Hire me! Did you know I offer my servcies as a professionally trained historian to you, as a genealogist? Would you like to know more about your family’s story? Is there an old document or family photograph teasing your brain?
It’s a pretty ease process to add something to Google Maps but it can be rather difficult to demonstrate some random spot in the woods is a place of some significance. It is with some sense of pride and accomplishment that I have added Swartwood Cemetery back on the map. This cemetery had long been off the map, its graves had long been left untended. Using the details available and with some lingering photographs, I had an idea of what to look for as I ventured out into the hills across Route 209 from the Valley View campground. Using the AllTrails app I recorded my trail and I marked my GPS coordinates upon arrival.
I place that has been long forgotten and/or overlooked has been reclaimed through research, tracking, sharing knowledge and a little bit of activism. How can you reclaim a place? Research. Identification. And education.
My interest in the abandoned village of Egypt Mills began when family history research led me to look for the Valley View, or Swartwood, Cemetery not far down the road on Route 209 in Bushkill, Lehman Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania. According to information provided by the National Park Service, the land was settled in the late 18th century, with a 1776 land purchase by William Nyce; their leaflet makes reference to the Nyce family farm and a postcard from a once well-known Hunting Club but the village was small, prosperous and filled with lively cast of characters who would call this place home.
My project began out of curiosity; following the Tom’s Creek trail out towards Landis lake and wanting to know more about the remains of what I discovered, and the surrounding area between Little Egypt and Big Egypt Roads — remains of stone foundations and wools, mill runs, and steel tools. I began to photograph my surroundings and mark the GPS coordinates of each location. Then I pinpointed every location on Google Earth and added an overlay of old 1872 map of Lehman Township to identify what these structures may have been and to whom they belonged.
Continue to follow as explore each structure, the remains of the village, its current natural beauty and its lively history.
While attending church services the Sunday after Easter, also known as the Second Easter Sunday, I heard what was common for such on occasion and that was a sermon rooted in the New Testament story of doubting Thomas. My pastor stated in his sermon that Thomas was the only one to whom Jesus revealed himself individually. When he took his seat, our co-pastor whispered to him, after the service my pastor made an announcement to the congregation that he had been corrected by our co-pastor, that Jesus first revealed himself to Mary following the Resurrection. In my own mind, I immediately went to the Virgin Mary thinking Jesus revealed himself to his mother. I went to the Scriptures and read, and it was Mary Magdalene. Both held graduate degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary, respectively; however, it was the woman, and Princeton alumna, that did not overlook the significance of Mary Magdalene in the story of Jesus Christ. Inclusion and diverse perspectives did not rewrite the Gospel but highlighted passages important to their own experience which gave us a fuller meaning to the Gospel. This I believe, that pluralism and religious literacy have a symbiotic relationship, to which inclusion and allowing diverse perspectives enriches our understanding our own beliefs and those of others and encourages a more accepting, pluralistic society.
What would cause such a faux pas to occur? Both ministers were clearly well-educated individuals, so it was not a matter of ignorance. Each had related to the Gospel in their way by that which moved them. Gender differences aside, as it can only be an assumption this was the key factor, and maybe it was, one pastor was moved by the skepticism of Thomas whose faith was reaffirmed with a qualified revelation of the truth; whereas, the other pastor was moved by the woman whose embattled soul had been freed by Jesus Christ when he cast out seven demons, also a qualified revelation of faith based on seeing. The human experience of faith is a relative experience, even among clerics as this example demonstrates.Seemingly, we would think this is where the conversation begins but often this is where the conversation ends.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
John Trumbull’s proud and bold image had been inspired by the recollections and musings of Thomas Jefferson, of which Trumbull wrote, succinctly enough, “I began the composition of the Declaration of Independence, with the assistance of [Jefferson’s] information and advice.” Such a strong display would stand in stark contrast to Adams’ later reflections of this event.
In a letter to William Plumer dated 28 March 1813, John Adams wrote, “They who were then members, all signed it, and, as I could not see their hearts, it would be hard for me to say that they did not approve it; but, as far as I could penetrate the intricate, internal foldings of their souls, I then believed, and have not since altered my opinion, that there were several who signed with regret, and several others, with many doubts and much lukewarmness.” John Adams recalls a moment of sober trepidation, and stepping into an unknown—a new frontier.
Of this political and social frontier, Dr. Benjamin Rush argued in January 1787, “The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.”
All the great work. All the hard yoga—the flexing, strengthening and breathing—of building a new nation that lives in harmony with its democratic and revolutionary principles would come after the war, and still in progress.
Ancestry.com recreated Trumbull’s painting with a 2017 advertisement “Declaration Descendants” with an intentional multicultural and diverse cast that also included women, amongst whom was the Rev W. Douglas Banks, the 5th-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Of his participation and connection to Jefferson, Banks writes, “I do not celebrate Thomas Jefferson or Sally Hemings. I celebrate opportunities where I can overcome the flaws in my family tree and embrace the greatness of my inheritance.”
I closed my school year and lesson with the ninth grade with these exact thoughts and quotations with the final challenge, reflect on Benjamin Rush and Rev. Banks and consider this: “We can celebrate those opportunities where we can overcome the flaws of our country’s history and embrace the greatness of its promise.”
 “The Declaration of Independence,” National Archives, October 30, 2015, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration.
 John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Oil on canvas, 20 7/8 x 31 in., Yale University Art Gallery, accessed June 18, 2020, https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/69.
 John Adams, The Political Writings of John Adams (Regnery Publishing, 2001), 680.
 Benjamin Rush, “Address to the People of the United States,” https://archive.csac.history.wisc.edu/Benjamin_Rush.pdf.
 Rev W. Douglas Banks, “We Are All In The Room,” Huffington Post (blog), July 11, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/we-are-all-in-the-room_us_5964fdc5e4b005b0fdc8a8c0.
Hello! As a history and social studies teacher at a private high school, I help young people understand the evolution of the human consciousness and how to make sense of difficult questions of living in the social world. I help students with the “hard yoga” — the flex-work, strengthening and breathing — of living in world.
Building diverse and inclusive communities, and undoing America’s legacy and racial inequality, will require more than virtue signaling with badges and memes or a selfie at a protest, it will take more passing the collection plate donating to a charity, and it will take more than “listening” and talking about how we listened, and “reading” and talking about what we read. But these are all starts. Allow me to share some of my resources and suggestions with you:
- My Multicultural and Anti-Racist Reading List on Goodreads: These are my personal picks as a social studies teacher and Americanist cultural scholar.
- Anderson, Jill. “Confronting Racism at an Early Age.” Harvard Graduate School of Education, August 28, 2017. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/08/confronting-racism-early-age
McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (1989) 1.” In On Privilege, Fraudulence, and Teaching As Learning, by Peggy McIntosh, 29–34, 1st ed. Routledge, 2019. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351133791-4.
- Cooperative Children’s Book Center. “50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know” University of Wisconsin, School of Education. Accessed June 18, 2020. https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/detailListBooks.asp?idBookLists=42.
And this is just a start! #blacklivesmatter
“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualities are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good silence, and nothing too much.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s that time of the year again in the Hudson Valley!! I’ve been seeing buzz about ramps and fiddleheads in my social media newsfeeds. Not so gentle reminder, just because something appears to be in abundance, doesn’t mean it is. In fact, ramps, or “wild leeks,” or “wild onions” are listed as a threatened species in Quebec and a species of concern in the northeastern United States. Fiddleheads are not fairing much better. Also, these plants are host to bacteria and not only require thoroughly cleaning and cooking but when you do forage these plants you are altering the ecosystem in very real ways. Chasing dopamine highs with hedonic palette-pleasing has serious consequences for our environment. Plant. Cultivate. But don’t steal from our wild, natural landscapes.
(Picture of cultivated ostrich ferns at the Vanderbilt Mansion.)
Good reads on this subject:
Switching back to stmcdonald.com