Friday, December 30, 2011

Sarah Gordon is doing an incredible job on helping small family farms.. Congratulations Sara on your success and your appearance on TED! This is really worth watching!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Echoes of a New York revolt

Ignoring the public's grievances can wear down the government
Published in the Times Union Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Hilltowns of western Albany County — Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, Westerlo — usually are models of snow-covered fields, picturesque woods and charming rural life this time of year. But in December 1839, they were invaded twice — once by a sheriff's posse, once by the state militia — to suppress an armed rebellion of tenant farmers who were staging a rent strike and trying to pressure their landlord, Stephen Van Rensselaer IV, to sell them the farms they worked.

The anti-rent movement embroiled New York's political life for decades. Its historical insights about government failure to confront problems head on are relevant today.

The Van Rensselaers were one of several landed families, or "patroons," who held permanent title to thousands of acres in eastern New York through Dutch and English colonial land grants. Tenant resentment built up over many years. Tenants felt they paid too high rent and challenged the validity of the archaic colonial titles.

Stephen Van Rensselaer, who inherited lands that included much of Albany County when his father died in 1839, disavowed his father's policy of leniency for late or partial rent payments and demanded that the rent be paid in full. The farmers' pent-up anger exploded.

Soon, nearly 10,000 tenants in Albany, Rensselaer and other eastern counties began protesting and withholding rent. Farmers organized in secret and took to wearing disguises made of calico cloth. Calling themselves "Indians," they chanted "Down With the Rent!" at mass rallies and threatened the landlords' agents.

In the fall of 1839, they chased deputy sheriffs sent to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent out of the Hilltowns.

That December, the Albany County sheriff assembled a posse that included some of Albany's most prominent citizens, former Gov. William Marcy, and John Van Buren, son of President Martin Van Buren. An armed, jeering mob of more than a thousand farmers turned them back near Reidsville.
The alarmed Albany authorities appealed to Gov. William Seward. He dispatched the state militia and called for the farmers to disperse, but he also promised a study of the manorial system. Armed resistance melted away as the militia advanced into the hills.

But Seward's study committee dithered and the troubles resumed. An Albany County deputy was set upon by a mob of "Indians" near Rensselaerville in September 1841 and forced to hide in the woods for two days. In August 1845, a Delaware County deputy was killed. The violence tarnished the anti-rent cause and led to a number of arrests and stepped-up campaigns against the "Indians" by local authorities and the state militia.

The anti-renters escalated their appeals to the state. They argued that the manor system was a drag on New York's agricultural economy, endorsed political candidates who supported their cause and organized their own political party. But state government equivocated. The two major parties, Whigs and Democrats, postured for the tenants' votes but neither crusaded to end the patroon system. Seward soon lost interest.

His successor, Gov. William Bouck, met with a thousand angry tenants in West Sand Lake in August 1844 and offered to mediate. But the farmers mistrusted him and the landlords thought he was too soft on the lawless anti-renters.

Gov. Silas Wright (1845-1846) declared Delaware County in a state of insurrection after the murder of the deputy sheriff there, but also pardoned some of the convicted anti-renters. Gov. John Young (1847-1848) pardoned remaining imprisoned leaders but did not attack the manorial status quo.
The state Legislature voted to tax the landlords' manor income and restrict evictions for non-payment. But they banned armed, disguised people from public highways and authorized the governor to aid sheriffs overwhelmed by anti-rent forces. Proposals to end the patroon system were debated but never passed.

Court decisions shielded the landlords against initiatives to invalidate their titles or use state eminent domain authority to seize their land. An 1846 state constitutional convention added an amendment to restrict future — but not existing — long-term land leases.
The issue gradually died down, mostly through quiet compromises where resentful tenants bought their farms from weary landlords. But remnants of organized resistance continued to the late 1880s.

The lessons of the anti-rent movement resonate today.

History shows that government often procrastinates or chips away at contentious issues rather than addressing them head on. Cynical politicians hope the issue will fade or voters will blame their opponents for inaction.

But kicking the can down the road usually ill serves the public interest. People who feel they are denied justice over a long period of time may become confrontational and even resort to violence.
The issue may finally be resolved but it may take decades of agitation and dispute, and exact a heavy toll.
Today, the federal government is deadlocked over taxation, spending and other issues. The two major political parties undermine and discredit each other. Drift and uncertainty substitute for policy.
People take to the streets in the Occupy movement to demand government action. Police arrest unruly demonstrators. Reformers call for higher taxes on the rich.

Similar issues were simmering as the county and state armed forces made their way warily into the snowy Hilltowns 172 years ago.

Bruce W. Dearstyne, Ph.D., of Guilderland, is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. He previously was a professor at Maryland and a program director at the New York State Archives.

