Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let’s Eat: Cooking with a Cast Iron Cookstove

To My Old Cookstove

Oh! My old kitchen cook stove, to time now surrendered,
How well I remember the day you were new.
As so proud in your newness, you stood in my kitchen
So black and so shiny, and fair to my view.
How oft, by your side, in the years that have vanished
I have held my firstborn to your genial heat
And the years in their passing, added still others
‘Till your hearth was surrounded with dear little feet….

Lucelia Mills Clark, a farm wife from Cranberry Lake, wrote this ode to her cast iron cook stove in 1899. Her verse reflects the iconic status of the 19th century cook stove in the American imagination—as the heart of the home, a place where families gathered and generations spent time together, when life was simpler. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 5, 2010

War of 1812: The Carry of the Great Rope

During the War of 1812, control of Lake Ontario was one of many issues considered critical by both sides. A key position for the British was Kingston, Ontario, about thirty miles north of the vital American base at Sackets Harbor. In an effort to establish domination of the lake, the two sites engaged in a shipbuilding race.

The British finished first and gained control, but American builders quickly completed three new ships (two brigs and the huge frigate Superior, larger than its British counterpart). Their launch required only weapons and rigging, which were en route from Brooklyn via Albany. In 1814, hoping to keep those vessels in port, the British sought to disrupt American supply routes. A prime target was Fort Ontario, located at Oswego on the mouth of the Oswego River.

On May 5, the British fleet launched an attack that was repelled by the Americans. On the following day, an intensified assault featured heavy cannon fire from the British. Eventually, the Americans lost the fort and some important armaments, but most of the valuable supplies had been taken upriver to Oswego Falls (now Fulton) for safe storage with other similar goods. The preservation tactic worked, and shortly after the Battle of Oswego, a plan was in place to resume moving war supplies northward to the waiting ships at Sackets Harbor.

Following the attack, the British withdrew to Kingston, but a few weeks later they were at the Galloo Islands near Sackets Harbor, blockading any marine attempts at supplying this strategic site. Should the materials slip through, it would dramatically tip the scales in favor of the American forces. By monitoring the harbor, the Brits were preventing that from happening, ensuring their superiority on the lake.

A British attempt to destroy the Superior was foiled, and on May 2, the ship was launched. But it was hardly battle-ready, still lacking guns and rigging. Less than three weeks after the attack on Oswego, the critical supplies hidden at Oswego Falls were once again on the move. They had already traveled from Brooklyn to Albany, and then to Oneida Lake. Now, from Oswego Falls, it was time for the final, dangerous leg of the journey.

A land contingent paralleled the 19 American boats as they fairly sneaked up the eastern shoreline of Lake Ontario. At Sandy Creek, the boats were taken inland as far as possible while scouts checked ahead for the presence of British ships. It was a wise move, for the enemy was indeed lurking nearby. Shortly after, the British launched an attack, but in less than a half hour, the Americans had won a resounding victory known as the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.

Despite the win, it was deemed unsafe to risk sending the valued supplies any farther by water, lest they again fall under attack and be captured or destroyed by the British. Wagons, oxen, horses, and manpower were summoned, both from the military and from local residents. The plan now was to move the important supplies the remaining distance by land.

The bateaux (boats) were unloaded, and soon a lengthy caravan laden with guns, ship cables, and other supplies was on its way to Sackets Harbor, about 20 miles north. Only one item was yet to be moved—a length of rope, albeit an important one—and it presented a real problem.

This wasn’t just any length of rope. It was intended as the anchor line and/or rigging for the USS Superior, the huge new frigate that could alter the balance of power on the lake. That meant this was a BIG rope. Most descriptions portrayed it as 6 inches thick and 600 feet long, weighing in at just under 5 tons!

No cart was big enough to handle its tremendous size and weight, but if it wasn’t delivered, the Superior would remain port-bound, and the Brits would own the lake. Ingenuity often yields solutions at such critical moments, but sometimes good ol’ elbow grease is the answer. In this case, it was a combination of the two, but the emphasis was clearly on the physical.

