Autumn History Stroll is Oct. 6 in Margaretville

A leisurely walk in the Village of Margaretville on Sunday, Oct. 6 will combine the season’s colors with some local history at an event to benefit the Historical Society of Middletown (HSM) Building Fund.
The Autumn History Stroll from 1 to 4 p.m. will be an easy walking tour covering about a half mile with stops to visit interiors of three distinctive homes and a church.
Hear architectural and family histories at Gail Lennstrom’s 1926 kit-built house with its arts and crafts sensibility; Phil and Carol O’Beirne’s 1939 stone house built by a local mason for his daughter; a sumptious 1896 Victorian owned by Tom and Connie Jeffers, and the venerable Presbyterian Church, dedicated in 1895.
Church pastor Shirley Davis will talk about the evolution of the Presbyterian congregation while visitors view a display of photos and artifacts. Then they’ll go downstairs for a quick tour of the Catskill Mountain Model Railroad Club’s impressive HO train layout featuring some local scenes and buildings.
At the last stop, the Jeffers’, tour goers will get to see all three floors of this beautiful home, as well as one of the most well-equipped woodworking shops in the area. Guests will enjoy a delectable buffet of finger foods prepared by the four homeowners.
Between stops, HSM tour guides will share anecdotes and stories about some of the Village’s other landmarks.
Space is limited. Reserve your spot ($25 per person) by October 1. Reservations and info: 845-586-4973; history@catskill.net.
For more information on this and other upcoming programs, visit mtownhistory.org where you can become a member of HSM and donate to the Campaign for a Middletown History Center.

16th Annual Cauliflower Festival is Sept. 21

Little Don Kelly with a very big head of cauliflower

The 16th Annual Cauliflower Festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 21 from 10 to 4 in Margaretville’s Village Park, sponsored by the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
This family-friendly festival features a tractor parade (11:30 a.m.), a tent full of farmers and local producers, a petting zoo, pony rides, kids activities, history exhibits and music all afternoon. Funders include Pure Catskills and the Delaware County Tourism Grant program.
New this year will be a Quilting Tent where visitors can learn about traditional and contemporary quilting techniques, watch demonstrations by skilled practitioners and try their hand at collage quilting and rope bag making. The quilting tent is coordinated by Lori and Katie Rosa of Bloom Quilts and Retreat shop in Margaretville.
The winner of a quilting retreat for six at Bloom will be drawn at 3 p.m. Winners of five Catskills Getaway Giveaway stay and play packages will also be announced. To register for these prizes, visit the News/Updates page at sceniccatskills.com
Another fresh addition to the festival is the music of John Holt and Jon Light. Their acoustic-based Americana sound features the distinctive voice of vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist John Holt accompanied by pedal steel guitarist Jon Light. The Ulster County performers’ repertoire runs the gamut from lonely mountain ballads to stone cold funk. They will perform from noon until 3pm.
The 3rd Annual Catskills Conquest Endurance Run for vintage automobiles will make the Cauliflower Festival one of the stops on the route from Mt. Tremper to Unadilla. Festival-goers will have an opportunity to view these fine vehicles and talk with their owners. The run commemorates a 1903 test of endurance among early car makers and drivers who traversed the Catskills along what is now NYS Route 28 – the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. Cars are due to arrive mid-day.
Agricultural and community history exhibits can be found in the History Tent. This year’s featured display is about the Grange and its impacts on farms, families and national agricultural policies. The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown will also share photos and artifacts from the cauliflower growing industry which flourished in the Catskills from the 1890s through the 1950s.
The Pure Catskills Tent will be filled with members of this valuable organization. Purchase maple syrup, spirits, farm made cheeses, honey and honey products, naturally made dog treats and more.
Businesses, artists, craftspeople and non-profit organizations will be on hand. From green energy purveyors to craft distillers, alpaca products to home décor, there will be lots to learn and to explore.
Food of all sorts will be offered for sale, and of course cauliflower will be sold (get there early, because it sells out quickly!) For more information, call the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, 845-586-3300.

Vendors, tractors sought for Cauliflower Fest

The 16th Annual Cauliflower Festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 21 in Margaretville’s Village Park, and there is still room for vendors! Tractors, too!
Businesses, artists, craftspeople, food purveyors and non-profit organizations are welcome. Find vendor forms at https://margaretvillecauliflowerfestival.org/forms/. The festival runs from 10 to 4 and traditionally attracts hundreds of people. For more information, call the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce at 845-586-3300.
Tractors of all makes and ages are also sought for the Tractor Parade which starts at11:30 a.m. at the school parking lot on Academy Street. The route is up Main Street to the festival grounds. Contact Sally Fairbairn if you are interested in participating. 845-586-2813.

Cruise-In, BBQ, Music and a Free Movie August 30!

