Adirondack historian Glenn Pearsall is the author of Echoes in these Mountains (2008), When Men and Mountains Meet (2013), and the Adirondack novel, Leaves Torn Asunder (2016). In 2000, Glenn Pearsall and his wife Carol established and funded the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life of year round residents of the Adirondack Park.
When not pursuing a passion for history and philanthropy, Pearsall is a senior partner and Portfolio Manager for a wealth management team in Glens Falls, NY. He and his wife Carol live near the base of Crane Mountain in Johnsburg.
The story goes that, in the summer of 1970, a Town of Johnsburg highway crew was straightening a Garnet Lake Road near Crane Mountain. While removing some of the ancient corduroy logs that once carried the road across a swampy section, they discovered what appeared to be an old cannon.
Vincent Schaefer had the cannon dated at the Watervliet Arsenal and it was determined that it was a swivel gun of the type probably used by Benedict Arnold’s troops during the battle of Valcour Island. » Continue Reading.
Two hundred years ago this week, Napoléon Bonaparte was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. With the collapse of his army, Bonaparte abdicated and made his way to the French port of Rochefort where he was met by his oldest brother, Joseph Bonaparte.
At Rochefort Joseph had dinner with Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont (known in America as James LeRay de Chaumont, founder of the Town of LeRay, NY), who had been in Paris promoting his land development scheme in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
Hiking through any abandoned “working landscape” in the Adirondacks you are likely to come across evidence of the people that were here before: a lilac bush deep in the forest, an old butternut tree, perhaps an odd patch of daylilies, and, of course, old cellar holes and stonewalls.
The old Danker Farm in Johnsburg is just such a place. It probably hasn’t been used for any real farming for almost a century now. Like most abandoned farms in the Adirondacks, its pastures and fields have grown up to a chaotic mixture of poplar, white pine, fir, maple, beech and white birch. And, like most old farmland, the property is littered with old stone foundations and crumbling stonewalls. » Continue Reading.
The sight of maple sap bubbling away in an evaporator pan, the sweet smell in the air and the camaraderie of sugarin’ season are welcomed signs of spring here in the Adirondacks. It also has an interesting history; there is a connection between maple sugar production, slavery in the United States, and socially responsible investing.
Early settlers watched Native Americans slash the bark of mature maple trees during the “sugar month” (even today the full moon in March is called the “Sugaring Moon”). As the trees released their sap from these gashes the clear sweet liquid would be funneled through a series of concave pieces of birch bark stitched together with reeds to the base of each tree where a sealed birch bark basket stored the sap. » Continue Reading.
In my book Echoes in These Mountains, I suggested two possible routes for the old military road used by Sir William Johnson during the French and Indian War, and later used by his son Sir John Johnson in his raids on the Mohawk Valley. In recent years however, I’ve given this historical problem more thought as new evidence has come forward.
For example, I’ve seen the swivel cannon said to have been left by Sir John Johnson’s raiders near Bartman Road in Bakers Mills. Also, Tom Askens has shared with me that he has found small “cannon balls” in his garden at the intersection of Bartman Road and Coulter/Armstrong Road. » Continue Reading.
Last week’s cold snap, news reports about the Polar Vortex, and a November snowfall of historic proportions in Buffalo and Watertown has some folks teasing that they could use a little global warming about now. Adding to the concern is a recent book by John L. Casey, former space shuttle engineer and NASA consultant. Casey claims that it is solar activity, namely sunspot eruptions – and not carbon emissions – that trigger climate changes here on earth. The recent diminished solar activity, he claims, will cause the earth to rapidity grow colder. Casey’s book Dark Winter predicts the worst of the cooling cycle will hit in the late 2020s and a shortened growing season will trigger food riots around the world. His thesis is sure to trigger heated responses (sorry, couldn’t resist) from global climatologists around the world, many of which have been measuring the loss of ice at the poles and warming global temperatures.
All of this has reminded me of a time two hundred years ago when the Adirondacks were, at least for a while, unusually cold. » Continue Reading.
The sparsely populated towns in the Adirondacks often hold a particularly rich and intriguing history, but it often lies undiscovered and under-appreciated. The Township of Johnsburg, in the southeastern corner of the Adirondack Park is a prime example.
It appears that Sir William Johnson used a Native American trail through Johnsburg to sneak north to terrify and murder the French during the French & Indian War. It is likely too that his son, Sir John Johnson, used that same trail to lead a band of 528 loyalist New Yorkers south in 1780 to rescue 143 Loyalists and then burn 120 barns, mills and houses in his home town of Johnstown during the American Revolution. » Continue Reading.
The Townships of Johnsburg and Thurman were named for John Thurman when Warren County was split off from Washington County in 1816. Beyond the boundaries of these two townships, however, few have heard of him or his accomplishments.
The story of John Thurman is an important chapter in the history of the Adirondacks. For too many, Adirondack history is limited to the great camps, guide boats, and environmental protection. Yet there is so much more.
For hundreds of years the Adirondacks were a dark and dangerous place; anyone traveling through the area had best be well-armed. However, after the American Revolution the Adirondacks became, for the first time, a land of great opportunity, ready for exploration and commercial enterprises. » Continue Reading.
It was the first time Grant had battled Lee. The two armies blundered into each other in deep woods just west of Fredericksburg, Virginia in early May of 1864. It would be known as the battle of the Wilderness. Grant’s Federal forces totaled over 101,000 to Confederate General Lee’s 61,000. Fighting in the deep woods with their opposition obscured by acrid black powder smoke, the casualties were horrendous.
Only by the flash of the volleys of the forming line could they know their enemy. The woods lit up with flashes of musketry and according to one observer, the incessant roar of the volleys sounded like the crashing of thunderbolts. Brave men tumbled to the ground like autumn leaves in a windstorm. Through all this the 93rd New York continued to advance over a mile through a tangled forest, underbrush, and swamps – all while facing rifle and artillery fire.
Adding to the horror was that the woods caught fire. It had not rained for weeks and the explosions of the battle set the dry undergrowth on fire. Wounded men, unable to escape, were burned alive. Those that escaped the fires were placed at quickly established aid stations. Some recovered; many did not. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Region of New York State is known for not only for its scenic beauty, but also for the strength and stubbornness of its people. This is especially true of its women. The early years of its history featured women who were particularly strong and resilient.
Phebe Cary was not only a woman, she was a full-blooded Abenaki. The story goes that at age 13 she was sold off by her father to William Dalaba. It is unclear if she was sold off by her father or whether William just paid her father a dowry. What is clear is that after William left money with her father, she was sent off – against her will – with a new husband to the 1857 wilderness of Bakers Mills, N.Y. » Continue Reading.
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