing excerpts from a 1634 account of an early trader's travel to various Mohawk castles. Castles are walled fort villages made by Indigenous people. The homes within the walled fort can be 80 to 100 steps long and 1 to 2 stories tall; with a barrier wall made from tree trunks that were sunk into the ground like a fence... a very thick and tall fence. If you look at the rectangular wall below in the image you'll see bump outs along the sides, which are similar to the bump outs on European made fort walls. They are there so a person from the village can look down from the top of the wall and can easily see the base of the wall; which without the bump out would be a blind spot for attackers to conceal themselves. These are very clever modes of defense. When the traders arrived at a castle they were often welcomed into the Mohawk's homes and fed. Foods included corn, but also beans, squash, venison and turkey. Many varieties of beans and squashes bought in modern grocery stores and served for diner today were originally developed by the Indigenous people of America. 

Image below from the 1662 map of New Netherland. 

“A Journey into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-1635”, by van den Bogaert

12th of December, “After we had traveled an hour, we came to the tributary that flows into our river [Hudson] and past the Marquise’s villages [near Cities of Schenectady and Scotia]. Here there was heavy ice flow… After crossing over, we went another one and half miles and came to a hunter’s cabin. We entered and ate some venison there. We then continued our journey. After we had gone another half mile, we saw some people coming towards us. then they saw us, they ran away. Throwing down their bags and packs, they ran into a marsh and hid behind a thicket so that we were unable to see them. We looked at their goods and packs, taking a small loaf of bread baked with beans. [modern Iroquois corn bread is made with cooked beans.] We at it up and continued…by estimated,…eleven miles. ”

12th of December, We came to the first castle called ONEKAHONCKA, which stood on a high hill. There were only 36 houses, row on row in a manner of streets, so that we easily pass through… Some are 100, 90, or 80 steps long; 22 or 23 feet high. There were also some interior doors made of split planks furnished with iron hinges. In some houses we also saw ironwork: iron chains, bolts, harrow teeth, iron hoops, spiked,…Most of the people were out hunting for bear and deer. These houses were full of grain that they call ONESTI and we corn. inded, some held 300 or 400 skipples [2/3 of a bushel]. They make boats and barrels of tree-bark and sew with it. We ate here many baked and boiled pumpkins which they called ANONSIRA. Non of the chiefs was at home, except for the most principal one called ADRIOCHTEN, who was lying one quarter mile from the fort in a small cabin because many Indians here in the castle had died of smallpox. I invited him to come visit with me, which he did. He came and bid me welcome, and said that he wanted us to come with him very much. We would have gone but we were called by another chief when we were already on the path, and turned back towards the castle. He had a large fire started at once, and a fat haunch of venison cooked, from which we ate; he also gave us two bear-skins to sleep on, and presented me with beaver pelts…. We slept here in this house, and ate large quantities of pumpkin, beans, and venison so that we suffered of no hunger here but fared as well as it is possible in their country. I hope that everything shall succeed.

14th of December,  Jeronimus wrote a letter to the commissary, Marten Gerritsen, asking for paper, salt, and ATSOCHWAT [ tobacco ]. We went out with the chief to see if we could shoot some turkeys, but got none. However, in the evening I bought a very fat turkey for 2 hands of “sea-wan” [trade beans], which the chief cooked for us; and the grease that cooked from it he put in our beans and corn…Two Wilde left from here for Fort Orange with skins.

16th of December, In the afternoon a good hunter named SICKARIS came here who wanted us to go with him very much and carry our goods to his castle [ the second castle ] . He offered to let us sleep in his house and stay there as long as we pleased. Because he offered us so much, I presented him with a knife and two awls [ small pointed tool for piercing holes, used in leather or wood working]; and to the chief in whose home we had stayed [ in the fist castle ] I presented a knife and a scissors.

