All posts by New York State Parks

Get Out And Explore … The Central Region of New York State Parks

With summer now in full swing, hiking trails are calling from the Central Region of State Parks, which stretches from Lake Ontario to the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania border.

The region includes glacial lakes, sandy beaches, segments of the historic Erie Canal, and dramatic waterfalls.

Covering Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Oneid, Onondaga, Oswego and Otsego counties, the Central Region is home to  22 parks, seven historic sites and three golf courses.

Overview of State Parks and Historic Sites in the Central Region.

Maps and a variety of other useful information on NY State Parks, including those in the Central Region, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app.  The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available.

As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are also useful and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Trail maps are available on the new Parks Explorer app, as well as on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Be sure to download maps ahead of time or carry a paper copy as a back up

In addition to the name and distance of each designated trail in a park, the maps include facilities such as parking, comfort stations, park offices, nature centers, campsites, and boat launches. To learn more about NYS Parks trails CLICK HERE.  

Hikers should know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.

Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained.  To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, CLICK HERE.

Chenango County


Oquaga Creek State Park, 5995 County Route 20
Bainbridge, NY 13733, (607) 467-4160:
Take a scenic hike around beautiful 55-acre Artic Lake on a trail perfect for all ages, including beginning hikers. Afterward, cool off by taking a swim or having a picnic at the beach. The trail starts at the right side of the beach area, where the main Oquaga Creek is tucked in the woods. After coming out of the woods, take the blue trail to the left to start a 1.2-mile journey around the lake. There are plenty of spots to stop and fish and even a cemetery dating back to the Civil War. The park has more than ten miles of wooded and open trails.

Find a trail map here…

The lake trail at Oquaga Creek State Park.

Chenango Valley State Park153 State Park Road, Chenango Forks, (607) 648-5251: The two-mile Chenango Lake Trail circles the park’s namesake lake. The trail on the eastern side is open, accessible, and suitable for wheelchairs, while the western side is more robust single-track style path. There are several ways to start the trail – at the newly renovated beach area, located at the south end of the lake, or after parking in the new ADA compliant parking lot at the north end of the lake that connect to the Bog Trail, which then connects to the lake trail.. This multi-use trail also attracts dog walkers, hikers, cyclists, and bird watchers.  And keep an eye out for one of the park’s resident bald eagles, gliding above the lake searching for a meal. This park has more than 14 miles of trails.

To explore the park’s 14 miles of trails, find a trail map here…

The ADA-accessible trail at Chenango Valley State Park.

Onondaga County


Green Lakes State Park, 7900 Green Lakes Road, Fayetteville, (315) 637-6111: This 2,200-acre park has a nearly 20 miles of trails, with access starting at the main parking lot at Green Lake, a rare meromictic lake with an unique aqua color. (Meromictic lakes have water layers that do not annually intermix, as in in the case with nearly all other lakes. There are only three dozen meromictic lakes in the U.S. Green Lakes has two, with Round Lake being the second.) Trails around both Green Lake and Round Lake run about three miles, while doing just the Green Lake trail covers two miles. The park offers a variety of recreation including mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, and birdwatching. 

Find a trail map here…

Oneida County


Delta Lake State Park, 8797 State Route 46, Rome, (315) 337-4670: This park is located on a peninsula that juts into the Delta Lake Reservoir. The Fox Run Trail starts in the northwest corner of the Fox Run Parking lot.  At about a half-mile long, this wide level trail is perfect for beginners. With benches along the way to rest and take in the surroundings, hikers can see a variety of ducks, the occasional eagle, a rare owl and maybe even a fox. The Fox Run trail ends at the Yellow trail, where you can keep exploring the shoreline forest or head back.

Find a trail map here…  

A red fox surveys from atop a downed tree stump at Delta Lake State Park.

Pixley Falls State Park, 11430 State Route 46, Boonville, (315) 337-4670:  A highlight of the Nature Trail, which is just three-quarters of a mile long, is the 50-foot waterfall that the park is named for. The trail can be steep, and slippery in wet weather, so proper footwear is definitely recommended. The trail includes many other smaller falls, and on its lower half follows the course of the Lansing Kill, which is well known for its trout fishing.

Find a trail map here…

The namesake falls at Pixley Falls State Park

Other falls at Pixley Falls State Park.

Otsego County


Glimmerglass State Park, 1527 County Highway 31, Cooperstown, NY 13326, (607) 547-8662: Overlooking Otsego Lake, the famed “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, this park offers five miles of hiking trails and a beach for swimming afterward.

The rolling, partially wooded terrain is host to a wide variety of wildlife. If you bring your four-legged friend, remember to keep dogs on a six-foot leash at all times.

An uphill trail through Mount Wellington offers the Sleeping Lion Trail that varies terrain and offers two miles of varying terrain for a moderate hike. Along the service road that leads to the trail head offers an scenic overlook of the lake to the south toward Cooperstown.  

Find a trail map here

The overlook of Otsego Lake at the Sleeping Lion Trail.

