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August 2012


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Robert Sullivan <[log in to unmask]>
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A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 9 Aug 2012 09:29:15 -0400
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Young Pioneer Program is bringing history to life

By Jessica Nicosia for the Courier-Standard-Enterprise

ST. JOHNSVILLE — Fort Klock’s Young Pioneer summer program kicked off
on Tuesday at the historic fortified homestead in St. Johnsville.

Children ages eight to twelve were eligible to take part in the
three-day workshop where, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, they learned
18th century history and skills.

“It’s a great program, because the kids get to experience history
instead of look at a book or even a movie,” said Michael MaGinnis, a
Gloversville police officer who has volunteered regularly at the Fort
for the past two decades. “It’s neat because they get to experience
what it would have been like then, but it also makes them appreciate
how easy things are nowadays,” he continued.

On Tuesday, the 23 children enrolled in the program learned about
medicinal and cooking herbs from the 18th century and how to hand-dip
candles. They also received a history lesson from a man who calls
himself “Tinker Cross”.

Cross, who MaGinnis described as a “wealth of knowledge,” has been
heavily involved with Fort Klock and reenactments for years. His
lesson was a combination history class, scripture instruction, science
lab, and pewter-casting demonstration. The children seemed amazed when
he made a set of buttons and a spoon in a matter of minutes, teaching
them about metal alloys.

Eric Vanhoose, 11, and his brother, Owen, 9, were among the kids who
were most interested in the pewter-casting.

“I just thought it would be pretty cool to do all these crafts and
stuff,” said Eric, from East Schodack. “I like that you get to dress
up. It’s pretty cool. And actually, I have ancestors who were Klocks.
I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, the children molded S hooks and musket
balls in the blacksmith shop, made pierced tin art, learned how to
spin fabric out of thread, made rope and goose quill pens, and started
fires with flint and steel.

MaGinnis said that some of these antiquated skills could actually be
useful to them in the modern world.

“It’s knowledge that’s important to hold on to, not only to preserve
history to remember it, but also to appreciate how easy we’ve got it
and to be turned onto skills that would otherwise die,” said MaGinnis.
“You never know, with fire-starting, if you know how to start a fire,
in a worst case scenario survival situation you can save your life and
the life of your family just by starting a fire.”

The Young Pioneer program started in 1993, but has not taken place
every year due to fluctuating attendance. It has gone through
different incarnations, according to MaGinnis.

Once the Young Pioneers graduate the 3-day program, they earn the
title of “Young Apprentice”. This includes a one year membership in
Fort Klock Historic Restoration and an invitation to come back the
following year to mentor the new group of Young Pioneers.

“It’s really fun to learn about history,” said Katielynn Evans, 12, of
Ballston Spa, explaining, “We’re young apprentices, which means we’ve
done this program before and now we get to help out.” Others who
attend the program are too young to take it officially and graduate,
but they come to have fun and learn anyway.

“We’d like to get them more involved as time goes on too because
basically these are the future members who will keep the place open,
and hopefully prosperous in the future,” said MaGinnis.

“Hopefully they have as much fun as they do learn,” he said. “And I
think 99 percent of them do.”

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