Nouveaux regards sur ses portraits.
« Elle approche, elle meut quelque chose en avant. »


Dean R. Snow, Mohawk Valley Archaeology, The Collections,
Pennsylvania State University, Matson Museum of Anthropology,
Occasional Papers in Anthropology, 1995, n° 22, xii-182 p. (web).


[Excerpts with added highlights : Snow 1995, p. 69, 71, 73, 74.]

The Mohawk-Caughnawaga Museum was founded in 1949 under the leadership of Reverend Thomas Grassmann. Graasmann was a friar of the Order Franciscan Minor Conventuals who had a life-long interest in the life of the Mohawk woman Kateri Tekakwitha. She was bom in 1656, when the village of Caughnawaga stood on the south side of the Mohawk River. The French raid of 1666 led to the destruction of the old village and its rebuilding on a hill above the north bank of the river. Jesuit missionaries established a Catholic mission at the new Caughnawaga, and it was there that Kateri was baptized in 1676. She lived there until her departure in 1677 with the Jesuits and other converted Mohawks to what is now the Kanawake Reserve outside Montreal. She died there in 1680.

The Order Minor Conventuals became interested in Kateri (or Catherine) Tekakwitha because of her potential for eventual canonization. Various amateur archaeologists shared this interest, and by 1935 the Veeder site (1116) had been identified by various people as the site of the village in which Kateri had lived after 1666. Principal among these people was General John S. Clark of Aubum, whose records include an 1877 sketch that asserts that the Veeder site was the location of Caughnawaga. The Order Minor Conventuals purchased the 140-acre Veeder farm in June 1935 and began making plans for its development as a shrine. Thomas Grassmann came to found the shrine in 1938.

Grassmann apparently did not fully examine the records of John S. Clark until 1944. He tested the Veeder site in 1945 with the help of Vincent Schaefer and other members of the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association. The testing involved plowing the topsoil and searching the overtumed earth for artifacts. Plowing was repeated, but in a different direction, in 1947 (Grassmann 1952:34). Testing by chapter members had begun on the Veeder site in 1943, and in 1948 the chapter carried out more extensive excavations. The results were sufficient to convince Grassmann and others that they had found the site of the Caughnawaga village that existed from 1666 to 1693. He acquired support from his order and funding from the Edward J. Grassmann Trust. He also secured the support of key members of the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter and of the New York State Department of Education. The former included Vincent Schaefer, Peter Schuyler Miller, Edward J. Sheehan, Wayne Arnold, and Donald Lenig. The state officials included Carl E. Guthe (then director of the State Museum), Charles F. Gosnell, A1bert B. Corey, and Herman F. Robinton. These nine men joined Grassmann in petitioning the regents of the University of the State of New York for a provisional charter to establish the Mohawk-Caugbnawaga Museum. The site of the museum was to be the old Veeder farmstead barn, which was extensively remodeled for the purpose during 1947 and 1948. A charter was granted in April 1949, and a constitution and bylaws were adopted three months later.

Grassmann conducted more testing in 1949. He initiated a complete excavation program beginning in June 1950, and this continued until September 1956. The work was carried out by Donald Lenig, Earl Casler, Henry Wemple, John Swart, Clyde Olsen, and Leo MacLean, with occasional help from younger volunteers. The site is now a field of metal stakes marking the locations of posts that comprised the twelve longhouses and square stockade. It now seems likely that the site was actually that of a village occupied from the late 1670s to 1693, after the Catholic Mohawks of Caughnawaga had already left the valley. The village in which Kateri Tekakwitha lived from 1666 to about 1677 is more probably that of Fox Farm (1126), located about 2 mi farther west. She could have lived ouly briefly at the Veeder site. The Fox Farm site has been largely destroyed by gravel mining. Both sites and at least one predecessor village on the south bank were probably all called "Caughnawaga" (or "Kanawake") in the periods of their occupation, but only the Veeder site is customarily called by that name now. Moreover, the Veeder site is still the ouly site linked to the Tekakwitha Shrine. Grassmann and two successor friars are buried just outside the village palisade.

