Free Writers Workshop

On Saturday September 8 from 1 to 2:30 pm, the Zadock Pratt Museum (Prattsville, NY) will be hosting the final writing workshop of its 2018 Writers Workshop Series.  This FREE event will be presented by  skilled writer Simona David of Roxbury whose professional reputation is well-known as being both inspired and fueled by her writings about art in the Catskill Region, the Birthplace of American Art.

Writers and would-be writers of all levels and backgrounds are welcome to participate it what is promising to be a wonderfully different  kind of workshop as a fitting climax to the Pratt Museum’s 2018 Workshop Series.  Simona will be guiding us with insights into investigating the world of art in this region from a writer’s point of view, with tips from her professional background about how to break in to the world of writing about art for professional publications.  Her workshop is based on alerting us on how to recognize and engage with writing prompts already embedded within the history of art in the Catskills.  We have no further to look than the natural writing cues surrounding us, planned to elicit our intuitive best in writing, which Simona—through the rich background of her life-long investigative nature will be sharing with us.

Please don’t miss this free, unusual and final workshop event of the Pratt Museum’s 2018 season sponsored in part through the generosity of the The A. Lindsay & Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, The Greene County Council for the Arts through The New York Council for the Arts, and the Zadock Pratt Museum.  For more information please call 518-937-6120 and/or email us at   

I, CAT: Finding HIM

I, CAT…2: Finding HIM
I’m keeping my dayjob at the museum as chief mouser but it sometimes gets a little boring ’cause the mice that used to laugh and play all over the place don’t come around much anymore most lately. She says it’s cause they’re getting scareder and scarder of me and Other Cat (aka He-With-Furry-Ears-and-A-Big-Bite, who must be obeyed when hanging out in the backyard)—I dunno tho, She is always putting me on about such things.
She has been helping me tho, and She said she doesn’t mind one bit doing my Capitals at all, and furthermore, and utmostly, said she’d type anything I ask her to as long as it isn’t math, which I don’t even know what that is, so everything’s copaseptic.
Because mice business has been slow these days, I’ve had some opportunity to ruminate and cogitate about some things going on inside the museum. Like for instance I’ve been seriously thinking about this little kid who’s been writin’ his name all over the place, or at least it seems like to me—on the stairwell, scratched into the window—even on some fake money bills I found in the Bank Room. I haven’t been able to find him…not yet, anyways…but if he’s anything like me, he’s probably disappearing around the corner every time I almost get close to him. I bet he’s a rascal…just like me. I bet he’s probably pretty smart, too…just like me also.
I found his little school slateboard upstairs in the children’s room (more of a big closet, really) and he wrote his name on that too. George, George, George! He must really want me to know his name is George. And he writes ‘GWP’ on things too. I guess the ‘GW’ is for ‘George Washington’, ‘cause the owner of this house likes George Washington A LOT, tho I can’t figure out what that last letter ‘P’ stands for, but She’s shaking her head NO as I’m dictatin’ all this. She bugs me whenever she does that, interferin’ with my cogitative deductions, but what do I know–I’m only an articulatin’ objective observer, or something else like that out of spellchek, maybe.
If I ever find this boy, this George WP, I’d like to ask him a few questions, important things that I myself contemplate from time to time—things like, what would he like to be when he grows up, and other important things like, does he speak French and/or like tuna fish? If I find out he does speak French, then I’ll know automatically he has a natural tendency for good taste in tuna fish, which would also give him an added advantage if he ever wanted to grow up to be something really important like, for instance, the youngest Senator in New York State. But first things first. And first: I have to find him…and that’s all I can think of for now. Good Night.

