Almanack Contributor Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 40 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 16 books and more than 100 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, has been a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. They have published 65 titles and are now offering web design.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publisher’s Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Benny Rolfe: Boy Trumpet Wonder of Brasher Falls

1A BARolfe01The community of Brasher Falls, located on the St. Regis River in northern St. Lawrence County, can be described as “in the middle of nowhere,” defined here as about halfway between Potsdam and Hogansburg. No insult intended. Remoteness, after all, is a desirable attribute for many North Country folks, and at just a couple miles north of Route 11, it’s not really the boondocks. It’s a small community, and in 1880 had a population of about 240, making it all the more remarkable that a nationally famous musician and a true pioneer of vaudeville, movies, and radio is a Brasher Falls native.

Benjamin Albert Rolfe was born on October 24, 1879, to Albert Benjamin and » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The End of Adirondack Horse Thief Alonzo Clark

B1LonClarkHdlineAfter release from prison, Alonzo Clark returned to New York and married a young girl in Brandon, south of Malone, where he worked as a farmhand. It wasn’t long before he returned to crime, stealing horses prior to engaging in a high-profile scam at Helena, a hamlet in northern St. Lawrence County. In early 1885, posing as a salesman and tinware repairman, Clark ingratiated himself to Adam Knapp, 69, and his wife, Susan, 50, claiming to be a cousin of Luella, their adopted 16-year-old daughter.

After several nights of reading from the Bible with the family and turning on the charm, Alonzo won them over, particularly Luella. He courted her for several days, using » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

For Alonzo Clark, Every Horse was a Gift Horse

A1LOCHorseBuggyWhen regional history books by well-known authors like Frederick J. Seaver (Historical Sketches of Franklin County) and Maitland De Sormo (The Heydays of the Adirondacks) mention criminals, there’s probably a good backstory, but one quite difficult to trace.

A prime example: Alonzo Clark, legendary horse thief of northern New York, New England, and the West. It’s unfortunate that Seaver’s paragraph on Clark is almost completely erroneous. A chapter of a book published in 2009 by the History Press didn’t do much better, covering his story in lackluster and cursory fashion with just a few snippets easily found online by casual searchers. The first 35 years of his crimes were completely ignored.



Monday, November 3, 2014

Benjamin R. Stickney: Man of a Trillion Stamps

01BRStickWPress1920Many average citizens lead private lives that impact relatively few people in the overall scheme of things. Some who engage the public via music, books, politics, or show business can affect vast audiences in at least a small way. Others, like inventors, manage to combine the two—somehow touching the lives of many while remaining relatively anonymous. An Adirondack man did just that, reaching hundreds of millions of people and saving the US government vast sums of money. Museums, including the Smithsonian, have featured exhibits on his work. Yet today he remains a virtual unknown.

Benjamin Rollin Stickney was born in May 1871 in the village of Port Henry (town of Moriah). After schooling locally, he lived » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 27, 2014

The Samuel de Champlain History Center

SamDeChampHistoryCenter“You can’t go home again” is an adage based on the title of a Thomas Wolfe book, but with a different meaning from Wolfe’s original intent. The adage suggests we can’t relive our youth, and in a wider sense can’t recapture what once was. If that’s true, I recently came as close as one can by visiting my hometown for a book-related event. The result was a Mayberry-like evening with a roomful of nice people, and a close-up look at the accomplishments of a dedicated historian seeking to preserve our heritage.

I was raised in the northeast corner of New York State in the village of Champlain, representative of small-town America in the 1950s and 60s. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 20, 2014

For Joe Bromley, An Arm and A Leg Were Enough

01GorrowBromleyNiagFalls1930Among the motivating factors driving life choices are two that often go hand in hand: inspiration and perspective. People challenged by physical or mental disabilities inspire us by their achievements and provide perspective, as in, “Hey, if you can accomplish all that, maybe I should drop the excuses and try working harder.” In the world of sports, I think of major-league pitcher Jim Abbott, born with no right hand, but who played the field well and pitched a no-hitter, and Tom Dempsey, born with no fingers on his right hand and no toes on his right foot, but became a record-setting kicker in the NFL.

While able-bodied folks can find all sorts of reasons not to » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 13, 2014

St. Lawrence Co Native: A Story With Some Teeth

NormanWKingsleyca1900Deformities like cleft palate once befuddled all dentists and surgeons, none of whom could find reliable, workable solutions to those truly vexing problems. Around the world, tens of thousands of victims suffered as social outcasts due to congenital deformities. Many were unable to speak, but nearly 160 years ago, that began to change. Since that time, millions have been helped, thanks to the work of the Father of Modern Orthodontia—who happens to be a North Country native.

