Sweet Wine Berries

India is one of three top-scoring middle school students in this year’s Writing about Place. She is a student of Patricia Young at Cornwall Central Middle School.  You can read winning elementary school poems and learn about other middle grade and high school winners. Check back for more student writing in the coming weeks.

The bus goes straight. It looks like we are going to ShopRite, but what kind of class would go to ShopRite for a field trip? But then, we turn down a driveway. I guess this is Knox’s Headquarters. It just looks like a normal house with a stone building attached, big backyard, a garden, woods with wineberries and a creek, and stone benches. We go into the cold basement, where they made food. It is a house that was used as Henry Knox’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. The house didn’t belong to him, though, it belonged to John Ellison.

Two years later, I go back and they are showing what the house would look like if a family member or close friend died. There is a casket in the dining room and all of the mirrors are draped in almost-see-through black curtains. Walking through, we see the mannequins wearing black clothing and sitting at the green and white wooden-legged sofas. Making our way upstairs, we see two bedrooms and a desk. The desk has a fake apple, as if Henry Knox was eating while working. There are canopy beds with brown and white bed sheets. The house looks small from the outside, but is big inside and in history.

Another two years later, I go back again. During the summer. The breezes pushing the leaves around on trees, making the bright red wineberries stand out. The Autumn leaves have been replaced by bright flowers and bright green grass. It’s as if there never was a beautiful trail with wineberries, a shed with vines growing on the roof, and a creek that could be barely heard six yards away.The only place that looks like it hasn’t been opened since the revolution is the shed. Vines growing on the roof, the trail leading towards it is hard to get through because of all of the bright green grass and dirt and rocks. The paint is peeling. We try to ignore the shed that looks as though it would be great for telling ghost stories and keep going. Until we get to the stream, with the waterfall and a dark green bridge, enjoying bitter yet sweet wine berries off bushes that look like they want to keep the berries to themselves. Going home, I can’t wait to come again soon. And hopefully that time will come again soon.


Learn more

Colonial Life in the Hudson Valley is a unit designed for fourth and fifth graders. It includes group activities, a lesson on cartography, and ideas for journaling and organizing a colonial/Revolutionary War festival. (Cindy Slayton, Andrea Boccio-Doran,  Susan Peluse, Beth Mabb, and Tara Siudy, Poughkeepsie City Schools)

Slideshare presentation, A Question of Interest, from THV’s 2013 institute. Knox’s Headquarters’ Michael McGurty explores why a large number of American colonists –including the Ellisons–would or could not simply rebel.

The John Ellison House in Vails Gate, AJ Schenkman, on the blog, History & Heritage: The Hudson Valley and its Hinterlands

Wineberry is an invasive shrub related to raspberries and blackberries. It creates spiny, impenetrable thickets that reduce an area’s value for wildlife habitat and recreation. Introduced to North America in the 1890s as breeding stock for raspberries, it was found invading natural areas by the 1970s, and is now recorded in most states east of the Mississippi River.

Wineberry replaces native plants such as edible berry shrubs. Its reddish stems,  silvery under-leafs, and bright red berries distinguish it from other berry shrubs. It is managed mechanically, with chemicals, or a combination of the two. (Photo: NYS Invasive Species Information, Cornell University and Sea Grant NY.)