The Beaver Pond trail offers a half-mile ADA -accessible trail surface around the “Beaver Trail”. Along this route you will discover “Eco Boxes” that describe the animals that might been seen during a hike.

The Covered Bridge Trail leads to the oldest wooden covered bridge in the United States. This one-mile, partially wooded trail runs along along Shadow Brook that feeds Otsego Lake.

The bridge was built in 1825 on then-private property of Hyde Hall, a country mansion that is now the Hyde Hall State Historic Site.

The wooden covered bridge at Glimmerglass State Park.

Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park, 133 Davis Road, Westford, NY 12197, (607) 547-8662: Perched atop of a hill, this 223-acre park offers spectacular views and vistas to the south and west for some amazing sunsets.

This park has 2.7 miles of trails, with gentle meadows, wooded areas, and two catch and release ponds. Birdwatchers, remember to bring your binoculars.

Find a trail map here

A bench along the trail at Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park

Cover Photo of Green Lakes State Park. Photo credit to Carina Scalise. All other photos from New York State Parks.

Post by Brian Nearing, deputy public information officer at NYS Parks

The Wonderful World of Mason Bees

In honor of National Pollinator Week last month, let’s give a tribute to a native New York bee. While there are hundreds of bee species in the state, this shout-out is for one species – the mason bee.


A mason bee (Osmia sp.) (Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons)

“What are Mason Bees?”

While there are over 400 species of bees in New York State, mason bees comprise only about 7 percent of that diversity. These small bees are important pollinators of crops, wildflowers, and many other woodland, meadow and wetland plants. Unlike honeybees, which are sial in nature, mason bees are solitary. They construct individual nests in hollow reeds or other plant stems, pre-existing cavities, or burrows found in dead wood. Their name stems their practice of transporting mud to nesting areas to build structures in which they eventually lay eggs.

Mason bees come from the tribe Osmini of the family Megachilidae. In New York State, mason bees include genera such as Osmia, Hoplitis, Chelostoma, and Heriades. Each genera has specific characteristics. Also, these mild-mannered bees only sting if provoked or cornered, so they are ideal for observing up close.

Osmia Mason Bees: When referring to “mason bees”, many people would generally reference them to the bees of genera Osmia. A key trait of these types of bees that they are an energetic fast flier. Osmia mason bees tend to be small-to-medium in size with a robust build and relatively large heads. Within the genera, there are three subgenera (or subspecies): Helicosmia, Melanosmia, and Osmia. In New York, there are at least 25 native Osmia species.

Blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria) (Photo Credits – USDA Agricultural Research Service)

Hoplitis Mason Bees: They are the pollinators of woodland shrubs and trees, garden flowers and berries, while also visiting some varieties of commercial fruit. What makes them different from Osmia mason bees is that their bodies are slenderer. Hoplitis mason bees tend to be black to darkly-colored with pale abdominal stripes. These bees use chewed leaves, dirt, pebbles, or wood particles to construct walls between the brood cells of their nests. There are seven Hoplitis species found in New York.

The face of a Hoplitis spoliata (Photo Credit – USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab)

Chelostoma Mason Bees: They are the only type of mason bee native to New York State that is represented solely by one species, the mock orange Chelostoma, Chelostoma philadelphi

Mock orange chelostoma bee (Chelostoma philadelphi) (Photo Credit – USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory

Their appearance is small and ant-like, with disproportionately long jaws compared to the rest of its body. Bees that fall within this genus tend to be picky about which plants that they feed on and pollinate. Thus, the mock orange Chelostoma is a pollinator of the mock orange shrub (genus Philadelphus after which the bee was named). However, for those who are bee enthusiasts, there are also two non-native species of Chelostoma in New York that tend to feed on bellflowers.

Heriades Bees: Last, but certainly not least, is the resin bee, genus Heriades. What are resin bees? Resin bees and mason bees are quite similar to one another in terms of their lifestyles; they are both solitary bees; living in nests rather than hives. But unlike the other three genera, resin bee nests are located in the ground. Heriades bees can forage on a range of plants, not prioritizing one over the other when pollinating crops and wild plants. These bees tend to be dark in color with a slender-to-medium build, having sparse body hair that cover their bodies.

“What is the life cycle of a mason bee?”

While their lives are short, mason bee are very hard workers, making then truly a “busy bee.” 

There is only one generation of mason bee per year.

Inside each nest tunnel or cavity, there are about 5 or 6 cocoons each containing a full-grown bee awaiting the right time to emerge. Each cocoon within the tunnel is separated by a thin mud wall placed there by the adult mother bee the spring before. The end of each tunnel is capped with a thick plug of mud or chewed leaves to keep the young safe through the winter.

In spring, after the temperate hits a consistent high of 55 degrees, both male and females emerge from their cocoons. Male bees always emerge first, remaining close to the nest, leaving their mark while waiting for the female mason bees. They leave only to feed on the nectar from flowers and plants.  

Females hatch unable to fly, and immediately mate with the waiting male mason bees.  Females mate with several males during this period. After mating, the males die and complete their life cycle. Unlike their females in their species, male mason bees only live for a few days.

