Sunday, May 3, 2009

Madrid, Hammond Newspapers Added to Local Archive

Murderers, slaves and the future of the weekly newspaper. What could these ideas possibly have in common? They were all topics of articles published in St. Lawrence County within a 30-year time span. The Hammond Advertiser and the Madrid Herald are the latest additions to the Northern New York Historical Newspapers website. The Hammond paper has a run from 1886-1947, and the Madrid paper runs from 1904-1918.

These two newspapers join over 40 others with a total of more than 1,366,000 pages on the NNY Historical Newspapers site. There are over 14 newspapers from St. Lawrence County. The site is provided free of charge to the public by the Northern New York Library Network (NNYLN) in Potsdam.

The June 16, 1904 edition of the Madrid Herald had the following notices under its “News of the Week” section:

“Tyson Taken to Auburn – James Tyson, the boy murderer, was taken from Lockport to Auburn State Prison to begin serving a term of twenty years for manslaughter. He was in charge of Under Sheriff Spaulding. Tyson stabbed Joseph Callahan, a waiter, in the Falls View Hotel, on the morning of February 10.”

It also reported, “Old Slave Dies – Henrietta Moore, colored, aged 103 years, died at Binghamton. She was born in slavery in Maryland, but escaped and served as a nurse for the Northern troops during the Civil War.”

A story in the June 15, 1939 edition of the Hammond Advertiser noted the following:

“WEEKLY PAPERS GAIN – The idea that weekly newspapers are on the way out is entirely wrong, according to Professor Bristow Adams of Cornell, who points to figures in the current issue of Ayers’ Newspaper Directory. About 20 years ago there was some pessimism about the future of the country weekly, he says, and much was written about the competition of the daily papers, the difficulty of getting national advertising for small newspapers, and similar drawbacks to success in the weekly field. Time has proved, he says, that the well managed, thoughtfully edited weekly is more of a rival to the daily than the daily is to the weekly, largely because the weekly can and does print strongly localized personal news which the daily paper is unable to get.”

The NNY Library Network is currently working on additional years of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Saranac Lake; and the Press-Republican, Plattsburgh.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roundtable to Discuss Interviewing and Oral History

The Clinton-Essex Counties Roundtable will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 at the Northern New York American Canadian Genealogy Society, Keeseville Civic Center, 1802 Main St., Keeseville. The topic will be “Community Scholars Training: Interviewing & Oral History” and will be presented by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) Executive Director Jill Breit.

Breit will share examples of successful oral history projects and demonstrate the many ways interviews can be used for different outcomes. She will focus on how to organize an oral history project, the basics of an oral history interview, the importance of field notes and follow-up interviews, recorders and other equipment for collecting oral history.

There will also be a tour of NNY American Canadian Genealogy Society Library and the Anderson Falls Heritage Society. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $5.00, payable at the roundtable.

The roundtable is provided free of charge to the public on behalf of the Northern New York Library Network, Potsdam, and Documentary Heritage Program. To register for this event contact the NNYLN at 315-265-1119, or sign up on-line at www.nnyln.org and click on “Classes.”


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sweeping New Book About Lake Champlain

To coincide with the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial, Adirondack Life has published Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History, a big beautiful book about a singular expanse of water and the lands that surround it.

Every page of the large-format hardcover tome is rich with maps, illustrations and/or color photographs. The book gives due attention to the glaciers and natural and human history that pre-date the July 1609 arrival of explorer Samuel de Champlain, who fired the starting gun for two centuries of European warfare and upheaval.

The volume is divided into chapters about New York, Vermont and Quebec towns along the shoreline; the lake’s geology and biology; native inhabitants and their displacement; the waterway’s importance in colonial power struggles; its era as a highway for commercial transport; and finally Lake Champlain as a place of recreation.

