The weather was clear and cool on Wednesday, September 26, 1979, the day of the big jump. Reporters, film crews, and spectators were on hand. Ken Carter showed up driving a red Chevrolet, certainly not his jump car, and obligingly drove up the ramp a couple of times so that photographers could get some good shots. He posed, looking out over the St. Lawrence for dramatic effect. A bit later, he walked partway up the ramp and made note of a “slight rise” in the middle that would have to be fixed before his rocket car could be used on it. Several thousand people remained on hand for ten hours, anxious to view what they considered a historic, and certainly wacky, event.
Late in the afternoon, the gate at the apex of the ramp was removed, divers were positioned in the middle of the river passage, and a film crew hovered aloft in a helicopter. Ontario police moved the crowd back to a safe position. To great effect, Carter’s rocket car rolled onto the newly paved runway (resurfaced because it had become overgrown with grass). » Continue Reading.
Although ticket refunds were offered, Ken Carter maintained that the 1976 attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River had been postponed, not canceled, and would likely take place in spring 1977 – which it didn’t. In June it was announced that the plan had been revived for September, but with a different car — a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental Mark IV, powerful and sturdy, but hardly an aerodynamic vehicle. Work resumed on the launch ramp in anticipation of a long-delayed but substantial payday.
Each week from July into September, newspaper articles touted the jump, adding to the growing frenzy and Knievel-like atmosphere. When questions were raised about potential issues with large freighters that daily plied the waters of the St. Lawrence, Carter assured everyone there would be no problem. But the truth was that he had no control over that aspect of the jump. St. Lawrence Seaway authorities announced that water traffic would continue as usual, and that “Carter will have to schedule his jump between the vessel movement.” To calm any doubts that might have surfaced, he confirmed at an Ottawa press conference that all systems were go. “The only thing that’s going to stop me this time is my death. If I die before the 25th, then I won’t be there.” » Continue Reading.
Bizarre. That’s the best description of events forty years ago when the North Country found itself the focus of national attention. I’m accustomed to researching much further back in time to write stories, but this one is a doozy that younger folks probably never heard of and older folks might have forgotten by now. It took place back in the 1970s when daredevils were popular, led by Evel Knievel, who became more famous for his failures — crashes resulting in multiple bone fractures — than his successes, where he landed safely and was unhurt.
Most of us who witnessed Knievel’s career will remember one jump above all others — Idaho’s Snake River Canyon. He performed on motorcycles, so the rocket-shaped vehicle he used in Idaho was named the Skycyle X-2. Canada’s answer to Evel Knievel was Ken Carter, a.k.a. the Mad Canadian, Kamikaze Ken, or Crazy Ken. He performed many times in upstate New York. » Continue Reading.
The American shad is a native fish of East Coast waters like the St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers, and yet the largest shad population in the world is in the Columbia River on the West Coast, an east-to-west migration of three thousand miles. Humpback whales migrate the same distance in water each year, and caribou do so on land, but the shad of the late 1800s made the trip in style: they took the train. Accompanying them was a man who spent a decade as the leading fish culturist in the North Country.
Livingston Stone was born in 1836 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard with honors in 1857. He attended theological school and became a church pastor, but ongoing health issues resulted in an unusual prescription: spend as much time as possible in the outdoors.
A career change was in order, and in the late 1860s, Stone pursued his interest in all things fish. With the intelligence of a Harvard grad and a chess expert, he proved far more capable than most men in his field. In 1871, he helped found the American Fish Culturists Association (which later became the American Fisheries Society), commissioned by the government to restore America’s depleted rivers. » Continue Reading.
We all know that Thomas Jefferson gets credit for writing the Declaration Of Independence. As important as that historical document is however, it’s the Constitution that dictates how democracy works in the United States. But who was its author?
James Madison of Virginia has been called the “Father of the U.S. Constitution”. Some historians say no other delegate was better prepared for the Constitutional Convention, and no one contributed more to shaping the final document. It was Gouverneur Morris, the New York City native and Pennsylvania delegate (at 36, the youngest), who the Rutledge Committee asked to pull together the disparate ideas and thoughts of the convention and mold them into a single document. Morris immediately went to work – in four days he had a full draft ready. » Continue Reading.
