Monday, September 13, 2010

Whiteface Memorial Highway Celebrates 75 Years

The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway, in Wilmington, N.Y., turns 75 tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14th. Whiteface, its staff and the town of Wilmington, will celebrate the occasion by rolling back prices to $1 per person, the same rate as it was in 1935. And since the Highway is dedicated to all veterans, they will be admitted free.

Once at the top, guest will have the opportunity to enjoy historical displays at the castle, a specially priced barbeque, and at 1 p.m. a ceremony which will include the reading of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech, which dedicated the highway to all the fallen veterans of World War I. Other speakers will include New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) president/CEO Ted Blazer and Town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston.

Opened to automobile traffic July 20, 1935, the Highway “officially” opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Sept. 14, 1935 which was attended by President Roosevelt, who was New York’s Governor when ground was broken for the eight-mile long stretch of roadway. During the ceremony, the United States’ 32nd President dedicated the highway to all the fallen veterans of the “Great War,” but in 1985, then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo re-dedicated the highway to all veterans. It has recently been slated for upgrades.

Whiteface Mountain is the fifth largest peak in the Adirondack Mountain range and it’s the only mountain in the Adirondacks that offers accessibility by vehicle. Today, from mid-May to early-October, visitors to the area can take a drive or cycle up the five-mile long scenic highway, from the toll booth to the top. Along the way there are scenic lookout points and picnic areas where visitors can stop and enjoy views of the Adirondack region.

Once at the top of the 4,867-foot high Whiteface Mountain, guests can enjoy a spectacular 360-degree, panoramic view of the region, spanning hundreds of square miles of wild land reaching out to Vermont and Canada. Guests can also visit the castle, built from native stone, where they will find a gift shop and restaurant. For those who are unable to reach the summit on foot, an elevator is available that will take guests the final 26-stories to the summit’s observation deck.

The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway was also listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Andy Flynn’s Sixth Adirondack Attic Book

Hungry Bear Publishing recently released its sixth volume in the “Adirondack Attic” book series, highlighting dozens of artifacts from the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.

Author Andy Flynn, of Saranac Lake, tells 53 more stories about the museum’s collection in New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 6, bringing the story count to more than 300 for the six-volume series that began in 2004. Stories, and artifacts, come from all over the Adirondack region.

“Each story is special unto itself; however, taken as a whole, this series gives us the big picture,” Flynn told the Almanack. “Thanks to these artifacts, we now have a unique perspective on the Adirondack experiment and a better understanding of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, its people and communities, and how life has changed here over the past 300 years.”

Stories from Adirondack Attic 6 come from the following communities: Au Sable Forks, Bangor, Blue Mountain Lake, Brantingham Lake, Canton, Chestertown, Cranberry Lake, Dickinson Center, Elizabethtown, Hague, Johnsburg, Lake George, Lake Placid, Long Lake, Loon Lake, Lyon Mountain, Mohawk, Newcomb, North River, Northville, Paul Smiths, Port Henry, Raquette Lake, Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga, Tupper Lake, Warrensburg and Wilmington.

Flynn created the Adirondack Attic History Project to “promote the heritage of the Adirondack Park to residents and visitors through publications and programs.” As the owner/operator of Hungry Bear Publishing, he works with curators at the Adirondack Museum and other historical associations and museums in the region to tell human-interest stories about their artifact collections.

Flynn’s “Adirondack Attic” column ran weekly in several northern New York newspapers from 2003 to 2009. The stories in Adirondack Attic 6 represent the columns from 2008. Each volume includes columns from a specific year; for example, Adirondack Attic 1 featured columns from 2003, the first year of the Adirondack Attic History Project.

In April 2010, North Country Public Radio began running Flynn’s new Adirondack Attic Radio Series, sponsored by the Adirondack Museum and singer/songwriter Dan Berggren. It airs the first Tuesday of the month during the Eight O’Clock Hour with Todd Moe. For each program, Flynn features a different artifact from the collection of a museum in the Adirondack North Country Region. He uses the Adirondack Museum as his “History Headquarters” but also visits other museums to track down the objects people have made, used and left behind.

In 2008, Andy Flynn was awarded a Certificate of Commendation from the Upstate History Alliance for the Adirondack Attic History Project. He has since presented programs on his work with the Adirondack Museum to scholars at the New York State Archives Conference (2008), Association of Public Historians of New York State (2008) and Conference on New York State History (2009).

Flynn also publishes the Meet the Town community guide series with booklets for Saranac Lake, Lake Placid/Wilmington, Canton, Potsdam, Tupper Lake/Long Lake/Newcomb and the Au Sable Valley. From 2001 to 2009, he was employed as the Senior Public Information Specialist at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths.

Flynn is an award-winning journalist, garnering merits of excellence from the National Newspaper Association, New York Newspaper Publishers Association and the New York Press Association. While the staff writer at the Lake Placid News, he was named the 1996 NYPA Writer of the Year for weekly New York state newspapers with circulations under 10,000. Before joining the VIC staff, he was a writer and editor for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake and the Lake Placid News, a correspondent for the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, an announcer for WNBZ 1240-AM in Saranac Lake, and a general assignment news reporter and radio documentary producer for North Country Public Radio in Canton. He is a graduate of the SUNY College at Fredonia (1991) and the Tupper Lake High School (1987).

For more information about the Adirondack Attic book series and radio program, call (518) 891-5559 or visit online at www.hungrybearpublishing.com.

