Dreaming of Timbuctoo: Exhibition, Education, Engagement

Dreaming of Timbuctoo

The history of the North Country is rich, complex and has a special place in the events that shaped America. As we mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Civil War, the Whallonsburg Grange Hall and John Brown Lives! are hosting an exhibition from July 3-9 that shines light on a little-known part of that history during the political battle against slavery that led up to this irreconcilable conflict.

Magpie at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall

Magpie at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall on July 9, 2011

Dreaming of Timbuctoo tells the story of Black homesteaders who came to the Adirondacks in the mid-1840s with grants of land from Gerrit Smith, a wealthy abolitionist who owned several hundred thousand acres here. The plan was a step toward allowing free Black New Yorkers to meet the discriminatory property requirement in order to be able to vote.

This “scheme of justice and benevolence” brought John and Mary Brown and their family to North Elba to help the settlement there, called “Timbuctoo,” to survive and set down roots. What happened to the people and the land, and the plan’s impact here and beyond, is the subject of the exhibition, told through documents, photographs, letters and words.

Since Dreaming was first shown at the Adirondack Museum in 2001, new research on these settlers has brought out some interesting and surprising information. Libby MacDonald, who owns a house on Merriam Forge Road just south of Whallonsburg, uncovered one local connection. In looking into the history of her place, Libby found evidence that it had been owned by a free Black man who worked at the forge, and may have been given the land by Gerrit Smith. He married a young white woman from Crown Point, an abolitionist, and their sons served as white soldiers in the Union Army.

The Whallonsburg Grange Hall

An opening Reception and Program will be held on Sunday, July 3 at 6:00pm. Amy Godine, historian and curator, will speak at 7:00. Exhibit hours are Monday through Saturday from 12-6pm.There is a full schedule of programs in conjunction with the exhibit on the struggle for the right to vote, the archeology dig at Timbuctoo and other topics. Go to the Grange Special Events web page for details.

And don’t miss the closing concert on Saturday, July 9 at 8pm with Magpie, an extraordinary duo who sing and play music to thrill the heart and stir the soul. Tickets are $7; under 12, $3.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo: Exhibition, Education, Engagement
Whallonsburg Grange Hall, July 3-9, 2011

Summer Arrives in Essex on Lake Champlain

Kim Rielly posted an enthusiastic blog post about summer in Essex celebrating flood recovery, exciting new businesses and the timeless charm that has drawn visitors and residents for decades. She asks,

“could it possibly be true that the recently-submerged businesses were planning to open THIS summer?

It’s true. In fact, the community is not only ready to welcome visitors for the summer – it is veritably BUZZING with activity.

A stroll through the tree-lined streets of this historic town is quite a treat. Bolstered by pedestrian traffic from the ferry from Vermont, the restaurants, shops, inns and art galleries complement the gorgeous 19th century architecture, (the entire village is on the National Historic Register, and includes the most intact collections of federal and Greek Revival architecture in the entire state!)

And you won’t find any empty storefronts; there are several new businesses, and twists on some of the classics. (via LakePlacid.com.)

Kim highlights some of the newest additions to the Essex allure including:

  • the newly renovated Essex Inn
  • the newly renovated Ice Cream Shop
  • the newly opened Live Well holistic health center
  • the newly relocated ReNew thrift shop
  • the newly opened Pink Pig
  • the better than ever Adirondack Art Association
  • and Champlain Area Trails.
Essex Inn on the Adirondack Coast

Essex Inn on the Adirondack Coast (photo credit LakePlacid.com.)

As  I indicated in my comments beneath Kim’s blog post, she captures the current energy and excitement in Essex. I wrote:

The number of new and renovated businesses alone is thrilling! And when you consider the record-breaking flooding and how much effort has been required to recover from the incumbent setbacks, it is truly astounding. What I see happening in Essex is a nothing short of a renaissance, a top-to-bottom revitalization of the community and the businesses and organizations which lend vitality to the charming landscape, geography and architecture. It’s an exciting time to live and work in Essex!

Essex friends, neighbors, businesses and recent visitors will understand what I mean. I hope that you will come to Essex to discover what all the buzz is about!

South Farm on Lake Champlain

South Farm on Lake Champlain
South Farm on Lake Champlain, Essex, New York.

View of Essex, New York from Lake Champlain overlooking South Farm with the Adirondack Mountains in the background. (via Welcome to Essex, New York)