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The rural school nurse

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Rural School Nurse report.pngIn 1916, Schenectady County schools were dissatisfied with the use of physicians to give students medical inspections: "cards were filled out and filed and nothing further was done; no attempt was made to correct defects discovered and no emphasis placed upon healthful habits of living, diet and sanitation." So they appointed Miss Mildred B. Curtis as school nurse and charged her with inspecting students in eight rural school districts in Glenville, Niskayuna and Rotterdam. "Miss Curtis began her duties on January 10, 1916 and worked for the remainder of the school year . . . Her work has been so successful that eleven school districts have joined in engaging her for the next school year."

In those few months, Miss Curtis inspected 1280 students, many of whom might otherwise have never seen a health professional. That she found 512 to be "defective" shouldn't be read as the modern pejorative; a footnote explains that "most of the defects are grouped about the head, as defects of vision, hearing, teeth, tonsils, etc." That she found so many with defective teeth should be no surprise, either as this was a time when Colgate was on a vigorous campaign to give away  toothpaste to school children along with a card explaining how to brush one's teeth. That the number of "mouth breathers" (also not pejorative, but considered unhealthful and a sign of sinus problems) outran the number of "backward" students may be a good thing, and it's rather surprising that the number of cases of lice ("pediculosis") was so low.

The main purpose in hiring Miss Curtis was to ensure there was follow-up, which the contracted physicians never provided. "The follow-up work in the homes has brought me into close contact with the children and parents and has enabled me to explain directly to the parents the nature of the child's defect and the probable result of its neglect, and also to offer free medical service to the poor deserving children, and my assistance in bringing the children to the city for examination or treatment when for various reasons the parents have not been able to bring them."

The limekilns of Glenville

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Lime Kiln Beers Map Glenville 1866.pngOver on Flickr we've been having a little discussion about Glenville's Dawson family and their connection to a lime kiln in the western part of the town, a decent distance from their family home on Saratoga Road. I always think of Glenville as lousy with shale, but it turns out there's some significant limestone to the west, and it further turns out that the early inhabitants made a fair amount of use of that through primitive limekilns. Percy Van Epps, the Glenville historian, gave the following history of "The Limekilns of Glenville," written sometime around 1926:

Crossing the entire western end of Glenville is an outcrop of dolomite surmounted by limestone. This rock exposure is due to an earth movement, a tilting of the strata lying immediately west of a fracture of the underlying rocks. This particular rock-displacement is known to the geologists as the Hoffman's Ferry Fault; a great and deep-seated fracture and displacement stretching from the Mohawk River, at the west line of the town, northeasterly to a point near the junction of the Sacandaga with the upper Hudson, near Luzerne. It is estimated that the territory lying next east of this great crack in the earth's surface dropped at least a thousand feet; some geologists say twelve hundred feet.

Thanks to this ancient disturbance of the surface, known to have happened long prior to the glacial epoch, Glenville has an exposure of limestone nearly one hundred percent pure. The value of this was recognized almost at the first settlement of the town. This is shown by the numerous old-time limekilns dotting the region. Hardly a farm on this outcrop of limestone but had its individual limekiln. Many such were also built on the nearby farms of the slate regions to the east, the limestone being quarried and drawn to these kilns, where it was burned both for the making of mortar and also to apply to the soil. Its value for the latter purpose was early recognized by the farmers of this last mentioned part of Glenville, whose lands, underlain with slates and shales, were soon found to be quite deficient in lime.

With one exception, so far as known wood was the only fuel used in the limekilns of Glenville. This was a kiln operated for commercial purposes, situated on the extreme eastern margin of the limestone outcrop, a little over a mile west from the village of Glenville. Here, coal was used in calcining the limerock. The kiln was owned and operated by James V. Peek and the lime burned therein was drawn by teams to Schenectady and other nearby markets.

Peek's limekiln was a "draw-kiln," so-called, the only one of that type in Glenville. The draw-kiln was one in which alternate layers, or charges, of coal and of limestone were placed as needed, while at certain intervals the burnt stone and ash were raked, or drawn out at an opening provided for that purpose at the bottom of the kiln. Thus kilns of this type could be kept in continuous operation for weeks at a time, their fires perpetually burning.

The outcrop of limestone, of early Ordovician time, brought to light in western Glenville by an ancient disturbance of the earth's surface, is the only deposit of limestone in the area of the town. Except for a very small surface exposure in the extreme north parts of Rotterdam and Princetown, the southern visible termination of the strata appearing in Glenville, there is no other limestone found in any part of Schenectady County nor is there any to the eastward till the other side of the Hudson River is reached.

Nearly all the abandoned limekilns of Glenville are now but bare and unsightly heaps of stone and earth. Occasionally, however, one will be seen whose sides are well-covered with a growth of bushes and perhaps a tangle of clematis or wild grapevines of regular contour; these mounds often arouse the curiosity of those today passing by, who are ignorant of their origin or use. When closely examined, their crater-like interiors with fire-reddened walls plainly showing the effects of great heat, often in places coated with a glassy slag, but adds to the wonder and speculation which they call forth. It was but a few years ago that one of these old kilns of Glenville figured large in a fantastic tale published at that time, its author totally at sea as to the true character of the "haunted ruins" of his supposedly-true story.

The Markers Speak: A Former Lake

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A Former LakeSometimes historical markers can be maddeningly vague. This marker from West Glenville Road in Glenville, NY, describes "A Former Lake -- Just north of these gravel knolls is the basin of a postglacial lake. Here men of an Arctic type once lived and hunted."

So we're commemorating what exactly? A former lake we can't see from this marker, where at some vague time in history men (yes, only men) of a type never before mentioned lived and hunted.

As historical markers go, it's no "George Washington Slept Here."

The Markers Speak: Aqueduct

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AqueductWhen the Erie Canal was originally constructed, it didn't use any of the existing rivers - natural waterways didn't work well with the need for predictable water levels and mule paths for hauling barges. But the layout of the canal required crossing rivers, and so there were aqueducts. One of them was at a place that is still known as Aqueduct, commemorated by this marker.

Grandma Smith's autograph book

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Autograph book 012

Just about this time of year a brief 108 years ago, my great grandmother Hazel Cath went about to family and friends in West Glenville with a tiny autograph book and had them give her messages. I don't know if there was some occasion, or if this was a custom at the time. This note from Ida Gifford of Glenville, N.Y., on Feb. 24th, 1904, says: "Let your light shine like blossom on a pumpkin vine."

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  • cjonthehudson: Thanks. I had a lot of confusion on this one, read more
  • patrickjnaughton: Charles was only 3 years old in 1869... Charles Manning read more
  • Carl: I never knew if or where the dairy operations moved. read more
  • bearilybear1: The dairy was founded by my late husband's grandfather. When read more
  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkili2wiKVV4oFuEi8wx5ry4rwIhOehqhE: http://gravelyny.blogspot.com/2013/08/des-troy-ilium-fuit-troja-fuit-nail.html read more
  • spooki404: Grew up there, all those trout must've been eaten by read more
  • zeelemons: I just recently went up to visit Grant's cottage with read more
  • smp928s: I think we'd be mortified to know the percentage of read more
  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkili2wiKVV4oFuEi8wx5ry4rwIhOehqhE: "51-53 North Pearl Street 1861 Architectural Iron Works of New read more
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