ADIRONDACK ATTIC 6 TABLE OF CONTENTS

1: Delaware & Hudson Railroad guides

2: Camp Santanoni Gate Lodge rendering (Newcomb)

3: Long Lake fire truck

4: Snowbug and Luvbug snow machines

5: Lake Placid bobsledding cassette tape (Saranac Lake, Lake Placid)

6: Mystery of Ironshoes, the bobsled (Lake Placid, Port Henry, Lyon Mountain, Elizabethtown)

7: Nehasane Park wagon (Long Lake)

8: Republic Steel miner’s helmet (Port Henry)

9: J. & J. Rogers Company safe (Au Sable Forks)

10: Paul Smith’s hotel stagecoach photo

11: Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine (Mohawk)

12: Bonnie Belle Farm ensilage cutter (Chestertown)

13: Maple sugaring sledge (Dickinson enter, North River)

14: Acme Leader cooking stove (Warrensburg)

15: Steamer Vermont III menu (Lake Champlain, Lake Placid, Loon Lake)

16: Au Sable Forks archery set

17: Bear Pond Preserve posted sign (Raquette Lake)

18: Fire tower string map (Warrensburg, Lake George)

19: Whiteface Mt. Ski Center brochures

20: Hendrik Van Loon’s Wide World Game

21: “Uncle Mart” Moody pocket watch (Tupper Lake)

22: Civil War memorial poster (Warrensburg)

23: “Assaulted by Mosquitoes” photo

24: Bug dope in the Adirondack woods

25: Sunset Cottage (Forked Lake)

26: Frederic Remington painting (Canton, Cranberry Lake)

27: A Pleasant Day at Lake George painting

28: Picturesque America book

29: Swizzle sticks (Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Hague)

30: E.R. Wallace guidebooks

31: Long Lake church souvenir tray

32: In Nature’s Laboratory book

33: Clock Golf lawn game

34: Altamont Milk Company cooler (Tupper Lake)

35: Blue Mountain House artist’s cottage

36: North River crazy quilt

37: 18th century clay pipe fragment (Blue Mountain Lake)

38: Raquette Lake sectional rowboat

39: Ticonderoga Indian Pageant booklet

40: Lake George souvenir china

41: Sacandaga Park souvenir china (Northville)

42: O.W.D. Corporation 5-cent token (Tupper Lake)

43: 1833 needlepoint sampler (Johnsburg)

44: Warrensburg hearse

45: Lake Placid violin

46: Mystery of the postal hand stamp (Bangor)

47: Dwight P. Church’s aerial camera (Canton)

48: Civilian Conservation Corps ring (Glens Falls/Hudson Falls)

49: Tupper Lake baby shoes

50: 1929 firemen’s convention ribbon (Saranac Lake)

51: Dr. William Seward Webb mailbag

52: Brantingham Lake rustic chair

53: Newcomb Snow Plow

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Fort Ti Holding Big Season Finale

Vast British and American armies struggle for control of the Ticonderoga peninsula and the future of America at Fort Ticonderoga’s Revolutionary War Encampment, Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th, from 9:30 am to 5 pm each day. More than 600 re-enactors bring the American Revolutionary War experience to life for visitors during the weekend, highlighting Fort Ticonderoga’s strategic role in the struggle for liberty. A battle takes place each day at 2 pm and is based on an encounter between advanced British and American forces during General John Burgoyne’s successful capture of the fort by the British in July 1777. Visitors will be able to purchase wares from period vendors, thrill at the pageantry of arms, enlist with the Continental soldiers for a bounty, and participate in a Sunday morning Anglican divine service in the fort at 10:30am.

Beth Hill, Executive Director of Fort Ticonderoga, said this event “will bring to life the hardship, hope, and victory that defined Fort Ticonderoga’s history in the American Revolution.” Highlighted programs throughout the weekend will include Potent Potables: Drink and Sutling in the American Revolution presentations, cooper demonstrations, building field fortifications, daily life of camp followers, field surgery and much more! According to Hill, the weekend “will be an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to be immersed in a place and time that defined America.”

The historic capture of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10th, 1775, by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys marked America’s first victory of the American Revolution. Fort Ticonderoga remained a strategic stronghold and key to the continent throughout the early years of the war. In 1777, British forces under General Burgoyne successfully recaptured Fort Ticonderoga, forcing American troops to abandon the fort and Mount Independence across Lake Champlain. During the 18th-century, Fort Ticonderoga was attacked six times in the span of twenty years, holding three times and falling three times.

Fort Ticonderoga is a private not-for-profit historical site that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggle, sacrifices, and victories that shaped North America and changed world history. Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, tours, demonstrations and exhibits each day from 9:30am-5pm, May 20th- October 20th. A full schedule and information on events, including the upcoming Revolutionary War Encampment on September 11th and 12th, can be found at www.FortTiconderoga.org.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dave Gibson: On Common Ground

The political reality in America today is certainly distressing. We elect too many Republicans and Democrats who feel unable to reach across the party aisle towards each other, or to be even seen with one another for fear of being unelectable in their primaries. The same polarization can be found dividing environmental and conservation circles. Fortunately, I’ve known quite a few Adirondackers who relate to the person, not the label, and who share the Adirondack woods and waters as common ground. I wanted to write about two of them.

Last night I read an entry in my journal about DEC Regional Director Tom Monroe’s retirement dinner in Lake Placid in early 1994. Tom had been Regional Director since the 1970s, still a time when DEC Regional Directors rose to that position through the civil service ranks, and who had considerable autonomy as a result. Put another way, these Regional Directors were forces unto themselves. That all ended by the time Tom Monroe retired. For good or ill, his able successors have been appointed by Commissioners, and ultimately answer to Governors, and enjoy far less autonomy.

I had gone to the dinner with my friend and associate Tom Cobb, who at the time was Park Manager with the State’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Trustee of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, and who is now a Director of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. Both Tom and I – and many others from all ends of the conservation spectrum – respected Tom Monroe. Environmental leaders sometimes had their reasons to distrust him. I remember an environmental colleague advising me “just make sure he is truly retired”! However, the respect came from the fact that Tom Monroe was completely his own person, and was seen to treat people equally, without favoritism. Tom did not suffer bullies easily, and there are many interesting stories about his time at DEC. This quality of perceived even-handedness brought a diverse crowd to his dinner. In my journal, I write: “I feel pretty good about going to a farewell dinner that brought together the likes of Bob Purdy (Supervisor of Keene), Peter Paine (member of the APA), Roger Dziengeleski (Woodlands Manager of Finch, Pruyn and Co.), Senator Ron Stafford and Tom (Cobb) and I in one place.”

These qualities of Tom Monroe reminded me of a woman attending his dinner who was beloved by sportsmen and women, and respected by elected leaders. She died late last year. Nellie Staves of Tupper Lake was a deeply rooted Adirondack conservationist who made friends and influenced people wherever she went. Elegant at an evening dinner one day, warmly clad to inspect her traps the next, she was comfortable being Nellie Staves. Like Tom Monroe, Nellie didn’t mind in the least whom she was seen with. I first met her in 1988 when, in a memorable few words to the Adirondack Park Agency, she made the case why wildlife mounts deserved to be a part of the soon- to- be opened Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s. Her presentation earned her an audience with Governor Mario Cuomo at the dedication of the VIC the next year. Years later another Governor, George Pataki, would dedicate the Wild Center (Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks) with its founding director, Nellie, at his side. In 2007, I was so grateful to Nellie for coming up to me after a fractious meeting about the Adirondack Club and Resort at the high school. “Good to see you in Tupper Lake, Dave,” she beamed.

