Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mabee Farm and Slave Cabin

Mabee Farm and Slave Cabin

As you can see to the left, The Ian Mabee House is the oldest standing house in the Mohawk Valley. 1680-1926 marks the time that the house and farm were inhabited and owned by private families. After this date, the Mabee farm was donated to the Schenectady Historical Society, to provide education and knowledge for the Capital District through a Public History medium.

The tour guide, Pat, gave me the history of the farm and its significance to the Mohawk Valley. The Schenectady Historical Society preserves the buildings, and the landlords and Pat continue to keep up the site through research, tours, and programs that  educate kids and adults about the early Dutch in Schenectady and Rotterdam, NY. Over the years, the historical society has gotten together with many different organizations and individuals to use this public history site. Clubs such as the 4H Club, and the Second Albany Militia take part in using and keeping the site. The story of the site has been told using over 587 documents that are now kept at the historical society
For some history:

In 1670, James Van An Twerpin, a fur trader, settled at the farm. The location was perfect, being directly on the Mohawk River: Indians bringing fur could directly interact with Mr. An Twerpin, and therefore he was able to collect fur to trade in Albany. At the time, only ten people were legally allowed to trade fur in Albany, making it a luxury for those ten.

In 1705 Mr. An Twerpin sold the farm to the Mabee Family, who owned it for 287 years. Families from many generations lived inside the main farm house. . The house still has many artifacts that show the lives of the Dutch at Mabie farm. The wooden floors remain the same, with their wide panels; and the unique dutch fire place ,with no wall surrounding it, is known to have been the kind the Dutch used. There are books such as the Accounts of the Life of Peter Cohns, which explains and proves that there were Dutch hidden beds in the house at one point. The house presents as a composition of what life would have been like back in the 1700s. The cement walls and small windows show how the warmth was kept in during the winter and the heat was kept out in the summer. The light was minimal, and the people did not stand very tall, due to the height of the windows.  Through all of these visual aspects, I was able to get a grasp on the type of people that lived there, along with the kind of lifestyle they lived.

Main House

To the left: Other room in the Main House

Historians are unsure where the main door must have been for the house, but the Inn, which was attached, has the door that they claim the door to be the front. This is a picture of the original door, which is now a window.

The door that was supposedly the main door into the Inn.
To the left: The "Inn"

Slave Quarters

My tour guide claimed that the Slave Quarters was in fact a "multi-purpose" building. In 1767 there was a document that was written, saying that the 1st slave was bought in 1727. His name was Jacob. When the head of the Mabee family died, he left a slave for each of the 5 children. The tour guide was unsure if these slaves were related to Jacob, but three slave boys were eventually left with the mother of the household.

There was slavery on the farm for 100 years;  in  fact there was slavery in most homes in the area,. I was unable to take photos of the interior  of the slave cabin, but it was self explanatory. There were replicas of sheets that lay on the ground serving  as beds for slaves, and there was another Dutch fireplace near which, according to  Pat, the tour guide, the slaves lived, since there was warmth. Being inside  the cabin was a way to absorb the history, not only by listening, but also by seeing and feeling.  In a sense, this put you in  the time period, and thus  provided a better learning experience than just a classroom.

Exhibits on the farm...

In the Dutch barn, there were two exhibits.

One explained the history of the Mabee Farm, with categories including
“Maps of Schenectady,” “History of the Arrival of the Dutch Family,” “History Framing of the 18th and 19th century in general", and “The Farm 1750's and 1770's Life on the Farm and the Descent of the Family ”

Each category marked an exhibit with artifacts including grocery items from the time, working tools, and other items that provided assistance for a more visual experience of the history of the Mabee Family and the Mabee farm. I will provide photos of the barns and the view of the Mohawk River.

View of the Mohawk River

Dutch Barn

English Barn

View of the Road and Gardens

Original Siding of the Main House

The Mabee Farm is a good example of a Public History site that both represents an old historic house and explains the history of the site. It accomplishes both these things through original artifacts and original buildings that attract and engage  a large audience. It was an interesting day when I visited: the sun was shining, and then only five minutes later the sky turned deep and gray, and showers came falling down, then minutes later it turned sunny again.  It was a great experience, and I am looking forward to visiting more sites.

That's it for now.. You can see the Mabee Farm's website from my last post on the farm prior to my visit.

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