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.
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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