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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, July 17, 2008

Going Out for Family Fun Day
As Berne digs in for fun, “Excavator of history” releases fourth book

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — This weekend, this community will celebrate family and heritage. 

For the past eight years, local historian Willard Osterhout has been rummaging through shoeboxes, attics, and cellars, compiling photographs and information for his pictorial anthologies.  He said it’s been a fantastic journey. 

The Final Journey, his new book and the fourth in the Life Along the Way series, will be sold on Saturday for the first time at Berne Family Fun Day. 

Formerly Berne Heritage Days, the event, to be held at the Berne town park, is a fund-raiser for the town’s library, which plans to move out of its cramped quarters at Berne Town Hall. 

Also on Saturday, the town will hold its 10th annual Fox Creek Road Race and Fun Walk at 8 a.m.  Beginning at 4 p.m., food, beverages, and ice cream sundaes will be available, and, from 4 to 7 p.m., activities will be held for families and youths.  At night, a family dance will be held before a fireworks display at dusk. 

Osterhout, 68, will be on hand Saturday at the park beginning at 2 p.m. to sell and sign his book.  A retired equipment operator for the nearby town of New Scotland, Osterhout moved to his home on Warner’s Lake in East Berne in 1970. 

“I learned more about the area I live in, in the last eight years than I learned in the previous 30 years that I lived here,” he said. 

In the same vein as his first three books, The Final Journey contains new historic photographs from the 1850s to the 1950s of Berne’s hamlets, lakes, homes, and families.  The Final Journey also includes new information, recollections, and photographs of three historic camps — Camp Pinnacle, started in 1898 and thought to be the oldest girls’ camp in the world, Camp Woodstock, and Camp Orinsekwa.  Also included are the proposed route and an accompanying New York Times article from 1898 about plans for an electric railroad from Albany to Schoharie that was never built.

Osterhout’s new book will sell for $30 and has 270 pages, compared to 440 pages in his last tome, The Journey Continues. 

“So the sources are really dwindling down,” said Osterhout.  “I’ll probably never get all of them, but I think we’ve really touched base with the majority of the families that might have something,” he said.  “So that’s why I’ve kind of entitled it The Final Journey.  I don’t anticipate doing another book.” 

Osterhout doesn’t consider himself an author or a writer but rather “an excavator of history.”  He first came to Warner’s Lake, where he learned to swim, in the late 1940s.  He now passes buildings and knows their histories. 

“Certainly history was not my strong suit when I was younger.  It’s as I’ve gotten older and retired that the local history fascinated me,” he said.  “And, in my eight years of working on these projects, the people that I’ve met [have] just been absolutely astonishing.  Wonderful families.  More than willing to share anything they possibly could locate for me and just happy that someone was interested in what they had.”

Osterhout has created educational material, including a slideshow presentation, on local history for schools.  He also tries to educate the public about preservation.  He encourages people to place old photographs in acid-free sleeves and mark the backs of them so that the places and people can be identified by later generations. 

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