The Hidden History of the Roe Jan Region


This summer, the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society’s annual exhibition will unearth and explore forgotten places, well known faces, and, in some cases, the unlawful and salacious – all once part of what’s now known as the Roe Jan Region. Among these; the insular and illusive “Bushwacker” basketmakers of Taghkanic and the last practitioner of this lost craft; the first feature film directed by one of Hollywood’s most celebrated, oscar-winning filmmakers which was partially shot in the little Hamlet of Copake, shunpikes and moonshiners; frequent visits to the area by baseball legend, Babe Ruth; and why an illicit prizefight at Boston Corners lost Massachusetts an entire town to the State of New York.

Check back in the coming weeks for more information.

Show opens July 6 and continues thru September 2, 2019




Last Summer’s Exhibition, a Delightful Memory!

Last summer’s well-attended exhibit, Local Collections by Local Collectors was a great success! It turns out that the innumerable and diverse objects, mementos, prized pieces of furniture, art, toys, photos, memorabilia and even the countless array of items that are now popularly known as “chachkas”, are actually the glue that binds a community to its history and its own unique identity. Collectors, and experienced collection enthusiasts such as the inimitable Mike Fallon, who lent and described hundreds of his own items for display in this show, are in fact, the keepers of local history’s collective flame, as they invite us to discover, share and connect with the history of our towns and of those who came before us, in an organic and deeply personal way.

The urge to collect is actually one of human nature’s most natural instincts. From the typical collections of baseball cards, stamps, and coins to extremely varied collections, people are constantly gathering objects and classifying them with their own personal system.

The RJHS summer exhibit brought together an eclectic selection of collections that have been compiled by residents of the Roe Jan area and items that have been donated to our archive.

Each collection presented an opportunity to learn a little about a topic that may have never crossed our minds.  They also provided a glimpse into the life and personality of their collectors and, in turn, into a small facet of the local community and surrounding region. There are numerous reasons for collecting; ranging from vocational interest to associations the objects evoke of a particular person, place, or event.  Oftentimes it is the sheer interest of the objects themselves and the various “stories” they have to tell.  Besides the personal associations collections often harbor, they also can tell us much about the time, place, and people who made them.  Dean Knox and Judy Whitbeck generously loaned items from their family collections, and
materials donated by both the Terry and Van Deusen families were also on view in the 2018 summer exhibit.

“The care and thought put into the gathering and preservation of objects such as those seen in our summer exhibit that delight small institutions like the RJHS,” said Peter Cipkowski, former President of the RJHS. “In the end, our human desire to collect may be an instinctual way of preserving our culture, not only for ourselves but also for generations to come.”

As a culmination to the Local Collections by Local Collectors  exhibition, legendary  auctioneer and collector Mike Fallon, as well as longtime resident and historian Judy Whitbeck (whose grandfather John D. Ackley founded the Copake Telephone Company) provided an oral annotation of objects in the collection, and personal recollections of the collectors and town history. (below)