Countywide driving tour and website emerge from collaborating historical societies

KNOX — “How can we work together to promote the historical treasures of Albany County?” asked Marie Erkes at a gathering at Knox Town Hall on Saturday, June 14.

Erkes, president of Albany County Historical Association, encouraged the 25 representatives from Albany County historical societies and associations to collaborate on projects. After discussion, the group decided to organize a countywide historical website and to develop driving tours highlighting historic features throughout Albany County.

Knox Historical Society hosted the quarterly meeting and shared some of its accomplishments in a program on “Low-Cost/No-Cost Collaboration.” President Nancy Frueh spoke about the society’s far-reaching connections with many re-enactors and historical musicians, including the Capital District Civil War Round Table and Rural Felicity musical group.

Dr. Mary Kinnaird explained the Suitcases of History project, developed in response to decreased funds for community-based education. The program is a cooperative effort with teachers at Berne-Knox-Westerlo Elementary School, Berne Historical Society, Helderberg Hilltowns Association, Altamont archivist Marijo Dougherty, and Knox Historical Society.

I then described more of the society’s collaborations, including invaluable support from the town of Knox and The Altamont Enterprise. The Dutch Barn Preservation Society has assisted in organizing two driving tours to show Knox’s eight Dutch barns in their natural context, surrounded by fields of cows and bales of hay.

Member Donna Gwin worked with Kathy Stempel, youth services librarian at Berne Library, as well as historians from Berne and Westerlo. Together, they produced a history lesson on historic roadside markers for fourth-graders at Berne-Knox-Westerlo. The students made models of historic markers, which were used at the Friends of Berne Library’s miniature golf fund-raising event.

I then spoke of the society’s mutually beneficial relationship with the libraries in Altamont, Berne, Guilderland, and Voorheesville. Members have given talks on historical books and genealogical research.

During the Saddlemire Homestead museum’s off-season, member John Elberfeld hangs displays of photographs related to Knox history in the libraries’ exhibit spaces.

Members of the quilting community in Berne and Knox willingly share their expertise for the society’s summer quilt shows. At “The Quilts of Berne and Knox” on Aug. 3, maps of the Helderberg Quilt Barn Trail’s driving tour will be available.

Member Mike Nardacci, geology columnist for The Enterprise, assisted in refurbishing the Knox Cave room at the Saddlemire Homestead. He has brought caving enthusiasts and experts to the museum to share their considerable knowledge about Knox Cave and lesser-known local caves.

The society partnered with Berne Historical Society, Helderberg Hilltowns Association, and Kiwanis Club of the Helderbergs in October to present a viewing of Righteous Rebellion at the Octagon Barn in Knox. Filmmaker Bruce Kennedy, with assistance from local historians, continues to work on this documentary about the 19th-Century Anti-Rent rebellion.

I brought the group back into the 21st Century via modern technology. Member Daniel Driscoll worked with Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to post QR (quick response) codes at key locations in Knox’s Winn Preserve. The codes give access to information about the geology, plants, animals, former roads, and old dwellings in the preserve.

For more information about these initiatives, please contact me by e-mail at jbmclean@aol.com or by phone at 872-2082. The Albany County Historical Association can be reached at http://www.tenbroeckmansion.org/.

Editor’s note: Jane McLean is the vice president of the Knox Historical Society.

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