The constitution of the museum tied the institution to the Order Minor Conventuals, making it a subsidiary organization of the order. The museum had both a president and a chairman. The first was required to be the president of the Order Minor Conventuals, and the latter was always to be the director of the Tekakwitha Shrine. The constitution also mandated that the director and treasurer be the same person. The arrangement worked for so long as Thomas Grassmann was alive. Grassmann used family trust donations to finance the establishment of the museum, to purchase items for the collection, and to excavate the Caughnawaga (Veeder) site. Funds from the Grassmann Trust were also regularly contributed to the Order Minor Conventuals for operation of the shrine. In 1952 the museum established a formal arrangement with the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association that provided for the chapter to maintain its headquarters at the museum. The chapter's equipment, library, archaeological collections, and records were installed at the museum soon thereafter. The arrangement worked well for a decade. This was the era in which chapter members and museum volunteers spent Wednesday nights working on collections and exhibits. It was also an era in which Grassmann was active in speaking and writing projects. Donald Lenig, who was among the most dedicated participants, published his monograph on the Oak Hill Horizon in 1965. Grassmann published his history of the seventeenth-century Mohawks in 1969. Grassmann was elected a fellow of the New York State Archaeological Association and was awarded a special citation by the organization in the same year. He died on October 1, 1970, at the age of 79.

Grassmann was succeeded by Manus McGettigan, who died ouly a year later on October 12, 1971, as the result of an automobile accident. McGettigan was succeeded by Ronald Schultz, who hired Wayne Lenig to curate collections housed at the museum in 1977. The museum was by this time becoming a serious drain on the resources of the shrine. Schultz and Lenig worked to secure federal funds so that the museum could continue to operate, and some funding was forthcoming through the Comprehensive Employee Training Act. In 1978 the state amended the museum's charter through the addition of a clause providing for the disposition of the collections in the event that the museum corporation should dissolve. This brought the charter into compliance with the Internal Revenue Code, and the museum seemed to get a new lease on life.

Lenig designed and installed all new exhibits, drawing upon all of the collections available to him. These included objects belonging to the Mohawk-Caughnawaga Museum (Figurs 14.1-14.11), the Order Minor Conventuals, the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter, and borrowed objects. A storage vault was also completed, ensuring that the collections would not be at risk. The operating budget went up annually, with funds coming from CETA Title IV, the Grassmann Trust, and major local patrons. Unfortunately, federal funding declined and disappeared by 1982, leaving the Grassmann Trust and a few other potential donors as the only hope for substantial income.

Ronald Schultz was replaced by Nicholas Weiss late in 1982, and Weiss irnmediately addressed the museum problems. Viable sources of income had all but disappeared, and Weiss had no choice but to dismiss Wayne Lenig. He appointed Daniel O'Neill as an honorary curator at no pay as a means to save the museum at the lowest cost. Attempts were made to change the bylaws, but no one came forward to raise the funds ncessary to maintain a museum staff. In 1986, Weiss engaged Lynne Sullivan of the New York State Museum to conduct an assessment of the collections and exhibits, and to recommend options for the future. The resulting report convinced the leadership of the Order Minor Conventuals that it was tirne for them to get out of the museum business. I [Dean R. Snow] joined the board of trustees in 1987 at Weiss's request and began with the others to try to find a solution.

Berard Hofmann succeeded Nicholas Weiss in 1988, and we took up the difficult task of dividing property between the order and the museum corporation. Thomas Grassmann had commingled the collections and his successors had often commingled funds in complicated ways. Nonetheless, I was eventually able to produce a computerized catalog, and by working together we were able to discover principles that would allow a fair and accurate assingment of all objects to order ownership, museum ownership, or some third party ownership. By March 1990, we had agreed on a division of property. Berard Hofmann called an annual meeting for July, the purpose of which was to amend the museum constitution such that the order and the museum would be formally separated. The board met on July 14 and adopted a new constitution and bylaws that divorced the two institutions. Three of us (Kingston Larner, Paul Huey, and Dean Snow) immediately reconstituted the museum as an independent organization by revising the constitution yet again.

In 1990 the museum began seeking a new home. In 1993 the museum merged with the Fort Plain Museum, and the objects in the collection that were not on display were moved to new quarters in Fort Plain. The Fort Plain Museum remains on good terms with the Tekakwitha Shrine, and visitors see no outward evidence that the Mohawk Caughnawaga Museum has changed. However, the exhibit halls are now the exclusive property of the Order Minor Conventuals, and the exhibits in them contain many objects that are on loan from the Mohawk-Caughnawaga Museum and the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter.



Nouveaux regards sur ses portraits.
« Elle approche, elle meut quelque chose en avant. »