Posts Tagged ‘Verplanck Colvin’

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Verplanck Colvin and Politics Today

Colvin HeadshotLast month we went to see Bill Killon’s documentary, “Colvin: Hero of the North Woods” at the Adirondack History Museum in Elizabethtown. Surveyor and forest-preserve advocate Verplanck Colvin has always been something of a hero of mine, and not because he has the funniest name associated with the Adirondacks. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even have the funniest name beginning with V, an honor that goes to — and I assume I will get no argument here — the mountain that goes by the name of Vanderwhacker.

It’s an excellent film, drawing on the observations of a veritable Mount Rushmore of contemporary Adirondack voices, and deftly and artfully edited by Killon to show Colvin’s strengths, weaknesses and complexities. In a classic touch, an Adirondack downpour lends a comforting background serenade to an interview with Tony Goodwin, symbolic, perhaps, of the waters that Colvin was so inclined to protect. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Colvin Documentary Screening at Adirondack History Museum

Colvin HeadshotThe Adirondack History Museum will present a special screening of “Colvin: Hero of the North Woods” on Thursday, July 6 at 7 pm. Film director Bill Killon will be on hand to introduce his new 45-minute documentary.

The film tells the story of Verplanck Colvin, who explored, surveyed and mapped the northern reaches of Upstate New York from 1872 to 1900. To protect the forest and watersheds, at a time when the idea of conservation was in its infancy, he proposed a state park for the Adirondack region of New York. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Verplanck Colvin Built First Tower On Stillwater Mt.

The famed surveyor Verplanck Colvin built the first tower on Stillwater Mountain way back in 1882. The hole that once held his copper marker is still visible on the summit bedrock.

Colvin’s tower is long gone, but a steel tower built in 1919 still stands, and last week the state nominated the structure — along with the fire observer’s cabin and some other buildings — for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here to read the state’s application. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stolen Stillwater Mountain Survey Bolt Being Replaced

original 1882 nickle plated copper marker station 77A party from the NYS DEC Region Six survey division, members of the Colvin Crew, and Friends of Stillwater Fire Tower will set a brass marker below the fire tower to replace the original survey bolt that was stolen and later recovered by Adirondack Almanack reader Kyle Kristiansen in New Jersey in 2013.

That 1882 benchmark found by Kristiansen was identified as Station 77 in Verplanck Colvin’s survey of the Adirondacks and had been located on the summit of Stillwater Mountain. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 8, 2016

The Rising Elevation of Stillwater Mountain

1912-18 First fire tower on Stillwater Mt. Built atop an Adirondack Survey signal tower. (Photo courtesy Maridee Rutledge.)At an elevation of 2,264 feet, Stillwater Fire Tower in northern Herkimer County has never been a beacon for tourists. It’s not even modestly high compared to the 46 Adirondack peaks over 4,000 feet.

Since 1912, Fire Observers on Stillwater Mountain needed a high tolerance for isolation and resistance to boredom. Until the fire tower closed in 1988, the annual number visitors ranged from 145 to it’s record of 618. Before the mid-‘50s, when the Big Moose Road was completed, the only access to the tower trail was by boat from the Stillwater Reservoir. Even then, only hard-core hikers who would tolerate eight or twelve miles of dirt road from Number Four or Big Moose Station, enjoyed the tower’s views. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Mystery Map of the Adirondacks

1863 - resizedOne of the wonderful ways to study the gradual settlement of the Adirondacks is to study its early 19th century maps, especially the locally-surveyed county maps, maps of real and proposed railroads, and a great variety of state maps.

In most all cases, while the maps themselves may be obscure, or hard to find – and for some sections of the Adirondacks, incomplete or inaccurate – their principal authors are well known. A map that does not name its creator is about as common as a book that does not name its author. Yet, we came upon just such an Adirondack map. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Triangulation of Verplanck Colvin

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 4.08.49 PM“Few fully understand what the Adirondack wilderness really is. It is a mystery even to those who have crossed and recrossed it by boats along it avenues, the lakes; and on foot through its vast and silent recesses…In this remote section, filed with the most rugged mountains, where unnamed waterfalls pour in snowy tresses from the dark overhanging cliffs…the adventurous trapper or explorer must carry upon his back his blankets and heavy stock of food. Yet, though the woodsman may pass his lifetime in some of the wilderness, it is still a mystery to him.”

– Verplanck Colvin, Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paul Schaefer: 1900s NYS Wilderness Advocacy

Paul SchaeferMy first childhood memories of Paul Schaefer are of his hands. They were huge to me. They seemed big enough to serve as lasts for making baseball gloves. I also remember Paul from my earliest Adirondack summers as a quality of expectancy.

On Wednesday nights we four kids used to sit on the big wood beam Paul had placed in front of our outdoor fireplace at our family cabin Mateskared and wait for his pickup truck headlights to turn off Route 8 onto Edwards Hill Road. Into the 1950s you could still see headlights on Route 8 two miles south of our cabin at Bakers Mills. Headlights heading up Edwards Hill Road generated immediate tension. Would they make it as far as the second bridge – about half of the two miles from Route 8 to Mateskared – without turning off into a driveway? » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Where Was the Mysterious Station 77?

Colvin-Survey-Disk-Best-PictureThanks to the good faith and honesty of Kyle Kristiansen, the young man who unearthed a benchmark disk from Verplanck Colvin’s 1882 Adirondack Survey in a New Jersey field, I had in my possession a triangulation survey bolt marked Station 77.

Colvin and his crew placed thousands of benchmarks, but only about three hundred of these nickel-plated copper triangulation bolts, which I was told were numbered roughly from 1 to 299.

I assumed it would be a simple matter to find records that would positively identify it. I was mistaken. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Mysterious Benchmark At Station 77

Colvin Division of Levels - Measurement of Whiteface MountainIt was late on the afternoon of November 4th, 1875.  A party of men worked feverishly in dense fog and deepening Adirondack frost, chiseling into the hard summit stone of Mount Marcy, New York’s highest point. They had been working since the first hint of daylight without the benefit of food or water, pressing on to finish their work as conditions worsened.  They turned their attention to setting a benchmark – chipping into anorthosite so tough that it had destroyed scores of their drill bits and chisel points.

Their leader Verplanck Colvin had just completed the final rod and level measurement in a series that had begun weeks before, many miles away on the shore of Lake Champlain. At last the height of the mightiest peak in the Empire State was determined with accuracy: 5344.311 feet above mean tide.

The benchmark they laid on Marcy in the growing darkness and cold that afternoon was number 111 in a long sequence rising from Westport. » Continue Reading.


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.


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