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 51 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.



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.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Natural History Online: Watching Wildlife Cameras

Idaho'sDecorahEaglesAs a lifelong fan of wildlife observation, I’m living the dream thanks to modern technology.  As a young child a half century ago, I would regularly peek in on the nests of robins and other birds to see what was going on. For hours on end, I’d observe the nests of sunfish, bass, and lampreys in the river that flowed along our yard. I’d capture crayfish, plus fingerlings of northern pike, muskie, and other native fish and raise them in an aquarium. The excitement of learning while observing was intoxicating.

In adulthood, I did more of the same, adding photography to the mix—not that the nature photographs were of great quality, but they did » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Jessica Ferguson: Mirror Girl of Saranac Lake (Conclusion)

Russel Hibbs02AHis work with children’s hospitals convinced Colonel Walter Scott that there might be help for Jessica despite her negative prognosis and seemingly hopeless situation. New and exciting progress had been made, especially by Dr. Russell Hibbs of New York City, whose surgical innovations helped change the face of medicine. Hibbs was the first to perform a spinal fusion, and made great advances in treating tuberculosis of the spine and hip.

At the request of Ferguson’s physicians, Hibbs conducted an evaluation and surprised everyone with his conclusion. Jessica, he said, would benefit from a spinal operation, and might well walk normally following therapy. After all she had been through, the hopeful news was » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Jessica Ferguson: Mirror Girl of Saranac Lake

tb-patientMirror Girl. What an intriguing term. In the past, it has been applied to the prettiest coeds in sororities, cute girls in general, and particularly vain women. But in this case, it addresses one of my favorite historical stories linked to the North Country’s years as a tuberculosis treatment center. The patient was a young woman, Jessica “Jessie” Ferguson, born in 1895 in Mount Pleasant, New York, north of Tarrytown on the Hudson River. Her parents, James and Anna, were both natives of Scotland, a fact that becomes key to the story.

The young girl’s difficulties began in her early twenties when her father died, and Jessica was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone, affecting her » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Mysterious End of Robert Perkins, Opera Star

03A 1917AdPerkinsThe emergency passport request of Robert and Margaret Perkins was granted, and a long, difficult journey began on the heels of what had been a very trying time. Besides the recent separation, their last year in Darmstadt had been spent in poverty-like conditions. Germany’s inflation rate had skyrocketed, driving up the price of everyday items. Robert and Margaret were forced to live on meager supplies and with little heat during the cold winter. They witnessed a food riot. All about them, men, even partially disabled, were conscripted into the military. Women were forced to fill the manual labor jobs normally held by men. And everywhere, soldiers marched off to war, spouting hatred » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Glens Falls Opera Star Robert Perkins: Conquering Europe

02A PerkinsDarmstadtOperaHouseAfter a month visiting with his mother in Lake George, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Perkins moved to New York City. In 1911, he was among the soloists in the first production of Quo Vadis? at the Metropolitan Opera. While working in the grand opera scene, he also studied with Sergei Klibansky, one of the world’s leading voice coaches. Perkins was among his many students who performed at the Carnegie Chamber Music Hall.

While performing nonstop for several years, Robert also studied under Bertha Frigau, a renowned language and singing instructor. American productions of foreign operas sometimes suffered through interpretation, falling short of the gold standard performed at leading venues in Germany, Italy, » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Robert Henry Perkins: Opera Star from Glens Falls

01A RPerkinsImagine the drama of the moment: in a courtroom, Edward Perkins battled against the city of Beacon, New York, desperate to win on behalf of his poor family. The charge? They had been cold-heartedly evicted from their apartment by city officials, and for several chilly, rainy June days, he had searched for new housing. Meanwhile, Edward’s wife and son suffered and his daughter fell ill, presumably from the terrible living conditions. The damages sought (in 1915) were $15,000 from the city, along with $30,000 from the police chief who had deposited all the family’s belongings on the sidewalk. The $45,000 total was equal to $1.1 million in 2014.

The squalor his family had » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: A New Service for Local Authors

Books Image JWThe company that my wife (Jill Jones) and I operate, Bloated Toe Enterprises, recently launched an extensive, time-consuming effort towards improving the lot of authors across the region. Note that there was no mention of “we.” Jill saw the need, had the know-how, planned the design, and wrote the programming code for our new venture, the North Country Authors website. There is no cost to anyone. Authors who supply basic information will be featured there, including photographs, biographies, books, news, and book-related events. The site will be kept up-to-date at all times.

The group North Country Authors was actually formed several years ago. Although we had a vision of where it » Continue Reading.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

The Northern New York Roots Of Pratt & Whitney

FrancisPratt01AdkAlmIn the year 2000, five years after Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed, Pratt & Whitney signed a lease, moved in, and set up shop on the former base property. Many jobs and residents had been lost in the shutdown, making Pratt & Whitney a valued anchor business in the recovery effort.

Their arrival might have been a homecoming of sorts with historical significance, but persistent misinformation carried forward for more than a century appears to have robbed the region of an important link to the past.



Monday, May 12, 2014

Lawrence Gooley On Self Publishing, Book Giveaways

Books Image JW01The Adirondack Center for Writing recently shared a link on their Facebook page to a Bookbaby blog entry titled, “From book to book launch: how to successfully self-publish your book.” There are 17 steps posted, each with links, most of which lead to something you need to do and describing how Bookbaby can provide each service. It’s an effective practice, offering free information of varying value and linking it to paid services.

As general guidelines go, the Bookbaby list is OK, but it’s important for aspiring authors to know that while some of the items apply to most books, the formula in its entirety applies to only certain genres. If you’re » Continue Reading.