The 220-page book is $44.95, available at adirondacklife.com and in regional bookstores.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Blue Line Day

On this day in 1891 the first report was issued proposing the Adirondack Park. The map distinguished parkland with a blue border.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Adirondack History Center Museum Events

2009 is the 50th anniversary of the Essex County Historical Society / Adirondack History Center Museum’s Brewster Memorial Library in Elizabethtown. The organization has a variety of exhibitions, tours, and other special events planned for the coming year — take the time to check them out.

Upcoming events:

Inside the Landscape (May 23 – October 31)
An exhibit showcasing contemporary artist Edward Cornell, cultivator of poignant creations which meld art, history and the present life of community. Cornell’s landscape paintings and farming-implement sculptures provide viewers with a deeper appreciation of the past which widens our perspective of the present day landscape.

In and Around Essex (May 23 – September 20)
An exhibition of thirty-one color photographs taken by photographer Betsy Tisdale in 1972 and originally showcased in the early 1980’s. The exhibit has been revitalized for 2009 to convey how the human landscape of Essex, New York has changed over the past twenty-seven years.

From Dusty Shelves to Intellectual Access (June 13 – October 31)
2009 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the museum’s research library, the Brewster Memorial Library. The exhibit examines 50 years of collecting, preserving and providing access to Essex County’s cultural history. It illuminates Essex County history by embracing its people, places, and events and honors 50 years of dedicated patronage by researchers, educators and the community.

Race, Gender and Class: Architecture & Society in Essex County (May 23 – October 31)
Race, gender, and class are explored in this exhibit by examining Essex County’s industrial, religious, and educational past through architecture using historic and contemporary photographs.

ANCA Cover Art Show (September 22 – October 31)

The 22nd year of the Arts Council for the Northern Adirondacks (ACNA) Cover Art Show featuring local artists. The Cover Art winner this year is Ray Jenkins of Tupper Lake with his watercolor “Sailboat Race- One Minute to Start” to be raffled at “Field, Forest and Stream Day” on September 26th, 2009. Thirty donated artworks for a Silent Auction are included in the exhibition.

Ways of the Woods: People and the Land in the Northern Forest (September 26)
As part of this year’s Field Forest and Stream Day, the Northern Forest Center’s mobile museum, Ways of the Woods, come to the museum grounds. Visitors step into the back of a 53 foot tractor-trailer to enjoy this exciting, innovative exhibit which illuminates the “changing relationships among people” through interactive displays, live performance and demonstration.

Architectural Heritage Tour of Elizabethtown with Adirondack Architectural Heritage (May 23, 9 a.m. & 1 p.m.)
As part of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration, Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is presenting a new tour series, Architecture of the Champlain Valley. Together with the Adirondack History Center Museum, come explore the architecture and rich cultural heritage of Elizabethtown on a half day walking tour led by professional guides. Please contact AARCH for reservations @ 518-834-9328

Boquet River Cemetery Tour (June 14, 3p.m.)
Margaret Bartley leads a walking tour of the Boquet River Cemetery in New Russia as another project of the popular New Russia History Project. The tour will locate and identify the tombstones of early settlers to the area.

Architecture and Society in Essex County (July 12, 4 p.m.)
A lecture offered by Ellen Ryan, Community Outreach Director with Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) to correspond with this season’s exhibit “Race, Gender, And Class: Architecture and Society in Essex County”. The lecture focuses on the question “What can we learn about people and their environment by looking at architecture?”

Bits and Pieces Performance Tour: From the Center of the World, A Celebration of Lake Champlain (Fridays: July 17, 24, 31 @ 11 a.m. Sundays: July 19, 26, and August 2 @4 p.m.)
A theatrical exploration of the changing landscape and the curious process of human “discovery” related to the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s journey on the lake that bears his name.

Historic Elizabethtown Slide Show (July 19, 3 p.m.)
Margaret Bartley conducts a slide show on Elizabethtown’s history as part of the Etown Day celebration. The lecture discusses the evolution of Elizabethtown by examining the various sections of town.

