Thursday, June 17, 2010

Phil Brown: Paddling Another Posted River

Over the past year, the Adirondack Explorer has published several stories on paddlers’ rights, including an account of a canoe trip on Shingle Shanty Brook through posted lands. As you can see from this earlier post on Adirondack Almanack, not everyone applauds our work.

We hope the stories will spur the state to clarify the legal status of Adirondack rivers. For the July/August issue of the Explorer, I paddled the Beaver River from Lake Lila to Stillwater, another stretch of river that passes through posted land. Click here to read the story.

The Beaver is shallower than Shingle Shanty, with many shoals and rapids. As a result, I had to get out of my canoe on several occasions to carry around obstacles or free the boat from rocks. I imagine the river would be even more boney in midsummer.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not “navigable-in-fact,” a legal phrase that describes waterways open to the public under the common-law right of navigation. The experts I spoke with said courts recognize that paddling sometimes requires portaging or lining a boat and that a river may not be navigable year-round. And the time I spent portaging or lining accounted for just a small fraction of the journey.

I’ll mention two other points in favor of the argument that the Beaver is navigable-in-fact.

First, this stretch of the Beaver connects two popular canoe-camping destinations in the public Forest Preserve. Thus, it is part of a canoe route from Lake Lila to Stillwater. Moreover, you could extend the route on both ends to create a multiday canoe expedition. You could start in Old Forge or Saranac Lake and paddle to Lila, thence to Stillwater, and then continue down the Beaver below Stillwater. If you’re looking at a hundred-mile trip, a few sections of shoals and rapids are not that daunting.

Second, the Beaver was used to float logs in the nineteenth century—which is evidence of the river’s navigability. Coincidentally, a week before my trip I received a letter from George Locker, a New York City attorney who canoed the Beaver a few years ago. In his historical researches, Locker found that William Seward Webb—the ancestor of the current landowners—asserted in 1893 that the Beaver was “a natural highway” for transporting logs.

“If the original Webb told a New York court in 1893 that the Beaver River was his commercial highway beginning at Lake Lila, then it is a settled matter that the Beaver River is navigable-in-fact and accessible to the public, no matter what any subsequent owner (Webb or not) may claim,” Locker wrote us.

Nevertheless, the landowner I spoke with contends the public is not allowed on the river.

Apart from the rapids and shoals, the legal ambiguity is probably enough to deter most paddlers from traveling down the Beaver.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is talking with the owners of Shingle Shanty Brook. Let’s hope this will result in public access. Perhaps the department could talk to the Beaver’s landowners next.

Photo by Susan Bibeau: Phil Brown on the Beaver River shortly before crossing into private property.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let’s Eat: Adirondack Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), a perennial herb, once proliferated along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Alabama. It is similar to Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), and was one of the first herbs to be harvested and sold commercially. The name “ginseng” comes from the Chinese word “jen-shen” which means “in the image of a man,” a reference to the shape of the mature root, which resembles the human body.

Wild ginseng in China and Korea has been relatively rare for centuries, a result of over harvesting. It was discovered in central New York in 1751. By the late 18th century, Albany, New York had become a center of trade in ginseng. Most Adirondack ginseng was exported to China where it was (and is) used as a popular remedy.

By the middle of the 19th century, wild American ginseng was in danger of being eradicated by “shang” hunters, who dug up the brittle roots for sale to wholesale enterprises. Horticulture experts and private citizens alike experimented with cultivating the herb.

The September 5, 1906 issue of the Malone Farmer featured a front-page ad: “Wanted—People to grow Ginseng…Any one can do it and grow hundreds of dollars worth in the garden. Requires little ground.” F.B. Mills, of Rose Hill, NY, provided seeds and instructions (at cost) and a promise to buy the mature roots at $8.00 per pound.

Ginseng farming takes patience. It grows in cool, shady areas, in acidic soils such as are found in hardwood forests. The larger and older the root—which can live 100 years or more—the more it is worth. Ginseng is relatively easy to cultivate, but one must wait for the plants to mature over the course of 5-10 years before seeing a return on investment.