A section of the rope (referred to as a cable) was piled on a cart, and the remaining cable was strung out along the trail. Militiamen heaved it to their shoulders, and like one gigantic, ponderous snake, the cable began moving slowly northward behind the cart.

There are various accounts of the trip, and claims as to the number of cable-carriers range from 84 to more than 200. Some say that discouraged men skipped out of the nasty job after a few hours, and that locals stepped in to literally shoulder the burden. None of the stories differ on one count, though: participants were left badly bruised from the incredibly difficult ordeal.

But, they did it! The cable arrived at Sackets Harbor on the afternoon of the second day. The tired men wore abrasions, cuts, and huge, deep-purple bruises as hard-earned badges of valor. At the close of their incredible 20-mile journey, “there was loud cheering the whole length of the cable,” as the men were greeted with music, drumming, flag-waving, and drink—and the princely sum of $2 each for their efforts.

They should have celebrated with a tug-of-war!

As soon as it was deemed seaworthy, the Superior turned the tables on the British, blockading their main shipyard at Kingston and helping establish American dominance of the lake. It was thanks in no small part to the “can-do” attitude exemplified by North Country pioneer folks.

Top Photo: Fort Ontario at Oswego.

Middle Photo: One of several plaques honoring the cable carriers.

Bottom Photo: Map of Lake Ontario sites.

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.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Picnic in the Park" at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum will celebrate National Picnic Month on July 10, 2010. Activities are planned from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. All are included in the price of general museum admission. Children twelve years of age and younger will be admitted FREE of charge as part of the festivities.

“Picnic in the Park” will include displays, tableaux, special presentations, music, a Teddy Bear’s Picnic just for kids, cookbook signings, demonstrations, menus, recipes, hands-on opportunities, and good food, as well as the museum’s new exhibit, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.”

Visitors are invited to bring their own picnic to enjoy on the grounds or purchase sandwiches, salads, beverages, and desserts in the Cafe. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the campus.

The event will showcase “Great Adirondack Picnics”. Ann S. O’Leary and Susan Rohrey will illustrate how the use of design and menu planning can create two Adirondack picnics. A Winter’s Repast, En Plein Air – an elegant New Year’s Eve celebration will be set in a lean-to. The Angler’s Compleat Picnic will feature local products in a scene reproduced from a vintage postcard. Both women will be available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to speak with visitors, and provide menus and recipes to take home.

To round out the elegant picnic theme, Chef Kevin McCarthy will provide an introduction to wines and offer tips on how to best pair wines with picnic foods. The presentations will be held at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Special presentations will be held in the museum’s Auditorium. Curator Hallie E. Bond will offer “Picnics Past in the Park” at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Varrick Chittenden, founder of Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY) will present “Good Food Served Right: North Country Food and Foodways” at 1:30 p.m.

In addition, Sally Longo, chef and owner of Aunt Sally’s Catering in Glens Falls, N.Y. will offer “Fun Foods for Picnicking with Kids” in the Mark W. Potter Education Center. “Savory Foods and Snacks” will begin at 11:30 p.m. “Sweet Treats and Desserts” will be presented at 3:00 p.m.

Museum visitors can create their own Adirondack picnic fare at home. From 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., regional cookbook authors will sign and sell their work in the Visitor Center. Participants include the Upper Saranac Lake Cookbook with Marsha Stanley; Good Food, Served Right, with Lynn Ekfelt; Northern Comfort with Annette Neilson; Stories, Food, Life with Ellen Rocco and Nancy Battaglia; and Recipes From Camp Trillium with author Louise Gaylord.

Tom Phillips, a Tupper Lake rustic furniture maker, will construct a traditional woven picnic basket in the Education Center from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Visitors will discover displays about “Picnics and Food Safety” as well as the many uses of maple syrup (recipes provided) with the Uihlein Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station staff.

Guided tours of the exhibit “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” are scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

Singer, songwriter, and arts educator Peggy Lynn will give a performance of traditional Adirondack folk music under the center-campus tent at 2:00 p.m.

The Museum Store will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., featuring a wide array of North Country-made food products as well as a special “farmer’s market.”


Monday, June 28, 2010

Local Power and Energy History: Windmill Déjà Vu

Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent.

Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region. Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails neared the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “ … a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below, and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595.00 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment, and when the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors, and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photo Top: Windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground).

Photo Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks.

Photo Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown.

Photo Bottom: Advertisement for Halladay’s company.

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.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Adirondack Museum Calls For Quilts

Do you have an exceptional bed quilt or pieced wall hanging that was made in, inspired by, or depicts the Adirondack region?

The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake is seeking quilts for “The Second Annual Great Adirondack Quilt Show” to be held from September 14 to October 17, 2010. The show will be part of the museum’s Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival and will complement the exhibit “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters.”

There will be two divisions in the show. Historic quilts (those made before 1970) can be of any theme or technique, but must have been made in the Adirondacks. Modern quilts (those made after 1970) should have a visible connection to the Adirondack region.

An eligible quilt might depict an Adirondack scene in appliqué or be composed of pieced blocks chosen because the pattern is reminiscent of the region – “Pine Tree,” Wild Goose Chase,” or “North Star,” for example.

A “People’s Choice” award will be presented to one quilt in each division.

Although the show will not be juried, applicants must complete a registration form prior to September 11, 2010. A statement by the maker is required to complete the application process. For additional information or to receive an application, please contact Hallie Bond via email at hebond@adkmuseum.org , by telephone at (518) 352-7311, ext. 105, or through the postal service at P.O. Box 99, Blue Mountain Lake, NY, 12812.

Photo: Winner of the “Best in Show” award at the quilt show held as part of the Adirondack Museum’s Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival on September 19, 2009. The quilt is “Poppies” and was made by Betty deHaas Walp of Johnsburg, New York, in 2006.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weibrecht’s Bronze Medal on Display in Lake Placid

The Lake Placid 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum has added another piece to its collection of artifacts from last February’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, Andrew Weibrecht’s men’s Super-G bronze medal.

“The medal was turned over for display and for safe keeping between appearances,” noted museum curator Liz Defazio. “It’s so nice for these athletes to have a place where they can share their accomplishments with others… sort of their home away from home.”

Weibrecht’s bronze medal helped spark the U.S. alpine ski team to a record eight medals in Vancouver. Overall, the U.S. Olympic squad celebrated its best Olympics ever, claiming the overall medal count with 37.

Nicknamed the “Warhorse” on the international alpine ski tour, Weibrecht began skiing at the age of five at Whiteface Mountain and began racing with the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) program by the time he was 10. He had only been on the World Cup circuit since 2006 and Vancouver was his first Olympic Winter Games.

There are quite a number of artifacts on display in the museum from the 2010 winter games donated by several of the 12 area athletes who competed, as well as coaches and officials. The artifacts include race gear, Opening Ceremony clothing, official U.S. Olympic team clothing, event tickets, programs and pins.

Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum features the largest collection of winter Olympic artifacts outside the International Olympic Committee’s museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Some of the artifacts include the first Winter Olympic medal awarded, gold in 1924 in Chamonix, France, to Lake Placid native and speedskater Charles Jewtraw, equipment worn by U.S. goalie Jim Craig during the 1980 winter games, parade clothing from the 1932 winter games, athletes participation medals and Olympic medals from every winter Olympics.

Admission to the museum is $6 for adults and $4 for juniors and seniors. Admission is also included when purchasing an Olympic Sites Passport. The Passport gives visitors access to each of ORDA’s Olympic venues—from Whiteface Mountain to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of our ticket offices, the Passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value. For more information about the Olympic Sites Passport, log on to http://www.whiteface.com/summer/plan/passport.php.

Photo: Andrew Weibrecht’s Super-G Bronze Medal. Courtesy 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Museum, Lake Placid, NY.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways Lecture

During the nineteenth century, a number of Adirondack Indians marketed their skill as hunters, guides, basket makers, doctors, and cooks.

On Monday, July 5, 2010 Dr. Marge Bruchac will offer a program entitled “Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways in the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Bruchac will focus attention on what might be a lesser-known Native skill – cooking.

The first offering of the season for the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Nineteenth century white tourists paid good money to purchase wild game from Native people, to hunt in their territories, to buy medicines and remedies, and to eat in restaurants or lodgings where Indians held sway in the kitchen.

