A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: August 1, 2012

Seemed right to say good-bye to Dr. Ray Huggins at the St. James Episcopal Church in Lake Delaware, on the road to Delhi. Built by the Livingston and Gerry families, St. James is elegant and traditional, solid, formidable but inviting, suggestive of a surer time.


A Catskill Catalog: July 25, 2012

We should call it the Davis-Felter Site. In the early 1940s, it was one of the most important archeological digs in New York State, and it was right here in Margaretville. And, the Davis-Felter Site was discovered and excavated entirely by amateurs, locals.

Archeological sites are named for the landowner, but a Davis Site already exists up in Essex County, so the hyphenated addition of the discoverer’s names seems appropriate.


A Catskill Catalog: July 18, 2012

Baron Moritz von Hirsch was a Bavarian nobleman and a Jew. That was possible in the enlightened Germany of the late 1800s, but impossible in the benighted lands of the Russian Tsar, where pogroms – mass killings: hate turned to sport – made Jewish life intolerable.

Baron von Hirsch decided to do something. He organized the Jewish Colonization Association, an extensive network that included an American component, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, established in 1889, to encourage eastern European Jews to immigrate to the United States to become farmers.


A Catskill Catalog: July 3, 2012

A pleasant summer day trip is the drive north on Routes 30 and 30A to Johnson Hall, in Johnstown in the Mohawk Valley. It’s also a great way to celebrate American independence around the Fourth of July.

See, the proprietors of Johnson Hall remained loyal to the king. Their experience might help us understand just how difficult it was for those who staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor choosing the American side.


A Catskill Catalog: June 27, 2012

The Thirty-Years War was brutal. The Schoharie Valley is beautiful. The two are linked.
From 1618 to 1648, the largely German-speaking people of central Europe were ravaged by near-constant warfare. Religion and politics were intertwined, as Protestant princes fought for sovereignty and independence from the Holy Roman Emperor and the Roman Church.