Johnstown Battlefield Historic Sites

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This little-known battle, fought after the British surrender at Yorktown, was the last engagement of the Revolutionary War in New York.

The Battle of Johnstown was fought on October 25, 1781 between American forces commanded by Col. Marinus Willett and British forces commanded by Maj. John Ross and Capt. Walter Butler in Johnstown, Fulton County, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and ended the last Tory uprising in the Mohawk Valley. The British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia six days earlier effectively ended the war in the Continental US.

During the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley in central New York was torn between Patriots who advocated for American independence and Tories who wanted to remain loyal to the British Crown. John Johnson, whose estate was in Johnstown, was a prominent Tory who fled to Canada to escape arrest. He formed the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which participated in annual raids into the valley.

In the fall of 1781, a substantial force of approximately 700 British regulars, militia, and Iroquois warriors entered the valley in order to destroy its agricultural yield before it could be used to supply the Continental Army. On October 25, approximately 416 American militia commanded by Col. Marinus Willett caught up with them outside Johnstown. Willett violated military convention by dividing his forces in the face of a numerically superior enemy.

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New Poughkeepsie Diner in Poughkeepsie, New York

New Poughkeepsie Diner (aka Cy’s Deli) at 59 Market Street, off U.S. Highway 44, in Poughkeepsie, New York. “But wait, that’s not a diner!” You yell self-righteously. I was as surprised as you to learn this used to be a 1960 Kullman model diner. Apparently it was also known as the Pok Diner at some point, but it closed in November 2014. Chalk up a win for deli enthusiasts and a loss for diner fans in the Hudson Valley.

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Illinois’ Decade of Lost Legends

Over the past ten to fifteen years, Illinois has lost nearly a dozen historic (and allegedly haunted) places to development and disaster. Some, like Alonzi’s Villa in Brookfield, the Lindbergh School on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates, and Sacred Heart Chapel at Barat College in Lake Forest, were destroyed to make way for real estate development. Others, like Sunset Haven outside Carbondale, were destroyed to erase the building (and its notorious reputation) from public memory.

The Lindbergh School on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates was genuinely a historic landmark known for its unique architecture and its significance to local history, regardless of its ghost stories. For years, preservationists tried desperately to save the building from the chopping block. Unfortunately, in 2007, bulldozers knocked it down to make way for yet another subdivision, just before the housing bubble burst and real estate values plummeted.

Sunset Haven, located on the periphery of Carbondale, Illinois and owned by Southern Illinois University, was a longtime destination for legend tripping in southern Illinois. It was originally the Jackson County Poor Farm almshouse became known as Sunset Haven during the 1940s when it was converted into a nursing home. The nursing home closed in 1957 and Southern Illinois University purchased the property to expand its agricultural program. Around October 26, 2013, a crew from SIU demolished Sunset Haven, leaving nothing but a cement foundation.

White Hall at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois was demolished in 2015. Chanute Air Force Base opened in July 1917. After its closure in 1993, much of the base was divided into residential and commercial properties, but most of the core buildings remain abandoned. Inevitably, local kids exploring the abandoned parts of the base began to bring home unusual stories, particularly regarding White Hall. The building was ruled an environmental hazard and too costly to renovate.

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Fields of Pestilent Grief

Fields of Pestilent Grief
Headstone for 1LT William H. Pohlman (1842-1863) in Albany Rural Cemetery, on Cemetery Avenue off NY State Route 32, in Menands, Albany County, New York. William served as an adjutant in the 59th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the 3rd Brigade, Second Division, II Corps of the Union Army of the Potomac. He was wounded twice at the Battle of Gettysburg, the second time during Pickett’s Charge, when the 59th NY repelled elements of Kemper’s Brigade from their position south of the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. He died of his wounds on July 21, 1863.

Prehistoric World in Morrisburg, Ontario

Prehistoric World in Morrisburg, Ontario is a quaint throwback to roadside attractions of yore. There’s nothing fancy here; it’s just a stroll through the park among painted concrete dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals created by local artists Paul and Serge Dupuis, but it’s simple fun and education for a reasonable price.

The Dupuis brothers have been creating these life-sized sculptures for over 37 years. They depict primitive reptiles of the Paleozoic period to large mammals of the Cenozoic and Quaternary. Each sculpture features a plaque with information about the creature. There are currently over 50 sculptures.

For kids, there’s something fascinating about the hugeness of dinosaurs. It’s hard to believe creatures like this once existed. Kids can rattle off complex Latin names with ease. I’ve forgotten half of what I used to know about all the different species and popular theories.

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Norm’s Diner in Groton, Connecticut

Norm’s Diner at 171 Bridge Street (near the I-95 ramp) in Groton, Connecticut. Norm’s, a local favorite, recently came under new ownership. According to TheDay, it used to have a reputation as a greasy spoon, with a heavy emphasis on the grease. Its new owners freshened up the interior and replaced its original booths with wooden tables. Que será, será.

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