Dr. Bruchac will highlight stories of individuals such as Pete Francis, notorious for hunting wild game and creating French cuisine; George Speck and Katie Wicks, both cooks at Moon’s Lake House and co-inventors of the potato chip; and Emma Camp Mead, proprietress of the Adirondack House, Indian Lake, N.Y., known for setting an exceptionally fine table.

Bruchac contends that these people, and others like them, actively purveyed and shaped the appetite for uniquely American foods steeped in Indigenous foodways.

The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park this year with a new exhibition, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit includes a 1915 photograph of Emma Mead as well as her hand-written recipes for “Green Tomato Pickles” and “Cranberry Puffs.”

Marge Bruchac, PhD, is a preeminent Abenaki historian. A scholar, performer, and historical consultant on the Abenaki and other Northeastern native peoples, Bruchac lectures and performs widely for schools, museums, and historical societies. Her 2006 book for children about the French and Indian War, Malian’s Song, was selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times and was the winner of the American Folklore Society’s Aesop Award.

Photo: Dr. Marge Bruchac


Friday, June 25, 2010

Warren County Sheriff Compiling Office’s History

In 1958, at the urging of Sheriff Carl McCoy, Warren County’s Board of Supervisors established a marine division within the Sheriff’s department, one of the first local marine patrols in New York State. The supervisors appropriated $5,661 to pay pay the salaries of deputies and to purchase one boat, a 23 foot Lyman utility, for patrolling Lake George.

A photo of that boat being driven by McCoy, reproduced here, will hang on the wall of Warren County’s new Public Safety building, along with other photos documenting the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Bud York has launched a drive to assemble and display material associated with the Sheriff’s department, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2013.

“I’ve always belonged to law enforcement agencies that valued their history, and the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department deserves to be preserved,” said York.

In 1911, York said, Undersheriff Mac R. Smith compiled photographs of the Sheriffs who had had served during the department’s first century.

“Those photos were hung on the walls of the Sheriffs Office in the court house in Lake George, where they remained until Warren County moved to the new municipal center in Queensbury,” York said.

After that, York said, the photos were stored in boxes. County historian John Austin located them and made them available to the Sheriff’s office, which reproduced them. They now hang in the new Public Safety building.

“Among them are Bert Lamb, a relative of Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover’s wife Kathy, Fred Smith, who founded F.R. Smith and Sons and Carl McCoy, the uncle of Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy,” York said at a press conference to announce the project earlier this week.

Frank McCoy attended the press conference, as did Bill Carboy, the son of Sheriff Bill Carboy, and former Sheriff Fred Lamy.

Because of the number of relatives of former Sheriffs still living in the area, York hopes that the public can help find photos of Sheriffs who are not represented on the wall.

Those former Sheriffs are: Henry Spencer, Jospeh Teft, Artemus Aldrich, James Thurman, Dudley Farin, James Cameron, Luther Brown, King Allen, Stephen Starbuck, Gideon Towsley, William Clothier, Edgar Baker, Truman Thomas and Robert Lilly.

Anyone with any information about any of these Sheriffs should contact Sheriff York at 743-2518.

Photo: Warren County Sheriff’s Department

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


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Let’s Eat: Adirondack Spring Water

The Adirondack Mountains have long been treasured for the healing properties of clean air, beautiful scenery, and sparkling water. The air and scenery could only be experienced in the Park itself, but water could be bottled and shipped elsewhere, and became a major export from the region during the 19th century.

Urban-dwelling New Yorkers in the late 1800s suffered from the effects of overcrowding, poor ventilation, summer heat, and the stresses of working a nine-to-five job. New ills like “dyspepsia” and “neuralgia” could be alleviated with a healthful escape to the Adirondack Mountains, where fresh air, exercise, and pure water would restore the weakest constitution to vigorous health.

For those who could not afford the time or cost of a summer in the mountains, bottled water from Adirondack springs was a more affordable alternative. Bottled water, some imported from overseas, was served in fine restaurants in New York City. Bottled from mineral springs, it often contained slight amounts of sodium bicarbonate, which could soothe an unsettled stomach. Bottled water was valued not only as an aid to digestion, but also for other perceived medical benefits.

