Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Country Holiday Gift Bazaar

Country Holiday Gift Bazaar - Thacher Nature Center of Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 am – 4 pm. and Sunday, Dec. 5, 11 am – 3 pm.  Meet friends for a day of shopping and beautiful scenery, enjoy baked goods and refreshments, take home beautiful and original items hand made by local artists, crafters and artisans.  Jewelry, jams and jellies and maple products, homespun wool products and knitted items, original artwork, pine needle baskets, stained glass, breads and spices, home made soaps and organic beauty products, wildlife and nature photography, Native American style dream catchers and decorative art, rustic holiday ornaments, carved wooden bowls, rustic wooden bears and outdoor wooden items and more!  Call 872-1237 for additional information.

Friday, October 1, 2010


LOT 461, East Berne
The south half of Lot 461 in East Berne was settled in 1791 by Elisha Hungerford. The north end was settled about 1800 by Caleb Barton. Thanks to Betty Fink for a recent picture of the house built by Caleb Barton.
The Caleb Barton House is now lived in by Mavis Schanz.

Friday, September 24, 2010

October Fundraising Dinners in Berne

October 2nd:  Annual Roast Pork Supper - Served family style from 3:30-6:30pm at the Berne Reformed Church: roast pork, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, gravy. green beans, homemade applesauce, rolls, homemade pie and beverage.

October 17th: Annual Roast Beef Dinner - Berne Volunteer Fire Company will have their annual Roast Beef Dinner serving at noon at the fire house. Cost is $10 at the door and $11 for for take out (prices may change closer to the day of the event. The menu will include: roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, cabbage salad, homemade pickles, vegetables, homemade applesauce, rolls, coffee, tea, milk and homemade pies!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Letter from Senica Snyder Ball in Delano, Minn. to his brother Charles E. Ball in Knox, NY --written May 1, 1899
Delano May 1 99
Brother Charley How are you? Anyway, i was Just thinking it is 23 years ago today that I was married. How time goes by here. I am giting to be a old man and I do hate to git old and rinkley. But we have to take our medicine as it comes to us. I have not had very good health for some time. But I am to blame myself. I lived little too fast when I was younger and I am now reaping Evil Doings. My Ray is in ND. He has been gone over a year. He is 17 years old. So you See I am Back Whare I was 25 years ago only Better fixed. I have a nice House of furnished in good Shape. But it is no Home for me Since my wife died. A young man can stand those things Whare a old man can't.
Well Charley Who gites the old farm whare we was all Raised? I hope you will git it. Have you made a Settlement yet? What will you give me for my interest in cash?
I must close. Give my Love to your wife. Tell her to write me and I will answer. It is awful hard work for me to write. I am so nervous i can't read this after I write.
Senica Snyder Ball

Saturday, September 11, 2010

West Mountain

Thanks to Katie Jean Bensen the history of West Mountain has been substantially updated.
West Mountain was first settled starting about 1790.
By the 1930s many farms had already been abandoned due to repeated cropping with buckwheat, barley and rye. Soil erosion was commonplace. Most of the farms on West Mountain were bought by the Resettlement Administration in the 1930s. 
Lewis Sherman House, Lot 400; taken say 1937. No longer standing.
From collection of Nicole Pelepzuck Cross
Much of the land, up to 80% had been deforested for farming. Federal money was used to purchase the unproductive farmland for just 2 to 4 dollars per acre. The government helped to move many of the farm families to other areas. However, several farms remained in the possession of the farmers. A few of these included the William D. Wood farm, the Crosby farm, Peasley farm, and the Sherbin farm. Katie Wood, wife of William D. was approached by the Resettlement Administration during the 1930's and asked to sell her farm, to which as history tells, she answered with a solid 'No".
In the early 1940's, the Federal government granted the NYS Conservation Department a 99 year lease for what is now much of the Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area. The sum of $1.00 was the price for the lease, with three purposes stated for the land, forestry, wildlife and recreation. Over the next 20 years the total land accumulation through the Dept. of the Interior and the Division of Lands and Forests brought the total acreage to 5,478.



