By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Fred Hickein wanted to make sure his heirloom muskets stayed in good hands, so the 93-year-old Oneonta resident made a major donation to the Greater Historical Society of Oneonta on Wednesday, April 21.
Hickein and his wife, Eleanor, and several of his colleagues from the Oneonta American Legion Post 259, presented GOHS with two family treasures Wednesday,: an English smooth bore rifle, circa 1800, which Hickein believes was brought to the area by an ancestor of his, Solomon Yager; and a Civil War training musket owned and used by another relative, Edward Brewer.
An Oneonta High School and Hartwick College graduate and a Navy veteran, who served in both World War II and Korea, although never overseas or at sea, Hickein said he wanted the heirlooms to be in good hands and he trusted GOHS to honor his family’s history.
“I wanted to do it before I died,” he said. “I wanted to make sure they were in a good place.”
GOHS Executive Director Marcela Micucci said the group’s history center at 181 Main St. will soon have a permanent display and it will include one or both of the musket donations.
“Fred has donated many things to the historical society in the past,” she said. “He knew he wanted them to go to a good home and we are happy to have them.
“They will be seen by many,” she said.
The musket that belonged to Yager — who is also an ancestor of Willard Yager, for whom Hartwick College’s Yager Museum of Art & Culture is named — becomes one of the oldest artifacts in the GOHS collection, according to recently retired Executive Director Bob Brzozowski.
Hickein said he thinks the Yager musket was made in England a year or two before 1800 and brought to America and to Otsego by his relative. Brzozowski said there is a Mrs. Yager on an 1853 map of Oneonta who may be Solomon Yager’s widow. Her land was on what is now Market Street, he said.
The musket is a smooth bore rifle that Hickein said was modified to make it shoot easier.
The second musket had an attachment for a bayonet and was used by Edward Brewer as a training rifle, Hickein said. Brewer and his older brother, Alexander, enlisted for the Union in 1860 or 1861, Hickein said, and were discharged in 1865. Their family lived on Brewer Lane, which is now known as Woodside Avenue, he said.
Brewer was Hickein’s step-great grandfather, he said.
Hickein said he and Eleanor will have been married for 67 years in June and have four children.
“She’s been a boom to me all these years,” he said.
Hickein is a former commander of the Post 259 and is the oldest member. His most recent job was as the manager of the Tri-County motor club.