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Cherry Valley Museum A Hidden Gem

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 6/7/24 | 6/7/24

By David Avitabile

CHERRY VALLEY - The Cherry Museum is a portal into America's past. 

One room transports the visitor to the morning of November 11, 1778, the day of the Cherry Valley Massacre during the American Revolution. The pumper room takes the visitor back to July 6, 1894 when a fire destroyed "Harmony Row" in the village. On the second floor, there is a mannequin displaying the World War I uniform of Corporal Frederick W. Launsback, later a barber in Cherry Valley. The music room delivers the guest to the late 1800s through Thomas Edison phonograph cylinders and a melodeon made by Amos Swan in Cherry Valley.

The museum at 49 Main Street opened on Memorial Day weekend and stays open every day but Tuesday through October 15. The hours are 10am to 5pm.

The two-story Federal-style wooden building was built by Jonathan Kinsbury in 1812-13 and wants given to the Cherry Valley Historical Society in 1957 by Grace Sutliff in the memory of her husband Walter Sutliff. It was dedicated as a museum on July 18, 1969. The museum, in the White-Phelon-Sutliff House, is listed on the State and Federal Registers of Historic Places and is on the New York State Revolutionary War Heritage Trail Site.

The museum has 15 rooms, divided up into different eras of history and different subjects. There is the Massacre room with its massive and interactive diorama or the Cherry Valley Massacre that occurred on November 11, 1778. There is also: the parlor, the war room, the fire equipment room, the kitchen, the industry room, the children's room, the farm room, the wedding room, the document room, the music room, and the "wedding room." There is also a small gift shop in the front hall.

"We have 15 rooms full. Overfull, some of them," said tour guide Kathryn Lane, a retired Cherry Valley school teacher.

The museum gets about 500 visitors a year, Ms. Lane said.

Many of the visitors, she said, are returning to the village and had family that "used to live here years ago." Some come to look up genealogical records. Many people around the area do not know about the museum, Ms. Lane added. "Some people have no idea about it." When she was teaching, Cherry Valley classes and students regularly came to the museum, but no so many in recent years.

After a half-hour introductory film about the history of Cherry Valley from Revolutionary time to the modern day, visitors are free to roam the two floors of the museum.

In addition to the large diorama in the Massacre room, there is the clock from the Campbell home that was attacked during the Massacre. The workings of the clock were hidden in the hollow of a tree. The original clock was built in 1728 in Scotland and brought to Cherry Valley in 1741. After the Revolutionary War a new case was built in Albany in 1790 and now, "It's here to stay," Ms. Lane said. The clock was donated last year by William Campbell Waldron III.

The rooms are full of treasurers. In the large parlor is a collection of fragile glass plate negatives of photos donated by Elmer Baldwin and Alta Cole of Cherry Valley around 190..A gun made in Cherry Valley by Amasa Belknap is on display. There is a law that you cannot fire a gun in the village, "but he had to test it," Ms. Lane noted. A large four-blade walnut airplane propeller dominates the War room.

Optical equipment and jewelry from Thompson's is displayed in a large case in the Industry room and pumpers and other fire equipment fill the back room of the first floor. The Elcelsior hand pumper that served Cherry Valley from 1885 to 1900 is on display. The pumper was very likely to have been at the "burning of Harmony Row" in the village on July 6, 1894.

"There's a lot of history in this town," Ms. Lane noted. "You could spend the whole day here."

Among the many artifacts include: a road sign noting the 1983 Cherry Valley Class D states champs, a highly decorative ice box in the kitchen, artifacts from the J. deBeer and Son baseball factory that operated in the current village hall from 1943 to 1967, a ledger from the Cherry Valley Store. a picture of the Armstrong Chair factory, a shingle maker in the Farm room, a rope bed, a "dog treadle" butter maker and a sausage make, and a wedding dress worn by Ms. Lane's mother in the mid-1930s in the Wedding room.

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