Who is Isabella Baumfree? Who is Sojourner Truth? She is the same person, born a slave in 1797 in Ulster County, in the basement of a house along Route 213 in what’s now Rifton. Her origin story forces us to understand that slavery existed throughout the Hudson Valley, and it was not just a Southern thing.
Truth describes her name change in her own words: “The Lord gave me ‘Sojourner,’ because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins an’ bein’ a sign unto them. Afterwards, I told the Lord I wanted another name ’cause everybody else had two names, and the Lord gave me ‘Truth,’ because I was to declare the truth to people.”
Her declarations of truth were huge: She filed a lawsuit when her son was illegally sold into slavery. The case – heard at the Ulster County Courthouse in Kingston – was one of the first in which a black woman successfully challenged a white man in a United States court.
As you may know, the emancipation laws in New York were staggered; not all slaves were freed at once. When Sojourner Truth and her last of five owners, John Dumont, came to an agreement that she would be permitted to leave a year earlier than her “official” freedom time of 1827, Dumont backed out of the deal, despite the extra work Truth did to honor her part of the early dismissal. She describes her exit from her West Park home, infant in her arms, forced to leave her other children behind: “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”
You may have seen her name at the SUNY-New Paltz library or the New Paltz park on Plains Road along the Wallkill River. But have you seen her statue in Port Ewen? Erected five years ago this week, this powerful piece presents Sojourner Truth as a working child slave, a rare occurrence in art and history. She is such an important figure in history, and this corner is so easy to access, I point it out to anyone I can when we drive along Route 9W.
New Paltz sculptor Trina Greene wanted to depict an 11-year-old Truth returning from a trip she often made to the Rondout to pick up supplies for slavemaster Martinus Schryver, a Revolutionary War veteran who owned a tavern (which still stands) at the corner of Route 9W and River Road in Port Ewen. Greene’s statue of Sojourner Truth in Port Ewen is filled with surprises. Look carefully at the ground on which Truth walks.
You can read more of Truth’s story at the Port Ewen site, and just take in the inspiration and awareness that her efforts, formidable speeches and bravery helped change laws and lives. Those of you who enjoy geocaching will appreciate finding the path and following Truth’s walk to freedom from Floyd Ackert Road in West Park to Van Wagner Road in Rifton. I invite you to take your family, friends – really anyone to see this unique piece and to learn her history.
Seeking your own life purpose? Need some motivation in your life? Channel Sojourner Truth: “We have all been thrown down so low that nobody thought we’d ever get up again, but we have been long enough trodden now; we will come up again, and now I am here.” The Sojourner Truth statue is located at the corner of Route 9W and Salem Street in Port Ewen. For more information about this incredible woman and the tribute in her honor, visit https://bit.ly/2NxFYtH. For a map of the Sojourner Truth Freedom Trail, visit https://bit.ly/2RAPlfm.
It is said that “Olana” loosely translates to “Our Place on High” – and considering the eponymous New York State historic site, I can see why. Getting a glimpse of this castlelike structure crossing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge invokes feelings of Tina Fey’s “I want to go to there!” Driving up the carriage road to the fanciful home is beautiful, and not just because famed artist Frederic Church claimed a great plot of land for his residence. This Hudson River School painter sculpted the landscape to his own specifications. I didn’t even know people could do that: making actual hills curve just so, raising and lowering land to best reveal scenic vistas wherever you look.
Frederic Church loved kids, and my own crew enjoys visiting Olana because the family tours make the history and art details come alive for young people (next one happens October 27). My kids also enjoy rolling down the hills. Olana hosts hands-on activities for all ages, including unique summer camps, lectures, exhibits, house tours and much more.
The price of admission varies among tours, from free to $25, and reservations are often required. Whenever you have plans to host guests, I strongly suggest sharing this very special spot with them. (Be warned: They will probably want to come back!) The Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson, and a simple bridge-crossing away from the house of Church’s painting instructor and neighbor, Thomas Cole. For more information or reservations, call (518) 828-0135 or visit www.olana.org.
Take the kids
Family events hand-picked by Erica Chase-Salerno, email@example.com
Catskill Mountain Railroad presents Rails of Terror
Rails of Terror is a terrifying train ride designed to test the toughest teens and adults who dare to try it. Recommended for teens and adults. Tickets cost $38 for adults, $36 for seniors, military and veterans and $30 for children ages 2 to 12.
Weekends through Oct. 27
6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.
Catskill Mountain Railroad
Westbrook Lane Station
149 Aaron Court, Kingston
Victorian Nutting Party at Clermont
The Victorian Nutting Party at Clermont is a unique event celebrating the harvest of the season, where families take a nut tree identification hike, process different kinds of nuts and eat nutty snacks, all on the elegant estate grounds. This event is for ages 8 to 108. Admission costs $10; children 12 and under get in free. Reservations are required.
Saturday, October 13
Clermont State Historic Site
87 Clermont Ave.
Pumpkin Walk in Hudson
The Pumpkin Walk is a family-friendly way to enjoy autumn. Family entertainment is followed by a woodland walk illuminated by jack o’ lanterns.
