Posts Tagged ‘Watertown’

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Silhouette Lady of Bedford Gardens

01phoebehazlewoodA century ago, an emerging North Country artist made a name for herself in Jefferson County, but it was the many names she wore through seven decades that made her story so difficult to trace. She began life in North Dakota in 1883 as Phoebe Alice Weeks. During her marriage (around 1910) to Carl Warren, she was known as Phoebe W. Warren. During her second marriage, to Lewis Perry Hazlewood of Sackets Harbor in 1916, she was known as Phoebe Hazlewood (often misspelled as Hazelwood), but her middle name appeared variously as Alice, Weeks, and Warren, or the initials “A” or “W.” Decades later, there was a third marriage to Henry Morse, during which she again was described by various names, the most common of which were Phoebe Hazlewood Morse and Phoebe Weeks Morse.

What’s most important of course, is that she did in fact make a name for herself in the art world. From the time she was very young, Phoebe gravitated towards artwork created by cutting out paper shapes, which were then displayed over an offsetting background. For instance, a cutout from black paper was presented over a background of white paper. The method was known generally as silhouette. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fort Covington’s Big Bill Palmer, Watertown Football Star

P2A Palmer1903HdlineWtownOrangeIn 1903, after winning a national championship with the Michigan Wolverines college football team during the previous season, Fort Covington native Big Bill Palmer was working in Chester, Massachusetts. In subsequent years, homesickness, financial issues, and the supposed need to care for his ill mother were reasons cited by reporters seeking to explain his decision to leave the University of Michigan. The real issue, however, was his status as an amateur athlete. At the time, colleges were cracking down on the use of athletes who were considered professionals, and after winning the national title, Michigan discovered that Palmer, unbeknownst to them, had been paid to play football for Watertown in 1901. By the rules, any type of payment for play changed an athlete’s status from amateur to professional, so Michigan was unable to allow his return to the roster in 1903. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The North Country Man Who Threatened A President

P1JosephDoldoWhen presidential historians and scholars rate America’s greatest leaders, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is among the few who nearly always appear among the top five, along with Washington and Lincoln. While others certainly served admirably, those three achieved elevated status by facing stern tests of leadership during great crises in our history: the battle for independence, the fight to preserve the Union, and in FDR’s case, both the Great Depression and World War II.

It’s less well known that Roosevelt very nearly didn’t serve as President due to assassination attempts prior to his first inauguration. One of those stories brought ignominious headlines to the North Country over a period of several months.

Roosevelt first won the presidency in November 1932. The 20th Amendment was ratified on January 23, 1933, officially establishing January 20 as the new inauguration date for all future presidents, and making FDR the last President to be inaugurated on March 4. He very nearly didn’t survive the waiting period. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Two Jefferson County Men Who Made Good in Illinois

P1RockfordMfgCo1889A pair of North Country men, born just a few miles apart in Jefferson County, left New York in their adult years and settled about 65 miles apart in Illinois, where each left his lasting mark. Together, their names were also attached to an institution in Arkansas that lives on nearly a century and a half later.

John Budlong was born in February 1833 in Rodman, New York, about eight miles south of Watertown. The Budlong family has many historical connections dating back to the Revolutionary War. John attended several of the best schools in the region: the Rodman Seminary, the Jefferson County Institute at Watertown, the Adams Institute, and Falley Seminary at Fulton in Oswego County. At the age of 18 he began a wide-ranging teaching career, working in North Carolina, Texas, and Missouri before returning to Rodman, where he continued teaching and began studying law. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Watertown’s Show-Biz Pioneer: Charles Giblyn (Part 3)

3A CGiblynAdIn 1920, Charles Giblyn produced his first film for William Fox. (If the name sounds familiar, William founded Fox Film Corporation in 1915, the forerunner of today’s Fox TV and movie units.) The film, Tiger’s Cub, allowed Giblyn a homecoming of sorts. With his lead actress, Pearl White, who reportedly had the widest following of any star worldwide at the time, he came north for filming in Port Henry, about an hour south of Plattsburgh, where he once lived.