Read more:

Altamont Enterprise Oct 19 1934

1933 History of Reidsville

Little Village in Helderberg Hills Once Boasted Two Churches, Two Hotels, Several Stores; Abandoned Church Now Monument to Town That Slipped Away

Editor's Note — The following article, written by Inez Shook, appeared in the Sunday Knickerbocker Press, Sept. 16, 1934.

Dust lies like a grey shroud over the interior of a little old church high in the Helderberg hills. It spreads over the huge Bible open on the rough, low pulpit; over the organ with its muted echoes of music that once swelled an accompaniment to the chorus of young voices from choir seats on each side the raised platform; over the twin stoves at the rear of the room, and the sedate rows of square, low-backed pews.
This abandoned church is a monument to a town that died. A town that grew from hamlet to a thriving center of mountain industry, then slipped back to its humble beginnings as time and progress stole its reason for existence. Now, only this crumbling building and vine-tangled quarries in the hills outside remain as testimony to the days when Reidsville was a thriving community of several hundred souls, and could boast two churches, two hotels and several stores.
Augustus H. Salisbury knows the story of Reidsville. Mr. Salisbury lives in a neat grey house on the narrow unpaved road that runs through Reidsville, and can look out his windows at the vacant lots where business places once nourished. He knew as familiar sounds the voices of men making merry in the hotel across the way after a day of toil or during the long winter lay-off. Many times he has watched, the four-horse stage from Albany swing to a whip-cracking halt before William Stoneburner's Inn.
Augustus Salisbury, too, is the man who can tell you about the blue stone Quarries that once kept Reidsville "on the map". He went to work there as a youth of 20, and has watched the in dustry dwindle, from its onetime high peak. And it was he who made the last stand with the quarry industry, to which he was forced to hang up the "out of business" sign a year ago. "Cement did it," Mr, Salisbury observed. Reidsville had the finest blue stone quarries in this section of the Helderbergs, and was the center of the business for over 50 years.
"The men who worked in the quarries around town and in the old Grippie quarry near South Berne all used to live in Reidsville. We had two churches, the Methodist and the Christian - full every Sunday, too- two hotels, several stores and a street lined with houses. "We shipped blue stone from Voorheesville as far away as Philadelphia. Albany, however, was our best market. We also shipped some stone for use as rough boxes.
"But all that ended about 15 years ago. The quarries were kept open until June, 1933, but business was dead."
A. H. Salisbury went to work in the Reidsville quarries nearly 40 years ago. He learned how to blast away top rock, to find the natural seams of blue stone about 10 feet below. Then came the "driving up" with wedges and rolling out of the slabs. "Tracing up" was next, when holes were bored at intervals and the stones cut into required sizes.
This was "quarry cut" stone. Sometimes there would be an order for rock chiseled into smooth edges. Horses crept down over the steep, winding roads into the valley below with their wagon loads of cut stone. It was a 12-hour haul to Albany, and a teamster had many a spare moment for philosophic musing on the journey.
In the early days, the cut rock was loaded into the waiting wagons by hand. Later, derricks were used. Aaron Hotaling and William Brate were the first operators of the 75-year old quarries, as Mr. Salisbury recalls. They were followed by other holders, including John Flagler and the Albany County Blue Stone Company for which Mr. Salisbury worked as a foreman for 21 years. When this company gave up the quarries, Mr. Salisbury took them over. By this time, however, blue stone window sills, curbing and sidewalks were becoming outmoded. Cement and artificial stone usurped its place. For a while, Mr. Salisbury sent truckloads of stone to Saugerties for shipment to New York. He Also kept wheels running over the routes to Bennington, Vt, and Massachusetts towns. Then there was the coping for the Schuyler Mansion and Fort Crailo which he supplied. Blue stone has an antique appearance and is popular in the reconstruction of old stone buildings, he explained.
About six years ago, the Lane Construction Company resurfaced 10 miles of the Rensselaerville road and 10 of the Thacher Park-New Salem highway with rock from the Reidsville quarry. Last year, there was an order for blue stone as backing for the new Trinity Methodist Church of Albany. And from Stockbridge, Mass., came a few orders for blue stone to be used in "crazy walks."
But the groans of laboring derricks died from the quarries, and loaded trucks rumbled less and less on the roads to the valley cities. Quarries that had run from April to November every year closed in the middle of the summer.
In June, 1933, the last wagon load of stone trundled out of the village. Mr. Salisbury turned his eyes toward other fields of endeavor. Cement the material that ruined Reidsville and his own business furnished one job. He constructed over 30 of the cooking fireplaces set up last summer in Thacher Park. And he has found many other places to use the skill developed in the quarry town. But rotting wagon tongues lie half buried in the stagnant pools that fill the abandoned quarries. Reidsville, which offered Frederick W. Conger and William Brate as candidates for sheriff of Albany County, has shrunk into a roadside hamlet once more. Many homes have burned or been torn down to leave gaping vacancies along the road. The hotels and other business places have disappeared. Stone cutters have died or moved away from the village they made. Besides August Salisbury, there are only Adam and Charles Otto to recall working days in the quarries. Coat hooks in the entry of the Christian Church erected in 1821 hang empty, and Wilkins and David Crawford, former trustees, look wistfully upon its crumbling walls and sagging pews.
Belongs to the Past
Services are still conducted in the Methodist Church on the hill. There is a tiny schoolhouse, and there are a few homes to send pupils there. But these houses belong to a new type of Resident: Newcomers who never knew that thriving community which sent wagon-loads of stone down to valley railroads running to great cities of the East.
Reidsville belongs to the past. A surely as the Reidsville Rural Cemetery on the hill sheltering 15 soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic and that young Clifton Flagler, nephew of A. H. Salisbury, who died on World War battlefield in the 55th Regiment of the United States Marines. That cemetery across which Nathaniel Newberry flung a jest that brought a grim return.
Newberry helped build the cemetery. When it was finished he shook with deep laughter and cried:"Bring 'em on now. Your cemetery is ready for business."
It was Nathaniel Newberry who rested in the first grave.