Saturday. Oct. 13
4 -6 p.m. entertainment, 6-8 p.m. walk
$5 advance/$6 at door
Columbia-Greene Community College
4400 Route 23
(518) 828-4619, ext. 302
Skull & Bones Nature Program at Staatsburgh
The Skull and Bones Nature Program gives 6-to-9-year-olds a spooktacular hands-on experience examining differences and similarities of predator and prey animals. Preregistration is required, and the cost to participate is $2 per child.
Saturday, Oct. 13
Staatsburgh State Historic Site
Old Post Road
Senate House hosts Autumn Festival
The 18th Century Autumn Festival means old-fashioned fun for all ages, with activities including pressing apples into cider, blacksmithing, meat-smoking, hearthside cooking, dipping candles, making cornhusk dolls and playing 18th-century games, as well as a militia demonstrating 1700s camp life. Access to outdoor activities is free, and an indoor tour costs just $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for kids 12 and under. (Stop by the nearby Persen House, too.)
Saturday, Oct. 13
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Senate House State Historic Site
286 Fair Street
Persen House hosts Revolutionary War reenactors
First Ulster Militia reenactors bring 18th-century history to life this weekend at the Matthewis Persen House. See examples of daily life, crafts and skills from yesteryear, along with firearms demonstrations in Kingston’s historic Stockade area. Stop by the nearby Senate House, too!
Saturday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Matthewis Persen House
74 John Street, Kingston
Woodsmen’s Festival at Hanford Mills
The Woodsmen’s Festival is a day of 1800s-to-1900s technology, featuring lumberjack skills, woodworking demonstrations, horsedrawn wagon rides, music, children’s craft and science activities and all manners of saws, axes and more. Admission costs $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and is free for kids 12 and under.
Saturday, Oct. 13
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Hanford Mills Museum
51 County Highway 12
Pumpkin Bombing at Rhinebeck Aerodrome
The Pumpkin Bombing/Fall Festival and Air Show is the glorious opportunity to see these glorious gourds dropped during the show by antique aircraft, as well as arts-and-crafts activities for the kids. Choose your dates and shows and buy your tickets online, or on-site if you prefer to plan on the “fly.” Come early for face-painting and to check out the museum before showtime. I suggest purchasing the combo museum/air show ticket: $20 for military and seniors, $25 adults, $12 youth ages 6 to 17, free for ages 5 and under.
Weekends through Oct. 21
Shows 2-4 p.m.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
9 Norton Road, Rhinebeck
Tiny Taste of Terror at Headless Horseman
Children’s Day: A Tiny Taste of Terror is the perfect balance of fright and fun for young Halloweeners, featuring a daylight hayride with a friendly storyteller sharing a scary story, children’s corn maze, a stage show and more. Tickets cost $11.95 online or $16.90 on-site, free for children under 1 year.
Saturdays, Oct. 13 & 27
11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses
778 Broadway (Route 9W)
Delaware & Ulster Railroad offers free rides for kids
Free scenic train rides for kids on Sundays in October create great family memories while maintaining your budget. Children must be accompanied by an adult with two nonperishable food items for the community pantry. See the website for ticket, schedule and destination information.
Sundays, Oct. 14, 21, 28
Delaware & Ulster Railroad
43510 Route 28
Beacon Sloop Club’s Pumpkin Festival
The annual Pumpkin Festival is a perennial favorite for families, with homemade pumpkin pie, live music, children’s activities, free sails on the sloop Woody Guthrie (sign up as soon as you arrive!), a pumpkin bread contest – and pumpkins, of course!
Sunday, Oct. 14
Beacon Sloop Club
Pete & Toshi Seeger Park
1 Flynn Drive
Young Adult Variety Group meets in Hudson
The Young Adult Variety Group is a chance for young people ages 18 to 26 in recovery from mental health struggles and/or addiction to get together weekly in a safe, judgment-free zone.
Mondays, 4 p.m.
Free, Apogee Center
160 Fairview Ave., Ste. 232
Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory hosts Teen Business Labs
Teen Business Labs give your young entrepreneurs ages 14 to 18 a head start in creating their own business through a series of free workshops, each focused on a different topic, such as Community Leadership on Thursday, October 18.
Alternating Thursdays through Dec. 6
Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory
8 North Cherry St.
Wimpy Kid Live in Pine Plains
Wimpy Kid Live: The Meltdown Show with Jeff Kinney is coming to town in celebration of the latest release of the 13th book in the Wimpy Kid series, The Meltdown. Fan tickets cost $16.99 and include a copy of the book, a pre-personalized bookplate signed by the author and a photo with the author. Companion tickets are free for parents, guardians and children under 6 when accompanied by a corresponding fan ticketholder, and are required for show entry.
Thursday, Nov. 1
Stissing Mountain High School
2829 Church Street
A Charlie Brown Christmas Live at Civic Center
A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage is a supersized version of the television show, with more detail, more fun, more music and finding true Christmas spirit. Stay at the end to join the characters in singing Christmas tunes.
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6 p.m.
Mid-Hudson Civic Center
14 Civic Center Plaza