Fri., Aug. 30, RockNRoll Cruise-In!

5-8 p.m. Vintage cars, vendors, chicken BBQ. Rock out with The Fishercats in tribute to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock! Free screening of ‘Demon on Wheels,’ starring Mike Ondish and his restored ’68 Mustang, 7 p.m., upstairs at The Commons. Meet Mike and his local drag racing comrades at the HSM tent and sit behind the wheel of this legendary car! Main Street, Margaretville. In collaboration with Business Association of Margaretville.

Sat., Sept. 21 Cauliflower Festival

10-4. 13th Annual Cauliflower Festival, Margaretville Village Park. Tractor Parade at 11. Catskill Conquest vintage rally vehicles on display. Exhibits and more in the History Tent. Free admission.

Sun., Oct. 6 History Stroll

1-4. History Stroll through Village of Margaretville. Interior tours and refreshments offered at four distinctive locations. Hear stories of the builders and the people who have occupied these homes. Space on this guided tour is limited to 20. $25/person. Reservations required. 845-586-4973.

Sat., Oct. 26 Annual Meeting and Luncheon

12-2:30. Annual Meeting and Luncheon, with illustrated talk, “An Unconventional Childhood: Growing up in Fleischmanns in the 1950s and ‘60s,” with Marilyn Mayes Kaltenborn. Copies of her book available for purchase. HSM Hall. $20. Reservations required. 845-586-2860.

Seeking info on schools, Grange, ’60s

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown is searching for photographs, historical information and personal stories to add to its archives and to use in upcoming programs and exhibits.
Of particular interest this year are materials and memories pertaining to one-room schools in Middletown and vicinity; personal stories and artifacts related to the Grange; and images and accounts from local men and women who experienced the Sixties, and in particular 1969.
HSM would like to hear from elders who attended one- or two-room schools in this area through the 1940s. This is part of a year-long research project to document schoolhouse sites (there were as many as 26 school districts in Middletown in the mid-1800s) and to collect photographs, school records and school souvenirs. Interviews with long-ago students can be set up at their convenience. Call Barbara Moses, 586-3630.
The Grange (“Patrons of Husbandry”) was a large and influential organization for a century when farming was dominant in the Catskill region. There were several local Granges in the Middletown area advocating for rural and agricultural interests and serving as a social focal point for the community. Former Grange members and others with stories, photographs and memorabilia they’d like to share for a 2019 program and display about the Grange and its activities are encouraged to contact Amy Taylor at 586-1320.
It’s been half a century since the tumultuous year of 1969. HSM plans a display at its hall about how Middletown looked and felt that year, from school activities and businesses, to reverberations from Vietnam, national upheaval and the Woodstock Festival. Please contact Diane Galusha, 586-4973, if you have images or memories to contribute to this project.
Contact HSM at to contribute to or participate in these projects. Visit to become a member and/or donate to the Campaign for a Middletown History Center.

The Past is Personal: Two Workshops

A pair of Saturday workshops April 6 and 13 will teach participants how to search for their ancestors, and then how to write about what they’ve found.

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown will sponsor these workshops, to be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at Fairview Public Library, 43 Walnut St., Margaretville, NY. There is a $5 fee for each workshop. Participants may attend either or both sessions. Please register at or 845-586-4973.

On April 6, genealogist and library director Doris Warner will teach “Genealogy for Beginners.” This workshop for novice family researchers will help answer the question “Where do I start?” Doris will cover basic and sometimes overlooked sources for vital statistics, residency, and personal information, and will offer tips on organizing data and linking with other researchers following similar trails.

The following Saturday, April 13, journalist and family history hunter Violet Snow will present “Your Family History: Writing a Narrative.” Violet is a freelance journalist who has written about her family history for The New York Times “Disunion” blog, Civil War Times, American Ancestors and the Woodstock Times.

Explains Violet, “You want to preserve your family lore and genealogical research in the form of stories your relatives can read. Maybe you’d like to write an essay for publication. This one-session class will help you decide where to start, or if you’ve been writing, it will help you move forward. We’ll talk about finding an emotional hook to focus your narrative, the importance of details, the historical setting, and what these stories mean to the living. Writing exercises will provide an easy way into the subject, and everyone will go home with a strategy for sharing the stories of their ancestors.”

Participants should bring pen and paper, and are invited to bring a few photos of ancestors and/or physical artifacts (historical documents or possessions), if available.

Casting call for Cemetery Tour!

