MOHAWK - Discovering the Valley of the Crystals  Copyright 2002

Chapter 22

Kindrid Spirits of Old
Nelson Greene (below)  Benjamin Wright
Snow - Starna - Gehring 
The Dynamic Trio - of the Mohawk Valley Project
Jeptha Root Simms


The Much Maligned Mr. Greene
No one has published more information on the Mohawk Valley in a single works than Nelson Greene. And, no one has been more maligned for providing misinformation. I was one of those maligners.
    Nelson Greene was born in Little Falls. His parents were Horace L. Greene and Anna Beach Greene. His father's family lived in Herkimer and then moved to Fort Plain, where Horace L. Greene, became the owner of the Mohawk Valley Register, the oldest newspaper in the middle valley in the early 1900s.
    Nelson was descended on his father's side from the early Palatine settler, Johan Jost Herkimer and from Captain George Herkimer, who married Alida Schuyler, and in 1777 inherited the home of his brother, General Nicholas Herkimer. Through Alida, Nelson Greene claimed descent from Philip Pietersen Schuyler, who settled in Fort Orange (Albany) shortly after 1650.
    Nelson attended school in Fort Plain. He read extensively about the Mohawk Valley and New York State history and as a boy contributed articles on local history to his father's newspaper. Over the years he had papers on state and valley historical subjects published in newspapers from Schenectady to Rome
    He studied art in New York City and practiced the dual professions of artist and writer on New York State and Mohawk Valley historical subjects. In 1915 he published Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley, a 400-hundred page volume with five maps, drawn by the author.
    His subsequent study of the historical highway and national transportation route across New York State, resulted in the publication of a series of newspaper articles entitled The New York to Buffalo Book. In 1924 Nelson published The Old Mohawk Turnpike Book.
    Nelson's home was in Fort Plain, where he was the Editor of the Fort Plain Standard and the publisher of books about the Mohawk Valley.
In 1925 he published THE MOHAWK VALLEY - GATEWAY TO THE WEST - 1614-1925. This four-volume work, consisting of 1898 pages of historical information and 1732 pages of biographical information, is the most comprehensive publication ever produced on the Mohawk Valley.
    While researching KUYAHOORA - Discovering West Canada Valley, I read a small portion of Mr. Greene's publication to obtain information about lumber magnate, Gardiner Hinckley. I discovered that Greene had confused the communities of Wilmurt and Hinckley, placing them at the same location, when in fact they are a dozen miles apart. I was quick to criticize Greene's writings as poorly researched based on that single entry.
    While researching this book on the Mohawk Valley, I read similar criticism of Greene's work by historians, archaeologists and other authors, so I felt justified in my earlier criticism. However, when I read every word of the first two volumes of THE MOHAWK VALLEY - GATEWAY TO THE WEST, my appreciation of Greene's work increased dramatically.
    Considering the astounding amount of information he gathered and published in 1925 when communications, travel and publishing technologies were relatively primitive, its amazing how few errors there are in his books. In areas he lacked expertise, such as archaeology and geographical locations in remote areas of the Valley, he relied on local "experts" for information. More often than not it was these experts that provided the information that future scholars discovered were not accurate.
    In some cases the information Greene provided was the best available at the time. Since 1925 there have been numerous discoveries that shed new light on the history of the Mohawk Valley. Cases in point are the locations and occupancies of the Mohawk villages prior to 1640. Until recently some of these sites remained undiscovered and modern dating techniques more accurately determined periods of occupancy at all the known sites. Likewise, historical documents from Canada, France, England and America have been discovered since 1925 that add much to the history of the Valley.
    Perhaps, my newfound respect for Nelson Greene comes from my own efforts to gather information about the Mohawk Valley and the realization that no matter how hard I strive for accuracy, there will be errors in my book. Perhaps, it's because I've learned so much from his writings. After all, it was from Nelson that I learned to appreciate the uniqueness of the Mohawk Valley: it's geographical gateway to the West; its impact on the formation and development of a new nation, it's many natural wonders, and it's beauty from one end to the other.
It was from Nelson that I learned that if not for the Mohawks and Sir William Johnson, we could well be a part of French speaking Canada, and that the Battle of Oriskany really did affect the outcome of the Revolutionary War. The list of my discoveries in Nelson Greene's books goes on and on, so despite their flaws, I consider them an excellent source of information and inspiration.
    THE MOHAWK VALLEY - GATEWAY TO THE WEST volumes are available for reference at most libraries, and used book dealers sell a few sets each year.
    More books about the Mohawk Valley


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