Friday, June 22, 2007

Albany to Sangerfield cont.

At 28.7 m., in the Schoharie Valley, is the junction with State 30 (see Tour 24).

In 1806 General William North started to develop Esperance, 29.2 m., (233 pop.), as a real estate venture on the newly opened Great Western Turnpike, renaming the original settlement of State Bridge. The Presbyterian Church, (R), a two story gable-roofed stone structure, was erected in 1824 and remodeled in 1897. (Pictured at left.)

On the northern edge of the village (R) an evergreen tree marks the grave of the 'Witch of Esperance.' According to the legend, during the Napoleonic Wars a French soldier brought his family to the village. Upon his death, his widow, unable to speak English and mingle with the villagers, became an object of suspicion and mystery and was called the 'Grenadier Woman.' At a solemn conclave in the stone church her neighbors decided she was a witch and voted her death. Her executioners fired a silver bullet molded from a teaspoon through the window of the widow's cabin and killed her while she cooked at the open fire with her children playing beside her.

In 1838, in the same stone church..., Sheldon Jackson (1834-1909)... was baptized. Fifty years later he was appointed superintendent of public instruction in Alaska, and during his incumbancy he introduced reindeer to the territory as a food supply to end periodic famines among the Alaskan Eskimos.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Albany to Sangerfield cont.

US 20 continues to Duanesburg, 21.9 m. (197 pop.), named for James Duane (1733-97), jurist, land speculator, and mayor of Manhattan 1784-9. Described as 'plump of body... the dignity of his appearance enhanced by such luxuries as gold shoe and knee buckles,' Duane had a 'jolly good humor which quickly won him friends...' Just prior to the Revolution Duane was zealously aligned with the conservatives... He sat in the Continental Congress almost continuously until 1783, serving chiefly in connection with financial and Indian affairs... Duane's greatest nonprofessional interest was in land development.

In Duanesburg is a junction with State 7 (see Tour 10.)

On his land Duane built a lovely little church, around which he planned to promote a settlement that would eclipse Schenectaday. Only the church, the Christ Episcopal Church (R), 22.9 m., surrounded by a few modest homes, remains, a plain, clapboarded structure built in 1789-93. The oldest unaltered Episcopal church in the State, it still displays the interior arrangements typical of the eighteenth century when sermons from the high pulpit dominated the liturgy... The bright red desks and cushions contrast attractively with the white woodwork of box pews, columns and gallery, the latter built for slaves and servants...