The mysterious, unique, native populations of the American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) have drastically declined in the Adirondacks from historic populations. Surprisingly, individuals can still be found in tiny creeks buried in gravel and mud or under rocks. It has been recommended that the American eel be placed on the Endangered Species list due to alterations to migration routes and loss of habitat, mainly caused by dams along the migration routes.
American eel’s are elongate and very flexible. They have no pelvic fin and their anal and dorsal fins are joined forming one fin that runs around their body. The mouth is terminal, with a projecting lower jaw.
Eels are catadromous, meaning they live most of their adult life in freshwater and return to the sea to spawn and die. American eels are among the longest-lived fish species in North America. A female American eel held in captivity was recorded to be 88 years old prior to her death. The females are larger than the males, averaging three feet long while the males generally reach 1.5 feet long. The females, which have not yet reproduced, are generally what are caught in freshwater systems. The largest eel taken in New York State was seven pounds and 14 ounces, from Cayuga Lake in 1984. At maturity a female can lay between 10-20 million eggs.
The migratory nature of eels means that they can travel thousands of miles upstream, lakes, up and around waterfalls and small dams. They can even travel overland during rainy nights, creating the myth that they come out of the water and crawl across the land. Larval eels that are located out at sea are called leptocephali, they are transparent, ribbon-shaped and are poor swimmers. At age one, the leptocephali swim to shore along the coast of the United States and transform into elvers or glass eels. During this process, they gain their coloring and shrink in size. At this time females will migrate great distances upstream to mature, while males will stay closer to the coast.
After 20-50 years in freshwater the eels transform again into silver eels and move back out to the spawning area, the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean to spawn and then die. The mating behavior of the American eel has never been witnessed. The diet of eels varies by size; the smaller eels eat insects such as mayflies and caddisflies, the larger eels will eat fish and crustaceans, They are most active at night, spending their days hiding under rocks and in the mud.
Eels are considered commercially important in New York and are frequently caught by anglers. American Eels were historically caught for their skins, which were used to bind books or for their oils which were used for medicinal purposes. Today Eels may contain high levels of PCB’s and cannot be commercially sold. Throughout New York State, except the Hudson River, St. Lawrence River, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and tributaries to these waters, you can fish for American Eel all year. The minimum length is 6 inches with a daily limit of 50.
Corrina Parnapy is a Lake George native and a naturalist who writes about the environment and Adirondack natural history for the Adirondack Almanack.
Photo: An American Eel caught by US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Steven Smith holding an eel caught while night electrofishing for salmon in Whallon Bay, Lake Champlain. Photo courtesy USFWS.
His initial success at bookselling was encouraging, but Dean Clute was looking for more, and it came from an unexpected source. His published article had caught the eye of one important reader who was so taken with his story, she became his benefactress. Though often portrayed as anonymous, her name was, in fact, Mrs. Ethel Clyde, whose husband was the principal owner of the Clyde Steamship Line.
Ethel gave Dean $2000 which he used to attain his dream of leaving the hospital and opening a bookstore. The money covered his expenses for one year, and he gave it his best shot, but with the economy in severe depression, prospects were not good. Store sales and his own articles failed to generate enough income to stay afloat.
No further charity was forthcoming, and in late 1931, Dean rented an apartment in Greenwich Village. He moved the store there as well, but had to reduce services and inventory, mostly handling mail orders.
As he struggled to survive, there were others who tried to help. Among them was famed media man Walter Winchell, whose “On Broadway” column in late October mentioned Gary Cooper, Kate Smith, Governor Franklin Roosevelt … and Dean Clute.
Winchell wrote: “Do you know anyone who would like to help Dean Van Clute keep running his book shop at 145 Waverly Place? He once was a pro baseball player and illness knocked him down—now a cripple. He was set up in this shop by a rich woman whose whim for philanthropy died easy—and needs another lift. Maybe you know somebody.” (Note: The family used the surname Clute, but Dean revived the “Van” for his authored pieces.)
