NARROWSBURG, NY — Starting this summer, Fort Delaware will be under the oversight of two experienced historians, John and Debra Conway. John Conway, the county historian, announced the change …
NARROWSBURG, NY — Starting this summer, Fort Delaware will be under the oversight of two experienced historians, John and Debra Conway. John Conway, the county historian, announced the change at a talk he gave at the Crawford Library in Monticello on June 10.
Debra Conway is the executive director of The Delaware Company and co-historian of the Town of Highland, alongside Peter Barnes.
Because of COVID-19, this year won’t see a full reopening; there will only be a few events scheduled. Nonetheless, the county legislature approved a contract for The Delaware Company to run Sullivan County’s living history museum. “No money will change hands,” John Conway, president of the board, said of the three-year contract.
Previously, the museum, located on Route 97 just north of Narrowsburg, was run by the county.
A kickoff event at the fort is planned for Saturday, July 10—a reading of the Declaration of Independence.
On July 10?
That’s actually closer to historical accuracy, John Conway said. “The declaration was read aloud on July 8,” in the State House Yard in Philadelphia. Colonel John Nixon read it to the assembled citizens.
Everyone knows about July 4, but it’s only part of the story. According to the National Archives, the declaration first passed, 12-0, on July 2, and the Second Continental Congress finally adopted it on July 4.
New York, the 13th state, didn’t vote.
The declaration was printed on parchment on July 19, and was finally signed on August 2.
“If you had been a member of the Second Continental Congress in 1776,” the National Archives note, “You were a rebel and considered a traitor by the king. You knew that a reward had been posted for the capture of certain prominent rebel leaders... Affixing your name to the document meant that you pledged your life, your fortune and your sacred honor to the cause of freedom.”
Fort Delaware is based on the real-life settlement of Cushetunk, which was inhabited roughly from 1754 to 1784. The community was settled by people from Connecticut, who, according to a 1975 brochure by James Burbank, “were organized for the purpose of expanding their mother colony.”
Many of those people, John said, were Tories—loyal to England’s cause.
That’s why the reading on July 10 has an extra attraction. “There will be a Tory response,” he said.
Historically, when the declaration was read, any loyalist in the crowd could be counted on to speak up with a rebuttal.
Historical musician Linda Russell is expected to be there, and attending in colonial garb is encouraged, John Conway said.
The fort will not fully reopen until 2022.
For more information on Fort Delaware, visit sullivanny.us/Departments/ParksRecreation/FortDelaware. For more information on the declaration, visit www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-history.
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