Nothing says springtime like baseball! H

Nothing says springtime like baseball! Here’s a photo from our collection c. 1900.

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Lunchtime, anyone? Much of the work invo

Lunchtime, anyone? Much of the work involved in slate production is physically labor intensive, which makes mealtime pretty important! Workers used containers like this aluminum lunch or dinner pail to bring their meals with them to the quarries. C. 1900. Part of our 40 Objects Survey.

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Looks like winter isn’t over yet! The m

Looks like winter isn’t over yet! The museum will be closed today due to the snow storm.

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SVM Cooks! Carpatho-Rusyn Food at the Washington County Fair

Slate Valley Museum staff had the opportunity to show off their cooking skills at the Washington County Fair Thursday afternoon. Christine Hoffer from Washington County Tourism invited Executive and Assistant Directors Kathryn Weller and Amy Mincher to the Culinary Tent to make some of the Carpatho-Rusyn recipes from Slate Valley Museum’s cookbook. On the menu was pagache, Hungarian noodles, potato pancakes, and cucumber salad.

Executive Director Kathryn Weller shows off her pagache before putting it in the oven.

Executive Director Kathryn Weller shows off her pagache before putting it in the oven.

Many of these recipes were unfamiliar to us before researching for the Carpatho-Rusyn exhibit that is currently on display. Cooking was a huge part of the culture for Polish and Slovakian communities in the Slate Valley. The oral histories in the collection tell how the women would cook all sorts of rich dishes before a big celebration.  Easter and Christmas had signature dishes, which were often only made for that holiday. The families that lived in the Alley worked hard to make sure that they had enough to eat. They had large gardens where they grew cabbage and then at the end of summer, the families would rent one cabbage shredder and pass it around between them. They spent hours making sauerkraut, which is used in many of the common Slovakian and Polish dishes.

Kate and Amy tried to choose easy recipes to make at the Fair. First, they made Slovakian Cucumber Salad.


Salat od Ogarki

Dill weed
Apple cider vinegar
Sweet onions or garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sugar, if needed

Slice cucumbers very thin. Splash with vinegar to moisten well. Stir. Add onions and/or garlic and other ingredients. Mix. Let sit in refrigerator for a few hours.

The Hungarian noodles were really simple too. We cooked a pound of egg noodles, drained them, added cottage cheese, and three tablespoons poppy seeds. So good!

Yum! A sampling of all the recipes.

Yum! A sampling of all the recipes.

For the potato pancakes, we used Marge Prehoda’s recipe which included potatoes, onions, an egg, flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and milk. And then we got to cook them on this cool griddle!Cooking Slovakian Food at the Washington County Fair-015Cooking Slovakian Food at the Washington County Fair-009

And, finally, we made pagache (Slovakian potato and cheese filled pizza). If we had more time, we would have made our own bread dough, but pizza dough from the grocery store worked fine. After rolling it out, we added potatoes that had been cooked and mashed with cheddar cheese. The bread dough is then folded over the cheese and rolled out again, then baked. This was a big hit! Cooking Slovakian Food at the Washington County Fair-014 Cooking Slovakian Food at the Washington County Fair-016

Along with the food, we also brought along our Carpatho-Rusyn children’s immigrant trunk with reproduction children’s clothing.Cooking Slovakian Food at the Washington County Fair-020

Make sure to check out the Washington County Fair before it ends! Also, come into the Slate Valley Museum to pick up a copy of our cookbook!

Also, a big thank you to the New York Council for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services for helping make this event possible!Cooking Slovakian Food at the Washington County Fair-010

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SVM’s First Quarry Tour in Four Years!!!

Last Saturday, the Slate Valley Museum offered our first quarry tour in four years. We were not sure if it was actually going to happen. We had to cancel it once because of severe mud at the quarry due to all the rain we had during the month of June. It would have been very hard for a large group of people to park and walk around in the quarry. Thankfully, the recent hot and sunny weather dried up the road enough so that it was safe for visitors.

2013-07-20 SVM Labas Quarry, Run-off

What a beautiful day! After severe heat and rain, we were lucky to have a sunny day with a slight breeze. This image was taken on the other side of the quarry road.

The group arrived at the museum first for a curator’s talk about our newest exhibit, “Preserving a Heritage, Building a Community: Carpatho-Rusyns in the Slate Valley”. Kathryn Weller and Amy Mincher discussed how Eastern European immigrants carved out a life in the Granville area around the turn of the century. Visitors got to see the video of Mike “Pinkie” Labas splitting slate in the dooryard of the trimming shanty at the Labas quarry that we were about to visit. To see a bit of this video, check it out on our Facebook page:

We drove to the quarry on Warren Switch Road, right on the Granville/West Pawlet town line and the New York/Vermont state line. Throughout the tour, I heard many participants ask what state we were in. (This is VERY common in the Slate Valley—especially in the quarries that straddle the state line.)


All of the black circles are quarries. The state line is in the center.