Settlers and Settlements (August 20, 4 p.m.)
Shirley LaForest, Essex Town Historian, offers a PowerPoint slide show and lecture depicting the life of successful local farmers in the 19th century. The lecture shows the commercial and social advantages of settlement in the Champlain Valley and northern Adirondack region.

Field Forest & Stream (September 26, 10 a.m. — 4:30 p.m.)
A harvest festival featuring demonstrations and exhibits by regional craftspeople, antique dealers with storytellers and musical performances.

Walking Tour of the Supernatural (October 24 & 31)
Gather at the Museum for cider & donuts and a ghostly beginning. Walk to the Riverside Cemetery for graveside revelations, and then through the woods to the Hand House for a haunting drawing room performance.

John Brown Commemorative (December 6)
Event commemorating the 150th anniversary of John Brown death at Harper’s Ferry and the return of the body for burial at his farm in North Elba.


Monday, April 27, 2009

NYC: Douglas Brinkley on Roosevelt, ‘Wilderness Warrior’

In his new book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley (Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University) looks at the pioneering environmental policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid bird-watcher and naturalist with Adirondack ties. Brinkley will talk about Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History’s Linder Theater in New York City tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 pm. Admission will be $15 ($13.50 members, students, senior citizens).

Roosevelt was a pioneer of the conservation movement and was involved with the American Museum of Natural History from childhood. As a matter of fact, the original charter creating the Museum was signed in his family home in 1869, and the Museum has a permanent hall in tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and the contributions he made to city, state, and nation throughout his life. A book signing will follow this program.

Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University, is the author of several books, including The Unfinished Presidency, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, and The Great Deluge (which won him the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award); he is also a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and an in-house historian for CBS News. He has earned several honorary doctorates for his contributions to American letters and was once called the “the best of the new generation of American historians” by the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose.

For questions regarding this event, please contact Antonia Santangelo at 212-769-5310 or asantangelo@amnh.org.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

‘Canton Eddie’ — Turn-of-the-Century Safecracker

Mary Thill’s post about recent Adirondack bank robberies got me thinking about “Canton Eddie” (a.k.a. “Boston Shorty,” Edward Collins, Edward Burns, Harry Wilson and possibly Harry Berger and Eddie Kinsman) who real name is believed to have been Edward Wilson, a native of St. Lawrence County who was born in about 1876 in Canton. He was the perpetrator of a string of daring robberies in New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and probably elsewhere during his lengthy career. Using nitro-glycerin and “the rest of the safecracker’s outfit” he blew the safes of more than 30 post offices, including the Montpelier, Vermont Post Office at least twice in 1905 and in 1907. By the time he was arrested for the last time in 1916, he had already served a number of prison sentences totaling more than nine years.

Wilson turned up as part of a gang of burglars who called Rouses Point their home and roamed and robbed many post offices and stores in the Champlain valley in the early-1890s, including the Ticonderoga Post Office. Several were captured in late December 1894. In 1896 Wilson was sentenced to four years in Clinton Prison under the name Eddie Burns. After his release he served another year in the penitentiary in Columbus Ohio under the name Edward Wilson.

During the summer of 1907 Eddie was making camp at Rouses Point and using nitro-glycerin to rob local safes, including those at post offices in Hermon in St. Lawrence County ($800), at Montpelier, Vermont in June and at Sackets Harbor near Watertown in July 1907. In early November he hit the store of A. P. Boomhauer in Mooers Forks and the next day Napierville, Quebec., where Eddie and three accomplices roughed up a bank manager, blew the safe, and then escaped on a railroad hand-car with $2,000. On January 24, 1908 Canton Eddie was already known as a “notorious post office yegg man” when he was arrested in Lyons, New York, with his partner at the time, James Kelley. It’s believed that he was sentenced to four years in Auburn Prison.