Dean’s brother, Walton, was still by his side, assisting him in daily life and handling the store business. Without loyal, helpful friends and a loving brother, Clute’s existence would have been much less enjoyable.
For some time, Dean had been working with Walton on writing an “autobiographical novel.” The book was accepted for publication by Frederick Stokes Company and scheduled for release in late 1932.
In the meantime, there was more bad news. Dean was unable to pay his bills, and in April his phone service was cut off. In May he was $30 short on the rent, prompting the City Marshal to issue an ejection warning. A return to City Hospital was looming, but Dean didn’t seem worried, telling a reporter, “Aw, hell—it’s all in a lifetime.”
Forced to reduce expenses, he moved to a basement studio in Greenwich Village. The book business was mainly a lending service at that point, but another dream of Clute’s was fulfilled when his new digs became a popular stop-off for important figures on the literary scene.
The man Mencken had called “one of the most courageous men ever heard in this world” was further pleased when the book on which he and Walton had collaborated was released in the fall. Pour Wine for Us was well received.
One reviewer wrote: “… so moving a story of the solace to be found within the recesses of one’s own mind from one defeated by all that men hold precious. … It is an intense and throbbing human document, paralleling many of the literary masters, but always retaining a poignant individuality. … His ability to bridge the gap of his disability is no less remarkable than Helen Keller’s achievements.”
His triumphs and struggles were recounted in the media, offering praise for the new book along with admiration for Dean’s incredible courage. How could one so traumatized find positives in a life seemingly filled with negativity? Whatever the answer might be, the public found itself envying the mind of one so enlightened. Said Clute, “My blind eyes are seeing more beauty today than was ever revealed to them when they were perfect.”
For most people, a body so ravaged by disease was nothing less than a prison. The Great Depression alone was reason enough for people to give up, and many did. But not Dean Clute, who had found within himself something special.
Despite the necessity of moving for a fourth time, he remained positive about life and ever hopeful that a cure for his physical impairments might be found. Plans were in place for more articles, more books, a new bookstore, and a life among the educated and inquisitive.
Each summer he and Walton had journeyed north, visiting family on the St. Lawrence River and spending time amid his childhood haunts at Terrace West, about a mile east of Morristown. It was a wonderful time of renewal for the brothers, who shared a terrific bond from the struggles of the past decade.
But there would be no such trip in 1933. On Monday morning, March 6, Dean was found dead in his wheelchair, betrayed one final time by a body that had been in failure for fully 20 years. The coroner’s report cited heart disease as the ultimate cause of death.
The story of Clute’s life was replayed in the columns of writers who had known and admired him during the past decade. Though tragedy and inspiration were necessary themes, every writer concluded that one word above all others defined him: courage.
But that’s not how Dean saw it. The man with a beautiful mind truly felt he had lived a wonderful life. It was a viewpoint that most people simply couldn’t grasp. But in the end, he proved that life was indeed all about one word: Perspective.
Photo: H. L. Mencken admired Clute’s courage and ability to write.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Perspective. It is a singular word that can determine a life’s path, quality, and value to others. Those born to all manner of social and financial advantage, but with little change or improvement during their own lifetimes, can be perceived as relative failures, while those who strive to overcome physical, mental, or financial handicaps are viewed as accomplished, no matter what their ultimate achievement might be.
By that measure, one of the most successful citizens to ever have graced the North Country is largely unknown. He was an ordinary man blessed with athletic talent, and raised in a family of outstanding musicians. In the end, it was courage that defined him.
Dean Clute was born in Morristown, New York, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in October 1893. The fourth of Amos and Henrietta Clute’s seven children, he was an average boy who enjoyed the usual pursuits along the river, as well as in Nicholville, a small settlement in the town of Hopkinton where the family lived for many years.
They also lived in Potsdam, but for most of Dean’s teen years the family resided in Ogdensburg. There he attained a measure of local fame for his skill on the baseball field. After high school, he found work on a Great Lakes lighthouse tender, a ship charged with servicing and maintaining the region’s lighthouses.