Nevertheless, by the turn of the 20th century, ginseng farming was common, and held the promise of great profit. The July 16, 1908 edition of the Fort Covington Sun ran a headline proclaiming “PUT GREAT FAITH IN GINSENG. Chinese Willing to Pay Fabulous Prices for Roots.” In 1904 a Plattsburgh paper reported that L.A. Childs of Chazy “will make an extensive exhibit of this product at the coming Clinton county fair, and this will be the first public exhibit of it ever made in Northern New York.” Three years later Miss Melissa Smith of St. Johnsville, “probably the only woman in America who grows ginseng for a living,” was reported to have roots valued at more than $10,000.

The actual medical benefits of ginseng have been disputed in Western medicine for centuries. The September 19, 1900 issue of the Malone Farmer expressed the opinion that “The ginseng trade is the most extraordinary in the world. American doctors believe it to be practically valueless as a medicine, or at the most about as potent as licorice.” Users claim it increases energy, prolongs life, and induces a feeling of wellbeing.

The Adirondack Museum’s permanent collection includes this ginseng root harvester, used in Franklin County during the late 19th century. Ginseng is never pulled from the ground. Whole, unbroken roots have the greatest value. This tool was used to dig the soil around the plant, some six inches away from the stem. Once the soil around the root was removed, the shang hunter could lift the root out and carefully brush away the dirt.

The market value of ginseng has risen and fallen over the centuries, but it remains an important forest crop. In 1977, the US Fish and Wildlife Service imposed restrictions on the sale of ginseng under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. New York State, as well as most states in the Northeast, tightly regulates the sale and harvest of ginseng. No wild ginseng may be harvested on state lands.

Photo: Ginseng Root Harvester Found in Tupper Lake, NY ca. 1850-1890. Courtesy the Adirondack Museum (2001.38.2).


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Art Galleries Surpass Bars in Saranac Lake

Saranac Lake has more art galleries than bars now, with the opening of the Upstairs Gallery, at 80 Main Street, and The Fringe, at 63 Main.

Peter Seward, of Lake Placid, in May opened Upstairs Gallery as a display space and painting studio; if he’s there working, it will be open. The Fringe is the creation of Saranac Lake High School art program graduates Jessica Jeffery (Class of 2001) and Eric Ackerson (Class of 2002). It features their work as well as that of other local artists.

There are now seven galleries in the village. The downtown anchor is the Adirondack Artists’ Guild, representing 14 regional artists at 52 Main, next to the local art supply store, Borealis Color. Tim Fortune’s Small Fortune Studio, and Georgeanne Gaffney’s studio, both displaying paintings, are up the street. Across the street the Blue Moon Café usually has an exhibit, as does the Cantwell Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, at 109 Main Street.

Also downtown, on Broadway, is Mark Kurtz’s Photography Studio. Farther down Broadway, just before the railroad tracks, make a right onto Cedar Street for Bluseed Studios, which hosts exhibits, concerts, workshops and classes.

Walkers can follow the tracks back to Union Depot, or drive to the depot (near Stewart’s) to visit 7444 Gallery. On the other side of town, Pendragon Theatre not only brings year-round drama to the Adirondacks but displays art in its lobby.

Third Thursday ArtWalks feature visual arts as well as performances all over town, 5–7:30 pm. There will be a Plein Air Festival in August, and the 4th annual Artist at Work Studio Tour the last weekend in September, including 17 studio locations inside Saranac Lake.

Check SaranacLakeArtWorks.com for a complete calendar of events.

Artwork by Jessica Jeffrey


Monday, June 7, 2010

Fort Ti: Ticonderoga’s 1950s 3-D Movie World Premiere

The terms “North Country” and “world premiere” haven’t mingled very often, but May 8, 1953 was one notable exception. It all had to do with Fort Ti, but not the one we’re all familiar with. This was Fort Ti, the movie, and it was special for several reasons.

Since the earliest days of movie-making, film crews have used dozens of locations across the region, but this particular movie had a significant impact both locally and nationally. The fact that Ticonderoga hosted a world premiere is itself impressive. It carries added importance that the historic State Theatre hosted the event.

Ticonderoga’s Union Opera House had been a center of culture in the village for more than two decades, but when it burned in 1916, it was replaced with a theatre, The Playhouse. Culturally, the town didn’t miss a beat, as The Playhouse hosted violinists, pianists, lecturers, movies, bands, vaudeville shows, magicians, and myriad other performers for the next twenty years.

