Friday, November 5, 2010

Travel down memory lane...

Travel down memory lane this weekend with Oswego County Historian Justin White as he recounts Oswego’s Kingsford family history at the Richardson-Bates House Museum. The museum itself was once the home of another well-known Oswego family, the Richardson’s.

The Richardson-Bates House Museum in Oswego, N.Y.

This beautiful Italianate Villa-style home was built between 1867 and 1890 for Maxwell Richardson, a local attorney and real estate developer who served two terms as Oswego’s mayor. The house and its luxurious interiors reflect Richardson’s wealth and position as a civic leader.

The reception room

The period library

The museum features 95 percent of the original furnishings and much of the house is preserved as the Richardson family knew it. Visitors are amazed at the grand reception hall upon entering the front door. The exotic and opulent furniture and decorative arts provide a unique glimpse at Victorian America’s fascination with history, art, education and travel.

Today, the Richardson-Bates House Museum is home to the Oswego County Historical Society and its collection of nearly 25,000 artifacts, documents and photographs that trace the significant history of the area.

Their latest exhibit, “The Oswego Starch Factory and the Kingsford Family” is on display now and will run through the spring of 2011.

The Kingsford Family Starch Company Exhibit

A former chemist with William Colgate & Company, Thomas Kingsford invented a process for manufacturing corn starch, which was superior to any other on the market and sold the world over. In 1846, Thomas established T. Kingsford & Son with his son Thomson and developed an award-winning starch company.

The Kingsford Starch Factory

In 1848, the family relocated the entire operation to Oswego, N.Y. from Bergen, N.J. for better manufacturing resources. The Oswego Starch Factory occupied nearly twenty acres and used 850,000 bushels of corn to produce 8,250,000 tons of starch each year. A major employer in Oswego, the company employed thousands of residents over generations of families.

To hear more about the Kingsford family and the starch factory, come to the Richardson-Bates House Museum on 135 East Third Street in Oswego. The Oswego County Historical Society will host a special presentation at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 7. Admission is free and donations are appreciated.

Visit the exquisite Richardson-Bates House Museum to view more fascinating artifacts from Oswego’s history. The museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from April to December and by appointment as well. Regular admission prices are $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. For more information, call the museum at 315/343-1342.

Don’t forget to stop by the museum’s annual Christmas Open House from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 5. Enjoy refreshments, entertainment and free admission while you browse the museum, fully decorated in fresh greenery for the holiday season.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Capturing the great outdoors…

Come to the NYSDEC Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar on Saturday, September 25 for an open house to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., bring the whole family to enjoy a variety of activities that highlight local hunting, fishing and outdoor recreational opportunities. Learn about fishing and stream ecology, fly-tying and casting, and enjoy a fish petting zoo, too!

This year’s event will also feature the 2010 Tug Hill Plein Air Paint Out, presented by the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust (THTLT). Taken from the French expression, “en plein air,” meaning “in the fresh air,” artists from across the region will spend the day painting outdoors at the hatchery on county Route 22 and at the Salmon River Falls Unique Area on Falls Road.

Visitors are welcome to meet and greet the artists and view their work. At the end of the day, the artists will bring their work to the fish hatchery auditorium for a live auction to benefit the THTLT. A cider and dessert preview reception will be held at 4:30 p.m. and the bidding starts at 5:30 p.m.

Premier artists include Debe Abbott, Jeanne Dupre and Robert McNamara, among many others. The following images appear courtesy of the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Debe Abbott and Jeanne Dupre.

Debe Abbott

Jeanne Dupre

The Paint Out is the signature event of the THTLT and highlights the natural beauty and scenic diversity of the great outdoors. It began two years ago and has been hosted by the Trenton Falls Gorge Trails and Constable Hall in Constableville. Founded in 1990, the THTLT focuses on increasing awareness and appreciation of the Tug Hill region as well as helping to retain its forests, farms and lands.

Admission is free for the fish hatchery open house and to visit with and observe the artists. Tickets for the art auction are $10 per person and can be reserved by calling the THTLT at 315/779-2239. They will also be available at the fish hatchery during the open house. Pick up your tickets at the THTLT tent or at the door of the auction.

For more information about the THTLT and the 2010 Tug Hill Plein Air Paint Out, visit For more fall fun in Oswego County, go to


Thursday, August 26, 2010

History and Summer Fun at Fort Brewerton…

Summer fun continues in Oswego County this weekend when the Fort Brewerton Historical Society hosts its inaugural Summer Festival. Bring the whole family to enjoy a day filled with music, food, games, crafts and raffles. The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 29 at the fort on the corner of routes 37 and 11 in Brewerton.

Raffle items for the festival were donated by local businesses and volunteers. They include gift certificates, paintings, floral arrangements and sports memorabilia. Piano man Bill Verity performs from his collection of classical, rock and Jazz tunes. Admission is free and donations to the historical society are welcomed.