Osmia at nest’s entrance (Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons)

A Female’s World

Female mason bees begin to nest about 3 to 4 days after mating, usually preferring to nest in preexisting holes. The bees plug the bottom of the hole with mud, then begin to bring both pollen and nectar from nearby plant blossoms to place in the hole as well.

After accumulating enough food for her young, the female lays eggs on top of the pollen and seals the cell with thin mud. She repeats this process until either the entire length of the tunnel is used or until she lays all of her eggs. The sperm that was stored from mating with the male mason bee acts as a fertilizer for the eggs, but only if she wants to have female offspring. An unfertilized egg will become male. Typically, two-thirds of cocoons will be male mason bees.

Hatching in a few days, larvae devour the pollen and nectar mixture in the nest. The amount of mixture that the female gathered determines the size of the emerging bees of the following spring. The larger the piles of pollen and nectar, the larger the bees.

In about ten days, the larvae spin into a cocoon and pupate inside. Towards the end of summer, the bees turn in to an imago, their adult stage and remains in their cocoon until next spring.  Their roles completed, the female mason bees die that fall and the cycle begins all over again.

“How do you make a mason bee house?”

Well I am glad you asked. This is a really fun way to attract mason bees to your yard.

An example of a solitary bee house was constructed by Sarah Witalka, a conservation steward for the Thousand Islands Region at Westcott Beach State Park, while working at its pollinator garden. If you are not that big into woodworking, you are not out of luck. Stewards at Westcott Beach made one with an old Gatorade bottle and hollow plant stems.

A home-made mason bee house (Photo Credit – Sarah Witalka, Conservation Steward for Thousand Islands Region)
 

Here’s how!

  1. Gather hollow stems from large flower stalks like goldenrod, daisies, black-eyed-susan, or Phragmites (also known as reed).
  2. If you do not know, Phragmites are an invasive reed that can be easily found by water and ditches. Keep the stems but leave the flowering head or seeds at the site or discard bag so you do not spread this invasive weed around!
  3. Score the stalks with a knife (always have an adult present to do this part), then snap the lengths.
  4. If using reed or grass, cut so that each tube ends in a node and is solid. Otherwise plug one end of each tube with mud.
  5. If that part is not done and the end of the tube was left open, a bee would not use it.
  6. Put as many tubes in the bottle as will fit, open end facing out towards you.
  7. Then use twigs to fill the spaces, so everything remains snug.
  8. If the original tubes were a little long for the bottle, a lip could be added in order to keep the rain off.
  9. Lastly, attach twine to hang it with.

Tips for placement:

  1. The front of the house should have a south or southwest exposure where it will get the most sun in winter to keep bees warm. REMEMBER! Bees are cold-blooded and they need the warmth of the sun to get going!
  2. Choose a secure and peaceful place, not one that sways or is noisy and full of movement; areas protected from high winds.
  3. Hang at eye level to keep them safe from critters and easy to check.
  4. Avoid installing the bee house right next to a bird feeder or birdhouse.
  5. Placed within about 300ft./100m of your garden, fruit & nut trees or berry patches to get the most benefit of these pollinators
  6. Plant or encourage NY native plants in your yard to benefit the native bees.
Osmia distincta is one of the more colorful mason bees (Photo Credit – USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab)
 

Mason bees are among the hundreds of pollinators in North America that you can learn about. Learn to appreciate the job that these insects are committed to do every single year.

If you would like to read more about mason bees, follow these links to obtain a broader knowledge on not just mason bees, but all kinds of native bees.


Cover photo- Female Mason bee on a flower (Photo credit- Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org, under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License)

Post by Kelley Anne Thomas, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Environmental Steward and Student Conservation Association member;and Julie Lundgren, State Parks Ecologist, NY Natural Heritage Program


Websites and Links

Bee Diversity in New York Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography

Empire State Native Pollinator Survey 

The Honeybee Conservancy- Mason Bees

Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation

USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

A Declaration That Lost a Fortune

With picnics, barbecues and fireworks, many New Yorkers will celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Of the 56 men who signed that document in Philadelphia announcing American liberty to the world, four were from New York _ Lewis Morris, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and William Floyd.

Perhaps not so well known is that several months later, more than 500 other New Yorkers embraced another public declaration – this one pledging loyalty to British King George III against a “most unnatural, unprovoked Rebellion that ever disgraced the annuls of time.”

New York’s so-called “Declaration of Dependence” reflected a split at the start of the Revolutionary War between Patriots and Loyalists (also called Tories) among the state’s 200,000 residents. That divide ultimately claimed the fortunes and property of dozens of Loyalists, including the prominent and wealthy owner of Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site, in Yonkers, Westchester County.

Born in 1720 in New York City, Frederick Philipse III enjoyed influence and power as one of the largest landowners in the Hudson Valley and possibly the richest man in New York. He was the fabulously wealthy great-grandson of a Dutch carpenter named Frederick Flypsen who arrived in New Holland in 1653 at age 27 and created a fortune based on land, shipping, fur and slave trading.