Norman William Kingsley was born on October 26, 1829, in Stockholm, a sparsely populated town in northern St. Lawrence County. The family had moved there from Vermont, but when Norman was four years old, they returned to the Green » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Hog-Pen Charley: One for the Record Books

1885HogpenCharleyHdlineHistorically, New York State has long been home to some of the nation’s toughest prisons. More than a century ago, having served 18 years at Sing Sing, 19 at Auburn, or 31 at Clinton marked any man as one tough son-of-a gun. So what could be said about a man who served all three of those sentences? The toughest SOB ever? Not even close. He was a hard case, no doubt, but in time, dedicated recidivism earned him media portrayals as quirky, unusual, and eventually somewhat endearing. It’s doubtful his victims felt that way, but it happens that some criminals gain personas making them far more acceptable than the average crook. Among those was upstate New » Continue Reading.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: The Abysmal Notion of Banning Books

BBW14_CoverArt_op1 CRBanned Books Week, which ended a few days ago, is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association and a number of other organizations representing authors, publishers, journalists, teachers, and anti-censorship sentiments. While pondering the mindset that would limit what others can read, it occurred to me that some of my own books, and many others tied to the Adirondack region, have the potential to be challenged by those who do such things. Seems ludicrous, but it’s true.

The tendency is to dismiss book-banners as nutjobs or fanatics, but here’s the truth: for school libraries and public libraries, topping the list of ban seekers are parents, patrons, administrators, board members, teachers, and pressure groups, » Continue Reading.


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Theodorus Bailey: An Uncredited Hero

P2ATheodorusBaileySenators and congressmen reviewed the battle reports from the taking of New Orleans in early 1862 in order to prepare a special resolution honoring Captain Theodorus Bailey and Flag-officer David Farragut. Bailey almost certainly would rise to the top of the waiting list for promotion to rear admiral. However, according to author/Admiral David Porter, as the battle’s description was read aloud by Senator James Grimes and the nation’s legislators reacted with wild enthusiasm, a note was delivered to the speaker.

Reading it, he said, “Stop, we are moving too fast,” after which the note was passed around for all to read. The subject was quickly changed and the lawmakers began addressing unrelated issues, while » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Theodorus Bailey, Chateaugay’s Civil War Hero

P1ATheodorusBaileyIn the New York Times of February 11, 1877, appeared the obituary of a North Country native, Theodorus Bailey, who was born in Chateaugay in 1805 and moved to Plattsburgh with his family around 1811. The Battle of Plattsburgh took place three years later, on September 11, 1814. Although Theodorus was just nine years old, that historic event made quite an impression. His obituary, in fact, pointed out that Bailey “accepted as his pet hero Commodore Macdonough, the American commander in the battle,” and was thus inspired to seek a career in the navy.

It’s also interesting that among the War of 1812 battles that are considered pivotal, Plattsburgh has often been overlooked in » Continue Reading.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Remembering The Battle of Plattsburgh: September 11, 1814

1816 BaltimoreBOPDisplay“The naval battle of Lake Champlain was probably the greatest feat of arms that our navy achieved in the War of 1812,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.

From Secretary of Navy William Jones on Oct. 3, 1814: “To view it in abstract, it is not surpassed by any naval victory on record. To appreciate its result, it is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of our country.”

According to Penn University historian John B. McMaster, it was “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and Thomas Macdonough was “the ablest sea-captain our country has produced.”

Like McMaster, author and historian Teddy Roosevelt called it “the greatest naval battle of the » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

81 Years Ago: An Amazing Rescue on Wallface

Wallface3boysEighty-one years ago—on September 3, 1933—three Plattsburgh youths in their late teens, accompanied by a schoolteacher, climbed Wallface Mountain in the Adirondacks. Their purpose was not to ascend the infamous steep cliffs there, but instead to retrieve a length of rope valued at $40 (about $720 today) and deliver it to the Lake Placid Club. For such a mundane outing, the press coverage was extraordinary, extending to newspapers in many faraway locations. And therein lies a harrowing tale.