In 1937, owner Alfred Barton leased the building to a company that owned 140 theaters in the northeast. An intense remodeling ensued, and the changes were dramatic: a new domed ceiling; new lighting; drapes and curtains added to the stage; new plush carpeting; air conditioning; a large marquee sign; capacity expanded to 800; and newly upholstered and roomy seating, staggered for easy viewing from any location.

A month later, the building reopened as the State Theatre, receiving glowing reviews from all, and calling to mind one word: magnificent. A variety of events were held there, but it was primarily a movie theater, and when the time came to select a site for the premiere of Fort Ti, the State Theater was the obvious choice.

This wasn’t just any movie. Though most modern reviewers still give it two stars out of four, Fort Ti was important for another reason. Television was a new and growing medium, and its effects were felt throughout the movie industry. People were staying home evenings to watch TV, and something new was needed to bring viewers back to the theaters. In the 1950s, 3-D movies were the solution.

Fox, MGM, Paramount, and Warner Brothers all rushed to produce movies in 3-D format. Columbia employed the Natural Vision System, the same technology used by a few of its competitors. Fort Ti was to be Columbia’s showcase offering, and movie attendees had to wear polarized glasses to enjoy the intended effect. One lens was red and the other blue, and in general, the idea was to merge two visual impressions into one. The result? Objects looked like they were jumping out from the screen, right at the viewer.

The launch at the State Theater was accompanied by a pageant portraying events surrounding the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen on May 10, 1755. The premiere date of May 8 was chosen for its proximity to that anniversary. Media from the entertainment world were on hand, including representatives from magazines, newspaper, and radio. (What, no TV?)

After all the hype, it was time to watch the movie. Was all this 3-D stuff for real? Fort Ti producer Sam Katzman and director William Castle certainly thought so. In an unusual move, Columbia had employed Katzman for the project, a man who LIFE magazine called “the only independent producer whose films—though all despised by critics—have never lost money.” It didn’t matter much that he was often known as a “schlock” producer: for forty years, he made money for the studios, and that was what counted.

Since Katzman was the producer, what better choice could there have been than William Castle as director? Here was a man who made a career out of movie gimmickry, and 3-D certainly looked like a gimmick. As usual, Castle made it work to great effect. Reviewer Donald Kirkley said after watching Fort Ti, “Many times moviegoers were observed to duck as things seemed to come their way, breaking through the screen barrier.”

Others referred to it as “the throwingest picture yet,” a reference to the many objects sent flying towards viewers. How was it done so effectively? In his autobiography, Castle later revealed some of his secrets: “Every evening I took a large pot and practiced throwing things into it: knives, forks, spoons … anything I could lay my hands on. My wife thought I was crazy, but my aim was becoming perfect.”

Castle was clearly pleased with the results, adding, “I attended the preview of Fort Ti. The audience, with glasses perched on their noses, ducked constantly. Tomahawks, balls of fire, arrows, and cannonballs seemed to fly out of the screen. Smiling, I said to my wife, ‘I’m not a director—I’m a great pitcher.’ ”

The movie is only rated average, but “unrated” components conferred cult status on it. Though Ticonderoga is nearly on the East Coast, Fort Ti is generally categorized as a Western. Some movie historians include it on their lists of the most important Western films of all time, not for the story, but for the new 3-D format and the effect it had on viewers.

For the record, the film included many Hollywood embellishments, and dealt with a story of Rogers Rangers, Jeffrey Amherst, and several other players, with a romance built in, and plenty of fighting action (offering ample opportunities for throwing things at the audience). George Montgomery played the leading role as Captain Jed Horn, while young Joan Vohs (a former Rockette) played his love interest, Fortune Mallory. One other participant was Ben Astar, said to be one of Israel’s top actors, and fluent in twelve languages.

Was Fort Ti the best 3-D movie ever made? Hard to say. Was Fort Ti the best movie ever made in Ticonderoga? Not even close. But that’s a story for another day.

Photo Above: Fort Ti movie poster.

Photo Below: A sample dual-image clip used to create the 3-D effect in Fort Ti.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Warren County Landmark Sold; Demolition Possible

“After Years of Neglect, Bolton Landing Landmark to be Sold.” That’s the headline of a lead story in this week’s issue of the Lake George Mirror, which was written after the 1820s house was sold at an auction held on the steps of the Warren County courthouse last week. We also published an editorial, “Save the John Tanner House.” Since the issue appeared on local news stands earlier this week, it’s become common knowledge that whoever buys the house will probably demolish it. But a committee to save the building headed by Bolton Town Historian Ted Caldwell has already been formed. Below is the story that appeared in the Mirror.

