Rufus Grider

Rufus Grider
A portrait of Rufus Grider, Canajoharie teacher, about the time he made his historic drawings of scenes in the Mohawk Valley - c. 1895.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.

The illustration of this story, and a great many other subjects relating to the Mohawk Valley, is enriched by the monumental efforts of Rufus Grider - an art teacher in Canajoharie. Over 100 years ago he committed himself to recording the history of the region in ink and watercolors.

In a series of "Scrapbooks" full of his own artwork, clippings and typescript commentary, Grider preserved for all of us rich images and unprecedented details of the past.

Grider map Powderhorn
Examples of the images that Rufus Grider recorded in his Scrapbooks, including a redrawing of a rare historic map, the decoration on an old powderhorn, and a scene of long lost features in the Mohawk Valley.

One of his greatest contributions to the documentation of the history of the region was his recording of the scenes of historic events, as he saw them 100 years ago, with lost details reconstructed from eyewitness accounts and local sources inserted into the landscape.

The Binnekill in 1890 The Binnekill in 1790
In these two paintings of the historic harbor on the Binnekill at Schenectady, Grider displays his technique of drawing places as they looked when he saw them (left), in this case around 1890, and then redrawing them as his research suggested they would have looked a century before (right), when they were in their heyday.

But even when all he did was record on paper what still remained of the past, in the late 1890s, Rufus Grider provided a research resource that helps bridge the gap today between the present and the history of the late 18th century. By giving us that 100 year snap shot of 200 year old historic environments, Grider makes possible the rediscovery of places, such as Kane's Store, that otherwise might have remained in obscurity.

Spraker Tavern near Canajoharie
One of several views painted by Grider showing the Spraker Tavern near Canajoharie, no longer standing. It captures not only the building, but the alignment of the old King's Road and a lane that ran to the rope ferry across the Mohawk. That ferry is shown in the view above on this page, drawn looking southward across the river from in front of this tavern.

For more about Rufus Grider and his art, check out this website from Montgomery County, where he lived.


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