By Floyd Olney
The sun shone on the DSDI Columbus Day weekend, enhancing the beauty of central New York in the autumn. There were 56 members and guests registered for this fall meeting, with ten signers represented. Among those present for the weekend was guest Jamie Dauch, 5, who accompanied us on the Saturday bus tour decked out in full colonial dress complete with tri-cornered hat! Twenty-one descendants of General William Floyd registered for the weekend event, with some additional descendants attending the dedication at the cemetery
On Friday afternoon, the SODS and other attendees were treated to a guided tour of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica. They viewed the Gilbert Stuart portrait of General Peter Gansevoort as well as other art of the revolutionary period; the “Voyage of Life” by Thomas Cole; the exhibition of Ansel Adams’ photographs; and the Victorian period rooms in Fountain Elms, the 1850 home which belonged to the founders. Later, we enjoyed a buffet supper in the Hotel Utica, our host hotel, and an informative talk by Dr. Russell Marriott, the owner of the General William Floyd homestead in Westernville. The PowerPoint point presentation featured photographs of the General Floyd family homestead in Mastic, Long Island, which is owned by the National Park Service, and the Ralph Earl portrait of the General in the National Portrait Gallery in Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia. We learned of the General’s many contributions not only to the revolution, but also to the establishment and growth of New York State politics and the economy along the New York frontier. On a lighter note, we heard about the General’s disappointment with his daughter Kitty when she broke her engagement with James Madison. Dr. Marriott detailed the state of the Westernville house when he purchased it and the process of restoration.
The General Meeting of the Society was held on Saturday morning in the Saranac Room of the hotel. We then boarded a coach for a tour of the Oriskany Battlefield. We viewed the monument to the militia who sacrificed their lives in an attempt to relieve the British siege of Fort Stanwix in nearby Rome. A National Park Service guide explained the importance of the battle in thwarting the British attempt to divide the colonies in their drive through central New York from Canada. General Nicholas Herkimer was mortally wounded in the battle. Also wounded or killed were many members of the Oneida nation who supported the Americans. Although the battle was a draw and the militia never succeeded in reaching Fort Stanwix, the garrison at the Fort succeeded in raiding the supplies in the British encampment while the British soldiers were fighting at Oriskany. Other Native Americans supporting the British became disenchanted, having lost their supplies, and they deserted the cause. The British retreated to Canada.
After a box-lunch-picnic, under warm sunny skies, we boarded the coach for the short trip to Fort Stanwix where we were met by a re-enactor who described the strategic importance of the Fort which was located on the carry between the Mohawk River and Oneida Lake. Trade moved from New York City west following the Hudson River north to the Mohawk River, Oneida Lake, and Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes. We enjoyed watching re-enactors in the Fort and viewed a film depicting life in the Fort during the siege and praising the steadfast refusal of General Gansevoort to surrender to the British.
Following the visit to the Fort, we boarded the coach for a short trip north, following the old Black River Canal to Westernville and the General Floyd Homestead. We were met on the front steps by our hosts Russell and Jackie Marriott and a re-enactor who read to the assembly the Declaration of Independence. We then divided into two groups for touring the homestead and viewing some of the General’s original possessions. While the first group took the tour, the second group enjoyed cider and colonial cookies in the dining room and descendants had an opportunity to sign their name next to their ancestor on a duplicate copy of the Declaration. Descendants were given an opportunity to sign the guest registry so that copies of the completed document can be mailed to them at a later time. After the groups alternated, we all followed a color guard with drum and fifer half a mile through the village to the nearby cemetery. DSDI Chaplain Rev. Fredrick Pyne, a descendant of William Floyd, led us in a ceremony dedicating the DSDI plaque, which was mounted on the tomb stone. The Rev. Mr. Pyne was assisted by some other descendants of William Floyd, grandchildren of the weekend host W. Floyd Olney. On behalf of the organization, President-General John Glynn placed a ceremonial wreath on the grave. We then boarded the coach for the return trip to the hotel in Utica.
Saturday evening we enjoyed cocktails, cheese and crackers, followed by dinner and entertainment by Liaisons Plaisantes, an ensemble playing 18th century music. The weekend brought awareness to all visitors of the importance and the plights of the Central New York colonists, Tories and Loyalists alike, as well as the Native Americans who were living here during the Revolutionary War period. While learning of their struggles, we enjoyed an opportunity to pay our respects to Signer William Floyd and to better understand his life on the frontier.