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.



Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sad Final Days of Samuel Coplon, Adirondacks’ Santa Claus

If you followed the story of Samuel Coplon, Santa Claus of the Adirondacks, which appeared here during the past several weeks, you know he was a remarkably caring and giving man dedicated to making Christmas a special time for many needy children and adults in the Adirondacks.

For more than a quarter century, he bought numerous gifts and collected thousands more from friends and clients (Sam was a salesman representing several toy distributors), packed and shipped them to North Creek at his own expense, and traveled north to distribute them just before Christmas Day.

The story ended when Samuel, struggling with health issues in his late fifties, was forced to retire from the Santa Claus business, but left a wonderful legacy of charity and Christmas joy.  Sam lived for another twelve years after the Christmas trips to the Adirondacks came to a halt in the 1930s. It’s sad but true that his life ended under unfortunate and undeserved circumstances. To a degree, his good name and reputation were tainted amid lurid national and international headlines related to the activities of one of his children. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sam Coplon: A Santa Claus Worth Remembering (Conclusion)

In June 1932, Sam Coplon recognized a second opportunity to cheer Adirondack children. Adding something new to his repertoire, he visited the offices of the North Creek Enterprise, which had advertised his upcoming appearance to distribute cap guns to any and all boys ages 8 to 12, and gifts for girls as well. The noisy guns, which allowed children to join Fourth of July celebrations, were made by the firm he had long represented as a salesman, Riemann, Seabrey Company (the name by then changed from a hyphen to a comma). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Santa Claus Sam’s Adirondack Gift Giving

In 1930, Sam Coplon, the Santa Claus of the Adirondacks, was doing well financially but was by no means wealthy. The house he owned in Brooklyn was worth the equivalent of $230k in 2017, and served as home to his wife Rebecca, son Bertram (13), and daughter Judith (8), along with Rebecca’s mother and sister.

As he did each year, Samuel gathered a huge collection of Christmas gifts that winter and personally bore the cost of shipping them to North Creek. In previous seasons, this constituted upwards of 30 large crates or containers, a number that would soon increase. His employer and several of their clients donated toys and games at Sam’s behest, adding to the joy of children in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Santa Claus Sam’s North Creek Operations

Things appeared to be going well for Sam Coplon, the Santa Claus of the Adirondacks, but major change was in the works. Samuel had begun working as an Albany city clerk, limiting his ability to oversee the two business locations in Warren County. After spending several weeks at Johnsburgh in early 1910, he announced a going-out-of-business sale, offering all the hardware and furniture in his stores along with his horse, rig, and everything else related to operations there. By year’s end, most of the stock was gone. At Christmas time, he loaded a sleigh with toys and other gift items for delivery to homes across the area in what would become an annual tradition.

Years later, he recalled fondly the warm feelings generated by giving openly to beloved friends and neighbors, recognizing that many families, some of them quite large, struggled financially, and that even small luxuries were rarities in their lives. His remedy was to provide toys and games as Christmas gifts to show that someone cared.

In January 1911, he offered special closeout deals to folks in the Johnsburgh area before shuttering both business locations. For the remainder of the year, he made visits of several days each to the homes of friends in Johnsburgh, Bakers Mills, and Garnet, tended to his summer home, and made the gift-giving rounds again at Christmas. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Sam Coplon: Santa Claus of the Adirondacks

The collection of letters to Santa that appeared in this space last week epitomized life in the rural regions of northern New York a century ago. At Christmastime, children from families living a common, low-income existence asked Santa for the simplest of items: a pencil and notepad, candy and nuts, or clothing to keep them warm in the winter. Toys and playthings were often secondary requests if they appeared at all.

But the simple desires from long ago reflected something other than just poverty. A good number of rural folks were self-sufficient, and all family members, even young children, took part in the daily chores of life: working the fields and garden, milking cows, collecting eggs, adding logs to the fire, and so on. An early understanding of the effort behind daily sustenance was evident in children’s annual humble Christmas yearnings for pencils, books, and treats for the tummy, suggesting an appreciation for things in general, and gifts in particular.