This not-for-profit organization was formed in 1965 to preserve the history of Brewerton for residents and visitors. Over the years, they have hosted many community events including antique car shows, farmers’ markets, a Christmas bazaar and kids’ history camp.

Here are some pictures from the camp, courtesy of Chris Stallknecht:

Nearly forty years ago, the group began construction of the museum to house their collections. The design is a replica of the Oliver Stevens Block House – known to be the home of the area’s first white settlers in 1788. The project utilized bricks recovered from the original block house which Stevens himself had taken from the ruined fort.

The original Fort Brewerton was built in 1759 by English General Abercrombie as a point of defense between the Great Lakes and Albany. It served as a waypoint throughout the French and Indian War and during the beginning of the Revolutionary War; however, by August of 1777, the fort lay in ruins. Today, all that remains are the earthen embankments of the fort. They form the shape of an eight-pointed star; positioned toward the cardinal points of a compass. With its tall shade trees, the area is ideal for a relaxing picnic.

While you’re here, be sure to explore the revolving exhibits inside the Fort Brewerton Block House Museum. Inside, you’ll find an extensive collection of native artifacts as well as a small gift shop and a meeting room for events throughout the year. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays beginning in June and ending in early September. Admission is free. For more information, visit their Web site at


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heritage and the Arts at the Oswego County Fair...

Our latest tour led us to the 2010 Oswego County Fair in Sandy Creek, N.Y. where we had a wonderful opportunity to view our heritage through the arts. A local artisan and Army veteran, Harold Hubbard displayed his Indian Head Collection with the Lakeshore Hardwoods exhibit in the Heritage Building. For those interested in learning more about local history, the site is a must-see for information, guidance and a ‘trip down memory lane’. A very special thank you goes out to Harold for sharing his time and story with us.

He was born in Alexandria Bay in 1920 and moved to the Pulaski area as a child. A graduate of Pulaski Academy and Central School, Harold was a career toolmaker. He began his trade with New York Airbrake in Watertown, and eventually opened up his own shop in the hamlet of Port Ontario. The Bud Air Company made pruning equipment for fruit farms all over the country.

Harold sold the business thirty years later and began a colorful retirement with his bride Marge. They kept busy in their travels; however, Harold was looking for something to do when they were home. That’s when he discovered his talent for woodcarving.

A self-taught craftsman, Harold began with relief woodcarving, eventually moving on to “in the round” and then to chip carving. On comparing his tool-making career to his craft, Harold said with laugh, “Wood is easier, and cleaner on the fingers.”

Here are some pictures of Harold Hubbard and his Indian Head Collection at the 2010 Oswego County Fair:

Harold began his Indian Head Collection a few years ago to illustrate different types of wood. The 60-piece set is carved from native trees as well as timbers from around the world that he found at Lakeshore Hardwoods, a local haven for woodworkers. The woods include: butternut, eucalyptus, mahogany, purpleheart, and Spanish cedar. Each piece is a natural beauty, with only a clear finish to give it shine.

These are some of the woods and projects that you’ll find at Lakeshore Hardwoods:

To see Harold’s Indian Head Collection or to start your own woodworking project, visit Lakeshore Hardwoods in Pulaski. For directions, go to For more wood crafts, visit the Pulaski Farmers’ Market every Friday night throughout the summer. You’ll find interesting pieces, displays and your own starter woodcarving kit at the market in the South Park on U.S. Route 11.

To learn more about your own heritage, visit your local historical society. For a complete list of museums and societies in Oswego County, go to


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Celebrate the spirit…

Awaken your native spirit this weekend at the Third Annual Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival on the shores of Great Lake Ontario. Experience indigenous music and dancing, storytelling, demonstrations, arts and crafts and food at this unique celebration.

The line-up for this festival includes Sacred Winds and The Storytellers, both from New Hampshire; as well as the Thunder Hawk Singers from Mexico, N.Y.; Gypsy Red, from Parish, N.Y.; and the head-liner Corn Bred from Syracuse, N.Y. Each will entertain audiences with sounds, songs and stories in their own blend of traditional Native American, Mi’kmaq, folk, and rhythm and blues.

The event also features interactive Iroquois social dancing with the People of the Standing Stone, a dance troupe from the Oneida Nation, and totem spirits workshops with Laura “Bright Star” Vannah.

Children of all ages will enjoy painting “spirit rocks,” making beaded bracelets, and learning about dream catchers and traditional Native American clothing. Sit for a visit with Richard and Leslie LaCrosse and see their early Native American encampment. For those with an adventurous spirit, Nancy Kaiser will lead a nature hike to sample wild edibles. The Salmon River International Sportfishing Museum will host displays and demonstrations as well.

The following pictures illustrate some of the festival highlights from previous years. Except where noted, they were generously provided by Donald Blackfox.

