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Joshua Thomas
Fort Klock Historic Restoration Member Jacqueline Houle makes a strawberry shortcake during Fort Klock's annual July 4 celebration.

Joshua Thomas
Attendees gather outside Fort Klock's Dutch Barn on Independence Day.

Joshua Thomas
Members of the public watch Fort Klock Historic Restoration Member Eugene Wagner read the Declaration of Independence from the Fort Klock Dutch Barn.

Joshua Thomas
Fort Klock Historic Restoration Member Eugene Wagner reads the Declaration of Independence from the Fort Klock Dutch Barn.


Fort Klock hosts Independence Day celebration

Thursday, July 10, 2014 - Updated: 9:38 AM


C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- For the past 50 or so years, Fort Klock has hosted a strawberry festival and Independence Day celebration, which, for many years, has featured a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Fort Klock Historic Restoration Member Eugene Wagner.

St. Johnsville Historian Anita Smith noted that Fort Klock is one of the only historic sites in Montgomery County (and throughout some surrounding counties) that reads the entire Declaration of Independence on July 4. 

For that reason, Smith said that people travel from as far as Johnstown to attend.

Adding to the appeal of the annual event, she noted, is Wagner's accent. As Fort Klock's settling family, establishing the farm homestead in 1750, were from Germany, their accents may have been similar to Wagner's, adding an air of authenticity for many.

At the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, in 1776, Wagner said that feuds amongst the rolling hills surrounding the farm homestead would've died down, and the declaration -- an agreement of peace -- would've provided a bit of reprieve to those living throughout the area.

Smith added that the people in the area might not have even known about the declaration at the time it was signed, at least not for quite some time afterward.

At 1 p.m., a crowd gathered in front of Fort Klock's Dutch barn to listen to the approximately 20-minute reading of the Declaration of Independence, which Wagner recited from the open doorway of the structure, wherein Historic Fort Klock members served strawberry shortcake and refreshments.

Prior to each year's Independence Day event, a memo is sent out to all active and non-active members requesting donations. This year, about 42 members donated or helped during the celebration, either making homemade biscuits, smothering them with sweetened strawberry topping and whipped cream, or manning locations at Fort Klock.

As Wagner's reading of the Declaration of Independence came to a close, Smith pointed out how visible the Mohawk Valley's rolling hills were, lit poignantly by the mid-day sun. Referring to the green hills visible just behind Fort Klock's main homestead, Smith explained that it's possible that people like to attend the annual celebration because it gives them a chance not only to appreciate where we are today, but in the same setting where local life as we know it began.

"They saw those same hills we see," said Smith, highlighting the fact that, at Fort Klock, time truly has no boundaries.

Joshua Thomas - The Tryon County Militia provides a musket salute.


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