The 19th century Federal home on Bolton Landing’s Main Street that has slowly deteriorated and appears to be all but abandoned will finally be sold.

Following a court-ordered auction, held on May 26 at the Warren County Municipal Center, ownership of the property passed from Northwest Bay Partners to Glenn C. Waehner of Fresno, California.

“It was never Mr. Waehner’s intention to hold the property; his goal is to sell it to someone who will either restore or re-develop the property,” said Justin Heller, an Albany attorney representing Waehner.

McDonald Real Estate Professionals has been retained by Waehner to list the property for $975,000, said Frank McDonald.

“We hope it will become a small, upscale year-round inn,” said McDonald. “That will fill a void at that end of town and in the community itself, which has many types of accommodations but nothing like that.”

The property’s previous owner, Northwest Bay Partners, owes Waehner $1.4 million, said Heller.

Waehner won the property with a bid of $625,000; that amount will be deducted from the $1.4 million owed to him by Northwest Bay Partners’ principal, Michael C. O’Brien Jr. said Heller.

“Mr. Waehner believes the property is worth substantially more than $625,000,” said Heller. No one else placed a bid, although at least three prospective buyers attended the auction.

Northwest Bay Partners purchased the house in 1995 for $650,000, according to Bolton developer Rolf Ronning, who owned the house at the time.

Ronning himself purchased the house in 1982 for $125,000, he said.

Until 1959, the house was part of a farm known as Ryefield that extended eastward to Potter Hill Road and included the whole of Dula Pond.

In 1959, the Myers family sold the property to Canoe Island Lodge owner Bill Busch and Lamb Brothers Marina partner Norm Lamb, who turned the house into a restaurant which they called Evergreen Acres.

The property was later logged, sold and subdivided; carved from the former farm were developments like Mohican Heights and Heritage Village.

The house was built in the 1820s by John Tanner, a native of Hopkinton, Rhode Island who acquired more than 2,200 acres in Bolton, including Green Island.

Converted to Mormonism in 1832, he was baptized in Lake George across the street from his house and moved to Kirtland, Ohio with ten other Bolton families.

According to Pat Babé, the director of the Bolton Historical Society, people visit the museum every summer seeking information about John Tanner and his house.

“They all get so excited when I take them out to the front steps and point across the street to what we call Evergreen Acres and say that that is the original Tanner House,” said Babe.

Babe said the visitors are invariably Mormons researching their genealogy. More than 15,000 people trace their lineage to Tanner.


For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Monday, May 31, 2010

Celebrating the Life of Clarence Petty

On Sunday morning, the Wild Center hosted a memorial celebration of the life of Clarence Petty, the ardent conservationist who died last fall at 104.

The Wild Center showed two films about Clarence. After a brunch, several longtime friends and colleagues spoke about Clarence’s passion for protecting Adirondack wilderness.

As serious as Clarence was about preservation, anyone who met him was struck by his sense of humor and friendly manner.

Clarence had lots of stories from his long, rich life. He spent the first years of his life in a squatter’s cabin on the Forest Preserve. He grew up in the tiny hamlet of Coreys on the edge of the woods, a virtual frontier in those days, and went on to become a manager in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a forest ranger, a state pilot, and an indefatigable defender of the Adirondacks.

Most of the speakers at the memorial celebration, such as Michael Carr, Barbara Glaser, David Gibson, and Peter O’Shea, had known Clarence for decades and regaled the audience with one humorous anecdote after another. I particularly enjoyed Carr’s story about the time Clarence mistakenly air-dropped a load of trout over a fisherman. Thinking he may have killed or injured the fellow, Clarence flew back over the pond and saw him raising his hands in thanks.

I didn’t know Clarence as well as those folks, but as the editor of the Adirondack Explorer, I had the chance to speak with him many times in the last decade of his life. Every two months, I interviewed him for a feature called “Questions for Clarence,” which the Explorer published from 2004 until Clarence’s death.

The questions covered just about every topic under the sun, but often I would try to get Clarence to reveal what bit wisdom he would like to pass on to posterity. He kept on returning to his faith in democracy. He believed that if the people were allowed to vote on the important issues facing the Adirondack Park, they would opt to protect it.

