Posts Tagged ‘Verplanck Colvin’

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.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches:
The Incredible Story of Charles Brodhead, Surveyor

Giant from Amy's Lookout.  Many new Irene slides.On June 2nd, 1797, twenty-five years after Archibald Campbell surveyed part of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, another surveyor named Charles C. Brodhead, tasked with working to the same line but starting from the east and chaining to the west,  made the following entry in his field journal: “3 Miles, 20 Chains: assg. Ye mountain, Top ye mountain – (snow 24 inches deep) Timber Balsom and Spruce.  3 Miles, 23 chains: desending steep rocks, no Timber.

This relatively pedestrian entry has at least the curiosity of recording so much snow in June but it otherwise causes one to long for the florid prose and colorfully descriptive thoroughness of Verplank Colvin.  Colvin’s accounts of his surveying journeys make for real drama, whereas this journal, typical of the time, offers the barest details beyond the numbers, with only occasional comments on the quality of the land or detours that needed to be taken.

» Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches:
The Totten and Crossfield Purchase Northern Line

Totten Crossfield Lot Map Version 2Denizens of all things Adirondack can have robust debates about which historical events have had the greatest impact on the Adirondack park.

From Champlain firing his arquebus in 1609 to Colvin’s ascent of Seward in 1870 to Forever Wild in 1894 to the Olympics and acid rain, history gives us a long list of worthy possibilities.  There being no single correct answer, one candidate high on my list would be Archibald Campbell’s aborted and errant 1772 survey of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield purchase. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: Campbell’s Corner

Snowy Mountain from the Jessup River Wild ForestIt was the summer of 1771.  The province of New York was part of the British Empire and all lands not in private hands belonged either to Native American nations, principally the Haudenosaunee, or to His Majesty King George III.

To the north and west of Albany a great wild forest stretched to the Saint Lawrence.  European control of this territory had been in dispute for many decades but the recently ended French and Indian War had settled the matter in favor of the British and the area was now considered safe enough for agriculture, industry and settlement. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Magic of Surveying

Surveying Tools, 1728Today I begin a series of Dispatches on surveying, one of the greatest and richest interactions between humans and their natural environment, rife with beauties,  drama and challenge.  And magic.

There are many perspectives from which to tell the story of the history of the Adirondacks.  Indeed the numerous Adirondack history books available to the curious reader feature a wide variety of approaches.  Some are essentially chronological in nature; some are cultural; some are political.  I especially enjoy the many historical writings about the region that are thematically organized around the personalities of the unequaled cast of characters whose fates were intertwined with the Adirondack Mountains.  From To Charles Herreshoff to John Brown to Ned Buntline to Thomas Clark Durant the variety of people and their various enterprises is remarkable.
» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Anne LaBastille Rediscovers Verplanck Colvin

Fifty people in a room can seem like a crowd. Not so in a great church full of pews, or when spread out on a slope or under trees in the Adirondacks the impression is of a small, intrepid band. One Adirondack celebration with 50 people stands out in my mind. Anne LaBastille helped organize it.

As Anne just passed away, she is much in the collective mind this summer. The year was 1992, the Adirondack Park’s Centennial Year. Anne’s co-conspirator was Norm Van Valkenburgh, the retired director of Lands and Forests with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and a surveyor from the Catskills. Both were keen admirers of the 19th century Adirondack surveyor Verplanck Colvin (1847-1920, and Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey, 1872-1899), who did so much to improve awareness, understanding, knowledge of the Adirondack mountains, and to inspire legislative action in the creation of the Park itself.

While many events were underway to honor the Park Centennial during 1992, none were intended to expressly honor Colvin. So, Anne and Norm conspired and created Friends of Verplanck Colvin for the sole purpose of memorializing this great Adirondack explorer in the 100th anniversary of the Park he had advocated. Their invitation read “We would like to propose that a group of private conservationists and land surveyors join together with us as Friends of Verplanck Colvin, to donate personal funds for two special plaques to be erected during the Centennial. One would be place near his grave in Coeymans, and the other near a rock where Colvin engraved his survey marks in the western Adirondacks.”