16th of December, After we had gone one half mile over the ice we saw a village with only six houses. It was called CANOWARODE, but we did not enter…after we gone another half mile we passed a village with twelve houses called SCHATSYEROSY…a mile or mile and a half great past great tracts of flatland, we entered a castle…called CANAGERE… on a hill without palisade or any defense….

4th of January, castle called TENOTOGE. It had 55 houses, some 100 steps in size and other more or less as large. The waterway that was mentioned earlier ran past here and took the course mostly north-west and south-east. There are more houses on the opposite bank of the waterway; however, we did not enter them because the were mostly full of grain. The houses in this castle are full of grain and beans. Here the Indians looked on in amazement; for most everyone was at home, and they crowded in on us so much that we could barely pass among them. After a long period, an Wilde came to us who took us to his house and we went in it. The castle was surrounded with three rows of palisades. [the village was surrounded by three walls each made of tree-trunk spikes forming a 9 foot tall wall]. However, now there were only 6 or 7 sections left, so thick was the wall that it was unbelievable that Wilde could do it. …. Today we feasted on two bears, and we received today one half skittle of beans and some dried strawberries. Also, we provided ourselves here with bread that we could take along on the journey. Some of it had nuts, chestnuts, dried blueberries and sunflower seeds baked in it.

5th of January, [next village] I bought four dried salmon and two pieces of bear’s meat that was nine inches thick; there was some here even thicker. Today we ate beans cooked with bear’s meat. Otherwise nothing occurred. Jan. 7th. We received a letter…our people were very troubled because we did not return, thinking we had been killed. We ate here fresh salmon that had been caught but two days ago. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Scotts Cloth, Plaid, Tarten Hose & Broadswords

1683: 4 ps. w/th "plaiding" qt. 125 yds

Of the people from the British Islands and Ireland, the Scots made up the majority of people who emigrated to New York from the 1680s - 1720s. A number of Scottish came to New York prior to the Queen Ann's Test Act of 1703  including Robert Livingston who arrived in the Town of Albany in 1674.  John Spratt and John MaxWell were two others. However, after England took Sovereign control in 1674, aside from the Governor in NYC and the New Englanders on Long Island, it was primarliy through Scottish eyes the colonist understood England. They were that numerous.

I am often asked if Scots in America wore Scottish clothes. As someone who descends from the 18th Century Mcdougalds of North Carolina I am eager to find the answer too. However, one can only dress according to what was available. What was available was often defined by demand.

For 18th Century New York, in particular, the consumers were able to influence what merchants ordered, as they would completely snub something that was not culturally acceptable... like small sprigs of flowered cloth. The prerogative of New Yorkers were big bodacious flowers to the point that merchants returned the small sprigged cloth to London explaining it wouldn't sell. One merchant went as far as to draw - again - a large mass of a flower explaining it was to scale and not to send anything smaller. The London merchants must have though New Yorkers were hopeless, but New Yorkers - for as reserved as they were in business - wore their big bodacious flowers as though a tribal marker. We will circle back to this issue later, but it provides a glimpse into just how stubborn New York consumers were through the first half of the 18th Century. It may also be why onlookers noted that it was difficult to define the difference between the wealthy and the working class, because everyone looked middle class in their large printed silks, woolens and calicos. It also meant that people of various heritages could strut their stuff in the clothing of their mother country. And people of other heritages had no qualms about adding something different normally associated with a different heritage... like tartan !

Doing The Numbers:

While an exact number of people of Scottish heritage who immigrated to New York is not known, there was one Presbyterian church by 1650, four by 1700, 35 by 1750 and 50 by 1775 spread out across the Province. To put this in perspective, there were only 0, 2, 20, and 26 Anglican churches respectively. When looking for a persona with distinct clothing, textiles and a ton of fun... check out the Scots !