Among the many ports he visited was Rochester, and in June 1912, a marriage license was issued there to Dean Clute, 18, and Eva McLennan, 25, a girl with family in Ogdensburg. The two soon married, but just seven months later, in January 1913, Eva passed away at home. (It’s likely she died during childbirth. Dean told interviewers years later that he married at 18 but had lost his wife and child on the same day.)
It was an enormous tragedy to endure, but Dean soldiered on. Eventually he found work in a profession he knew quite well: baseball. Over six feet tall and sturdily built, he immersed himself in the sport and became a pitcher of wide repute in Buffalo, Rochester, and Watertown.
Manager John Ganzel (of Michigan’s famed Ganzel baseball family) liked what he saw and signed Dean to play for the Rochester Hustlers of the International League in 1914. This was no small shakes—the International League was Triple-A ball, just one step below the major leagues. Things were once again looking pretty good for the boy from Morristown.
Prior to the season, though, and less than a year after losing his wife and child, Dean began experiencing unusual aches and pains. The diagnosis was arthritis, a disease not generally associated with young, strong, twenty-year-old athletes.
And this was no ordinary case. The effects were so sudden and so debilitating that Dean was unable to honor his baseball contract. He visited several doctors and treatment centers, but no one could do anything to arrest the arthritic attack that seemed bent on consuming his body.
Within a year he was confined to a wheelchair, and as the disease progressed, Dean became bedridden. He moved to Watertown where he could be with family (his father and brother had established a successful contracting business there and built several commercial structures).
After three years of focusing on his own suffering and watching his limbs become gnarled and useless, Clute had an epiphany. His body was dying, but his mind was as clear as ever—so why not use it? His eyes could still move, which meant he could read, even if he needed someone to turn the pages for him. And so he began to read voraciously, ranging from philosophy to the great classics of literature.
As Dean’s condition deteriorated, it became apparent that home care was insufficient to meet his ever-growing needs. In 1922 he moved to New York City in hopes of finding a cure. Within two years, younger brother Walton (twin of Wilton) joined him there.
Despite every effort on his behalf, Dean’s health continued to decline, and by 1924 he was forced to enter City Hospital on Welfare Island (it was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1973). At various times Welfare Island hosted hospitals, insane asylums, and prisons. City Hospital housed hundreds of poor and chronically ill patients who were unable to care for themselves. Dean Clute, almost completely paralyzed from head to toe, had nowhere else to turn.
More than anything else, it appeared he had gone there to die. The loss of his wife and child, the disappointment of a sports career cruelly snatched away from him, and now a virtual prisoner within his own body—it was almost too much for any man to bear.
And then it got worse. In the hospital, Dean had maintained his heavy reading program, which seemed to be all he had left to live for. But arthritis, as cold-blooded and brutal as many other diseases, wasn’t content with paralysis. Clute soon developed problems with his vision, and as the condition worsened, he was given the stunning diagnosis: total blindness was inevitable.
Doctors told him it would happen in a year, perhaps two. How much could one man take? For Dean, even suicide was impossible—he couldn’t move! And yet ending it all was never a consideration.
His reaction to certain loss of vision was to ramp up his reading program and consume every bit of knowledge possible in the time he had left. The one-time athlete had surrendered to physical helplessness, but he existed within a brain still vibrant with energy. Dean’s growing intellect was now insatiable, and he read like a man possessed.
By 1926, after two years at City Hospital, total blindness enveloped him. His life now consisted of darkness and immobility—virtually every person’s nightmare scenario.
But there was that word again: Perspective. Dean focused on what he COULD do rather than what he couldn’t. He could still talk and he could still learn.
Next week: Part 2 of 3.
Photo: Dean Van Clute with two attendants. The inset in the upper right is a closeup of Dean’s face (1932).
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
After the Gold Cup races of 1914, the Ankle Deep was loaded onto a horse-drawn farm wagon and taken up the road to a corner of Count Casimir Mankowski’s estate on Northwest Bay – a humiliating end for a splendid boat, but then again, she had just suffered a humiliating defeat.