Berne School No. 3 was a half mile north of the Rensselaerville town line on Lot 401 on West Mountain.
Interior of the Berne schoolhouse 3 along with the teacher, John Pelepzuck, Jr. and Josie.
Picture from the collection of Nichole Pelepzuck Cross


Due to the location of this school so close to the Renssesselaerville - Berne town line, this school was jointly operated by the Towns of Rensselaerville and Berne.
It would be a careful but educated guess to say that the school started sometime between 1795 and the very early 1800's. Being situated on lot 401a it is safe to say the land was donated by John Crosby and John Crosby Jr. who occupied lot 401 in the year 1795 to the mid 1850's. Even though the Town of Berne was set off from Rensselaerville in 1795 it seems this school continued to be referred to as a Berne and Rensselaerville District even into the last years of its operation. Students from both townships attended this school well into the 1930's.
This school had many district numbers and names over many decades it was in operation. In addition to being the Berne school No. 3, it was also the Rensselaerville District School No. 23. (In 1816 this school was known as # 12 Berne.)
The school also bore other names such as Peasley School for the Peasley family living nearby. Blanche H. Peasley was the Enumerator in the early 30's and Wallace A. Peasley the Trustee in 1936. It was also called the Baptist Church School due to it's proximity to the early Baptist Church, and West Mountain Schoolon it's insurance policy.[1]. The label "West Mountain School" as referred to in the History of the Town of Rensselaerville, People made it Happen Here, by way of an insurance policy is believed to be inaccurate and referencing not this school but another that existed close to the town line, District #19.
Mis-numbered on the 1866 Beers map of Berne.
In 1933 this school was District #3 Town of Berne and Rensselaerville, Supervisory District #2. with Blanche Peasley as the Enumerator. This information was taken from the original school census of 1933.
The school was disolved on July 15, 1944. Falling down in 1976, the building is now gone.
From School Census August 30, 1933:
District no. Three Town of Berne and Rensselaerville. Supervisory district no. Two Albany County, J. Edward Smith District Superintendent. Trustee Herman Malin of Rensselaerville. Enumerator Blanche H. Peasley. Rensselaerville. According to this school Census / register all students in the district, from birth to 18 were enumerated. They are as follows: Theodore Apanasowich, Henry Malin, Richard Malin, John Pelepzuck Jr. Josephine Stephanawitz, Elizabeth Salzer, Joseph Salzer, Richard Weidman, George Pelikan Jr.

West Mountain School
Unknown West Mountain School
Can anyone identify this West Mountain School near Rensselaerville? According to the note on the back, at the time it was taken it was abandoned and soon to be torn down for as part of the land project that eventually became Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area.

Notice to Choose Fence Viewer
Letter concerning a fence dispute. Contributed by Nichole Pelepzuk Cross.
Letter concerning a fence dispute. Contributed by Nichole Pelepzuk Cross.
Notice to Choose Fence Viewer.Town Law section 363 ante P 639To John Pelepzuck Persuant to section 363 of the Town Law you are hereby required to choose within eight days after service of this notice a fence viewer to act with Avery Zimmer a fence viewer I have chosen in determining the dispute which has arisen between us concerning the division fence between our lands; and if you fail to do I shall choose both of said fence viewers as authorized by law.
Dated this 18th day of May 1937
Wallace A Peasley
  1.  People Made It Happen Here, History of the Town of Rensselaerville ca. 1788-1950, Published 1977

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Recent items added to Helderberg Hilltowns site

Barbecue and yard sale
Berne-Knox-Westerlo Sports Boosters will hold a fund-raising barbecue and yard sale Saturday Sept. 18, from 10am to 5pm. at Berne Town Park. The chicken barbecue will begin at 1pm. Each dinner will cost $9, and will include a half chicken, baked potato, coleslaw, and dessert. Members of all 21 teams are participating, from the fall, spring, and winter sports seasons.


Sept. 2006, Allen Miller
A page has just been created for the two stone Eli Miller Family Burying Ground at the foot of Cole Hill in the Town of Berne.

