continued The first account holds that the people of Schenectady would often see the surrounding hills ablaze as Native American set the brush on fire. New growth attracted deer, providing the Mohawk Indians with food and hides.
“This area became known to the people of Schenectady as ‘the land of the burnt hills.’” Reynolds said.
The second story says Native Americans traveling in the woods draped in deerskins were seen by settlers who realized getting the deerskins would be easier “if they stole them from the Indians rather than kill the deer themselves.”
“So they killed the Indians and stole the deerskins, and burned the area to cover up their crime. Everybody always tells me they like the first story better,” said Reynolds.
He added each version is folklore, and thus hard to prove. But, the second scenario may have a little bit more credibility since settlers and Native Americans “didn’t get along so well.” Then again, Ballston is said to be unique because the relationship between the two groups was not perceived as a problem there.
Lively stories like this and the way he tells them enable Reynolds to keep the community interested in history. And it came in handy for his students as well. So, what’s his secret?
“There are a couple of things that I truly believe. Number one, history is not about the past. History is about the present, because everything that we are is because of what we were,” he said.
He also said history is “just like the word: stories” and he promises audiences will hear a lot of them.
Those stories are often aided by lively re-enactments of characters that originated in the classroom. He portrays United States Treasurer Samuel Meredith (one of his own relations) and Brian the hippie from1969. Still enlisting their personages, Reynolds has been presenting them in area schools, social organizations and his own presentations for the past 20years.