We met Mike Labas at the quarry. His grandfather immigrated to the United States in the 1890s and first settled in Pennsylvania and then moved to Granville where he lived in the “Alley” with his wife, Anna, also known by the community as “Baba”. Mike’s great uncle worked in the quarry that the Labas family now owns back when it was called the “Beecher Quarry.” A piece of falling slag hit him on the head, critically injuring him. He died a few days later. The community gathered enough money together to pay for his wife and children’s passage back to the old country. The family’s slate working heritage comes through in Mike’s stories about the quarry and his family. (For more stories like this, check out our new exhibit!)

As he led the group through the quarry, he talked about his family history and also how and when slate had been taken out of different sections of the quarry. He mentioned that his father had purchased the quarry for less than a thousand dollars, but they have spent millions of dollars on equipment and labor to actually quarry it.

Mike answers questions while at the top of the quarry.

Mike answers questions while at the top of the quarry.

Mike and his son also demonstrated how to cleave a large block of slate, split a book of slate, and trim it using a zip trimmer and a barrel trimmer. The group asked MANY questions which were all answered by Mike.

Please let us know if you are interested in going on a quarry tour. If there is enough interest, we will plan one for the fall!

Here are some other images of the tour taken by Andrea Macura, photographer extraordinaire.

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Preserving a Heritage, Building a Community: Carpatho-Rusyns in the Slate Valley

Our new exhibit is open!  Preserving a Heritage, Building a Community: Carpatho-Rusyns in the Slate Valley tells the story of immigrants from Slovakia and Southern Poland who made the journey to the Slate Valley of New York and Vermont in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Oral Histories

All of these oral histories were digitized!! Some are available now on our website, but in a few months, they will ALL be available on our new website. We will keep you updated!

Creating the exhibit was a great adventure. We had very little information to go on as there is not much of a written record. We found some threads of information in Gwilym Robert’s book New Lives in the Valley, one of our favorite sources here at the Slate Valley Museum. Newspaper reports from the time documented the “Hungarian” immigrants getting into bar fights and inciting riots—but there was little other information.

Luckily, when we started to research, we were in the process of digitizing our oral histories. As we listened to the newly digitized versions, we learned great information about the lives of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants. Mike “Pinkie” Labas told the story of growing up in Granville’s Alley in the longhouses, low-income housing more commonly called tenements. Labas talked about all the ways that he and the other children helped their parents bring in extra income. For example, the children spent their summers picking berries in nearby woods and fields as well as snaring fish in the Mettowee River to sell to their more well-off neighbors.

Slate Workers

Carpatho-Rusyn workers often had to do the most dangerous of quarry jobs–working deep in the pits, setting off explosives and shoveling up the slag.

Labas Children in the Alley

The children of John and Anna Labas standing in the center of the Alley, where the Slate Valley Museum is located today.

We also found videos featuring Mike “Pinkie” Labas, church activities at Saints Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church, as well as several members of the Prehoda Family. We QUICKLY had the videos digitized and were able to incorporate them into the exhibit. Look for a few snippets from these on YouTube soon. Or . . . you could come to the Slate Valley Museum to listen to them in person. The exhibit will be on display through December 2013.

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14th Vermont Infantry — Special Independence Day Post

When Abraham Lincoln called for additional volunteers to join the war effort in 1862, Vermont responded with the creation of the 14th Vermont Infantry. Volunteers from Addison, Rutland and Bennington Counties joined including many of the Slate Valley’s volunteers. Welsh immigrants working in the slate quarries fought alongside men whose families lived in the Slate Valley for generations. Together they experienced the 14th Vermont Infantry’s most trying moment, the Battle of Gettysburg.

Theregiment marched to Hunting Creek on November 5, where it stayed until November 26. Private John H. Williams, a welsh slate worker, described their new home in his journal, “Our Tents came here today and we got a good place to set them up[;] we the Welsh are in the squad belong to Joel Hamilton. We got a good tent and planted pretty pine trees around it.

Originally recruited to only serve nine months, the 14th regiment did not see action until the Battle of Gettysburg. They played a pivotal role in Pickett’s Charge when they joined the 16th Vermont to stop the advance of Cadmus M. Wilcox’s Confederate brigade and captured hundreds of Virginia soldiers. Despite the success, another Welsh slate worker, Private John Rowlands recorded in his journal, “well this is the most terrible day that has ever been upon me and I do not wish to see another of its sort again, Lieutenant Bosworth was injured and G. Meuling was killed.” Williams also wrote of the battle, “at last their infantry came on toward us, we charged them, we fell back, and, for the second time, on we went and we made them Skedaddle, killed them, and took their Colours, and hundreds of prisoners.”

A memoir from K Company of the 14th Regiment, which descended through the Nelson family of Rising and Nelson Slate Company, describes the feeling the men had of their conduct during Pickett’s Charge; “Every man in the 14 I am shure [sure] done his verry [very] best not many of us held our Gun at the face as they could by taking aime [aim] hav [have] hit their mark every time, for the rebs were in solid mass.”

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Please help us improve our online collec

Please help us improve our online collections database. Fill out this survey on our website: #digitization #21stcenturylearning

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SVM will be closed today, 3/19, because

SVM will be closed today, 3/19, because of the #snowday. We hope everyone is careful and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by learning

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by learning about Ireland’s slate history. Valentia Slate, Ireland’s only remaining company has a nice Facebook page,, with beautiful images of Ireland, specifically Valentia Island. Enjoy!

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