Posts Tagged ‘Political History’

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hudson River History: The Big Hadley And Glen Dams

IMG_0115The other day as my wife and I, along with our dogs, walked River Road near Riparius on the Hudson River, my wife said to me in a folksy manner “just think all this water here, is on its way to New York City.”

It’s true the Hudson River has flowed out of the Adirondack Mountains for millennia, southward towards the Atlantic Ocean. And for the last two centuries or so there have been plans to dam the upper Hudson River for one reason or another and most of those plans have dealt with using the water resources for some down state endeavor. » Continue Reading.


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 assessed. Information was needed on the populations of all cities, towns, villages, and boroughs covering the District of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii, non-state territories, Indian territories, reservations, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines, and Guam. Wherever the census applied, agriculture and manufacturing would be addressed in detail. » 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, his intelligence, and affability. His only problem came from within his own party’s ranks—yet it had nothing to do with politics, and little to do with Merriam himself. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 28, 2014

John Brown Day: Local Connections to Slavery, Abolition

JB Day 2014[4]Launching John Brown Day 2014, students from high schools across the Adirondacks will attend special screenings of 12 Years a Slave, the Academy award-winning film based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free Black Adirondacker who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the mid-1800s.

Born in Minerva in 1808, Northup lived many of his early years in the region, married and made a home with his wife and their three children in Saratoga Springs. It was there in 1841 where his harrowing entrapment and subsequent enslavement on a Louisiana cotton plantation began.

Eighteen years later in October 1859 John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, lit the spark that ignited the war that ended the chattel slavery that Northup and millions of other people of African descent endured in the United States. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charlie Herr: The Founding Of The Town of Webb

1895 County MapOn a recent election day, I was reminded of the Supreme Court’s historic decision that determined the 2000 Presidential election and of the importance of every vote cast.  I learned of another close election while researching the building of the Sucker Brook Bay Road (now Uncas Road).  I also discovered why the building of the segment from Eagle Bay to Old Forge took five years while Sucker Brook Bay Road was completed within two.

Examining this delay revealed that a court ultimately approved the handling of highway contracts.  I also learned that a judge determined who would be the first supervisor for the new Town of Webb and that the decision was based on improperly completed ballots. » 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 of Merriams remained in the Westport–Elizabethtown area, John pulled up stakes when William was 12 and moved the family to Minnesota, eventually settling in St. Paul.

With a partner, John became successful in the field of transportation prior to the arrival of the railroad. At that time, St. Paul was known informally as Pig’s Eye, and was the commerce center of the Minnesota Territory. The name St. Paul was formalized as the capital city when Minnesota became the 32nd state in 1858. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Herreshoff Manor: Witness to Tragedy

P506 Herreshoff Manor 1892Photographs of the Herreshoff Manor that stood in today’s Thendara depict what could easily pass for a haunted house.  It seems that the building, which stood on an elevation of land not present today, overlooking then (1892) newly built Fulton Chain Station, would collapse with the next stiff breeze.

The story of this structure cannot be told without telling of the trials of its occupants:  Herreshoff, Foster, Waters, Grant, Arnold, Short and Sperry.  Tragedy would be the common thread among those connected with this building. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Forest Preserve History:
Apperson-Schaeffer Collection Going Online

Kelly Adirondack CenterGovernor Al Smith helped block the construction of a highway along the shore of Tongue Mountain, but it was Franklin D.  Roosevelt who was instrumental in protecting the east shore of Lake George, documents in the Apperson-Schaefer collection at the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College in Schenectady suggest.

With funding from the bond acts of 1916 and 1926, much of Tongue Mountain and many of the islands in the Narrows were now protected, permanently, as parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

But by 1926, John Apperson, the General Electric engineer who dedicated much of his life to the protection of Lake George, had become concerned about the future of the east side. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Babe in the Woods:
Kate Field And Adirondack Preservation

kate profileAt the height of her career in mid-1873, Kate Field was said to be “a more prominent journalist than Clemens [Mark Twain].” The Washington Post said she was “one of the foremost women of America,” and the Chicago Tribune called her the “most unique woman the present century has produced.” Yet in her tales of adventure in the Adirondacks, she called herself “a babe in the woods.”

She wrote, “To be a babe in the woods watched over by a human robin redbreast, is as near an approach to Eden before the fall as comes within the ken of woman.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 28, 2014

An Informal Tribute to Lake George’s Winnie LaRose

Winnie LaroseEditor’s Note:  This tribute to Lake George’s Winnie LaRose was written by the late Robert F. Hall and republished in his 1992 collection of essays, Pages from Adirondack History. He included this piece in the collection because, he wrote, “Winifred S. LaRose, who died on December 6, 1979, was the very embodiment of the environmentalist – a person whose love of her own native place and whose determination that its beauty would not be spoiled led her to the forefront of the environmental movement, not only in Lake George, but throughout New York State.”

