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 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 21 books and more than 200 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 75 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, 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 than having parents do it at home. Behind that plan were powerful forces: companies that, with an extra grade mandated in schools across the country, could sell more materials and services.

From another perspective, the plan was a direct threat to parental rights. Should mandatory kindergarten become law, children would be forcibly removed from the home at an even younger age. » Continue Reading.


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 compelled to send them to school and have no voice in the substance or methods of those children’s studies. Our authority is weak enough now, goodness knows. Let us be careful how we weaken it further.”

She fought vigorously for years against allowing city-school policies to permeate rural America. Among the high-profile organizations supporting her contentions was the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. After studying American schools, Carnegie’s findings, said Lynch, “Have jarred the educational world, for it says that our system of public education is becoming alarmingly superficial, is fostering ‘educational farces,’ and building up ‘delusive courses.’ ” » 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 is absolutely ineffective in its results, but also actually harmful in that it throws each year 93 out of every 100 children into the world of action absolutely unfitted for even the simplest tasks of life? … The public school system is not something to be proud of, but a system that is today the shame of America.” » 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 in the world. If we don’t find the answers soon, the hollow ring of that claim might well become deafening.

Since 1970, we’ve improved just about everything: civil rights, technology, weapons, communications, you name it—but in educating our youth, we’re failing over and over in so many ways. Sure, there are good kids, smart kids, geniuses, and prosperous citizens coming out of our schools, but consider a few shocking numbers that provide some balance. » 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 around doing pretty much nothing. That doesn’t prevent some folks from monitoring cams hour after hour, but for most of us, the best option is to have browsers open and check them occasionally (or perhaps sign up for alerts on sites that offer them). » Continue Reading.


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 half a year.

Charles Monroe Dickinson was born in November 1842 in Lowville, New York (Lewis County). After high school, he worked for several winters as a schoolteacher at Haverstraw-on-Hudson, about 20 miles south of West Point. The money earned helped further his education at Fairfield Seminary and Lowville Academy. During this time, Charles also explored writing, particularly poetry. At the age of 19 he produced a poem, “The Children,” that constitutes his second great claim to fame. More on that later. » 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 it was also noted that the ice being harvested was not fit for use as drinking water. It came from “the direct line with sewer drain from the boat works, and is very likely filled with sewer contamination.” Hmm … could Ogdensburg be the originator of novelty ice cubes? » 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 capture some interesting moments. Today, all those things from the past have evolved into a spectacular learning tool: online wildlife cams. » 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 stunning.

Colonel Scott and others encouraged her with best wishes, and in early September 1926, Hibbs performed the operation in New York City. Doctors had worried that Jessica’s weakened physical state might place her in critical condition after surgery. Instead, improvement was seen immediately, and with her usual upbeat outlook, Ferguson went right to work on recovery. » 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 spine. In 1918, she lost the ability to walk. Doctors placed her in a cast that forced Jessica into a permanent reclining position.

In the early 1920s, Anna Ferguson moved her daughter to Saranac Lake, where they settled into a cottage on Riverside Drive on the shores of Lake Flower. Jessica’s situation was different from most patients, for the majority suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, which affected the lungs. The vision most of us conjure is of patients on porches to benefit from the fresh air, something Jessica was unable to do. » 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 for England and America, and confident of victory.

They had also seen the plight of French war prisoners held in a camp near Darmstadt. Likewise, while traveling through France, they encountered prison camps where Germans were held. At Paris, they met the first 150 American soldiers to land in France after the war declaration. As shiploads of fighting men arrived, the frightened couple found passage home on the Rochambeau. » 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, and elsewhere in Europe. Many American opera singers improved their work after studying under Frigau. Like some, Robert Perkins sought the most challenging venue for his new language skills: the stages of Europe. In January 1913, he and his wife sailed the Atlantic. » 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 endured was graphically described in court: “Heaps of refuse on the floor, chicken heads, pieces of bones, decayed meats, swarms of flies, and a terrific odor. In another room, live chickens were kept.” There was no bathroom. Indoor residue and an outdoor pile revealed that the slop bucket had been routinely dumped from a window.

When Edward’s testimony ended, the court called Mrs. Perkins to the stand, and that’s when it happened: simultaneously, two women stood. It was the stuff of future movies, but this was reality. Confusion reigned, and Perkins’ wife of several years, the mother of his two children, appeared bewildered. » 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 should go, time was lacking. But after attending regional book events during the past decade, Jill recognized the need for organization. With that in mind, she went to work. The current configuration of NCA is easy to navigate and provides loads of information. » Continue Reading.


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. » Continue Reading.


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