 Number of Churches in the Province of New York by Denomination:
Year                                  1650    1700    1750    1775
Scot Presbyterian                1        4           35         50
Scot Calvinist                      4        0            5         12
Eng. Anglican                      0        2           20         26
Eng. Quaker                        0        8           14         22

It is estimated that about 7, 000 Scotts emigrated to an English colony in America prior to the year 1700. Between 1717 - 1775, an estimated 200,000 Scot-Irish from Ulster Co. in Northern Ireland emigrated to America.

1753: Patrick Fisher, indićted of cutting out of a loom and stealing a tartan plaid, was, at his own desire, sentenced to be transported to America, and banished Scotland for life. - Scotts Magazine

A Wave of Scottish People: 

After the English landed in 1664, then received sovereign control in 1667, Governor Dongan had a reasonable concern about the lack of immigrants from England.

Dated 1687: "I believe for these last 7 years past, there has not come over into this province twenty English Scotch or Irish families. But on the contrary on Long Island the people increase so fast that they complain for want of land and many remove from thence into the neighboring province." - Population History of New York City, By Ira Rosenwaike

While England had a difficult time getting English people to choose New York rather than New England or Pennsylvania or Virginia, the Scottish were more than happy to take the jobs that were available. They are listed as being weavers, cart drivers, and in other trades and labors.

NewEngland, Philadelphia and Virginia were more appealing to the English in part because an immigrant's new neighbors would have spoken English, as compared to the commonly spoken Dutch, Deutsch or French in New York. To do business in New York being bilingual would have been necessary.

Additionally, New England, PA, and Virginia also had large volumes of farming land available for mono-cropping (tobacco plantations, cotton plantation, corn or wheat farming)... New York has land that produced market gardens, orchards, tobacco and dairy cows which was less appealing. While many people of England were looking to purchase land or set up a shop, the Scot-Irish were looking for employment, and looked to a Province with fewer slaves.

With low immigration, came another problem, germs. The community experienced low immigration but high transient population that came into and out of town. The community developed immunity over time from repeat exposure to germs. However, for the immigrants who did make the trip, 1702 was devastating year, roughly 570 young and old died from yellow fever.  In 1731, smallpox will take another 549 people. These are diseases that if a person survives, they will develop immunity.

Despite all this, the Scotts are hardy people. By the year 1700 there were four Presbyterian churches with Scottish and x-New England members plus enough Scots to support an additional 4 more Calvinist Churches. For those looking to do a 1670s - 1720s era persona, the Scottish are a great option !

Tartan, Scots' Cloth or Plaid mentioned in documents:

During my search I only found 18th Century documents including the poem from 1724. However, Jenn Scott supplied us with these references from the 17th Century. Her book, "Better is the Proud Plaid" takes the deep dive all the way back to the 17th Century using primary sources and is currently out in Amazon UK. It will be available to Americans in December... it is a must have for reenactors looking for well researched sources !

1618–33 Collie Highland Dress 10.

Their [sc. Highlanders'] habit is shoes with but one sole apiece, stockings (which they call short hose) made of a warm stuff of divers colours which they call tartane … A jerkin of the same stuff that their hose is of … with a plaid [etc.];

1699 Reg. Privy C. in Chambers Domestic Annals Scotl. III 126.]

Woollen stuffs of all sorts, … draughts, friezes, drogats, tartains, craips, capitations ' however certainly the gaelic references the time refer to the item of clothing - plaid and the cloth - tartan as checked or speckled

Some 18th Century mentions I found:

1724: I'll make ye a Propine, My Mither, honest Wife, has made it fine; A Tartan Plaid, spun of good hauslock Woo, Scarlet and Green the Sets, the Borders Blue, With Spraings like Gou'd and Siller, cross'd wi' Black, I never had it'yet upon my Back. - Miscellaneous Works of that celebrated Scotch poet, Allan Ramsay, By Allan Ramsay * Hauslock Wool, fine wool from the neck of the sheep. 