The Lost Settlement of Schohary Kill, Part II

In 1995, I was new to the Pratt Museum. I’d just landed the job as the Museum’s Director-Curator and was looking forward to learning as much as I could about Prattsville’s history. Walking Main Street from Pratt Rock to the former Laraway Inn (currently the O’Hara home), I didn’t give much thought to Maple Lane. It seemed to me to be a quiet rural spur of a once-bustling typical 19th century town. No such thing.
What led me to believe that Maple Lane was merely a sleepy extension of the Town that Pratt Built was the location of the Reformed Dutch Church, which congregation members proudly told me was the oldest church on Greene County’s “Mountain Top;” the other is that someone who knew far more than I did about local history at that time had informed me that the location of the Church, together with the fact that an early grist mill once stood across the road from it, seemed to indicate that this had been the center of Town when Pratt arrived in Prattsville in 1824. At that time, I had no reason not to believe him. After all, the Laraway Inn, was built in 1785, a mere nine years after the American Revolution, by John and Martinus Laraway.
Around that time, a man named Bell built the first tannery in the area, locating it close to Devasego Falls, a popular summer vacation spot in the 19th century that was eventually flooded over by the City of New York in 1928 to make way for the Schoharie Reservoir. Charles Smedberg, a native of Sweden, purchased Bell’s tannery and ran it until 1823, when it was destroyed by a fire, alleged to have been started by Bell, who disappeared from the area, coattails fluttering, shortly after that. Gossip held that Bell was a pirate, who, upon leaving the area, was captured and hung near Philadelphia. Smedberg, on the other hand, built a second tannery on the ashes of the first, but it was not to be. Smedberg’s second tannery also was destroyed by fire, at which time, the unlucky Swede decided to return to farming.
Seizing the opportunity left by Smedberg’s misfortune, Colonel Zadock Pratt built what would become the world’s largest tannery on the banks of the Schoharie Kill in 1825. This tannery was 550 feet long, and 43 feet wide, with 300 vats, conductors under the vats, and 12 leaches, with six heaters, together with three hide-mills, and ball and press pumps. In 1839, a flood seriously damaged the tannery, which Pratt eventually closed for good in 1845. What’s most intriguing about this turn of events is the introduction of “Schoharie Kill” into our story.
Being desirous of settling emigrants in America, England’s Queen Anne, anxious to settle the New World with certain of her subjects, sent her agent to America to purchase land, which he did; about 20,000 acres in the Schoharie valley. Soon after, Queen Anne had a ship fitted out and filled with German emigrants, started from a German port early in January 1710. After a long and difficult voyage, the ship reached the mouth of the Hudson River, June 14th 1712, after two and a half years at sea. Many of the ship’s passengers had died during the Atlantic voyage. Those who remained traveled up the Hudson River to Saugerties, where they put down anchor for the winter. Early in the spring they sailed to Albany, Here some enlisted in the British army while the rest, guided by an Indian trail, walked to Schoharie and settled along the Schoharie Kill, Several months passed and the Queen’s agent was sent to the settlers to offer them the protection of the laws and give them undisputed title to the land they now occupied. Wary of strangers and fearing oppression and taxation, the emigrants resisted his offers after arming themselves with guns, clubs, pitchforks, etc., sought to do him violence. The agent escaped and the land was eventually sold to a private company. The memory of this transaction, together with the punishment of its ringleaders, created ill will in the minds of those who decided to move east.
Eventually, descendants of the Schoharie settlers pitched camp on the flats at what-is-now-called Prattsville. During the War of Independence [Revolutionary War], a band of Tories and Indians, led by a British Officer known only as Captain Smith, attacked the tiny settlement. The settlers fought back valiantly and eventually Captain Smith was killed and buried where he fell, on the bank of the Schoharie, opposite the old battle ground. In time, Smith’s bones were washed away by one of the region’s frequent floods, where, we’re told, an unnamed African-American gathered them together and buried them in a safer place. This skirmish took place north of the village and a short distance below the iron bridge. John Laraway and sons, John, Jonas, Derrick, and Martinus; Isaac Van Alstyne; Van Loan, brothers; Henry Becker, and the Shoemaker family were some of the pioneers who fought and won this small struggle against the Crown.
If you think I’ve forgotten about Prattsville’s picturesque Maple Lane by now, I haven’t. More on that in a few.

Daniel the Cat

i cat

  1. i have a name now so i thought i’d better introduce myself. daniel…at least that’s what she calls me.

i work at the pratt museum…actually I only work in there first thing each morning and last thing each night.

my job title is chief mouser. i run thru the pratt museum each day checking for those wily little furry looking things with the long skinny tails, big soupy eyes and pointy noses that never seem to stay still…i find these little varmints so fascinating, i just become glued to the spot whenever they’re around.

so far this hunting season tho, i haven’t found a single one inside the museum…not that i’m complaining or anything…she says its all because i’m such a big brave mouser catcher, and that those pesky little interlopers get all trembly and scared when they smell mighty me, the great hunter, around…and now that they know for sure there’s a new sheriff in town they’re all finding it so much more copasetic or something to stay out of dodge city…or, er, the pratt museum, that is.

i dunno…she might be just putting me on, tho.

