Blauvelt State Park, in the Rockland County town of Blauvelt has a storied history. At first, it was a facility where members of the New York State National Guard (and the Naval Militia) could practice shooting. It was first used in October 1910, though still under construction at the time. Later on, the site would be called Camp Bluefields (Blauvelt means “blue field” in Dutch), but at this time the facility was known as the Blauvelt Rifle Range. [Read more…] about Blauvelt State Park: Rockland County’s Storied Martial History
Documents Reveal More About Peter John Lee Kidnapping Case
Information about the 1836 kidnapping of Peter John Lee was related in a recent article on the New York Almanack, “NY-CT Border Disputes & The Kidnapping of Freedom-Seeker Peter John Lee.”
Lee, an African American, was lured out of Connecticut, where he resided, to Rye in Westchester County, New York. Additional aspects of this incident can be gleaned from historical documents. [Read more…] about Documents Reveal More About Peter John Lee Kidnapping Case
Joseph Brant’s Face: A State Capitol Mystery
A recent article in the Albany Times Union, “The Enduring Mystery of a Mohawk Warrior Bust at the Capitol,” (online edition, July 22, 2022) noted that there is a sculpted face of Joseph Brant on the exterior of the State Capitol building in Albany, New York.
Researched and written by journalist Chris Carola, it questions why Brant, a Native American who supported the British during the American Revolution – and who wreaked havoc on a number of white settlements – was honored by having his visage on such a prominent edifice. [Read more…] about Joseph Brant’s Face: A State Capitol Mystery
The 1817 Hudson River Kidnapping Case: Details & Outcome
The recent New York Almanack post, “Kidnapped Into Slavery On The Hudson River” reprinted an early report of the crime by the New York Evening Post. The accused kidnappers were put on trial (and convicted).
This incident is one of the approximately 50 case studies included in my book Solomon Northup’s Kindred: The Kidnapping of Free Citizens before the Civil War (Praeger, 2016). The following is adapted from the account of the incident which appears there. [Read more…] about The 1817 Hudson River Kidnapping Case: Details & Outcome
Black Musician Francis Johnson at Saratoga, 1822-1843
Solomon Northup, the free black man who was kidnapped from Saratoga Springs and sold into slavery (as portrayed in the film 12 Years a Slave), was known locally as a good fiddler. Northup probably mostly played at dances, and there is no evidence that he played at any of Saratoga’s posh hotels.
But as a black musician, Northup probably could have found acceptance in such venues, because the way had been paved by Francis “Frank” Johnson. Johnson, a black resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, performed with his band during many summers at the best hotels in Saratoga. [Read more…] about Black Musician Francis Johnson at Saratoga, 1822-1843
The Disappearance of Civil War Veteran Dudley Goodwin
One hundred years ago a long-standing citizen of Ballston Spa went missing.
Usually known as Dudley Goodwin, his name was sometimes given as M. Dudley Goodwin (which is what appears on his tombstone). According to information on Find-A-Grave, his first name was Madison. He was born in Fulton County, on the second day of April, 1844. A sister was also born in Fulton County, about 1841, but Dudley’s other siblings were born in Saratoga County. [Read more…] about The Disappearance of Civil War Veteran Dudley Goodwin
Brooklyn’s Monkey Trial of 1906
You may be familiar with the “Scopes Monkey Trial.” In 1925, teacher Thomas Scopes was brought into court for violating a Tennessee law that forbade the teaching of evolution. Scopes was defended by famed lawyer Clarence Darrow, who actually asked the jury to find his client guilty in order that the case could be appealed to a higher court.
In 1927, Scopes’ guilty verdict was reversed on a technicality, without addressing the issue of the law’s constitutionality. (That matter was not resolved until 1968, when the United States Supreme Court struck down – on First Amendment issues – a similar law in Arkansas.)
Years earlier, Brooklyn, New York had a monkey trial – but one that was entirely different. The Brooklyn case did not involve Darwin’s theory of evolution in any way – it concerned an actual living, breathing, in-the-flesh monkey. [Read more…] about Brooklyn’s Monkey Trial of 1906
The Life and Death of Saratoga’s Statue to the 77th Regiment
During the American Civil War – which, despite attempts to argue otherwise, was in effect America’s crusade against slavery – several hundred thousand citizens from New York State enlisted in the United States Army.
Many from Saratoga County (and also some from Essex and Fulton Counties) joined the 77th Regiment, its unit number chosen to recall the 1777 Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolution. It was known as the “Bemis Heights Regiment,” the place so evocative of the “turning point” of the War of Independence. [Read more…] about The Life and Death of Saratoga’s Statue to the 77th Regiment
Executions Ended ‘Lonely Hearts Killers’ Spree
The modus operandi was to use “lonely hearts” ads to lure lonesome women into romantic situations in order to make use of their financial resources. In several cases (at least) the victims were then murdered.
Raymond Martinez Fernandez had come up with the scheme, then was joined in the enterprise by Martha Beck in the late 1940s. But their killing spree halted when they were arrested in Michigan, where they admitted to having murdered a woman and her young daughter. Because they were in a state with no death penalty, they also felt comfortable telling police there about a widow they had murdered in New York State. [Read more…] about Executions Ended ‘Lonely Hearts Killers’ Spree
Authenticity and Authorship: Twelve Years a Slave
Questions about the authenticity and authorship of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave have been raised in the past, and have resurfaced following the release of the recent film version of his book.
Though an expert on Solomon Northup, his book, the contemporary reactions to his book in the 1850s, and his later life (which included several years spent traveling to talk about his experiences), I am not a scholar of slave narratives. I have consulted some of them in connection with my work on Northup, as necessary. I leave it for others to draw detailed comparisons between Northup’s narrative and the others. [Read more…] about Authenticity and Authorship: Twelve Years a Slave