A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: September 19, 2012

The other evening I got a chance to tell a few interested folks about Mary Elizabeth Osborn. She was a wonderful writer, a great chronicler of rural Catskill Mountain life, a scholar, poet, critic, and novelist. And she was born and raised in Margaretville.

Faye Van Benschoten used to tell me about Mary Elizabeth Osborn when, as a young man, I worked summers in the hay fields of her family’s New Kingston farm.


A Catskill Catalog: September 12, 2012

All right, kids. If we’re living here in the country, we ought to know a little something about barns. I confess I’ve been living here four decades and my lack of barn knowledge, frankly, is an embarrassment. Time to study.

Start with Cynthia G. Falk’s new book, Barns of New York: Rural Architecture of the Empire State (Cornell University Press, 2012).

Perhaps, the young professor herself will drive down from Cooperstown, as she did last Saturday to present a slide show at the Skene Library in Fleischmanns.


A Catskill Catalog: September 5, 2012

Rumor has it that Bob Dylan has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s said the 71-year-old singer-songwriter has support for the prize among crucial voters on the super-secretive selection committee.


A Catskill Catalog: August 15, 2012

If you haven’t yet made it over to Walton, this week, for the Delaware County Fair, put the paper down and go. Well, finish reading the paper, call family and friends, then go. The fair runs all-day, everyday, this week, through 11 p.m. Saturday.

The 2012 Delaware County Fair is just as warm, down-home, and downright interesting as every Walton Fair has been since I started going nearly 40 years ago. Unlike neighboring county fairs, the Walton Fair still is agricultural.


A Catskill Catalog: August 8, 2012

Catskill Mountain bluestone helped build America in the last half of the 1800s and the first couple decades of the 1900s.

From 1850 to 1920, bluestone was the material of choice for building foundations, sidewalks, and curbstones in New York, St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and other major cities. Bluestone was prized for being hard, long lasting and quick drying. It does not become slick with wear, and makes a perfect paver.


A Catskill Catalog: August 1, 2012

Seemed right to say good-bye to Dr. Ray Huggins at the St. James Episcopal Church in Lake Delaware, on the road to Delhi. Built by the Livingston and Gerry families, St. James is elegant and traditional, solid, formidable but inviting, suggestive of a surer time.


A Catskill Catalog: July 25, 2012

We should call it the Davis-Felter Site. In the early 1940s, it was one of the most important archeological digs in New York State, and it was right here in Margaretville. And, the Davis-Felter Site was discovered and excavated entirely by amateurs, locals.

Archeological sites are named for the landowner, but a Davis Site already exists up in Essex County, so the hyphenated addition of the discoverer’s names seems appropriate.


A Catskill Catalog: July 18, 2012

Baron Moritz von Hirsch was a Bavarian nobleman and a Jew. That was possible in the enlightened Germany of the late 1800s, but impossible in the benighted lands of the Russian Tsar, where pogroms – mass killings: hate turned to sport – made Jewish life intolerable.

Baron von Hirsch decided to do something. He organized the Jewish Colonization Association, an extensive network that included an American component, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, established in 1889, to encourage eastern European Jews to immigrate to the United States to become farmers.


A Catskill Catalog: July 3, 2012

A pleasant summer day trip is the drive north on Routes 30 and 30A to Johnson Hall, in Johnstown in the Mohawk Valley. It’s also a great way to celebrate American independence around the Fourth of July.

See, the proprietors of Johnson Hall remained loyal to the king. Their experience might help us understand just how difficult it was for those who staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor choosing the American side.


A Catskill Catalog: June 27, 2012

The Thirty-Years War was brutal. The Schoharie Valley is beautiful. The two are linked.
From 1618 to 1648, the largely German-speaking people of central Europe were ravaged by near-constant warfare. Religion and politics were intertwined, as Protestant princes fought for sovereignty and independence from the Holy Roman Emperor and the Roman Church.


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