By “the people,” he meant the people of the whole state, since the Forest Preserve is owned by all of them. The difficulty is that many of the Park’s residents don’t like outsiders making decisions that affect their lives. Hence, the continuing animosity toward the Adirondack Park Agency.

To this, Clarence had an answer. He described the Park’s wild lands, especially the Forest Preserve, as “the magnet” that draws tourists to the Adirondacks. The more wildness that is preserved, the greater the appeal to tourists. And tourists are money.

In short, protecting the Park is good for the economy–and hence good for the people who live here.

Despite his best efforts, Clarence failed to convince everyone of that point of view. But the argument will be carried forth by those he did reach.

You can find out more about Clarence Petty’s life in this remembrance by Dick Beamish, the founder of the Adirondack Explorer.

Photo by Phil Brown: Clarence Petty memorabilia at the Wild Center.

 


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let’s Eat: Adirondack Spruce Gum

In the late 19th century, a new fad swept the nation. Chewing gum was decried by newspaper editors and public pundits as “an essentially vulgar indulgence that not only shows bad breeding, but spoils a pretty countenance.” Nevertheless, the June 14, 1894 edition of the Malone Palladium commented, “No observant person can have failed to note the marked growth of the habit of chewing gum…in all parts of the country and among all classes.” The paper noted that even the “late Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York was a firm believer in spruce gum chewing.”

The gum-chewing craze began in the conifer forests of Maine and the Adirondacks. Made from the dried and crystallized sap of spruce trees, spruce gum was an important commercial crop in the Adirondack region during the 19th and early 20th centuries. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Governor George Clinton and Pok-O-Rushmore?

Untouched scenic vistas and natural landscapes are treasured in the Adirondacks. Seventy years ago, a popular landmark, since admired by millions, was nearly transformed into something far different from its present appearance.

It all began in 1937 with the editor of the Essex County Republican-News, C. F. Peterson. Formerly a Port Henry newspaperman, active in multiple civic organizations, and clearly pro-development and pro-North Country, Peterson was a force to be reckoned with. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Almanack Welcomes Local Author, Historian, Lawrence Gooley

Please join me in welcoming Adirondack Almanack‘s newest contributor Lawrence Gooley. Gooley is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 40 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored eight books and several 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. His most recent effort is Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow.

Gooley’s fascination with area history serves his readers well and he’s not afraid to get away from his desk an onto the ground where that history happened. He once researched a brief history of each bay on the Lake Champlain shoreline for example, prepared it in a binder with protective plastic sheets, laid it open on the bench seat of his canoe, and “lived history” for a week while paddling from Whitehall to Plattsburgh.

Gooley is a strong supporter of the Lyon Mountain Mining & Railroad Museum, where a 6-foot-long wall plaque hangs with the names of 162 men who died in accidents in Lyon Mountain’s iron mines. The plaque is based on information from his book Out of the Darkness.

With his partner, Jill McKee, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. They especially enjoy helping organizations and new authors navigate all the pitfalls of getting their work published, and seeing authors earn profits from their books. Besides Bloated Toe Publishing, they also operate 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.

Lawrence Gooley’s regular contributions to Adirondack Almanack will appear on Mondays.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: A History of American Fur Trade

“The fur trade was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early 1600s through the late 1800s,” Eric Jay Dolin writes in his new comprehensive history Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. “Millions of animals were killed for their pelts, which were used according to the dictates of fashion — and human vanity,” Dolin writes. “This relentless pursuit of furs left in its wake a dramatic, often tragic tale of clashing cultures, fluctuating fortunes, and bloody wars.”

The fur trade spurred imperial power struggles that eventually led to the expulsions of the Swedes, the Dutch, and the French from North America. Dolin’s history of the American fur trade is a workmanlike retelling of those struggles that sits well on the shelf beside Hiram Martin Chittenden’s 1902 two-volume classic The American Fur Trade of the Far West, and The Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1686-1776., the only attempt to tell the story of the fur trade in New York. The latter volume, written by Thomas Elliot Norton, leaves no room for the Dutch period or the early national period which saw the fur trade drive American expansion west.

