History is my worst subject.
It's a curse; I have some sort of mental block that prevents me from retaining dates and their associated events. In hindsight, I should really just have paid better attention in history class.
So, I was at first hesitant when my husband suggested that we attend a lyceum series of lectures by his friend Andy about American History, but eventually embraced the idea of learning more about our country's beginnings. Plus, I figured that some of our friends would be there and we could socialize after class.
The series was held at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, an historic building in the Lake Champlain region just south of Essex that is being restored and reclaimed as a community center for various theatrical, musical and educational events. According to their website, "Lyceums flourished in the United States before and after the Civil War and were important in the development of adult education in America. Noted lecturers, musicians, singers and readers would travel the "lyceum circuit," going from town to town or state to state to entertain, speak, or debate in a variety of locations."
A nine-week class series, with presentations by Andy Buchanan, a lecturer in American history at the University of Vermont and an Oxford Graduate, covered the period from the early colonists to the Civil War: 1560-1865.
I won't attempt to retell the story; there are quite a few history books out there for reference. The content was illuminating; I was well aware of the plight of the Native Americans - but learned a lot more about the different tribes' alliances with early powers here. And, it was striking to me to hear from a new perspective about many patterns in that period that can be associated with contemporary issues; the various two-party political systems and how they merged with groups who demanded change, the dynamics of manufacturing and agricultural facets of society, and the importance of human slavery in the economic and political evolution of our country.
Although I have promoted our local historic sites in the context of our promotional tourism copy for years, it is still surprising to hear how our region was host, or linked to so many of our country's most significant events.
To name a few...Samuel de Champlain was here just over 400 years ago today. 18th century Forts St. Frederick and his majesty's Fort are interpreted for visitors at that strategic point of land in Crown Point. Of course, Fort Ticonderoga played a huge part in the American Revolution. And the catalyst for the American Civil War, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, essentially ended right at his farm in North Elba, the town in which Lake Placid resides - where his body lies a'mouldering in his grave.
Tonight is the last lecture in this series, which will take us through the Civil War. I truly can't wait to hear how it turns out!