Monday, November 30, 2009


I spent more of the day updating the main page of the Albany Hilltowns wiki site, and this page suggesting ways to increase the number of visitors to the hill towns, to remove the offending phrases "Tourists" and "Tourism." I had no idea they would give so many people bad connotations of the hill towns being turned into a Woodstock with tour buses, pollution, and congestion. Calm down folks! 

I changed the name of the new Facebook group promoting tourism to Head for the Hills - The Albany Hilltowns. Again I removed the phrases "Tourists" and "Tourism." You do not have to be a member of Facebook to view the site and read the discussions.


Sunday, November 29, 2009


Waterfall on Fox Creek
Nov. 2009, Charles Sloger


I have spent most of the last few days updating the main page of Albany Hilltowns wiki site. I have broadened the purpose of the site from history and genealogy to include the preservation of historic buildings, farmland preservation and the encouragement of low impact tourism to benefit the local economy. Barb Husek suggested a possible theme "Head to the Hilltowns." 

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area

  • This is photo of High Point Road in Partridge Run Wildlife Mgt. area near Berne in Albany County, New York, taken by Charles Sloger, Oct. 2008. Here is a link to more of his incredibly beautiful photos.
  • Eco-tourism. Getting tourists to come to the hill towns for the beauty of the countryside: hiking, biking, caving, visiting old cemeteries, trails to historic ruins, taking pictures, admiring our historic hamlets. It is a low impact way to help the local economy and encourage preservation of farmlands, scenery, historic homes and hamlets. Tourists need guest houses, B & B's, campgrounds, and picnic sites. Tour maps! To further that end I have created a new Albany Hilltowns Ecotourism Facebook Group. You don't need to belong to Facebook to check out the group. While there, click on the Wall tab. If you support our goals, we would love to have you join us.
  • Partidge Run is one of several Berne Natural History areas open to the public in for hiking, photography, picnicking, etc.
  • I have also updated the list of Knox Natural History areas.

Monday, November 23, 2009


A few days ago I added a page on the Albany Hilltowns site on Knox natural history. I did not realize Knox had so much to offer! In continuing my thinking as to how the hill towns could increase tourism, I got to thinking that Knox could tout itself as a destination for locals to come for the weekend and hike the many beautiful preserves. I am going to add a link to the Natural History page with suggestions as to where out of town visitors could find something to eat or buy groceries. They could camp at the Thompsons Lake Campground. Eventually someone could open a guest house or B&B.

I wonder if it is possible to start linking some of the Knox preserves together, then linking them with the Thacher Park trail system and with the Christman Sanctuary in Duanesburg.

I suggest that the town of Berne consider a trail from the top of Cole Hill at the Long Trail and down the hill somewhere and along the tree line on the east side of the Cole Hill valley, across the Fox Creek at the bridge on Cole Hill Road and up the old Camp Orinsekwa Lane and along the west side of Warners Lake and on to some of the land preserves in Knox. Along the lake it might be used by bicyclists and runners as well as hikers.

The Long Trail should also have a connection to the Hyack preserve in Rensselaervlle.

Searching the Internet I found that there seems to be quite a lot of interest in hiking in the hill towns, but that it is not easy for hikers to find the trails. Maps are either non-existent or mis-leading.

Helder-hiking blog

Local Hikes

Partridge Run

There should be a few more trail shelters. It would be nice if there were a small campground somewhere near Partridge Run, perhaps privately run. A guest house might be useful, and a place to buy supplies.

I am sending this to a variety of people, since different people have different experiences, outlooks, and expertise.

Is there a local group that is interested in building trails? How did the Long Trail get built? Would the people who built it be interested in helping expand side trails?

This is outside by area of expertise, but something I have an a peripheral interest in because of my interest in preserving open land in the hill towns.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Photo of Catskills from the town of Rensselaerville, by Barbara Husek  

I encourage all of the members of this group to also join the Rensselaerville Farmland Protection Facebook group. If Rensselerville can protect its farmlands, all of the hilltowns should be. A wonderful goal. 

I recommend The Golden Age of Homespun written in 1956 by Jared Van Wagenen, Jr. who was born in Schoharie. It is a true description of how rural upstate New York farmers cleared the land, built their log cabins, and lived up to the days of the Civil War. A fascinating read.   

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Special thanks this Veterans Day to Rich Hungerford, who for the past month has done a tremendous job in gathering and posting information on 20th C. veterans from the Hilltowns on this site!

Big SKY in New York. I took this looking towards the Catskills. Not too far from home. Eric Chamberlain 

  • Eric says: "I took this looking towards the Catskills. Not too far from home." Eric is one of our newest and most enthusiastic participant in this site. For more of his beautiful photos click on "Helderberg Landscapes." Eric has also contributed and number of photos to "Then and Now."    