Dolin’s Fur Fortune, and Empire, is not as academic as last year’s Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World by Susan Sleeper-Smith. It’s readable, and entertaining, ranging from Europe, following the westward march of the fur frontier across America, and beyond to China. Dolin shows how trappers, White and Indian, set the stage for the American colonialism to follow and pushed several species to the brink of extinction. Among the characters in this history are those who were killed in their millions; beaver, mink, otter, and buffalo.

Eric Jay Dolin’s focus, as it was with his last book Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, is the intersection of American history and natural history. Readers interested in the history of the New York fur trade will find this book enlightening for it’s connection of the state’s fur business with the larger world as the first third deals with the period before the American Revolution, when New York fur merchants and traders were still a dominate factor. Yet, like last year’s Sleeper-Smith book, Dolin’s newest volume is simply outlines the wider ground on which the still necessary volume on the fur trade in New York might be built.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Tracing Scouting’s Origins to Silver Bay on Lake George

The Boy Scouts of America has been called the largest environmental organization in the country, and its handbook a conservation best seller.

That both were launched one hundred years ago on Lake George, at Silver Bay, might have remained forgotten were it not for the work of a fifteen year old film maker from Latham.

Blake Cortright’s “First Encampment,” a documentary about the Scouts’ first camp at Silver Bay, will be shown on the Capital District’s WMHT on May 29 and on other public television stations later this year.

In 1910, representatives of boys’ groups from across the country gathered at Silver Bay to create an experimental camp devoted to the teaching of outdoor and leadership skills.

Among them were Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton, both writers, editors and illustrators who were friends of the vigor-worshiping Theodore Roosevelt.

At the end of a trail through the woods, the groups set up camp and built an amphitheater they called the Council Ring, where the Boy Scouts of America came into being around the blazing fires.

(Seton, who wrote the Boy Scout Handbook, designed the Scouts’ uniform at the site.)

“I would not have known about the First Encampment had our troop not made a pilgrimage to Silver Bay in 2008 to trace the roots of scouting,” said Cortright, an Eagle Scout himself.

At the very same Council Ring, Silver Bay volunteer and historian Robert James regaled the scouts with the tale of the organization’s birth.

“For forty five minutes, the kids listened with rapt attention,” said Cortright.

That presentation was the germ of the documentary, which relies upon James’ research and features interviews with him at his home in Slingerlands.

Silver Bay’s archives provided many of the early 20th century photos illustrating the narrative, much of it delivered by John Kearny.

Kearny, a Lake George steamboat captain, actor and voice-over artist, was recruited by his son Kyle, a scouting friend of Cortright’s.

Once the documentary was completed, Cortright’s mother Connie made certain that it was seen.

“I made a cold call to WMHT and persuaded the staff to watch it,” said Connie. “They called back a month later and said they were prepared to put it on the air. I didn’t realize at the time how difficult it is to get something broadcast.”

“First Encampment” is Cortright’s first documentary, but unlikely to be his last. He hopes to go film school.

“I learned everything by doing it backwards, but it was a wonderful experience,” said Cortright.

The “First Encampment” DVD may be purchased online at http://www.thefirstencampment.com and at local bookstores.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Two Hendricks: A Mohawk Indian Mystery

In September 1755 the most famous Indian in the world was killed in the Bloody Morning Scout that launched the Battle of Lake George. His name was Henderick Peters Theyanooguin in English, but he was widely known as King Hendrick. In an unfortunate twist of linguistic and historical fate, he shared the same first name as another famous Native American, Hendrick Tejonihokarawa, who although about 30 years his senior, was also famous in his own right. He was one of the “Four Indian Kings” who became a sensation in London in 1710, met Queen Anne, and was wined and dined as an international celebrity.

Both Hendricks were Mohawk warriors. Both were Christians who aided Great Britain against France in their struggles for empire. Both served as important sachems who stressed cooperation instead of bloody confrontation and who helped negotiate the relationship between their fellow Mohawks and European colonials who recognized that the Iroquois Confederacy was critical to the balance of power in early 18th century America. Both Hendricks, were later confused by historians into one man. Eric Hinderaker’s The Two Hendricks: Unraveling a Mohawk Mystery sets out to unearth the lives of these two important Mohawk men and untangle their stories from a confused history of colonial Native American relations.