Main Street, Margaretville will be rocking Friday, evening, August 30 when a Cruise-In, a benefit chicken barbecue and a free movie launch the Labor Day Weekend with a bang.
The event, co-sponsored by the Business Association of Margaretville (BAM)and the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM), will take note of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. Music from the era by The Fishercats will get folks dancing in the street, which will be closed between Bridge Street and NBT from 5 to 8 p.m.
Several shops will stay open, some with sidewalk sales. The Margaretville Fire Department will hold a chicken barbecue with proceeds to benefit Skip Jester, long time MFD member and Main Street barber, who is recovering from a serious leg injury. Sales will take place in front of Home Goods at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets. Take dinner home or eat it on tables to be set up in the street.
Owners of vintage cars are invited to show off their vehicles. All makes, models and years are welcome; those from the 1950s-70s are especially encouraged. Call 586-4177 for more information.
Parked near the HSM tent will be the 1968 Mustang “Demon,” which was painstakingly restored by owner Mike Ondish and friends Eric VanBenschoten, Mike Harrington and others after languishing in mechanic Ondish’s Margaretville garage for more than 35 years.
The story of the car and its drag-racing, rum-running driver and pals was the subject of “Demon on Wheels,” a documentary which will be shown upstairs in the Commons building at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Donors of $25 or more to the HSM campaign to build a Middletown History Center will receive a free “Demon” DVD.
A ‘60s costume contest will be held with prizes awarded at 6:30. Wear your grooviest and grubbiest. Did you go to Woodstock? Stop by the HSM table and let us record your memories.

“Ghosts on the Land” is August 17 program

Presenter Jennifer Kabat chats with Rudd (left) and Burr Hubbell, descendants of Anti-Rent farmer-protestors

“Ghosts on the Land: How Hardscrabble Farmers Changed History,” will be the topic of a program presented by the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, 778 Cemetery Road, Margaretville on Saturday, Aug. 17.

Admission is by donation.

Essayist Jennifer Kabat of Margaretville will be the speaker and guide of this two-part exploration of the Anti-Rent War of the 1840s, its local impact and its connections to international social movements of the time.

Kabat will share some surprising findings of her research into the history of the land upon which she and husband David Rainbird recently built a home on Bull Run Road near Margaretville. The project led to the article “Ghostlands,” published in March 2019 by the British magazine Granta.

On August 17 at 5:30 Kabat will lead a short walk on her property at 1314 Bull Run Road to stone foundations of buildings that were once part of the Clum family farm (directions and info: jenkabat@gmail.com). The Clums were tenant farmers on lands owned by the wealthy Livingstons, part owners of the vast Hardenburgh Patent. They lived, worked and died on the rocky farm that they never owned, yet they apparently did not join their neighbors in the uprising Kabat describes as “violent, radical and profoundly ambitious.”

At 7 p.m. at the HSM hall on Cemetery Road, Kabat will present an illustrated talk about the tumultuous Anti-Rent War, when costumed farmers banded together and used guerilla tactics to overthrow the feudal land-holding system that originated in 18th-century England. She will trace the uprising’s connection to the international economic collapse of the 1830s, which spawned an anti-capitalist backlash. “Utopian alternatives were spun, and socialism spread across the country. People believed in possibilities outside of capitalism. Collective values were more important than the self,” she explained.

Some local Anti-Rent leaders aligned themselves with men like Charles Fourier, the French philosopher who espoused communal property and personal and political liberation, and Robert Owen, a Welsh industrialist turned utopian socialist who moved to the US to create one of the first intentional communities practicing communal ownership.

“What amazes me is how internationalist they were in their ideals,” wrote Kabat of Catskill farmers. “That they were drawing on politics from Europe, that this tiny seeming backwater became tied into much bigger politics.”

Jennifer Kabat’s essays have appeared in Granta, BOMB, Harper’s, Virginia Quarterly Review and The White Review. Her piece, “Rain Like Cotton,” was included in Best American Essays, 2018 and her essay “The Rainmaker’s Flood” was a finalist for Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize. She teaches at NYU and the New School and is working on a book about grief and modernism: As her parents are dying, she recreates their home in the Bull Run valley and digs into the larger histories of where she grew up and where she lives now, as well as her father’s work and commitment to rural America.

For more information on this and other upcoming programs, visit mtownhistory.org where you can become a member of HSM and donate to the Campaign for a Middletown History Center.

Grange is topic of August 23 talk

“The Grange, Revisited,” a talk on the history, organization and activities of the ‘Patrons of Husbandry’ will be presented at the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown hall, 778 Cemetery Road, Margaretville on Friday, Aug. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.
A simple supper of soup and home-made bread will follow the talk by Amy Taylor, a member of a long-time Grange family and secretary of the HSM Executive Committee.
Admission is by donation.
Former Grangers are invited to attend and share memories and photos of their time in local Granges (Greene Valley Grange in Halcott; Wawaka Grange in Halcottsville, New Kingston Valley Grange and others.) Artifacts and implements from local Granges will be displayed.
The Grange, founded in 1867 and officially referred to as The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it debated, and strongly influenced, state legislatures and agencies on topics of interest to farmers. The Grange was also a social organization, hosting dances, dinners and holiday celebrations, as well as talks and workshops on agricultural crops and practices.
Amy Taylor will explain the social and political climate of the country as the Grange came to be and the impacts the Grange had on the nation. She will offer a glimpse into meetings and the rolls of the various offices, and then open it up to folks in the audience to share their experiences in the Grange.
For more information on this and other upcoming programs, visit mtownhistory.org where you can become a member of HSM and/or donate to the Campaign for a Middletown History Center.

