The Shop at Old Austerlitz all ready for the holidays
Get some of that holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving! This Saturday and Sunday (November 21st and 22nd only) the shop will be open from 12 noon until 4pm.
There are lots of great gifts and wonderful bargains. We have some unique items for Christmas and Hanukah, as well as art, jewelry, toys, stocking stuffers, vintage and antique items – and most important, chocolate gold coins! The place is absolutely packed! (Just remember to bring your mask.)

Thanksgiving Food from our past (some a bit questionable)

We love vintage ads, they are actually great historical documents. Here we’ve picked a few Thanksgiving ads from the 1940’s thru 1970’s. Please note that we have not tested any of the recipes, so you’re on your own.

Why bother with all those pesky fresh vegetables? Simply throw everything together into one loaf!
A new way to serve cranberries:
It probably tastes great (with all those marshmallows), but we’ve seen better presentations.
If you’ve waited too late to buy that turkey, there’s always Spam.
Yet, more ways to serve cranberries. We have never seen a recipe quite like this one — surely it deserves some kind of an award!
Who knew that Dr. Pepper could be served as a warm punch?
This may be a better option:
Jello is always festive and offers the best solution as to what to do with all those leftovers.
When all else fails, there are always good old-fashioned TV dinners.


Mrs. Frank Rundell, Sr. wrote a column for The Chatham Courier, focused on life in Spencertown, from the 1940’s through 1972.
The store was filled with Thanksgiving shoppers when a woman was heard to say, “Oh I almost forgot the cider! Can’t have Thanksgiving dinner without that!” So the lady goes happily on her homeward way, her jug of pasteurized cider snuggled in between the frozen turkey, prepared dressing, various mixes, frozen vegetables, five pounds of potatoes, and three pounds of apples.

One’s mind, however, goes back to the days of yesterday when fertile farms of the Punsit Valley had filled the barns with hay and grain, the cellars with apples and vegetables, nuts were in the attic, corn was in the bin, and several cider mills were running full time. Load after load of apples were being shoveled into bins from which they rolled down and were caught between two rollers studded with nails. The ground-up apples with the juice were emptied into a huge vat which, when full, was allowed to stand overnight. Then it was pressed between wooden racks and layers of burlap. (The best cider was made by using rye straw instead of burlap.)

When the barrel of cider was brought home from the mill it was put in the backyard and the bung taken out. Here it remained until it worked itself clear, usually so timed that by Thanksgiving the cider was a cold, clear, breezy, sparkling drink… “fit for the Gods!”
However, there was another angle to this cider making. Not every barrel was brought home; some were left at the mill and allowed to turn into hard cider or applejack. The rule for making the latter was “frozen twice and twice drained.” Since in some homes a man’s wife would not allow either of these drinks in the cellar, the friendly cider maker helped the individual in whose home such a condition existed by storing his extra barrel of cider in his own cellar. Each barrel or keg had the owner’s name on it. Each had a glass on top, and, on occasion, when coming to town or drawing logs to the mill on a cold winter day, a man would stop by, go down the cellar…the outside way…draw a glass of his special brew and from a bag of eggs which he had stored there, take one, break it in the cider, and drink it down.

A man whose father once operated a cider mill in Spencertown and who obligingly came to the rescue of his restricted brothers by harboring their barrels of secret sin, said, “I never lost the opportunity of going down the cellar with these men when they came in for their drink, for I was completely fascinated watching the yolk of the egg go down their throats.”