Recent Additions

Reidsville Quarry owned and operated by the Brate and Flagler Families
At the turn of the century, the Reidsville Quarry was a bustling site employing between 100 – 150 men who worked to produce bluestone that was used as sidewalks in the City of Albany. Constant streams of horses with wagons carried the flagging stones to Albany and more recently just to the Village of Voorheesville after railroad tracks were built there. Paul Giebitz owns this area now, and his company, Heldeberg Bluestone, is still busy cutting and drilling bluestone in its Mt. Grippy quarry. An article written by Shiela Stempel, “Heldeberg Bluestone paves the way through historic years,” may be found in the September 23, 1975 issue of The Helderberg Sun.

Monday, November 14, 2011

From Helen Lounsbury: BKW is in the process of trying to establish an ed relationship with Dudley Observatory. We recently met with folks from Dudley. I think a large attendance at the Star party they sponsor would be helpful. Pat and i went to the last one--it was excellent.  Please do what you can to promote this worthwhile event.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From John Elberfeld:,

Dear Hilltown Neighbors and Friends:

We’d like to share some exciting news with you and ask for your help. We’re under contract with Arcadia Publishing to write a new pictorial history book, Helderberg Hilltowns, and we’re looking for vintage photographs to include in it. The book will be part of Arcadia’s “Images of America” series—possibly you’ve seen some of their books with sepia-tone photographs on the cover.

We’re excited to be writing a book that will encompass all the Hilltowns, but we need your support. Do you have any vintage photos that tell about life in the Hilltowns—Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo—from approximately 1880 to 1960? We’d love to include SCANS of your photos of people doing everyday things, like feeding the chickens, riding a new bike, showing off ribbons won at the fair, standing beside a huge snowbank, or working at a quarry.

If you have any good-quality vintage photos, please contact us, and we’ll take a look. If we use your photo in our book, you’ll receive credit in the Acknowledgements section. The publisher asks us not to use photos of old photos, newspaper clippings, or Xerox copies. They want new scans of original photographs.

On November 8, we’ll be scanning photos at the election night supper at Knox Reformed Church from 4:30 to 7:00. We can scan while you eat, and you can take your photos home with you. We can also bring the scanner to your house almost any day or evening and scan them right there.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Memoriam to Gordon Wright, Webmaster of the Berne Historical Project at

Gordon Wright
     Gordon Wright, age 58, of Lone Rock, died on Friday October 21, 2011 at the Kossuth Regional Health Center in Algona.  Funeral services will be 10:30 AM Tuesday at the Lone Rock Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Glenn Wilson officiating.  Burial will be in Fenton Township Cemetery of rural Lone Rock, with Military Rites conducted by the Kerr-Hamerstrom American Legion Post #557 of Lone Rock. Visitation will be 5 - 7 pm Monday at the Lone Rock Presbyterian Church.

     Gordon John Wright was born on April 26, 1953 in Troy, NY, the son of Harvey and Shirley (Graham) Wright.  When he was eight, his parents moved to the southern California area, settling in Garden Grove.  He joined the Navy at 17 and spent his 20 year career on the East coast, mostly in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia.  He was a missile technician on nuclear submarines and spent nearly 4 years underwater, 72 days at a time.  While in the navy, he married Corrine Mandojana, and made a family with her son Danial and their two children, Rachel and Jeremy.  After retiring from the navy, a string of jobs landed him in Colorado where he was a partner in a computer software company.  There he met Joan Leaneagh in January of 2000 and they were married in Las Vegas, NV on June 9, 2001. After the sale of his business, Gordon wanted to pursue a lifelong dream to live in an RV and travel fulltime, a dream he shared with his father.  Starting in 2004, Gordon and Joan did just that for 7 years, dropping in a couple times a year to see Joan's mother in Lone Rock.  In 2008, they purchased a project house in Lone Rock and he has been working on restoring it.  Gordon loved traveling, his children and grandchildren, the family cats and was known as a computer whiz.

