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.



Monday, June 17, 2013

North Country Cross Burnings Are Nothing New

KKK cross burning LOCLast week the Watertown Daily Times reported a story that was disturbing on many levels. Knowing that it wasn’t equally disturbing to everyone (rest assured that bigotry is alive and well even in our lovely North Country) makes it even more unsettling. A snippet from the article said, “A Gouverneur man is worried about the safety of his family after he claims he was threatened by a Hammond man …. Ryann A. Wilson burned a cross and threatened to lynch Nigel A. Spahr, a black man ….”

If that is indeed what happened, it’s sickening in my opinion, but Wilson’s case will be settled by the courts. The point here instead is to address how we perceive ourselves in the Adirondack region. At the end of the article was this: “Sheriff Kevin M. Wells said the cross-burning was an isolated event. ‘It’s not something that occurs here.’ ” If only. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Books: Traditional Print, E-Books, or Print On Demand?

Adirondack Book ShelfA few local authors recently spoke with me about e-books, which coincidentally are grabbing headlines in a big way lately. The two main stories are Apple’s defense against charges that it conspired with publishers to fix e-book prices, and the surprising decision by Stephen King to not offer an e-book version of his latest title. King, one of the early proponents of digital publishing, hopes to reward the brick-and-mortar stores that helped make him such a huge success in traditional print.

The Apple case is currently in court, but in the nine months preceding the trial, e-book prices plunged, in some cases as much as 75 percent. A good thing? Maybe. But you get what you pay for, and with such low returns for selling e-books, there’s far less incentive for good authors to go digital. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Remembering ‘Adirondack Detective’ Writer John Briant

JBriant 01aFor the second time in recent months, the Adirondacks lost a longstanding member of the regional writers’ community. John Briant of Old Forge, known far and wide for his Adirondack Detective series of books, passed away on May 14. I’m not a religious person, and I can’t say to what extent John was, but if he was devout, he probably looked forward to reuniting with his beloved wife, Margaret, who passed away in June 2012.

If you didn’t know the Briants but you attended book events in the area, they were the loving elderly couple who clung so closely to each other. Each seemed to support the other. Her death last year was a tragedy that many of us feared would be John’s undoing as well.

The world of literature is filled with moving stories of young love lost and the tortured souls of survivors, pining for what once was or might have been. As John spoke to me last year of Margaret’s passing, it became clear that, at least in this instance, age had nothing to do with love’s depth or fervor. He at times wept while describing her hospital stay, her unexpected death, and the deep sense of loss that had since enveloped his life. Had John not mattered to so many people in so many ways, he might well have left us soon after Margaret did―just from grief alone. He had lost, after all, his partner, love, and inspiration. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Joseph Lonsway:
Adirondack Guide, Medal of Honor Recipient

Lonsway with PershingCivil War veteran/hero Joseph Lonsway, long accustomed to hard work, continued serving as a river guide (and remained hooked on fishing) well into old age. On two occasions, he nearly lost his life in fire-related incidents. In 1911, when he was 67, Joseph, with fellow guide and friend Joseph Calhoun, rushed to help fight a blaze that ultimately destroyed the Hotel Frontenac. They were together on an upper floor when the electricity failed, forcing them to leave the building. Calhoun urged Lonsway to depart first because he was older, but something went terribly wrong. In the end, Lonsway escaped, but Calhoun perished.

Four years later, Joseph was in a recently burned building when he suddenly fell through the floor, landing in the basement. After medical treatment for serious injuries to his legs and hips, he finished recovering at home. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Clayton History: Joseph Lonsway and the Civil War

Joseph Lonsway, B 1844-1925In “The Road Not Taken,” poet Robert Frost wrote of encountering two roads diverging in a wood: “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” That’s life in a nutshell: it’s all about decisions. When confronted with options, we make a choice. Sometimes even the first few moments that follow can change our lives forever. Such was the case with a North Country soldier, Private Joseph Lonsway of Clayton, New York (in Jefferson County, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River).