Among those who came to the Adirondacks and developed a deep admiration for this rustic lifestyle was Samuel Coplon, who embraced the people, reciprocated their generosity, and in time became a nationally known hero of North Country Christmases, earning him the title Santa Claus of the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Poignant to Hilarious: ‘Dear Santa Letters from a Century Ago

Below are actual letters to Santa published in Adirondack regional newspapers a century ago, from 1914 through 1917. (None of the letters have appeared here in past collections.) Those years coincide with World War I, so there are a few references to the war, but for the most part, the letters are just plain entertaining. Some contain tinges of sadness, and they all reflect a simpler time among working-class communities, where gifts often consisted of items that in higher strata of society were common, everyday possessions.

For example, among the hundreds of letters reviewed, including 37 presented here, the most frequently requested Christmas gifts were candy, nuts, oranges, and warm items of clothing. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 4, 2017

North Country Crime and Justice: Adolphus Bouvia’s Murderer

Frank “Pork” Lafave, whom accused murder John Kinney said actually committed the horrific murder of Adolphus Bouvia, testified that he had been in Chazy for two months, a fact confirmed by his hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Eaton. In rebuttal, the defense called William Laforce, an inmate in the county jail. Laforce was facing two charges of horse theft, which may have reduced his credibility as a witness. He claimed that during Frank Lafave’s visit to the jail, Laforce had overheard him admitting the crime and promising revenge on John Kinney for being a snitch. According to Laforce, the comment was, “Kinney, I killed old Bouvia and gave you ninety dollars.” Then, on his way out, Lafave added, “John, you squealed on me, and I will get even with you yet.”

Another inmate, Robert Morrison, was re-called to the stand after testifying earlier about letters he had supposedly written on behalf of Kinney. The DA pressed Morrison to admit that he had been paid by the defense to testify. At that point, attorney John E. Judge took the stand briefly, explaining that, just six hours earlier (at 3 am), he had been dispatched to locate Morrison in Burke, a Franklin County village about forty-five miles west of Plattsburgh. Morrison was informed he would be paid fifty dollars by the county for appearing in court later that morning. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Murder of Adolphus Bouvia

George Lashway, murder suspect John Kinney’s father-in-law, testified that John didn’t support his family adequately (he and his young wife had three children), so Lashway was obliged to take care of them. In deep poverty and with nowhere to go, the family had recently moved into George’s home.

Lashway then told about an unusual incident involving his son-in-law. Kinney had asked to be awakened at 3 am on Wednesday, December 29, so he could go to his home (near Bouvia’s) and start a fire in the fireplace. When George went out to feed the horses at 6:30 that morning, he encountered Kinney, who said he had fallen asleep for a few hours after starting the fire. That absence identified a window of opportunity for Kinney to have committed the crime. Lashway also identified the gun that Kinney had borrowed for so long from George Trudeau, and had returned on January 2. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lumber Camp Cook Adolphus Bouvia’s 1909 Murder

A century ago, it was common during the Christmas holidays for North Country lumber camps to empty, at least briefly. In 1909, in far northeastern New York, the men of Altona in Clinton County enjoyed a welcome break after several weeks in the woods.

Near the settlement of Purdy’s Mills, the camp cook, Adolphus Bouvia, closed down operations on December 23. Widowed a year earlier, he planned to return home and spend time with family, friends, and neighbors, some of whom worked with him on the lumber jobs. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 13, 2017

North Country ‘Birdstones’: Mysterious Ancient Relics

Early Northern New York history goes far beyond the bounds of stories of pioneer families and colorful guides. As archaeologists like to say, the Western Hemisphere was invaded, not discovered. Many different societies, civilizations, or cultures existed here long before Europeans crossed the ocean and discovered “new” lands.