Flypsen, who Anglicized his name to Philipse after the British took over New York, became a major landholder along the east side of the Hudson River, eventually controlling more than 50,000 acres in what is now Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties.

Frederick Philipse III when he was one of the richest men in New York State.

Frederick Philipse III took over his share of family holdings at age 30 in 1752, devoting himself to administering the estate, called Philipsborough, and collecting rents from his many tenant farmers. His residence at the opulent manor hall, which had been started by his grandfather, continued by his father, Frederick II, and erected in stages between 1682 and 1758, was a showcase of English gentility but had brutal underpinnings.

Up to 30 enslaved people and two dozen white indentured servants worked the manor under Frederick III, according to a report from Columbia University based on Philipse family records donated to the university. Frederick III was a founding governor of King’s College in 1754, which later become Columbia University.

It was also during this period that Philipse appropriated a large amount land in what is now Dutchess County from the Wappinger Native American tribe under dubious circumstances, sparking tribal leaders to launch an unsuccessful appeals in the 1760s to Colonial leaders, and later to British authorities.

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, Philipsborough extended for about 24 miles along the east bank of the Hudson, from the Croton River in Westchester County to northern Bronx County. Due to his wealth and prominence, Philipse held a post in the Colonial state Assembly, but his role there were largely ceremonial and uniformly supportive of the royal government that was guarantor of his privileges.

Map of Philipsburg at the time of Frederick Philipse III. (Credit- Wikipedia Creative Commons)

As revolutionary sentiment in the Colonies began to take shape in early 1775, Philipse blocked an effort to send New York delegates to a Continental Congress in Philadelphia, siding with the British Crown. He then had a pro-monarchy notice posted in a New York City Loyalist newspaper, drawing the ire and hostility of Patriot factions in New York and elsewhere. That led to Philipse being put to the top of a Patriot list of Westchester County Loyalists.

With combat later breaking out in Massachusetts and New York, some Loyalists began fleeing to England as others were arrested by Patriot leaders, but nothing happened to Philipse initially. But after he assembled his tenants in early 1776 to urge them to support the British against the uprising, a subpoena was issued that summer for his arrest, which was later ordered by George Washington in August 1776 after the Declaration of Independence was issued. Philipse was held in New Rochelle before being transferred to New Haven, Connecticut. Officials there agreed to let him return to his manor in December under a signed parole agreeing not to undermine the Revolution.

The Declaration of Dependence was issued on November 28, 1776 with Frederick Philipse III among the Loyalist signers who vowed to support the “supremacy of Great Britain over the Colonies.” Philipse’s signature is prominent on the first page of the declaration, which now is at the New York Historical Society in New York City.

The declaration stated that some Loyalists had been “driven from their Habitations, and others sent Prisoners into some of the neighboring Colonies.” The appeal concluded by stating that the Philipse and the other signers _ a mix of civil and military officers, clergy, landowners and wealthy merchants _ were opposed to the Revolution “in every stage of its rise and progress, at the risk of our Lives and Fortunes.”

Many New Yorkers felt as Philipse did. About half of the state’s 200,000 residents held Loyalist sentiments, giving New York the highest percentage of Loyalists among the 13 colonies.

While back at the manor on parole in March 1777, Philipse attempted to pass a message to British forces after he witnessed nearby Patriot troop movements. When the message was intercepted, he panicked and fled with his family downriver to the safety of British-occupied New York City. The lord of Philipsburg was never to see his luxurious estate and home again.

As the tide of war began to turn, New York lawmakers decided to permanently break the power of the pro-British elite by stripping Philipse and 58 other Tories of their property and condemning them to banishment and death under the Confiscation Act of Oct. 22, 1779.

So, for the first time in a century, the Philipse family had no standing in Westchester County. Frederick III remained in New York City until the end of the war in 1783, when British troops evacuated. His estate and most of his wealth gone, and facing penalty of death, he sailed with other Loyalists to Great Britain, a place he had never been. Philipse was a broken man when he died there just two years later at age 65.

His lands and property were auctioned off by New York State in 1784-85 into more than 300 separate parcels, bringing in more than $28 million by today’s standards, making it the largest confiscated estate sold in New York. The money raised was used to pay off war debts.

In 1868, after passing through the hands of many owners, the former manor house became Yonkers Village Hall and, in 1872, the first City Hall. By the 20th century, city growth threatened the manor’s future until it was acquired by New York State in 1908 with the generous help of the Cochran family of Yonkers.

Today, Philipse Manor Hall serves as a museum of history, art and architecture, as well as host to community organizations, meetings, educational programs and special events. Highlights of the Hall include its 18th century, high style Georgian architecture, a 1750s papier mache Rococo ceiling, and an impressive collection of presidential portraits, including the six Presidents from New York State.

Currently, all tours and programs at Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site are postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back at the website for updates.


Cover Shot- Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site. All photos by NYS Parks unless otherwise credited.

Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer for NYS Parks


Resources

An American Loyalist: The Ordeal of Frederick Philipse III, by Stefan Bielinksi, Division of Historical Services, New York State Museum, State Education Department, 1976

On Slavers and Settlers: A History of the Philipse Family, 1662-1785, By Meghan Brophy, Columbia University News

Dispossessing Loyalists and Redistributing Property in Revolutionary New York, by Mark Boonshoft, New York Public Library, Sept. 19, 2016.

The Loyalist Declaration of Dependence, 1776, by Sandra McNamara, Journal of the American Revolution, Dec. 20, 2018

Declaration of Dependence, New York Historical Society


DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE

November 28, 1776


To The Right Honorable Richard Viscount Howe, of the Kingdom of Ireland, and His Excellency The Honorable William Howe, Esquire, General of His Majesty’s Forces in America, the King’s Commissioners for restoring Peace in His Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in North America &c. &c. &c.

May it please your Excellencies.

Impressed with the most grateful sense of the Royal Clemency, manifested I your Proclamation of the 14th. Of July last, whereby His Majesty hath been graciously pleased to declare, “That he is desirous to deliver His American subjects from the calamities of War, and other oppressions, which they now undergo:” and equally affected with sentiments of gratitude for the generous and humane attention to the happiness of these Colonies, which distinguishes your Excellencies subsequent Declaration, evincing your disposition “to confer with His Majesty’s well affected subjects, upon the means of restoring the public Tranquility, and establishing a permanent union with every Colony as a part of the British Empire.”

We whose names are hereunto subscribed, Inhabitants of the City and County of New-York, beg leave to inform your Excellencies: that altho most of us have subscribed a general Representation with many other of the Inhabitants; yet we wish that our conduct, in maintaining inviolate our loyalty to our Sovereign, against the strong tide of oppression and tyranny, which has almost overwhelmed this Land, may be marked by some line of distinction, which cannot well be drawn from the mode of Representation that has been adopted for the Inhabitants in general.

Influenced by this Principle, and from a regard to our peculiar Situation, we have humbly presumed to trouble your Excellencies with the second application; in which, we flatter ourselves, none participate but those who have ever, with unshaken fidelity, borne true Allegiance to His Majesty, and the most warm and affectionate attachment to his Person and Government.  That, notwithstanding the tumult of the times, and the extreme difficulties and losses to which many of us have been exposed, we have always expressed, and do now give this Testimony of our Zeal to preserve and support the Constitutional Supremacy of Great Britain over the Colonies; and do most ardently wish for a speedy restoration of that union between them, which, while it subsisted, proved the unfailing source of their mutual happiness and prosperity.

We cannot help lamenting that the number of Subscribers to this Address is necessarily lessened, by the unhappy circumstance that many of our Fellow-Citizens, who have firmly adhered their loyalty, have been driven from their Habitations, and others sent Prisoners into some of the neighbouring Colonies: and tho’ it would have afforded us the highest satisfaction, could they have been present upon this occasion: yet we conceive it to be the duty we owe to ourselves and our prosperity, whilst this testimony of our Allegiance can be supported by known and recent facts, to declare to your Excellencies; that so far from having given the last countenance or encouragement, to the most unnatural, unprovoked Rebellion, that ever disgraced the annuls of Time; we have on the contrary, steadily and uniformly opposed it, in every stage of its rise and progress, at the risque of our Lives and Fortunes.

Juneteenth — Coming to Terms with Freedom

Tonight, the digital lights used to illuminate Niagara Falls will transform the thundering cascade into red, black, and green. Why?

There are three major threads in the answer: this date, June 19th; the colors red, black, and green; and our continued search for freedom. These threads are tightly woven into the fabric of New York’s history, and that of our country.

And one of the threads also carries a man who was born to a farm family in 1821 in a little hamlet called Joy in Wayne County, not far from Lake Ontario.

First the date, Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, in the Galveston, Texas, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army stood in front of a crowd of enslaved people of African descent and their enslavers, and declared the freedom established by the Emancipation Proclamation. Two years after President Lincoln issued that proclamation, those enslaved in Texas finally learned they were free.

“The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

General Order # 3, as read publicly June 19, 1865 in Galveston by Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army.

Major General Granger was a New Yorker from the hamlet of Joy, in the town of Sodus, Wayne County. A a young man, Granger taught for a time in the one-room schoolhouse on Preemption Road in Sodus. He then enrolled at the West Point military academy, graduating in 1845, going on to serve in the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1849.

Granger remained in the U.S. Army, with subsequent assignments in Oregon and Texas, and when the Civil War began in 1861, he was posted to Ohio. He later served in Missouri as part of Union forces that protected a key federal armory at St. Louis from falling into Confederate hands. In 1863, he played a decisive role in averting Union defeat the Battle of Chickamauga.

As war’s end, Granger was assigned to the newly-subdued Confederate state of Texas, where he read General Order #3 . That reading in Galveston became the basis of the African American community’s Juneteenth celebration, which was also known as Emancipation Day.

“In retrospect, it is very fitting that a man from Joy brought so much joy to a suppressed people in our country,” said Wayne County Historian Peter Evans.


