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Town & Village Historian Reports

Reports - 2017-18 | 2019

 

Village and Town of St. Johnsville Historian's Report: 2019

History Inquiries: As usual, inquires from people conducting research on family history were numerous. While many of these were people looking for information on their families from the 19' century and earlier, others sought information about people in the 20' century. These included the following.

In July, I conducted a tour of the village for author Tara Smith of Kent State University and family. Dr. Smith is doing research on Pearl Kendrick, a STJ principal from 1914-18, for a book. Kendrick was a co-inventor of the whooping cough vaccine.

A Massachusetts man sought information on his great grandfather, Henry Peterson, who lived in St. Johnsville in the 1930s and 1940's. I was able to determine that Peterson worked for Palatine Dyeing Co. and later built and operated the Empire Diner on Main Street.

One of the more interesting inquires  came via Facebook Messenger from the country of Poland. A man was looking for family connections in St. Johnsville. The only piece of information he had was an envelope dated 1957 with a return address from 27 Monroe St. I was able to determine that he is related to the Yuchniewicz family, which lived in St.

Johnsville for many years. I received many history inquiries from STJ people and others via Facebook.

Research on buildings - I fielded questions and conducted research on the history of various local buildings/homes. These included inquiries about residences, The Central Hotel, the Medical Linen Systems site, former Terricola-Murcray building, an old home in South St. Johnsville, the area around the nursing home (former Burgess property and gravel mine). I expect many more such inquiries at least partly due to the recently created historic district in the village.

Cycling the Erie -In July, along with Chamber of Commerce members, I greeted bicyclists who stopped at the marina-campsite as part of the annual "Cycling the Erie" event. As usual, I answered questions the cyclists had about the community and its history. Cyclists who stopped at the marina numbered about 150. The Erie Canal Trail, although located in the town of Minden, continues to be an asset to St. Johnsville. Many long-distance riders cross the bridge, primarily looking for food and drink.

Historic Lock 33— Also in the town of Minden, but with a stronger connection to St. Johnsville, is historic Lock 33, now about 180 years old. In August, I joined a group of volunteers organized by Chris and Shelly Arduini to cut the grass and remove weeds, trees, trash, etc. that had begun to obscure this site. This battle is a constant one. The site attracts those interested in the old Erie Canal and is used for fishing and picnicking, but greater use is hampered by the poor condition of the road (old Towpath) leading to it.

Moses Quinby - I gave historical information and advice to the locally-organized Moses Quinby Memorial Association. Quinby was a world-famous beekeeper who kept as many as 1,500 hives in the area just east of the town highway garage. He lived in St. Johnsville from 1853 to his death in 1875. The Association hopes to promote Quinby's history and beekeeping through various events. I hope to work with the Association in 2020 to obtain grant funding for a historical marker to be placed in the area where he lived and worked.

Library/Museum - In my role as library trustee and chairman of the museum committee, I conducted numerous tours of the museum, much of which focuses on the history of St. Johnsville. I continue to inventory museum items and add to the museum's extensive photo collection, which contains an estimated 5,000 photos dating more or less from the Civil War era to today. This work makes it easier for visitors to do research on their families and the community where they lived. The library and museum are widely known as a history research center. Two recent visitors live in Arizona and are related to the Kneeskern family, which was once prominent here.

History Meeting - In July, I hosted a meeting of Montgomery County municipal historians at the Reaney Museum and represented St. Johnsville at similar meetings in Fonda.

Newspaper Article - In May the C-S-E published an article I wrote about the cemetery and its role in past Memorial days in St. Johnsville.

If you have any questions please contact me. Respectfully submitted,

Mathew Rapacz

St. Johnsville Village and Town Historian December, 2019

(518) 568-7057 zcap928@live.com

 

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Village and Town of St. Johnsville Historian's Report: December, 2017 to December, 2018

Historic District - The creation of a historic district in the village was finalized early in 2018. I assisted consultant Jessie Ravage on the project both with a historic development narrative of the village and with property location information. Anyone who owns a property older than 50 years within this district (which encompasses most of the village) is eligible for state and/or federal tax credits for rehabilitation and/or renovations to their property. Register status will also bring greater recognition to the community as an historic area. The historic narrative along with photos and information on almost every building in the district will be a valuable resource for researchers now and in the future.

A Montgomery County sponsored Cultural Resources Survey project similar to the one conducted for the village in 2016 was completed for rural western Montgomery County, including the town of St. Johnsville. This may eventually lead to creation of a historic district similar to the village's.

Cycling the Erie -In July, along with Chamber of Commerce members, I greeted bicyclists who stopped at the marina-campsite as part of the annual "Cycling the Erie" event. I answered questions the cyclists had about the community and its history. Those who stopped were impressed with the marina-campsite. I note that the Erie Canal Trail in western Montgomery County saw considerable use this year, to a good extent because it has been paved. This trail, which parallels the historic Erie Canal, has been a positive for St. Johnsville.

Park History - At the request of Supervisor Stagliano, I researched and wrote a history of the beginnings of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park. The purpose of this was to stimulate interest in the park - and possible improvements to it - in advance of its 100' anniversary in 1921. Public response was positive.

Schoolhouse Assistance - I assisted Palatine Settlement Society member John Case, who has done much work on the outside of the District 8 (New Turnpike) school, in determining the age of the school building. I found that the building dates to at least 1838 and perhaps a few years earlier. The Society hopes to renovate the inside of the school, which needs considerable work.

Library/Museum - In my role as library trustee and chairman of the museum committee, I conducted tours of the museum, much of which focuses on the history of St. Johnsville. Group tours included several local school groups, and visitors from various parts of the country. As part of an overall inventory of museum items, I have (so far) located about 30 financial ledgers/account books (that were in storage) from local businesses. These date from the 1790's and include farms, general stores, grocery stores, hardware stores and industries. I hope to make these interesting documents more readily available to those doing historical and family history research.

Grant Assistance - In the spring, I assisted with a Homes and Community Renewal NY Main Street Technical Assistance grant application (through Montgomery County) by providing historic photos and information on 1-3 W. Main Street.

In December, I provided historic photos of 11, 13, 15, and 17 W. Main St. to an architect relating to a grant application to improve that section of the village.

Other Assistance - I answered numerous questions about the history of St. Johnsville from various people conducting family and/or historical research. One of the more interesting of these inquiries was from Dr. Tara Smith of Kent State University. She is writing a book about the inventors of the whooping cough vaccine. One of these inventors was Pearl Kendrick, who was St. Johnsville High School principal from 1914-18 and taught mathematics and science here. I was able to provide Dr. Smith with information about Kendrick's time in St. Johnsville.

History Meetings - In May I represented the village and town at a regional meeting of municipal historians, held in Waterville. I also attended meetings of municipal historians of Montgomery County conducted by the county historian.

If you have any questions, ideas, etc. please contact me. Respectfully submitted,

Mathew Rapacz - Village and Town Historian

December, 2018

(518) 568-7057 zcap928@live.com

 

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