By 1911, Canton Eddie was back at work robbing safes, mostly along the Black River Railroad and St. Lawrence River. On Friday May 19, 1911 he hit the Saranac Post Office located in the H.J. Bull general store. Three explosions blew the store windows out and completely destroyed the safe. Eddie was tracked to Cadyville, near Plattsburgh, but escaped. He hit the Trudeau Post Office in early 1911; by then he was being pursued by the New York Central Railroad Detective Joe McWade, who set up headquarters at various times in Saranac Lake. In June 1911 McWade caught Eddie with John Raymond in a Syracuse Hotel with “enough nitro-glycerin, fuses, and caps . . . to blow up an army.” Eddie was also in possession of a razor case with five small saws. Two other accomplices, including an unnamed chauffeur, escaped capture. McWade turned Eddie over to New York Central Police in Utica. According to press reports, prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to convict him of robbery so he was released.

In May 1912 Eddie robbed the Post Office at Black River and on May 22, 1912 he was captured again near Utica. This time, giving the name Edward Burns, he was taken to Verona, near Rome, and handcuffed to a man named Frank Murray – he almost immediately broke the handcuffs and both men escaped. In September and October Eddie robbed the Norwood and Waddington post offices and took $1,800.

On June 7, 1912 he robbed the Lake Placid Post Office safe by driving to the south shore of Mirror Lake, taking a boat across the lake, sneaking to the Post Office and jimmying a window before going to work on the safe with his explosives. Heavy blankets were laid over the safe to deaden the sound of the explosion, and its said that a man sleeping just 35 feet away was not awakened. When he was finished he returned to the boat, rowed back across the lake, and drove out of town before sunrise with nearly $3,000. It was three hours before the crime was discovered.

In 1913 and 1914 Eddie was responsible for a number of robberies near the Canadian border, including a store in Standish and the Chazy Lake Delaware & Hudson Railroad Station. In April 1915 Canton Eddie Collins and an accomplice hit the Lisbon Post Office and several other area post offices. Despite his growing a beard to avoid being recognized, he was finally caught during the first week of May 1915 in Syracuse with his accomplice James Post, but again there was not enough evidence to convict him of the post office robberies. “The brainiest and nerviest of crooks,” as the Ticonderoga Sentinel called him, plead guilty to a lesser charge of possessing nitro-glycerin and was sentenced to just a year and eight months in Auburn prison.

Beginning around November 1916 thousands of dollars worth of cash started to turn up missing from mail cars traveling between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. In July 1917 Eddie was in fact back working with a two other men near Buffalo, robbing express freight cars at a watering stop at Wende, New York. They robbed the train station at Akron, New York, and the next night were captured as they returned to Wende to break into the Wende Station.

Joe McWade, the New York Central detective who made his headquarters at Saranac Lake during the first search for Canton Eddie, was a man of some adventure himself. In 1913, while on duty at Tupper Lake Junction, he shot two Canadians who were hopping the train when he ordered them off and they ran – one man later died. McWade was arrested and held in the Malone jail; later he was tried for first degree manslaughter, found guilty and fined $500. “The chagrin and remorse which he experienced from his trial and conviction were never forgotten by the detective,” one newspaper reported. “As soon as possible after the trial he sought a position in the southern part of the state where his duties would take him from away from the scene of the unfortunate shooting.”

McWade was once shot several times by a gang of train robbers and for several weeks was hospitalized in Buffalo and near death. After he recovered he went after the same gang and eventually captured them. On another occasion McWade took a job as a porter in a dive hotel where a gang of train robbers were believed to be staying. He got into their good graces and joined them in several robberies of freight cars, helping them bury their loot in a large hole near Lockport, New York. After a week he posted several detectives near the hole and set out with the gang to anther robbery. When they arrived at the hole to deposit their loot, they were all captured.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Verplanck Colvin Reports & Surveys Going Online

The New York State Library has been digitizing significant parts of its extensive collection, and some of the new online records pertain to our own Adirondack region.

We noted last August the availability of orderly books of Captain Amos Hitchcock’s Connecticut provincial companies during the French and Indian War.