One day at an Adirondack conference on Upper Saranac Lake, Nellie opened the back of her car and she invited our staff member and photographer Ken Rimany to look in: there were some of the world’s most beautiful depictions of wildlife drawn not on canvas, but on bracket fungi (“toadstools,” she said) once growing on great, craggy Adirondack trees. Ken was overwhelmed with her artistry. From that time on, their friendship grew and he was introduced to members of her family. With Ken’s encouragement and help, her artwork came to be featured in The Conservationist magazine – not once but several times.

Thanks to Nellie, we were introduced to some fine Adirondack people from diverse perspectives whom we learned to respect, people who shared Nellie’s sense of humor and gift for storytelling. What hearty laughter she induced in all who knew her. Thanks to Nellie, we learned not to take ourselves too seriously, to observe closely and be receptive to the unexpected. From her, we learned that those who know the most about the Adirondack woods, from its wilderness to its wildlife, to those who work in those woods also care very deeply about the future. Nellie helped us remember that those who log, fish, hunt, trap, create or teach in the Adirondacks have one great legacy to pass on: caring, understanding, knowledgeable, talented kids growing up on these lakes, or on the trails.

Photo:(Nellie Staves outside Tupper Lake High School


Monday, September 6, 2010

Saranac Lake: The Allen Mooney Murder

On May 12, 1903, Franklin County attorney Robert M. Moore was at wit’s end. After two years of haggling, all possibilities had been exhausted, and he knew his client was in serious trouble. There was nothing left but a claim of insanity. If that failed, a man was sure to die.

The client was Allen Mooney, and his crime in Saranac Lake became one of the most talked-about murders in North Country lore. It’s not a particularly complex tale, but its salacious and violent aspects guaranteed plenty of media coverage. Legally, it was pretty much a cut-and-dried case. Mooney admitted the shootings, and there was plenty of evidence against him.

However, peripheral factors never mentioned in testimony may have “eased” the jury’s decision. And, there were opinions voiced in court that would never be allowed to reach a modern jury’s ears. It all combined to determine a man’s fate. Not to say that Mooney would have otherwise been found innocent; he was guilty, but his sentence may have differed sharply.

In the early 1900s, Saranac Lake was in some ways like the Wild West. Smuggling, shootings, public drunkenness, prostitution, and murder were subjects bemoaned in the press as far too frequent. Any day was a good day for hell-raising, but Election Day was a particular favorite in many towns. Of course, the folks involved in Mooney’s crime led pretty rough lives. They may well have been clueless that it was Election Day.

The year was 1902, and the principals were: Allen Mooney, 25, a plumber’s assistant; Fred McClelland, 30, a friend of Mooney’s; Charles Merrill, 22, a local laborer and Mooney’s nephew; Viola Middleton, about 30, housemate of McClelland; and Ellen Thomas, about 24, known in Saranac Lake as Ethel “Maude” Faysette, love interest of both Mooney and Merrill.

On Election Day, the group was said to have been drinking and carousing at McClelland’s house. When Mooney eventually became loud and abusive, Fred threw him out. Testimony about the day’s events varied, but there was no disagreement on what happened that evening. Mooney, fueled with alcohol and driven by jealousy over Ellen Thomas, managed to get into the house through a door that had only a chair propped against it (the lock didn’t work properly).

By all accounts, he entered a bedroom and found McClelland there with Middleton. Mooney aimed his gun at McClelland, telling him “If you have anything to say, then say it quick.” After a momentary pause, Mooney fired two shots. One hit McClelland and deflected into Viola Middleton, and the other struck Middleton directly.

Charles Merrill and Ellen Thomas were in another room together. When the shooting began, Merrill hid beneath the bed. Mooney entered, shot the girl twice, and left the room. Charles Merrill was uninjured, and most reports claim he managed to jump Mooney, subdue him, secure the gun, and hold him until the local officer arrived. Both men were jailed (Merrill as a witness), and Mooney was said to have soon fallen into a deep sleep. Upon waking the next morning, he claimed to have no recollection of the previous night’s events.

McClelland’s wounds were serious, but he survived. Ellen Thomas died shortly after the shooting, and Viola Middleton lasted only a few days. In spring 1903, Mooney was indicted on two counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of assault. Awaiting trial, he was held in the bottom floor of the county jail in Malone, in what was referred to as “the cage.”

As usual, the case was tried in the newspapers until the actual trial date arrived. There were stories of Ellen Thomas (as Maude Faysette) having been arrested two days before the shooting, only to be released the next day. And, local bars were taken to task over serving liquor to Allen Mooney, knowing his condition and his reputation.

In May 1903, court testimony confirmed the shooting was done by Mooney in a drunken, jealous rage. Intent was proven by his purchase of a gun and cartridges that afternoon. Upon arrest, he reportedly said words to the effect, “I’ll go quietly. I’ve made a fool of myself.” Attorney Moore, left with no other defense, strove to prove Mooney’s insanity at the time of the shooting.

As evidence, he cited Mooney’s aunt (his father’s sister), who “lost all control of herself” during hysterical fits that kept her confined to a Canadian asylum for many years. And, Mooney himself was said to have suffered epileptic seizures since childhood, often turning violent during the attacks. Doctors said that, due to his physical condition, a small amount of alcohol could cause him to “become violently insane and unconscious of his acts.”

Best of all, though, were the professional opinions about Mooney’s appearance. As one reporter wrote, the doctors said, “From the peculiarities of his head, eyes, and looks, they would classify him as a degenerate who was more susceptible to insanity than a normal man.” Add the booze, and you had a powder keg, but one that was not responsible for its own explosion.

The prosecution was inclined to agree, partially. Four doctors, including one from the Ogdensburg Insane Asylum, upped the ante with this assessment: Mooney “ … represented a low type of manhood and possessed certain peculiarities of degeneracy.” But they also felt he was rational, and based on the same factors cited by the defense—physical condition, appearance, and actions—they believed Mooney was conscious of his acts.