On the final day of the races, her propeller shaft had snapped. Mankowski let go of the wheel, and was sent overboard, right in front of the Sagamore. Her rival, the Baby Speed Demon II owned by Paula Brackton of New York City, went on to establish a world’s record. The Count, apparently, was too depressed to even remove the boat from the wagon. “Just leave the wagon where it is,” he told the drover. “Send me a bill for it.” And that, more or less, was the end of both the Ankle Deep and Count Mankowski himself. The Ankle Deep caught fire and burned in a race held later that summer in Buffalo. The Count left Bolton Landing and never returned.
Nevertheless, the Gold Cup races of 1914 were a critical moment in the history of boating on Lake George. Gasoline powered boats had come to Lake George only a few years earlier. Competitive motorboating began in 1906, when the Lake George Regatta sponsored a race between boats owned by LeGrand C.Cramer, W.K.Bixby and Herman Broesel. Flat bottomed, sloping gradually toward the stern, the boats traveled at speeds of 20 miles per hour or more.
The 1914 race was the largest power boating event ever to be held in the United States; the field of starters was the largest, the boats were faster than any that had competed in previous races. The crowds too were the largest that had ever assembled in one place to watch speedboat races. Some of the spectators came by a special train from Albany. The Horicon met them at the station and took them to Bolton Landing. There, the Horicon anchored inside the race course, a 6 nautical mile ellipse that stretched from Montcalm Point to a point south of Dome Island. Throughout the races, cars lined the road from Glens Falls to the Sagamore.
The Ankle Deep was the first long distance speed boat ever built. Thirty-two feet long, she had two 150 horsepower engines, and was capable of a speed of 50 miles or more per hour. After winning the Gold Cup races on the St. Lawrence River in 1913, Mankowski brought the cup – which was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany and displayed at the Sagamore – and the races to Lake George.
The first race was scheduled for July 29th, but a northwest gale forced it to be postponed until the following day. On Thursday ,at 5:00 PM, the races began. The Ankle Deep was late getting to the starting line, and finished behind the Baby Speed Demon and two other boats.
The Count made certain that he would not repeat that mistake. Here’s how the Lake George Mirror reported the Ankle Deep’s start on the second day of the races: “But a few feet back of the line and going at almost full speed she jumped like a thing of life as the Count yanked the throttle wide open, and crossed the line a shimmering streak of mahogany, soon distancing all her rivals.” By the end of the second day of racing, however, it must have been obvious that the Ankle Deep was no longer the fastest boat in the field. The Baby Speed Demon II passed her on the second lap, retaining the lead that she had established the previous day.
The Ankle Deep now had no chance of victory unless the leaders were removed from the competition by some accident or by mechanical failures. Frank Schneider, the retired industrial arts teacher who restored boats at the Pilot Knob boat shop, wrote an account of the third day of the races for the Lake George Mirror in 1964.
“I saw this race from a small motor launch. Beecher Howe of Glens Falls and I, from Pilot Knob, proceeded to go diagonally across the lake to where we could see. As we got past Dome Island, going at a speed of approximately five miles per hour, our engine stopped and we found ourselves plumb on the regatta course, stalled, while two of the contestants, Baby Speed Demon II, and the Buffalo Enquirer were bearing down on us. One of those speedsters passed us on one side and the other on the other side, and after they had long gone by us, a patrol boat approached us and hollered, ‘Get off the course!’ We finally got the engine started again, and headed for the Sagamore dock, to watch the rest of the race. We did not see the Ankle Deep in action as it had broken down at the beginning of the third heat.”
When the scores of each boat were calculated after three days of racing, the Ankle Deep was in third place, behind Baby Speed Demon II and Buffalo Enquirer.
Gold Cup boats did not disappear from Lake George, of course. Albert Judson of Bolton Landing, a president of the American Power Boat Association, which sponsored the Gold Cup Races, owned the Whipporwhill Jr. That boat raced in Minneapolis, the Thousand Islands, Detroit, Lake Ontario, and in 1920, in England, where it competed for the Harmsworth Trophy. The driver in that race was George Reis. Reis himself brought the Gold Cup races to Lake George in 1934 ,35 and 36. Melvin Crook had the Betty IV built as a Gold Cup boat, but did not race her, although she achieved a speed of 111 miles per hour in a qualifying trial for the Hundred Mile Per Hour Club.