Now the library has a new blog, and it reported yesterday that staff are in the process of digitizing the Reports and Surveys of the Adirondack Mountains compiled by Verplanck Colvin. When they are done, the collection will include 17 books and hundreds of rare 19th century Adirondack maps and plates, like the one above of Lower Saranac Lake and its environs in Townships 21 and 24 (Macomb’s Purchase). It will be an outstanding collection of local maps. When it’s finally online we’ll let you know and add it to our Adirondack Map Round-Up.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Lake Placid Tour Boat Doris II Retired From Service

Management of the Lake Placid Marina has decided to suspend operation of the tour boat Doris II for the 2009 summer season. According to Dan Keefe, spokesman for New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a Marine Unit inspector noticed “structural diminishment” to the hull during his annual visit last Thursday. The inspector advised officials at the Marina that no inspection to the vessel would take place until preliminary repairs were made. Lake Placid Marina Manager Brian Bliss characterized the damage to the 58-year old tourist attraction as chronic wear-and-tear. The structural work necessary to restore the hull to compliance was deemed prohibitively expensive. Lake Placid Marina owner Serge Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Doris II would not be restored to operation and that a search for a replacement has been launched. The 60-ft long craft, originally designed to carry 126 passengers, is presently stored on site. No decision has yet been made on sale or disposal of the craft.

Doris II was assembled in the spring of 1951 at George & Bliss boathouse (current site of Lake Placid Marina) on Lake Placid, from a kit of materials shipped from Bay City Boat Co. in Michigan. The purchase and construction were overseen by George & Bliss Manager Leslie Lewis and Captain Arthur Stevens, who skippered the original Doris on Lake Placid from 1903 until its retirement from service in 1950. Doris II was launched July 3, 1951 and toured her first paying customers along the 16-mile shoreline of the lake on July 12 (corrected from earlier version) of that year.

Until a replacement is found, the absence of Doris II raises the prospect of the first summer season since 1882 that Lake Placid will not float a large-capacity touring vessel. Last year The Lady of The Lake, another long-time icon of Lake Placid tourism, was removed from service. Tightened regulations following the capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen contributed to that retirement. A third Lake Placid tour boat of recent years, the Anna, remains on the lake under private ownership, according to Brian Bliss.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adirondack Events for Mid-April

Rick Moody — author of Garden State, The Ice Storm, The Diviners and the memoir The Black Veil — will read from his most recent novel at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joan Weill Student Center of Paul Smith’s College. The event is free, sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Kayaks are on roof racks and the Northern Forest Paddle Film Festival returns to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday. There’ll be five shorts about canoeing, kayaking, waterways and the paddling life. Proceeds support the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. $8-12.

April brings the spring whomp. Old-time fiddle and harmonica duo the Whompers are back in town, 7:30 Friday at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake ($10). Musicians are invited to bring instruments for a second-set jam. On Saturday night, Whompers and friends play at the Red Tavern, in Duane. The place is off the grid and off the map, and the dancing goes late into the night.

In the pastoral hill country east of Glens Falls and west of Vermont, 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday and Sunday for the Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bike race in the country. Two thousand riders will blow through downtown Greenwich, Salem and Cambridge, but the real character of the race comes from remote dirt roads that have earned the event the nickname Battenkill-Roubaix, after the Paris Roubaix of France.

In Bolton Landing, Up Yonda Farm offers a guided Cabin Fever Hike at 1 p.m. Saturday. The walk winds through the farm’s trails to a vista overlooking Lake George. On Sunday the farm will offer Earth Day activities all day. $3; members free.

Monday through Thursday next week, days start warming at the greatest rate of the year. Impatient? At the Adirondack Museum at 1:30 Sunday, naturalist Ed Kanze presents “Eventually . . . the Adirondack Spring.” Free for members and kids; $5 everybody else.