After producing a few more movies, Charles was sent to the West Coast on behalf of Fox, where he continued working. For a brief period, he assumed leadership of the Motion Picture Directors’ Association, but when Fox re-assigned him to more movie projects back East, he surrendered the top spot with the MPDA and headed for New York. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Watertown’s Show-Biz Pioneer: Charles Giblyn (Part 2)

2A CGiblynBy 1911, Charles Giblyn, now 40, had been acting for more than 20 years, receiving many great reviews for his theater work. That he often stood out was reflected in comments like the following, taken from the pages of the Los Angeles Herald: “Not Yet, But Soon, currently at the Grand Opera House, has just one thing to commend it to theater-goers. This is the acting of Charles Giblyn as a dope fiend. Apart from Mr. Giblyn’s work, the piece is silly, stupid, and boresome.”

He had also managed several stock companies, and in recent years directed many stage plays and vaudeville shows at LA’s Belasco and other theaters. The experience would serve him well as he plunged head-first into a new show-business medium: the world of movies.

The birth of the commercial film industry was at hand, and Charles quickly became a main player at the directorial level. By mid-July 1913, the New York Dramatic Mirror noted that “… Giblyn … is making quite a hit by his clever work in the moving picture field.” It was but a hint of what was to come. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Watertown’s Charles Giblyn, Show-Biz Pioneer

1A CGiblynDuring research, trivial bits of information often lead to the discovery (or uncovering) of stories that were either lost to time or were never told. For instance, did you know that a North Country man once directed Harrison Ford in a movie role as a young adventurer? Or that a coast-to-coast theater star hails from Watertown? Or that a man with regional roots patented a paper toilet-seat protector two decades before it was offered to the public? Or that a northern New York man was once a sensation after posing for a famous calendar? Or that an area resident was the go-to guy for the legendary titans of a very popular American industry?

If you’re at all puzzled, take comfort in knowing that the answers are simple, because one name―Charles W. Giblyn―is correct on all counts. A snippet of news, citing him as a former movie director, piqued my interest. The follow-up revealed a man possessing star quality and many talents, and an amazing career that today, for the most part, is long forgotten. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lawrence Gooley on Halloween TV Special Tonight

25AdkMurdersFrontMedLLawrence P. Gooley, Adirondack historian and true-crime author from the Plattsburgh area who writes regularly for Adirondack Almanack, will appear on the Investigation Discovery channel at midnight tonight (Halloween) in a special titled “Bloody Marys.” The show, featuring four murderers named Mary, was produced by NBC Peacock Productions of the company’s news vision.

Gooley’s onscreen narration relates the story of Mary Farmer of Brownville, a Watertown suburb. In a plot to steal her neighbor’s property in 1908, Farmer butchered Sarah Brennan and stored her body in a trunk. Both Mary and her husband James were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, with Mary becoming only the second woman in New York State to die in the electric chair. James was spared death by Mary’s last-minute confession. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 9, 2013

John Dempster: Watertown’s ‘Blindfold Champion’

P2A Checkerboard wikiUndaunted after the tough checker loss to August Schaefer, Watertown’s John Dempster remained in New York City and continued working on his game. Competitive teams representing the city were chosen from a pool of highly skilled players, which included Johnny. When the world champion, Wyllie, came to town again, he played against nine of the region’s best competitors and vanquished all but one, who managed a tie. The next two best finishers against the great Wyllie were Schaefer and Dempster.

While John continued to win big matches, his efforts were now focused on memory development. The skills he learned, combined with the influence of matches he once played against Yates, steered him towards a new career: playing blindfolded. He went public and demonstrated just how adept he had become. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Watertown’s John Dempster: Competitive Checker Champion

P1Bingham painting, checkers1850When ESPN began broadcasting events like poker and eating contests, it was regarded as innovative (or disturbing, as in the case of eating contests). A major media member had turned its attention to games rather than sticking with the traditional sports world. Unusual though it may have been, the move was hardly groundbreaking.