1749: [The clothing] It consisted of a roll of light woollen, called a plaid, six yards in length, and two in breadth, wrapped loosely 'around the body, the' upper lappet of which rested on the left shoulder, leaving the right arm at full liberty; a jacket of thick cloth, fitted highly to the body; and a loose short garment of light woolen that went around the waist and covered the thigh. - 1749 The Monthly Review, Volume 45, by Griffin or 1773 Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland. From the dissolution of the last ...By Sir John DALRYMPLE

1785: The Highland plaid is composed of a woollen stuff, sometimes very fine, called tartan. This stuff confifts of various colours, forming stripes which cross each other at right angles; and the natives value themselves upon the judicious arrangement ... -
The New Universal Traveller: Containing a Full and Distinct Account of All, By Jonathan Carver

1818: First time acted in Covent Garden in 1757, The Play "DOUGLAS" Character costumes: NORVAL - Green plaid jacket, kilt, and tartan, flesh-'colored' stockings and arms, breastplate, cap, and sandals.  LORD RANDOLPH - Scarlet silk plaid jacket, ibid. GLENALVON - Green plaid, ibid. , Old NORVAL. Drab 'colored' doublet and breeches, plaid scarf, ibid. DONALD. Red plaid jacket, kilt and tartan, beast plate, ibid. -Dramatic Library, Volume 4 , 1818.    

In these quotes we can see that "tartan" comes in a variety of colors. And in the 1724 poem a tartan plaid in this instance had - "Scarlet and Green the Sets, the Borders Blue, With Spraings like Gou'd and Siller, cross'd wi' Black...". These quotes give us snippets and clues.

Scots Cloth in Probate Inventories and For Sale:

Plaids likely started coming over with the first Scottish after 1674, though few in number at first they along with the locals created a demand for merchants and shopkeepers to begin selling tartan fabric. The Scottish likely wore their tradition clothing while living in NY just as most everyone else did. It was the kind of place, where you could go to a market and pick out a person's ethnicity simply based on their clothes even in the 1670s, '80s & '90s. However, others including German and Dutch were  using tartan fabric for more mainstream clothing also. 

1697: John sprat (Scottish) and Maria de Peyster (Dutch) were merchants and had 5 ps of Scotts Cloth valued at 2.10.00 in their NYC store. They also have 14 yards "remaining" valued at 2.14.00.   
1695: Johannes "John" Clopper of NYC and of German heritage had "Scotts cloth" in his probate inventory.  
1684: Wina van Hoven of NYC and of Dutch heritage had 1 black "Tartenel" Samare  with "tocker" [tucker or modesty linen for across the top of stays]  in her personal inventory.  A samare is a pleated back robe, more like a coat when made of heavy material and more gown like when made of light material, with center front closure and no stomacher. By the 1680s, it could be as short as hip length or as long as mid-calf, never as long as the ankle. They are popular from 1580s to 1720s. 
1682: The inventory of Joseph Taylor a merchant of NYC had "Item 22 yards of linen Cloath 55 d: 15 1/2 of fine Scotch "Cloath" 52 d" valued at 5.07.00. 

A Scottish Merchant from Blastowne: 

The merchant, John MaxWell was a member of the Scots Charitable Society in Boston however, he was making a move to NY. He died on a return trip to New York from "Blastowne" Scotland in 1682, aboard his shipped called Rebecca: 

2 ps. of coarse cloth qt. 20 yes. 12 d yd... 1.00.00
4 ps. w/th "plaiding" qt. 125 yds at 9 d. yd. L1.0.0 ... 4.13.09
2 ps. coarse Serge 2 ps. qt. 36 yds. f. 3:12:39 yd 15 d... 6.00.09

The above "4 pieces with plaiding" is likely a cloth with checks upon it. A John Maxwell is listed as part owner of a ship named "Ann" along with John Borland a Scotsmen in Boston. The inventory that arrived in NYC from the ship, is not just a record of import from Scotland, it also happened to include his personal clothing including 1 feather bed 1 "baluster" & pillows, 10 old shirts, 1 black velvet cap furred, plus...

