Focus on History: Summer stories from the Mohawk Valley


Fans of local history attended gatherings late this summer, a few for the first time since the pandemic started.

At a Sixties Forever Amsterdam reunion for several graduating years in the 1960s, one participant had a blunt remark for me about radio. I was invited to the gathering at a new banquet hall on the South Side although my graduating class was older than the classes invited.

The man told me he had gone to the 1965 Dave Clark Five movie at the Mohawk Theatre sponsored by WAFS radio in Amsterdam. Only a handful of people joined him. 

I remember a little about that day in 1965 when I worked at WAFS, but recalled that Tom Stewart remembered more. 

Stewart was a 1965 graduate of Amsterdam High who worked at WAFS that summer. He may be best remembered in Amsterdam for playing King Arthur in “Camelot,” a production staged by the late drama director Bert DeRose. Stewart lives in New York City and for many years has been the announcer on public television raising funds for the PBS station there.

Stewart wrote, “Yes, the movie was, ‘Catch Us If You Can’ and I think it was actually at the Tryon. Don’t know how the station got involved but am thinking that that some advance person enlisted our help.

“My strongest memory is traveling to the Dave Clark Five’s hotel in Albany and wangling my way in to meet them; used a very primitive tape recorder and they kindly recorded a few promos for our air. We promoted the movie premiere incessantly which led to the big event. 

“As whoever you spoke to recalled, it was a major bust!  The numbers were few and we were shocked at the lack of turnout; so much for the power of media!”


An event held Aug. 27 at the Old Courthouse in Fonda marked the 250th anniversary of the creation of Tryon County, the British colonial name for what became Montgomery County.

There were historical bus tours, artisan and militia reenactors, tables staffed by Historic Amsterdam League and Nellis Tavern in St. Johnsville.  Plus there were cannon shots and a new promotional video for the Department of History and Archives narrated by Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar.

 What got one Canajoharie couple talking at my table though was a story I displayed on the Mohawk Encampment. 

In June 1957, a group of Mohawk Indians occupied land near the Schoharie Creek on the south side of the Mohawk River and remained there until evicted by court order in the spring of 1958.

The settlers were led by Chief Standing Arrow, also known as Frank Johnson. The encampment was to repossess part of a tract the Mohawks said was not included in land ceded to the U.S. government by the Iroquois Confederacy in the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1784.

In October 1957, world-renowned man of letters Edmund Wilson visited the encampment and Chief Standing Arrow.

Wilson described the encounter in his 1959 book, “Apologies to the Iroquois.” Wilson found that Standing Arrow was part of an Iroquois nationalist movement.

Montgomery County Sheriff Alton Dingman served the first eviction notices on the Mohawk settlement along the Schoharie Creek in January 1958.

In March 1958, 25 people were reported still living at the Schoharie Creek site. A court hearing that month resulted in another eviction order. Some of the Mohawk huts were burned. 

The Mohawks were offered land in the town of Fulton in Schoharie County as an alternative site in the area but if there was a settlement there, it was short-lived.

Categories: Opinion, Opinion

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