     He is survived by his wife Joan, of Lone Rock; his step-son Danial (Wendy) Mandojana from Rhode Island, daughter Rachel (Kevin) Ruddock of Rhode Island and son Jeremy (Jennifer) of Virginia; six grandchildren: Cassie, Kyle, Brandon, Dylan, Zachary and Madison; two sisters, Dee Dee (Fred) Speicher and Debbie (Charlie) Heintz, both of California; one adopted brother, Mike and two adopted sisters, Denita and Yuridia, his Aunt Gladys of NY and three cousins: Billy, Nancy, and Susan.  He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Darcy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Partnership Grants allow agricultural service providers to explore topics in sustainable production and marketing in cooperation with client farmers. The goal is to build knowledge farmers can use, encourage the understanding and widespread use of sustainable techniques, and strengthen working partnerships between farmers and farm service providers. Projects must take place on farms or directly involve farm businesses. Reviewers look for well-designed inquiries into how agriculture can enhance the environment, improve the quality of life, or be made more profitable through good stewardship.

You must be engaged in agricultural research or outreach in an organization like Cooperative                          Extension, NRCS, a state department of agriculture, a college or university, an agricultural nonprofit, or a commercial agricultural consulting business.

Funds can be used to pay for your time and time that your partnering farmers spend on the project, materials specific to the project, projectrelated services like soil testing and lab fees, project-related travel, outreach expenses, equipment rental, and other direct costs.

The deadline to apply is November 1st. For more information, visit

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Helderberg Hilltowns Association Meeting Notes 08 08 2011
Attending: Rick Blysma, Vicki Blysma, John Elberfeld, Zenie Gladieux, Barb Husek, Dawn Jordan, Bonnie Kohl, Leonard
Loeb, Jack Milner, Amy Pokorny, Dotty Verch, Anna Wolfe
The meeting convened at the Red Baron at Lake Onderdonk at 7:00 PM.
  • Hosts Rick and Vicki gave us a tour of their facility. Rick grew up spending summers there. They bought it 6 years ago after
they heard it was slated for demolition. They have 5,000 square feet on the first floor (with downstairs entrance accessible to pickup trucks) and 3,500 square feet in the large room on the second floor (parking lot level). They hope to make it available to the public for events, workspace, farmers’ markets, and a community kitchen/cannery. They welcome other ideas. It offers opportunities for ice skating, swimming and water sports, fishing, snowmobiling. The operation needs to be sustainable; must generate income. They hope to run a coffee house to create a community gathering place. Fred and Carolyn Wellington’s might be a model to consider. It could be used by HHA for various fund raising activities. It is centrally located in the Hilltowns, and it could serve many constituencies, including farmers, community locals, and service organizations. It was built in 1920 and operated as the DeWitt Casino. It had bath houses in the area behind the parking lot, and an ice house across the road. It had a four lane bowling alley on the first floor. Later it became the Red Baron. Bonnie gave her assessment of the work and materials needed and associated costs. Rick and Vicki are working to convince the Westerlo Town Board of the merit of their vision for the building and grounds.
  • Farm tour: - Around 28 people signed up by the deadline of August 6, and a few more may be getting their forms in soon.
  • Publicity: John demonstrated the website support he has developed, including the full schedule for both days, pages for each farm or artisan, an icon for access to a tour map, and Google access to maps for each location. John reviewed the publicity resources on the website, including logos and the NOFA Locavore information. He provided posters and 1/3 page handouts for members to distribute. Suggested assignments for posters:
o Delmar – Zenie
o Guilderland - Anna
o Knox - Amy
o Rensselaerville – Barb
o Voorheesville - Amy
.Other locations are available. John will make more 1/3 cuts for Sarah’s farmers to include in deliveries. Some will be distributed to farmer’s markets – Delmar, Voorheesville, Schenectady.
· We need to ask Hal Miller and Sarah Gordon to send notices to their email distributions.
· Barb brought laminated samples of the HHA logo, with slight changes to indicate HHA membership.
  • Promotional Strategies:
· Our goal is to attract over 200 visitors.
· Dawn will work on a new press release directed to patrons of the event.
· We can develop a news story and send a release or invite reporters from Times Union, Gazette, Enterprise,
  • Metroland, TV stations.
· We can request an interview on WAMC’s Roundtable program.
· Dawn will contact Albany County Visitor’s Bureau.
· Zenie will email Jane with a list of special services. We can contact senior housing and senior services organizations.
· Zenie and her mom will compose sample tour suggestions.
· We’ll encourage patrons to carpool.
  • Signs:
· Signs will be put up along roads on September 4 and removed on September 12.
· Sign painting party will be scheduled sometime around August 20 or so. Rick offered space at the Red Baron.
  • Maps:
· Amy will design paper maps. They will be 11 x 17 inches, two sides, folded in quarters.
· Dawn will make up the descriptions of each destination on the map.
· We will have 500 black and white copies of maps made. Rick and Vicki can help with costs.
· Numbers could be used to correlate roadside signs with map notations.
· Maps will indicate rest rooms and family friendly destinations.
  • · Partnerships and sponsorships will be included on maps; e.g. NOFA Locavore Challenge, Zenie, John and Jane, etc.
  • Insurance:
· Anna is researching liability insurance, is waiting to hear back from Clickman. Will check with Stafford Ins. Co. and Marshall and Sterling in Leeds (800-724-0695).
· We will ask another organization (Huyck Preserve? Kiwanis?) to sponsor the event so we can buy insurance through them.
The meeting closed at 8:50 PM.
Next meeting will be held in Medusa at the Medusa General Store at 7 PM on Monday, August 29.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