King Hendrick (1692-1755), whose death in battle and burial place are memorialized in almost forgotten ground along the highway between Glens Falls and Lake George Village, was already famous at the time of the Bloody Morning Scout, the same attack that claimed
the life of Ephraim Williams, founder of Williams College (the year before he died he gave an important speech at the Albany Congress of 1754). His death during the French and Indian War in the cause of British Empire however, propelled his fame and ships and taverns were named in his honor abroad.

The earlier Hendrick (c.1660-c.1735) took part in King Williams War, including the failed attempt to launch an all-out invasion of Canada in retaliation for Frontiac’s raid in February 1690 which destroyed Schenectady. He was among the Mohawks of Tiononderoge (the Lower Castle), who were swindled out of their lands along the Mohawk by their colonial neighbors.

Part of the value of The Two Hendricks, however, lies not only in its untangling of the two men, but also in coming to grips with the ways in which the swindling often worked both ways. Hendrick, a common Dutch name equivalent to Henry, was just one part of their names, but Mohawk names comprise the other part. Hinderaker’s new book demonstrates that both Hendricks gave as well as they got in building alliances, fame, and power that left them among the most famous Native Americans in history.

Photo Above: Henderick Peters Theyanooguin (King Hendrick), wearing the English coat he wore on public occasions and his distinctive facial tattoo. This print, published just after his death and titled “The brave old Hendrick, the great Sachem or Chief of the Mohawk Indians,” is considered the most accurate likeness of the man.

Photo Below: Hendrick Tejonihokarawa, one of the “Four Indian Kings” who traveled to London in 1710. The print, by John Verelst, is entitled “Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row, Emperor of the Six Nations.” The title “Emperor” was a bit of a stretch, he belonged to the council of the Mohawk tribe, but not to that of the Iroquois Confederacy as a whole.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Free Admission to Adirondack Museum for Locals

The Adirondack Museum once again extends an invitation to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge from May 28 through June 30, 2010. Through this annual gift to close friends and neighbors, the museum welcomes visitors from all corners of the Adirondack Park. Proof of residency – such as a driver’s license, passport, or voter registration card – is required.

The museum is open daily, 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., from May 28 through October 18, 2010. There will be an early closing on August 13, and extended hours on August 14; the museum will close for the day on September 10. Visit their website for exact times and details.

The Adirondack Museum tells stories of the people – past and present — who have lived, worked, and played in the unique place that is the Adirondack Park. History is in our nature. The museum is supported in part by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: Mother’s Day

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™

I have always felt a few holidays were put on the calendar as a means to sell greeting cards or perhaps boost a lull in candy sales after Easter. Though I have a mother and am a mother, Mother’s Day used to fall in that category for me. It would seem that the mother in question either deserves to be treated well every day for being motherly or was the type of person that didn’t live up to the title. It should be up to the discretion of the child. I was pleased to note that the celebration is much more than cards and flowers.

Days dedicated to mothers have been traced back to a variety of sources. The ancient Greeks honored Rhea, the mother of the gods. Christians honor Mary, the mother of Christ. In the late 1500s, servants apprenticed away from home would be given the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their “mother” church and gather again as a family. The holiday became a day reuniting mothers with their children.

In 1858, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs to help improve sanitation and worker safety in Appalachian West Virginia. During the Civil War the clubs remained neutral to provide medical care for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe (author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic) organized a Mother’s Day of Peace. In her Mother’s Day Proclamation she encouraged a holiday where mothers rally for peace. Originally held on June 2, Howe envisioned a day of activism.

The current holiday occurred in 1907 when Anna Jarvis, a Philadelphia schoolteacher started the progress toward a national Mother’s Day, in honor of her mother. Jarvis petitioned influential businessmen and legislators to establish a day to honor mothers. It took Jarvis seven years, but finally in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May, the anniversary of her mother’s death, as a national holiday in celebration of mothers.

With the immediate commercialization of the holiday, Jarvis apparently attempted to lobby businesses to donate a percentage of the Mother’s Day profits back to women and children in need. She was unsuccessful. It is said that she regretted forming the holiday and even petitioned the courts to have it disbanded.

I am not suggesting that Mother’s Day be dissolved. I rather like the idea of breakfast in bed and all the niceties. I look forward to it. I also embrace the original concept to be a day of peace.