Next week: The verdict; some interesting new friends; Mooney’s introduction to Robert Elliott.

Photo Top: The Franklin County Government Buildings, early 1900s.

Photo Bottom: Saranac Lake in the early 1900s.

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.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dysfunction Junction: What’s Your Function?

Dysfunction Junction INtersection Routes 73 and 9They call it “Crazy Corners” or “Spaghetti Junction” or “Dysfunction Junction.”

For years I’ve driven through the unique, bizarre intersection at Routes 9 and 73 in New Russia, a hamlet of Elizabethtown. For years, I’ve wondered: who on earth designed this crazy confluence, and why? » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Let’s Eat! Lucelia Mills Clark’s Farm Journal

Lucelia Arvilla Mills Clark, a farm wife in Cranberry Lake, New York kept a journal throughout her adult life recording daily activities, neighborhood news, weather observations, illnesses, deaths, and births. The entries are short and factual, but together they offer a window into the life of a farm family in the Adirondack Mountains during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and in particular record the business of keeping everyone fed.

Lucelia was born in Gouverneur in St. Lawrence County in 1852, daughter of blacksmith John R. Mills and his wife Jane Aldous Mills. In 1873, Lucelia married Henry M. Clark. The couple had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. In 1884, the family moved to Maple Grove Farm, built by Lucelia’s father, near Cranberry Lake. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dave Gibson: Return to the Moose River Plains

A summer day. The road to the Moose River Plains from Limekiln Lake is free of traffic this morning, the sun’s rays have not yet turned the evening dew to dust. As I drive down the shaded road I think about the work of local people from Inlet who dug and placed sand on these roads to give the heavy logging trucks enough traction on the steep sections.

Dick Payne, former Inlet Police Chief, left me memorable impressions of working the Plains in the “old days.” Since 1964 when the Gould Paper Company sold this land to the people of the State, the land is Forest Preserve. As the cicadas begin to whine from the trees, I try to remember another group who hiked in via the Red River valley to discover what was at risk from the Higley and Panther Mountain Dams on the South Branch of the Moose River. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Wilmington’s Henry Markham, California Governor

The section of Wilmington referred to as Haselton was once known as Markhamville. The name came from settlers who arrived prior to 1800, and it was more than a century before the change was made to Haselton. Among the early-nineteenth-century residents was Nathan Markham, who earned a living in iron manufacturing before turning to farming. He and wife Susan raised six sons and four daughters. The Markham work ethic served them well.

Three daughters and two sons were teachers in area schools. Several sons became prominent businessmen in different cities, and four of them were successful attorneys. George became the president of Northwest Mutual Life, an insurance company that is now 153 years old and holds more than $1 trillion in individual policies. And Henry became the governor of California.

Henry Harrison Markham was born in Wilmington on November 16, 1840. At the age of 19, he was still working on the family farm, but extended his education by attending Vermont’s Wheeler Academy, from which he graduated in 1862. Shortly after, he moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan.

An overriding concern at the time was the war, and just as his young father (only 18) had fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 23-year-old Henry enlisted, joining the North’s Civil War forces in December 1863. Tracking the movements of Company G, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry reveals their role in Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. Henry survived that campaign, but for him, the war ended soon after.

In January 1865 in South Carolina, the troops of the 32nd had slogged their way for days through the muddy morass of Whippy Swamp, sometimes waste deep in cold water. At a place known as River’s Bridge, the Confederates released a hellfire in defense of their position, but a relentless push forward by Union troops forced the rebels to fall back.

Dozens died in the battle, and Henry was badly wounded. After a period of recovery at Beaufort, S.C., he was mustered out in May 1865 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Returning to Wisconsin, Henry took up the study of law with a well-known firm, and within a few short years, he was admitted to legal practice at various levels, including the US Supreme Court.

When his brother Charles arrived, they formed a very successful law partnership in Milwaukee. Henry was joined in marriage with Mary Dana at Waukesha, Wisconsin, in May 1876, and from outward appearances, life was good.

But illness and the nagging effects of his war injuries took an increasing toll, compelling Henry to seek a more healthful climate. Catching his eye was a magazine advertisement: “To Health Seekers—A Beautiful Home in a Beautiful Land—A Fruit Farm in Southern California.” With 22 acres, 750 fruit trees, and a vineyard, Henry was sold. In the late 1870s, Pasadena, California, became the new Markham homestead.

In addition to operating his fruit orchard, Henry kept busy pursing civic and business interests in California. Besides investing in various mines, he helped found the Pasadena Public Library and served on the school board, assuming a position of prominence in the community.

In 1884, the Republican Party in southern California was searching for a strategy to defeat the Democrats, who had long wielded power. A few interested candidates seemed lackluster at best, and Henry was approached as a dark horse possibility. He consented, and then did what he had always done in any endeavor: worked hard. Success followed, and for the next two years, the interests of southern California were looked after in Washington by Congressman Markham.

At re-election time in 1886, he seemed a sure bet to win again. But, just as he had reluctantly surrendered his law practice in Wisconsin, Henry said “Thanks, but no thanks” in declining the opportunity. The east-coast climate had again diminished his health, and he opted for civilian life in Pasadena rather than another term in Washington.

Aware of his leadership capabilities and his interest in the plight of war veterans, Congress elected him as a manager of the National Homes for Disabled Soldiers. The position was unpaid, and Henry frequently used his own money to finance related expenditures. In that regard, the home in Santa Monica greatly benefited from his largesse.

In 1887, Henry commissioned a magnificent three-story home to be built on his property (the cost in 2010 translates to well over $1 million). The huge mansion would easily accommodate his growing family (three young daughters), but Henry wanted more for them. He began building a playhouse, specially constructed to also accommodate Dad, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall. It was a beloved structure that the children shared for years with many friends.

Markham expanded his business connections beyond the area’s mines. He was president of the Los Angeles Furniture Company, and a director on the boards of two banks and the Southern California Oil Supply Company. Others like him led a surge of financial prosperity and population growth in southern California. In the upcoming political campaign, the south was hoping to wrest control from the northern power base at San Francisco.

Once again, the party turned to Markham, nominating him as the candidate for governor to avoid a party split. In a bitter, hard-fought battle, he defeated San Francisco Mayor E. B. Pond by 8,000 votes to become California’s 18th governor. The victory was attributed partly to Henry’s manner of personally greeting thousands of voters who became well acquainted with the “Markham Glad-hand.” It was his signature move—a firm, hearty handshake evoking sincerity.