How about making Albany Hilltowns a tourist destination! Like Rensselaerville, every hamlet could have a designated historic district. Within each historic district there could be an antique store or two, a bed and breakfast, a country cafe. People from the city, down state, and yes, even The Big Apple, would want to come to the Albany Hilltowns for a getaway weekend and make the tour. It would make the hilltowns more than just bedroom communities. We could have have special hilltown weekends. We could be make the hilltowns like Vermont. Revive the resorts. Make the hillltowns a tourist destination once again. Trade on our heritage, on our old buildings. It would require the towns working together. Can they do this? I think they can.
There are a couple of things that could be done immediately without waiting for the towns to act:
  • Creation of a Hilltowns Tourist Association to promote tourism in the Hilltowns. Members would be the local restaurant owners, farmers markets, vineyard, llama farm, etc. Someone would have to contact all possible members and call a meeting to move this idea forward.
  • Inventory historic buildings in the Hilltowns starting with the individual hamlets. We would need a volunteer for each hamlet. There could also be historic districts elsewhere along Helderberg Trail where there are small concentrations of historic homes. And elsewhere with towns. This would help preserve the rural look we all love.
Once they see scenes like the one below, they will be coming back for more!


"Then and Now" is proving to be very popular. Not only are people looking at the pictures, but there are even a few people contributing pictures. Soon I will split this page up so there is a separate page for each town. Here are more "Then" photos that might be suitable of accompanying "Now" photos. In some cases the buildings are gone, but in which case a "Now" photo of the site makes a strong statement about the loss of our heritage.


I just uploaded an interesting story sent to me by Marty Duell on his memories of life on West Mountain in the 1950's.
"After I got out of the Air force in early 1960”s I went back to Leona and Cliff’s. Then they had water and electric. They were all setting on the floor and the table and chairs were gone! What happened I asked?" ...

  • Capital District Genealogical Society

The Capital District Genealogical Society will meet at Saturday Nov 21, 2009, 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. At the Colonie Town Library, 629 Albany-Shaker Road, Loudonville. The computer group will meet at 1 P.M. with tips on using your computer for genealogical research. The topic for the 2pm meeting will be Cemetery Restoration. The meeting is free and open to the public.

  • Albany-Schoharie Plank Road

Albany-Schoharie Plank Road operated from 1850-1867. It ran from Schoharie east through the town of Wright and the town of Knox and Guilderland, reaching the Western Turnpike. Here is a link to a personal recollection of a young boy seeing a regiment from Schoharie camping in Altamont on their way to Albany, then on to Gettysburg. Wives, mothers, children accompanied them to Albany to see them off and many never returned.


AMVETS vehicle in Memorial Day Parade

AMVETS vehicle in Memorial Day Parade

" Antique Motor Vehicle" page has still not found anyone to help identify any of these vehicles.


Albany County Hilltowns History and Genealogy Facebook group, is a sister site to Please join us.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


  • Altamont Enterprise, May 2, 1998; Laura Westfall, Wright town historian:
''The Albany-Schoharie Plank Road company was incorporated [in 1849] with $70,000 in capital stock. Stocks were sold for $25 each. Road work was started in 1850. The road ran from Schoharie; east through the town of Wright and the town of Knox and Guilderland, reaching the Western Turnpike. The two mile branch running to Central Bridge made a total of 26 miles. The original cost was about $1,800 per mile.

''To construct the road, six 4 x 4 hemlock sills were laid end to end and planks were lain crosswise. No nails were used. The edges of the road were left uneven to enable the wagons to pull to pass. The road was ten foot wide with an improved dirt road along the side. With no wood preservatives in use, the wood soon became rotten and had to be replaced about every five years, each time at a higher price. Timber was readily available from landowners along the way, thus cutting down on the cost of transporting lumber. Toll gates were located every five miles. There were five toll gates on this road.

''The Albany-Schoharie Plank Road was extended through Warnerville, Richmondville, Summit and on to Charlotteville. The plank roads faded from the scene when Albany to Central Bridge Railroad became operational in 1863, providing much faster service than horse-powered vehicles. In May, 1866 the road lying east of Gallupville was abandoned. In April, 1867, the corporation was dissolved and the roadway was given to the towns.
  •  The Old Albany and Schoharie Plank Road
    The Old Albany and Schoharie Plank Road is a detailed history of the road written by Miss Mary Gregg of Altamont in 1932 for her graduation essay topic. Thoroughly researched, it has fascinating facts as well as many reminiscences by then elderly folk who remembered the road in its hay day. Especially riveting is the story of the night the 134th Reg. of N. Y. S. Volunteers camped over night near the Keenholts Hotel in Knoweresville, (now Altamont) when they marched down the plank road from Schoharie enroute to Albany and Gettysburg. Here is a brief excerpt from her essay as printed in the Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 1932:

    "Webb" Whipple, who as a little boy lived in old Knowersville, states, "that on the 22nd day of Sept. 1862 I was down at Cold Spring near the Bozenkill gathering butternuts where you kids do today. Suddenly I heard a sound of music and hurrying up to the old plank road saw the soldiers from Schoharie coming over the hill. There were about 80 less than their full 1000 for a regiment. With them were their ambulance and commissary trains. Behind followed riding in every conceivable conveyance their women folks and children. In the fields about Knowersville they camped for the night. Everyone in the neighborhood depleted his larder to feed the Schoharie soldiers. As dark came on they simply rolled up in blankets all over the fields as the weather was quite warm. I can remember how my mother's heart went out to the women and children who had come thus far to be with their loved ones and now were crying and sobbing. Some of the men were stoic. Quite a few got drunk and eight men deserted. In the morning they marched down the plank road to Albany and from there by boat to New York. The tears of the women at old Knowersville were indeed prophetic and the fields of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Missionary Ridge ran red with the blood of their husbands and fathers."