The Ankle Deep, however, retains pride of place as our first Gold Cup boat. As the editor of the Lake George Mirror noted after it was learned that she had been destroyed by fire on the Niagra River, “To Count Mankowski and the Ankle Deep belongs the honor of creating a new epoch in motor boatdom, and no matter how fast the boats may go in the years to come,Lake George will always remember with pride the name of the beautiful queen that carried her flag to victory on the St. Lawrence.”
Photo: Count Casimir Mankowski, center, on Lake George in 1914.
To the north and west of the Adirondacks lies a beautiful natural resource that often gets overlooked. It’s a massive river that carries all the water from every one of the five Great Lakes. It’s home to nesting bald eagles, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, and hawks and falcons patrol its shoreline. Although the St. Lawrence River does not fall within the Adirondack Park “Blueline Boundary,” it is a birdwatching mecca that should not be missed by our Adirondack birders. The following is a press release I received that announces the publishing of a new birding guide to the St. Lawrence Seaway Trail (The route parallels 518 miles of shoreline along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania):
Great Lakes Seaway Trail Publishes Guide to America’s Next Birding Travel Hot Spot
Sackets Harbor, NY – Birders interested in finding the best birding spots year-round for all manner of migratory & resident raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl along the big waters of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in New York and Pennsylvania now have new resources to enjoy.
The Seaway Trail Foundation has developed a new birding theme guidebook, audio tour CD, notecards and outdoor storytellers to help birders find their favorite flyers along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie.
The Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail by ornithologist Gerald A. Smith is a soft cover, full color traveler’s field guide to birding hot spots along the 518-mile shoreline byway that is one of America’s Byways and a National Recreation Trail.
Funding for the book was provided by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, the New York State Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways Program in the Office of Environment’s Landscape Architecture Bureau, and the John Ben Snow Foundation, Pulaski, NY.
New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said, “The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway provides a magnificent trip through the landscapes of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and New York State’s northern and western borders. I know Governor Paterson is proud that we support this trail and other scenic byways across the state so that travelers can enjoy the history, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities that alternative routes provide. Congratulations to the Seaway Trail Foundation for publishing their new birding guidebook, which is sure to delight generations of bird watchers and other visitors.”
Noted regional birders Willie D’Anna, an Eaton Birding Society Award winner in Western NY; Jerry McWilliams of the Presque Isle (PA) Audubon Society; and Bird Coalition of Rochester Executive Director David Semple wrote chapters for the book. Wildlife artist Robert McNamara of Art of the Wilderness, Cleveland, NY, designed and illustrated the guide edited by Julie Covey. The book retails for $19.95.
A companion audio CD, Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Audio Tour,” features the voices of wildlife biologist Kimberly Corwin and Adirondack Kids® co-author and television show host Gary Allen VanRiper. The 80-minute CD retails for $9.95.
The nonprofit Seaway Trail Foundation, based in Sackets Harbor, NY, has also developed birding notecards and a series of bird-themed Great Lakes Seaway Trail outdoor storyteller interpretive panels – all designed by McNamara – to enhance birders’ travel along the coastal byway.
Great Lakes Seaway Trail birding maps are online at www.seawaytrail.com. This new guidebook book is the latest in the “Best of the Byways” (American Recreation Coalition) series published by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Sackets Harbor, NY, 315-646-1000.
It is also worth mentioning that our local chapter of the National Audubon Society: Northern New York Audubon features field trips each year that may include some of the St Lawrence Seaway Trail within St Lawrence County.
Photo of Bonaparte’s gulls and Ring-billed gulls-Brian McAllister
The recent collapse of the bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Minneapolis brought to mind the tragic history of similar events in the Adirondacks.