In the early 1860s, the St. Regis Spring in Massena, New York, produced water advertised as a “curative for all affections [sic] of the Skin, Liver and Kidneys.” Harvey I. Cutting of Potsdam bottled and sold “Adirondack Ozonia Water,” the “world’s most hygienic water” from a spring “in the wildest portion of the Adirondack wilderness, far from the contaminations of human habitation” near Kildare in St. Lawrence County.

Cutting’s advertising included testimonials from satisfied customers. G.W. Schnull, a wholesale grocer in Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote in 1905, “I have used your Adirondack Ozonia Water for several months and find it to be the best water I have ever had. It acts on the kidneys and bowels in such a way as not to be annoying.” With typical Victorian hyperbole, the company touted the water’s “most excellent medicinal qualities,” claiming it cured hay fever, “congestion of the brain and prostate gland,” breast cancer, rheumatism, inflammation of the bladder, Bright’s disease, and “stomach troubles.”

By 1903, the Malone Farmer reported “an average of 1,500 gallons of Adirondack water is shipped from Lowville to Watertown each week. The water is sold in that city in three gallon cases at 15 cents per case.” In 1911, the Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat ran a story in the Farm and Garden column advocating “Water as a Crop,” as “a great many cities are complaining of the inferior quality of the water furnished by city waterworks.” Water wagons, bearing loads of spring water, were a common sight in many cities, and a “profitable trade in bottled water could be worked up at little cost to the farmer, provided, of course, they have never failing springs of pure water from which to supply the demand.”

A. Augustus Low (1843-1912), was a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and owner of the Horse Shoe Forestry Company in northern Hamilton County, near the center of the Adirondack Park. Low produced lumber, maple syrup, wine, and jams and jellies. In the 1880s, his company began exporting bottled water from the “Adirondack Mt’s Virgin Forest Springs.” In 1905, Low designed and patented a glass water bottle with heavy ribs near the neck that strengthened it, reducing breakage while in transit. The ribbing also made the bottles easier to grasp.

In 1908, Low’s Adirondack empire collapsed when a series of devastating forest fires burned through his Adirondack properties. The Adirondack Museum owns several objects relating to the Horse Shoe Forestry Company’s products, including one of Low’s spring water bottles and the patent he received for its design. Both are on exhibit in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions,” open in 2010 through October 18.


Photo: Bottle for spring water, Horse Shoe Forestry Company, 1903-1905.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dave Gibson: Remembering Paul Schaefer

I was privileged to know Paul Schaefer for nearly a decade at the close of his life. He was my early mentor in all things Adirondack. In 1987 I was fortunate to have been selected executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the organization Paul served as a Vice-President. Each Friday I would try to stop by his house to learn more about his and Adirondack history. John Warren’s piece about the Moose River Plains suggests the great influence Paul had in preventing the Plains from being flooded by the proposed Higley and Panther Mountain dams.

Among the highlights in my career was seeing Paul presented with the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award in 1994 – just one of many recognitions he received in 65 years of tireless, leading work for wilderness conditions in the Adirondacks.

For those who don’t know, Paul Schaefer’s coalitions not only preserved the Moose River Plains, but 30 other valleys from inundation by dams in the 1940s and 50s; saved the Upper Hudson River from four large dams in the 1960s, the largest of which would have flooded the valley all the way to Newcomb; and fought and achieved designated Wilderness and Wild, Scenic and Recreational River legislation in the 1970s, among many other achievements.

Paul Schaefer hunted white-tailed deer every fall in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area near his Adirondack cabin, a hunting club which he founded in 1931. He always credited the sportsmen and women of New York State, and their organized clubs united within the NYS Conservation Council, for providing legions of people who would stand up to save wild Adirondack habitat threatened by the dam builders, and to support wilderness preservation.

Joe Martens, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s Secretary for Energy and the Environment, called me one day in 1994 to give me advance notice that Paul Schaefer, then 85, would be receiving the Governor’s award, and asking for background. Joe knew Paul pretty well himself. It was decided to present the award as part of a well-attended conference we were sponsoring in honor of the Centennial of Article XIV of the NYS Constitution (known as the Forever Wild clause). The conference was to be held at the YMCA Silver Bay Conference Center on Lake George.

