Focus on History: 1918’s pandemic, local graveyards and other 2020 history highlights


In 2020 it has been hard not to frequently look back to compare COVID 19 to the influenza pandemic of 1918. There were 176 deaths in Amsterdam in 1918 from influenza or pneumonia which often followed the flu.

Many of the victims were young. Joseph Bryk, 25, of James Street had come to Amsterdam in 1918 and met Appolonia Bogdan. They were to have been married the day Bryk died.

In 2020, this column introduced readers to area residents who have taken it upon themselves to research and preserve old graveyards.

A retired Saratoga Springs science teacher, Joanne Blaaubour, has a home in Fish House, a hamlet on the Great Sacandaga Lake in the town of Northampton. Blaaubour has focused on a graveyard next to the former Fish House Presbyterian Church. Abraham Beecher, buried there, was a church deacon who died in 1845. He was the cousin of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

U.S. Army Colonel David Cummings, Retired, of Schuylerville is researching and restoring the cemetery near the site of the former St. Joseph’s Church in the Adirondack hill town of Bleecker. Nicholas Reinhart, a native of Prussia, was buried there in 1868. He was a private in the Civil War who succumbed to wounds received at the battle of Opequon, Virginia.

The first Roman Catholic Church in Fulton County, St. Joseph’s served parishioners in Bleecker from the 1850s to 1919.

University at Albany professor emeritus Colbert Nepaulsingh published a new book this year, “Walter Elwood: Glitter and Other Unpublished Plays.” The book includes a brief biography of educator Elwood, founder of Amsterdam’s community museum which is located on Church Street and named in Elwood’s honor.

Just published is historian David Pietrusza’s memoir “Too Long Ago” recounting in poignant and fascinating detail Pietrusza’s upbringing in Amsterdam.

Local people were described in numerous columns. Entertainer Avery King Clizbe, Jr., used the name King Owen when he performed at local night clubs and on radio stations including WENT in Gloversville-Johnstown. King Owen played piano, sang and took requests on the radio. He died in 1955 at age 40.

Amsterdam native Kirk Douglas became a Hollywood movie star and producer. He died this year at 103. Born as Issur Danielovitch and known locally as Isadore Demsky, he had the lead role in “The McMurray Chin,” his senior play at Amsterdam High School.

Future actress Maria “Betty” Buehler was born in Germany and came to the United States with her parents in 1928. A graduate of Fort Plain High School and Ithaca College, she acted on radio and television. She was female lead in one major motion picture, “The Mob,” in 1951. She moved to Cape Cod in 1983 and died there in 2012.

Vincenzo (Vince) Siciliano, a popular Amsterdam singing barber, turned 100 years old in October. Siciliano’s route to Amsterdam included time spent in a German prisoner of war camp. When the Allies won World War II, Siciliano became a barber on an American military base in Germany for 10 years.

After coming to Amsterdam, he and his half-brother Carmine Filanova bought a barber shop on Church Street. Later Siciliano took over a barbershop owned by Italian radio host Joe Mason on Division Street. For 20 years Siciliano was lead vocalist with Benny Cannavo and the Accents,

One of this year’s columns focused attention on Amsterdam’s very popular Maldutis Bakery which sold light rye and pumpernickel in a shop at East Main and Dean Streets. Lithuanian native Peter Maldutis founded the bakery. His son Chuck took over the business after his father died. Maldutis Bakery closed in 1968.

Categories: Uncategorized

One Comment

Leave a Reply