Local News

September 7, 2011

Historic artifact from Valcour Island now on display

Discovered artifact finds home at Historical Association

PLATTSBURGH — Lynn Washbourne Williams was a young woman when she and her family owned property on Valcour Island.

Back then — in the mid 1960s — the Williams family had three cabins they used as summer retreats. They were three of many cottages that dotted the shoreline from one end of Valcour to the other during an era before New York state took full ownership of the historic island.


It was on one of Lynn's daily excursions in 1965 that she discovered a tiny iron mug somewhere near the northern tip of the island that she thought held a significant connection to Valcour's past.

That artifact, a little more than 3 inches high, remained in the family over the next 4½ decades.

But one recent Saturday morning at the Farmers and Crafters Market in Plattsburgh, Lynn and her brother, Bob Washbourne, handed it over to Pat Parker of Parker Sugar House, who's an active member of the Clinton County Historical Association.

"When they gave it to me, I told them I didn't have a right to take it," Parker said of the surprise she felt from seeing the tiny mug. "But I did say I could hand it over to the museum."


Further research identified the item as a baluster measure, which was used in taverns to measure alcoholic beverages from the cask. Soldiers and sailors often used the device for measuring rum while taking a break out on the field or water.

Lynn's father, John Washbourne, had sent the artifact out to be restored a few years after she discovered it.

"(So) we're not sure what it looked like when it was found," said Helen Nerska, president of the Historical Association.

"It's made of pewter but not a high-class pewter," she added, noting that the material was lead based.

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