Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Master Forest Owner Training, SUNY-ESF-AEC

Well, I’m here at the Huntington Research Forest / SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC), checked in, bag unpacked, and we’ve already made some general introductions and had dinner together at the dining hall. Laurel Gailor, Natural Resources Educator for Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell Department of Natural Resources Program Director Gary Goff (who is primarily leading the training) welcomed me with internet access and a map and schedule.

There are twenty folks here for the training including large landowners and small representing 3,400 combined acres in Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Tioga, and even Broome County. Most are retirement-age men, but we have a handful of women. The group looks pretty diverse as far as experience. Several have been foresters or in the forestry industry for many years, one dairy and maple producer, three engineers, two corrections officers, one college administrator, one principal, two teachers, an anthropologist and a superintendent of highways. One trainee working on his town’s comprehensive plan.

The highlight of tonight’s session (yes, I said tonight, the schedule runs to 8 or 9 pm each night) was an introduction to the Huntington Forest and the Adirondack Ecological Center by the center’s program director Paul Hai. Hai reviewed the history of the Huntington Forest, so I thought I’d relate some of what he said here.

SUNY-ESF is the oldest college in the US solely dedicated to the study of the environment. It was founded in 1911 as the College of Forestry at Syracuse, although Cornell University actually established the first New York State College of Forestry in 1898 under Bernhard Fernow. It was the first professional college of forestry in North America but didn’t last long. Fernow established a research forest near Saranac Lake (I’ve written about that in the past), but opposition from local wealthy landowners and pressure applied to the state legislature forced the closure of both the research forest and Cornell’s Forestry School in about 1909.

Syracuse took up the mantle in 1911 and in 1932 the Huntington family (famed for their connection to the trans-continental railroad and first owners of the Pine Knot Great Camp) donated some 15,000 acres to the College of Forestry. The Huntington Forest allows “research on a landscape scale,” according to Hai, largely because it is private land and therefore outside the constitutional “forever wild” clause. The goal at Huntington is to study the wildlife and biology of the Adirondack / Northern Forest Ecosystem, but also the dynamics of a healthy forest products economy. The AEC has been conducting one of the longest whitetail deer studies in America, and more recently they have been studying how road salt affects amphibians.

In the 1950s cutting-method blocks were established in the Huntington Forest, and later this week we’ll be able to walk through a half century of forestry methods in just a few miles.

Much of what has been learned through research being conducted published in a variety of peer reviewed journals. AEC maintains a list of publications online.

Breakfast at 6:45 am – I’ll try and report more around noon.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Local History Column ‘Adirondack Attic’ Is No More

After more than six years, Saranac Lake resident Andy Flynn’s weekly “Adirondack Attic” column is no more. Flynn, the Senior Public Information Specialist at the NYS Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths, wrote regular pieces on Adirondack history centered on artifacts from the Adirondack Museum.

At its height Flynn’s column had run in five northern New York newspapers but in the last post to his Adirondack Writer blog, Flynn reported that his column had been cut by the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise to biweekly. “In November 2008, the Plattsburgh Press-Republican cut my column,” Flynn told readers, “In 2006, the Glens Falls Post-Star also cut my column. The publishers and editors all cited the economic situation for their decision.”

In a letter to publishers this week Flynn wrote, “Effective immediately, I am discontinuing the ‘Adirondack Attic’ newspaper column. Due to the declining number of newspapers that carry the column, and with the economic forecast uncertain, it is no longer a financially feasible product for me to produce. There is simply not enough income to cover the time and cost of production.”

Flynn had written more than 300 columns and collected them in a series of books published by his own Hungry Bear Publishing; part of the proceeds were donated to the Adirondack Museum’s Collection Improvement Fund.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Adirondack Scenic Byways Site Coming

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) will launch the a new website for the Adirondack North Country Region Scenic Byways program and release the 2008 Scenic Byways Visitors Survey. Both will be formally presented to the public on June 4, 2009 at the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondacks includes 13 designated scenic byways.

During the program, ANCA will introduce what they are calling a “state-of-the-art website that will increase state, national, and international exposure for the 45 towns along the Adirondack Trail, Central Adirondack Trail and Olympic Scenic Byways.” ANCA will also present the results of a comprehensive visitor survey (based on face-to-face interviews) conducted in 2008.

“Comprehensive trip planning information about the area, including community features about arts, history and cultural resources, services, the natural environment, outdoor recreation, and special events will be featured,” the ANCA said in a letter to supporters. “The site will serve as a companion resource to Chamber and tourism websites and will profile Byway communities by promoting the unique experiences and quality of life sought after by leisure travelers.”

Those who would like to attend the June 4th program should complete and return the Reservation Form [doc] by mail, e-mail or fax. There will be a $10.00 registration fee to cover the cost of lunch. At the close of the program, guests will have the option to tour the museum at their leisure and ANCA’s Board will host a director’s meeting.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sliding Sports Museum Proposed For Lake Placid

At the 1932 & 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum Board of Directors’ April meeting, newest member Joe Clain donated $1,000 to kick-off the creation of an International Sliding Sports Museum in Lake Placid. Clain made the donation on behalf of his father Gus Clain and the Linney Family in the hopes that other prominent families in the history of sliding sports will come forward and meet the challenge.