Workers building the historic Stone Arch Bridge (photo above from the late 1800s) over the Ausable River in Keeseville had a close call in 1842. The bridge of native stone, believed at the time to be the largest such bridge in the country, was being built to replace the original wooden structure erected in 1805. The men had completed the first course of stone including the keystones and had nearly finished the second course when a violent storm blew in. Just as more then 30 men fled the storm’s heavy rain to a wooden shed on the bank of the river the entire bridge collapsed into the Ausable with a thunderous crash. The tremendous crash was said to have shaken buildings as far away as Port Kent.
Delays in the construction of the bridge caused by the collapse inadvertently caused a more tragic accident that same year. On local militia “muster day,” September 13, 1842, the unfinished bridge caused the Essex County militia to cross a smaller swinging bridge (supported by chains) nearby. The bridge was filled with bystanders as they marched across in lock step. It’s believed the overloaded bridge combined with the stamping feet of the marchers caused the bridge to collapse into the churning river below. Local newspapers reported that nine people were drowned, and four later died of exposure. Two boys, Richard Pope and Richard Peabody, were swept over a nearby dam with their arms around each other and were among those drowned.
A similar accident twice befell the men building what was then longest bridge in the world (3,239 feet) over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec. As one of the enormous spans was being raised from pontoons, it gave way and crashed into the river taking with it fifty men. Observers said the central span, weighing more than 5,000 tons, buckled at the center before it fell. At least five were killed. The accident occurred in 1916, but just nine years before a similar accident on the same bridge killed 70.In the spring of 1931 the Whallonsburg bridge, which carried much of the Albany-Montreal traffic over the Bouquet River in Essex County, collapsed while Robert O’Neil of Willsboro was crossing. O’Neil’s car fell nearly twelve feet but he escaped uninjured. The bridge’s steel trusses slipped from one of its abutments. The next day four boys were sitting on the railing of the wrecked bridge when it gave way and they went into the water. Kenneth McDougall was knocked unconscious from a serious head injury but the others escaped relatively unharmed. The photo at right shows the new abutments, made of rough quartzite from Champlain Stone.The 1842 Chain Bridge Collapse ranks among the deadliest accidents ever in the Adirondack region. Read more about the others here.
Today Jessica Doyle over at Blog Herald has an interesting piece on plans to wall us off from our “neighbors” to the north. It’s a lengthy piece with lots of quotes, but here is the jist:
The U.S. Homeland Security Department announced Thursday that it will be installing high-tech devices along the border with Canada as part of a multibillion-dollar plan to reduce illegal entry into the United States.
Under the new plan, Canada’s border with the U.S. will, within three years, be patrolled by cameras, sensors, unmarked planes and watchtowers.
Apparently they are planning to install as many as 900 watchtowers along the Canadian border. Watchtowers! We can’t even think of a watchtower without calling to mind the Irish Pale, the Berlin Wall, and Internment Camps.
In the first step of the multibillion-dollar plan, the U.S. will implement the technology along a 45-kilometre stretch of border near Tucson, Ariz. This will be followed with similar security measures along the Canadian border.
A $67-million US contract was awarded to Boeing Co. for the implementation of the initial stages of the project.
Folks – who are we kidding besides ourselves. The idea of sealing off the longest undefended border in the world is ridiculous – it’s no wonder they gave the contract to one of America’s preeminent fear mongers and war profiteers.
Here’s a prediction – once the wall is built there will be a steady escalation in the criminality assigned to border-crossers until they start shooting them for leaving one country or the other without the “proper papers.” When the Berlin Wall was in action the zone between countries became known as the “death strip.”
Thousands managed to escape through or over the wall, which divided the city of Berlin for 28 years. But hundreds died trying to flee to the West before the wall fell  years ago — on November 9, 1989.
Some 5,000 East Germans escaped into West Berlin, often resorting to extraordinary means. They hid in hollowed out compartments in automobiles. Others swam, dug tunnels or piloted flying machines to freedom. One slid down a high tension line. Another hid between a pair of surfboards.
More than 170 of those killed trying to escape died in the Death Strip, where armed East German guards had orders to shoot to kill.