While holding office from Jan. 1891–Jan. 1895, Markham did much to advance business in the state. When the Panic of 1893 struck (considered second-worst only to the Great Depression of the 1930s), he backed the idea for the California Midwinter International Exposition (a World’s Fair). With San Francisco as the host city, a massive parade was held. Represented were many businesses, civic organizations, and military groups. A work-holiday was imposed by the governor, to great effect. On the first day alone, more than 72,000 people attended.

During his tenure, Markham also handled the effects of a national railroad strike; led the second-largest fundraising effort among states represented at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893; secured military facilities that brought millions of dollars to California; forced a railroad company to pay $1.3 million it owed the state; helped bring trolley service to Pasadena; backed the building of the Santa Fe Railroad; and worked towards establishing a harbor facility in southern California.

Early in his tenure, an interesting meeting occurred when Governor Markham welcomed President Benjamin Harrison on a tour of California. The president was the grandson of another president, William Henry Harrison, and during the trip, California’s new governor revealed a personal connection to the First Family.

The elder Harrison’s election platform in 1840 had included tariffs that were meant to protect American businesses. Nathan Markham, an iron manufacturer at Wilmington, was so delighted when William Henry Harrison won the election in 1840, he named his newborn son Henry Harrison Markham. (Unfortunately, the president died after a month in office, the shortest term of any US chief executive.)

After a successful four-year stint as governor, Henry Markham decided not to run for a second term, returning to private life and the world of business, where he did well for more than two decades. He died of a stroke in 1923 at the age of 83, but was certainly not forgotten.

His impressive home was torn down in 1939, but through the years the Markham Mansion had played host to many grand social occasions, both during his tenure and after his death. The family name also remained a fixture on streets, buildings, and other locations in Pasadena.

In 1963, forty years after the governor’s death, Markham Place was honored by the Pasadena Beautiful Foundation as its first Banner Block. The neighborhood was near Henry’s former mansion and orchard, where many old, beautiful homes had been restored. In 2010, popular tourist destinations include the Governor Markham Victorian District.

Was the old neighborhood really that impressive? Next door to Markham was Adolphus Busch (Budweiser, etc.). Nearby was the Gamble family (Procter & Gamble) and Bill Wrigley (Wrigley’s gum). Others locating in that vicinity over the years include the Maxwells (coffee), the Cox family (communications), and the Spaldings (sporting goods). The area was once known as “Millionaire’s Row” in the days when a million dollars suggested exclusivity.

And what of that wonderful playhouse so lovingly built by Henry Markham for his daughters? In 1970, the California State Historical Society became aware that after 85 years, it still existed. The family had passed it down so that subsequent generations of children could enjoy it.

Wishing to do the same, the owner contacted Governor Markham’s fourth daughter, Hildreth, 81 (born in 1889), seeking her consent for donating it to the Pacific Oaks Children’s School. Soon after, the house (which had been refurbished regularly in the past), was placed in a corner of the children’s play yard at the school, a memento of California’s governor from New York.

Photo Top: Henry Harrison Markham.

Photo Middle: Civil War photo of 2nd Lieutenant Henry H. Markham.

Photo Bottom: California Midwinter International Exposition, 1894.

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.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Loon Lake History Subject of Talk Friday

Northern New York history buffs will enjoy the upcoming discussion of the history of Loon Lake in Franklin County, on Friday September 3 at 6:30 pm. The presentation and discussion of Loon Lake history, especially the era of the famous Loon Lake House hotel and resort, will feature Joseph LeMay, who is writing a book on the subject. Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Members of the greater Loon Lake community are invited to share their memories and photographs and participate in the discussion, which will be held at the Schryer Center at the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society, 51 Milwaukee St., Malone.

The House of History museum is housed in an 1864 Italianate style building, most recently the home of the F. Roy and Elizabeth Crooks Kirk family. A museum since 1973, the House of History is home to the headquarters of the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society and its historic collections pertaining to the history of Franklin County. The recently renovated carriage house behind the museum is the beautiful Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Research, which opened in 2006. The Schryer Center contains archival materials and a library of family history information and is open to the public. FCHMS is supported by its members and donors and the generous support of Franklin County.

The House of History is open for tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm through December 31, 2010; admission is $5/adults, $3/seniors, $2/children, and free for members. The Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Reseach is open for research Tuesday-Friday from 1-4pm through October 8, 2010 and Wednesday-Friday from 1-4pm October 13-May 1, weather permitting. The fee to use the research library is $10/day and free to members.

Information about Franklin County History, the collections of the museum and links to interesting historical information can be found on the Society’s blog.

Contact the Historical Society with questions at 518-483-2750 or fchms@franklinhistory.org.

Photo: Loon Lake Hotel Staff, ca. 1896. From the collection of the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lake George Comeback For A Once Famed Sailboat

Led by Lake George’s John Kelly and Reuben Smith of Hall’s Boat Corp., the Mystic Seaport maritime museum in Mystic, Connecticut, is documenting a once-famous class of sail boat that has slipped into obscurity.

The boats, Sound Interclubs, were sailed on Lake George from the 1930s through the 1950s, when the Lake George Club replaced its racing fleet with Stars and Rainbows.

Two of the surviving sail boats have been acquired by John Kelly, the Assembly Point resident whose 1936 Lake George Gar Wood was restored by Reuben Smith and the crew at Hall’s earlier this year. Hall’s is now restoring Kelly’s Sound Interclubs.

Of Kelly’s two boats, one was in relatively good condition, but even that one had been disfigured by the force of the 42 foot mast and the weight of the lead keel, said Smith. So before he could begin the work of restoring the boats, he needed an accurate set of plans.

Smith said he called Mystic Seaport in search of plans, photos and any additional information that might be in the museum’s extensive archives, and while dozens of classic photos had been taken of the boats racing in Long Island Sound in the 1920s and 30s, no plans survived.

That inquiry led Mystic Seaport’s staff to start researching the Sound Interclub, said Luisa Watrous, the museum’s Intellectual Property Manager.

“Mystic Seaport is delighted that Reuben Smith and John Kelly are doing this work, because the museum maintains a representative collection of American sailboats, and there’s too little information about the Sound Interclubs,” said Watrous. “The Museum doesn’t have a boat of this type in the collection, and the restoration at Hall’s offers us an opportunity to clarify and update the photographic and vessel records.”

