On Friday, October 12, 2018 the students of the College Experience had the opportunity to explore the Fort Crailo Historic Site in Rensselaer, NY. The was just one of many trips planned this semester by adjunct professor, Michelle Brown who teaches the Local History class.
Our group was led by our experienced tour guide, Rachel who took us on an excursion to a time from hundreds of years ago. Fort Crailo was established in 1707, long before our country even existed. Before Captain Johannes van Rensselaer inherited the house in 1746, it served as a fortress protecting its occupants from invaders back in 1663 during the Esopus Wars. Rachel showed us the gun ports where protectors of the house shot out at invading forces.
On the tour, students were led into a very small room that once served as a house for a large family. There the students learned that the children had slept on mats and parents had slept in a tiny cot sitting up because according to a Dutch superstition people could die from sleeping while lying down. It was also a time when heat was generated by firewood and not through National Grid!
Rachel pointed out a treasure chest that we assumed once held gold, spices, or other exotic resources needed for traveling by ship. In reality, we learned that the heavily locked chest (complete with another hidden lock) housed maps, which were considered more valuable than anything else because they contained vital information related to trading routes that had to be kept secret from competitors.
It is also relevant to mention that the site contains an old well that is claimed to be the location where British Army surgeon Richard Shuckburgh composed the immortal tune, “Yankee Doodle” to make fun of the New England colonial troops who were fighting during the French and Indian Wars.
Students posed next to a display of artifacts that were recovered in an archeological dig in the early 1970s during construction of one of the major highways. We are always trying to teach the students that there is adventure and treasures from the past all around us.
We look forward to many more trips and adventures with the students especially around the Holiday Season!