Why did it take two years? Well…there are various tales about two earlier Union messengers, who traveled over land, but ultimately did not arrive in Texas. Granger entered the last Confederate state by water, with a fully loaded army.  Texas is a big place, and held many of the enslaved.

Even though Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered on May 9 in Virginia, it took time for word to get out that the war was essentially over.  Major General Granger and army moved from place to place after Galveston, reading General Order #3 repeatedly, setting off much rejoicing from the formerly enslaved, as well as variations of the same question, ‘What now?’

Historical marker in Galveston, Texas, the site of the original Juneteenth. (Photo credit- Galveston Historical Foundation)

Coming to terms with freedom was not an easy task for those newly freed, or for those who had enslaved them. Where were the freedmen to go? What were they to do? Who was going to bring in the crops, cook the meals, care for the children? What had been ‘normal’ life was changed in an instant. A new reality now existed but what did it mean?

Theirs was a position much like what we find ourselves in today. One minute things are moving along pretty much as they had been the day before, our routines keeping everyone’s life flowing, then suddenly wham! We’re faced with something we don’t quite understand and the big question ‘What now?’

Although people point to June 19th  as the exact catalytic moment for celebration, it is the process of coming to terms with freedom that is the driving force behind the celebration of Juneteenth in the 21st century. Spreading the word about freedom and defining what that meant took time and it is something we are still grappling with today.

The Colors: Red, Black, and Green

On August 13, 1920, at Madison Square Garden, New York City, members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) adopted the Pan-African flag, also known as the UNIA flag, and the Black Liberation flag as ‘the’ flag for black people across the diaspora and in Africa. The organization, founded by Marcus Garvey, was composed of members from around the globe. The flag was created in response to a popular 1920 song, “Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon.”

Pan-African flag.

In 1921 the UNIA published the Universal Negro Catechism, which outlined the meaning of the colors of the flag. “Red is the color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty; black is the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong; green is the color of the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland. “

At a time when racism was living in our country under the title of Jim Crow, and segregation was real even in New York, African Americans were working to improve their circumstances in every way possible. The UNIA flag took flight and the colors were embraced. They were seen throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, and various black liberation movements around the world. They appeared everywhere and are also the colors of the candles used during Kwanzaa. They are the colors which symbolize to most African Americans and others who have supported their fight for human rights that the struggle was and remains real and the work continues.

Although in 1997 the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) created a flag to honor the day, we have chosen at this pivotal time in our Nation’s history to use the colors most New Yorkers would recognize as those representing the continued struggle for freedom, dignity and human rights by African Americans and members of the African diaspora: the red, black, and green of the Black Liberation flag.  

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Juneteenth will now be an official state holiday.

“Friday is Juneteenth – a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States – and it’s a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history,” Governor Cuomo said. “Although slavery ended over 150 years ago, there has still been rampant, systemic discrimination and injustice in this state and this nation, and we have been working to enact real reforms to address these inequalities. I am going to issue an Executive Order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees and I’ll propose legislation next year to make it an official state holiday so New Yorkers can use this day to reflect on all the changes we still need to make to create a more fair, just and equal society.”

Juneteenth is now recognized as a holiday or special day of observance by 47 states, with New York first marking it as a day of observance in 2004.

The Juneteenth Flag. (Photo credit- National Juneteenth Observance Foundation)

Freedom in Our Time

At the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, we continue to work to bring forward the under-told stories of the lives, cultures, and work of Africans and African Americans who helped to build New York and our Nation. The thread of their lives must be woven back into the whole cloth of our State’s history.

We do so by sharing with you the entire historic timeline. From the arrival of the first Africans who were enslaved in New Netherland in 1625 to 20th century locations that mark important cultural shifts and points of pride from around our State.

Exhibits like the Dishonorable Trade at Crailo State Historic Site help us to understand how an empire was laid on the foundation of the global slave trade. We celebrate the preservation of African culture In New York, during the years of enslavement at Pinkster.

Reviving A Dutch Holiday with African Flavor

As spring moves toward summer, we are in the time of an historic celebration dating to New York’s colonial era known as Pinkster – the Dutch word for the religious holiday of Pentecost. Pinkster was a three- to five-day celebration beginning the Monday following Pentecost Sunday held in Dutch Colonial New Netherland and later New … Continue reading Reviving A Dutch Holiday with African Flavor

In the Adirondacks, we operate the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, at the home of a New York abolitionist who took up arms in a bid to liberate slaves in the South.

We honor the dedication of service given by men of African descent, first to the colony of New York and later to the United States at many of our military parks, from New Windsor Cantonment to Fort Ontario. Remembering the enslaved and free who served in the Revolutionary War all the way to the Harlem Hell Fighters during World War I.