In the absence of the designer’s original plans (believed to have been lost in a fire), Smith is drafting a new set of plans as he restores Kelly’s first Sound Interclub; his plans, notes and photos of the restoration will guide the restoration of the other four Sound Interclubs.

Mystic Seaport will be one of the beneficiaries of Smith’s work, says Luisa Watrous,

Watrous, however, is not merely collecting the information gathered by Smith and Kelly; she’s heavily involved in co-ordinating research on the boats, enlisting the aid of people like Rik Alexanderson, whose grandfather, E.F. Alexanderson, was among those who brought one-design racing to Lake George.

Alexanderson is conducting oral interviews about the boats’ history on Lake George, said Watrous. Others, like David Warren, have contributed photos of the boats being sailed on Lake George. “I tend to feel that stories preserve themselves; they’re waiting to be told and will be told when the time is right,” said Watrous. The oral histories and photos are not only valuable additions to Mystic Seaport’s archives, but can assist Reuben Smith and John Kelly in their work, he said.

For Watrous, researching the Sound Interclubs is not merely a professional obligation; it’s a way for her to rediscover her links to the lake. “I have personal ties to the lake through my family, and I even sailed on Sound Interclubs in the 1970s,” he said. “After the Lake George Club switched to racing Stars and Rainbows, two Sound Interclubs were sold to Canoe Island Lodge, where I worked as a college student in the 1970s.”

John Kelly says he hopes to take his first sail in his Sound Interclub sometime this fall. “I became interested in the boats when I was researching the history of my Gar Wood, which was owned by a Lake George summer resident, Dan Winchester. A member of his family showed me an album that included some photos of a sailboat I’d never seen before. I showed them to Reuben, who immediately identified them as Sound Interclubs,” he said.

Designed by Charles Mower in 1926, the boats were famous in the 1930s as the fastest boats in the Westchester and Connecticut waters of Long Island Sound. “The whole idea behind one-design racing is that it’s a test of skills; it has nothing to do with who has the most money or the best technology,” said Reuben Smith.

By 1935, however, the boats began to feel dated to the Long Island skippers, many of whom were America’s Cup yachtsmen, and they replaced the boats with International One Designs, said Michael Kelly. Once the boats were no longer used for racing in Long Island Sound, they were brought to Lake George.

Reuben Smith says he knows of at least three other Sound Interclubs: one on Lake George, another in Texas and one on City Island in New York. He hopes they’ll be brought to Hall’s or to another Lake George boat shop and restored.

As does John Kelly. At the very least, he’ll get some competition. What’s the fun of owning a fast sail boat if there’s no one to compete with?

Photos: Above, Sound Interclubs racing on Lake George from the files of Lake George Mirror. Below, Sound Interclubs racing off Long Island. Photo by Morris Rosenfeld, courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

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


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Diane Chase Adirondack Family Activities: Fort Ticonderoga

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

There is too much to see. We have entered what looks like a fantasy world and it isn’t Disney. Tri-corn hats, fife and drum, cannons and muskets surround us. My children practically spin in a circle unsure what to visit first. Each climbs aboard a cannon while one eagerly points to Lake Champlain. The other is busy protecting us from the unknown enemy. She is protecting us from a raid on Fort Ticonderoga.

I am just trying to keep up. There is a whole schedule of events to attend. I am feeling a bit underdressed. We are surrounded by people in period costume. We go through the museum and try to take in some of the 30,000 objects on display. The West Barracks holds an impressive display of ancient artillery including an engraved sword owned by Alexander Hamilton, the 1st Secretary of the Treasury.

Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French military in the mid-1700s as one of a series of forts used to control Lake Champlain. Originally named Fort Carillon, the fort was built atop the narrows of the La Chute River as the waters enter Lake Champlain to maintain control over the waterway. Its complicated history shows a change of hands between British and American forces.

My son is lobbying for some kind of weapon. The familiar whine of “everyone else here has one” as I look around, does ring true. This has an essence of Ralphie in A Christmas Story all over it. He promises he will always aim over his sister’s head. Now those are words I don’t hear every day. I tell him he is going to have to be content to watch the flag ceremony and musket demonstration. He practically salivates when the drum starts to sound.

I sneak out of the Fife and Drum demonstration for a visit to the chocolate tent. Mars Inc. researched and duplicated an 18th century chocolate recipe. It is not the hot chocolate I am used to but a bittersweet concoction slightly spiced with vanilla, red pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. This dark steaming beverage was the breakfast of the soldier. The demonstrator carefully grates a bar into a chocolate pot and adds water to the shavings. She pours the bitter mixture into sample cups for all to try. This was a staple of the 18th century soldiers, sometimes the only breakfast they would have. My daughter’s squeals of excitement pull me from my chocolate-induced haze. She would like some chocolate. She tosses the mixture down like a warrior, waving off an offer for seconds. She must leave me now to march with the rest of the corps.

This Friday, August 27th, will mark the last of the season’s daily family activities. Throughout the summer children have had the opportunity to complete crafts befitting the revolutionary theme such as make a soldier’s diary, a tri-corn hat or design a power horn.

“By the beginning of September most children are back in school so we focus on other activities such as the Garrison Ghost Tours, “ says Group Tour Coordinator Nancy LaVallie. “We are open until October 20th with our regular programming, guided tours and other special events like seminars and the annual Revolutionary War Encampment. There is plenty to do.”

Built in 1755 by the French, Fort Ticonderoga is the site of the first American victory of the American Revolution. For more information regarding history of the fort, chocolate and hours of operation please contact 518-585-2821. For those interested in a discount, check out the online coupon for 10% savings on a visit.

Photo of Fort Ticonderoga Fife and Drum Corp and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saranac Lake: 4 Days, 32 Artists, 90 Paintings

Thirty-two artists spent Aug 19 – 22 in the Saranac Lake area and produced over 90 paintings for the annual Adirondack Plein Air Festival. They had three Adirondack summer days to paint outdoors, on location, before the Show & Sale held on Sunday in the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake.

While most of the artists focused on village scenes or our beautiful mountain, river and lake views, Peter Seward, of Lake Placid, made a political statement with his painting of the empty Sears parking lot, titled “Don’t Even Think of Parking Here”.

