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.



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.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Hudson River History: The 1903 Spier Falls Disaster (Conclusion)

In spring 1903, more than a thousand men were at work on the final stages of the Spier Falls hydropower project. A large number of skilled Italian masons and stoneworkers were housed in a shantytown on the Warren County (north) side of the river.

Most of the remaining work was on the Saratoga County (south) side, which they accessed by a temporary bridge. But the company feared that the high waters of springtime had made the bridge unsafe. To avert a potential catastrophe, they destroyed it with dynamite. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Spier Falls Disaster: An Adirondack Tragedy

Adirondack history is naturally rife with river-related stories—wildly successful fishing trips, damaging floods, wilderness exploration, and dam construction. Rivers were the lifeblood of development:  settlements sprang up along waterways, where partial diversion of streams provided the wheel-turning power necessary to many industries. But freshets were so common and destructive that dams were introduced as flood-control measures, and then for hydropower as the electrification of society unfolded.

Recognizing the great financial potential of providing electricity to industries and the masses, power companies sought to develop dozens of potential reservoir sites. Among the arguments they used to justify building dam after dam was public safety. Ironically, the construction of a hydro dam was marred by one of the worst tragedies in Adirondack history. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Most Negative Sales Pitch Ever

A little more than a century ago, a horrendous description of an Adirondack village appeared in newspapers, including the Mail and Express published in New York City. At issue was the placement of a yet-to-be-built tubercular sanitarium. Feelings ran so high at the time, you’d swear they were selecting the next Supreme Court justice. But taking sides is nothing new, as proved by use of the written word back then to describe one of the candidate locations. As you’ll see, it’s hard to believe they were talking about the same place. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

World War I: New Yorkers Get Behind the Liberty Ball

Endless commentary and opinions across various media reveal such modern political divisiveness that sometimes it makes you wonder: “Was it always like this?”

The answer is no: sometimes it was worse and sometimes it was better. Without going into detail, worse would be the Civil War, the Prohibition Era, two world wars, and the 1960s (daily televised scenes of police dogs and fire hoses used against civil rights and war protesters, daily gore and body counts from Vietnam, multiple assassinations). » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Orra Phelps: With Us on Every Trail

In the passages below, excerpted from a 1942 article appearing in a regional newspaper, there is a glaring error. Can you spot it?

“Dr. Orra A. Phelps, Fort Plain School Physician, was the principal speaker at the initial meeting of the Burroughs Nature Study Club…. He spoke on Guide to Adirondack Trails. In his talk, Dr. Phelps outlined various trails leading to the most picturesque spots in the upper Adirondacks from information gleaned first-hand by the speaker, who is an enthusiastic mountain climber.

“He called particular attention to Mt. Colden, located between Mt. Marcy and Mt. McIntyre, one of the few points, he said, that has been preserved in its original state and which he characterized as the heart of this wilderness of nature. Dr Phelps also described the scenic beauty discovered on a visit to the Ausable Club in the vicinity of Keene Valley. The speaker is chief author of the book, Guide to Adirondack Trails.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 17, 2018

A Perfect Storm of Bad Luck; One Tough Guy on Black Lake

A front-runner for 1930s “it seemed like a good idea at the time” award was 40-year-old Harry Baxter of Syracuse. In early September, he and his wife, Louisa, and one of their sons were camping at Black Lake in western St. Lawrence County. Thirty-six hours later he was in desperate straits, clinging to a small, rocky island and life itself.

Harry’s troubles resulted from a series of questionable choices. The first was fishing from a small boat in conditions that Baxter himself later described as heavy seas. The second was going alone, perhaps not the best idea, and the third was where he chose to fish — after all, alone and in stormy waters, where else to set up but near the center of the lake, which spans more than two miles at its widest point.

Because the water was quite rough, he anchored both ends of the boat, enabling him to stay in one spot to fish. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, it also prevented the boat from moving with the water, thus making capsizing much more likely from wave action and water splashing into the boat. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Boy Who Sued Santa — And Won!

That’s no trick headline you see above. After an incident in the Adirondacks 65 years ago, Santa’s business operations in the mountains were taken to court — by a five-year-old plaintiff.

As you might imagine, there were proxies involved: Santa’s interests were represented by Santa’s Workshop, North Pole, N.Y. (in Wilmington), and young Michael of Saratoga Springs was spoken for by his parents. Attorneys handled the court proceedings on behalf of both parties.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Little Humor: Odd Accidents from the Past

Safety — on the job, in the home, on the highways — is serious business with the National Safety Council, but they’re not without a sense of humor. For decades at the end of each year, the organization published a collection of unusual accidents, once called Freak Squeakers, that could have been catastrophic, but by odd circumstance ended with relatively minor injuries, or none at all. From my collection of odds and ends, here are a few from the Adirondack region that fit the category, followed by a few more that the NSC shared more than 60 years ago. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 27, 2018

A Lake George Mystery (Conclusion)

No one knew for certain what had happened to Alma Gatti and Jerry Walker after their disappearance on Lake George in summer 1949. To a certain extent, dragging for the bodies was a crapshoot because no one knew for sure where the presumed accident had occurred. There were no reported sightings of them that day, and no way to determine how far their canoe had drifted before reaching the shore.

Within a few days, first one paddle and then another, both stamped as belonging to Lamb’s Boathouse, were found in the vicinity of Watch Point, indicating that searchers were dragging the area likeliest to yield results. A Conservation Department boat continued working a five-square-mile area between Watch Point and Shelving Rock. Meanwhile, four state police divers spent an entire day probing the depths, but came up empty. » Continue Reading.