Governor Hugh Carey proclaimed August 21, 1980, as Winnie LaRose Day, but any day would have served because that lady was busy every day of the year for the past 30 years in battling for the environment.

The governor chose that date because it coincided with a memorial service to the late Mrs. LaRose at the Fort George Battleground Park on the Beach Road at Lake George. This was an appropriate site for the service because Winnie, more than anyone else, was responsible for turning this swampy piece of ground into a park for people to enjoy. But it was done not only for people. As Victor Glider, a good friend and now retired as director of Environmental Conservation Field Services, told the gathering, Winnie insisted on clearing away the brush so that the statue of the martyred Father Jogues would have a good view of the lake where he served his mission in the 17th century. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Commentary: A Congressional Candidate No One Knows

Elise Stefanik watches herself on TVAddressing the concerns of the opponents of the proposed federal constitution, who worried that members of Congress would not be sufficiently representative of the interests and opinions of their districts, the authors of ‘The Federalist Papers’ pointed out that a candidate without local connections would be unlikely to get elected.

They could not win the esteem of their neighbors without having already demonstrated merit and sound judgement. They will be acquainted with local issues, because in all probability they will have served in the state legislature, “where all local information and interests of the state are assembled,” or in some other local office. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Benjamin Harrison’s 1895 Fulton Chain Vacation

P10 Gen Harrison and party at Old Forge dock175 (2)The widower ex-President Benjamin Harrison and part of his extended family came to the Fulton Chain in the summer of 1895.  By the following summer, his summer home Berkeley Lodge would be built on a peninsula between First and Second Lakes for him and for a new wife.  Our story starts with the election of 1888.

At the age of 55, Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd President in the first election where the electoral college vote went contrary to the popular vote.  Besides his wife, Caroline Scott Harrison, the White House family included son Russell Lord, his wife Mary and their daughter Marthena; daughter Mary Scott and husband J. Robert McKee and son Ben (“Baby McKee”); and Caroline’s 90 year old recently widowed father Rev. John Scott.  Later in the term, it included niece Caroline’s widowed 30 year old niece, Mrs. Mary Scott Lord Dimmick.  » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Charles Shaw, Ace Attorney From Jay (Part 2)

CPShaw 02 BookletDespite all his accomplishments, Charles Shaw’s career is largely defined by a decade-long battle he fought on behalf of the cable interests for rail control of New York City’s streets. Cable’s two main rivals: horse-powered rail and underground lines. Both had many powerful backers.

Initially, Charles was hired to perform one task: lobby the state legislature for specific modifications of a bill under consideration in Albany. After earning the modern equivalent of more than a quarter million dollars for his efforts, Shaw was retained by the cable men, who wanted San Francisco-type cars operating on 70 miles of New York City roads.

Charles became the leading voice for cable, and was often vilified for his intense lobbying efforts. He refused to give up, at one point leading a four-man legal team against a cadre of 38 lawyers. The New York Times and other newspapers saw Shaw’s plan as nothing more than a city land-grab. But still he fought on, winning some victories and eventually spending over a million dollars in the effort. How high were the stakes? It was estimated that lobbyists representing cable had coughed up close to $5 million … and had still come up empty so far. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Charles Shaw: Ace Attorney from Jay

CPShaw 01Among those to rise from humble Adirondack roots and pursue life in the big city was Charles P. Shaw, a native of Jay, New York, where he was born in 1836. “Humble,” meaning relative poverty, aptly described most North Country citizens in those early days. But Shaw may have had an advantage since there were two doctors in the family: his father, Daniel, and his grandfather, Joshua Bartlett. As educated men, they were more likely to stress among their family the importance of education.

For whatever reason, Charles was an excellent and precocious student. There survives in old newspapers an anecdote suggesting he was indeed an unusually bright pupil. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Bernard Smith: NYS Senate Conservation Champion

Bernard SmithBernard C. Smith served in the NYS Senate from 1965-1978, an era when trust in our government’s good will and capability to improve our lives was ebbing fast. But Senator Smith, a Republican, believed strongly in that capability and responsibility.

His belief found expression in numerous laws to protect our environment, laws which had to pass through his Committee on Environmental Conservation.

The Adirondack Park Agency (1971) and its organic act (1973), the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act (1972 and ‘75), the Environmental Quality Review Act, the law creating the Department of Environmental Conservation (1972) and its organic act, the Environmental Bond Act of 1972 and many other bills all found a lead sponsor and champion in Senator Smith. » Continue Reading.


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