The next meeting place for HHA on Monday night Aug. 8 at 7pm at the former Red Baron on Lake Road off County Route 1 on the north end of Lake Onderdonk in Westerlo.

Our reason for visiting this location is that it has been offered as a site for a community cannery. Owners Rich and Vickie Bylsma have some other ideas that could work with ours as well – such as a permanent farmers’ market with cool cellar for self-serve items, and a couple of ideas that could allow us to earn a little income to support our activities.

Also on the agenda will be a discussion of the so-called Dark Skies initiative, updates on the website, and, of course, reports and plans for the Farmers and Artisans Tour (known to the cognoscenti as FAT) which is galloping along due to the efforts of Jane and her crew.

I’m hoping you can make it. If you know you are coming please respond back to me, so Vickie will know about how many tables to set up. Thanks. Zenie Gladieux

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 6 minutes of HHA

Helderberg Hilltowns Association

June 6, 2011
Tim Lippert’s Crosby Farm
Present: Zenie Gladieux, Tim Lippert, John Elberfeld, Jane McLean, Anna Wolfe, Amy Pokorny, Dawn Jordan, Barb Husek, Gerry Chartier
Zenie opened the meeting at 7:20 after a tour of Tim’s home/old farmhouse—thank you, Tim
  • WEBSITE UPDATE: Discussion about farms on website; John sent 30 letters to farms as listed on Hal Miller’s website, informing them about website. Anna showed “FarmFresh Guide to Schoharie County” as a sample of what could be done. We discussed the value of paper advertising vs. website, and concluded both are needed. We discussed concentrating on getting businesses on website by sending our brochure, either on paper or as a PDF? The possibility of a center supplement in Altamont Enterprise was raised, but they charge for paper/printing; perhaps we could get promotional articles in Enterprise, ex. places to eat, farm stands using letters to the editor every couple of weeks. Tim mentioned Constant Contact as a tool for an enewsletter: the question was raised, are we preaching to the choir? We can ask our HHA group if someone wants to do an e-newsletter with topics, ex. farmstands.
  • DUDLEY OBSERVATORY: Amy reported: June 4 introduction at Octagon Barn: event a great success, “a lovely evening”. Invitations sent to dignitaries from federal to county to town levels; Sandy Gordon, Albany County, Tom Wolfe & Nick Viscio, Town of Knox, attended. There were approximately 50 people in attendance for the presentation; folks kept arriving and some went directly out to the telescopes, so approximately 115 attendees and workers were actually there, including members from at least three star clubs associated with Dudley. Zenie spoke for HHA, Sandy welcomed Dudley to the Hilltowns. The refreshments were a hit! Dudley people were also present at renewable energy expo on same day w/ solar telescope. Dudley people want to have another event; their focus is on education. Amy would like an “Astronomy for Dummies” program. The only problem was getting the folks to leave! It was suggested for next time to put an end time on all publicity materials.
Helderberg is metamorphosizing into Sara is expanding to four counties with more and different farmers on her website; consumers can choose the county they wish.
Po’ Boys farmers market has not been heard from since we handed it off to them. It is difficult to keep a market going in Hilltowns.
Zenie urged getting all small businesses on website to push “Buy Local”. We need to get more of our brochures into circulation; Zenie can’t keep upo with the demand alone so she distributed sheets of the heavier brochure paper for people to print their own copies of Dawn’s brochure as well as HHA form for website listing information.
There was discussion on how to get our local businesses hooked into the various GPS systems tourists might use; Gerry will research how businesses get listed on GPS.
  • PUBLICITY: Dawn is preparing a presentation to town boards, approx. 10 minutes, starting w/ Zenie’s elevator speech from the Dudley Star Party, and adding proposed activities and screen prints of website as a handout for each board member. There should be a statement about how HHA will benefit the town—promote businesses for revenue, and what we want the towns to do for us? Can we take a prototype for each town presentation to facilitate current businesses? We might then ask the towns to appropriate funds for marketing, provide permission/personnel for installation of signage, tell us what kind of marketing the town is doing for its community [ex. signage: Gerry talked about Greene County’s signage; Tim kiosk at border, Anna visitor center; info glass front w/ brochures]. The group leader will contact the town clerk and ask to be put on the agenda for 10 minutes; that should get us more time than using public comments. Several people will attend as a group; in July: Rensselaerville 07/, Barb leads, Tim, Dawn, Pam McSweeney; Berne: 07/13, Dawn leads, Gerry; Knox 07/12: John leads, Jane, Amy, Anna; Westerlo 07/05: Bonnie? Gerry Boone? We still need to get an informational direct mail to local organizations, but it’s too late for this summer. Russ Pokorny in Knox and Tim in Berne/Rensselaerville will contact fire departments to see if we can get our logo/website on firefighters calendar for this year.
TO DO: Many projects!!
FALL WEEKEND: 09/10-11 “Discover the Hilltowns: Farm and Artisan Tours” farm tours, craft/artisan open studios. We can use Amy’s list of local businesses to contact them, and also use our website. John will add information to our website as it becomes available. Dawn will develop a flier and sign-up sheet.
EVENT: Knox Historical Society: 07/31 new display, period music, Civil War w/ reenactors, Michael Barckley’s letters, and biographies of Knox soldiers available for research
06/27: Knox (John and Jane) at Beebe Farm, 66 Beebe Road [Cty Rd. 259]
07/18: Westerlo (Dawn)
08/08: Rensselaerville (Barb)
Respectfully submitted, Phoebe Beebe

