story of the Shaker Swamp brings together three
aspects of New Lebanon's heritage...
...the Native Mohicans
who led the first settlers to the thermal Springs
and gathered medicinal plants with the Shakers
Mount Lebanon Shakers
herbalists to the world in the 1800s
the Tilden Company
built next to the Shaker Swamp -- the first
commercial drug company in America.
Shaker Swamp Conservancy is an all-volunteer New
York State Not-For-Profit corporation with 501(c)(3)
status, governed by a board of directors. We meet
at least four times a year and plan for public presentations
on the progress of the Project, work on communication
with our supporters and partners, especially the Columbia
Land Conservancy, the Farmscape Ecology Program and
landowners, and discuss how best to extract the history
of the Swamp, revitalize it and make it public, and
provide opportunities for education and recreation.
it all started...
2006 New Lebanon resident and filmmaker Ted Timreck
proposed investigating the story of the 400-acre "Shaker
Swamp" in New Lebanon.
Swamp was the site of the first pharmaceutical company
in the US, a huge herbal and medicinal plant processing
factory called the Tilden Pharmaceutical Company.
Shakers had used this Swamp for their own medicinal
and herbal business. Further, Shaker diaries confirm
that area Native Americans taught the Shakers how
to harvest and process herbs, medicinals and food
from the Swamp.
however, the Swamp is largely forgotten. Our vision
was to attempt to "marry" the three threads
of its history -- Native, Shaker, and Tilden -- with
its function as a water resource and as a unique habitat
2007 we gathered a local team of historians, preservationists,
archaeologists, botanists, organizers, and constituents
to find out if there was a story here and how telling
it could benefit New Lebanon and our region.
Project has three phases...
1 involved preliminary research into Native American,
Shaker, and Tilden history, into Swamp ecology, and
into the Project's potential for New Lebanon. Our
goals for Phase 1 were to conduct primary research,
privately finance and produce a DVD on the Swamp,
and to publicize and show it to interested groups.
the end of 2007 we had met often as a Team; we met
with Swamp landowners and abutters; we had several
field trips by botanists and Darrow students to begin
an inventory of Swamp flora, and we produced a short
promo video to help raise money.
2008 Ted Timreck Productions had finished the full
length DVD. From 2008 to 2009 it was shown to the
public and many organizations.
the end of Phase 1 we had reached our goals of producing
the full DVD video and of verifying that a story of
local and regional importance existed.
2 began in 2010 with an affiliation with the Lebanon
Valley Business Association, whose "Swamp Project"
served to broaden our local base of support.
Phase 2 goals were to do a more complete inventory
of swamp botany and deeper research of Native American,
Shaker and Tilden records to strengthen the narrative
ties between the three "arms" of the project.
We wanted to identify the most appropriate access points,
places where visitor centers could be located and
where trails might be made.
incorporated The Shaker Swamp Conservancy in New York
State as a nonprofit, established a board that includes
the head of Darrow School, the president of the Shaker
Museum and Library, the president of the New Lebanon
Business Association, the head of NY Parks and Trails,
a local business owner, a retired researcher from
the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic
Preservation, and a local lawyer.
Board currently has seven members:
Fiona Lally, Vice-President
Linda Hursa, Treasurer
Deborah Gordon, Secretary
Coy Ross is the Project Coordinator.
passed bylaws and established a governance structure,
and in October of 2011 were granted tax-exempt 501c3
Tribal Preservation Officer, Doug Harris at Stone
Ruins in New Lebanon
that year we were awarded a very generous $2,000
grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation's
Fund for Columbia County. Half of this grant was used,
along with in-kind donations, to make a DVD called
"Stone Ruins of New Lebanon," which explored
in concert with a visit by a Naragansett Tribal Preservation
Officer, the significance of an undiscovered carved
megalith and a nearby "chamber."
film "Stone Ruins of New Lebanon," financed in part
by a grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation's
Fund for Columbia County, was produced by Ted Timreck
Productions and had its debut screening in May, 2012.
Harris, Naragansett Tribal Preservation
Officer; Steve Oberon, Archaeologist; Jerry
Grant, Director of Research and Library
Services at the Shaker Museum & Library
and Filmmaker Ted Timreck at stone ruins
in New Lebanon
Ross, Project Coordinator
New Lebanon Town Historian Kevin Fuerst
Timreck's films, "Stone Ruins of New Lebanon"
and "Medicinal Wetlands" are available
on loan from the library or may be purchased
online. For more information, see DVDs
other half of the grant, again with in-kind and private
donations, funded a more complete series of field
studies by a team of Ph.D. botanists from the Hawthorne
Valley Farmscape Ecology Project.
projects were completed on time, and the ecological
report is a valuable reservoir of data with listings
of plant and animal species found in the Swamp, with
habitat maps and photos, and with a full narrative
description. A Columbia professor is currently doing
core sampling in the Swamp to analyze past soils and
land use there.