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown is looking for local players to portray several former residents at its annual Living History Cemetery Tour to be held Saturday, June 22.
Four men and four women are yet to be cast. A variety of non-speaking players, including children, will also be featured in the 2019 event.
Among the characters who will be introduced to tour goers are two men, one a German émigré, the other an Arkville veteran, who will converse about their very different – yet sadly similar – experiences in World War I; the proprietor of the Pakatakan Lodge and Country Club; the first store keeper in Lumberville (later known as Arena); a country doctor and his wife; a Bull Run mother of 14; and an aging woman remembering colorful visits with her prominent Margaretville grandparents.
At-large players will include an Air Force hero, a Pakatakan Art Colony artist, two or three children, two or three picknickers, and a young male murder victim.
Script writers, graphic designers and site volunteers are also needed.
Call Diane Galusha, 845-586-4973, for more information on any of these opportunities, or contact HSM at


Stranded in Greenland

So you think it’s cold in the Catskills? Consider the case of Louis A. Lane, who was stranded on a 7,800-foot ice cap in Greenland 70 years ago and lived to tell the tale.

Louis Lane’s senior portrait

Louis Arlington Lane was the son of Louis R. and Mary Quick Lane who lived in Arena and ran a general store there. The Lanes came from Willow, Ulster County in the early 1940s, first setting up shop in the Dickson/Post Office building at the corner of Main and Church Streets, and later moving to the Rickert building. Len Utter remembers you could buy everything from meat to milk, overalls to shoes at Lane’s store.
Louis A., born in 1918, was the oldest of six children. His siblings were Arthur, Virginia, Dottie, Gene and Duane, who was born in 1944 (“The doctor thought my grandmother had a tumor, but it was my uncle Duane,” said Mary Ellen Lane Lawrence.) When Louis’ family moved to Arena, he was married to Ruth Dorn, and about to embark on a military path. He spent a couple of years in Alabama and Texas during the war, returning to Arena in 1945. Then, as an Army Air Corps reservist, Louis went back into service., taking his family along to Greenland where he was stationed in 1947.
In December of 1948, the community was shocked to learn that 2nd Lt. Louis A. Lane was among 11 soldiers stranded on an icy outcropping on the frozen continent. Seven of the men had been there since Dec. 8 when their C-47 crash landed. Two others, including Lane, tried to rescue them but crashed in their B-17 on Dec. 13. Two more in a glider attempting a rescue mission then joined the group. Food, heaters, fuel and clothing were dropped by parachute. So was a Christmas tree, and the fixings for holiday dinner, while the Air Force figured out how to get the men out. They hunkered down in ice shelters and tried to stay warm in blizzard conditions that produced 100 mph winds and 40-below-zero temperatures.
Finally, on December 28, a jet-ski equipped transport landed on the ice cap and ferried Louis and his compatriots to safety. Len Utter remembers following the situation with concern. It captured a lot of media attention, including an article in Life Magazine.
Louis’ brother, Arthur (Mary Ellen’s dad) also served in WWII, as a medical assistant in North Africa and Italy. Their little brother, Duane, served in Vietnam in the Air Force, as did Duane’s nephew, Louis and Ruth’s son Russell, who was born in 1944. Russell died tragically in 1967 in an explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Port Ewen where both he and his father worked.
Louis died in 1990, Ruth passed in 2006. Most members of the family are buried in Ulster County.

A young doctor faces diptheria

Dr. James Luther Allaben in undated tintype, taken in Brooklyn. From the HSM archives.

The year 1879 was a traumatic one for several local families and, we suspect, for one young doctor who tried to keep their children alive during an outbreak of diptheria.
Dr. James L. Allaben was one of half a dozen physicians working in Middletown that year, when ten children died of the contagious disease. Diptheria is caused by a bacteria that creates toxins and throat lesions and blocks breathing. It is fatal in a high percentage of cases contracted by children. Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Alice, and a granddaughter, died of the choking disease in 1878, years before a preventive vaccine was developed.
The Mortality Schedule of the 1880 census lists Middletown people who died the previous year. It shows that five families suffered unimaginable grief when diptheria visited their homes. George M. and Angeline Winn Griffin lost three children in September and October – Etta, 6, Harry, 3, and Fannie, eight months. Willie, the only son of John M. and Jemima Blish, died in August, age 7. The Blishes are believed to have lived in Clovesville, near blacksmith John Ludeke and his wife Louisa, German immigrants whose children, Amelia, 10 and John, 5 contracted diptheria and died in June. 12-year-old Frankie Winn, and three children of John and Angeline Halcott – Mathalia, 11, William, 6 and Freddie, 3 — all died in October.
Treating them as best they could were Doctors S. M. Decker, H. W. Garrison, J. H. Banker and James L. Allaben. The latter was just 34 years old. He and wife Hattie had three little ones of their own, almost the exact ages of the Griffin children he cared for that terrible autumn. James Luther Allaben came from a family of physicians, ministers and lawyers. His father William was both a clergyman and a dentist! His uncle, Dr. Orson Allaben, is credited with spurring development of the village of Margaretville in the 1840s.
Among the patients Dr. James Allaben saw in 1879 were the Griffins. This was a family that had already seen more than their share of tragedy, having lost two infants in 1873 and 1877. The death by diptheria of three more left them with just one child, 11-year-old Bertha.
The same affliction visited the Halcott family. Losing three of their youngsters in October meant only one child, 8-month-old Alvin James, survived.
It would be logical to assume that such heartache would make for a bleak future for families such as these. But the Griffins and the Halcotts, ordinary laborers of little means, were made of sterner stuff. Perhaps obeying the biological imperative or a deep need to fill the empty spaces at the table, both couples had several more children. By 1892, John and Angeline Halcott and son Alvin had welcomed Christopher, Lula, Charles, Harvey and Harry. Neighbors George and Angeline Griffin had two more sons, Howard and Albert, to join older sister Bertha. All of them lived to adulthood.
And what of Dr. James L. Allaben? Well, the good doctor and wife Hattie grieved the loss of three of their own – Orlie, George and Harriet Marie — who died as infants during the 1880s. But in 1889, with four sons aged 11 to 15, the Allabens rejoiced at the arrival of a daughter, Deidamia (known as Damie). She would not know her father, however – Dr. Allaben died of pneumonia in 1890 at the age of 46.
Hattie carried on with five surviving children who all became successful adults, several building lives in California. One, John Hamilton Allaben, stayed in Middletown. He was a barber in Arkville for 50 years. Hattie passed on in 1932, and is buried in the Margaretville Cemetery with James, their babies, and many other treasured children he could not save.