Leslie and Hannah LaCrosse at a traditional
Native American campsite
Photo provided by Sandra Scott

Performers David Searching Owl, Sacred Winds; Donald Blackfox, the Thunder Hawk Singers; Joseph Firecrow; Ken Quiet Hawk, The Storytellers

Performers David Searching Owl and Janet Quiet Dove, Sacred Winds;Laura “Bright Star” Vannah; Ken Quiet Hawk and Deborah New Moon Rising, The Storytellers

Audiences relax on a sunny afternoon
and enjoy indigenous music and entertainment

Reed Young, Floyd Vickery, Laura “Bright Star” Vannah,
and Dallas DeFee celebrate cultural heritage at the festival

Joanne Hart’s Earthstone Jewelry from the Onondaga Nation

New this year to the Native Circle Festival, Gypsy Red performed
at the Arts in the Square Festival in Central Square
Photo provided by Kevin Abbott

Deborah New Moon Rising of The Storytellers

Audiences are captivated by traditional Native American storytelling

Corn Bred headlines the 2010 Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival

The focus of the Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival is to strengthen the inner spirit and celebrate our native cultural heritage. This not-for-profit event combines history, education and fun with family-friendly performances and activities.

Bring your own curious spirit and join the fun at Mexico Point Park just off state Route 104B in the town of Mexico. Festivities at this scenic lakeside park run from noon to 5 p.m. on both Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30. Admission is free.

For more information about the festival, go to or call 315-963-3820.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Into the Wild…

This weekend, let’s go into the wild with the Fulton Art Association (FAA) as they hold their annual art show and competition. The special category theme for this year is “Wild Big Cats.” Thank you to Kathy Mihalek, president of the FAA, for giving us a preview of some of the pieces in the show.

The exhibit features FAA artists from Fulton, Baldwinsville, Central Square, Hannibal, Liverpool, Mexico, Oswego and Phoenix. They will be competing for first-place, second-place and honorable mention ribbons in a variety of mediums. There will also be awards for Best of Show and Viewer’s Choice. The latter is given to an artist who receives the most votes from the public for its favorite piece.

There will be prizes for the public as well. FAA members have donated several pieces to be raffled at the show. The winners will be announced on Sunday; however, ticket holders do not need to be present to win. The proceeds from the raffle benefit the FAA’s annual high school invitational in February.

Some of the entrants in the FAA’s show this weekend are also participating in the exhibit, “On My Own Time,” a program co-sponsored by the Everson Museum of Art, the Cultural Resources Council and several area companies. Its mission is to foster a closer relationship between the business community and the arts.

Pictured below are two FAA members who have works exhibited in both shows:

Rhoda Cunningham of Oswego

Diane Shumway of Mexico

Two framed prints donated by FAA artists for raffle

The Fulton Art Association is open to all artists regardless of age, experience, and artistic style or medium. The group’s roster includes children, seniors and everyone in-between, whether they are full-time artists or dabbling Picassos, shutterbugs and ceramicists.

Now in its 37th year, the FAA is a vital component of the arts community in Fulton, New York and its environs. The organization strives to promote awareness and education as well as to provide encouragement, support and advocacy for the arts.

Come to the FAA’s annual art show and competition in the Community Room of the Fulton Municipal Building at 141 South First Street. Vote for your favorite piece in the exhibition. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 22 and from 12 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 23. A reception is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information about this show or the Fulton Art Association, call 315-532-3803.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Commemorating heroes of the War of 1812 (Vol. III)…

This weekend, come to the Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego, New York to re-discover the history in your backyard. Learn all about the 1814 Battle of Oswego as part of the upcoming 200th commemoration of the War of 1812.

Because of its geographical location, Lake Ontario was a major staging area for the battle between American and British naval fleets, the latter being located in Canada. As both sides fought for control of the lake, shipbuilding had become the race and there were, in the spring of 1814, three American ships awaiting armament at Sackets Harbor, New York. The naval supplies for these warships had been stored at Oswego Falls (Fulton, New York) and the British were determined to make their capture.

British forces prepare for an amphibious assault on the beach at Fort Ontario. By William Steele. Collection of Paul Lear.

On May 4, the British navy, led by Commander-in-Chief Sir James Lucas Yeo, departed Kingston, Ontario and prepared to launch an attack on Fort Ontario. Assigned to protect the fort and, more importantly, the stores at Oswego Falls, was Lieutenant-Colonel George E. Mitchell.

Upon the arrival of the British, Mitchell implemented key military strategy and dispatched orders to sink the schooner Growler (to prevent its capture) and pitch every available tent on the opposite side of the river (to give the impression of a large show of force). These tactics brought the British to the shores of the fort where they were repelled by the Americans – with a little help from Mother Nature. A strong wind had come up, forcing the fleet back to the lake.

