In the Adirondack Foothills
On the Burgoyne Trail…
So begins the alma mater for Fort Ann Central School, where my siblings and I learned reading, writing and arithmetic, as did my father and his brothers, and their father before them. The intro to the tune simply captures the beauty and rich history of the place that generations of Goodmans have called home. And it is a fitting point to ponder on this Independence Day.
Fourth of July on the farm has always been filled with work. Animals do not take a vacation, so there were always cows to milk and feed. If the spring and summer had been especially rain drenched, the holiday often fell in the small window when the weather cooperated long enough for the hay to be chopped, loaded and piled into the trenches. Putting in hay was and still is an all hands on deck situation, and weather always trumps picnic plans.
Even on those days in the field when the rest of the nation is celebrating America’s birthday, history is not forgotten; it is as deep and rich as the farm’s soil. The founder of the town of Fort Ann (then Fort Anne – the “e” being dropped by revolutionaries defying the crown), Colonel George Wray established the estate that is today Goodmanor Farm. His service during the French and Indian War resulted in Wray’s acquisition of property through an Artillery Patent from the British monarchy. He eventually broke ground and built the Wray Farm sometime between 1773 and 1778.
I have often wondered what the farm looked like back then. What crops and animals sustained the family and its workers? Was the farm a vibrant center of the community or a secluded country estate? What little is known is that the property did take new shapes and forms after the Colonel’s passing, from housing slaves in the attic as farm laborers to later hiding them along their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad. In 1853, Origin White Goodman purchased the property and Goodman’s have farmed the land every since.
Halfway Creek (or Crick or Brook, depending on who you talk to) runs along the perimeter of Goodmanor Farm. It was an important pathway during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars to transport supplies to soldiers in the fray. It likely supported British General Burgoyne as he marched his troops through Fort Ann on their way to defeat in Saratoga, the turning point of the Revolutionary War. As winter skiers and summer hikers, you may travel Route 4 to Vermont from points south and pass along parts of “The Burgoyne Trail.”
Fort Ann and Goodmanor Farm hold a quiet but vibrant nook in the history books. Our family has not forgotten what role the Colonel played in this story – having been buried in the orchard where my parents’ home now rests, his tomb sits out the back door to their log home. When I was a child, my mother ensured that the Colonel was not left out of the Fourth of July celebrations. We would surround his grave with sparklers and quickly light them all at once in his honor. I hope the expatriate British commander never took it as mockery for his homeland’s loss; rather the illumination was a symbol of gratitude for setting the course for our family’s future in the Adirondack foothills, along the Burgoyne trail.
The Colonel still rests in the backyard, a stones throw from the inaugural Origin Hops plants. I hope the old guy is still looking out for the family and the farm as we take this next step. Happy Fourth of July, Colonel! Here’s to freedom, family and the future – and a few sparklers.