Almanack Contributor Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ruth Williams: A World War One Nurse Overseas

The word hero is often tossed around loosely, but when it comes to wounded soldiers, no one argues that it’s fitting — so what does it say about someone else when wounded soldiers call them heroes? Consider American women during World War I. Although many wanted to, they didn’t have to serve because of their sex, and could support the troops by important actions at home. But some chose to place themselves near the front lines, and with no weapons to defend themselves. Their only protection came from nebulous agreements by both sides not to bomb hospitals and care centers.

That’s what nurses did, risking their lives to comfort, save the lives of, or ease the deaths of, soldiers. Which explains why so many wounded men referred to nurses as the real heroes. A fine example of that circumstance, with an unusual twist or two, involved Ruth Williams of Ogdensburg. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Ketchup Murder Case

In late July 1934, the average life of Watertown’s Vincent Sparacino took a sudden, drastic turn, becoming anything but humdrum. Vincent was an Italian immigrant who came to America in 1906 when he was 16 years old. The family settled in Watertown and operated Sparacino & Company, a fruit wholesaler that later branched out into vegetables. By the late 1920s Vincent and his brother Tony were partners in the business with other family members. Vince was a hands-on guy, frequently driving a delivery truck to customer sites around the city.

On many days after finishing work and taking supper, he drove to a nearby grocery store, parked outside, sat in the front passenger seat, and played the car radio. His good friend of many years, Patsy Carbone, ran the store, and whenever there was free time, Patsy came out to visit. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Fire on the Altona Flat Rock: Déjà Vu

Recent news stories on both sides of Lake Champlain reported a huge, dark cloud of smoke rising above northern Clinton County. A section of the Altona Flat Rock was afire, and within a day, more than 300 acres were scorched.

Dry conditions across the North Country were cited as the reason it spread so quickly, but there were other factors I happen to be familiar with because the first book I wrote, back in 1980, was titled A History of the Altona Flat Rock. The area in question comprises fifteen square miles of uninhabited wildlands which, by nature, is a very dry environment. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

John Casilear’s Love Affair with Lake George (Conclusion)

After a stellar 30-year career as a professional engraver of bank notes, artwork, and other items, John Casilear had left the industry to become a fulltime painter, and a very good one — a creator of lovely, detailed landscapes epitomized by artists of the Hudson River School. Even as the popularity of that genre faded and the American art world followed new paths, he was still the frequent recipient of praise and admiration. General assessments of his artistic capabilities were positive, and even glowing.

“There are very few artists belonging to the American school of landscape painters who have achieved such widespread popularity as John W. Casilear…. Mr. Casilear is a great lover of pastoral scenes, and some of his most notable pictures of this character have been drawn from the neighborhood of Lake George, and the Genesee Valley…. His pictures when sent from the easel are as harmonious as a poem, and it is this perfect serenity in their handling which is so attractive to connoisseurs…. He is one of the most popular landscape painters of the day” (The Art Journal, 1876). » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Adirondack Art History: John Casilear’s Commercial Success

In the mid-1850s, John Casilear’s career of more than 30 years as an engraver was gradually coming to an end, leaving him financially comfortable and free to focus on painting. He did just that by taking a second trip to Europe in 1857 to compile a fresh collection of ideas and sketches for future subjects, and to paint. While he was away, pieces of his artwork appeared in the 1858 National Academy of Design (NAD) Exhibition in New York City and earned praise from high sources.

Harper’s Weekly glowed: “Mr. Casilear’s power is in exquisitely delicate, vignette-like sketching…. A dreamy tranquility of atmosphere, with delicate-hued hills, a thoughtful spire, a gleaming brook — beauty in repose, and in detail — these are the subjects in whose delineation Mr. Casilear is so eminently successful.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

John Casilear: Life As An Emerging Artist

Notable American engraver John Casilear took on various projects, including vignettes for book illustrations. In 1839, he worked on the designs for The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, an annual gift book whose contributors at the time included Nathaniel Hawthorne. But in 1840 he embarked on a new adventure, assuming the life of a painter, which began with a trip to Europe to sketch scenery and study the work of the Old Masters.

His companions on the journey were portrait artist Thomas Rossiter and Casilear’s two best friends, John Kensett and Asher Durand. All would one day be identified as artists of the Hudson River School.

They traveled on the world’s largest steamship, the British Queen, and spent much of their time in the countryside on sketching trips, plus viewing the works of European artists at every opportunity. Among the cities they visited were London, Rome, and Paris. Experts later noted the influence of France’s Claude Lorrain as evident in many of Casilear’s landscapes. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 30, 2018

John Casilear’s Love Affair with Lake George

Artistry — in terms of painting, drawing, sketching, etc. — escapes me. While I admire and enjoy it, the combination of vision, creativity, and especially ability seems foreign, even though I lived with it while growing up. Through learning to read and constantly employing skills in that area, I gradually developed a certain comfort in the world of words, but none of it came to me magically, which is how I viewed the artistic capabilities of two of my siblings: without any lessons or instructions, they could just do it. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Something BIG Was Once Afoot in the Adirondacks

This appears to be the easiest North Country riddle ever, but humor me and give it a try anyway. What is very tall, very hairy, probably didn’t smell very good, and set tongues wagging when it was seen in the northern Adirondacks several times in early 1933? Just to be safe, take a moment and think about it. Hey, you never know — it could be a trick question. But if you’re still stumped or not certain of your answer, here’s another clue that might prove the clincher: it was known for having very large (OK … BIG) feet.