Theirs was a hard invitation to refuse. I had to see that mystery rock, and I kicked up a lot of dust on the Stillwater Road trying to get to the boat in time, operated by the owner of the Norridgewock Hotel in the hamlet of Beaver River, reached only by boat off Stillwater Reservoir. As we motored down the lake, we watched loons sink low in the water as we approached the rickety dock. There, Anne LaBastille, in her familiar plaid shirt, greeted us. Many had driven a long way to be here, others were local – like NYS DEC Forest Ranger Terry Perkins. Ranger Perkins herded us down the road, and then off on an unprepossessing trail shrouded in balsam fir. He led us single-filed to a large, moss covered boulder with balsams growing off its crown.

Anne LaBastille came to the head of the line, stood next to Terry, removed a wire brush and proceeded to brush the lichen and moss away from one spot on the boulder. To our collective amazement, lettering and a directional line were revealed chiseled in the stone. The lettering was aligned vertically: TC, SNY, AdrSur, 1878, VC. The directional arrow pointed west with the initials F.T. beneath it, and the letters McC to the left.

As described in Nina Webb’s book Footsteps through the Adirondacks: The Verplanck Colvin Story (1996, North Country Books), these symbols stand for: Totten and Crossfield Purchase, State of New York, Adirondack survey, the year in which the work was done, 1878, and Verplanck Colvin. The directional arrow points toward the nearest measured corner in the survey, and F.T. are the initials of the survey’s assistant, Frank Tweedy.

The past president of the American Surveyors Association stepped forward to read from the 1878 survey. Colvin described this as a great corner of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, a very important achievement and one the Superintendent himself took time to chisel in stone 114 years earlier at this very spot. After chiseling, Colvin ordered his crew on a forced march back to camp for a meal of hardtack and jerky, and the remains of some venison.

Boarding a bus to the hamlet of Beaver River, we walk next to the railroad track to a point above Norridgewock Pond where another large rock lay covered by one of Anne’s faded plaid blankets, and a balsam wreath on top of it. Bob Glennon, Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Agency, remembered Colvin and his significance today. It finally fell to Nina Webb, Colvin author and admirer, to offer her tribute, and to pull Anne’s blanket away to reveal the plaque: “In Tribute to Verplanck Colvin, 1847-1920, Land Surveyor; Founder and Champion of the New York State Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park; Remembered by his friends and admirers on the Centennial of the Adirondack Park, May 20, 1992.”

Anne LaBastille, like Verplanck Colvin, could not live out her life at home. Both were placed in institutions. Mills Blake, Colvin’s assistant in the survey, always visited him. Anne’s friends were similarly faithful to the end. Most important, Anne and Norm and Nina Webb, and many others have kept faith with Colvin, enabling the rest of us to gain inspiration from the great explorer’s writing and life that was lived for the Adirondacks.

Verplanck Colvin – the passionate, very determined Adirondack scientist and explorer who wrote: “A region of mystery over which none can gaze without a strange thrill of interest and of wonder. One looks out upon thousands of square miles of wilderness which, since forest it became, hides today the secrets of form, and soil, and rock and history. It is upon this that we ponder.”

Photos: Above, a drawing from of Verplanck Colvin’s surveys; below, Verplanck Colvin

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Verplanck Colvin Reports & Surveys Going Online

The New York State Library has been digitizing significant parts of its extensive collection, and some of the new online records pertain to our own Adirondack region.

We noted last August the availability of orderly books of Captain Amos Hitchcock’s Connecticut provincial companies during the French and Indian War.

Now the library has a new blog, and it reported yesterday that staff are in the process of digitizing the Reports and Surveys of the Adirondack Mountains compiled by Verplanck Colvin. When they are done, the collection will include 17 books and hundreds of rare 19th century Adirondack maps and plates, like the one above of Lower Saranac Lake and its environs in Townships 21 and 24 (Macomb’s Purchase). It will be an outstanding collection of local maps. When it’s finally online we’ll let you know and add it to our Adirondack Map Round-Up.