On Monday the Lake Placid Center for the Arts begins a six-session life drawing course, 6-8:30 every Monday evening through May. $55. Call (518) 523-2512 to sign up. Gabriels artist Diane Leifheit runs the course. She will also offer pastel plein air evening classes beginning May 20 (sign up by May 11). The first session introduces pastels and materials, setting up to paint outdoors and mixing colors. The following four sessions will go on location around Lake Placid (weather permitting), capturing the early evening colors. $95. 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 17.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

‘Wild, Unsettled Country’ at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum has announced a new exhibit, “A Wild, Unsettled Country: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” which will look at the early efforts to convey the Adirondacks visually to the wider world. The exhibit will open on May 22 — meaning that year-round Adirondack Park residents should be able to catch the exhibit for free the last week of May.

The first Europeans to see the Adirondack landscape of northern New York State came to explore, to document important military operations and fortifications, or to create maps and scientifically accurate images of the terrain, flora and fauna. These early illustrations filled practical needs rather than aesthetic ones.

The exhibition will showcase approximately forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional art collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, John Henry Dolph and James David Smillie.

Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains.

While tourists were flocking to Saratoga Springs in the 1830s, few ventured north into the “lofty chain of granite” visible from Lake George. One guidebook described the mysterious forms as “a wild repulsive aspect.” Little was known of these yet-unnamed mountains.

In 1836, the New York State legislature authorized a survey of the state’s natural resources. Artist Charles Cromwell Ingham was asked to join geologists Ebenezer Emmons and William C. Redfield during one of the first exploratory surveys. During the trip, he painted the Great Adirondack Pass “on the spot.” The original painting will be shown in the exhibition.

The exhibit will also include photographs — stereo views and albumen prints — sold as tourist souvenirs and to armchair travelers. William James Stillman took the earliest photos in the exhibition, in 1859. These rare images are the first photographic landscape studies taken in the Adirondacks. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be displayed.

Significant historic maps will illustrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondack region. In 1818, it was still a mysterious “wild, barren tract . . . covered with almost impenetrable Bogs, Marshes & Ponds, and the uplands with Rocks and evergreens.” By 1870, the Adirondacks had become a tourist destination with clearly defined travel routes, hotels, beaches, and camps.

A Wild, Unsettled Country will be on exhibit in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Galleries. The space includes the Adirondack Museum Gallery Study Center — a resource for learning more about American art. In addition to a library of reference books, a touch-screen computer allows visitors to access images from the museum’s extensive fine art collection.

The Gallery Study Center will include a media space as part of the special exhibit. The documentary film “Champlain: The Lake Between” will be shown continuously. The film, part of the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project, has aired on Vermont Public Television in recent months.

A Wild, Unsettled Country is not just for adults. Family-friendly elements include Looking at Art With Children, a guide for parents as they investigate the arts with youngsters; the Grand Tour Guide, a colorful and engaging map that encourages exploration of the Adirondack sites shown in the paintings; and ten different Wild About! guidebooks that urge kids to be “wild” about maps, prints, history, and more.

Photo caption: View of Caldwell, Lake George, by William Tolman Carlton, 1844. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Essential Literature: The Adirondack Reader

For 45 years the cornerstone of any Adirondack library has been The Adirondack Reader, compiled and edited by Paul Jamieson. The anthology, published by Macmillan in 1964, collected pivotal and perceptive accounts of how people have experienced these woods since the arrival of Europeans 400 years ago.

Any true Adirondack geek already has a copy of the Reader, but now you need another. The Adirondack Mountain Club last month published a third edition that adds 30 entries written since the second edition came out in 1982.

Another reason to covet this update: pictures! A 32-page color insert of drawings, photographs, engravings and paintings spans Adirondack history, from William James Stillman and Winslow Homer to contemporary painters Laura von Rosk and Lynn Benevento. The original Reader had some black-and-white plates; the second edition had none.

