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.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Buy Local: A Long History and Familiar Themes

18741219 OgdDailyJournal 02A sense of community is important to most of us. We join clubs, sports teams, civic and arts organizations, historical associations—groups that represent our interests. There’s strength in numbers and satisfaction in knowing that we’re part of something significant. The push to buy local, heightened recently by an economy where average Americans still struggle, is another example. Supporting small local businesses helps your neighbor, keeps money in the community, and benefits us all.

The ideas behind Buy Local movements seem new, exciting, sensible—and two out of three ain’t bad. Exciting and sensible, for sure. But new? New-ish, maybe? Not even close.

Pleading, begging, encouraging, cajoling, and instructing the public on why buying local is » Continue Reading.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Adventures in Snow Shoveling

BuscoPlowAdkAlmAbout a year ago on these pages, I shared a secret “illness”—snow shoveling—that has been with me since childhood. Besides the interesting and very funny comments that followed on Adirondack Almanack, personal emails arrived from those similarly afflicted. I did mention that more would come in the future, so here goes. Shoveling and keeping a 1500-foot path open for a decade of winters was the highlight of last year’s piece. That probably can’t be topped, but there is more insanity to report.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Correcting The Record On Randy Douglas

Willis-WellsOn Tuesday, January 6, the Press-Republican reported a remarkable achievement of Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas.

Here’s how the newspaper’s article began: “Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas was sworn in Monday for an unprecedented sixth term as chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.” The italics are mine. Their claim is wrong.

Among the subjects I’ve covered on Adirondack Almanack is Willis Wells, a shining star of Essex County’s past and a member of the Lake Placid Hall of Fame. I recently discovered that the articles about his great career, and even his obituary (he died in 1949), were in error. Both sources noted that Wells had served eight » Continue Reading.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Publishing Advice for New Authors

BooksImageJW01If the past few years are any indication, we’ll see a variety of new Adirondack books by regional authors in 2015. For those considering writing a book, a family history, or perhaps reviving an old project like a cookbook fundraiser, a few pointers might well save you some headaches and dollars, especially if you’re planning to self-publish. (Self-publishing involves funding the production costs and then marketing and selling your own work—a tough job, but with far greater potential profit for the author than traditional publishing.)

As publishers, my partner and I receive queries on what we call “rescue projects,” those reaching us only after lots of mistakes have been made and lots of money has already been » Continue Reading.


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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Benny Rolfe: Inspiring the Great Satchmo

6A BARNewEdisonPhonoDuring his contract with Lucky Strike, which lasted several years, Brasher Falls native Benny Rolfe’s reach was expanded to more time slots and more stations, reaching virtually every part of America. Rival CBS Radio came up with the “Old Gold Hour”, also sponsored by tobacco, to compete with Rolfe’s great success, but it was a tough assignment. A survey of radio programs in 1931 to determine the popularity of orchestras around the world found Duke Ellington in the number two position—second to B. A. Rolfe.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Benny Rolfe: A Pioneer of Radio

5A BAROpensAtPalaisIn the 1920s, pioneer of silent films and legendary trumpeter Benny Rolfe was in great demand. The Amalgamated Vaudeville Exchange gave him office space to organize and produce band acts. The Edison Company signed him as their “ace band attraction” and sought a recording deal.

Benny also scored big at the Palais d’Or, signing a four-week contract to play for the patrons of New York’s most successful restaurant. The Palais announced the new venture with a splash of advertising for “Twelve men, led by the greatest trumpet virtuoso of all time, who has organized more successful dance orchestras than any other man in the music world.”

Performing for the lunch-hour crowd, Benny was an » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Benny Rolfe: ‘World’s Greatest’ Trumpeter

4A BARolfeHatIn 1918, pioneer of silent films Benny Rolfe left Metro Pictures (later MGM) and formed his own Rolfe Productions, quickly scoring a coup by signing Harry Houdini to a film contract. The hugely popular escape artist was featured by Benny in The Master Mystery, a “super-serial” produced in fifteen parts. After viewing the first installment, Billboard reported: “This enthralling picture will be followed eagerly from week to week and will draw like a house afire. Has unlimited advertising possibilities. Grab it quick.”



Monday, December 8, 2014

Benny Rolfe of Brasher Falls: Pioneer of Silent Films

3A RolfeHdlineJolsonIn early 1910, Benny Rolfe‘s latest vaudeville release, The Rolfonians, received high praise from the New York Dramatic Mirror. “B. A Rolfe has given vaudeville several entertaining productions, but his latest, which be has named after himself, and in which he appears, is the best he has yet turned out. The Rolfonians is novel if nothing else, while it is decidedly refined and of a truly high-class order.… Mr. Rolfe is to be sincerely congratulated. The Rolfonians is … so admirably staged, and so entirely harmonious from a musical viewpoint, that it will undoubtedly become one of vaudeville’s most sought for acts.”



Monday, December 1, 2014

Vaudeville Star Benny Rolfe of Brasher Falls

2A BARolfeBandHatIn April 1900, the 24-piece Brasher Falls Military Band was organized, with Benny Rolfe as leader. He also served as manager of the Rolfe family business. Life was looking pretty good for the Boy Trumpet Wonder of Brasher Falls.

Within a month, he received an offer of $30 a week ($860 in 2014) to lead the famous military band of Lowville, about 100 miles southwest of Brasher Falls. For the time being, Benny remained in his hometown, performing locally, playing solos in appearances with area town and city bands, and perfecting the laundry business.

But in early January 1901, it was announced that Benny had purchased the Lowville Steam Laundry, and would soon » Continue Reading.



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.



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