By Samantha Smith
Colette C. Fulton, an established Hudson Valley historian will be awarded the Martha Washington Woman of History Award at the Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh during the event titled, The General’s Lady on Sundy, March 19, at 2 p.m.
To be awarded this honor, the nominated candidate must have made various contributions to the history of the Hudson Valley through education, promotion and preservation of historical sites, documents, photos and landmarks. Moreover, the person is recognized for keeping the rich history of the area alive for decades.
Fulton has shown a love and vested interest in history since she was a young girl. She recalls some of her first memories, when she would visit the Temple Hill Monument in New Windsor with her father. With “glowing admiration” he would share stories with her about our founding fathers who fought and won the Revolutionary War and topics of American history. It was not until then that she decided to dig deeper into the historical significance of what the Hudson Valley held within it.
“That’s where it started and I just continued all through my life,” said Fulton. “Although I never went to school for history, I just always had an interest.”
When Fulton was a student at New Windsor school, she became a member of the Clintonian Chapter of the New York State Junior Historical Society. From there she went on to become a Colonial Guide at the local cantonment making clothing pieces for war reenactments and teaching men about the Revolutionary days. This is where she would meet her now husband, who at that time also worked at the cantonment serving as a member of the 3rd New York Regiment of reenactors.
After moving to Cornwall-on-Hudson and as Fulton’s love and knowledge of local history progressed, she found herself yearning to learn and do more to immerse herself.
At the time, Cornwall didn’t have an historian; so this opened a perfect door for Fulton after receiving an appointment from the Mayor Charles Obremski. Fulton would then go on to serve for around 40 years.
Fulton notes that one of their projects in particular while she worked as village historian, arranging a reconstruction of the original 1880’s outdoor bandstand that was once in the village’s square; the new one serving as a replica. With the help of Dutchess BOCES carpentry school, it was built and transported to the same location it once stood. Fulton notes she did significant research to find what the old one looked like with the hopes of keeping the physical originality as intact as possible.
During this time, she would also visit elementary school classrooms that studied local history to present and teach students about the history of the schools and the railroad. In addition, Fulton has been a part of the National Temple Hill Association and the Orange County Historical Society; and would visit historical sites up and down the Hudson Valley.
In 1999, with similar interests of Fulton and a number of others, she founded the Cornwall Historical Society. Although the beginning wasn’t an easy feat, it took five years to get a charter. Today they now have their own building which houses files on history, a collection of items and a wall that showcases the history of the lives of veterans from Cornwall.
“Part of the reason of knowing your history is that you learn from it all the time,” noted Fulton. “I think there’s a lot of rewriting of history going on now.”
The society has an interest in preserving old homes and helping the homeowner do research on the history of it. A couple of years ago live educational classes would be held in a historic home from the 1750’s that sits between the town and the village teaching schoolchildren the daily lives of people during that time period.
Fulton has also published two historical texts on Cornwall-on-Hudson.
Currently, Fulton is at the Cornwall library working to organize some of their paper memorabilia.
“It’s very nice to realize that there are people that recognize history,” said Fulton. “And knowing it’s worth studying about and sharing.”
“I am very honored,” Fulton added.
After the ceremony concludes, light refreshments will be served.