It’s a hefty 544-page tome, but any book that attempts to get at the essence of the Adirondacks is going to be epic. Holdovers from earlier editions (six entries had to be cut to make room) include many “there I was” accounts, starting with Father Isaac Jogues’s 1642 description of having his fingernails bitten off by Mohawk captors (“our wounds — which for not being dressed, became putrid even to the extent of breeding worms”) and becoming the first white man to see the Adirondack interior — the first to live to tell anyway. Hard to top that kind of journey narrative, but almost every piece in the Reader commands attention. Entries weave back and forth between fiction, history, essay and poetry organized into ten subject categories Jamieson established nearly a half century ago.

Mixed in with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Francis Parkman, Robert Louis Stevenson, Theodore Dreiser and Verplanck Colvin are present-day writers Christopher Shaw, Christine Jerome, Sue Halpern, Bill McKibben, Elizabeth Folwell, Amy Godine and Philip Terrie, among others. Neal Burdick contributes an essay on the century-old silence still surrounding the question “Who Shot Orrando P. Dexter?,” a land baron hated by the locals in Santa Clara. Burdick also served as the book’s co-editor, assisting Jamieson, who died in 2006 at age 103.

“It’s still Paul’s book,” Burdick says. “I did the legwork. His name is more prominent on the cover at my request.” Jamieson approved each new writing, and many excerpts and articles were included on recommendations by other writers, Burdick adds. Burdick is editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondac magazine as well as a writer and poet in his own right.

More than any other book, this collection comes closest to defining the Adirondack sense of place we all feel but few can articulate. It’s as much a pleasure to read as an education, and Jamieson’s introductory sections feel prescient. He still seems very much the dean of Adirondack letters (a new edition of his classic Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow is also in the pipeline). Jamieson was an author, professor of English at St. Lawrence University, an advocate for Adirondack land preservation and canoe access, and an explorer of this region’s topography as well as literature.

The book is beautiful but alas blemished; sloppy proofreading has allowed typos to creep into the text, in both the older material and new additions. Further printings are planned, perhaps a paperback edition. We hope the copyediting will be brought up to the standards of the writers represented.

The Reader is $39.95 at book and outdoor supply stores, by calling 800-395-8080, or online at www.adk.org.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Conservation Easements And The Adirondack Forest

I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:

When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tupper Lake History for the People

Two important sources of local history in Tupper Lake are becoming easier to find.

Louis Simmons’s Mostly Spruce and Hemlock, the classic history of the village of Tupper Lake and town of Altamont (also called Tupper Lake since 2004), will be reissued soon. Hungry Bear Publishing is working with Tupper Lake’s Goff-Nelson Memorial Library to produce a new edition of the 1976 book.

“In more than 30 years since it was published, Louis’s book has achieved cult status in Tupper Lake,” Hungry Bear publisher Andy Flynn said in a press release.“I’ve always said that, next to the Bible, Mostly Spruce and Hemlock is the most-read book in Tupper Lake.”

Because only 2,000 copies were printed, Spruce and Hemlock has become collectible and costly. The new edition will be paperback and an index will be added. Proceeds will benefit the library.

Louis Simmons was editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press 1932-1979. He continued to write for the paper and served as Tupper Lake historian until his death in 1995. William C. Frenette, Simmons’s nephew and another Tupper native deeply fascinated by his home region, took over as historian. He also wrote an entertaining column on local life and history for the Free Press.

Frenette died in 2007 but now his “Transitions” columns can be read again at a new Web site, tltransitions.com.

Here are a few words from Bill Frenette, for the season:

“There is an old saying: ‘Spring is the reward for those who live through the winter.’ How do we know that spring has arrived? Let’s count the ways: my neighbors, Jackie and Al Smith, are back from Florida looking trim and healthy; Charlcie Delehanty has reported seeing two immature and one mature bald eagles as the river opens near the sorting gap; Jessie’s Bait Shop has stored their ice augers and hung out their “Maple Syrup For Sale” sign in front of their newly updated fishing equipment; and geese can be seen feeding happily on Mary Burns’ front lawn along the the Raquette River, recently freed of ice.”

