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.



Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jackie Archer: A North Country Civil Rights Inspiration

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a national movement and remains a catalyst for peaceful change after he was martyred for the cause. He was hardly beloved by all: many felt threatened by him, and when he protested against the war in Vietnam, many criticized him for losing focus and supposedly deserting the primary goal of addressing racial inequality.

Millions supported his efforts, but it was a chaotic time, filled with uncertainty about the future. With the bitterness, hatred, and violence that was revealed, even on the nightly TV news, it sometimes seemed doubtful that true change could ever be achieved.

But Dr. King wasn’t alone as a leader. Others took up the mantle at all levels of society, and when someone did in Clinton County, I found renewed hope that substantive change could be achieved. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Disappointing Personal Lessons in Racism

The arrival of Black History Month (also known as African American History Month in the US) is a time to discuss and celebrate the achievements and lives of many brave souls who came before us. On a personal level, my thoughts turn to a dichotomy of experiences: pride that historically, New Yorkers in general have stood on the side of civil rights and equality for all, but dismay at several personal recollections when racism unexpectedly reared its head right before my eyes. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Nonpareil Athlete Babe Didrikson’s North Country Visit

During the first half of the 20th century, traveling basketball and baseball teams were part of America’s social fabric, providing great entertainment for millions of appreciative fans. Mostly visiting cities and surrounding communities, the famous and near-famous made the rounds each year. Their competition consisted of locally organized squads that often recruited one or more talented college or semi-pro players.

In New York, the most popular routes for traveling teams were from New York City north to Albany, and west to Buffalo. It was uncommon to find nationally known stars straying from those paths to visit the state’s northernmost regions, but in 1934 — 85 years ago this week — Plattsburgh and other lucky sites played host to sports royalty in the person of Mildred “Babe” Didrikson. At the very least, she was the equal of most men in several sports. Invariably, she is listed among the greatest female athletes of the 20th century. Compilations, like this one by Sports Illustrated, usually place her at the top among athletes who specialized in single disciplines, but when it comes to all-round talents and achievements, there are few if any challengers to Didrikson. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

John W. Taylor: New York’s (Almost Only) Speaker of the House

The title Speaker of the House of Representatives has received lots of attention during the past few years. It’s hard to believe that the nation’s fourth-most-populous state (New York—nearly always number one, and in the top five since 1790) has only one native who served in that position.

Well, technically, there are two, but one of them served 99.82 percent of the pair’s total time in office—to be explained later. If you’re from Northern New York and dislike the idea of people owning people, you’ll be pleased at his strong stance for freedom during one of our nation’s most turbulent times. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Murder in Troy: The Welshman And William Wesson (Conclusion)

What follows is the conclusion of the murder story that was begun here last week, ending with testimony from several witnesses, including the defendant. This picks up in the trial’s final phase.

During closing statements, defense attorney Jeremiah K. Long pleaded for his client’s life: “The charge of murder in the first degree is a fearful one. To condemn this aged man to death will be a fearful responsibility for every individual juror. The facts did not warrant a conclusion of deliberate killing. The ends of justice might be satisfied by the infliction of a lighter penalty than death…. None of the circumstances showed that the crime was premeditated. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Murder in Troy: Thomas Jones Kills William Wesson

On the evening of June 27, 1892, in a St. John’s Street boarding house in South Troy, New York, 66-year-old Thomas Jones was nearing the end of a three-day bender. He was fond of drawing a .32-caliber pistol and showing it off, something Jones had done repeatedly that day, much to the alarm of others. He hadn’t been on the job for several days at the Burden iron works, and had argued repeatedly with a coworker and co-resident of the boarding house, 22-year-old William Wesson, even offering to fight him in a duel. It was dismissed as nothing more than the ramblings of an old, annoying drunk. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Community Xmas Trees: Historically Rooted in the Adirondacks

Community Christmas trees are an American tradition that bring people together regardless of income, faith, political persuasion, or pretty much anything that divides us. Whether sponsored by a city, town, church, or civic organization, community trees are placed in an outdoor public setting for anyone to enjoy.

It’s a rare treat to share something so nonpartisan: whatever you might personally like about the holidays is what you’ll take away from viewing the tree or sharing in song and merrymaking with fellow citizens. And it’s nice to know that America’s first community Christmas tree, the one that spawned a movement still going strong more than a century later, was an Adirondack balsam. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Holiday Humor: Regional Letters to Santa from Long Ago

Plenty of laughs are scattered throughout this year’s collection of letters (unedited) to Santa. Check out the first two for an idea of what to expect. Enjoy!

From 1901: Gloversville Daily Leader

Broadalbin.
Dear Santa Claus: — I wish you would bring me a hand sleigh so I can ride down hill.
We live close by a hill where all the girls and boys ride and it is awful aggravating to see all of them riding down hill when I cant ride. I will be very thankful if you will bring me a sleigh and I won’t ask for anything more play things till next Christmas.
Yours With Best Wishes For a Merry Christmass And a Happy New Year, Beulah Fish. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Jefferson County’s Charles Sherman: Huckleberry Charlie (Conclusion)

In summer 1920, as he had done for at least 60 years, Charles Sherman was out on Pine Plains picking huckleberries. His usual tour of North Country fairs was in the works, a highly anticipated journey by Charlie and his admirers alike, but he began feeling poorly and decided not to go. He remained active until early October, but from that point forward was confined to the house as his health deteriorated. It was finally determined that cancer was gradually taking his life.