It harkens back to previous centuries, when popular games like chess and checkers received daily coverage on the sports pages of many of the world’s newspapers. And more than 130 years ago, an amazing North Country boy was mixing it up with the best of them in the world of competitive checkers. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 17, 2013

North Country Cross Burnings Are Nothing New

KKK cross burning LOCLast week the Watertown Daily Times reported a story that was disturbing on many levels. Knowing that it wasn’t equally disturbing to everyone (rest assured that bigotry is alive and well even in our lovely North Country) makes it even more unsettling. A snippet from the article said, “A Gouverneur man is worried about the safety of his family after he claims he was threatened by a Hammond man …. Ryann A. Wilson burned a cross and threatened to lynch Nigel A. Spahr, a black man ….”

If that is indeed what happened, it’s sickening in my opinion, but Wilson’s case will be settled by the courts. The point here instead is to address how we perceive ourselves in the Adirondack region. At the end of the article was this: “Sheriff Kevin M. Wells said the cross-burning was an isolated event. ‘It’s not something that occurs here.’ ” If only. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 31, 2012

The United Nations In The North Country?

During the holiday season of 1945, a most unusual conversation was taking place in the Adirondacks. It was a pivotal year in the twentieth century―history’s worst war had just ended, and an effort to prevent future wars had resulted in the formation of the United Nations, which officially came into being on October 24. The groundwork had been laid earlier in San Francisco, where delegates from fifty governments joined forces and drafted the original UN charter.

The next order of business was to find a home for the new alliance, referred to widely then as the UNO (United Nations Organization). Since San Francisco hosted the charter conference, it was considered a favorite in the running. But as the process played out, northern New York was abuzz with the possibility of being chosen as permanent host. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WPBS Documentary on Local Weather Disasters

With the premiere of the latest PBS series by filmmaker Ken Burns entitled The Dust bowl on November 18-19, WPBS is working on a documentary chronicling Northern New York and Eastern Ontario’s local weather disasters.

The documentary’s producers are reaching out to local communities to gather first-hand accounts from individuals and families who experienced these major events in local history.  WPBS is asking for folks to share any pictures, videos, or testimonies of the experience of the community in any of the following disasters: The Blizzard of ‘77, the Microburst of ‘95 and the Ice Storm of ‘98. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Watertown’s Leonard J. Farwell: Wisconsin Governor

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about Joel Aldrich Matteson, a Watertown native who became governor of Illinois―and among other things, established a level of corruption perhaps matched by recent governor/inmate Rod Blagojevich. To balance the scale, here’s a look at another Watertown native who, during Matteson’s tenure, served as governor of Illinois’ neighbor to the north, Wisconsin. Though there was plenty of corruption in Wisconsin’s government during that time, the governor was not believed to be directly involved.

At worst, the wrongdoings of others may have soiled his good reputation, but he left plenty of accomplishments behind as well. He also became tied to a pair of signature events in American history. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Joel Aldrich Matteson: We Report, You Decide

If one were researching the careers of highly accomplished New York natives, you might encounter the glowing, capsulized review of Joel Aldrich Matteson’s life as offered on a website titled, “National Governors Association: The Collective Voice of the Nation’s Governors.” Matteson was born in Watertown, New York, in 1803. As the website notes, he “taught school in New York, and built railroads in the South.”

Moving to Illinois, he “established a career as a heavy contractor on the Illinois and Michigan Canal [the canal connection will be key to this story], and opened a successful woolen mill.”

After attaining financial success through business endeavors and the sale of land to the state, Matteson became an Illinois state senator in 1842. After a decade in the senate, he took office as governor in 1853. » Continue Reading.


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