The history of humans in the Americas is extensive. In general (and brief) terms, the Lithic stage ended about 8,000 BCE (10,000 years ago), followed by the Archaic stage, (ending around 1,000 BCE or 3,000 years ago), and then the Woodland Period, which extended to around the year 1500.  I mention this because certain North Country artifacts written about by scholars more than 100 years ago, were created during the Late Archaic or Early Woodland period, about three thousand years ago. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Bennett Brothers; An Adirondack Witch Tale (Conclusion)

At the end of 1915, a year and a half after their mother was removed from the home, conditions had hardly improved for the Bennett brothers of Hope in Hamilton County. Their father, badly troubled by rheumatism, had hired a man to operate the farm, and the boys were learning to do for themselves whatever their father couldn’t. Dr. Edwin Hagedorn, after examining the three boys, said each suffered from “fatty degeneration of the heart,” and that their muscles had atrophied to such an extent that even walking might well be outside the realm of possibility.

On the plus side, they were all still alive, and had begun accepting visitors more often, a result of their notoriety among Adirondack residents and tourists who wished to meet them in person. One of their favorite subjects to discuss with visitors was the conflict (World War I) raging in Europe. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sarah Bennett’s Babies: Years of Sickness

Local authorities, including the Humane Society, considered taking action to alleviate conditions in  John and Sarah Bennett’s home at Hope in Hamilton County.

Some believed the Bennett’s three sons were being held captive by their mother, perhaps under a kind of spell.  After checking in on the three Bennett brothers,  Dr. George Peters of Gloversville rendered this assessment:

“I have examined George, Ward, and Frank Bennett of Hope, New York, and it is my opinion that if the three young men were taken from their home, or even if they were left at home and placed under the tutorship of a competent person — not necessarily a physician, but a person possessing the ability to develop the confidence which the average man possesses in himself — all three would in a few months time be able to perform labor which any man of ordinary intelligence daily performs.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Adirondack Witchcraft? Sarah Bennett’s Babies in Hope, NY

This story is about as bizarre as it gets. Locals in the Wells and Northville area were privy to the odd situation when it first came under public scrutiny a little over a century ago. At that time, a goal of regional counties seeking tourism dollars was providing easier public access to the Adirondacks, which was achieved in part by building new roads and improving old ones.

In southeastern Hamilton County, Northville marked the end of rail access in 1910. From there, stage lines carried visitors north through the hamlet of Hope to Wells and beyond. To accommodate automobiles, which were becoming increasingly common, the road to Wells was chosen for macadamization. The new, hard, flat surface would allow tourists to travel north independently, and then access stage lines from Wells into the mountains. The road would also drastically improve travel conditions for locals using horse-drawn transportation. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Fisher of Men and a Fish in the Water

A few weeks ago, the Adirondacks and North Country lost a native who led a unique life, a man who three years ago added “author” to his resume. Robert “Bob” Manning of Massena passed away on September 28 at the age of 81. My personal connection with him is a strange one indeed. We met back in 1966, but I hadn’t been in touch with him since 1969, so you might suppose that our phone conversation in 2014, when we became reacquainted, might have been a bit awkward.

It sure could have been, but not for the reason you might be thinking — that 45 years had passed. No, that wasn’t an issue at all, but these next few lines should help explain my use of the word “strange.” When I knew him back in the 1960s, he was a Catholic priest and one of my schoolteachers (nothing odd about that). He called in 2014 to ask if he and his wife could come and visit me (and there it is!). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Jack Lagree: Dannemora’s Bobsled Guru

Flush with success in the North Country Championships, taking first and second place, the Lagree Bobsled Club teams were off to St. Moritz, Switzerland, to practice and prepare for the upcoming world championships. In the end, the American squads were disappointed with their results in Europe, finishing fifteenth and twenty-third.

For Jack Lagree, it meant nothing more than getting back to work. He was already planning to prepare up to four sleds for the next Olympics. Despite growing competition from several large American corporations, the results coming out of Jack’s tiny garage were highly sought after by the best bobsledders in the country.

He made no secret of the process. Purchasing old sleds from Italy (machines that he claimed were the best in the world), he then stripped them down and rebuilt them based on his own designs and modifications. The results were indisputable. » Continue Reading.



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