Off to a family reunion for the weekend. Expect to be back online Tuesday. WITH the state budget issue settled? We hope.
The map above is of the HOLLAND PURCHASE, a section of Western New York bought as speculative real estate by a consortium of Dutch bankers at the beginning of the 19th century, and sold off to American land speculators to develop and settle what was then part of America's western frontier.
I hail from Fredonia, a village the Town of Pomfret in Chautauqua County, the left-most county on the map.
Settled in 1809, the village probably saw its heyday in the late 19th- and early 20th centuries.
In 1825, it was the first community in the United States to light its streets with gas lamps, and did so to honor the visit to the community by Gen. Lafayette, the aged Frenchman who was a hero of the American Revolution.
The bustling little community also saw the founding of the Women's Christian Temperance Union [my paternal grandmother was a teetotaler, and 'took the pledge'], and hosted the hatchet-toting, saloon-battling Carrie Nation many times.
As well, it is the site of the first Grange in the US. The Grange was an organization of farmers who came together to lobby for the interests of small family-owned farms and against the domination of the banks and railroads they perceived as holding their fortunes hostage. To this day, the politics of the area is deeply populist.
All of the religious enthusiasms and controversies of the 19th century swept over the entire region of the map, so intensely that this part of New York state is forever known as 'the burned-over district.'
Among other fruits of the religious enthusiasm of the era are the Free Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene and the Chautauqua movement, which led to the founding of America's most famous summer religious gathering on the eponymously named lake further south in the county. Spiritualism was another fruit of the era. Followers from around the world still flock to their summer camp in the tiny village of Lily Dale on Lake Cassadaga a few miles away.
The county also gave the world Concord grapes and Welch's grape juice. Welch was a Methodist minister who was obsessed with developing a stable non-fermenting grape juice that teetotaling churches could use to replace wine in the Holy Communion. And thus a world-class product was born.
I saw, tied, picked and ate enough Concord [and Fredonia, a similar though less travel-hardy variety] grapes to have had my fill for a lifetime. And the only way I think now grape juice should be drunk is as wine. Which is now one of the products of the area. Plus ça change, plus c'est la mȇme chose!
-- Dan Damon
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