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Star Party to introduce Dudley Observatory to the Hilltowns community

Saturday, June 4 · 8:00pm - 11:00pm

Octagon Barn, 588 Middle Road in Knox (use Delanson 12053 for GPS directions)

Created By

More Info
The Dudley Observatory, chartered by the State of New York in
1852, is the oldest independent organization in the United States
supporting research and education in astronomy and the history
of astronomy. Now, Dudley Observatory is extending its astron-
omical activities to the Hilltowns, to property on Middle Road in
Knox. Beginning this summer, Dudley telescopes will be viewing
the skies from a new angle on "the Hill."

You are cordially invited to attend a First Light Star Party to intro-
duce Dudley Observatory Helderberg Site to the Community on Sat-
urday, June 4 at 8 PM, rain or shine, at the Octagon Barn, 588 
Middle Road in Knox (use Delanson 12053 for GPS directions). 
Amateur astronomers and families are invited to bring telescopes 
and binoculars. All are welcome. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, and to RSVP please call 894-8589.

Sincerely, Zenie Gladieux, Chair Helderberg Hilltowns Association

Dudley Observatory, 107 Nott Terrace, Suite 201, Schenectady, New York 12308; tel. 518-382-7583

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Helderberg Hilltowns Association Comittees 2011

Helderberg Hilltowns Association

Hi, Hilltowners,
Attached is the list of committees, for lack of a better term, that we have been hammering on over the past few meetings.
Under each committee is a list of activities HHA has decided it would like to see happen in this area, and in some cases a list of names of folks who have volunteered to work on said committee.
Some activities have already been done; I marked those in red ink.
Some activities are in the works, either by our own group or by another one that we know of. Those are marked in green. Those identified by the group as of prime importance are numbered.
The remaining list of items – let’s call it a wish list- are in blue. These offer some guidelines as to where we might put our energies in the next year or two.
I think it’s important for us to realize that HHA can’t do all of these things. Nor do we need to. What we do need to do is to check with as many other Hilltowns organizations as we can and identify what they are doing, so we can check it off our list and avoid duplication of effort – both ours and those of other busy folks.
We all belong to and have contact with many other organizations. That’s the beauty of this group, that it brings to one table so many individuals with so many diverse contacts.
I’d like to ask you to utilize those contacts on our behalf before our next meeting on 4/18. Please take the attached list and see if you know of any organization (or individual, for that matter) who is doing or planning to do any of the things on our list. When you find such a group or calendar of activities, would you please email to all of us the information: type it in, scan and email a flier, email us a link to their website. However, but let’s make a concerted effort to collect information so that we’ll have it to digest on the 18th.
And by the way, Dawn is making great strides in developing our own brochure. We’ll be emailing copies to you soon.

