Focus on History: The old courthouse, Ukrainians, Lafayette and other 2022 topics


The Fulton County Courthouse in Johnstown was one of many topics among Focus on History columns in 2022.

Judge Robert P. Best published the booklet “Everything West of Albany in 1772.” The Johnstown courthouse was built in 1772 when New York State was still a British colony. The structure at 223 West Main Street is the oldest existing courthouse in the state. 

Best, who retired in 2006, said, “It [looked] like a movie scene from an old movie of what a courthouse looks like and it still does.”

What’s it like to be the boss’s son? Rod Correll takes up that question in a column about his memoir, “Learning to Be a Leatherman-A Rite of Passage.”

Rod, who lived some years in Gloversville, is descended from two important figures in the leather industry, his grandfather Herman Loewenstein and his father Rudy Correll.

Another Focus on History traces the connection between Amsterdam and singer Jeff Buckley, who recorded the most popular version of Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen’s anthem “Hallelujah” in 1994.  

Jeff Buckley’s father was musician Tim Buckley III, who spent his early years in Amsterdam and Fort Johnson.

Amsterdam’s Ukrainian community was chronicled in stories about Amsterdam’s Ukrainian Church, St. Nicholas on Pulaski Street, and late local Ukrainian activist Myron Swidersky.  Ukrainian immigrant Peter Segen married my mother’s sister.

Amsterdam Fire Department Battalion Chief John Michael Mancini, who died during 2022, added many anecdotes to our local history stories. 

Mancini described one fire in which he almost lost his life. That nasty blaze destroyed the Speedline Warehouse on Front Street in the 1990s. An overhead door had burned off giving Mancini and other firefighters access to the building. As they moved forward, a propane tank exploded.

“Three more steps and I would have got it,” Mancini said. The blaze was so intense that burning debris ignited nearby buildings.  Mancini said the cause was arson. The case took four years to prosecute but a conviction was finally secured. 

A national family history television show focused on a TV celebrity’s Mohawk Valley ancestors in 2022.

Actor Nick Offerman and a production crew from NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” recorded interviews at the Old Courthouse in Fonda, home to Montgomery County’s history and genealogical collections, and the Johnstown Public Library, in the city founded by British colonial leader Sir William Johnson.

Researchers traced Offerman’s roots to a Mohawk Valley couple, Bartholomew and Eva Pickard and their grandson, Joseph Mabee.

The Marquis de Lafayette visited Schoharie Crossing by canal boat in 1825 and had a reunion with two Mohawk Valley patriots, Thomas Sammons and his son Simeon.

According to Jim Kaplan of the Lower Manhattan Historical Association, there are plans to commemorate Lafayette’s American tour to mark its 200th anniversary in 2024 and 2025.

The Marquis was a wealthy French aristocrat whose father had been killed by the British, when young Lafayette was only 2 years old.  

Lafayette fought alongside George Washington during the American Revolution. Lafayette played a key role in the British defeat at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

And according to another column, outdoorsman, historian and educator Donald R. Williams of Gloversville owes a lot to his grandfather, John Whitman.

“He was a carpenter, Adirondack guide and farmer up in the Adirondacks,” Williams said. “And I inherited all my love of the Adirondacks and my love of tools and all those things from my grandfather.”

Williams’ latest book is a hefty volume with many pictures called “Grandfather’s Tool Chest.”

One tool looks like a tennis racquet holding a U-shaped piece of cedar. It was used to fluff up feather beds.

Categories: Opinion, Opinion

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