Photograph of L.C. Maid, Charles Knox, Howard Brown and unidentified man on a boat ride. Courtesy of Goff-Nelson Memorial Library, Tupper Lake.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Climate Change Insight From Historical Birding Records

On Nov. 1, 1933, Mrs. Bruce Reid recorded seeing both a male and female ivory-billed woodpecker in Texas. And on May 28, 1938, Oscar McKinley Bryans observed a ruby-throated hummingbird in Michigan, noting that the birds were most common when apple trees were blooming.

These are just two of more than 6 million personal observations scribbled and preserved on notecards in government files. The cards record more than a century of information about bird migration, a veritable treasure trove for climate-change researchers because they will help them unravel the effects of climate change on bird behavior, according to Jessica Zelt, coordinator of the North American Bird Phenology Program at the USGS.

That is — once the cards are transcribed and put into a scientific database.

And that’s where citizens across the country come in – the program needs help from birders and others across the nation to transcribe those cards into usable scientific information.

“These cards, once transcribed, will provide over 90 years of data, an unprecedented amount of information describing bird distributions, migration timing, and migration pathways and how they are changing,” said Zelt. “There is no other program that has the same historical depth of information that can help us understand the effect that global climate change has on bird populations across the country. When combined with current information, scientists will better understand how birds are responding to climate change and how to develop tools to help manage that change, especially for at-risk species.”

The millions of hand-scribbled cards sit in row upon row of federal green filing cabinets of ancient vintage in a modest and fittingly old office dating from before WWII. The cards contain almost all of what was known of bird distribution and natural history from the Second World War back to the later part of the 19th century, said USGS senior scientist Chan Robbins, who kept track of the cards’ whereabouts in attics and basements during the intervening years.

“When I go through the files, it is just amazing some of the stories that are recorded there,” said Jessica Zelt, who is an avid birder herself. “For example, one of our online participants recently wrote to tell me she had transcribed a migration card on purple martins by American ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice from 1926. It is exciting to see people today being linked to a piece of birding history.”

Participants recorded their name, locality and year, along with arrival and departure dates, date of abundance, and whether it was a species common in that area. Personal observations on the cards often caught the enthusiastic joy of a birder sighting a rare bird.

The collection, said Zelt, includes information on about 900 species, including some sightings of rare, extinct, or nearly extinct birds, such as the giant albatross, ivory-billed woodpecker and Carolina parakeet, birds whose very names make the hearts of avid birders go pitter-patter.

The BPP is joining efforts with the USA National Phenology Network, which has just kicked off a national program to recruit citizen scientists and professional researchers to monitor plant and animal life cycles, or phenology. The two efforts will complement each other flawlessly, with the BPP combining its expertise on historical bird data with the USA-NPN’s ongoing work to document changes in flowering, fruiting, migrations, reproduction, hibernation, and other plant and animal phenological events.

The BPP was started in 1880 by Wells W. Cooke, who wanted to broaden knowledge and understanding of migration. Eventually, famed scientist C. Hart Merriam expanded the volunteer network to include the entire United States, Canada and part of the West Indies. By the late 1880s the program had 3000 volunteers. Although the program was actively maintained by the federal government, in 1970 the program closed, until it re-opened again last year.

This program relies heavily on the participation of citizen scientists, said Zelt. It currently houses 6 million cards, which need to be scanned onto the website and then converted, solely by volunteers, into a database. Birders who want to concentrate on one particular group of birds can select that group or even a particular species.

To date, volunteers have scanned about 184,000 cards on hooded orioles, barred owls, spotted owls, scarlet tanagers, American redstarts, rose-breasted grosbeak and many other species. That leaves about 5,816,000 cards to go.

If you’d like to volunteer, visit the website. Remember that you can follow current sightings by Northern New York birders here.