Sep 5, 2016

Croghan, NY, has Three Museums

The little village of Croghan, population 700, has three, yes, three museums.  Truly amazing.  The Maple Museum, located in what was a former school, is the place to learn about a product that is unique to North America. It is open year round but not necessarily every day of the week.  It pays to check the web site of any museum or historical site before visiting.

While Vermont bests NYS in production of Maple Syrup, NYS has the largest resource of tappable maple trees within the United States with more than 2000 maple sugar makers. The museum is the place to learn about maple syrup production then and now. Not all maple trees are suitable. The sugar maple is preferred as its sap has a high content of sugar and while other trees can be tapped their sugar content is about half that of the sugar maple. For successful sugaring there must be cold freezing nights and warm days in the spring for the sap to flow. That describes Northern NY State.

The Maple Museum preserves the history and evolution of the maple syrup industry which started with the Native Americans.  When I was a youngster I remember seeing maple trees in the spring with buckets collecting the syrup now plastic tubing is used.  There are three floors of displays
including a replica of a sugar house and the American Maple Hall of Fame. I found the sugar devil interesting. It is jammed into a large maple sugar block and twisted to break it into small granules. Since Maple Syrup production and logging are related the third floor has displays of logging tools and a replica of a lumber camp kitchen and office. I would love to return in the spring for Lewis County’s maple weekend so I could visit a working sugar shanty.

John and I also visited the Mennonite Heritage Farm just outside
the village of Croghan. It was the “Moser Homestead” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built in 1845 and was home to several generations.  At one time it was used for worship services. Mennonites originated in the 1500s in Alsace-Lorraine. Mennonites are Christians who follow a simple lifestyle but do not forgo
modern conveniences like the Amish. The name comes from one of 
the early leaders, Menno Simons. Brothers Joseph and John Moser emigrated in the 1830s as indentured servants and after earning their freedom they brought over other members of their family.  The flower garden near the farm house honors the various families by inscribing their names on
rocks around the garden. The Heritage Farm maintains artifacts of the local Mennonite community and is a place to learn about their heritage.  Besides interesting early household items a state-of-the-art archive room is something historians dream of. The best time to visit is during their annual Zwanzigstein Festival. The name means “Twenty Stones” and refers to the twenty families that settled in the area. During the festival visitors can learn about rural life of years past through stories, exhibits, tours, demonstrations, and fund-raising venues such as foods and crafts.

The third museum, the Railroad Museum, wasn’t open. The station is beautifully restored and there is an “iron horse.” Nearby we noticed “Good Ol’ Wishy’s,” an old fashion soda fountain where we enjoyed a root beer float.   Who would have thought Croghan would have so much to offer!