Sandra Weber is a writer, storyteller and performer who portrays Kate Field’s “Among the Adirondacks” lecture. Weber has authored several Adirondack books about regional history and women including Breaking Trail (with Peggy Lynn), Mount Marcy, and Two in the Wilderness. She lives in a log cabin in Elizabethtown, NY.
History has done a poor job of defining and interpreting Gerrit Smith’s 1846 land grants and the Timbucto settlers in North Elba. More recently, scholars have been exploring and telling this rich and fascinating black history of the Adirondacks. However, confusion, fiction, and exaggerations have crept into some narratives. As an independent scholar of history, I believe we need to be vigilant to keep history factual, especially given the current attacks on re-writing and re-framing history. Conjecture and opinions should be stated as such, facts should be backed up by reliable sources and verified by evidence.
Many historical accounts about the land grants and Timbucto are chocked full of errors and myths rather than historical facts. Among these are Alfred Donaldson’s chapter on John Brown in A History of the Adirondacks, Volume II (1921), Mary Lee’s article in New York Times (1929), Beatrice Hughes article in New York State Conservationist (1921), Richard Henry Dana’s article in Atlantic (1871), and various narratives quoting Lyman Epps Jr. These are not reliable sources.
On February 19 our nation celebrates President’s Day to recognize the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). Between these two days is February 15, the anniversary of the birth of another great American, Susan B. Anthony.
Although it is not yet a national holiday, Susan B. Anthony Day is a New York State commemorative holiday and places such as Seneca Falls and Rochester, hold grand celebrations. » Continue Reading.
I enjoy a somewhat Thoreau-like existence, living in a cabin in the Adirondack woods about a mile from a small town. This frugal, fairly self-sustaining lifestyle means plenty of physical labor and ample quiet time for writing. Like Henry David Thoreau, I foolishly thought my immersion into nature might shield me from political matters. I tried to expunge such thoughts by chopping wood but soon found my axe needed grinding.
My world had changed; the forest seemed less attractive, the mountains less appealing, my prose less worthy. As Thoreau wrote, “I dwelt before, perhaps, in the illusion that my life passed somewhere only between heaven and hell, but now I cannot persuade myself that I do not dwell wholly within hell.” » Continue Reading.
As of November 6, 1917, the State of New York became the first state east of the Mississippi to grant full voting rights to women. The tremendous support from New York City overcame the lack of support from most upstate counties. Essex County was one exception, approving woman suffrage by a margin of 15 votes: 2838 to 2823. “Newcomb is the Banner Suffrage Town” announced the Adirondack Record. The town “did her bit” for the ladies, casting 73 votes for suffrage and only 6 against. “Newcomb is certainly most chivalrous.”
Minerva, North Elba, St. Armand, Ticonderoga and Westport also approved the suffrage measure, but regardless of whether your town voted for or against suffrage, it is time to celebrate. The centennial of NY women winning the vote is being commemorated in Albany, Seneca Falls, Johnstown, Ticonderoga, Plattsburgh and other towns across the state. From flotillas to parades, rallies, conferences, and tea parties, the events celebrating the suffrage centennial have been informative and energizing. » Continue Reading.
For decades, history books have fed us the simplistic notion that women struggled for the vote while men opposed them. Hogwash! Some women opposed suffrage and some men supported it. The issue was a battle about the sexes; the battle itself was fought by women and men against other women and men.
The North Country region resembled most of upstate New York in the 1800s, rural and a hotbed for reform movements: abolition, prohibition, forest preservation, women’s rights. Of course, there was also opposition to some of these changes. The major reason for resistance to women’s rights had to do with long-held conventional notions about the roles of men and women, the roles of blacks and whites, and the interpretation of the Bible. In general, these views supported a white patriarchy and contested any threat to the perpetuation of its authority. » Continue Reading.
One hundred years ago, on October 22, 1916, Inez Milholland Boissevain gave a powerful suffrage speech in Los Angeles. At one point, she directed a question at Woodrow Wilson: “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” As those words echoed through the hall, Inez collapsed on stage.
Today, New York State prepares to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage and the nation approaches an historic election – a woman is the presidential nominee of a major political party. The importance of casting a vote on November 8, 2016, seems obvious, and the right to vote taken for granted. But consider that women in New York State could not vote in Congressional or Presidential elections a hundred years ago. However, after decades of campaigning for women’s suffrage, it appeared that momentum was building in 1916. One woman from New York helped spur the forces to move “forward into light.” » Continue Reading.
Last weekend, the Saratoga Historical Society in California celebrated the 200th birthday of Mary Ann Day Brown, wife of radical abolitionist John Brown. The milestone was observed a few weeks prior to her actual birthday (April 15) to coincide with the Blossom Festival…. but, wait. Doesn’t John Brown’s body lie a moldering in his grave in New York State? Yes, it does, in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid. The grave of his second wife Mary however, is at the other end of the country, in Saratoga, California’s Madronia Cemetery.
It is all rather ironic since the life of Mary Ann Day started 200 years ago on April 15, 1816, in Granville in Washington County. Mary was a quite ordinary woman of the 1800s: quiet, modest, godly, and usually poor. Scores of thousands such lives pass unnoticed; history tends to remember women of wealth, beauty or offbeat wackiness if it recalls their existence at all. » Continue Reading.
At the height of her career in mid-1873, Kate Field was said to be “a more prominent journalist than Clemens [Mark Twain].” The Washington Post said she was “one of the foremost women of America,” and the Chicago Tribune called her the “most unique woman the present century has produced.” Yet in her tales of adventure in the Adirondacks, she called herself “a babe in the woods.”
She wrote, “To be a babe in the woods watched over by a human robin redbreast, is as near an approach to Eden before the fall as comes within the ken of woman.” » Continue Reading.
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