On the big day in early October, the conference was going full-tilt with speakers and panelists. Bob Bendick, then a DEC Deputy Commissioner, was in the middle of a presentation when we all heard the whop-whop-whop of a helicopter over by the lake. Everybody knew the Governor was arriving, and Bob understood it was pointless for him to continue. “I feel like the warm-up band to the Rolling Stones,” he told us, and everybody made for the doors. Out on the great lawn above Lake George stood the State chopper, blades still rotating. The Governor emerged with his small entourage and, surrounded, slowly made his way to Morse Hall where the award presentation would take place.

All were in their seats, chaos had given way to order, and introductions made. The mood was electric, the applause for the Governor resounding. His speech was pure Mario. Joe Martens had prepared him well. Departing frequently from his prepared remarks, the Governor humorously and eloquently painted a picture of Paul Schaefer and all he had contributed to the Adirondacks, to the wilderness of the great Empire State. The Governor also humorously reminded us that even those Republicans in the North Country who might be inclined to vote for him that fall would suffer a “palsy” when they reached for the Democratic lever.

When he was done, Cuomo asked Paul to join him on the podium to accept the award. All his life, Paul instinctively knew when to make a stand, and when to speak. A year earlier, in 1993, Paul rose to speak after Governor Cuomo during a bill signing ceremony on Lake Champlain. The audience had held its collective breath at this breach of protocol, but to Paul this was simply getting in critical points at the right moment – when they would be remembered.

Now, Paul took the stage to present Governor Cuomo with, of all things, a beaver gavel! Paul’s friend Ken Rimany had fashioned this for Paul, taking a beaver chew as the gavel’s head and fashioning it tightly onto a stick from a beaver dam, and then writing the words of Article 14 on the gavel’s head. Paul told the Governor how all his life he had admired the beaver, the state’s finest and sole wilderness engineer, and that only the beavers, meeting in secret, could have engineered this gavel for the Governor. Cuomo smiled but, not to be outdone, he responded “any beaver can make a beaver gavel, Paul, but only a Governor can present a Governor’s award.”

The exchange made, the Governor departed, leaving us to wonder about his political fate, and leaving Paul time to gather with some friends to tell tales and, as Paul was inclined to say, “add it all up.” It was Paul’s final award. He died on July 14, 1996 following surgery on a knee he had damaged decades earlier while investigating caves along the shores of the Upper Hudson River during his successful efforts to preserve the Hudson Gorge from flooding. He and his wife Carolyn are buried in the Keene Cemetery. His spirit has inspired all of us who knew him to continue his work and extend his legacy on behalf of the New York State Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

Photo: New York Governor Mario Cuomo presents the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award to Paul Schaefer in 1994.


Monday, June 21, 2010

World War Two Barrage Balloons in the Adirondacks

It’s the 1940s, and a world war is raging overseas. The fear of a homeland invasion is constant, and in communities across the nation, air wardens monitor the sky daily for enemy planes. The Adirondack Park seems like a safe haven, but just a few miles from its northwest corner, a military installation is suddenly called to action. A large aircraft has penetrated US air space, and ground damage is reported. Sheriff’s deputies, New York State police, military MPs, and foot troops spring into action.

It’s a great show of force, but it’s not enough. After several unsuccessful encounters with the vessel, reinforcements are needed. Corporal Boyd Montgomery of the 34th Armored Regiment is dispatched, speeding across the countryside in an Army tank. Power lines are downed by the aircraft, but Montgomery continues his pursuit. Two miles into the chase, he employs a bit of ingenuity to bring the craft down. It is now nothing more than a flattened heap.

That’s how it happened in July 1943. It’s all true, but with a few details omitted. The craft that was spotted actually was huge—75 feet long—and it did come from a foreign land—Canada (Kingston, Ontario). The damage was no less real, as a dangling cable tore down power lines between Evans Mills and Philadelphia in Jefferson County. Lawmen from several agencies did pursue the craft, but three times it slipped from their grasp.

