In the 1950s northern New Yorkers had war on their minds. Thousands of average citizens put television, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Corvettes aside over concerns about World War III. Fresh on everyone’s minds was World War II, but the U.S. was right back into a mess in 1950 in Korea, where a three-year fight became one of the building blocks of the Cold War. On it’s ground floor were the everyday North Country folks who joined Operation Skywatch.
Plenty has been written about the loyalty of dogs and how they’ve saved or protected people—rescuing children in trouble, barking to rouse people during fires, or protecting their humans from wild animals, tame animals, or other humans. I’ve written on some of those themes here, and was once protected by my own faithful companion, who went above and beyond the call by fending off deer poachers coming after me with a cattle prod. Yikes! Perhaps a story for another time, but I have to say yet again … Good dog!
In the spirit of the September 10–13 Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration (check out what you missed, and make plans to attend next year), here’s a little Q & A fun from the battle itself, the War of 1812, and Lake Champlain history.
The answers immediately follow each question, so if you enjoy testing yourself and/or others, don’t peek. And if you’re not familiar with the Battle of Plattsburgh, it’s a fantastic story of Americans triumphing against great odds in both a land and water battle. As much as anything else, the victory at Plattsburgh helped end the war.
Labor Day honors the labor movement and the contributions of America’s workers, concepts that have been driven home for me many times through interviews with old-timers who helped build this country. Typical among them was Floyd Bracey, a proud Lyon Mountain iron miner who passed away in 1993. Referring to my factory job back then as “work” seemed unfair after learning about Mr. Bracey’s daily routine of more than three decades.
What follows are excerpts from our conversation in 1980 at the Bracey home in Lyon Mountain, about ten minutes west of Dannemora.
The 123rd New York Volunteer Infantry represented Washington County, New York, in the Civil War. Final casualty totals were about 166 dead (69 on the battlefield) and 158 wounded. Among those were 16 killed and 16 wounded from the town of Whitehall. The dead represent 16 grieving families and great loss for the community, a theme replayed again and again across the country.
Among the key words defining America is union, as in the opening words of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…,” and as in pledging “allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” Yes, it’s even in our name—not America, but » Continue Reading.
If you’re up for a few laughs, here are some more headlines taken from old North Country newspapers. See if you can figure out the real story behind each headline—and don’t be disappointed if you only go one-for-four.
The first one may have been an editor having a little fun with word play, but the headline in the Hammond Advertiser from spring 1944 does make sense in context. If you haven’t already guessed, the year provides a clue to the article topic. The answer: World War II was a time of shortages in America, and the article addressed limitations on the amount of gas available for pleasure craft in the Adirondack region.
Lodestone’s definition—magnetic, to attract strongly—helps clarify the meaning of the following famous quotation: “A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men.” Those are the words of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith. In more colloquial terms, here’s a very loose translation used by a movie star—Thumper in Walt Disney’s “Bambi”: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”
It suggests that people respond well to kind and friendly words, which is true. That’s the concept behind a movement launched long ago by a North Country man. In this era of routine public rudeness, lightly veiled slurs, and yelling opposing views » Continue Reading.
After attending local schools and working on the family farm, he found employment in the iron and lumber business. Higby then enrolled in the Essex County Academy at Westport and went on to graduate from the University of Vermont. After studying law, he began practicing in Elizabethtown in 1847. Three years later, nearing the age of 40, he felt the call of the West amid dreams of striking it rich in California’s gold mines.
Regional traditions, from Authors’ Night in Long Lake to small-town fairs and church dinners, are part of what makes rural life fun. There’s a financial component for sure, but such social gatherings capture a feeling of community that’s elusive in more populated areas. Eighty years ago, Elizabethtown in Essex County hosted the launch of a unique event that fit the mold perfectly: Dicker Days.
Town leaders actually turned down the idea, so it was hosted in Elizabethtown, but was the brainchild of Margaret Adams, whose persistence and resources made it a success.
The recent pursuit of prison escapees near Mountain View and Owl’s Head in northern Franklin County ignited for me a few memories from the area, both related to iron ore. Lyon Mountain, a few miles northeast of Standish, produced the world’s highest-grade iron ore for a century. Standish was home to the iron company’s blast furnace, and the village is linked to Mountain View by an unsurfaced, 11-mile stretch of the Wolf Pond Road.
When I interviewed old-timers back in the early 1980s for a couple of books about Lyon Mountain’s history, they told me of how the blast furnace stood out several decades earlier for residents of Franklin County, south of Malone, especially in the » Continue Reading.