Donor issues campaign challenge to HSM

Architect’s rendering of planned archives facilitity

A generous donor to the campaign for a Middletown History Center is challenging other history lovers to match his contribution by the end of 2018.
Nicholas J. Juried has pledged $50,000 towards the construction of an archives facility and research room to be housed in an expansion of the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown’s existing program hall near Margaretville. The archives portion of the addition will be named for the Nicholas J. Juried Family Foundation in recognition of this major contribution towards the $350,000 project.
“Congratulations are in order to the Executive Committee and to every one of your dedicated HSM members for conceiving this wonderful building to fulfill so many vital historical preservation, research and public service functions,” commented Juried.

He suggested that HSM supporters might want to add their own contributions by December 31 to take advantage of tax benefits. Gifts can be made by mail (PO Box 734, Margaretville, NY 12455) or electronically ( HSM is a 501c3 non-profit organization chartered by the New York State Education Department. It has 156 members and an 11-member governing board.

Nick Juried is a 1947 graduate of Gilboa-Conesville Central School and of Cornell University where he earned a degree in agricultural economics. He served in the Air Force during the Korean conflict, and then moved to Texas where he built a successful manufacturer’s marketing and promotion company. He and his late wife Dorothy restored a 37-acre ranch in Sandy, Texas, and he currently resides in Austin, Texas.

Juried is an avowed history enthusiast who has given substantial support to the Gilboa Historical Society’s Gilboa Museum/Juried History Center, the Zadock Pratt Museum in Prattsville, the Jefferson and Middleburgh Historical Societies, and the Catskill Tri-County Historical Views Magazine of which he is honorary editor. He noted recent efforts to link historical resources in the tri-county area (Delaware, Greene and Schoharie) as a factor in supporting HSM.

“We are ever so grateful to Mr. Juried for seeing the value – culturally and economically – in preserving the documents and artifacts of our past,” commented HSM President Diane Galusha. “Saving the stories of our communities is a priceless gift we leave for our children and theirs.”

Galusha announced the Juried Challenge at HSM’s annual meeting October 27 when she gave an update on the campaign to build the Middletown History Center. The campaign kicked off in September when State Senator James Seward secured a $50,000 grant from the state to be used towards construction of the 1600-square-foot addition. Several generous donors whose families have deep roots in the Middletown area subsequently joined the Legacy Circle with gifts of $1,000 or more.

“We are thrilled to report that the campaign is one-third of the way towards the goal,” Galusha reported to 50 members and friends who attended the annual meeting. “Since our collection has outgrown the space allotted for it at the Town Hall, the need is great and the time is now to construct a permanent archives. We truly appreciate the support of our early donors.”

While HSM developed plans for the building project and launched the fundraising campaign, it also produced several programs and events, including the 6th Living History Cemetery Tour at Halcottsville, and presentations on the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Catskills, famed photographer Art Kane, and the impact of World War I on Middletown area soldiers and communities. A relic hunt by the Nor’easters Metal Detecting Club and a Family History Day were also held in 2018. HSM once again participated with exhibits and activities at the annual Cauliflower Festival.

Two new trustees were elected to the HSM Executive Committee at the annual meeting. They are Bill Blish of Margaretville and Agnes Laub of Fleischmanns. Henry Friedman was re-elected as a trustee, as were officers Diane Galusha, Vice President Tina Greene, Treasurer Marilyn Pitetti and Secretary Amy Taylor. Remaining trustees are Anne Sanford, Pat Moore, Barbara Moses and Shirley Davis.

The Historical Society had 156 members in 106 households in 2017-18. New and renewing members are invited to join at

Ideas for future programs and research projects are most welcome. Contact HSM at if you would like to contribute information or volunteer to organize a program.