Delving into her family’s history, Shaw creates “Goosen, The Musical”

The Enterprise — Michael Koff


HILLTOWNS — Penny Shaw Bartley has always loved to sing and entertain people.

It started when she was a kid growing up on a farm in Michigan. She and her siblings worked in the fields, “hoeing out weeds and driving the tractor and feeding the animals,” says Shaw in this week’s Enterprise podcast.

On Sundays, they would go to church. “And when we came back, while the potatoes were cooking on the stove or chicken in the oven, we would stand around the piano.”

Her mother played the piano; her father played the guitar. Together, the family sang “all the old gospel songs and country western songs and folk songs.”

They’d sing in harmony and sometimes yodel. The yodeling came from her father’s side of the family; his mother would yodel to call in the kids.

Shaw’s high school was small and didn’t put on musicals but she saw “My Fair Lady” at a larger school and thought, “Oh, I want to do that.”

After she moved to the Helderbergs, Shaw — then 24 years old with three young children — tried out for the first musical put on by the Hilltown Players, “Li’l Abner.”

She got the part of the female lead, Daisy Mae — and hasn’t looked back. Shaw has been part of every aspect of the Hilltown Players from sewing costumes to auditioning cast. She started writing her own plays, which the troupe has performed.

Over the decades, Shaw has helped to create a welcoming atmosphere where anyone who tries out for the fall show is given a part.

“We have to select the stronger voices, singing voices for the leads, but we don’t turn people away,” she said.

So actors have included a person who uses a wheelchair and speaks through a Dynavox and a deaf girl. “She sang right along with us but we had to let her know what was happening next,” said Shaw. “She had a partner that stayed with her.”

And now, celebrating their 40th year, the Hilltown Players are presenting Shaw’s latest creation, “Goosen, The Musical.”

In the depth of the pandemic, Shaw delved into tracing family history. She published a book on her father’s side of the family and then decided to trace her husband’s heritage. No one would talk about Richard Bartley’s grandfather, she said, “so I went on a venture, searching for him.”

She discovered that he died in 1935 at the age of 55 and found a photo of him someone had posted that looked exactly like her husband. “It was amazing …. I was truly bit,” said Shaw.

 Some nights, she’d stay up till three in the morning, tracing family trees.

On Shaw’s mother’s side, her great aunt, Hazel Van Note, had, before there was an internet, traced the family back to Rev. Willian Van Noort from New Jersey.

A story passed down in her mother’s family was that the Van Notes had left Ireland with seven other families because they were persecuted and settled in the Netherlands. They wanted to go to America but, since they weren’t Dutch citizens, they couldn’t get passage.

The Dutch West India Company allowed only Dutch citizens on the ships, said Shaw.

The family story had it that a sheriff in their town in the Netherlands was supposed to hang a horse thief but didn’t want to and so arranged for the thief to board a ship to America as long as he agreed to acknowledge the eight Irish families as kin so they could go too.

Shaw’s online research led her to Goosen Jansen Van Noort who, in 1661, sailed from the village of Beesd in the Dutch province of Gelderland to America.

“And so they all got on the ship,” said Shaw of the eight Irish families. “And we were told that the family changed their last name to Van Note to get out, to be able to get on the ship …

“They said that the horse thief kept to himself the whole voyage over. And, when they got off the ship, he took off and they never saw him again. But the families all decided, it’a new life; we’ll keep the new name. So they kept Van Note.”

Shaw found a paper written by a professor in California who traced the Van Note families in America. She further found documents showing Goosen Jansen Van Noort was taken to court in Albany many times for drunkenness, fighting, and owing money.

He married Maria Peek who had formerly been married to a well-known Hudson River trapper and trader, Jan Peek, for whom Peekskill is named, Shaw said.

He had built a tavern for her, Maria’s Tavern, in New Amsterdam, now New York City, Shaw said her research revealed. Maria, too, was frequently in court “but she also took other people to court, too, if they wronged her,” said Shaw, citing the example of a police officer who broke a glass at the tavern and wouldn’t pay for it.

“So Goosen married right into the same kind of people as he was,” said Shaw.

What clinched her research was when, as she followed the family forward in time, Shaw landed on the same Rev. William Van Noort her Aunt Hazel decades before had traced the family to.

“So I put it into a musical,” said Shaw.

The show includes an Irish jig, several barroom-style sing-alongs — and also Hava Nagila, a Jewish wedding song and dance.

“You’ll have to come to the show to find out why,” said Shaw.


“Goosen, The Musical” runs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 and 19, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 3 p.m. at the gym at Camp Pinnacle at 621 Pinnacle Road. Admission at the door is $12 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, veterans, people currently in the military, teens, and children.


More Hilltowns News

  • The Carey Institute for Global Good had jettisoned much of its core programming during the pandemic years while it figured out its own future. It has now changed its name to Hilltown Commons, and partnered with three different local organizations that now call its Rensselaerville campus home. 

  • “Farm life requires a level of discipline and common sense,” Garry told The Enterprise when she was appointed to the Appellate Division. “From my father I got a love of people that’s been really helpful to me.”

  • Over his nine-plus years as Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s superintendent, Timothy Mundell has led the district through significant challenges, helping to establish a much stronger foundation for the next superintendent than he had coming in. 

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