Monday, April 30, 2012

Count Down To Opening Day!!!

Tomorrow is May 1st, which means Opening Day is only 12 days away!!

Join us over the next 11 days as we count down what is new in our exciting 2012 season.

Friday, April 27, 2012

You love visiting us…. Consider spending the season with us!

The Genesee Country Village & Museum is looking for seasonal employees. We have opportunities in our Food Service and Retail Store Departments
Have the unique opportunity to work behind the scenes at New York’s premier living history site for the season.

Those interested are invited to apply by visiting

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From A Symposium Attendee

We received this lovely letter from a Food Symposium attendee. Thank you, Linda, for the kind words. We look forward to seeing you again.

Dear Genesee Country Village and Museum,
Last week I attended a joint symposium held by you and Debra Petersons Pantry. It was my first visit to Genesee and I know it won't be my last. The seminar speakers were very professional while making their individual subjects easily understood. I learned a great deal about beer, bread and cheese from a 19th century perspective, as well as some local lore.

The workshops were exceptional! Our instructors Pat and Deanna were well versed on their subjects, displayed a relaxed and friendly manner of teaching, and above all were able to transport us back in time.

The bonus was to have this fabulous seminar held in this fabulous historical museum site. My only regret was that there wasn't more time to explore the historic village, but that will bring me back again for another visit.

I have attended many seminars of this type due to my work in historical foodways and I must say that this was one of the best ever. And the gift shop is spectacular.

Everyone affiliated with the museum treated us in the most friendly way, always eager and able to help with any concern.

I had a most wonderful time and I thank all involved with making it a very memorable experience, even the snow was magical.

Linda Zeigler

Monday, April 16, 2012

Who was Walter Grieve?

Recently we were asked by a reader "Who was Walter Grieve?" Here Chuck LeCount, Senior Director of Programs and Interpretation, provides us with an answer.

Aside from the description provided by the traveling Scotsman Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, in the fall of 1803, little is known about the Grieve distillery-brewery. That we even have his description, however, is remarkable as detailed, eye-witness accounts of early American industries are rare. According to Orasmus Turner’s History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase (1851) “Grieve and Moffat established the first brewery in all this region.” Unfortunately, Turner did not provide a date for this pioneering establishment, nor did he say much about its founders. Turner did say that Grieve was “in the employ of Mr. [Charles] Williamson, in the earliest years, as it is presumed Mr. Moffat was….” [i]

A report prepared by the archivist of the Geneva Historical Society and Museum provides a slightly different take on the origins of the brewery. According to this report (unfortunately without citations) the brewery was established around 1797 by the immigrant Scotsman John Moffat. It was also considered “respectable,” and supposedly Charles Williamson asserted that it promised “to destroy in the neighborhood the baneful use of spirituous liquors.”[ii]

So who were Walter Grieve and John Moffat?

Walter Grieve was the son of John and Mary Johnston Grieve, born May 9, 1773 in Dumfriesshire, [the County of Dumfries] Scotland.[iii] Grieve immigrated to the United States in 1794 and settled in the town of Vernon (now Benton, in Yates County). Around 1796 he moved to Geneva and together with fellow Scotsman John Moffat, purchased land there to the value of £592 sterling. At some point thereafter Grieve and/or Moffat established their brewery.
By 1798, however, Grieve was back in Scotland where he married Janet [Jennet] Welsh (1777-1825) on May 10. The Grieves returned to New York following their marriage.[iv]

In 1800 the Federal Census identified within Grieve’s household his wife, a boy and girl under the ages of ten. The boy was likely John, born 1799 and the girl, a thus far unidentified daughter. In 1803, Walter Grieve successfully applied for United States citizenship.
Despite being a recent immigrant, Grieve apparently was respected and a relatively successful man. For example, he served as almost two years as Geneva’s postmaster and by 1807 was identified as a captain with a local volunteer artillery company. During the War of 1812 he served as a colonel in the New York State Militia under the command of Brigadier General George McClure serving on the Niagara frontier during the fall and winter of 1813 where he participated in the controversial burning of the Canadian village of Newark [present day Niagara-on-the-Lake].[v]

After the war, Grieve’s star continued to shine. He was appointed a trustee of Geneva College in 1825 and promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the New York State Militia. In September 1825, however, his wife Janet died suddenly. Walter followed her shortly, living only a little more than a year longer, passing away in December, 1826. The December 27, 1826, edition of the Geneva Gazette & General Advertiser carried this obituary:
Died in Geneva on Thursday morning last [21st], in the 53rd year of his age,
Walter Grieve, Esq., Brigadier General of the 4th Brigade, New York
State Artillery. General Grieve was a native of Dumfriesshire, Scotland: He
emigrated to the United States and settled in this village about 32 years ago,
having been one of its first settlers. At which period there were but three
houses in the place. On Saturday his remains were interred with military
honors, being attended to the grave by detachments of artillery and light
infantry, and officers of artillery and other corps in uniform, and by a large
concourse of citizens.[vi]

Interestingly, his estate inventory included “one old copper still” valued $5.00. [vii]

Less is known about John Moffat. Lord Selkirk mentioned Moffat in his description of the brewery but only in relationship to a newly patented still. He wrote “A species of Still has been invented by a man at Geneva—(Moffat a Scotsman)….” Indeed, aside from Turner’s reference that he “removed to Buffalo,” little else can be found regarding him. Interestingly, the Geneva Historical Society report asserted that Moffat established the brewery, not Grieve or even the two in partnership. But Moffat doesn’t show up in any extant census records for Ontario County and appears to have sold his land holdings in Geneva in the 1790s. So we may never really know much more about him.[viii]

As for the brewery itself, although thus far unverified, the brewery was founded around 1797 and seems to have been located on the lakefront just outside of Geneva. The Ontario County Historical report claimed it was located on Mile Point about a mile from the center of the village, and Lord Selkirk referred to Grieve having to “pump up water” to the distillery. At least one deed shows that Moffat and Grieve’s land bordered Seneca Lake.