"2 Cloth Suits with 24 doz. [Buttons ? and ] 11 plate Buttons and  9 p[r] of tartan hose 15 d ... 0.11.03"  

The inventory also included kersey, stuff, cloth, coarse cloth, and serge... so we know that even if the "plaiding" was not checked, it was not one of the other types of cloth mentioned.

Some Extra Citations of Interest:  

In 1745, there was an issue where a bundle of cloth would have a "Scotts Cloth" on top and English made cloth under it... which did not go over well.  The Scottish wanted only their cloth to be sold under the label of "Scots Cloth"". "The Present State of Scotland Consider'd: and Its ... Sinking Condition Charged Upon the Conduct of the Landed Gentlemen, &c. Shewing ... that the Only Mean of Relieving Their Estates ... is by Their Joining Together to Promote Home Manufacture, Etc", Scotland, W. and T. Ruddimans, 1745

With this in mind, it might be advisable to take into consideration the pride of the Scots when portraying colonist. In 1746, the following order was given to exclude Scottish clothing for people in "...his Majesty's forces..." and can be found in "Anno Regni Georgii II. Regis Magnae Britanniæ, Franciæ, & Hiberniæ, Vicesimo Primo ... (An Act to Amend and Enforce So Much of an Act Made in the Nineteenth Year of His Majesty's Reign, as Relates to the More Effectual Disarming the Highlands in Scotland ... )" by Adrian Watkins, 1748.

1780 - Highland Wedding David Allan (1744-1796)

A Note on Swords: 

The Scots used a "two handed swords" in the 16th Century along with arrows for defense in the early years but switched over to pistols and "broadswords" in by the 17th Century. - "A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland: Containing a Full Account ...", 1703 By Martin Martin.

Broadswords were brought to 17th Century New York. Our merchant John MaxWell had a few other items. The goods included: "1 Gunn 2 Carbines; 3 broad swords". Plus, in with the bridle and livery clothing was "a silver hilt sword" likely his personal cavalry sword which would only have one side of the blade sharpened as compared to duel blades on the broadsword. Swords like most goods were coming in from far and wide... remember the Japanese sword?

"Swords" are commonly mentioned in New Netherland and New York however, however rapiers are most often cited. From most common to least: Rapier, Sword, Cutlas, and Hanger in the 17th Century definitions. A few of the "swords" are associated with livery or bridles and saddles but it is not common.

For events targeting the second half of the 17th and first half of the 18th... dressing with tartan hose and plaid is a great way for reenactors to connect with their audiences ! Just mind the accents...

To all my McDougald kin down in North Carolina:

I'll make ye a Propine, 
My Mither, honest Wife, has made it fine; 
A Tartan Plaid, spun of good hauslock Woo, 
Scarlet and Green the Sets, the Borders Blue, 
With Spraings like Gou'd and Siller, cross'd wi' Black, 
I never had it'yet upon my Back. 

- Allan Ramsay

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Saving the Schenck House

Did you ever feel so passionate about something that you verge on obsession ? The last few years have taught me that everyone has different priorities and roll models. For me, the family that lived in the Schenck House of Buffalo are my roll models. They were good people, leading good lives, with priorities placed on family and practicing farming the way they have since they arrived in America in about 1704. 

I normally do not post about things outside of the time frame of 1600-1763, however, the Old Stone House of Buffalo New York could use our support. I am asking if all of you could help reach our goal of 12 letters of support to landmark the building. The hearing date is this Tuesday! And the best part is that the city is accepting letters via email ! We have literally 24 hours to make this happen, please help.

Thank you more than you could ever know, Tara

Letter of Support:

Cut and paste - The following letter to the Legislation Committee to show support for landmarking the Shcenck House. This one or one in your own words would go along way to show support. Our goal is 12 letters. We have only 2 days to accomplish this goal before the application is processed and they decide to decline or approve it. 


