“My mother's side of my family landed at the docks of Kingston in 1680,” recalls former Wawarsing Town Supervisor Dr. Richard Craft, who recently received permission from the current board to solicit volunteers for a town sponsored historical society and museum, beginning with his private vintage knife collection.
“My grandfather, Gurnsey Craft was a fine-cutler for the Ulster Cooperative Knife Company. He made the production models for new knife designs. All those pins and springs. It was an art.”
Craft has suggested moving his knife collection, currently housed in the offices of Craft Chiropractic on Route 209 in Ellenville, to the Katherine Terwilliger House.
“It would make a perfect starter museum, not just for knives,” said Dr. Craft, who also informed the board that other private collections exist within the township and that, with support from the town, a more representative and wide ranging historical accounting could be made publicly available.
Craft has a variety of knives and is never bashful about explaining the detail and craft that goes in each one.
“This knife handle is made with the eye of the pearl. Very rare and worth a lot of money,” explained Craft. “This is a pen knife. The name comes from the days when people wrote with goose quill pens dipped in ink, and it was used to sharpen the tip. Here is my Fourth of July collection. For many years, the Schrade Knife Company made these for the town to sell to fund the Fourth of July celebration.”
Many of the knives date back to the 1800s and early 1900s. Among Dr. Craft's collection: a knife used for circumcisions, gold plated men's knives which hung from watch fobs, ones carried by ladies in a pouch in their handbags, engraved knives for cutting fruit, folding knives for hunting, push button knives (the forerunner to the switchblade), priceless switchblades, and Boy Scout knives, made by the Ulster Cooperative Knife Company, which was, for a time, the official maker of Boy Scout knives, some with whale bone handles.
“Those are my badges in the display. Troupe 27,” pointed out the 75-year old energetic doctor.
His collection also includes antique tools.
“This hammer was used by my grandfather to drive pins into the knives he made. You can see where his thumb wore away one area of the wooden handle.”
Looking at his collection of antique axes, he concluded, “It has been said that at one time, every family who traveled West carried a Napanoch Axe.”
Dr. Craft believes the town, not private donations, should fund the museum and historical society. He added that with proper security, fire protection and temperature control measures, sensitive documents and objects stand a much better chance of survival for the future.
Thus far, twenty-five people have added their names to the list of those interested in being part of the historical society; it will be shown to the town board by the first meeting in October.
Anyone interested in signing the list can call Dr. Richard Craft at 647-7792.
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