Museum Celebrates Deerpark’s 325th Anniversary

Museum Celebrates Deerpark’s 325th Anniversary
Yvonne Marcotte

DEERPARK—The Deerpark Museum held an open house on Sept. 27 to celebrate the 325th anniversary of the first settler to arrive from Europe.

The museum was originally built in 1863 and is known as the Huguenot Schoolhouse. Former Deerpark historian Norma Schadt said the town restored the brick schoolhouse for community use starting in 1996.

The event had a Lenape Indian display by Frank Salvati, antique tools and colonial handcrafts, and baking on an outdoor wood fire. Visitors were entertained by the Broome Street Fife and Drum Corps and a there was a petting zoo provided by Country Ark Farm which brought a young African tortoise named Todd and a herd of baby goats.

Susan Miiller displayed fiberglass deer sculptures in an exhibit called “Deerest Deerpark.” Local artists received funding to paint the deer thanks to grants Miiller received from Orange County Tourism. Artist Joan Kehlenbeck’s deer titled “Unforgotten Past” featured the D & H Canal and the Neversink Museum. 

From Past to Present

Lynn Burns took over the job of historian last January and likes what she does. “Something old pops up every day,” she said with a laugh.  

Her interest in the job was captured the day she visited the museum to buy Norma Schadt’s book “Town of Deerpark.”

“I came in to buy the book and this building just struck me as being so bright and cheerful and welcoming that I think that just drew me right in,” Burns said.

Burns wants visitors to see Deerpark residents as active and involved. Residents have developed an oral history program, a D & H Canal tour, and a bus tour, which is now offered to local seventh graders. She said the museum and nearby Grange Hall is used for other clubs. “I want people to know this is a very vibrant historical corner here.”

Former historian Norma Schadt was at the open house in colonial costume showing how quilts were made. Several quilts were on display one of which was sewn in the 1890’s and given to the museum by a sewing group in Rio

Street and town names give clues to Deerpark’s past. The earliest settlers called the area “Peenpack”, which is why visitors drive through Peenpack Trail to reach the museum. The hamlet of Huguenot was named for the Huguenots, who were French Protestants that fled persecution in Europe and came here seeking religious freedom.

Rio and Sparrowbush have their own unique histories, according to Schadt’s account. Locals wanted to name Rio “Quarry Hill” but were told the name had been taken by by another Quarry Hill in New York so they decided to name their hamlet Rio in honor of Ben Ryal, an early postmaster who helped found the post office. “Apparently, when his name was spoken, the letter ‘l’ was dropped so that his name sounded like ‘Rio’,” according to the Town of Deerpark website.

Sparrowbush was named for local landowner, Henry L. Sparrow, who owned property near the D & H Canal. The name evolved from Sparrow’s Bosh, the name of a slope.

The museum at 25 Grange Road in Huguenot is open 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday and 10:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

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