Dear Legislation Committee, 
Please approve the request for landmarking the Schenck House, which was built by a father and son team in 1822. The Schencks were pioneers and understood the value of traditional farming methods that were in sync with the environment. They were a family that believed in "share and share alike" whether the child was male or female as recorded in their wills. The little brick summer kitchen is the site of the oldest surviving apple butter, cider and hard cider mill in western New York and happens to have been ran by a woman. They are role models that modern people can relate to. 

Here is the link to the Schenck House  wiki page that I wrote and an article I wrote about it on Buffalo

Dear Readers of Buffalo Rising, 
The view from the front porch is through towering trees out across acres of lawn where at the horizon the sun is setting with magenta illuminating the sky. The oaks and maples frame the perfectly kept grass, where local golfers have plays for over a hundred years. The Schenck house has stood here watching over its golfers, and providing loving reminder of our past. Few people have noticed the two story stone house sitting in the middle of the park except the locals, many wondering just how old the place is. Golf carts buzz by, but one stops, “Are you here to save the old stone house?” My colleagues and I smile, “We’re going to try.”
The City of Buffalo was only a village and the hamlet of Snyder a couple of farms when the Schencks loaded all their belongings into two conestoga wagons. They first arrived in America between 1702 and 1709 and lived for a 100 years in Pennsylvania farming their land in the traditional ways of the Germans; but with the opening up of new land for sale in Western New York they were packed and ready to make their way to their new home. With Michale and Catherine Schenck steering a team of four horses and a water tight Conestoga wagon of young children and their eldest son Samuel and his wife Sarah the other, they set out across the Allegheny Mountains in 1821. 
“Michael Schenck emigrated from Pennsylvania in August 1821 with his family in two large covered wagons, drawn by four horses, came by way of Pittsburgh, over the mountain to Erie, thence to a point then called Comstock’s, eight miles from Buffalo, where he was compelled to place eight horses to one wagon, in order to get to Buffalo on account of bad roads, he settled in Amherst, and purchased one-half section of land at fifteen dollars per acre, near Snyder post-office, then heavy timber land.” [10]

1827 Map of Western New York – Note Prior to the war of 1812 maps called this “settlement” “Buffaloe Creek” and was positioned on the Buffalo River, then after the war it war the new homes were built up higher north of the river and called “Buffaloe”.

Buffalo was growing quickly and by the 1850s its boarder was rubbing against the Hamlet of Snyder and the Schenck’s farm. According to one early source: Timothy Dwight – a traveler in 1804 states the following, “The only villages, which it contains, are Batavia and ‘Buffaloe creek’… Within the [indigenous persons] reservation is included the ground, opposite to Black Rock;… ‘Buffaloe creek’, otherwise called New Amsterdam, is built on the North-Eastern border of a considerable mill-stream, which bears the same name… The village is built half a mile from the mouth of the creek; and consists of about twenty indifferent houses…We saw about as many Indians in this village, as white people… [Since our journey in 1804 ] The ‘village of Buffaloe’ was burned down during the late war. Since that period it has been re-built, and is now a beautiful and flourishing town of one hundred and fifty houses.” Dwight’s observation were published in 1820, a sequel to this publication was expanded with additional information in 1822, “Beyond this hamlet a handsome point stretches to the South-west; and furnished an imperfect shelter to the vessels, employed in the commerce of the lake. Seven of the vessels, (five schooners, a sloop and a pettiaugre) lay in the harbor at this time.” [11]
Much of the history that is written for Buffalo tends to focus on the Victorian era, with a portion detailing Olmsted’s work from the 1860s and 1870s. Very little is talked about how “Buffaloe creek” came to be, what it looked like, or how people lived. We have a good sampling of 1830-1860s buildings; Little Summer St. can boast a number of 1830s and 40s homes, the Hadley stone farmhouse is in the Greece Revival fashion dating to post-1830, the Macedonia Baptist Church from 1845 and a few others give us a basic template to build visuals. However, as of today there are only two houses that date from a time when our 5th President James Monroe (1817–1825) was in office; the Coit House 1818 and the Schenck House 1822. 
What is rather exceptional about the preservation of these two houses is that the Coit House is in the Federal Style influenced by British- American fashions and the Schenck House is in a European-American style called “Continental Pennsylvania German House” (CPGH or Continental). The Federal and Continental styles have a number of distinguishing factors with the Federal revolving around fashion and a sense of balance seen from the outside and the Continental Pennsylvanian eschewing fashion for practicality on the inside. 

