Focus on History: Books abound on history of Mohawk Valley

Readers sometimes inquire about books on Mohawk Valley history. What follows is a list of sources I

Readers sometimes inquire about books on Mohawk Valley history. What follows is a list of sources I have found useful. Your suggestions are welcome.

W. Max Reid, an Amsterdam undertaker and business leader, was the author of “The Mohawk Valley: Its Legends and Its History” in 1901. Nelson Greene, editor of a newspaper in Fort Plain, wrote a three-volume “History of the Mohawk Valley” in 1925, accompanied by a volume of biographies. A portion of Reid’s and Greene’s books can be found online.

Barbara McMartin, who died in 2005, and her husband W. Alec Reid produced a detailed book on Johnstown and Gloversville in 1999, “The Glove Cities: How a People and Their Craft Built Two Cities.” The late Paul Keesler’s last book, “Mohawk: Discovering the Valley of the Crystals,” describes his personal observations from traveling the entire length of the Mohawk Valley on foot and by canoe.

For Amsterdam history, one basic resource is Recorder columnist Hugh Donlon’s 1980 book, “Annals of a Mill Town.” Donlon covered many of the stories that shaped Amsterdam in its mill town glory days.

Several Amsterdam and Montgomery County history books have been printed the past few years, three of them by Arcadia Publishing. Photo collector Gerald Snyder and city historian Robert von Hasseln are authors of “Amsterdam” in a postcard history series. County historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar and Old Fort Johnson site manager Scott Haefner wrote “Amsterdam” in Arcadia’s “Images of America” series. Farquhar is author of another Images of America book, “Montgomery County.”

Attorney Bob Going compiled “Honor Roll: The World War II Dead of Amsterdam, N.Y.” and is working on a more comprehensive book on city residents who fought in the war.

Former jockey Louis Hildebrandt wrote “Riders Up” in 2003, chronicling his years as a rider for Sanford Stud Farm on Route 30, operated by the family that headed one of Amsterdam’s major carpet mills.

His son, Louis Hildebrandt Jr., gathered pictures and information for “Hurricana: Thoroughbred Dynasty, Amsterdam Landmark,” a book about the farm itself, which was called Hurricana Farm when created in the 1800s. Alex M. Robb, a horse racing expert, wrote “The Sanfords of Amsterdam” in 1969.

Movie star Kirk Douglas references his native Amsterdam in his 1988 autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son.” Former county historian Jacqueline Murphy came out with a history of St. Mary’s Parish in Amsterdam in 2004.

Retired Amtrak engineer Paul K. Larner has been gathering information on the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad and in 2009 published the first volume, of “Our Railroad,” focusing on the years from 1867 to 1893.

Some books with local historical information are hard to find. Historian Katherine Strobeck, who died in 2002, wrote “Port Jackson: An Erie Canal Village” in 1989 and issued a collection of her historical newspaper columns the next year, “Mohawk Valley Happenings.” Newspaper columnist Tony Pacelli produced “Past and Present” in 1987 with many colorful anecdotes about Amsterdam mill town life.

Adam Golab’s “The Mighty and Awesome Chuctanunda Creeks Runs Through a Limestone City” has stories based on a conversation with Chuck, a personalization of the city’s mighty creek. There are only a few copies available of anthropologist Susan R. Dauria’s 1999 doctoral dissertation on Amsterdam ethnic groups and the decline of industry — “Deindustrialization and the Construction of History and Ethnic Identity.”

More and more, historical information is available online. Many of my columns plus other Mohawk Valley history articles are on a searchable database on Fulton-Montgomery Community College professor Frank Yunker’s website; Tom Tryniski maintains an extensive searchable database of New York State newspapers at his site,

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply