I know. I have a bad attitude. But when you're responsible for keeping things going around the clock, every day, year after year...
Let's just say I'm not a big fan of weekends and holidays. They just make my life that much harder.
But Halloween may be the exception. The mechanics, delivery drivers and service techs I depend on to run a farm business don't take the day off. At least not yet. They may show up in costumes and scary masks but I'm ok with that. For some of them a mask would actually be an improvement! (Just kidding guys.)
I've come to fix things...
Halloween is when we celebrate our love/hate relationship with fear. To be scared is to feel you are in danger, about to be hurt or worst. Not good. Makes you wonder why people freely put themselves in risky situations. Rock climbing, whitewater paddling, steep ski descents. All can take a serious chunk out of your butt and all are popular 'recreational' pursuits. And what's with horror movies, spooky stories and haunted houses, the staple entertainments of the season? Maybe it's the thrill of cheating death, the rush of being chased by danger and staying one step ahead. It's better to be alive than otherwise...
Gwenne and I didn't go to Argyle looking for trouble. We just happened to have a free hour in late afternoon. Our destination was The Rolling Radish and Argyle Brewing - ironically located in Greenwich, not Argyle. But with a little extra time we decided to wander a bit. That's how we ended up at the Ransom Stiles House, stalked by ghosts, witches and vampires. The Stiles house is a stately brick Federal style on Main Street (Rt. 40). It was once owned by a prominent businessman and abolitionist. It may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. Now it's being renovated as a community center by a citizens group. One of their fundraisers is a Haunted House that runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, October 26, 27 and 28 from 7 to 10 pm. It's a classic example of 'fun' scary.
While in Argyle there was another place I wanted to check out. There's not much to see. In fact, it's all but forgotten. But when you know what happened there it may be one of the most terrifying places in all of Washington County.
From Rt. 40 in South Argyle you turn onto Co. 49 towards Cossayuna. In about a mile look for Allen Road on the left. There's a historical marker there that you'll want to read. Up Allen Road a short distance is another marker at the foot of a lane on the right. A short walk up the lane and you'll see a pile of stones and a short flag pole. Today it's a peaceful spot with a scenic view and several comfortable homes nearby. That's not how it was on July 25, 1777.
This knoll was the homesite of John Allen and his family. He had cleared about sixteen acres in the two years he had been here. There was a small one room cabin maybe twenty feet to a side with a barn nearby. The fields were planted to wheat. The closest neighbors were two to three miles away.
The family had been harvesting wheat. The attack came when they stopped for dinner. Nine people were in the cabin when a group of Indians loyal to the British and led by Le Loup came whooping out of the forest. Everyone in the cabin was tomahawked and scalped, including women, children and even a baby. After the massacre the roving band went on to Fort Edward where Jane McCrea was soon murdered.
A boy named Abram had been sent to check on the Allens. He was so shaken by what he saw that he could hardly tell others thru his sobs. It took several days for the terrorized settlers to get a group together to bury the bodies. The cairn of stones on the knoll marks their gravesite.
Some have suggested there would be no United States of America if this horrific event had not occurred. Many of the early settlers were loath to take sides or become involved in the revolution. But the fate of the Allens jolted them, fueling a hatred of the British and their Indian allies. As news of the Allen and McCrea atrocities spread, the ranks of the Continental Army swelled, and later that summer Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga. It was the beginning of the end of Colonial rule.
Despite its historical significance, the Allen site has faded into obscurity. I learned about it from a fine article by Erma Bain Gilchrist in the book I Remember...Argyle. There was a commemoration ceremony on the site in July, 1927. That was when the cairn of stones was originally created. Another event in 1964 dedicated a replica of the Allen cabin built by local craftsmen. Incredibly, the cabin has subsequently been torn down. Today, only the historical markers and a small pile of stones are left.
The Allen cabin replica - photo by Erma Bain Gilchrist
It's fine to have a few 'fun' scares this time of year. Zombies and ghouls and such. But it's also a good time to remember that real horrors exist, past and present. There are evils that should never be forgotten.
Tell me more...
Several local history books have further details. Googling 'Allen massacre' will also turn up info.
Update: Be sure to read Mike Huggins' comment. Here's a link to a newspaper story and a couple of photos that were in the Post Star.
Post Star photos
Library shelves groan under the weight of books about ghosts. My favorites are by the late David Pitkin. New York State Ghosts Vol. 1 has several stories about Washington County haunted houses and spooky events.
The theme of 'fun' scary v. 'real' scary even shows up in songs. Here are links to a couple that illustrate the divide:
You date yourself if you remember The Monster Mash being played to death on AM radio this time of year. But with the passage of many, many Halloweens it's kind of fun to hear again.
Zombies are everywhere now days. They've become cultural kitsch. But in 1994 Dolores O'Riordan brought forth a Zombie with heart-wrenching power. Responding to a particularly tragic event in the Northern Ireland 'Troubles', her song explodes with a mix of anger and sadness. The artful Youtube video only adds to the songs impact. We lost Dolores this year, too early and unexpected. More real-life scary sadness.
We finally made it to Greenwich after our Argyle adventures (but not before stopping at Bunker Hill Creamery for some yummy chocolate milk). Chili and onion rings from the Rolling Radish food cart and Caddisfly Ale from Argyle Brewing! Great food and beer comes with a visual treat as well. Check out the amazing wall mural that's currently a work in progress. A wildflower garden for the biergarden. I forgot to write down the artists name but she deserves many beers for her beautiful creation. I just hope she waits to drink them until after she comes down from the scaffolding!