Lonsway was a member of the Union Army’s 20th NY Cavalry which, in October 1864, was on a mission to assess the enemy’s strength and destroy army supplies near Murfree’s Station, Virginia. They soon found themselves in a standoff with rebel troops based on the opposite bank of the Blackwater River. Heavy fire was exchanged, but Union troops clearly had only one option to pursue the enemy: a ferry, operated by a rope connected to both shores. But there was a problem: the ferry in question was tied to the far bank, and was only about 10 yards from the rebel breastworks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Local History:
Warren G. Harding And The Battle of Valcour Island?

Warren Harding LOCIt’s remarkable how two unrelated historical events sometimes converge to form a new piece of history. In one such North Country connection, the job choice of a future president became linked to a famous encounter on Lake Champlain. The future president was Warren G. Harding (1921–23), and the lake event was the Battle of Valcour Island (1776). The results weren’t earth shattering, but the connection did spawn coast-to-coast media stories covering part of our region’s (and our nation’s) history.

In 1882, Harding (1865–1923) graduated from Ohio Central College. Among the positions he held to pay for schooling was editor of the college newspaper. In 1884, after pursuing various job options, he partnered with two other men and purchased the failing Marion Daily Star. Harding eventually took full control of the newspaper, serving as both publisher and editor.

In time, the failing enterprise was turned around and became profitable. Harding’s success and affability earned for him a widespread, positive reputation. He eventually entered the world of politics, sometimes returning to newspaper work, but always maintaining a link to the business through partial ownership.

After rising through the ranks of the Republican Party, Warren Harding famously became the compromise candidate in the 1920 election, which he won with the highest percentage of votes in American history up to that time. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Some Beaver Dams I Have Known

BeaverDam WLate last week, I found myself gazing into the woods as we headed down the Northway, en route to the Crandall Library Folk Life Center for a pleasant evening of entertainment. It was partially a business trip, but after listening to Dan Berggren and friends sing, alternating with readings by Carol Gregson from her first book (Leaky Boots) and her new release (Wet Socks), it sure didn’t feel like business. A good time was had by all, as evidenced by a very appreciative crowd.

During the ride south from the Plattsburgh area, my partner, Jill, handled the driving, which allowed me to enjoy uninterrupted views of the scenery. Included were some roadside marshes with beaver dams and lodges, prompting a flood of memories tied to my history with beaver dams. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Washington County Native: Commodore Robert Haggart

Robert S. Haggert 3HMuch of the time spent honoring past members of the military is focused on heroes, or those who died in battle. It’s certainly appropriate, but often lost in the shuffle are individuals who survived unscathed after serving with great distinction. An excellent North Country example is Robert Haggart, who made a career out of military service, was known nationally, commanded tens of thousands of men, and was responsible for training vast numbers of naval recruits.

Robert Stevenson Haggart was born in April 1891 to Benjamin and Annie (Russell) Haggart of Salem, New York, in Washington County. After finishing school at the age of 17, he received an appointment to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Adirondack History: Dannemora Prison’s Chicken Thieves

Chicken Thief headline 1931 01 Among the several dozen correctional institutions in New York State, Dannemora (officially Clinton Correctional Facility, but most often referred to as Dannemora Prison) is the largest maximum security prison. It is located in northern Clinton County, where the cold winter weather led to a variety of nicknames incorporating the word “Siberia.” It is also known as home to the worst of the worst, housing many of our most dangerous criminals.

For more than 160 years, the North Country’s famous lockup has confined inmates guilty of the most heinous crimes: murder, rape, arson, assault, bank robbery, serial killing … and chicken theft. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Adirondack Books: A Best Seller or A Local Seller?

Adirondack Books at Hoss'sWould you rather have a book on the New York Times Best Seller List, or a top seller in the Adirondack region?