Angus (Gus) Clain was the brakeman for the four-man sled piloted by Robert Linney, which qualified at the 1939 trials in Lake Placid for the 1940 Olympic Winter Games. Because of WWII, the Games were not contested in 1940 or 1944. The family of Gus Clain previously created and donated a very rare exhibit consisting of the sweater and jacket issued to the 1940 Olympic Bobsled team, and which is on permanent display in the Olympic Museum.

The Sliding Sports Museum at Mt. Van Hoevenberg will be an annex to the already existing Olympic Museum – located within the Olympic Center – and as such will come under the same chartering agency, the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York on behalf of the State Education Department. The future museum will share the same 501(c) 3 not-for-profit status making all donations eligible for a tax deduction.

“The next logical step is to create an advisory board of interested community members who share the same passion for preserving, displaying and educating future generations on the rich history of sliding sports in this area,” said Olympic Museum Director Liz De Fazio in a press release issued this week.

For more information on the proposed International Sliding Museum, or to make a donation, contact De Fazio at (518) 523-1655, ext. 226 or [email protected]


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adirondack Museum Opens For Season May 22nd

The Adirondack Museum will open for its 52nd season on Friday, May 22, 2009. The Adirondack Museum once again extends an invitation to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge in May, June, and October. Through this annual gift to close friends and neighbors, the museum welcomes visitors from all corners of the Park. Proof of residency is required.

The Adirondack Museum is open daily from May 22 through October 18, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Friday, September 4 and Friday, September 18 are exceptions to the schedule, as the museum will be closed to prepare for special events. All paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week period.

On Saturday, May 23 the Museum Store will host a book signing from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. as part of the opening weekend festivities. Elizabeth Folwell, Creative Director of Adirondack Life will sign copies of her new book Short Carries – Essays from Adirondack Life. Betsy Folwell joined the staff of Adirondack Life in 1989. Since then she has written scores of articles and essays on the politics, nature, history and culture of the six million acres Adirondack Park. She has won eight writing awards from the International Regional Magazine Association.

The twenty-two exhibits, historic buildings, outstanding collections, lovely gardens, and pristine views that are the Adirondack Museum tell stories of life, work, and play in the Adirondack Park of northern New York State.

“Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts & Comforters” is one of two exhibits to debut in 2009. The exceptionally beautiful exhibition will include historic quilts from the Adirondack Museum’s textile collection, as well as contemporary quilts, comforters, and pieced wall hangings on loan from quilters in communities throughout the region. The exhibit illustrates a vibrant pieced-textile tradition nurtured by the Adirondack region for over a century and a half. From bedcovers, plain or fancy, meant to keep families warm through long Adirondack winters, to stunning art quilts of the twenty-first century, the quilts and comforters of the North Country mirror national trends and also tell a unique story of life in the mountains.

The second new exhibit, “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks” will include paintings, maps, prints, and photographs that illuminate the untamed Adirondack wilderness discovered by early cartographers, artists, and photographers. The exhibit will showcase more than forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, 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. A dozen rare and significant maps from the collection of the museum’s research library demonstrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondacks.

“A ‘Wild Unsettled Country'” will feature photographs sold as tourist souvenirs and to “armchair travelers.” The first photographic landscape studies made in the Adirondacks by William James Stillman in 1859 have never been exhibited before. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be included. The exhibit will include special labels and text just for kids in addition to the traditional presentation. The Adirondack Museum encourages parents and children to explore and discover together.

The Adirondack Museum’s 2009 Photobelt exhibition will feature rarely-seen images from the extensive postcard collection. “Wish Your Were Here” will showcase Adirondack views of hotels, campsites, tally-ho rides, scenery, boat trips, restaurants, and roadside attractions – sent home to friends and relatives from 1900 to 1960. Postcards have always been treasured souvenirs and the perfect way to say, “Wish you were here!”

Five newly acquired boats will be displayed in the exhibition “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks.” These include a very rare 1918 Moxley launch, a Hickman Sea Sled (forerunner of the Boston Whaler), a Grumman canoe, a Theodore Hanmer guideboat, a Grant Raider, and a 1910 William Vassar guideboat.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Pottersville Fair: Gambling, Races, and Gaslight Village

Those traveling on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) between Exits 26 and 27 probably don’t realize they are passing literally over Pottersville, the northern Warren County hamlet that borders lower Schroon Lake. From the 1870s into the early 1960s the tiny village was home to amusements that drew thousands. The most remarkable of them, the Pottersville Fair, drew 7,000 on a single day in 1913. Later it hosted a large dance hall, roller skating rink, and the Glendale Drive-in, while nearby Under the Maples on Echo Lake was host to circus acts and an amusement park that was a forerunner of Gaslight Village. Today only the long abandoned Drive-in screen remains, a silent sentinel to Pottersville’s past as an amusement Mecca.