Since the eggs used in this drink were secretly acquired, they were obtained by devious means. Fall and winter eggs were scarce, and the farmer’s wife knew which hens were laying and just about how many eggs she might expect to find in the nests. So, one Thanksgiving morning in a home where the Missus frowned upon any cider drinking that was more than four weeks old, friends and relatives were gathering to celebrate this national holiday with its traditional dinner. The farmer had unharnessed the minister’s horse and was tying it in an unused stall, a spare so to speak, when glancing down, he saw underneath the manger a nest of eggs. He gathered them in his hat, one dozen there was, with the bloom of fresh egg still on them.
He stood viewing his find and began arguing with himself. Mary had wanted more eggs for Thanksgiving cooking, but it was too late now. He didn’t dare buy eggs at the store…somehow she would find out. Hadn’t the minister’s horse led him to them? Wasn’t he supposed to be thankful today for his blessings? Well, this sort of blessing.
Then came the thought of the cold barrel of apple beverage and he closed the argument by hiding the eggs in the oat bin. He walked briskly to the house and as he took his place at the head of the Thanksgiving table, this good man, loving husband and father, kin and obliging neighbor and friend, with a twinkle in his eye and a song in his heart, said, “Dominie, will you ask the blessing?”




That is our goal – to raise $20,000 this summer for the operating expenses of Old Austerlitz. As many of you know, the Blueberry Festival has been cancelled this year due to Covid-19. The festival is our primary fundraising event of the year—we had expected to raise $33,000.

We are asking all of our members and friends to consider making a donation of any amount. The good news is that we have received our first donations amounting to $1,020 – we will keep you posted as donations come in.

Donations can be mailed to the Austerlitz Historical Society, PO Box 144, Austerlitz, NY 12017 or better still, while you’re thinking about it; you can make an immediate donation via our Donate tab. We thank you in advance for caring about and supporting our wonderful community organization. The names of donors will be listed on our website.

What are we doing with the money?

The funds will be spent on the maintenance of the buildings, hourly wages for our part-time employees, utilities, insurance premiums, gas for our lawn mowers, office, kitchen and bathroom supplies, etc… Any additional money will be used for our programming and special projects.

When will we open?

We are taking a leap-of-faith and planning for an August 1st opening of Old Austerlitz. Of course, this will depend on the progress we make in NY State regarding the virus and an okay from the government.

The opening means that our buildings, new art gallery and shop will be open to small groups of people – fortunately our expansive grounds allow for visitors to spread out and to view Old Austerlitz self-paced. And please remember that members and their guests are permitted, even now, to walk about the grounds and take a peek at the new exhibits being created and the new Austerlitz Bicentennial Bell, the tower is nearing completion; just remember to follow social distancing guidelines.


History Goes On

Even during these difficult times, work at Old Austerlitz goes on. Tim Hawley is creating a base to display a beautiful weathervane. Clarke Olsen is working on rustic wood stanchions for the barn exhibit, and Francene Samuels will soon begin scraping and painting the south side of the Austerlitz church.

One of the things we discovered when reviewing the period rooms in the Morey-Devereaux House is that our collection of lighting sources was woefully inadequate. Here is a recent acquisition:

Whale oil lamp by Roswell Gleason at Old Austerlitz

What is it?

It is a pewter whale oil lamp created by Roswell Gleason (1799-1887). Gleason set up shop in Dorchester, MA and created this piece circa 1825. His wares were in high demand and he sold his works up and down the east coast. And here is a portrait of the rather elegant Mr. Gleason:


As lighting was primarily provided by candlelight or oil lamps during our period, we are also looking for brass candlesticks. Of course, if you happen to own a few and would like to donate them—we wouldn’t refuse. We’ve seen a few appropriate pairs in the $45-$75 range, if you’d like to sponsor their purchase, that would be appreciated too! We are using the wonderful handmade beeswax candles made by Frances Culley of Spencertown.

If you’d like to help with some of our projects we need someone to help research the making of butter—all you’d need is a home computer. We plan a butter exhibit and would like to explain the butter making process from colonial times to about 1930. We’d also like to research butter making items that we can acquire for our collection.


Another way to contribute is to scour your basement and/or barn for old worn-out brooms—yes, you read that correctly. We would like to collect antique and vintage brooms and whisk brooms for our display on broom making. If you are interested in any of these projects contact me at [email protected]