do i really smell><{}K…

i really sorry i can’t type a real live question mark…or capital anything…it’s hard for me to hit the shift key at the same time as another one…i keep slipping off one or the other…

by the way, that previous remark was a parenthetical in case you didn’t realize it…

i started out writing this little post cuz i really wanted to share with you the strange and mythical story about how i got my job at the pratt museum but i’m exhausted…i just typed 284 words and with only 1 paw, which probably counts for double. in any case, i’ll need to get some help…from her, maybe…if i’m ever to be able to continue to share that which looms so large in my legend…ringo said that in ‘a hard day’s night’…and that was another parenthetical. boy, this is fun. i just can’t wait til i can italicize.

well, good night for now…i’ve got to be going on my rounds.

ps…y’know, at least there’s one really good thing about not being able to type a capital and that is you don’t have to worry anymore if there’s an end of a sentence before it.

American Masquerade

Mask2 Mask

Masks by Joyce Kozloff. Left: Voyages #41: Lesbos, 2005, acrylic/cast paper, 8.25 x 6.25 x 3.5” Right: Voyages #21: Pohnpei, 2004, acrylic, collage/cast paper, 8.25 x 6.25 x 3.5”. Masks by Joyce Kozloff will be featuring in “Acis and Galatea,” presented by the Catskill Mountain Foundation as part of American Masquerade.

The Mainly Greene Partnership Creates an Exciting Multi-Media Celebration of the History of the Masquerade Motif

A Canadian law quietly enacted in 2013 specifically bans people from wearing any sort of mask or face covering during an “unlawful assembly.” Under current Canadian law, a maximum ten-year sentence is being threatened against anyone convicted of concealment of one’s face. While Canadian law had already enacted a ban on covering one’s face during a criminal act, this newer law is said to be aimed directly at activists who wear masks at protests. In Oklahoma, lawmakers are planning to introduce a similar bill. Masks weren’t originally meant to conceal. From their beginning in ancient times, they were used for protection or ornamentation. It is believed that masks were used first to transfer supernatural power or call up “the gods.” Masks were used in ancient Roman festivals to signal that the necessity for polite behavior was not necessary and people were free for a short period of time to engage in “merry-making” beyond their rank or status. At the Carnivale of Venice, which dates back to 1268 CE, all were equal behind their masks. Even the Jewish Purim festivities make use of carnivalesque masks. The Iroquois Confederacy of North America used masks to heal. Himalayan masks acted as go-betweens with supernatural forces. Native Alaskan Yup’ik masks vary in size from three-inch finger masks to twenty pound masks that need several people to carry them. Whatever their use, masks have played an important part history and in helping us to understand what it means to be human by masquerading as something other than ourselves.


This spring, Mainly Greene, a partnership of four Greene County, New York based non-profits, will explore the masquerade motif in a joint exhibit, “American Masquerade.” The core of the multimedia exhibit will be the Anti-Rent War of New York State, which took place from 1839 to 1845. The so-called “war” was actually a tenants’ revolt in upstate New York during the early 19th century, beginning in 1839 with the death of wealthy landlord, Stephen Van Rensselaer III.

Long after feudalism had ended in Europe, the old-world manor system was revived in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, granting millions of acres to transplanted European aristocrats to manage a land settlement scheme designed to transform the wilderness into agricultural communities. In 1839, the grandsons of the soldiers who fought for American independence found themselves paying rent to rich land owners, on farmland their families had cleared and worked for generations. The tenant farmers’ flag put it simply

Down With The Rent

Some Anti-Renters contested the idea that the Livingstons, Van Rensselaers and other Patroons had legal title to the land. Some wanted to apply the rent paid toward ownership. Some just wanted the opportunity to buy the land where their families had lived since arriving in the new world. There were Anti-Rent flags, rallies, drinking songs, newspapers and political candidates. They organized into regional groups, with younger men joining a Calico Indian “tribe,” pledging a secret oath to never reveal the members’ identities.


Beginning on Saturday, June 6through Sunday, October 11 at the Zadock Pratt Museum in Prattsville, NY, the Mainly Greene Arts Partnership will begin a six month examination of American Masquerade, the historical and cultural uses of the mask in America and its roots in European culture. The museum exhibit 12 • will tell the story of the Catskill Mountain farmers who disguised themselves in their wives’ calico dresses and sheepskin masks to intimidate the rent collectors on whose land the farmers were tenants. Underneath this story is a deeper, as yet untold story of the Native American claim on the land and their view of the Anti-Rent Wars. Noted author, teacher and Algonquin tribe member Evan Pritchard will join exhibit curator Fawn Potash in chronicling this as-yet hidden but essential part of the American story. Learn even more about the exhibits here.