1840s Inventory with 10-plate stove and pipe

The Federal style has a central entrance door leading into a foyer with a floor plan of four rooms over four. Wheres, the Continental style was designed with central heating in mind, as Germans had developed the cast iron heating furnace and stove during the middle ages. With having imported their technology with them to America the houses continued to be centered on the stoves. The houses were arranged with three rooms over three, which off set the front entrance door to one side. The inventory from the 1840s for the Schencks lists a 10-plate stove with pipe in among several other items, a later inventory lists a new coal stove. However, the Schencks did not cook on their plate stove, it was a heater, they cooked out of their fireplace and pot chains are found in their inventory. Most interestingly, the walls of the house are three feet thick in the cellar, and two feet thick at the first floor tapering to the attic. For the Schencks, they were building to last centuries. Unfortunately, after only one year in their new home; first Sarah in the spring, then their two and three year old children passed, leaving Samuel alone.

The Schenck house is one of two examples of homes from the early part of the 19th century within the City of Buffalo limits. The stone is locally queried limestone where fossils can be seen on the southwestern side (rear corner) of the house.

Its never a good idea to leave a widow rambling alone around a big stone house. It appears that one pastor spoke with another and the following year Samuel married Magdalena “Lena”; who lived just the other side of the lake in Canada. Canadians, according to the early census records were as enthusiastic as the Pennsylvanian Germans to move to Buffalo and Snyder. The Town of Amherst had 1,556 Germans and 364 Pennsylvanians arrive by the year 1850, or 43% of the total population. The City of Buffalo had 9,409 Germans, 69 Prussians and 376 Pennsylvanians by 1850, or 23% of the population. On top of this were a conservable number of Canadians and French people. Each census cycle, the Schencks are recorded as having German laborers working on the farm, and were likely bi-lingual. There has not been any evidence of them ever having owned slaves. 
The Schencks were unusual for other reasons too. Being of Continental European heritage, they not only loved central heating, they also brought with them a few other ideas thought both strange and marvelous to British- Americans. These unusual practices included; crop rotation, using manure as a fertilizer, letting land lay fallow to regenerate and the building of structures called barns. The English on-lookers were more amazed when they discovered that these immigrants built these massive barns to house their animals through the winter and even took time to grow hay and feed the animals during the cold months. This system of farming had developed during the later half of the middle ages; served the central Europeans well enough that the methodology persisted and was brought to America. 
“…the Germans differed from practically all other Pennsylvania farmers, with the exception of the few Dutch, in providing shelter for their animals in winter. A traveler of the mid-eighteenth century noted shortly after his arrival in Pennsylvania that cattle around Philadelphia were neither housed in winter nor tended in the fields; after having been in the country for some time, however, he remarked that while the English and Swedes had no stables, the Germans and Dutch had “preserved the custom of their country, and generally kept their cattle in barns during the winter….They kept their animals as warm as possible in winter, and thereby effected considerable savings in hay and grain, for they found that cold animals eat more than warm ones…. the Germans began to build large barns rather than houses. The attention paid by Germans to the construction of barns, which became the envy of the non-German countryside, was brought out by one observer of 1753, who commented that “It is pretty to behold our back-settlements, where the barns are large as pallaces, while the owners live in log hutts; a sign tho’ of thriving farmers….The vegetable gardens were filled with weeds, intermingled with cabbages, turnips, and other plants.” German Agriculture in Pennsylvania, 1959, page 197 [27]
While the Schenck’s lifestyle is easily visualized in part because of their early adoption of technology and their tendency to stick with (what we modern thinkers might call) environmentally friendly practices despite the growing tendency to adopt synthetic fertilizers and specialization; but because, in the Schenck House, the ladies were viewed as partners. The women were producing small batches of products for market including; apple butter, dairy butter, honey and barrels of “graag”. “Graag” is hard cider. It is possibly the only 19th century example in the City of Buffalo where the original site and records survive for a female entrepreneur. 

