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December 2012


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Robert Sullivan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 6 Dec 2012 11:46:03 -0500
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Celebrating a tradition at Fort Klock

By Linda Kellett, C-S-E News Staff

ST. JOHNSVILLE — Tucked away in a small corner of the trade room at
Fort Klock on Sunday, 5-year-old Fonda resident Rory McGrattan and his
mother listened with rapt attention as Fort Klock Historic Restoration
member Mary Brewster, seated in a chair by the fireplace, related the
story of St. Nicholas.

At her feet were a pair of wooden shoes, from which protruded
evergreen twigs and the top of a bright orange carrot.

The carrot was for St. Nicholas’ horse, she explained, noting that the
Dutch and Palatine German immigrants who settled the valley during the
colonial era would have celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6. Placing
their shoes hearthside, children might have hoped for a gift from the
legendary fourth century bishop from Asia Minor.

A few feet from the trio stood a red-cloaked figure with a white beard
and a bishop’s staff, who greeted new arrivals to the Revolutionary
War-era fortified farmstead with questions: “Have you been saying your
prayers?” he asked. After mumbled responses, he listened as the
youngsters related their holiday wishes.

During a respite from the steady flow of children and adults who
poured through the doors during the annual St. Nicholas Day
celebration, the bewhiskered saint (Fort Klock President Eugene
Wagner) noted the group has observed the holiday tradition for around
30 years.

Mild weather contributed to a larger-than-normal turnout; and the many
people present sang with and listened to selections performed by the
18th century music ensemble, Liaisons Plaisantes; sampled gingerbread,
hot chocolate and mulled cider in the kitchen; and watched blacksmith
Steve Gurzler, of Ballston Lake, forge implements in the blacksmith
shop on the grounds of the historic site.

Amsterdam resident Jo Van O’Linda, a frequent visitor to the site, was
present with her son, Tracy, and other family members. “We’ve been
coming here every year for years and years,” said Tracy, noting that a
nephew years ago was a participant of the fort’s Young Pioneer

Shayna Humphreys, of Colonie, and Mindy Harris, of Latham, said they
enjoyed the music the most of all the fort’s St. Nicholas Day events.

Bob Sullivan
Schenectady Digital History Archive
Schenectady County (NY) Public Library