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Monday, May 5, 2014

William Merriam: Father Of The Modern Census

09 WR Merriam circa1890Few tasks were more daunting than a national census, as William Merriam would soon discover. Counting citizens was just the beginning. Policy makers needed to know how many were insane, feeble-minded, deaf, dumb, blind, criminals, and paupers. They needed social statistics of cities, information on public indebtedness, and valuation of properties, both personal and industrial.

And from farmers, the heart of the nation, much would be asked. To determine a farm’s size and value—the number and value of all animals, the acres planted and unused, how many acres were used for each fruit, vegetable, or grain, and more—310 questions were asked.

And it wasn’t just the United States that would be » Continue Reading.



Monday, April 28, 2014

William Rush Merriam of Wadhams (Part 2)

05WRMerriam1885When the president began handing out appointments, William Merriam was a strong candidate for many positions. In business, he had recently been touted as the right man to head the Northern Pacific Railroad, of which he was already a director. In politics, he was mentioned as the front-runner for many very important positions: Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, ambassador to Germany, and ambassador to Russia. He was widely considered very capable of filling any of those positions, and had another thing going for him: no skeletons in the closet, and no scandals for the opposition to resurrect.

And it’s true: the rival party well knew of Merriam’s qualifications, » Continue Reading.



Monday, April 21, 2014

William Rush Merriam of Wadhams:
Minnesota Governor and More

01WRMerriamFrom humble North Country beginnings in a pioneer settlement, a local man rose to play an important government role on a national level. Work performed at the height of his career still affects every facet of our government today. It is also highly valued by researchers, genealogists, and historians as a great repository of valuable historical records.

William Rush Merriam was born in 1849 in the small community of Wadham’s Mills in Essex County, just a few miles northwest of Westport. Many members of the Merriam families in that vicinity played important roles in regional history.

At the time of William’s birth, his father, John L. Merriam, was involved in iron making. While a number » Continue Reading.



Monday, April 14, 2014

History: A Little Fun with Old Advertisements

1Cascarets1898Medicines and cure-alls distributed nationally were once regularly advertised in local newspapers, urging readers to try products that were available in nearby drugstores. One of the most common of these treatments was Cascarets, claiming to be different from Castor Oil and other meds that “irritate and lash the bowels into action, but do not thoroughly cleanse, freshen, and purify these drainage organs.”

Are you familiar with those wonderful colon-cleanse infomercials appearing all hours of the night? Back in 1898, Cascarets was making very similar claims: “…remove the undigested, sour food, and foul gases from your stomach … carry out of the system all the constipated waste-matter and poisons in the bowels which are keeping you » Continue Reading.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Redefining Vermin: A Short History of Wildlife Eradication

Vermin01 BlackList1919Beware! Pictured here are your adversaries—the official enemies of the state. Don’t be distracted by the pretty colors, lovely feathers, or furry critters. These are vermin, and citizens are urged to kill them at every opportunity. The poster, by the way, represents only the top nine targets from a group of notorious killers, presented here alphabetically: bobcat, Cooper’s hawk, crow, English sparrow, goshawk, gray fox, great gray owl, great horned owl, house rat, “hunting” house cat, lynx, porcupine, red fox, red squirrel, sharp-shinned hawk, snowy owl, starling, weasel, and woodchuck. Kingfishers and a number of snakes were later added, and osprey were fair game as well.

While some of the phrases used above—“official enemies » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 31, 2014

Livin’ the Dream: Ticonderoga Native Whitney Armstrong

01WhArmstrongmoviedebutIf you’re just a regular Joe or Jane, you’ve probably at some point—say, while lying back in an office chair, or doing the dishes, perhaps mowing the grass—entertained a number of Walter Mitty-like fantasies. You know … stuff like, “What’s it like to be that guy or girl?” For men, that guy could be anything. What’s it like to be the smartest kid in school? The star center on a school basketball team? The ace pitcher on the baseball team? A great running back in football? Better yet, how about doing all that in college? Wow … BMOC, plenty of attention from the girls, the coolest among the guys. Might as well toss in a » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Unintended Adult Humor from Regional Newspapers

19351106 MalFarmer earthquake headlineThis headline from the Malone Farmer says it all about the hardy folks of the Adirondacks: we don’t fear earthquakes, we embrace them! While it’s good for a laugh today, don’t bother calling the editor with your critique: that item appeared in 1935, when the words “rouse” and “arouse” were used interchangeably. They both meant to wake someone up, or to get excited about something in general. Since that time, the word used in the headline is mainly connected with one particular type of excitement.

While skimming old texts and newspapers from around the world, I often encounter amusing or downright funny headlines or passages like that, even though they weren’t meant » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 17, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: Print and E-book News

Books Image JW01The world of books, including both print and digital formats, is still struggling to find the way forward. Translation: publishing companies everywhere are seeking ways to monetize the process in sustainable fashion. Oh, sure … many have made their fortune on what are basically get-rich-quick schemes (in most cases, get richer quick), selling overpriced services to authors while filling their heads with dreams of a world anxiously awaiting their best-seller.

A typical teaser: “Your book will be available to stores everywhere, and to millions (if not billions) of readers around the globe.” True, it will be available to stores and to readers, but without someone marketing, advertising, and promoting it to give those » Continue Reading.


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Monday, March 10, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: Old Values and Modern Education

SnowshoeingAdkAlmRecently announced changes in the college SAT test have elicited all sorts of opinions from experts, lay-people, and students. Some laud the changes, and some decry them. Most everyone agrees that change was needed, but it’s also clear that modifying the tests was a business-based decision to compete with the more popular ACT. The testing of college aptitude isn’t just a means of judging students’ capabilities: it’s also a billion-dollar business.

One change involves dropping the essay requirement (the essay will now be optional). As a person who enjoys good writing, I also realize the limitations imposed on professionals who are less than literate. A research scientist must be able to clearly communicate their experiments » Continue Reading.


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