Another year from the history books
This year’s columns included stories of two airplane crashes in Montgomery County.
A U.S. Army military transport flying from Rome to Schenectady crashed the night of Oct. 13, 1943, in a rural section of Amsterdam’s South Side. The plane’s four-man crew parachuted to safety and there were no injuries on the ground.
Three pioneering aviators died in a 1928 plane crash in the town of Root, including Gloversville native Edward M. Pauley.
• On May 13, 1856, the New York Tribune printed a letter reporting that gold had been discovered by five children in a cave above the reservoir in the then-village of Amsterdam. The newspaper tagged the piece with a disclaimer saying the letter “reads very much like a hoax.” Apparently it was.
• Music and medicine dominated the life of Dr. John V. Riggs. Born in Schenectady, the homeopathic Amsterdam physician had a strong bass voice. In 1889, Riggs sold his medical practice and went to New York City to become a performer. He came back within two years, opened a drug store on Market Street and manufactured patent medicines. He founded and directed the Arion Society, an Amsterdam singing group, and was director of the St. Ann’s Church choir.
• In the early 20th century, one of Amsterdam’s iconic taverns was O’Shaughnessy’s, later Shaughnessy’s, at the corner of East Main and Eagle streets. Harry Demsky, actor Kirk Douglas’s father, was among the many regular patrons of Martin J. O’Shaughnessy’s saloon. During Prohibition, the family sold moonshine off the building’s back porch. After Prohibition ended, Shaughnessy’s reopened and had one of the city’s first color televisions before it closed.
• Victor DeGolyer, who now lives in Johnstown, was among the first 15 men inducted into the U.S. Army from Amsterdam on Nov. 27, 1940, as the country instituted a peacetime draft. Pvt. DeGolyer became the personal radio man to Col. Norman Schwarzkopf, father of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, American commander of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, who died Thursday. DeGolyer was wounded in World War II, saved from more serious injury by the radio strapped to his back.
• Gabriel Manny, born in 1740 in New York City, lived at Manny’s Corners at the intersection of what is now Route 67 and Manny’s Corners Road in the town of Amsterdam. Manny’s son — Gabriel Manny Jr. — moved down the hill and operated the Manny Road House tavern on the north side of what is now Route 5 in Amsterdam. Arlene Madej grew up near the site of the Manny Road House. In 1950, her family moved up the hill to Manny’s Corners. Madej said an old cemetery near the one-room schoolhouse at Manny’s Corners contains the graves of four Revolutionary War soldiers.
• Donato Persico of Amsterdam was one of 36 survivors rescued from the submarine USS Squalus, which sank during a practice dive off Portsmouth, N.H., on May 23, 1939. Twenty-nine sailors drowned. The survivors were saved using a diving bell that could withstand depths beyond those lethal to humans. After his naval career, Persico married Felicia Puglia of Amsterdam in 1974. “He was my hero,” Felicia Persico said. Donato Persico died in 2001 and the intersection of Florida Avenue and Bridge Street was named Persico Square in his honor.
• The Rev. Washington Frothingham lived a long and useful life, dying in Fonda in 1914 at age 92. Called the dean of American journalism, Frothingham was a clergyman, syndicated newspaper columnist, book author and philanthropist. Among the many books he authored was “A History of Montgomery County, N.Y.” He started a public bath and a bowling alley in Fonda. He left money in his will that helped establish the Fonda library that bears his name.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.