If you’re an aspiring author, I know, I know … stupid question. But humor me, and before you answer, let me further define the question in this fashion: your book appearing on the New York Times list was produced, marketed, and sold by one of the world’s largest publishing companies. Your regional book, on the other hand, was self-published, which means it was funded, marketed, and sold by you.

I recently asked my partner that question, with the answer appearing obvious to both of us―but it isn’t. Actually, your reply depends on your goals: bragging rights for making the Times list, along with a semblance of fame and a profit; or regional popularity and a larger profit. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Civil War: The Four Tupper Brothers

Tupper family headline 1918Among the interesting stories to review during this sesquicentennial of the Civil War are those of North Country families who paid an unusually high price. In covering such tragic tales, the principal difficulty lies in getting it right―no small task when the main event occurred 150 years ago.

In many cases, we may never be sure exactly what happened, but the availability of digitized records (a subject addressed here last week in story comments) has changed the game. The truth sometimes emerges to replace embellishments that appeared in the long-accepted, oft-repeated version of a story. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Commentary: Lawrence Gooley On Buying Local

Buy LocalBuy local … it works! A month ago, I wrote about Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza suing the country’s six largest publishers over e-book issues, and the impact the outcome might have on regional booksellers. As one way of fighting back and helping small businesses (including those in the Adirondacks) survive against the behemoths, I urged consumers to buy local and support the stores in their communities. One comment generated by my story dismissed the idea: “Anyway, exhortations to buy local or buy paper books isn’t going to work, and is not the answer.”

Recent statistics suggest that just the opposite is proving true: it is part of the answer. Despite widespread claims in recent years that e-books would soon cause the demise of printed books, independent bookstores had a great year in 2012. And one of the contributing factors cited is the Buy Local movement. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Performing Arts History: Helen Redmond (Part Two)

Redmond 2ACelebrities always seem to have some kooky thing happening to them, and Helen Redmond’s best story was a doozy. There’s nothing funny about someone being stalked, and there’s nothing new about it either. Helen’s adventure describes something funny that happened because of a stalker, one who so resembled Redmond physically that she was often referred to as Helen’s double. The woman became obsessed with Redmond and even followed her performances on tour.

When The Ameer was performed in New York, Helen’s double booked a room in the same place where Redmond was staying. She sat in the front row for each show, and apparently began to believe that she was actually Helen Redmond. This behavior had long been of great annoyance and concern to Helen, but it now escalated to the point where the woman showed up at rehearsal as the show’s star, demanding that she be allowed to sing (her voice bore no resemblance to that of the prima donna’s). » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Port Henry’s Helen Redmond on Broadway

Redmond 1A We are the Adirondacks, with a rich history of mountain lore, guide stories, Great Camps, and Olympic glory. But our mountain history tends to overshadow elements of the past that can serve as great attractions for both locals and tourists alike: fame and achievements by regional natives and residents in non-mountain endeavors. Among the dozens of examples I could cite, how many of us knew that one of the most popular songs ever written was penned by a native of the North Creek-Wevertown area? Or that two world-champions―a beloved cyclist, and one of the greatest of all North Country athletes―were both based in the Glens Falls area?

Learning about the unusual talents and accomplishments of locals is highly entertaining, which makes it virtual gold for local museums. But so many of these stories are overlooked. Take for instance, Port Henry’s Helen Redmond. Though you’ve never heard of her, her talents were once celebrated from coast to coast. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 11, 2013

State’s Rights And Daylight Saving Time

AdkAlmImg-20130311If you like solving mysteries and puzzles, try explaining how the following real-life scenario was once possible.

The timeline might be tough to follow, but it’s early May, and we’re strolling down the street of a North Country community, running several errands. First stop: the Peoples Bank, where we make a deposit and then exit at exactly 1:15 pm. Down the street, we stop at the Citizens Bank to open an account, but the sign on the door says they’re closed for lunch until 1 pm. Glancing inside the restaurant next door, we see several bank employees eating lunch beneath a wall clock that says 12:20 pm. Rather than wait, we move on. » Continue Reading.