Melodrama brings campy fun to HSM

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown will play host to some mid-summer silliness on Wednesday, August 14 at 7 p.m. when “It Happened in Middletown” will be performed by a troupe of local thespians directed by Marge Miller.
The playlet will be staged at the HSM hall, 778 Cemetery Rd., Margaretville, 12455. Admission is by donation.
The cast of the campy melodrama, set in the 1890s, includes Burr Hubbell as Reverend Trueheart Bubble, Katie Rosa and Erin Cure as orphaned sisters Aster and Petunia Fairbaby, Grant Cure as Chesterton Goodblood (known as “Chest” due to his renowned muscularity), and Jim Yaekel as odiferous villain Fred “Fartin” McMartin, tavern owner and well-known distributor of distilled spirits.
In this second original HSM melodrama by the prolific Marvella Mueller, whose script was discovered in a locked vault deep within the bowels of HSM’s archives, Aggie Laub will return as the town floozy, Lips LaRouge, a woman of questionable virtue and an even murkier past.
Kent Brown will provide incidental music. Audience boos, hisses and cheers are expected, all in good fun! Running time (depending on how much the cast hams it up!) is approximately 20 minutes.
For more information on this and other upcoming programs, visit mtownhistory.org where you can become a member of HSM and donate to the Campaign for a Middletown History Center.

HSM at Halcott Fair, seeks Grange stories

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown will greet friends and neighbors at the Halcott Fair Saturday, July 20 from noon to 4 p.m.
The annual event will take place in the Halcott Grange hall where the Greene Valley Grange once met and held dinners, dances and other community gatherings. HSM is anxious to hear from former Grangers – from Halcott or other local towns – for a project documenting the aims and activities of this once prominent farm advocacy and assistance organization.
Amy Taylor, HSM Secretary and member of a family that was prominent in Grange circles, will give a program, “The Grange Revisited,” at the HSM hall, 778 Cemetery Rd., Margaretville on Friday, Aug. 23 at 5 p.m. The talk will be followed by a simple supper. Admission is by donation. Bring your Grange stories and photos!
If you have memories and items to share and can’t make the program, please bring them to the Halcott Fair, where HSM will also hold a one-day silent auction on a very special set of photography books by acclaimed photographer Mark Citret.
Collectible Halcott photo book
Citret lived in Halcott for two years in the early 1970s. The images of people and landscapes he captured there are beautifully rendered in his book Halcott Center: A Catskill Mountain Valley. The book includes an introduction by the famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams, with whom Citret studied.
A signed copy of the book will be auctioned with two others: Along the Way, a lush, hard-bound collection of 63 plates of Citret’s black and white images, including some from Halcott, and Signs Taken for Wonder, the catalog of a 2002 exhibition of his work at the Monterey Museum of Art in California, where he makes his home. FMI: mcitret.com.
Proceeds from the silent auction (bidding closes at 3:30) will benefit the Campaign for a Middletown History Center which aims to build an archives facility at the HSM hall. For information on the project and to make a donation, visit mtownhistory.org.

Cemetery Tour was a smashing success!

The 7th Living History Cemetery Tour, sponsored by the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, takes place Sat., June 22 (rain date June 23).
This year’s tour is at Margaretville Cemetery, on Cemetery Road, just off Route 30 (upper Main Street) in the Village of Margaretville. Tour-goers will meet 10 people from the past on one-hour guided tours that depart from the parking lot every 20 minutes starting at 4 p.m. There are seven tour times available; reservations are required and can be made by calling 845-586-4736. Admission is $20; children under 15 get in free.
The cast of local players, directed by Frank Canavan and Joyce St. George, includes Agnes Laub as nurse-historian Ethel Bussy Coulter; Kelly Keck and Dave Turan as WWI vets Bruno Metzner and Marcus Korn; Ann Saxon Hersh as Margaret Hallock Newton, proprietor of the Pakatakan Lodge; John Bernhardt as banker and school board chairman James Henry Hitt.
Also, Melissa Day as Eleanor Sands Marvin, the granddaughter of Margaretville power couple George G. and Catherine Moore Decker; Jim Rauter and Gretchen Walker as Dr. James and Harriet Allaben; Amy Taylor as farm wife and mother Abigail Clum, and Burr Hubbell as John Dickson, Jr., a timber raftsman on the East Branch who served in the War of 1812.
Docents Barb Atkin, Tina Greene and Eli Taylor will lead tour groups to meet these characters. Other people from the past will be spotted strolling, playing and picnicking in the cemetery.
More information on this event and other programs planned by the Historical Society is available at mtownhistory.org; history@catskill.net; or 845-586-4973.

Sat., April 6 Genealogy for Beginners

1-4. The Past is Personal: Genealogy for Beginners. Doris Warner will explain where to find vital statistics, and residency data, personal info and much more to shed light on the lives of your ancestors. She will offer tips on organizing material and linking with other researchers. Fairview Library. $5