The most shocking failed attempt took place on August 17, 1962. Peter Fechter, an 18-year-old apprentice mason, broke for freedom across the Death Strip. East German bullets stopped his flight at the base of the wall. For 50 minutes he lay unaided, moaning, “Help me.”
West Berliners shouted “Murderers!” at the guards, hurled stones at U.S. military vehicles and threw first-aid supplies to Fechter.
Though the shootings are probably still some time away, here is the current problem for a region that depends on Canadian tourists and free trade with our LOCAL neighbors:
I think many Canadians are scared today. so scared that my Mom will not fly through the States on a much shorter route to reach Vancouver from NB to visit me. So scared that my two friends would not travel through the States driving from Vancouver Fredericton en route to live in Vancouver. I don’t believe that we are scared of the citizens of the US. I am not. But maybe we are scared that we won’t be able to get back home.
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake. It also mark the April 20thanniversary ofa 5.1 earthquake that struck near Ausable Forks in 2002 and still another anniversary – an almost forgotten earthquake that occurred in 1931.
At about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, on April 20, 1931 the first shock hit.The shaking of the earth was severe in WarrenCounty where hotels and other buildings swayed and local stores were rattled, their goods falling from the shelves. There were at least three shocks in all – local newspapers reported the trembling lasted nearly a minute each time.
Earthquakes are not uncommon in New York. According to the New YorkStateMuseum’s Geological Survey there have been more than 400 with a magnitude greater than 2.0 since the first was recorded near New York City in 1737. The shocks from that quake were felt as far as Boston, Philadelphia and in the Delaware Gap [more].
A large quake had struck along the St., LawrenceRiver and Lake Champlain in1877 and significant damage was reported near the epicenter and as far as Saratoga Springs where rumblings were heard and buildings trembled. Another quake was felt locally in 1897 with similar consequences. In 1916, four quakes were centered in WarrenCounty; a large quake centered in Western New York was felt in five states in 1929 including locally.
The 1931 quake was centered near Warrensburg where more than 20 chimneys collapsed and the spire of a church was twisted, but the damage was widespread. Hague was shaken and residents of Lake GeorgeVillage reported great rumblings and of hearing “a load roar that lasted several seconds.” Walls cracked in Glens Falls; windows were broken in Luzerne. The Postmaster of Whitehall reported dishes broken and the District Attorney in Saratoga reported that the ceiling of his office collapsed. Fearful residents of Ticonderoga fled from their shaking homes.R.L. Baker’s general store in New Russia, up in EssexCounty, shook considerably, rattling the goods on the shelves and the customer’s nerves. Shelves and homes were shaken in LewisCounty and vibrations were felt in Vermont and Western Massachusetts, where a telephone pole snapped and crushed a car. The tremors were noticed as far east as Cambridge, Mass.
Everywhere in WarrenCounty pendulum clocks stopped and chimneys collapsed. A landslide occurred on McCarthyMountain overlooking the Hudson in Wevertown, a scar on the mountain that can still be traced from above. Luckily, no one was reported injured.
We like the Empire Journal. Sure they are a little nutty sometimes. They can be rabidly right wing. But they have an anti-establishmentarianism bent that makes up for their repetitive hang up on the Terri Schiavo case and their fear that behind every government official is an illegal schmuck assuming illegitimate authority over the common people – let’s face it, we like them because, whether they know it or not, they’re good old fashion libertarian anarchists. We like to check in with Ginger Berlin, whose latest rant on political free speech and the blogosphere is timely and locally produced.
We have a lot of folks who say they are reporting on our area. WAMC claims to have a North Country Reporter. NCPR has plenty of North Country news, provided you limit the North Country to everything above and to the West of Exit 31. The Champlain Channel, Capital News 9, they all have pretensions to North Country reporting – those who pay attention know they’re false.
But leave it to the Empire Journal to give us the latest on the Mohawk Land Claim – 12,000 acres in the Adirondack Region are at issue, local taxes are at issue, Indian Sovereignty is at issue.
The Iroquois, although inspirational in our own form of government, defenders of America in every war since the earliest, and an independent country in their own right, have been given short shrift by the State of New York and the United States. ADK Almanack wishes them the best.
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