Wife of Ellery Shufelt and his children
Ellery Shufelt, of West Mountain, was born 1895 one of nine children. He never got beyond the fourth grade and could not read nor write. Ellery was called to service in October of 1918. Ellery married his wife Beatrice in May of 1933. They had four children. The family was one of the last families to live on West Mountain in the 1930s when they were squatters during the time the federal Land Recovery Program were buying up abandoned and marginal farms. (Read the article on Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area for more information about this period in the history of the Berne.) Both Ellery and his wife were stricken with TB. In the biography of Ellery Shufelt is a very interesting Altamont Enterprise article on his family and their hard scrabble life.
Ellery Shufelt and family
These photos were taken by Arthur Rothstein, the well known photographer for the Farm Security Administration.
TURNER BURIAL GROUND The Turner Burial Ground is located on West Mountain within the boundaries of the Partridge Run NYS Wildlife Management Area on Bradt Hill Rd; in the southwest corner of Lot 468. It is named after George Turner (1783-1833) who emigrated from England and settled on West Mountain in 1832. The earliest known burial was 1812; last was 1937. It seems to have been a community burying ground from the beginning, as there are many different names of early farming families who lived in the immediate vicinity. 100 by 140 feet. This cemetery was restored in 2003 as part of Berne Heritage Days. It is mowed regularly by the Town of Berne. It is surrounded by a stone wall in fair condition. The stone wall was repaired in the summer of 2009 by the Town. The front stone wall was rebuilt in the summer of 2010.
Rebuilt stonewall, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010


  • Colony of Rensselaerwyck - In 1629 most all of the land in Albany and Rensselaer Counties were part of the Dutch Colony of Rensselaerwhyck which had been granted in that year to Kiliean Van Rensselaer, a wealthy Dutch Merchant.
  • Rensselaerwyck Manor - When in 1664 the English wrested control of the Dutch Colonies in the New World they continued to honor the Van Rensselaer land grant, which now became known as the Rensselaerwyck Manor.
  • Beaverdam - About 1740 the first settlers in the what is now the western half of the Town of Berne said they were from the Beaverdam. (These homesteaders were actually squatters since they did not lease the land from the Van Rensselaer owners.) Marriage records in both Schoharie churches and churches below the hill say the bride or the groom was from Beaverdam or Beaver Dam. And, of course, about 1765 when the first church was formed in the area, it took the name "The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the Beaverdam." ("Dutch" signified that the congregation was "Deutch", i.e. German.)
  • Town of Watervliet - In 1788 the Town of Watervliet was created; it consisted of all of what is now Albany County except the city of Albany, and part of Schenectady County. For the next two years folks who a few years later would live in Berne were from Watervliet.
  • Town of Rensselaerville - In 1790 the Town of Rensselaerville was created from the western half of Watervliet. The result was that in the 1790 federal census everyone who lived in what are now the Towns of Berne, Knox and Renssselaerville were listed as being from Rensselaerville. In 1791, in a Van Rensselaer deed for the Reformed Church farm, the church was called, "The Reformed German Church of Beaverdam in the town of Rensselaerville," thus acknowledging the change in the name of the town.
  • Town of Bern - In 1795 the Town of Bern was created from the northern two thirds of the Town of Rensselaerville. Rensselaer town officials selected in 1790, lived in what is now Berne; and when Berne was created they became the town officials of Bern and kept Rensselaerville's official journal. For them it was a merely a change of name and a reduction in size. The first use of the name Bern for the area is when the Town was created. Records for churches below the hill continued to say people from Bern were from Beaverdam for the next decade before they finally got use to using the name of Bern. In 1797 the Reformed Church officially became "The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Bever Dam." They gave up changing the name of the church every time the name of the Town was changed.
  • Town of Berne - Our Heritge, the 1977 Bicentennial history of the Town of Berne, says the spelling of the town name was changed from Bern to Berne sometime in the late 19th century. The middle of the 19th century would have been more correct, since it was spelled Bern in the 1850 federal census and Berne in the 1860 census. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Planning Committee Survey Results for Types of Businesses in Berne

''Many businesses were personally favored by respondents.  A local farm produce center was the most favorable to have in Berne.  Other highly favorable businesses were animal shelter, antique/flea market, bakery, bed and breakfast inns, book store, convenience store, fish farm, garden center, grocery store, local farm butcher, medical offices, pharmacy, Helderberg tourism, and winery. Many of the other businesses had 50% or more favorable support.  

Most of the large scale businesses such as big box retail stores, big box warehouse, hunting farm, and an industrial power plants were opposed or strongly opposed.  