If you are looking for ways to celebrate together here are some events around the Adirondacks this weekend. Of course paddles, hikes and walks are always plentiful and readily available.

all content © Diane Chase.  Diane Chase is of Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. Diane’s next guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long lake to Old Forge, Adirondack Family Time Schroon Lake to Lake George. (2013)


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Phil Brown on Climbing: To Bolt Or Not To Bolt

Last weekend, Josh Wilson led my friend Mike Virtanen and me up a historical rock-climbing route on Rooster Comb in Keene Valley. Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers and mountaineers of his era, pioneered the route in 1949 with Jim Goodwin, his frequent partner on Adirondack outings.

The Old Route, as it’s called, is rated 5.4 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which is easy by today’s standards, but Weissner availed himself of a variety of interesting features as he meandered up the cliff: a ramp, a narrow chimney, corners, ledges, and wide cracks.

Wiessner was involved in the first ascent of at least eighteen rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks. The hardest, on Noonmark Mountain, is rated 5.8. That’s considered moderately tough, but it doesn’t come close in difficulty to many routes put up since Wiessner’s heyday. Josh, for instance, has climbed 5.11 routes. III Fire, the hardest climb in the Adirondacks, is rated 5.14a—which once would have been thought impossible.

So are modern climbers that much better than Wiessner?

Not really. Changes in footwear have enabled climbers to ascend ever-harder routes. In the old days, climbers wore boots or sneakers. Today, they climb in lightweight shoes that resemble ballet slippers with sticky rubber soles. These shoes allow climbers to get a purchase on steep slabs and tiny nodules of rock.

Protective gear—“pro,” in the sport’s lingo—also has greatly improved. In Wiessner’s day, climbers hammered metal pitons into cracks to hold their rope in the event of a fall. Nowadays, climbers carry lightweight nuts and cams that can be wedged into almost any crack. The new technology makes climbing difficult routes safer.

On Rooster Comb, we saw three or four old pitons on the Old Route. We wondered if they had been pounded in by Wiessner himself. Although no longer needed, the pitons are artifacts of a bygone era and should be left in place.

Pitons may be relics of the past, but steel bolts are not. Like pitons or other pro, fixed bolts are used to hold the rope in a fall. They are usually found on blank faces where it’s impossible to place pro or at the top of a cliff or pitch where climbers clip in the rope to rappel.

Since they alter the natural environment, bolts are controversial. Don Mellor notes in his book American Rock that attitudes toward bolts vary among climbing communities in different parts of the country. Climbers can get quite worked up over the issue. Mellor once told me, after we climbed Wallface, of a guy who used to carry a hammer to destroy any bolt he encountered.

In the Adirondacks, climbers frown on the overuse of bolts. Dominic Eisinger writes in the guidebook Adirondack Rock: “For existing routes, no additional protection or fixed anchors should be added without the consent of the first-ascent party. Fixed anchors have been installed by the climbing community where necessary for safety and preservation of fragile terrain and trees” (since they obviate the need to wrap slings around trees during a rappel).

But the guideline is not always followed. Tom Rosecrans, a longtime climber, complains that routes he pioneered on Rogers Rock years ago have since been bolted.

Some might ask whether it’s ever appropriate to fix bolts to a cliff in the forever-wild Forest Preserve. It’s a legitimate question: state regulations forbid defacing “any tree, flower, shrub, fern, fungi or other plant like organisms, moss or other plant, rock, soil, fossil or mineral or object of archaeological or paleontological interest found or growing on State land.”

Nonetheless, bolts do happen. Of course, many forms of outdoor recreation—whether hiking, snowmobiling, or camping—leave an impact on the wilderness. The question is whether that impact is acceptable.

Eisinger says Adirondack climbers strive to minimize their impact in all respects, not just in their bolting practices. “Scrubbing lichen from holds, cleaning dirt from cracks for protection, breaking the occasional branch to squeeze by a tree, or removing a dangerous loose block are all accepted practices,” Eisinger writes. “Scrubbing an 8-foot wide swath and cutting trees are not only illegal but aren’t accepted by the climbing community.”

In truth, no one but climbers will see a bolt on a cliff. And most climbers don’t mind a well-placed bolt. So the aesthetic impact is negligible.

Bolts are to modern climbers what pitons were to early climbers: an occasional necessity. And what climber would not take delight in seeing a piton put in by the great Fritz Wiessner? It’s a reminder that the sport hasn’t changed that much.

Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on the Old Route on Rooster Comb.



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