From opera coats to waffle irons

Interested in local history? First-ever exhibit of eight historical societies in three states covers it all

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  • Closeup: back of opera coat with hand-beaded and embroidered collar.

  • War club heads (one with point attached) with picture of 1700s Iroquois warrior.

  • Exquisite Swartwout wedding dress, bonnet and jacket from 1886.

  • Jen Wycalek, of the Walpack Historical Society, in colonial costume, holding an early metal lunchbox.

  • An early food chopper with an elegant metal stand supporting the gears and handle.

  • Norma Schadt, Town of Deerpark Museum; Nancy Conod, Minisink Valley Historical Society; Lynn Burns, Deerpark Museum and Bill Clark, Matamoras-Westfall Historical Society, who obtained a grant for the exhibit.

  • An early ballot box, showing white balls for a “yes” vote and black balls for a “no.” It also contains black cubes, which could be identified by feel in very low light.

  • Hiawatha Coach, on loan from the Pike County Historical Society, at The Riverside Inn.

  • Photos of old schools.

  • Ladies' apparel.

  • Bronze pipe/hatchet reproduction with steel blade tip.

  • Model multiple kingpost covered bridge.

  • Knickerbocker silverplate made in Port Jervis (from the collection of Brian Lewis)

Eight in three

Eight historical societies were represented at the Tri-State Historical Exhibition in Matamoras:
Pike County Historical Society (Pa.):
Matamoras-Westfall Historical Society (Pa.): P.O. Box 26, Matamoras, Pa. (Meeting held at the Westfall Administration Building)
Dingmans Ferry-Delaware Township Historical Society (Pa.):
Town of Deerpark Museum (N.Y.):
D&H Conservancy (Delaware and Hudson Canaland Gravity Railroad Conservancy) (N.Y.):
Minisink Valley Historical Society (N.Y.):
Walpack Historical Society (N.J.):
Montague Association for Restoration of Community History (N.J.):

By Ginny Privitar

— Collector Frank Salvati had some fearsome-looking war clubs and tomahawks on display.

Present-day Iroquois made those weapons in the exact same way their ancestors would have done, said Salvati, interpreter of colonial Indian affairs at the Tri-state Historical Exhibition held at the Riverview Inn in Matamoras on April 12. Indians preferred brass blades, which are soft and need to be continually sharpened, he said. But then some enterprising trader introduced a brass head with a steel edge.

Photos by Ginny Privitar. For more photos visit

And did you know that many tomahawks also functioned as pipes?

Salvati belongs to the Minisink Valley and Matamoras-Westfall historical societies, two of eight historical societies from three states that came together for the first time to exhibit their treasures and share their knowledge of the area’s past.

If you prefer tiaras to tomahawks, you might have gravitated over to Catherine Westfall of the Town of Deerpark Museum, which displayed a lady’s costume from 1880, and a satin opera coat with a hand-beaded collar and embroidered lining.

A wedding dress of brown silk worn by Carrie B. Peck on the occasion of her marriage to Henry B. Swartwout in Port Jervis on March 10, 1886, was a standout from Minisink Valley’s collection. It’s a masterpiece of dressmaking. Antique quilts, including an overshot quilt belonging to the Swartwout family and two signature quilts, showcased the needle arts.

How about politics?

Norma Schadt, director of the Town of Deerpark Museum (1863 Schoolhouse), explained the use of an early ballot box: it held white balls for a “yes” vote and black balls for a “no” vote. There were even some black cubes, presumably easier to identify by feel in low light conditions. The ballot box could be used to vote on a person or a decision. Two black balls meant no.

The Dingmans Ferry-Delaware Township Historical Society displayed photos of one-room schoolhouses and long-gone summer hotels along the Delaware, torn down to make way for the Tocks Dam project that never came to fruition.

Brian Lewis, a member of the Town of Deerpark Museum, displayed items from his personal collection, including a stone from Fort Decker that did not fit back in place during reconstruction work; a die stamp for spoon handle carrying an image of the Port Jervis Post Office; and a sparkling display of items made by Knickerbocker Silverplate of Port Jervis.

Workaday world

Matamoras-Westfall displayed milk bottles from the Shay Riverside Dairy, and pennants belonging to Ray Commins, a cavalryman in World War II. The society raffled off a beautiful cross-stitch sampler, representing hundreds of hours of work, donated by member Linda Ryder Cowell. It was won by Joyce Maillet Crane, a former resident of Matamoras now living in Colorado.

Jen Wycalek of the Walpack Historical Society, dressed in colonial costume, explained some wondrous implements, including a cast-iron waffle maker that could be flipped, heated and opened from either side; and a food chopper, complete with gears and handle, that is surely the ancestor of those hawked on TV today.

The Montague Association for Restoration of Community History showcased intricate models of wooden bridge construction, pictures of the Delaware River, and projectile points and beads used by the Lenape. The artifacts were collected by Kenneth Gleason in Montague and donated to the association by Jim and Mim Carpenter.

Transportation was a major part of the tristates’ history. Outside the inn stood the imposing 1850s Hiawatha Stagecoach, on loan from the Pike County Historical Society. Railroad artifacts were on display. Cliff Robinson Jr., president of the D&H Conservancy, showed a video of a section of rail converted to trail from Westbrookville to Port Jervis, including building a new 66-foot bridge. The trail will openon May 10 in Westbrookville, N.Y., on Ottisville Road.

Visitors to the exhibition said they hoped it would become an annual event.

Bill Clark, president of the two-year old Matamoras-Westfall Historical Society, organized the exhibit with help from a grant from Orange & Rockland Utilities. The Riverview Inn was a co-sponsor.

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