Sylvan Beach (The Encampment)- September 17th-19th, 1993


The 1993 season for "Discovery" continued with a weekend-long living history program at Sylvan Beach. This site was where Wood Creek, the water passage west from Rome, entered Oneida Lake - the first deep water navigation on the route from Schenectady to Oswego.

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The Sylvan Beach encampment The encampment site was where the mouth of Wood Creek opened onto Oneida Lake 200 years ago, now the terminus for the Barge Canal.

During the spring and summer, staff of the State Museum's "Discovery" Project met with teachers in the district to plan class visits to the encampment during the program.

The batteau was transported to Sylvan Beach by the Erie Canal Village Museum, who joined with local living history groups and units from as far away as Schenectady to create a large boatman's camp on the site. Here is where, in the 1790s, boatmen driving batteaux west from Schenectady camped in the ruins of an old British fort only yards from our 1993 encampment (the original site having been destroyed by the Barge Canal construction). No buildings existed here until the late 1790s, and then only a single tavern.

The purpose of the encampment, which was timed to allow schools to become involved, was to provide an educational experience focused on what happened on this spot 200 years earlier - which led to the present Village of Sylvan Beach.

Batteau camp Batteau camps were established here to allow the often rough waves on the lake to calm with evening, and strengthen the resolve of boatmen fearful of deep water, who then would row all night to get across.
The living history program With Oneida Lake as a backdrop, one could easily become lost in the 1790s and imagine this place as it was 200 years earlier - with Oneida Indians fishing and boat crews camping along the shoreline.
Mooring along the canal Due to the rip-rap along the lake front, the only safe mooring for "Discovery" was along the canal wall, where some of the programming took place.
Cooking 1790s style Volunteer crew member Olof Jannson demonstrates cooking his own meal on 18th century equipment, after starting a fire with just flint, steel and charred linen - always a crowd pleaser, especially for kids.
A basic boatman's shelter Phil Lord takes a break from programming in front of his simple boatman's shelter - a single square of canvas that can be set up with poles cut in the woods.
Waiting for good weather On a chill and foggy morning, crew and volunteers pass the time waiting for the weather to improve.
Talking to school kids Some of the local living history volunteers who joined us for the weekend talk to local school children about the history of the area.
Selling stock Bob Mulligan prepares to make a sales pitch about the virtues of canal stock, but the young camp visitors really want to see him use his quill pen.
Keeping up the journal During a break in the program, Bob Mulligan makes entries in his journal - keeping true to his character and using a quill pen.

 


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