The brewery apparently did not remain in operation for long. For example, no breweries were identified in Ontario County in the Tench Coxe’s 1810 census and Colonel Grieve’s 1813 tax assessment showed him owning only a “house, farm, & still”. This property assessment continued unchanged through 1822. After that he even seems to have ceased operating a distillery altogether, for in both 1823 and 1824 he was only assessed for a house, barns, farm and 300 acres. So while Grieve’s brewery cannot claim a long, successful history, it does appear though as it was one of earliest, if not the first, brewery in western New York.[ix]

Friday, April 13, 2012

Foodways Symposium Reflections

We would like to thank everyone who attended Deborah Peterson's Pantry and GCV&M's Historic Foodways Symposium "A Ploughman's Lunch - Bread, Cheese, Pickles and Beer" the weekend of March 31st. The feedback we have recieved has been wonderful.

"The workshops were great, very informative and fun to boot.  While I like research, nothing beats hands on in some things.  I just wish there was some way to clone myself so I could have taken the Brewing workshop too." Donna L Cole
"I ditto all you've said, and want to add how much I enjoyed being at Genessee Country Village& Museum. This was truly a cut above as a place for hands-on workshops. The meeting and eating and shopping area was perfect! I will definitely make a point of visiting there again. And Deb, I do hope you have future symposia there!" Katy Hayes

 "The symposium was excellent. I want to learn as much as I can about 18th & 19th century foodways." anonymous

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Historic Foodways Symposium Photo Highlights

  Heritage Chocolate Demonstration

Beer Brewing Workshop

Cheese Making Workshop

Bread Baking Workshop

Excellent Shopping

Thursday, April 5, 2012

“That Infernal Balloon!” Part Two

Confederate forces did expend a significant amount of ammunition in trying to bring down the Union army’s balloons with cannon fire. However, other more clandestine methods were used to negate the advantage of aerial observations.

General P.G.T. Beauregard, in command of rebel troops in the area of Washington, D.C. from summer of 1861 to late winter of 1862 referred to the flying menaces as “damned infernal balloons,” and issued specific orders to counter their efforts. He ordered his men on several occasions to build extra fires at night—the balloonists would count camp fires in order to estimate Confederate troop numbers and this would exaggerate such determinations. At other times, rebel troops were ordered to build fewer fires or conceal their bivouacs in wooded areas, which would correspondingly fool the aerial observers into thinking there were fewer troops in the area. The commanding southern general also had his artillerymen camouflage their batteries from the air to conceal them from the aeronauts. Based on comparisons between Lowe’s observations and Confederate records, it appears that many of these deceptions were effective.

Other Confederate commanders had their men construct batteries of “Quaker guns.” These phony cannons were made from “various calibers of stovepipes,” and while some were identified correctly by Union observers, others seemed to have accomplished their task of misinformation. Specifically, balloon observers noted heavy guns in the rebel fortifications on Mason’s and Munson’s Hills outside of Washington. These were later reported to be Quaker guns.

The Confederates also employed their own balloons as a response to the northern aerostats. Beauregard ordered a balloon from a private supplier and though it did make one ascension, which was observed by Professor Lowe, it did not prove able to endure the hazards of army use. During the Peninsula campaign (Spring-Summer 1862), E.P. Alexander was given command of the Confederate balloon Gazelle. This balloon was also called the “silk dress balloon” because its envelope was constructed of a conglomeration of different bolts of silk fabric originally intended for making dresses. The Gazelle was used successfully during several engagements of the campaign, often drifting just across the battlefield from Professor Lowe and one of his balloons. In early July of 1862 the balloon was being towed on a barge that ran aground. Alexander and his crew were forced to evacuate. The Gazelle was captured by US ironclads Maratanza and the famed Monitor and cut into pieces which were given as souvenirs to various congressmen and even to Lowe himself.

During the Peninsula campaign, at least two Confederate spies were caught in attempts to sabotage Lowe’s balloons. After the war, a former rebel soldier wrote that he was another such spy. He claimed that after attempts to sneak snipers and small field artillery pieces close to Union lines to open fire on the balloons in the early morning had failed, his commanders had opted to send saboteurs behind Union lines. He, disguised as a civilian merchant, had gotten within inches of one of Lowe’s balloons and was in the process of getting out his pipe and a match (knowing very well that it would take but a small flame to ignite the hydrogen filling the envelope) before being accosted by a burly northern sergeant. He decided that discretion was the better part of valor and made his way eventually back to confederate lines, having failed in his task. No effort at sabotage ever saw success during the life of the aeronautics corps.

In reference to the effect the Union balloons had on Confederate actions and psyche, E.P. Alexander perhaps said it best, “We could never build another balloon, but my experience with this gave me a high idea of the possible efficiency of balloons in active campaigns. Especially did we find, too, that the balloons of the enemy forced upon us constant troublesome precautions in efforts to conceal our marches.”