Sponsored by Saranac Lake ArtWorks and organized by Susan Olsen, owner of Borealis Color, and Sandra Hildreth, a member of the Adirondack Artists’ Guild, the Plein Air Festival has become a significant event for this arts community. “Plein Air” is a French term that basically means working out in the “open air” as opposed to painting indoors in a studio. Artists came from the Saranac Lake area as well as Plattsburgh, Liverpool, Poughkeepsie, Harriman, Nyack, Tivoli, Burlington, VT, and Milford, DE.

The following awards were given out during the Show & Sale, donated by area businesses and organizations. Anne Diggory, a plein air painter from Saratoga, was Juror of Awards and made all the selections.

Diane E. Leifheit, of Gabriels, received the “Best of Show” Award for a pastel painting of the classic view of some barns in the village of Gabriels with Whiteface Mountain in the background. Donated by Eric Rhoads, she will receive a free 1/4 page ad in the prestigious Artist Advocate magazine, valued at $650.

The Village of Saranac Lake and Mayor Clyde Rabideau donated $400 for the “Mayor’s Award”. It went to Nancy Brossard, of Childwold, for her oil painting of Lower Saranac Lake from Mt. Pisgah. This award was to go to the work of art that best represented the Saranac Lake area.

Cape Air donated $250 and it was awarded to Crista Pisano, of Nyack NY, for her oil painting, “View from the Fish & Game Club”.

The Adirondack Medical Center also donated $250 for a work of art “in the spirit of health and healing in the Adirondacks” and it was given to Tim Fortune, Saranac Lake, for his idyllic painting of the Saranac River.

Saranac Lake ArtWorks donated a $100 award which was given to Margaret Bayalis, of Milford, Delaware, for her oil painting “Reflections”.

Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid gave us an artists’ paint box valued at $89 and it went to Lita Thorne, of Harriman, NY for her painting “Beauty Along Route 3”.

The Lodge at Lake Clear provided a gift certificate for dinner for 2 and it was won by John Bayalis, Milford, DE, for his detailed watercolor “Morning Light”.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room gift certificate for “the most Romantic” work of art was won by Tarryl Gabel, Poughkeepsie, for her oil painting “Sunrise Over the Marsh”.

A gift certificate from T.F. Finnegan’s was won by Bruce Thorne, Harriman, NY, for his Impressionist style painting “Left Bank”.

From noon until 3:30 both visitors and artists could submit their vote for the “People’s Choice Award”, a $150 gift certificate donated by Borealis Color, and it was awarded to Laura Martinez-Bianco, of Marlboro, NY, for her oil painting “Woodland Interior”.

In addition to the artwork produced for the Show & Sale in the Town Hall, 23 of the artists also created a 5×7 piece during the “Paint the Town” event on Thursday and donated them to Saranac Lake ArtWorks. A Silent Auction was set up at the Adirondack Artists’ Guild and raised $1200, which is being donated to Bluseed Studios to help support their wonderful children’s programs and classes.

With two successful years now and growing in reputation, the Adirondack Plein Air Festival will be scheduled for Aug 18 – 21, 2011. For more information contact Susan Olsen at 518-891-1490 or Sandra Hildreth at shildreth@roadrunner.com.

Photos provided by Sandra Hildreth: Painting by Peter Seward, Lake Placid (above). Diane Leifheit, Gabriels, and her “Best of Show” pastel painting: “Mid Morning Light” (below).


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Murder of Adirondack Guide Eula Davis

In late 1928, the life of an Adirondack guide came to an unfortunate, premature end. Like many of his brethren who died from accidental shootings over the years, the victim succumbed to a serious gunshot wound. But the demise of Eula Davis was no accident. Clearly, this was a case of murder, and the beginning of a twisted saga that kept all eyes glued on the Lake Pleasant region for some time.

The story began on November 30 when local handyman and guide Ernest Duane, 34, reported to police in Speculator that he had found Davis, 60 (also a handyman and guide), dead. The body was located in the Ernest Brooks cabin on Whitaker Lake, several miles northwest of Speculator village. Duane offered to accompany them to the site, but the lawmen opted to investigate on their own, a decision that would prove vital as the case developed.

A sad scene awaited them. Davis’ corpse was frozen solid; apparently, he had died of exposure and/or loss of blood. A gaping bullet-wound in the lower back was the overriding cause, and Davis had not died easily. Unable to rise after being shot, he had dragged himself across the floor. His body was partially covered with a quilt, and a pillow had been drawn close to Eula’s head, signifying an attempt to keep warm and somewhat comfortable. He had used rags to form a rough tourniquet, and had broken a pencil tip while trying to write a note.

Further investigation revealed an empty wallet in Davis’ pocket, punctured by the fatal bullet.

Davis had many friends in Speculator, and they began searching for the killer while police worked to develop certain clues. Within a few days, they focused on one suspect: Ernest Duane.

An autopsy had uncovered bits of paper money embedded in the body, revealing that Davis’ wallet had not been empty prior to the shooting. Finding the damaged money would surely lead to the killer. But why would Duane kill a popular local man known to be his friend?

Davis, said to have guided for boxing champion Gene Tunney several months earlier, had done quite well financially. It was public knowledge that he had earned several hundred dollars, and had recently purchased winter provisions in town. Questioning of local merchants yielded critical information: in the past few days, someone else had been shopping. Among the legal tender used for payment was a $10 bill with two neat holes in it. The customer was Ernest Duane.

He was brought in for questioning, and after being confronted with evidence, Duane finally confessed to the crime. He offered a lengthy tale, including the decision to rob the old man, who was deaf. When Duane entered the cabin and saw Davis facing away from the door, he shot him in the back. He then took the old man’s wallet and headed for home. On the way, Duane said, he removed only one bill and then flung the wallet into the woods.

Since the empty wallet had already been found in Davis’ pocket, police knew Duane was lying. (He really didn’t seem to have much of a plan. Why admit the shooting but lie about the robbery?) At any rate, a search crew with rakes went to Whitaker Lake in hopes of finding the missing cash buried beneath new-fallen snow. They found nothing.

The next day, police returned to take evidence photographs of the crime scene—but it was gone! That’s right—the entire crime scene was no more. In one of those great Adirondack mysteries, the remote cabin had burned overnight. Arson by Duane’s sympathizers seemed the only plausible explanation.