Click on link then on symbol for list of committees

Monday, March 21, 2011



Report of March meeting - 03/07/11. Called to order 7:10 p.m. by Zenie at Helderberg Lutheran Church (formerly St. Paul’s) in Berne. Many thanks to Jack Milner, our host, for shoveling the walkway and providing a tour of this beautiful old building. Present: Zenie Gladieux, John Elberfeld, Jane McLean, Jack Milner, Anna Wolfe, Amy Pokorny
  • Randy Grippin has a scheduling conflict, but wanted to advise us that the Berne Town Park may be available for weekly farmer markets; he has been speaking with Berne Supervisor George Gebe.
  • Cheryl Frantzen: The Second Annual Knox Conservation Council Fall Festival will be on October 8th, Columbus Day weekend, during the Albany County Firemen’s Muster being hosted by the Knox Fire Department.
  • Bonnie Kohl emailed that she won’t be able to do the squash wholesale growing project this year; the government requires a stiff fee for permits which she can’t absorb. Tom Gallagher, Cooperative Extension farm rep, won’t be able to assist her this year as his coverage has been extended to 9 counties due to budget cuts. She reported that the farmers who participated in the project last year did well.
WEBSITE: John has continued to work a bit on the site, but there has not been much activity. He will contact people who are on the site to discuss their web page. We discussed how we can continue to contact people to add to the site? We can seek articles in the Altamont Enterprise, the Greenville Pioneer, the Albany Times Union, and the Schenectady Gazette about the website after we polish it and make decisions about community calendar. Amy will send to John her spreadsheet with the names of local small businesses to be contacted. We can use community contacts to do a direct mailing to local organizations: a one page flyer describing our group and explaining how to use the information on our website to better publicize their own efforts.
COMMUNITY CALENDAR: We spent some time discussing the needs of a community calendar. John was asked if we could have links to community calendars of local papers? (Probably not). Can we set up a simple way for organizations to submit their information, such as a spreadsheet? (Possible, but our website format MediaWiki doesn’t automatically sort entries by date, which would make it impossible to group entries by date.) Mediawiki would allow entries to be set up by categories [ex. church, recreation] but not by date within categories. Date sorts would be by entry date and not by event date. To be useful the calendar must allow entry by the public, tie events to the correct dates and allow events to be grouped by date and possibly by category. John will check Hal Miller’s website to see how events are entered there and will check freeware sources for possible community calendars. (N.B. A sample calendar is being tested on the website as of 3/11; please check it out - Zenie)
COMMUNITY OUTREACH: We need to develop an “elevator speech” presentation about our group and ask to present it at the Town Board meetings in all four towns soon. Berne and Knox Historical societies already have historical drive-yourself tours which could be made available to the public quickly. Do Rensselaerville and Westerlo have something similar that we could use?
COMMITTEE FOR ACTIVITIES: The remainder of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the Proposed Areas of Interest [from last meeting]: which do we need and what should the responsibilities for each be? We decided that each area will be a committee; we will need a Chair and volunteers to work on each committee; the Chair of each committee will be a member of the Steering Committee. The Proposed Areas of Interest list from last meeting was evaluated for relevance and efficiencies. Some of the items on the original list have already been completed or are in process; these have been flagged as follows:
  1. = things we’ve accomplished;
    • = activity in process. Top priority items have been tagged. Volunteers will be sought to populate these committees; please call or email Zenie with your interest.
HILLTOWNS COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Chair Dawn Jordan, John Elberfeld, Zenie Gladieux
  1. Create website,
    • Create Hilltowns community calendar,
Develop a publicity kit for HHA,
    • develop a web page for each local business, with a link to any existing website
Help businesses develop own websites
Develop an “elevator speech” presentation to be put on disk,
1) Present ourselves to the town boards to urge cooperation in promoting and supporting Hilltowns activities
2) Develop and promote a ”buy local” campaign to the Hilltowns
AGRICULTURAL: Chair Amy Pokorny
  1. Farmers’ Market at Octagon Barn,
    • October Harvest Festivals in Knox and Medusa,
Help promote Heldeberg Market,
Reestablish a wholesale growing project (now inactive),
    • Develop a Farmers’ Market at the Berne Town Park
Explore establishing a community cannery,
Explore offering classes on home canning and freezing (in cooperation with Coop Extension?) Organize classes in farm activities (free help for farmers?)
2) Organize classes on designing home vegetable gardens
1) Identify public restrooms in the Hilltowns, put them on our maps & website
2) Identify lodgings, put on maps & website
Promote availability of weddings/family reunions/ business picnic catering by local businesses
Tie tours and events to existing local services and activities
Promote use of local products in restaurants
TOURISM: Zenie Gladieux
    • Develop maps and documentation for drive-yourself tours
Develop farm tours, perhaps by topics of interest, i.e. sheep-shearing .
1) Organize town-wide garage sales for each town
2) Organize open house studio/antique shop toursIdentify and publicize one or more “scenic byways”
Work with towns to set up visitor centers for maps and brochures
Organize weekly thematic tours during summer months: baby animals, alternative energy, fiber arts, fall foliage, maple products, pumpkins, Xmas trees, etc.
Improve local signage for businesses
Develop interface with Albany County Visitors Bureau
RECREATION: Gerry Chartier, Dan Driscoll, Jack Milner, Chad Jemison
    • Promote the Long Path and develop links with it from other areas
1) Develop a series of seasonal hikes
2) Develop ATV/snowmobile link on website
Arrange classes for hunting or fishing with other organizations
HISTORICAL/LIBRARIES: John Elberfeld, Jane McLean
  1. Genealogy Days in September and October 2010,
  1. Establish a link to Hal Miller’s website
1) Organize training class with experts for historical societies and libraries
2) Genealogy class for public
3) Organize school programs with historical societies: going into school with “suitcase” of information; (Helen L, Mary K, Carol W?)
Build an inventory of old homes in each town
  1. Hilltown Players, contradances in Rensselaerville
    • Contradances at Octagon Barn [Paul Rosenberg via Amy]
    • Star parties at Octagon Barn with Dudley Observatory
1) Hilltowns-wide “studio Open Houses” for artists and crafters
Band concerts
Arts and Crafts shows
NEXT MEETINGS - All at 7:00 PM:
  • 03/28: Knox Town Hall: John and Jane
  • 04/18: Westerlo at Dormansville Hiawatha Grange : Jack Milner
  • 05/09: Rensselaerville: Barb Husek
Respectfully submitted, Phoebe Beebe

