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.
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.
Scott Perkys’ first year living in the village of Keeseville was a busy one. He became involved in community activities, and in July his daughter Melissa was born in Plattsburgh. A short time later he applied for a patent application for a new food product that would become known as Muffets, a round version of shredded wheat biscuits.
Scott’s knowledge of his father’s patents on the cereal and the machines to make it, which had expired in 1912, allowed him to recreate that work with major modifications. » Continue Reading.
The word Muffet conjures different things for different people – the nursery-rhyme reference, of course, and perhaps furry little creatures, maybe because it sounds like Muppets, only smaller, like Smurf-sized. Muffets are actually something that most of us have eaten (if not a Muffet, then one of its close relatives). They’re the round version of shredded wheat biscuits, and who among us hasn’t tried some type of shredded-wheat cereal at one time or another? » Continue Reading.
Trout season opened on April 1st, so it seems like a good time to review a few interesting fish tales (and truths) from the North Country’s past. Just like tall tales are an Adirondack tradition, fish stories are told wherever anglers are found. The most common are about the big one that got away, which just about every dedicated fisherman has a version of that includes at least some truth. What follows here are interesting and unusual fish-related stories from the past 90 years. » Continue Reading.
In 1983, Rita Labombard began to address the needs of a New York City shelter for street youth that sometimes served 200 children on a single night. Routine items were needed—soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, socks, etc. These were collected by a Plattsburgh group and brought to Champlain, where Rita arranged for their delivery to New York City.
To fund the costs of trucking and overseas shipping, the center constantly sought help from donors and area carriers. In 1985, to help cover those expenses, the Mission Center added a thrift shop, offering second-hand toys, books, clothes, and household items. Those in need, including welfare recipients, were encouraged to visit. » Continue Reading.
St. Mary’s Mission Center in Champlain was named as the clearing center for Catholic charities in the entire Ogdensburg diocese. But it’s important to note that although manager Rita LaBombard was Catholic and worked closely with many Catholic charities, St. Mary’s was an independent, non-denominational entity from the start. Volunteers from several faiths had long been lending a hand.
Civic organizations also chipped in with materials and labor. Private citizens purchased materials, made clothing, and donated it all to the center. Children folded clothes, sewed buttons, and moved boxes. And always among the volunteers was Rita’s mother, Delia, nearly 80 and still washing, ironing, and mending clothes several hours a day. It seems Rita came by her work ethic honestly. » Continue Reading.
Women’s History Month this year finds me pondering the death of an old friend back in early February. When I first saw her obituary, it struck me as a second major loss for my hometown in a very short time. You see, fire in mid-January destroyed much of the school I attended through ten grades. I was raised in Champlain, north of Plattsburgh and just a mile from the Canadian border. During those growing-up years it was a typical village, where most of us knew most of us in one way or another. For a century, St. Mary’s Academy was the heart and soul of the community. The fire’s toll was felt by many.
Just two weeks after the blaze came the death at age 90 of Rita LaBombard. Unlike the school fire, her passing received little media coverage other than an obituary of a few paragraphs. Yet her life may have affected in a positive way just as many people as the school did in 106 years. What she accomplished through a lifetime of giving really is amazing. » Continue Reading.
Last week’s coverage here of Albany’s first Episcopalian Bishop, William Croswell Doane (1832–1913), focused on his opposition to women’s rights, particularly the suffrage movement. There’s much more to his story, including humanitarian works, but the intent was to address his role in thwarting those battling for women’s rights. This is, after all, Women’s History Month.
Although he was a famous man of the cloth, Doane’s comments on suffragettes were sometimes described by the media as caustic, hostile, and vitriolic. But as I discovered, like many other components of his life, they were hardly original. This was an extreme case of the apple not falling far from the tree.
William’s father, George Washington Doane (1799–1859), was the guiding force in his life. The parallels between the two are uncanny. They were either the same age or less than a year different for graduation from college, ordination as deacons, and ordination as priests. Both exerted great influence in the cities where they became bishops, George at Burlington, New Jersey, when he was 33, and William in Albany when he was 37. » Continue Reading.
“Woman cannot do man’s work. There is not, in my opinion, any mental equality between the sexes…. Women are just as bright as men, but they are less logical, more moved by impulses and instincts…. Each sex must confine itself to certain sorts of occupation, men being unable to do much of women’s work, as women are unable to do much of men’s.”
