Family’s path to stardom a classic tale for 2013
The starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks in the National Football League, Russell Wilson, is the great-grandson of an Amsterdam man.
When people shopped in downtown Amsterdam years ago and parking spaces were hard to find, a prime destination was the private lot behind the East Main Street stores on Federal Street.
Proprietor Harrison B. Wilson and his family kept watch on the cars from inside a small shed. The Wilsons brushed the snow off your car and backed it out, if necessary. Wilson, an African American, came to Amsterdam in 1910 from Kentucky, where his father had been a slave owned by a Confederate colonel.
Wilson and his wife, Marguerite, raised eight children. All the Wilson children pursued careers in health care, industry and education. Harrison Wilson Jr. was president of Norfolk State University in Virginia for 22 years. Harrison Jr.’s son, the late Harrison Wilson III, was an attorney who almost made it to professional football with the San Diego Chargers. Harrison Wilson III’s son is Russell Wilson.
Remembering Michael Lynch
Another history column published this year was the story of an idealistic Amsterdam man killed in the Vietnam War.
Pvt. Michael J. Lynch, 20, a medical corpsman and former president of the high school drama club, was tending to a wounded soldier in Binh Dong Province when he was killed by small arms fire March 15, 1969.
After retired drama coach and high school principal Bert DeRose and his former students lobbied the school board, the newly renovated auditorium at what is now Wilbur H. Lynch Middle School was named the Michael J. Lynch Theater on June 2, 2013.
The Lynch building was the high school through 1977, and Michael Lynch, a 1966 graduate, performed on stage there. Michael Lynch was not related to the man for whom the Lynch building was named. Wilbur H. Lynch was a school superintendent and Amsterdam mayor.
Town Line Museum
Bob and Deb Landrio created the Town Line Museum on Route 29 in Johnstown, which recalls the 1950s and 1960s with memorabilia ranging from jukeboxes to Pez dispensers. They have turned a building on their property into a replica of a 1962-era gas station, ice cream parlor, barbershop, grocery store and more.
They have a bumper car from Sherman’s Amusement Park in Caroga Lake. The booths in the ice cream parlor are from Tego’s Hot Dogs in Gloversville. The ice cream bar came from Wemple & Edick’s in Sammonsville.
The museum is currently open by appointment only at 762-5853. The Landrios have published a guidebook for the museum with many pictures that can be purchased for $12.
The Bleecker Historical Society has organized a well-attended speakers program and is creating an artifact collection at the Town Hall on County Highway 112, where the society meets.
The Fulton County town was named for Barent Bleecker, one of the original patent holders. Bleecker once had four churches and six schools. Town historian Eleanor Bleyl Brooks, who has lived there all her life, said when her father was town clerk, municipal business was conducted around their dining room table, as there was no town hall. Today’s Town Hall is a former school building.
Town resident Nancy Buyce owns the District No. 3 schoolhouse, sometimes known as the “Factory School” or “Tannery School.” Buyce attended the school, which closed in the 1950s. It’s on Lily Lake Road in what was called Bleecker Village, which in the 19th century boasted a sawmill and tannery. The school building, today a private museum, still contains children’s and teachers’ desks, even books, maps and schoolwork.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.