Gary Peacock grew up just north of the Blue Line in Chateaugay, NY where he became an avid camper, hiker and biker at a very young age. After he closed his Record Store in Plattsburgh, he took several long - distance bicycle trips in France and the Adirondacks before attending college at Plattsburgh, where he earned a degree in Adirondack History. This article is part of a series of papers he wrote while earning his degree.
The first known ascent of Mount Marcy occurred on August 5, 1837 when a team of New York State Geologists, led by Ebenezer Emmons, spent a glorious five hours on top of the peak.
But it was not Emmons that best described what his team saw that day. Instead, it was his intrepid guide, John Cheney, that historians most often quote. Looking out over the vast range of mountains and lakes below them, Cheney observed, “It makes a man feel what it is to have all creation placed beneath his feet.” What Emmons did make note of on that brilliant August day was the presence of ice patches up to a half-inch thick scattered about the summit. Still, the lead geologist for the New York State Survey could not comprehend the existence of huge boulders, or erratics, that were left behind by glaciers. Emmons thought at the time that they were there as a result of a biblical-type flood.
[Author’s note: Much of the research for this story centers around a 1969 Mose Ginsberg interview conducted by Nancy Dymond. The four-hour recording of this interview is housed at the Goff – Nelson Memorial Library in Tupper Lake and the Adirondack Experience at Blue Mountain Lake.]
Standing at the corner of Cliff and Park Street in Tupper Lake is the building that housed the longest-running family-owned department store in New York State. With the recent extension of the Northern Adirondack Railroad, Tupper Lake had emerged as the largest producer and supplier of lumber in the state. That, along with its rising reputation as a tourist resort, helped grow Tupper Lake’s population to 3,000 souls by 1900.
In short, Tupper Lake was a boomtown back around the turn of the century. Mose Ginsberg, and his brother-in-law, Morris Goldberg, had founded their store in 1897 and quickly established a solid following among the region’s growing number of logging families, the guides, gardeners and carpenters from Paul Smith’s Hotel, and the influx of summer tourists.
For nearly a century the Lake Placid Club Resort complex occupied the eastern shore of Mirror Lake. It began in 1895, when Melville and Annie Dewey leased a farmhouse called Bonniblink on a five-acre parcel of land that he referred to as ‘Morningside.’ They chose this site as a place where they could establish contact with nature, find relief from their allergies, and to foster a model community that would provide for recreation and rest for professional people, specifically, educators and librarians. Dewey and his wife felt that occupations involving “brain work put people at higher risk of nervous prostration that, if not checked, would lead to fatigue and even death”
Melville Dewey was born on December 10, 1851 in Adams Center, Jefferson County, NY. At the age of 21, while attending Amherst College in Massachusetts, he invented the Dewey Decimal System. He then went on to become chief librarian at Columbia College (now University), secretary of the Regents of the University of New York State and state librarian. Dewey was also one of the founding members of the American Library Association (ALA), whose aim was “to enable librarians to do their present work more easily and at less expense.” In 1884, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy, the first institution for the instruction of librarians ever organized.
Last week’s Dexter Lake article covered a decade or two of turmoil near St. Regis Falls around the turn of the century. This week, we return to Dexter Lake eighty years on…
Media coverage of Orrando P. Dexter’s 1903 murder case raged on for quite some time, with national newspapers ‘feasting on the social conflict’ and local editors, worried about the negative impact on Adirondack Tourism, tried to defend the North Country and its people. As the unsolved murder case slowly faded from the headlines, Dexter Lake once again returned to its quiet former self and all was quiet on the lake for decades. The estate underwent numerous changes in use. It had been a summer camp for boys, sportsman’s hotel, St. Lawrence University research center, and most recently a private residence.
Murder in the Adirondack wilderness is rare; unsolved murders even more so. After more than a century, the mysterious death of Orrando P. Dexter continues to be a topic of conversation and is part of the region’s legacy that perplexes and mystifies local residents and visitors alike.
Dexter Park is a private preserve, located five miles from the northern border of the Adirondack Park, near St. Regis Falls, about 37 miles northwest of Saranac Lake. The rich history of this property began in the late nineteenth century when Dexter, a wealthy New York attorney, purchased nearly 10,000 acres surrounding the pristine, 200-acre East Branch Pond.
In the late 1800s, Dexter constructed a $50,000 Adirondack reproduction of the German artist Albrecht Dürer’s Nuremberg home and named it Sunbeam Lodge. He built a guesthouse (in which no one ever stayed,) a boathouse, barn, carriage house, and several other outbuildings, and renamed the East Branch Pond after himself. Like many other owners of exclusive Adirondack preserves, he posted and fenced in his entire property.
Looking out over Long Lake, it is difficult to think of it as a place of extreme hardship. But life in the central Adirondacks in the mid-19th century was not easy. In 1849, for example, Livonia Stanton and her family moved to Long Lake in the middle of the winter and her father had to use an ax and shovel to clear their cabin floor of snow and ice before they could even use the fireplace.
Like many beautiful Adirondack Lakes, the Great Sacandaga Lake is man-made.
It was created in 1930 when the newly constructed Conklingville Dam closed its valves and filled the valley with 38 billion cubic feet of water. The seed for damming the Sacandaga River was planted in 1874 when the New York State Canal Commission suggested that the “creation of reservoirs on the head-waters of the Hudson would allow control over its seasonal flow and prevent flooding of downstream communities.”
Castorland was the location of a courageous but heartbreaking attempt to settle the western edge of the Adirondacks in the late 18th century.
But little would be known of this history if it had not been for William Appleton, Jr. who, in 1862, stumbled across the Journal of Castorland in a Paris bookstand. Castorland…the English translation means ‘Land of the Beaver’… was overseen by Simon Desjardins and Peter Pharoux, who kept a detailed record of the Paris based La Compagnie de New York (Company of New York) from July 1793 until April 1797.
Two years before Appleton discovered the journal, Franklin Hough had published a highly regarded History of Lewis County, New York, in which he dismissed Castorland as ‘unrealistic and overly romantic.’ But Hough, at the time, was unaware of the journal’s existence and had little knowledge of what the New York Company actually experienced. Hough then spent three years translating the document with the intention of revising his History of Lewis County, but he died before that mission was completed.
Sometime in the later half of the 1810s, hunter, trapper, and hermit David Smith set up his camp on Beaver Lake, far from civilization of any kind. Beaver Lake is located deep in the wilderness near the western border of the Adirondacks, about half way between Lowville and Tupper Lake, inaccessible by any road.
There are two John Browns that are famous in the Adirondacks. The more famous, of course, is John Brown the abolitionist who is buried in North Elba near Lake Placid.
The other John Brown, of Old Forge fame, is of the same family that founded Brown University in Rhode Island, and quite unlike Brown the abolitionist, the Rhode Island Brown vigorously defended slavery while he was a member of Congress in 1799-1801. He was an extremely wealthy man; he owned one of the largest shipping fleets in the world and routinely shipped goods from China to Great Britain and North America.
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