When asked where they would accept commercial development in Berne, the most common answer was along Route 443, followed by along Route 85 and in or near a hamlet.  Along Route 57a and anywhere in Town was favored by less than 20% of respondents.  There were about 12% who said that commercial development should be nowhere in Town.''

Editor's comment.- If we want local farms and businesses we must support them with our by buying locally. It does no good to say it would be nice to have a convenience store, a grocery store, a local farm butcher, a farm produce center if we do not spend our money locally to show that we really support them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Upcoming Events Calender

There are two calenders of upcoming events available for announcements  for organizations and businesses on www.AlbanyHilltowns.com  .

Those who wish to post events on these  pages are urged to do so  themselves.

May 13

The Heldeberg Market is a new, low-cost service that will market  Hilltown farmers' and home industrialists' goods online to customers  throughout the Capital Region. It will launch on June 1, 2010. 

Farmers and home artisan producers interested in learning more  about the Heldeberg Market are invited to an informational session at  the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Middle School, Room 170, on Thursday May 13,  2010 at 7:00 p.m.

Please contact owner, Sarah Avery Gordon, to RSVP for the  informational session at 518-669-3446 or Sarah Gordon.

May 15 and 16

Save Thacher Park!
Join Us, On May 15'th, and 16'th, For "Thacher Day Out". The time  will be 12:00 pm-5:00 Pm on both days. We will have tons of food,  music, and FUN!!

May  18

The next meeting of the Helderberg Hilltowns Association will be at  the Hilltowns Senior Center, 1656 Helderberg Trail (Route 443, half way  between Berne and East Berne), May 18 at 7pm. 
It has been suggested that since the focus of the first meeting  was heavily agriculture, we should continue the discussion of "Ideas  About What the HHA Should Do" but divide the discussion into several  distinct categories --  Agriculture; restaurants; bed & breakfasts;  recreation; open space protection; cultural tourism; historic  preservation; sightseeing; museums; family-tree research; etc.  That way  we will get a better perspective of the broader role of the HHA (or  Albany Hilltowns Association?).  

May  31

The Hilltowns Memorial Day Parade will step off at 10 AM along  Helderberg Trail (Route 443) from the Senior Center to the  Berne-Knox-Westerlo School. A big old-fashioned celebration has the  Color Guard by the VFW and American Legion, the BKW Band, floats,  firetrucks and ambulances, marching units of youth and adults, and a  number of horses. At the end of the parade, ceremonies to honor our  veterans are held on the common in front of the school; a wreath is laid  at the memorial by the Gold Star Mother, a volley is shot, taps is  played. Prizes are awarded to floats and marching units. Many  organizations offer refreshments or baked goods for sale. Best viewing  along the route of march is from the intersection of Routes 443 and 156  to the BKW school. Get there early as good spots go quickly. Sponsored  by the Kiwanis Club of the Helderbergs.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I have just finished the weekly update to Albany Hilltowns main pages. It summarizes changes made this past week and gives links to them: Civil War soldier biographies, Lot numers, farm houses, farm activites, ideas for farmers, and much more.

Here are a few of the new pages added this past week:

  • A biography page has been started for Ernest J. Ecker who died on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in Delray Beach, Fla., where he had lived in his later years. He was 87.


  •  The Enos Wright House, 1560 Helderberg Trail, Berne, was built 1891 by Charles Willsey for Enos J. Wright (1837- 1905). Wright was a 49 year old farmer, single, and living at home when his mother died in 1885. A few months later he married 27 year old Ida Mae Schoonmaker, who had been a domestic in the home of his parents’ home for a number of years. The house was a major addition to the small, earlier house which is now the east wing kitchen. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010


There is a family buying ground in Berne that had four beautiful cut stones that were a century or so old and in fine condition. They were in a pasture on a fence line but were not fenced in; cows knocked them down and broke them. The hay grew tall, then tractors ran over them not knowing they were there. There are probably not enough pieces left to save. I know of another cemetery in Berne with many more stones where this is also occurring.
 This picture was taken a number of years ago


The Town of Berne is undergoing a Comprehensive Plan Review; the committee is making available all email communications. If you would like emails generated by the Berne Comprehensive Plan Review Committee to be forwarded to you; please submit your request and your email address to compsecretary45@yahoo.com