An outline of his unusual history was published in the Ogdensburg Republican-Journal, reviving fond memories of the good times had by all whenever Charlie came to town. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Huckleberry Charlie’s Saga Continues

In June 1917, Charlie Sherman showed up as usual in Watertown to apprise his friends at the Daily Times how things were going. After discussing the blueberry crop, he mentioned his new cat, Snowball, who “could roll over three times without stopping.” A surprise once again was his attire, but not in the customary way: instead of a flashy, multicolored wardrobe, “his suit being of a sober, mixed gray, but to the sport type.”

The year played out in typical fashion, with Charlie selling berries during the summer and touring the fairs in the fall. As had become customary, he also played a role in Watertown’s Labor Day parade. “Charles Sherman, bedecked with emblems, lodge insignia, etc., was given a prominent place in the parade, and even preceded the Fourth Artillery band at times when he considered the occasion demanded. The parade was witnessed by a large crowd of Watertown people who lined the Square on all sides, as well as [seven] other streets taken in on the line of march.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Charles ‘Huckleberry Charlie’ Sherman (Part 5)

It had been a busy year, but if anything, Charlie Sherman was more active in 1915, receiving ample media coverage for his many exploits — and more than a few surprises. In January, the Ogdensburg Journal reported on his visit to Watertown’s relief kitchen located on Jackman Street. He dropped in, looked things over, was offered supper, and accepted, afterward offering effusive praise of the food, facility, and staff, and rewarding them with brief and witty speeches on a number of topics.

At the end of the month, he showed up at Watertown High School and was guided to the auditorium, where he took the stage to perform several songs and a clog dance. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Huckleberry Charlie: Jefferson County’s Charles Sherman (Part 4)

In fall 1911, Sherman’s gardening skills, which had paved the way for decades of successful peddling, were credited with helping Woodville’s (near Lake Ontario) George Kring develop an especially prolific squash crop, including one vine that yielded 35 specimens. In a strong agrarian economy, such achievements were frequently touted in the press, a welcome bonus for a man with Charlie’s affinity for attention.

For someone who loved being the life of the party, 1913 proved to be a busy and pleasurable year for Charlie, who had entered his seventies. In early June, he joined the festivities as Carthage hosted the statewide convention of the Eagles, a fraternal organization. Said the Watertown Daily Times, “Huckleberry Charlie was much in evidence and was the center of attraction. Mounted on the bandstand and at the head of impromptu parades, he was everywhere to be seen.” » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Jefferson County’s Charles Sherman: Huckleberry Charlie (Part 3)

In January 1910, Charlie’s show-biz repertoire was further expanded with “a bunch of new songs and a new spiel” that he performed three times at the City Opera House when an amateur minstrel show came to town. Although he injured his hand working at the paper mill in Great Bend, Charlie continued to rehearse his songs and a monologue about the Pine Plains area, which proved to be a hit of the show. The Watertown Daily Times said, “One of the features not on the program, but which nevertheless called out perhaps a larger share of applause than any other number, was that of Charlie Sherman, Huckleberry Charlie.” Or as the man himself told it, “I made more people laugh than any other two numbers on the program.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 9, 2018

The Continuing Saga of Jefferson Co’s Huckleberry Charlie

Charlie Sherman was in great demand and welcome at just about any event he favored, for attracting a crowd was the key to success, and few folks could attract a crowd like Charlie could. He followed an itinerary that lasted for decades, traveling from fair to fair, selling his wares (sometimes vegetables, berries, peanuts, or soda) and working as a huckster, promoting other vendors and exhibits. Roaming the grounds, he delivered spiels, sang, pontificated on everything from politics to local history, talked about his past, and spouted witty sayings, often in poetic fashion. It was a win-win situation, adding to an event’s atmosphere while putting the spotlight on Charlie — and the more attention he received, the more he liked it.

He was already known far and wide as a beloved eccentric, but — either to maintain his status, or because innate quirkiness guided his impulses — Charlie upped his game in the early 1900s by expanding his wardrobe in unusual ways. Whatever the reason, it played out over time as a roaring success. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jefferson County’s Charles Sherman: Huckleberry Charlie

The Altona Flat Rock is a rare and spectacular site I’ve referenced here in the past, and was the subject of my first book written long ago (it was updated in 2005 with new glaciology information). Besides details on the unusual topography, glacial remnants, an incredibly persistent fire, and one of the world’s largest dams when it was built in the early 1900s, there was also a human history to tell.

The forbidding landscape, similar to expanses in Maine, was conducive to the growth of blueberries, the harvest of which evolved into a phenomenon. Entire families established temporary villages of tents and shacks on the Flat Rock from July into September, picking thousands of quarts for sale to local customers and East Coast markets, including Boston and New York City.

A similar business was conducted at the same time on what today is known as Fort Drum in Jefferson County. It was originally known as Pine Camp, located on a several-thousand-acre area that historically bore the name of Pine Plains. While the Altona site in Clinton County was known locally as the Blueberry Rock, Pine Plains near Watertown was known for producing great quantities of huckleberries, a close “cousin” fruit that provided the nickname for our subject, Charles Sherman. » Continue Reading.