We bring to light the work of men just trying to make a living during the Great Depression, through their employment in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

A Legacy of Strength

During the 1930s when racial segregation and Jim Crow held sway over much of America, there was a Depression-era federal public works unit where African-Americans, not whites, were in command. And it was here in New York State Parks. To combat rampant unemployment among young men, President Franklin Roosevelt had created the Civilian Conservation Corps … Continue reading A Legacy of Strength

The work and commitment of women like Sojourner Truth and Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to run for President and the inspiration for the largest State Park in New York City.  All while saving important landmarks connected to Black culture across 200 hundred years of State history.

Shirley Chisholm State Park

Wonderful places right in our own neighborhoods like the historic Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered “The American Dream” address, to the Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, through the State’s Registry of Historic Landmarks and supporting them as they seek national recognition. We do this, not only for the African American community, but for all the communities that have helped to build New York.

Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo. (Photo Credit- Empire State Development)

Our history has always been blended. Henry Hudson did not find an empty land, but one filled with people and culture; the Munsee, the Wappingers and Lenape among them, to this more was added. The formation has been forward moving, but not always easily.

New York is and has been one of the main gateways through which people have entered this country and continue to do so. It has also been a way towards freedom as thousands passed through on the Underground Railroad, heading north to Canada. Aiming for Niagara Falls and the freedom that lay just on the other side.

As we continue to come to terms with freedom, we invited you to explore the rich stories of others who have also found themselves struggling with defining what those terms meant to them. Narratives to be found at our parks and historic sites, online and in person. These stories, from those of the Native Peoples at Ganondagan to the newly renamed Marsha P. Johnson State Park cross over and through all the cultures and timelines that create the vibrancy of New York.

Marsha P. Johnson State Park in New York City.

And, what became of Gordon Granger? A year after he read General Order #3, he was reassigned as an officer in the 25th Infantry Regiment, which was of four racially segregated regiments made up of African American enlisted men and white officers.

These four regiments became known collectively as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” which was the nickname given by Native Americans to African American soldiers who fought in the Indian Wars of the west.

With the Statue of Liberty at one end and Niagara Falls at the other we offer this lighting of Niagara Falls as a symbol of our continued willingness to be inclusive and open, even amidst struggle and pain.

A young participant tries her hand at drumming during a 2012 Juneteenth celebration at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid.

Cover Photo- Niagara Falls at Niagara Falls State Park, by New York State Parks. All photos by NYS Parks unless otherwise credited.

Post by Lavada Nahon, Interpreter of African American History, Bureau of Historic Sites, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York’s Forgotten Patriotic Vow

It was 245 years ago this month that, shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War, that a bold declaration of American liberty rang out.

No, it was not the Declaration of Independence, which came from Philadelphia in in July 1776 and became a widely celebrated national holiday. This earlier, largely-forgotten declaration came from northern New York along the shores of Lake Champlain.

On June 15, 1775, not far from what is now Crown Point State Historic Site, 31 men from the Northeast signed a so-called “Declaration of Principles,” vowing they would “never become slaves,” calling for a “union” of the states, and giving their allegiance to the newly formed Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Among those who publicly embraced armed resistance to the British Crown in the name of a new government was the document’s author, a man who went from one of the Revolution’s earliest battlefield heroes to its most despised traitor five years later.

That man was Benedict Arnold (1740-1801), and the path to his infamous treason in New York stretches from that now largely forgotten declaration, issued from the state’s northern frontier in what is now Essex County, to an infamous meeting with a spy along the shores the Hudson River— now within Rockland Lake State Park—where he agreed to betray the Revolution and deliver the river’s critical West Point fortress to the British.

In the five years between those two events, Arnold distinguished himself by buying the Revolution a critical year at the naval Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776. The following year, he contributed to the relief of Fort Stanwix after the Battle of Oriskany in the Mohawk Valley and was instrumental in the decisive American victory at Saratoga.

His earlier role in capturing Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775 to the south of Crown Point had provided Patriot forces with desperately needed heavy cannon that later helped drive British troops out of Boston. That victory set the stage a month later for Arnold, as commander at Ticonderoga, to issue written principles from Crown Point to rally support for the Patriot cause. 

At the time, Arnold and the other men who signed the declaration did so at great personal risk, as it targeted them personally as potential traitors to Great Britain when the punishment for treason was death.

Flush from success at Ticonderoga, here is what Arnold wrote and he and other prominent early supporters, who came from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and what later become Vermont, signed.

Benedict Arnold’s Declaration of Principles

Crown Point, 15th June, 1775

Persuaded, that the Salvation of the Rights and Liberties of America, depends, Under GOD, on the firm Union of its Inhabitants, in a Vigorous Prosecution of the Measures necessary for its Safety And Convinced of the Necessity of preventing the Anarchy and Confusion which attend a Dissolution of the Powers of Government, WE, the Freeman, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the Province of New York, being greatly alarmed at the avowed Design of the Ministry to raise a Revenue in America; and, Shocked by the bloody Scene now Acting in the Massachusetts Bay, DO, in the most Solemn Manner Resolve never to become Slaves; and do Associate under all the Ties of Religion, Honour, and Love to our Country, to Adopt and endeavour to Carry into Execution whatever Measures may be Recommended by the Continental Congress; or Resolved Upon by our Provincial Convintion for the purpose of preserving our Constitution and opposing the Execution of the Several Arbitrary and oppressive Acts of the British Parliament; Untill a Reconciliation Between Great Britain and America, on Constitutional Principles Which we most Ardently Desire Can be obtained And that we will in all Things follow the Advice of our General Committee Respecting the purposes aforesaid, The Preservation of Peace and Good Order, and the Safety of Individuals, and private party.


