December 2023: Happy Holidays! Farm Expansions, Remembering Elise, and more!


I know this is a busy time of year, but I hope you will take a few moments to read my email. Both good and sad things have happened since I last wrote to you.

Good news first – the 1930s Catskill Farm is expanding even further!  We have recently been offered a 1934 dump truck in mint condition. Zeke Boyle and crew from Beechwood Barns in Callicoon are taking down a 22’x44’ vintage barn to place the vehicle in, Sheeley Excavating has leveled the site and M & L Masonry poured the slab for the building. This will add an exciting new exhibit and additional exhibit space!

The Addy Pavilion now has removable sides and will soon have heat, tables and chairs for 90 and a sound system/TV. Richard Addy’s $100,000 donation enables this teaching center to be used three seasons of the year.

Now for the sad news.  At the end of November we lost Elise Hornbeck, a driving force behind the Museum for many years in many different ways.  She freely and generously donated her time, artistic talent, deep historical knowledge and educational ability, which helped the Museum grow from a small fledgling organization to a regional museum connecting water, people and the Catskills. 

A longtime member of the Board of Trustees and Exhibition Committee chairperson, Elise worked tirelessly on many different projects. She overflowed with wonderful ideas to help the Museum expand, and more importantly, she followed through on those ideas and made them happen.  Two of our most successful exhibitions, WOW: Water on Water and our current exhibition, Bittersweet Memories: Lost Towns of the Catskill Watersheds were hers from start to finish. 

Elise dedicated her many talents to create a lasting effect on the Museum and community she loved.  She was a wonderful leader, volunteer, educator, local historian, artist and friend.  She is greatly missed.

Continuing Elise’s passion for history, Ashley Lawrence, our wonderful Collections Assistant, has TWO local history artifacts from our collection she wants to share with you: 

There are days in our past that shock us to the core. While the majority of them are pinpointed to one specific person, sometimes things happen to our Nation that bring us all together. December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. While now 83 years in the past, this is still something that resonates with us.

Here is a firsthand account of the reaction of the White House and military on that unforgettable day in 1941.

This letter is addressed to Lilli Florence Raffa from her brother Colonel Arden Feer. Florence was the wife of Mr. Joe Raffa who was the Neversink Town Supervisor during this time.

Colonel Freer (1888-1963) a doctor and native of Neversink, was present at the White House the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

In the letter, Colonel Freer writes:

“What a day it has been.  It reminds me of April 6, 1917 when another war was declared and I was in Laredo, Texas. 

I had Mrs. Roosevelt’s brother as a patient in October.  Today she had invited Rebel and me to a luncheon at 1 p.m. in the White House.  …..At the last minute the President had to attend a conference in the White House study with the Japanese envoy and he was unable to be present at the luncheon.  …I was seated on Mrs. Roosevelt’s left.  She told me she had passed through the study and that the atmosphere was very tense.” 

Thank you to Ms. Joan Langton for donating this important piece of history.

Here is another interesting piece of local history. In 1913, Edna M. Hall received this piece of flannel with a letter attached. She would never know that over 100 years later it would be part of the Time and Valleys Museum collections.

Here is a transcription of the letter:

July 25, 1913

Miss Edna M. Hall:

This piece of flannel half linen and half wool, home made from first to finish, sheared from sheep picked, greased, carded by hand, spun washed, colored and woven into a straw tick was given to your great grand father Alvin Hall when he married and left home. He was twenty four years of age, was born on mutton hill Aug 10th 1809.  He was his father’s seventeenth child twenty two in all.

Your grand aunt,
Mrs. Ellen J. Hall Gillson

Keep it as long as you live.

This great piece of local history was donated to the Museum by Betty McNamara.  Thank you.

Please join me in thanking Andrea Henderson and Judy Chernowski for doing such a wonderful job with our gift shop!  They have introduced new merchandise and new consigned crafts, reorganized and redisplayed merchandise in a more interesting way and added better signage too.  We had our best year EVER! 

This January and February we are planning several great virtual programs on the building of the Cannonsville Reservoir, Borscht Belt history and more.  Keep a look out for more information about these programs in my next email. 

I wish you all the wonders and happiness of the holiday season. My best to you and your family for health and happiness in the New Year.