A day later, Ernest told police where the money was hidden, admitting he had emptied the wallet and placed it back in the victim’s pocket. In Duane’s woodshed they located a roll of bills, pierced by what appeared to be bullet-holes. Employing a bit of trickery, they told him they hadn’t found the money, so Ernest provided written directions. The successful ruse created physical evidence that might later prove valuable.

Police also discovered that Duane owed $200 in fines for game law violations. With a motive and a confession, they now had what appeared to be an open-and-shut case.

But appearances can be deceiving. Still, Duane would go on trial, though under unusual circumstances. Neither the Hamilton County district attorney nor the county judge were lawyers. That unprecedented situation was addressed by Governor Al Smith, who appointed a special prosecutor and assigned a judge. In the meantime, Duane enjoyed cowboy novels in his cell and visits from his new bride, a 14-year-old that he married only a month before the Davis murder.

The prosecution played a powerful hand in the trial, led by impressive witnesses. Doctors dismissed Duane’s epilepsy as a non-factor, and Leonard Egelston, a police officer, introduced some surprising evidence. Early in the investigation, he had taken photographs inside and outside of the cabin. The apparent arson was, as it turned out, a futile attempt to destroy evidence.

The prosecution also offered Duane’s signed confession, along with the note directing officers to the hidden stash of bills. The note was presented as proof that Duane was sane and clear-headed enough after the murder to hide the stolen money and remember where it was hidden.

The defense focused on proving Duane’s supposed mental abnormalities, which they claimed had been exacerbated by the lonely life of a woodsman who often spent long months alone. It seemed like a weak argument at best, but then came the kicker: Duane’s epilepsy, seized upon by his attorneys in a strategy described as the “dream defense.”

Medical experts and Ernest’s brother, Joe, testified about his condition, bolstering claims that he had committed the crime, but had done so “in a fit of insanity.” Supporting the argument was his dismissal from military service during World War I due to a mental disorder (again, epilepsy).

Contrary to what had been earlier announced, Ernest finally took the stand in his own defense. Despite his detailed confession and the note leading officers to the stolen money, Ernest now claimed a seizure had enveloped him as he entered the clearing near the cabin that day, and it subsequently erased all memories of the next several hours. If he had killed Davis and stolen the money, he had no recollection of having done so. (Forty-five years later, serial killer Robert F. Garrow would make the same claim in the same courtroom for the same crime of murder.)

But there was more to Ernest’s story. Later that night, he suddenly awakened, believing he had shot and robbed Davis. Frantically, Duane jumped out of bed and searched his pockets for money. Finding nothing, he concluded it had been nothing more than a terrible nightmare, and went back to sleep.

In the morning, Ernest went out to cut some firewood. Reaching into his jacket pocket for a match, he instead found a wad of bills. With an earnestness befitting his given name, he told the court, “Then I knew that what I had dreamed was true.” During final summation, his attorney cited “the murder dream which turned out to be reality.”

The jury struggled, and early on, one member promised his vote for acquittal would never change. (So much for an open-and-shut case.) Eventually, they found Duane guilty. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Heffernan was reluctant to pronounce sentence, but he had no choice.

Through a breaking voice, and with tears flowing, he said, “I have but one duty to perform. I have wished it would never come to me, but Mr. Duane, you stand convicted of murder in the first degree, for which the punishment is death.” Seated nearby, the judge’s wife wept openly.

At 3 am, Ernest Duane was removed from his cell and sent off to Sing Sing to await execution. The odd hour was chosen to avoid an expected rescue attempt by Duane’s family and friends.

The defense appealed the verdict, causing an immediate stay of execution. When the appeal was denied, a new trial was sought, but that too was disallowed. Ernest was scheduled to die the week of January 15, 1930. Only one hope remained—commutation by the governor.

Just 24 hours before his execution time, word arrived that Governor Franklin Roosevelt had commuted Duane’s sentence to life in prison. Among other things, the governor felt that a person denied military service due to a mental disorder should not be put to death for that same disorder. When the message was relayed by his keepers, Ernest’s comment was a flippant, “Then I guess I’ll lose my chicken dinner,” the last meal he had requested. He was removed from death watch and assigned to work in the prison shoe factory.

Was it really an out-of-character, spur-of-the-moment decision for Ernest Duane to shoot and rob Davis? Perhaps not, if the “apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree” theory holds water. Duane’s father, with a wife and seven children at home, had once pursued and married the 15-year-old daughter of the man with whom he was boarding. That offense netted him five years in Dannemora Prison for bigamy. He later was convicted of game violations.

Ernest had been arrested for drunkenness, game violations, and had married a 14-year-old girl. His character witness and brother, Joseph Duane, had been arrested for car theft and fighting, and he and Ernest had been arrested together for operating a “Disorderly House” (their hotel was used for prostitution).

The Duanes earned plenty of notoriety in their time. With this writing, perhaps Eula (Ulysses) Davis will escape relative anonymity, having suffered a terrible, undeserved fate.

Photo Top: Map of the Speculator-Lake Pleasant-Whitaker Lake area.

Photo Right: L to R: Speculator today remains an outdoor playground.

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, August 20, 2010

Animal Rights Group Questions Adirondack Museum

The organization Adirondack Animal Rights (ADK-AR) has called on the Adirondack Museum to not conduct a beaver skinning and fleshing demonstration during the American Mountain Men Encampment this weekend. According to an announcement on the Museum’s webpage, “This year’s encampment may include blacksmithing as well as a beaver skinning and fleshing demonstration.” The event will take place today August 20th and Saturday, August 21st at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.

“Many local residents as well as others have joined with ADK-AR and have been contacting the Museum via email, phone calls and by leaving comments on their Facebook page telling the Museum that they are not happy with the possibility of such a demonstration,” an ADK-AR press release says.

“I am deeply disturbed by this lack of compassion,” ADK-AR’s Founder Jessica Ryle said. “Using animal fur and flesh is no longer needed for our survival. While I find nothing wrong with celebrating our nation’s history, I think it’s completely unnecessary to continue to exploit other animals in this way.”

According to Ryle, museum officials told her that the animal used in the demonstration will have died from natural causes, been killed in an highway accident or met an untimely end in some other manner.

ADK-AR calls into question whether it is likely that a dead beaver will be found, and in the case of highway casualty, if it will be in a condition conducive to skinning.



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