“History is a record of decisions and actions that, given any moment in time, could have taken one path or another. Many of these turning points have created the chain of events that we call our American story. A crucial part of that story is the emergence of New York as a seat of colonial power and battlefield that would decide the fate of Revolution. The surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777 is widely considered the turning point of the American Revolution that made victory at Yorktown, with French support, possible. In this greatest of turning points, however, is an underlying chain of events that occurred on New York soil that led to it. The first links of this chain were forged centuries earlier by the Five Nations Confederacy of the Iroquois and to them were added French, Dutch, English, German, African and countless more links along the way. Each link faced turning points that moved New York toward its date with destiny at Saratoga. Large or small, remembered or forgotten, these turning points of New York Colonial and Revolutionary War history are where we find our passion and purpose.”
– Jeff & Pam O’Connor
Turning Point 1777 is a husband and wife team with over three decades of combined experience interpreting local, regional and state history. The Old Stone Fort Museum in Schoharie, NY was where they honed their interpretive skills, the place they met, and where they were married. It is at the heart of their passion for the past and will always be a special place to them. It was there that they developed their simple approach to teaching history: make it informative, make it relevant, and, above all, make it enjoyable.
Jeff was born in Saratoga Springs, so it might be said he had an interest in the American Revolution from the cradle. Having grown up in Cobleskill, Jeff is now a driving force in presenting the Colonial and Revolutionary War history of upstate New York, with an impressive list of accomplishments that continues to grow and expand.
While serving on the Schoharie County Historical Society Board of Trustees for several terms, Jeff’s energy and creativity was boundless. From chairing the largest living history events at the museum, such as Stone Fort Days and History Fair, to presenting his own programs, lectures and special events, Jeff has a wide range of experiences that have helped develop and hone his considerable interpretive skills. His most fulfilling achievement was being commanding officer and lead organizer of the Stone Fort Volunteer Militia, which was an introductory living history program based on Schoharie County’s experiences in the American Revolution. For a decade, this very active organization met regularly and held numerous special events both on and off-site that presented what members learned about the colonial experience to enthusiastic audiences of all ages. The heart of this program then, and primary focus of Jeff’s approach to living history now, is to employ interactive presentations that fully engage audiences and invites participation to maximize the “fun factor” in learning about history. Currently a member of the re-created 3rd Battalion of Tryon County Militia, Jeff continues to expand his living history repertoire. In addition, he has had numerous articles printed in various historical publications as well as a book called “Thunder in the Valley – The Story of the Loyalist Uprising in the Schoharie Valley that Led to the First Cavalry Charge of the United States Army August 13, 1777.” His latest project is a major work that takes a new look at the Palatine experience in the Schoharie Valley with an emphasis on the events and people of the previous century that were involved in shaping the world into which they walked, entitled, “Skohere – and the Birth of New York’s Western Frontier 1609-1731.”
Pam is, in the words of a friend and client of theirs, “Hot Stuff.” She grew up near the Continental Army’s last Cantonment in New Windsor and developed her historical interest among such sites in the area as George Washington’s Headquarters, Henry Knox’s Headquarters, and West Point. She, too, has had a love for history in her blood right from the beginning.
An accomplished quilter, artist, seamstress and creative dynamo, she brings a vivid imagination to any project she’s working on and is rarely seen without a needle and thread within reach of her fingertips. Her decades of experience working with young people as an aide in the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District has given her valuable insight on what makes children tick, especially what gets them interested in history. Her contributions to the district as a library aide approaches legendary status. She was the creative mind and chief organizer behind three award-winning documentaries the library produced with 5th grade classes taking on the roles of researchers, writers, musicians, actors and readers. The 2008 “Battle of Cobleskill” documentary won a NYS Educational award for excellence and was followed up with two other documentaries “Our Train” and “Wheat to Hops to Dairy,” which all combined garnered the prestigious national “American Historical Association Beveridge Teaching Prize” in 2014. Pam also lent her creative genius to establishing a junior historical society for the district, which has seen dozens of students participating in meetings and events that culminate every year with a “History Fair.” Her artistry is always on full display at the libraries she works in, and many a hallway or entrance display has been graced with her imaginative themes. In addition to her educational work, she is XOXOConnor who makes authentic, hand-sewn flag reproductions from the colonial, Revolutionary War and Civil War periods along with historical and historically inspired textile items such as colonial pockets and unique handbags that are highly stylized and no two are alike. Check out samples of her work HERE.