1918 Map of Grover Cleveland Golf Course – Schenck house and barn are left hand side of the central parking lot.

The property was first purchased by the Country Club of Buffalo who installed both a polo field and 18 hole golf course. Then resold to the City of Buffalo in 1927; where on the 1928 survey map we can see how the City promptly drew a bump out to include the farm and 18 hole golf course within the limits. The City renamed the property Grover Cleveland Park and Golf Course. In the 1970s and due to budget constraints, the City turned over the management – while retaining the property title – to Eire County. With ownership in the hands of the City and maintenance and Management in the County’s the Schenck house has survived in part because of the golf course. 
The Friends of Schenck House support Erie County and the 2003 Master Plan to restore the oldest stone house in the City of Buffalo. According to the Master Plan, “Another notable heritage aspect of the Grover Cleveland Golf Course is that the site has one of the oldest stone buildings in Erie County on it, possibly dating back as early as the 1810s. [The 1810 cottage no longer exists] This structure is currently used for limited offices and storage for the golf course operations, and is in need of upgrades to preserve its structural and architectural integrity.” and “Actions prescribed by the 2003 Erie County Master Plan…Consider the inclusion of the stone house and outbuildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Consider a public/private partnership in restoring the old stone house structure and associated out-buildings. Potential exists for a heritage- related museum, restaurant, upgraded golf course-related facility, meeting rooms, etc. Maximize the access and visibility to Main Street, the proximity to the University at Buffalo and the close proximity to some of the region’s most prestigious homes as major marketing advantages for future uses at this facility.” 
Our goal is to get Landmark status, replace the roof which is leaking, complete a restoration plan… and eventually get to the point where 1) the University of Buffalo’s Departments of Anthropology and Architecture can hold field classes on site 2) baking classes can be made available to the public 3) and for all the local brew and drink lovers out there… bring back Lena’s “graag” and install a still. (I’m thinking October Fest !) In this we would put into adaptive re-use a city owned house for the public events and generate on-going cash flow for maintenance of the site. If you are interested in being involved please message us through Facebook. We are looking for people with a variety of talents to lend a hand in bringing back a bit of our history for public use. 
Thank you, The Friends of Schenck House Est. 1822

Monday, October 15, 2018

Peter Rose's Recipe - Fried Pumpkin Pancakes

The most fabulous food historian Peter Rose graciously shared a recipe on her Facebook Page ! Sharing with permission, see below: 

Peter Kalm, the Swedish botanist, found pumpkin-cornmeal pancakes "pleasing to my taste." In his 1749 diary he explains how a thick pancake was made "by taking the mashed pumpkin and mixing it with corn-meal after which it was . . . fried." With those instructions in mind, I created the following recipe. If needed, you can easily cut the recipe in half. Serve for breakfast with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or as a dessert with some vanilla or butternut ice cream, drizzled with maple syrup. 

Pumpkin-cornmeal pancakes
Preparation time: about 5 - 8 minutes
Frying time: about 3 minutes on each side
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin, or use canned
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
3-1/2 cups milk, or less
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine eggs and pumpkin. Beat into dry ingredients. Add milk slowly to make a smooth, thin pancake batter, but not too thin, or you will not be able to turn the pancakes. Heat some butter in a crepe pan and pour in the batter to make a 7" pancake. Fry each pancake on both sides until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Makes at least 18 (7”) pancakes.

Enjoy the fall even if it rains...(soup and pancakes taste especially good then!)