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Writing contest highlights crossing artifacts

Saturday, January 12, 2013 - Updated: 5:50 PM

By HEATHER NELLIS

Recorder News Staff

FORT HUNTER -- The Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is hosting a writing contest based on the 18th century artifacts unearthed at the limestone foundations of Fort Hunter.

Site Education Coordinator Tricia Shaw hopes pictures of the broken Chinese porcelain, animal bones, Mohawk tribal jewelry, and British soldiers' musket balls and boot buckles will inspire some creativity from locals who want to drum up tales about them.

Photographs of 18 artifacts have been posted to the site's Facebook page. Shaw says pick your favorite, and write a historical fiction short story with the artifact as a focal point. The story should have a local history theme, and include how the artifact was left behind for future generations to discover.

"Here's your chance to tell us about the artifacts," said Shaw. She got the idea for the contest out of an assignment she doled to students while teaching at a junior college in Albany. "I used to have the students research an item that was left by someone at the Vietnam Wall -- a teddy bear, a beer can, rosary, all sorts of things. Their assignment was to write the back story and it could be partly fictional. So I applied the same idea to the artifacts at Schoharie Crossing."

When Tropical Storms Irene and Lee caused the Schoharie Creek to flood, the waters ripped up the visitor's center parking lot, which had limestone foundations of the British fort hiding underneath.

Not only was one of the military fort's blockhouses unearthed, so was much of the evidence of the nearby Mohawk Indian village known as Tiononderoge.

"There is so much about the early history of the area, we don't know everything," Shaw said. "Sometimes fiction can be based on the truth, or the truth can be stranger than fiction. Either way, it will get students and people thinking about Fort Hunter as New York State's frontier, and how the Mohawks and early settlers interacted."

Shaw said she's lined up a panel of four judges to read and pick the winners: Fulton County Historian Peter Betz, professional storyteller Laurie Gage, archaeologist Louise Basa, and local resident and history lover Betty Shaw.

There will be four separate categories with four winners of a $25 cash prize.

"We will also print the stories in our newsletter, probably put them on Facebook, maybe display them at the Visitors Center. We are also thinking about having a special night event, coffee house style, where we read the stories aloud," Shaw said.

This contest is open to students of all ages, and adults. Home schooled children are also encouraged to enter.

The short stories should not be any longer than 6 double spaced typed pages.

The entry deadline is Feb. 28. Winners will be notified mid-March. A special event to read the winning stories will be scheduled for April. Details to follow.

All entries must have name, age group, and contact information attached to the story.

Please e-mail entries to tricia.shaw@parks.ny.gov, or mail to: Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, Attention: Tricia Shaw, P.O. Box 140, Fort Hunter, N.Y., 12069.

If you have questions or wish to drop off an entry in person, please call the Visitor Center at 829-7516.

Facts to know for the Schoharie County Crossing artifact story writing contest

* Four Mohawk chiefs visited London in 1711. They met with Queen Anne and asked for a missionary to live among them.

* The construction of Fort Hunter and Queen Anne's chapel in 1712 was the result of the England visit.

* The fort was 150 square with a blockhouse at each corner. The chapel stood in the center of the fort.

* During the 1750s, the fort housed about 30 soldiers. It was used as an outpost and gathering place for the British Army during the French and Indian War.

* Tiononderoge was a Mohawk Village that sprang up next to the fort. At its height, there were 600 Mohawks living near Fort Hunter.

* Fort Hunter and the Mohawk village were abandoned in 1777 after the Battle of Oriskany. The Mohawks buried the silver communion plate and other religious items given to them by Queen Anne. During the 1780 raid in the Schoharie Valley, the Mohawks retrieved the items and left the Fort Hunter area permanently.

* Following the American Revolution, the chapel was used as a tavern then as a stable. It was torn down to make way for the Erie Canal.

* The 1734 parsonage (where the minister lived) is the only building still standing intact. It is located on Queen Anne Road.

* During the 1860s, flood waters exposed a portion of Fort Hunter's palisade fence.

* Archaeology digs in 1986 and 1987 discovered some limestone foundations, Native American beads and other 18th century artifacts.

* In August 2011, floodwaters caused by Hurricane Irene tore up the parking lot, exposing the remains of a corner blockhouse and a wall of the fort. Many fascinating artifacts have been found.

* Famous ("local") historical figures who could have visited Fort Hunter during the 18th Century include: Sir William Johnson, Joseph Brant, Molly Brant, Conrad Weiser, Jacob Klock, Johannis Wemple, Jan Mabee, Robert Van Rensselaer, Philip Schulyer, Guy Johnson, Walter Butler, Daniel Claus, Jellis Fonda, Little Abraham, Cornplanter, Red Jacket

     

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