With some wintery weather, and a Village email about skating on Collins Pond, let’s look back at some of the winter entertainments from times past.
All excerpts are from “History Walks with Scotians”, by Frances Anderson Sloan, published in the Scotia-Glenville Journal on the dates noted.
Feb. 7, 1963
During this frost and snowbound period, we can travel a few miles by imagining ourselves journeying out from Schenectady or Scotia along the Mohawk Toll road, the Sacandaga trail or the Ballston or Saratoga path….sometime between the late seventeen hundreds and eighteen-fifty.
In winter we should be swaddled in heavy clothing snuggled down beneath the warm buffalo or beaver or other animal furs traded from the Indians, and perhaps handed down from an exchange made in grandmother’s day. In an 1874 letter to his cousin, Catharina Van Rensselaer Bonney, John Sanders wrote about the pelt his grandmother cherished and used in the cutter in winter. It had come to her from an Indian trade made by John Glen. Usually the early Indian trade was in defiance of the authorities of the West India Company. The sleigh or cutter would, of course, be open. Perhaps a hot brick or a foot warmer with live coals inside would take the chill off our feet. Crossing the ice on the Mohawk river was in many ways more pleasant than waiting for the ferry, or, after 1808, bumping over the toll bridge. Visitors to Scotia from Albany would whisk over the pine plains and the river, approaching Scotia at a point where a path had been outlined up the bank, frequently by evergreen trees or branches stuck in the snow. Not to follow the outlined approach might mean a dunking in the river through the thin ice along the edge, and the prudent always waited for the safe approach to be marked but the impatient drivers took their chances, as they do today.
[There is a wood & tin foot warmer from 1816 in the Glen-Sanders collection (of items from the mansion) at Colonial Williamsburg.]
Feb. 21, 1963
Maunsell Van Rensselaer wrote in 1888, “Scotia was the home of my great uncle Judge John Sanders who maintained the reputation for unbounded hospitality. The house [now the Glen-Sanders Mansion] was always full, and there was plenty of good cheer. In the winter they had sleighing and coasting and homemade sausages and head cheeses and buckwheat cakes, with oiley-cocks and crullas [Dutch cakes most like our donuts] and the great open fireplace filled with logs and no fear of frost.”
March 7, 1963
Snow rollers packed the snow down on the roads instead of ploughs scraping it up, so that travel in winter by cutter or sleigh was smoother and faster than summer travel through mud and ruts. Our hardy ancestors, bundled up well, as we have said, in furs and with a foot warmer of some kind, would strike out for a party at an inn in Sloansville or Schoharie. There they would sup on hot oyster stew or roast meat with plenty of hot toddy, dancethe square or round dances of the period by candlelight and the warmth of the huge fires in the fireplaces or perhaps Dr. Nott’s new contraption, a stove. Then by the light of the cold full moon the young people would glide home before dawn. The full moon on the glistening snow provided all the illumination necessary for the driver and, more importantly, the horses.
Dec. 3, 1964
The river played a role in many festivities, historic and social. The Sanders and the Van Rensselaer families would come to see their Scotia relatives when winter had frozen the ground and river so that they could drive their spirited horses across the pine plains from Albany and over the ice of the river, choosing a bright moonlight night for their return….Frozen, it was the means of crossing to the Dutch Church of Schenectady without paying toll on the covered bridge.
Mar. 18, 1965
In winter the river was always a source of pleasure until the last half century. Horse races were held on the smooth ice and ice skating, with huge bonfires along the shore and, in the early nineteen hundreds, small warming huts in which to change shoes.
June 16, 1960
Scotians of the 1870s enjoyed winter tobogganing on a slide running north from the Dyke [Schonowee Ave. now] on a line dividing the Collins Farm from the Sanders.
This picture is from the 1870s.