This tribute to Rufus Grider, artistic chronicler of the Mohawk Valley, was written in 1980 by Anita Smith, former Montgomery County NY Historian and well-known Klock Family researcher. It was contributed to us by Joyce Berry, webmaster of the Three Rivers website. Joyce is a big fan of Rufus' work - "What jewels his works are, for sure. The prints are treasured and are seen everywhere. There is one of Fort Klock in existence also. So many of these buildings have been gone for years and the only record is from Mr. Grider." As an artist, Rufus Grider was a historic preservationist - of buildings and of ideas. He transferred memories to paper so generations to come could see the places that we read of in books.


By Anita Smith

From Mohawk Valley USA, Volume 1, #1, June 1980.

Walking into the County Historian's office for the first time, a picture on the wall labeled Kane's Store on the Erie Canal caught my eye. It was a water color in delicate shades of green. The scene was hauntingly familiar.

My assistant, Violet Fallone, said proudly, "It's a Rufus Grider."

"What's a Rufus Grider?", I asked. You are probably wondering too. Since that day over three years ago I've learned to appreciate Mr. Grider and his efforts to preserve Mohawk Valley history with brush and pen.

Though he died February 7th, 1900, Rufus Grider has become my teacher and friend.

He was a noted historian, lecturer, writer, artist and onetime Canajoharie school art teacher. After moving to the beautiful Mohawk Valley from Pennsylvania, he became interested in the many historic events that shaped the history of our area and nation.

Mr. Grider never became a great artist but his paintings are priceless for researchers of history. He would travel through the Mohawk Valley questioning older residents about the past. From this information he would draw composite pictures, as a police artist of today reconstructs the likeness of a law breaker by asking questions of witnesses.

Sometimes many corrections were made until the witnesses all agreed to the authenticity of the picture. He also painted pictures of the area as he saw them in the late 1800's. Rufus Grider was a true historian. He researched local history, write historical articles, collected artifacts, copied ancient documents, was instrumental in the preservation and restoration of the 1749 Van Alstyne House, and deplored the fact that local history wasn't taught more in the schools.

Buildings may change or disappear completely, but the scenic hills that frame the beautiful Mohawk Valley have looked the same for thousands of years. This explains why Kane's store looked so familiar. As a native of Canajoharie I had passed the site many times. More research proved that the Kane brothers had opened a store about one mile east of Canajoharie along the road to Sprakers. Mr. Grider had captured that piece of time in his painting.

These living witnesses described scenes from the past. Thus, in his paintings, homes burned in the Indian and Tory raids, stockades, battlefields and forts were magically reconstructed.

The stone store, flatboat, State Canal and mules with their driver are gone; only the hills and valley remain. Travelers today on Route 5-S pass close by the spot where the store once stood.

This past year I tried to document the exact site of the first St. John's Reformed Log Church. We were trying to place this site and Klock's Churchyard on the National Register of Historic Sites. We had heard many stories but could only guess as to where the church actually stood in the Churchyard area. While attending a seminar at the New York State Archives in Albany, I asked to see the Rufus Grider collection. Just what would I like to see, they asked me. Knowing that my time was limited, I replied, "Bring me anything."

The single box held a wealth of information and I became more excited by the minute. I had only looked part way through the pictures when I could have cheered, but remembered I was in a Library. For here was a Rufus Grider of Klock's Churchyard and the church site drawn in 1886 - now we had our proof.

The Grider collection in the State Archives is very large. For over twelve years he worked to create more than a thousand pieces including 623 colorful watercolor sketches, 42 water color miniatures, 169 tracings of privately owned historical manuscripts, 7 original manuscripts, 81 engravings, 71 maps and plans, 25 drawings of powder horn engravings and 23 photographs. He was a careful student of history, and painstakingly recreated accurate scenes from the past.

Many more original Griders are still in private collections, on display in Mohawk Valley museums, and in the Montgomery County History and Archives collection. What a vast storehouse of knowledge they all are for future generations.

I wonder if the hand that guided me to the special small box, one out of so many, didn't also hold a brush. Thank you, Rufus Grider.

Click on the picture for a large view of Mr. Grider's reconstruction of Ft. Kyser.


Works of Rufus Grider - link to the Fort Plain Museum & Historical Park to download a .pdf

The Rufus Grider Albums at the NYS Library

A Rufus Grider Find - link to Antiques Road Show Archives

Back to Town of Canajoharie Page

Back to Montgomery County NYGenWeb

Created: November 12, 1998
Copyright © 1980 - 2012 Anita Smith
Photo of Rufus Grider's drawing scanned by Joyce Berry
Copyright © 1998 - 2012 Joyce Berry
All Rights Reserved.