Wednesday, March 9, 2011



Report of February meeting - 03/07/11. Called to order 7:15 p.m. by Zenie at Rensselaerville Library, Rensselaerville, NY. Present: Zenie Gladieux, John Elberfeld, Jane McLean, Gerry Chartier, Jessica Duval, Barb Husek,Jack Milner
HELDEBERG MARKET: Sarah Gordon reported via email: recent week was the best week ever; products include produce, meats, eggs, and breads at 
CONTRACT GROWING: Bonnie Kohl reported via email: she met recently with Tom Gallagher, Ralph Douty, and her husband to review last season. She is seeking 25-35 farmers who want to be part of the group for the coming season. For more information, contact Bonnie at 797-3959 or
DUDLEY OBSERVATORY: Ron Barnell, Dudley Observatory Site Committee, reported via email: Dudley is looking at a site in Knox for their observatory, although their offices will continue to be off-hill. Ron has asked to attend April meeting to discuss plans, including rural land initiative and diminishing light pollution in the Hilltowns.
  • John has added info on how to do publicity for Hilltown events, including a comprehensive list of organizations to contact in various media complete with phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Gerry brought to our attention the educational program Division of Soil and Water is offering on how to work with the media, 9:00-4:00 on 03/24, at the Cooperative Extension center in Voorheesville. The program is free and designed for farmers and people in farm support organizations. It is an interactive, hands-on program: how to present positive benefits of agriculture to media, taught by professionals. Call Barbara Silvestri in Ag&Markets to register.
MISSION STATEMENT: Adopted: The Helderberg Hilltowns Association (HHA) consists of neighbors from Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo working together to help preserve and promote local farms, businesses, and organizations. HHA is committed to:
- developing a unified Hilltown presence
- cultivating a vibrant local economy
- safeguarding our rural culture and heritage
- encouraging stewardship of our agricultural lands, forests, and open spaces.
ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE FOR 2011: After some discussion, it was decided to continue with steering committee format, rather than electing officers, at least for the present. The Chairs ofthe various areas of activities will form the steering committee. As special projects are undertaken, members of those committees can join steering committee on a temporary basis.
POTENTIAL AREAS OF INTEREST: At the meeting of 5/18/10, part of the meeting involved breaking the attendees into groups and asking each group to develop ideas for projects that might benefit their group. During subsequent meetings other ideas were added to the lists as well. Zenie passed out the original ideas; a copy is appended to the minutes.
Zenie has realigned these initial ideas into proposed areas of interest; a copy of that document is also attached to the minutes. During the ensuing discussion, other ideas were brought up, including:
- kiosks for maps/tours
- adding recipe exchange to website
- town-wide garage sales: Rensselaerville in May, Berne July or August?
- helping historical societies and/or libraries share resources
- each area committee set up two activities to be completed by 12/31?
- need improved communication to town governments about what HHA is doing
- how can we coordinate town activities?
- keep youth [middle-high schoolers] in mind, geocaching, clubs at school
- beekeeping class
- Dutch Barns
- energy tour: can HHA help Helderberg Community Energy during energy fest in April?
The “areas” of interest (subject to revision or change at this point) are:
- Hilltowns Community Support
- Agriculture
- Hospitality
- Services
- Tourism
- Recreation: Gerry will continue to work on trail project with trail committee
- Historical: John and Jane will chair this committee
- Cultural
- Classes
Volunteers to chair any of these other areas will be gratefully accepted.
  • 03/28: Knox: Monday, March 28, 2011, 7:00p-9:00p  Place TBA - Presentation by Dudley Observatory - Contact Zenie Gladieux at (518) 894-8589 for more info. 
  • 04/18: Westerlo: Jack will find place
  • 05/09: Rensselaerville: Barb will find place
Respectfully submitted, Jane McLean

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1869 Harper's New Monthly Magazine

The Helderbergs - Originals
Thanks to John Elberfeld for this post:
Scans of the original article from 1869 Harper's New Monthly Magazine - The Helderbergs - purchased on eBay by John Elberfeld in December, 2010.