Longtime Gardiner town historian Carleton Mabee, who died on December 18, 2014, six days shy of his 100th birthday, was a tough act to follow. Professor emeritus in the history department at SUNY New Paltz, he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for his biography of Samuel F. B. Morse and wrote a well-regarded book on Sojourner Truth. “Each year it was a pleasure asking him to be town historian,” town supervisor Carl Zatz reminisced at last week’s Gardiner Town Board meeting.
But apparently eight months was long enough to leave the post empty. The Town Board swiftly, enthusiastically and unanimously voted to accept Zatz’s nomination of A. J. Schenkman as Gardiner’s next town historian. “He has a love for local history,” observed councilman David Dukler.
Schenkman, who teaches history at the John G. Boardman Middle School in the Wallkill School District, “recently moved from Kerhonkson to Gardiner,” according to Zatz. The author of Wicked Ulster: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs and More (History Press, 2012) and co-author with Elizabeth Werlau of Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County (History Press, 2013), Schenkman is currently the “history blogger” for the Times Herald-Record and a regular contributor to the online magazine New York History, and has written history columns for the Shawangunk Journal and Bluestone Press.
A consultant to Historic Huguenot Street and a former board member of the Friends of the Senate House, Schenkman launched his career by working as a guide and interpreter, often in period costume, at historic sites including Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh and the New Windsor Cantonment, in addition to Historic Huguenot Street.