British sailors climb the bluff and ramparts of Fort Ontario while the British Marines, De Watteville Regiment, and Glengarry Light Infantry attack from the east. By William Steele. Collection of the Public Archives of Canada.

The following day, May 6, 1814, the British returned and immediately ascended the bluff at Fort Ontario and took its capture. Unable to defend the fort with his small battalion, Mitchell retreated to Oswego Falls to protect the naval stores hidden there, which included the main cable for the frigate, Superior.

By the next morning, the British had set several fort buildings ablaze and left with what little supplies remained. With Fort Ontario destroyed, it was imperative to transport the naval supplies to Sackets Harbor where shipbuilding was nearing completion.

British forces suffered many casualties in their attack on Fort Ontario. Here, wounded British sailors are transported back to their ships. By William Steele. Collection of Fort Ontario State Historic Site.

This Saturday, May 8, join retired U.S. Army Colonel Harold Youmans, historian and editor of the Journal of the War of 1812, as he presents a program on the 1814 Battle of Oswego. The featured speaker of this commemoration event, Youmans’ presentation begins at 1:15 p.m. at the Fort Ontario State Historic Site on East Fourth Street in Oswego.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Grooming a Winter Wonderland...

Our latest tour led us to the northernmost reaches of Oswego County. On the edge of the Tug Hill plateau, outdoor adventure-seekers will discover the Winona State Forest. A special thanks to Rose Driscoll, one of the original board members of the Winona Forest Recreation Association (WFRA), as well as to Claire and Mary Shadduck and Dave Cronk, our trail guide and groomer extraordinaire.

The all-volunteer group maintains approximately 70 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails throughout the forest. This area covers more than 9,000 acres in Oswego and Jefferson counties, providing more than enough room to accommodate outdoor enthusiasts of all interests in every season. Favorite activities include: hiking, biking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mushing (dog sledding), birding, horseback-riding, hunting, fishing, and ATV riding.

While Winona State Forest may be a bit of a hidden treasure locally, it is well-known internationally as a popular training and racing ground for sled dogs. It also hosts an Empire State Games Qualifier for the New York State Ski Racing Association.

Year-round, there is much work to be done in order to keep this area operational for all users. The winter season requires two-person groom teams to create and maintain a good snow base. Throughout the remainder of the year, fallen trees are removed, branches are trimmed and trails are cut back. Much of these tasks are accomplished through the hard work and devotion of WFRA volunteers and local civic groups.

From our front row seat on the groomer, we witnessed the untouched beauty of this winter wonderland and enjoyed the great satisfaction of a fresh-cut trail! See our pictures below:

Many groves throughout Winona State Forest were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was the brainchild of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an effort to revitalize the nation’s economy during the Great Depression. Thousands of unemployed young men were recruited to work on improving millions of acres of federal and state lands throughout the country.
The CCC camps stimulated local economies; improved forest activity through reforestation, flood control and fire protection; and developed forest recreation by building campgrounds in many areas.
Between 1933 and 1941, more than 3 million men served in the corps and more than 3 billion trees were planted on municipal lands and parks. The CCC has given us the tenets of modern conservation and a legacy of natural resources.

Claire Shadduck and Dave Cronk groom a trail at Winona State Forest.

Volunteers have been involved in organizing events and grooming trails at Winona State Forest for more than 30 years. Originally the Tug Hill Ski Club, the WFRA organized the Tug Hill Tour-a-thon, an annual marathon race to promote recreational cross-country skiing in the area. Since then, the group has re-organized to include all user groups of the forest.

The WFRA is an active, not-for-profit volunteer organization supported through memberships and donations. Additional fundraising helps with year-round trail maintenance. For more information about the WFRA, upcoming events or trail reports, visit the group’s Web site at:

Visit Winona State Forest and discover the natural beauty of the area. Parking is available along the north side of Center Road at the Wart Road and Bargy Road intersections. See map below:
Map of Winona State Forest
(highlighting Center Road)
Don’t miss the upcoming Winona Forest Winterfest & Try-It Ski Race! Explore the snow-covered forest with a cross-country ski race, a dog sled ride and a snowshoe walk. Try the thrilling excitement of skijoring and enjoy demonstrations by a chainsaw wood-carving artist and a snow sculptor. There will also be food, raffles, a silent auction and a groomer display. On Saturday, January 16, the festival begins at 9 a.m. and admission is free. The Try-It Cross-Country Ski Race starts at 10:30 a.m. and admission is $30 with additional discount for family or BKSYL skiers if they register online at by Friday, January 15 at 5 p.m. Registration on race day is $40. The festival and race will be held at CCC Camp on county Route 89 east of Mannsville and parking is available at the camp. For event details, visit the WFRA Web site listed above.

If you would like more information about the great outdoors and events in Oswego County, please visit our Web site at