New landmarks to honor Revolutionary War hero, NL founder

Two historical markers will be unveiled Saturday morning, June 15, in Otsego County, one in the hamlet of Burlington Flats and the other in the village of Richfield Springs.  

The markers are being installed through grants from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation of Syracuse in conjunction with the Route 20 Association of New York State and the New York Folklore Society.

The marker in Richfield Springs will honor Revolutionary War hero Adam Helmer and the run he made through northern Otsego County to warn settlers of a raiding party led by Chief Joseph Brant. The marker in Burlington Flats will honor native son William A. Hulbert, who became a baseball team owner and a founder of the National League.  

Richfield Springs will hold an unveiling and dedication ceremony marking the approximate point where it is thought Helmer would have crossed what is now Route 20. The ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. in Spring Park. Speaking will be representatives from the village of Richfield Springs, the Pomeroy Foundation and the Route 20 Association, along with other dignitaries. 

“The Route 20 Association, we were responsible for getting the designation of Scenic Byway from Duanesburg to LaFayette,” said Bill Kwasniewski, an official with the group. “So we thought these two markers would be excellent opportunities to feature local people.”

Kwasniewski called Helmer a “local legend” who is credited with saving the lives of more than 200 settlers, including Otsego County residents. While scouting for Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, Helmer’s group was ambushed on Sept. 16, 1778 by a raiding party led by Brant near South Edmeston. Although several of his men died, Helmer escaped and ran about 30 miles to Fort Dayton in the Mohawk Valley, warning homesteaders along the way.

Helmer’s actual story has gotten more detailed over time. According to a media release, “While the ambush and Helmer’s arrival at Fort Dayton were well documented at the time, few details were known of his actual run. However, in the 1930s, a Helmer descendant, Mildred Staunton, interviewed other descendants of early settlers, using the oral history to determine the path Helmer likely took. Running alongside Canadarago Lake, he likely passed through present day Richfield Springs in the vicinity of Spring Park.”

Kwasniewski said marking the trail for Helmer’s run has been a slow process, too. 

“The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) erected a monument in the early 1900s in South Edmeston where the ambush took place,” he said. “There are markers in Herkimer, and in the town of Columbus, where he ran through. It is slowly kind of getting established.

“We thought marking the spot where he would have crossed Route 20 would give us a chance to highlight his story,” he continued.

Earlier in the day, at 9:30 a.m., representatives will be on the green in Burlington Flats to honor Hulbert.

According to a media release, Hulbert was born in 1832 in Burlington Flats. His family moved to Chicago, where he grew up and went on to became owner of the Chicago White Stockings, forerunners of today’s Chicago Cubs. He later became a founder and first president of baseball’s National League.

Hulbert was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 as an executive. His Hall of Fame plaque reads: “Wavy-haired, silver tongued executive and energetic, influential leader. While part owner of Chicago National Association team, was instrumental in founding National League in 1876. Elected N.L. president later that year, and is credited with establishing respectability, integrity and sound foundation for new league with his relentless opposition to betting, rowdiness and other prevalent abuses which were threatening the sport.”  

Kwasniewski, who also works part time at the Hall of Fame, said he found out about Hulbert after a visitor at the museum asked him which Hall of Famer lived closest to Cooperstown. 

“It turns out there was nothing in Burlington Flats telling his story, even though many people in town knew about him,” Kwasniewski said. 

“The Pomeroy Foundation, they have helped with the installation of hundreds of these historic monuments, all over the state,” Kwasniewski said. 

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