Click on this slideshow of images from the Crown Point State Historic Site, near where the Declaration of Principles was issued 245 years ago shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War.

Arnold’s words may have been largely forgotten, but his ultimate fate remains relatively well known. As the war went on, he felt slighted and upset from being passed over for promotion, with other officers getting credit for his accomplishments. Arnold could be brusque and headstrong, which alienated some. He borrowed heavily to support a lavish lifestyle.

And while military governor of Philadelphia, Arnold married a woman named Peggy Shippen, who came from a prominent city family loyal to British King George III. His new wife introduced him to one of her former suitors _ the British spy Major John Andre.

Arnold had been given command of West Point by George Washington, on the advice of his trusted advisors, Albany resident and General Philip Schuyler and Robert Livington of the Hudson Valley . (The residences of both men are now state Historic Sites.)

Once his plot with Andre to surrender West Point was found out, Arnold fled to the safety of British lines, where he was made an officer and fought against his former comrades. After the war, he lived in Canada and England, before dying in London in 1801 at age 60.

Benedict Arnold, from a 1776 mezzotint by artist Thomas Brown, and now in the Anne S.K. Brown Collection at Brown University.

A historical marker at the site in Rockland Lake State Park where Benedict Arnold met with Major John Andre to plot the surrender of the American fort at West Point. (Photo Credit- Wikipedia Commons)

Use this map to locate Crown Point and the other historic places in New York State described in this story.


Signatories of the Crown Point declaration had a variety of fates. One of its most prominent signers, William Gilliland, was an Irish immigrant and New York City merchant who was the first European to settle the lands west of Lake Champlain. He was founder of the town of Willsboro, and at one point, controlled about 50,000 acres in the region between Crown Point and Plattsburgh, leasing some of it out to tenant farmers and developing gristmills and sawmills.

In spite of Gilliland’s wealth and influence, as well as his signing of the Crown Point declaration and his financing of Patriot militia, he was mistrusted because of “unfounded allegations relative to his loyalties,” likely due to disagreements  and entanglements involving Arnold and Ethan Allen, commander of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia from Vermont, as recounted in documentary sources.

With both sides suspecting that he was secretly supporting the other, Gilliland was confined to Albany during part of the war. The aftermath destroyed Gilliland’s vast fortunes, stripped him of his lands and left him destitute by the time he died in Willsboro in 1796 at age 62. He is buried in the town that still bears his name.


But most other signers of the Crown Point declaration fared better. Among them was Dirck Swart, a Dutchess County native and a member of the Albany Committee of Correspondence from Saratoga, according to information collected by the Fort Ticonderoga Museum

These committees were shadow governments organized by Patriot leaders on the eve of the Revolution. They shared plans for strategy and by the early 1770s they wielded considerable political power.

Swart owned a tavern in Stillwater, Saratoga county, and his home still stands in the village. The residence was built in 1757 and remains among the oldest extant dwellings in Saratoga County. It was from Swart’s home that Arnold began his 1777 march to relieve Patriot forces at Fort Stanwix.

After the war, he was the town’s first postmaster, served as the Saratoga County Clerk, and was elected to the state Assembly.  In 1788, he was a delegate to the state convention to accept the new U.S. Constitution.

At age 70 in 1804, Swart died a venerable and respected citizen, having prospered in the new country that he had helped launch by signing that bold statement from Crown Point.


Cover Photo: Crown Point State Historic Site (Photo Credit- NYS Parks) All photos NYS Parks unless otherwise noted.

By Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer for New York State Parks


Signers of the Crown Point Declaration of Principles by State

New York

  1. Benedict Arnold
  2. John Corbin
  3. Zadok Everest
  4. Joseph Franklin
  5. William Gilliland
  6. Charles Graham Jr.
  7. Ebenezer Hyde
  8. Benjamin Kellogg
  9. Robert Lewis
  10. Moses Martin
  11. Ebenezer Marvin
  12. Martin Marvin
  13. Daniel McIntosh
  14. Elisha Painter
  15. George Palmer
  16. William Satterlee
  17. Thomas Sparham
  18. Dirck Swart
  19. Thomas Weywood
  20. Hugh Whyte

Massachusetts

  1. Jonathan Brown
  2. Ezra Buell
  3. James Noble

Connecticut

  1. John Watson Jr.
  2. Samuel Keep

Vermont (this state was created a year after the Crown Point Declaration)

  1. John Grant
  2. Issac Hitchcock
  3. Robert Lewis
  4. David Vallance
  5. Samuel Wright

State Unclear

  1. Francis Moor
  2. James Wills

Source: Fort Ticonderoga Musuem