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: Revolution in the Catskills

Calendar: 6/06/15 – 10/12/15 American Masquerade: Revolution in the Catskills at the Zadock Pratt Museum examining the events of the Anti-Rent Wars of New York State with a special focus on this historic conflict as it played out in Columbia, Delaware, Greene and Schoharie Counties in the mid 1800’s. The exhibit will feature original artwork, masks, an authentic Calico Indian costume, tin horns, posters, newspaper clippings and handbills. 14540 Main Street, Prattsville, NY 12468, 518-299-3258, www.zadockprattmuseum, FB: Zadock Pratt Museum, Open Thurs-Sun., 10 AM-5 PM, $10 admission, children under 12 free.

The Zadock Pratt Museum’s season opens with an exhibition exploring the region’s proud history in the Anti-Rent Wars which ended feudalism in America. In 1839 tenant farmers in the Hudson Valley & Catskill Mountains organized a successful grassroots protest campaign ending Dutch and English aristocrats’ control of thousands of acres in Dutchess, Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Albany, Schoharie and Delaware counties. In Zadock Pratt’s home on Prattsville’s Main Street, the exhibit is also the site of Pratt’s brass band, welcome home party for the jailed Anti-Renters’ whose life sentences were commuted as the political winds changed. Memorial Day Saturday through Columbus Day Sunday, the museum is open Sat., June 6 to Oct. 11, 10 AM-5 PM, Thurs.-Mon.

Tenant farmers’ Anti-Rent flag made the statement loud and clear, “DOWN WITH THE RENT.”   They built the local movement with rallies, drinking songs, newspapers and ZPMantirentwarspolitical candidates. They organized into regional groups with the younger men joining a Calico Indian “tribe” and pledged a secret oath to never reveal the members’ identities. Disguised in calico costumes and sheepskin masks, the farmers called from valley to valley blasting tin dinner horns to rally the troops and intimidate the rent collectors. 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 and their sweat equity toward ownership. Some just wanted the opportunity to buy the land where their families had lived and worked since arriving in the new world. By 1845, New York property law was changed, retiring the leases as each generation of land owners died. The Anti-Rent movement planted the idea of individual rights leading directly to the Civil War, and paving the way for today’s campaigns addressing economic and social justice.

This little known story is told through a room-sized, wrap-around, timeline illustrating the development of the manor system, the struggle for the right of individuals to own their land andZPMantirentwars2 the culture clash with Native American principals of land stewardship. A collection of unusual and everyday farming tools shows the Natives’ and settlers’ common agrarian bond, evidence of shared technology and trade. As original Calico Indian costumes are extremely rare, a replica Calico Indian costume and mask are displayed with a traditional Algonquin calico ribbon shirt showing the two way appropriation of materials and ideas. Maps present the region’s Anti-Rent hot spots and a tapestry of diverse Native American populations whose treaties govern the care and maintenance of the same terrain.

Hanging in Pratt’s parlor, Thomas Locker’s large scale painting, Riders in the Moonlight shows the Calico Indians in action. A period piano displays poems and the lyrics by the creative down-renters with a soundtrack playing throughout the galleries. Co-curated by native American Scholar, Evan Pritchard and artist Fawn Potash, this project’s development has been a collaborative effort with major help from historians Carolyn Bennett and Susie Walsh, Director and Tour Guide respectively of the Zadock Pratt Museum; Karen Deeter, Lexington Town Historian; Tim Duerden, Director of the Delaware County Historical Association; Katherine Myers and Bob Kalb at the Shandaken Historical Museum; New Scotland Historical Association, Cyndi LaPierre, Director of the Mountaintop Historical Society; and Vernon Benjamin, author of The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War plus historically astute writer/editors Andrew Amelinckx and Paul Smart.

This event is made possible in part by the REDC initiative with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Bank of Greene County and the Greene County Council on the Arts through the Greene County Legislature’s County Initiative Program.

What Do I Know? The Lost Settlement of Schohary Kill


By Carolyn Bennett

I’ve been working on and off for twenty five years now as the Director of the Zadock Pratt Museum; I’ve been the Prattsville Town Historian for about a decade. During this time, I’ve learned a lot of individual facts about the “Town that Pratt Built,” often hearing from town residents with deep roots in the community that there was already a “town,” or, at least, a well developed settlement in “Prattsville” long before Pratt arrived in 1824. That settlement was called Schoharie Kill (a/k/a Schohary Kill).

I’ve considered the scant facts and the possible locations of Schoharie Kill for over two decades. I remember reading about several “rough cabins” on the banks of the Schoharie Creek, the body of water that runs right behind present-day Prattsville. Back in the day, that is, back in the days when I was new to Prattsville, Museum board members Andy Dresser and Fran Lutz brought me to their homes at the west end of Town to show me how two of these “cabins” had been moved up from the stream bank to be joined at the back with their respective homes. Since both homes were probably Pratt “worker” homes, the move might have occurred ca. 1830 when Zadock Pratt moved the road from stream bank to its present location at Route 23. While the flood of 2011 caused by Hurricane Irene damaged many of the historic homes on Prattsville’s Main Street, Andy and Fran’s former homes are still standing. The location of those creek-side cabins made me jump to the conclusion that those cabins were the lost settlement of Schoharie Kill.

How wrong I was!

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 • www.catskillregionguide.com 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.