It’s no surprise that the tiny hamlet could host such remarkable amusements. The Town of Chester was on the early stage coach road north of Warrensburgh and Caldwell (as Lake George was then known). It was home to two main villages, Chestertown and Pottersville, and several smaller ones (Starbuckville, Darrowsville, Igerna, Riverside – now Riparius, and Haysburg). In the years after the Civil War Chester became a center for summer visitors and hotels and boarding houses sprung up to welcome them. Early travelers made their way from the D & H Railroad to Riverside (where the first suspension bridge across the Hudson River was built) and then by coach to Chestertown, Pottersville, and Schroon Lake. From a dock at the south end of Schroon small steamers plied the lake. Numerous summer camps were established for children and adults in and around Pottersville. Cottages, colonies, and motels were added with the coming of motor transportation – until recently the Wells’ House was a stop on the Adirondack Trailways bus line. It was all ended with the construction of the Adirondack Northway which diverted traffic over the historic hamlet.

Undoubtedly early religious camp meetings were held at the grove where The Pottersville Fair was established by the Faxon family in 1877. The Faxons were the town’s leading industrial family, owner of Chester’s largest employer, a tannery. The fair was immediately popular, not so much for its agricultural exhibits – there generally weren’t any – but for its gambling opportunities. For thirty years gambling was the main attraction at the fair, and horse racing the main event. In 1897, the fair advertised “a fine program of races consisting of trotting and pacing, running, bicycle, and foot races in which liberal purses and prizes are offered.”

By 1906 anti-gambling forces were applying pressure and the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported that year that “The fair in Pottersville drew good crowds, the feature being the horse races. There were no exhibits made.” “It is the purpose of the management,” the paper suggested “to reorganize the Glendale Union Agricultural Society and devote the exhibition entirely to sports, giving large purses for the racing events.”

The anti-gambling crusade was part of a larger backlash against the free-spirited Gay Nineties. Throughout the country society’s moral guardians railed against the liberties and license of the period and chief among them was drinking and gambling. The heaviest attacks were leveled at the racetracks like the Glendale. Newspapers depicted horse bettors as dupes of a crooked alliance of track management, bookmakers, owners and politicians who continued to allow horse racing. Across the country state after state made tracks like the Glendale illegal. Only Kentucky, Maryland, and New York refused to join them in outlawing the popular sport. That was until the anti-gambling forces secured one of our own local boys Charles Evans Hughes, born in Glens Falls in 1859, as Governor of New York.

Soon after taking office in 1907 Hughes began pushing a bill to eliminate gambling at the state’s racetracks. Although resistance was formidable, the Agnew-Hart Bill [pdf] passed in June 1908 and it became illegal to openly quote odds, solicit gambling, or stand in a fixed place and record bets. Police detectives worked themselves into the crowds at the tracks and arrested those violating the law, the penalty for which was jail. The result was the near death of horse-racing in New York – including at the Pottersville Fair, although gaming and horsebetting continued there underground. In 1914, for example, it was reported to members of the state legislature that the Pottersville Fair “has long been famous… for the great variety of wide open gambling and lottery schemes.” If you want to read how the whole thing affected the horse racing stock, and more about how horseracing survived, take a look at the Thoroughbred TimesRacing Through the Century: 1911-1920.”

As local citizens and summer tourists began fearing arrest and imprisonment for gambling – they weren’t really there for the horses – gate receipts dropped and the Glendale Union Agricultural Society went bankrupt. In 1910, the Pottersville Fair Association took over the fair. The Ticonderoga Sentinel described the newly reopened fair grounds of 1910:

The Pottersville Fair, it is frankly admitted, is conducted solely for the amusement of its patrons. The exhibits of products of farm and factory, beautiful specimens of feminine handiwork, art subjects and curios found at other fairs are her conspicuous by their absence. The association makes no effort to get them and does not believe that the majority of people who go to the fair want them. Nobody would want them anyhow, for all over the grounds, in the midway, on the race track, on the stage in front of the grandstand, and in the dance hall, there is every minute something doing to amuse and interest the crowd.

In addition to the racing, gaming, dancing, and carnival and stage acts the renewed fair in 1910 featured “an areoplane flight, which is positively guaranteed, and which will mark the first appearance in these parts of an airship.”

In the 1920s the dance hall at what was then called Glendale Park featured dancing every Thursday, 9 pm to 1 am (later expanded to Friday and Saturday as well). Among the bands who played there were Val Jean and His Orchestra, Domino Orchestra, Guy LaPell’s Orchestra, and the James Healey Band. The park’s skating rink was reported in 1945 to be “almost too crowded to skate.” Eventually a drive-in movie theater would be installed. A neighbor of mine who worked in the kitchen at the Glendale reported that the bar there was staffed by seven bartenders at once.

A legacy of the Pottersville Fair was its stable of acrobats and stage shows. Under The Maples, an emerging resort of sorts on Echo Lake just south of the Wells House, carried on the carnival atmosphere with acrobats and tightrope walkers. General amusements were installed at Echo Lake and the new amusement park operated late into the 1950s, eventually under the name Gaslight Village as it still retained much of its Gay Nineties theme. In about 1958 Charley Woods purchased the whole kit and kaboodle and moved it to Lake George where the 1890s were relived until about 1990 at his own Gaslight Village. You can read about that here.


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 [email protected]


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.



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