Five days earlier, those same boys had embarked on another trip to Wallface, reaching the base of the cliffs at Indian Pass early in the morning. The trio—Tyler Gray, 19, Robert Glenn, 17, and William LaDue, » Continue Reading.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Minerva’s Ella Lynch, Defender of Parental Rights

4aEFLynchTo the dismay of Minerva’s high-profile educator, Ella Lynch, the struggle for quality American schooling continued through the 1920s, seemingly based on that wonderful definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. The newest plan to fix an admittedly broken system? Add another grade: kindergarten.

Concerned educators were baffled by the suggestion. Despite Ella’s proven system and successful organizations, the solution to a terrible public-school system was expansion of that very system? More of the same would surely do the trick?

While officials agreed that Lynch was correct about the value of teaching very young children, they decided that the disastrous school system was a better choice » Continue Reading.


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Monday, August 18, 2014

Minerva Educator Ella Lynch Goes International

3aBooklessLessonsIn 1922, another of Ella Lynch’s titles was published: Bookless Lessons for the Teacher–Mother, offering more help to those parents wishing to effectively teach their children. On that front, big battles were brewing. Attempts were under way to legislate rural schools out of existence and force centralization.

Lynch said that because tax dollars were taken from the public, “It is right that the state should assist in educating children. It is not right that it should absolutely control that education in everything. It is not right that parents should be obliged to feed and clothe their children, and take care of them in sickness, and pay their doctor and dentist bills, and be » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Minerva’s Ella Lynch: The Importance of Learning to Learn

2aEFLynch1925Ella Frances Lynch—well spoken, thoughtful, and passionate in defining the problems with America’s public school system—refused to back down from proposed reforms. She was right and she knew it. Newspapers featured Ella’s editorials regularly, but the biggest attention-getter was a series of articles she wrote for Ladies Home Journal beginning in 1912. The title: “Is the Public School a Failure? It Is; the Most Momentous Failure in Our American life Today.”

Said Lynch, “Can you imagine a more grossly stupid, a more genuinely asinine system tenaciously persisted in to the fearful detriment of over 17 million children, and at a cost to you of over $403 million each year—a system that not only » Continue Reading.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Ella Frances Lynch: Minerva’s Maven of Early Education

1aEFLynchBeginning here is the story of an unknown but truly remarkable woman, an educator from Adirondack history. But first, some related information is helpful for perspective. For starters, here’s a sampling of complaints about our educational system: low graduation rates; undeserved diplomas; graduates lacking in real-world skills; students woefully unprepared for college; students without self-discipline, and more. Those are all issues today, but the very same items were also cited in 1970.

Since that time, our spending on education has risen by about 85 percent, but we’ve improved very little, still stymied by the same problems. In the meantime, we’ve fallen far behind many other countries, while still spouting that we’re the greatest country » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: Peeking Into the Wilds

2aBrBearsFallsAbout a month ago, I wrote here about the educational and entertainment value of live, online wildlife cams and included links to some of the better ones. After all the wonderful sights we’ve seen during the past three weeks, I felt compelled to address the subject once more by mentioning the tremendous opportunity offered by one particular set of cams. If you love the Adirondacks, you have at least a general interest in wildlife, so you’re bound to enjoy this.

Cam technology isn’t perfected yet (glitches include freezes, pixelation, and failures), but when things are working well, it’s often much like watching a live TV show. And as I noted, animals are often sitting » Continue Reading.


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Charles M. Dickinson: Lowville Poet and Diplomat

CMDickinson02Among the foreign issues America has dealt with many times is hostage taking. Kidnappers claimed many reasons for the action, but it was frequently done to extort money in support of a cause. Extortion kidnappings have often involved seizing of American missionaries and threatening to kill them unless ransom was paid. More than a hundred years ago, there occurred what is referred to as “America’s First Modern Hostage Crisis,” which is actually the subtitle of a 2003 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Teresa Carpenter.

The Miss Stone Affair is the title, referring to Protestant missionary Ellen Maria Stone. A North Country man was a key player in her story, which riveted the nation for » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 14, 2014

“Oops!” Moments From The North Country’s Past

1899 ABadPlaceToCutIceFRIt’s time for another installment of what I call “Oops Moments” from the North Country’s past—incidents that resulted in unforeseen consequences (but in many cases should have been foreseen). I enjoy collecting these because of the humor involved: most of them will either make us laugh or leave us shaking our heads in wonder.

The first takes us back to 1899 Ogdensburg and involves an important part of the region’s past: ice harvesting. In early February, it was noted that several parties had begun cutting ice from the St. Lawrence River in front of Spaulding Boat Works. Perhaps a little more thought should have gone into choosing where to cut, for » Continue Reading.



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