What a great quotation to open with during Women’s History Month. As you may have guessed, those words were spoken long ago—1909, in fact. The statement alone was disturbing enough, even back then, but what made it worse was the source: not an illiterate, but one of the most powerful and influential men in upstate New York. » Continue Reading.
In 1891, at age 73, Cornelius Carter was still providing justice and attorney services to the town of Edwards. His name was highly respected across the North Country as a public servant and a knowledgeable outdoorsman. That reputation made state officials take notice when he chimed in on important issues, which Con did for the next ten years despite his advancing age.
In June 1893, responding to a newspaper account of a Lewis County hunter’s claim that deer in the region had wintered well, Carter wrote, “Never was there a time in my remembrance when the forest presented such a luxuriant growth. Every living shrub and tree is robed in living green; the scene is nature in her beauty and her loveliness.” » Continue Reading.
Two creations of Jefferson County’s Edward Shortt were very successful in the 1880s, but like most inventors, he was always thinking, always innovating. Commercial success was important for funding future projects, but his steam pump and award-winning duplex engine, along with the backing of wealthy men like Charles Emery, ensured Edward of a comfortable living standard.
In the early 1990s, as Shortt’s duplex engines began mass production, he delved into designing a better braking system for trains. Other than for financial profit, there were many reasons to do so. Frequent and horrible rail accidents involved great loss of life, particularly in collision situations. The inability to effectively slow and stop such large, moving vehicles often played a role in catastrophic crashes. » Continue Reading.
Historically, the northwestern foothills of the Adirondacks have been home to a number of inventors.
Among the most notable from Jefferson County is a man whose work had a tremendous impact on products used widely by many industries.
One of his inventions is credited with preventing many accidents, thus avoiding an untold number of deaths and injuries.
Edward G. Shortt was just one year old when his family emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1847. John and Esther Shortt settled in Redwood, about 20 miles north of Watertown, finding work in several nearby communities. Edward, the oldest of about a half-dozen children, attended schools in Redwood and Philadelphia. At about the age of 14, he began working with his father in John’s carriage-making shop, where the young boy’s aptitude for invention and problem solving was revealed. » Continue Reading.
A few regional authors have been designated at one time or another as “the Poet of the Adirondacks,” able to rhyme rich prose while describing events that speak to us on a personal level. In recalling things we may have experienced, the writer also speaks for us, but with an eloquence that escapes the average pen. Among the earliest to wear the mantle of Adirondack poet was Cornelius Carter.
Although he was among the earliest, Carter’s talent only became widely known late in the game, as a sketch of his life reveals. Cornelius was born in 1816 in Martinsburg (Lewis County). When he was about eight, the family moved to Philadelphia in Jefferson County. At about age twenty, he earned a teaching certificate and taught locally for the next six years, three at Philadelphia and three at Antwerp, both in Jefferson County. » Continue Reading.
A sense of community is important to most of us. We join clubs, sports teams, civic and arts organizations, historical associations—groups that represent our interests. There’s strength in numbers and satisfaction in knowing that we’re part of something significant. The push to buy local, heightened recently by an economy where average Americans still struggle, is another example. Supporting small local businesses helps your neighbor, keeps money in the community, and benefits us all.
The ideas behind Buy Local movements seem new, exciting, sensible—and two out of three ain’t bad. Exciting and sensible, for sure. But new? New-ish, maybe? Not even close.
Pleading, begging, encouraging, cajoling, and instructing the public on why buying local is important have been components of the “movement” for well over a century. And for most of that time, the reasons given for buying local have remain unchanged. » Continue Reading.
About a year ago on these pages, I shared a secret “illness”—snow shoveling—that has been with me since childhood. Besides the interesting and very funny comments that followed on Adirondack Almanack, personal emails arrived from those similarly afflicted. I did mention that more would come in the future, so here goes. Shoveling and keeping a 1500-foot path open for a decade of winters was the highlight of last year’s piece. That probably can’t be topped, but there is more insanity to report. » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday, January 6, the Press-Republicanreported a remarkable achievement of Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas.
Here’s how the newspaper’s article began: “Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas was sworn in Monday for an unprecedented sixth term as chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.” The italics are mine. Their claim is wrong.
Among the subjects I’ve covered on Adirondack Almanack is Willis Wells, a shining star of Essex County’s past and a member of the Lake Placid Hall of Fame. I recently discovered that the articles about his great career, and even his obituary (he died in 1949), were in error. Both sources noted that Wells had served eight terms as chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, including six consecutive. Actually, he served nine terms, including seven consecutively. Bold headlines pronounced his election each year. » Continue Reading.
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