Cudmore: History on the highways

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There are many historical sites dating back to the Colonial era in Montgomery County on or near two east-west highways, Routes 5 and 5-S. 

In Amsterdam, just across the railroad tracks from Route 5 is Guy Park Manor.  Sir William Johnson, the area’s most prominent Colonial settler, built the mansion in the 1770s for his nephew and son-in-law, Col. Guy Johnson, who married Sir William’s daughter Polly.

Guy and Polly didn’t have much time to enjoy their new home, fleeing for Canada in 1775 as anti-British sentiment grew during the buildup to the Revolutionary War.  Guy Park Manor is also the location of Mohawk River/Erie Canal Lock 11.

Guy Park Manor was badly damaged by tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011.  Owned by the state’s Canal Commission, the building has not yet reopened.

West of Amsterdam in the village of Fort Johnson is the Old Fort itself, built by Sir William Johnson in 1749 as his fortified residence.  Operated by the Montgomery County Historical Society, the Old Fort boasts period furnishings and a restored 18th century outhouse, one of the oldest in America.

Further west on the south side of the river off Route 5-S is Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site where the Schoharie Creek flows into the Mohawk River.

Schoharie Crossing has two canal locks, a restored canal store, towpath walking trail, museum and remains of the Schoharie Aqueduct that took Erie Canal boats across Schoharie Creek.

Just west of Schoharie Crossing on Route 5-S is the Roman Catholic Auriesville Shrine, marking the spot where three Jesuit missionaries were martyred and where Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the 1600s.

Back on the north side of the river in Fonda, the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives is in the historic Old County Courthouse on Park Street.

The department contains numerous historical documents.  The facility attracts genealogists from around the country to search birth records for a large part of upstate New York.

Just west of Fonda on Route 5 is the Franciscan shrine honoring Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.  Up the hill from the shrine is the site of the Mohawk Nation village of Caughnawaga where St. Kateri lived much of her life. 

Farther west on Route 5 is Kanatsiohareke, since 1993 home to a settlement of traditional Mohawks.

The Route 5 villages of Palatine Bridge and Nelliston have several historic homes.  Between the two villages is Palatine Church, a Colonial era building.

South of the river Route 5-S takes you to Canajoharie and Fort Plain.  At Canajoharie is the Van Alstyne House, originally a tavern belonging to Goshen Van Alstyne.  It was one of the meeting places for the Tryon County Committee of Safety in the Revolutionary War. 

Farther west on Route 5-S on the hill overlooking the village of Fort Plain is the museum and historical park of the same name. The history of Fort Plain and the battle for the Mohawk Valley in the Revolution is told in vivid detail at the museum.

The Fort Plain Museum has sponsored numerous well-attended conferences on the American Revolution.

Back on the north side of the river is Fort Klock, two miles east of St. Johnsville.  A 1750 trading post, the fortified stone house typifies structures of the colonial era and American Revolution.

West on Route 5 is the 1747 Nellis Tavern, a restoration project of the Palatine Settlement Society.   Built by Christian Nellis in 1747 as a farmhouse, it is one of the few wooden buildings in the area to survive the Revolutionary War.  A tavern by 1783, the building stayed in private hands until the 1960s.

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