Highland history updated
ELDRED, NY — After more than 80 years, the Town of Highland is revealing more of its history to the motoring public, Supervisor Jeff Haas reported to the town board on August 14.
In 1936, the New York State Department of Education decided to decorate Gov. Roosevelt’s new, then partially completed highway, State Route 97, with several markers memorializing the 1779 Battle of Minisink. Since then, those blue and gold markers have been the only public image of a rich history that in part includes a huge timber-cutting and timber-rafting industry and the D&H Canal.
Haas spoke of town co-historian Debra Conway’s receipt of a new marker memorializing Delaware River timber rafting. Conway won a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation’s program to place more of these markers statewide because the foundation believes they “play an important role in local historic preservation. They educate the public and foster historic tourism, which in turn can provide much needed economic benefits to the towns and villages where the markers are placed.”
It’s all about heritage tourism. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past... heritage tourism can include cultural, historic and natural resources.”
In 2014, Sullivan County historian John Conway wrote about heritage tourists, “According to study after study, they travel more frequently and spend more time and more money in their travels than typical non-heritage tourists. A 2009 study, for instance, found that heritage tourists average more than five trips every 12 months, as compared with 3.98 trips per 12 months for the typical non-heritage tourist.
“The same study reported that heritage travelers spend more than other types of travelers—in fact a lot more—spending an average of $994 per trip as opposed to $611 per trip for other tourists. All in all, heritage tourists contribute nearly $200 billion to the U.S. economy each year searching for the unique stories of regions all across America.”
The Pomeroy Foundation launched its Historic Roadside Marker Program in 2006 to erect markers in towns and villages within Onondaga County. In 2012 they expanded the program to include all municipalities and tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the state as eligible grant recipients.
Debra told The River Reporter that Pomeroy “insists on primary sources: maps, deeds, newspaper articles, etc. I can’t blame them given some historic markers that even I know are ‘questionable.’”
Debra went to James Eldridge Quinlan’s authoritative 1873 “History of Sullivan County” and its account of the Nathan Skinner diaries, which recounts Nathan’s father, Daniel Skinner, lashing together logs in 1763 to make the first trip to Philadelphia.
But Pomeroy wanted more proof of the date. “I had to argue hard that these were frontiersmen. There were no newspaper accounts here, these were not intellectuals keeping handwritten, quill-and-ink personal diaries that were available or kept in the larger cities—so they finally agreed to call it ‘circa,’” she said.
Haas’s report prompted some board discussion, including a suggestion that residents might want to suggest sites for additional markers. Suggestions included the former cut-glass factory dam on Halfway Brook and the state’s proposed river access at Cedar Rapids, which is opposite the site of the 1864 railroad collision which killed some 58 Confederate prisoners of war and their Union Army guards.
The cast-iron markers cost more than $1,200 when purchased through the arrangement with Pomeroy from a foundry in Ohio.
In other business at the brief meeting, the board rescheduled the start of its September 11 meeting to 5 p.m., to be followed immediately by Highland’s annual 9/11 memorial program.