If you answered anything other than Gil Reichert, you’ve been successfully misled. No apologies here, though, for the description above fits both Reichert and your likely choice (Bigfoot) to a T. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Local Writers: Latest E-book and Print Trends

As an author of many books and publisher (with my partner) of many others, it behooves me to keep up on the latest trends in the world of books.

This includes the ongoing question considered by many of my Adirondack friends and acquaintances who are authors: should I sell printed copies, or is it better to go digital with e-books? Or maybe a combination of the two? It’s an issue I’ve addressed here in years past, particularly in 2013 and 2014 when the e-book explosion rocked the industry, leading many experts and non-experts alike to conclude that the end for printed books was clearly in sight. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The End of Ben Harder’s Very Hard Life

In October 1884, St. Lawrence County newspapers reported that a notorious miscreant, who had been arrested many times on various charges, had turned over a new leaf. “Ben Harder, of Black Lake, has reformed and is waging an uncompromising warfare against the fish pirates of the lake.” He had removed one illegal hoop net and a half-mile of illegal gill nets from Black Lake (in Morristown) and turned them over to the local game protector, who burned them.

However, rather than proof of reform, Harder’s removal of the nets was undertaken for a less than savory reason: to thwart his rivals. Charges of burglary and illegal fishing were brought against him, and a court appearance was scheduled for mid-December. When he failed to show, an arrest warrant was issued and successfully executed, but Harder, too drunk to stand before the judge, was locked up overnight. The next morning he argued to delay the case, but when that proved unsuccessful, he pleaded guilty to taking fish illegally and was sentenced to a month in jail. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Very Hard Life of Ben Harder

Ben Harder’s life story intrigued me after I encountered his name while researching a violent crime of more than a hundred years ago.

He was described as an elderly, disabled war veteran, a “helpless cripple, and he drags himself about from place to place on his hands and knees.” I wondered, could that have been true? Could he have made his way through life in that manner for more than forty years? The need to know was irresistible, so the digging began.

What resulted was in a way compelling, but hardly expected. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Plastic Mess Where Vacationers Go — See It Yourself!

Have you ever wondered what happens to the many pieces of plastic we contact in our daily lives? I wrote here recently on recycling, and the negative impact on others that littering can have. The best solution to wondering where plastics end up is to control their fate — by recycling and not littering. Trash left lying anywhere in the Adirondacks reflects negatively on the region and lessens the experience of both locals and visitors alike. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 14, 2018

The Old Trail: A Short History of Lyon Mountain

The recent recounting here of personal memories and good times linked to the old trail on Lyon Mountain told only part of the path’s history. A decade ago, a new trail replaced the old one, which had degraded with sections ranging from grassy to rocky to bouldery to muddy to extremely steep, muddy, and slippery. It was a mess compared to paths built by modern trail crews. In 2006, ADK’s Algonquin Chapter completed the plans for a new trail, which was built in the summer of 2008.

Without fanfare, a new trail replaced the old one, but a bit of fanfare might have been nice, considering the old trail’s age and historical significance.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lyon Mountain: Ballard’s Favorite Is Mine As Well

Lisa Ballard’s recent piece, “Her Special Mountain,” which appears in the March/April 2018 issue of Adirondack Explorer, struck a chord with me and rekindled some great memories.

In the opening paragraph, she writes, “You might climb many others, but there’s always one that’s yours… a favorite you climb over and over. It’s your go-to hike when you need exercise, you want to share quality trail time with someone else, or you need to get above the daily fray.”

Lisa’s choice is Lyon Mountain, which, at 3,830 feet, is the highest point in the northern Adirondacks and offers commanding views in all directions. She first climbed it via the old trail when it was being replaced, and soon after ascended on the new trail, which was completed in 2008. In September of that year, the Adirondack Almanack reported the change: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Littering Season is Upon Us

For any movie buffs out there, here’s a trivia question: what single substance is mentioned during memorable conversations in the films It’s A Wonderful Life and The Graduate? Hints, if you need them: in It’s A Wonderful Life, the word is mentioned by Sam Wainwright during a famous and subtly steamy telephone conversation with George Bailey and Mary Hatch (Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed) together on the other end of the line. In The Graduate, the word is uttered at a graduation party, and is part of an often-repeated line that was offered as confidential advice by Mr. McGuire to the college graduate himself, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman).

For me the word also comes to mind each spring, a season that seems to bring out the worst in some drivers. The winter cold apparently discourages littering — people who toss garbage out of their cars tend to do so much less from November through March. Apparently disposing of their trash in alternate fashion (maybe a garbage can or recycling container, god forbid) is more attractive than opening the car window during the cold season. » Continue Reading.


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