The military installation was Pine Camp, later expanded and renamed Fort Drum. And, it was an Army tank that provided the solution, driving atop the 1800-foot-long cable after a two-mile chase, forcing the vessel to the ground until nothing was left but a flattened balloon.

That’s right … a balloon. But this wasn’t just any balloon. A staple of defense systems around the world, this was a Barrage Balloon. If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve probably seen them in photographs but didn’t realize what you were seeing at the time. Though they weren’t ever deployed in the Adirondacks, they did pay the area a few surprise visits during the war.

The primary use of Barrage Balloons was to prevent attacks by low-flying aircraft, and it was in WW II that they became ubiquitous. A heavy cable was used to tether the gas-filled balloons, and when hovering from a few hundred to 4,000 feet high, the effect was often deadly. Any dive-bombing aircraft had to avoid the cable tether, which could easily tear a wing off and cause the plane to crash. Besides negating low-level attacks, the balloons forced other planes to fly higher than intended on bombing runs, thus affecting their accuracy.

Many tethered balloons were flown simultaneously, and the result was multiplied when several additional cables were suspended from each balloon, providing a veritable curtain of protection from strafing aircraft. The Germans countered by equipping their planes with wing-mounted cable-cutting devices, and the British responded with explosive charges attached to many of the tethers, set to detonate on contact.

The balloon idea caught on in a big way in England, and was often used effectively. During one of the two major German onslaughts on London during the war, 278 Flying Bombs were intercepted by the balloons, surely saving many lives.

In summer 1941, British officers warned America that Nazi planes could fly at 20,000 feet and reach the US mainland within 12 hours, with no defense system to greet them. Months before the United States entered WW II, the Navy established two Barrage Balloon squadrons with more than 150 balloons. Intended to protect American fleet bases from air attacks, the balloon strategy was very popular for another reason: cost. Building a large coastal hangar involved an expenditure of $600,000; a more secure underground facility carried a price tag of $3 million; but each balloon cost only $9,500.

After the assault on Pearl Harbor, America employed an extensive balloon defense capability. Attacks were feared by the Germans on the east coast and by the Japanese on the west coast. San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle were among the cities protected in part by Barrage Balloons, along with Norfolk, Pensacola, and New York City in the east. Vital facilities in the Great Lakes were also shielded.

Many North Country men were assigned to Barrage Balloon outfits, and it was anything but a cushy job. Since troops as well as installations needed protection, balloon men were often among the first ashore, as was the case in several beach landings in Italy and North Africa. And, on D-Day, Barrage Balloons dotted the sky above the invasion fleet.

Back home in America, balloons occasionally broke free and floated towards the North Country, causing a bit of excitement. Sometimes rogue balloons escaped capture for extended periods (the Fort Drum balloon was loose for more than a week).

In March 1943, a hulking Barrage Balloon 65 feet long and 30 feet in diameter toured the Central Adirondacks for a time, damaging power lines before snagging in a balsam tree a few miles south of Indian Lake, where a crew of men managed to deflate it.

To raise public awareness of the war effort and relieve anxiety about the occasional balloon escapee, the military dispatched a road crew in an Army jeep with a smaller, 35-foot balloon strapped to the roof. In summer 1944 they visited Troy, New York. The craft was inflated and floated at 300 feet for an entire day while the men fielded questions. It was the same model as those used to defend the city of London and the beaches of Normandy.

Towards the end of the war, German capabilities of long-range attacks drastically reduced the effectiveness of the balloons, and in 1945, Britain ended their Barrage Balloon program, which at one time had upwards of 3,000 in use. The same was done with the US system, which once featured more than 400 balloons at home besides those deployed overseas.

Illustrations:

Barrage Balloon on the cover of LIFE magazine.

The training facility on Parris Island, South Carolina (1943).

Barrage Balloons above the Normandy shore (1944).

German plane equipped with a cable-cutting device.

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, June 21, 2010

Civilian Conservation Corps Reunions This Week

Reunions of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alumni, family, and friends, will be held at several locations this week, including in Franklin, Warren, Fulton, and Schenectady counties.

Marty Podskoch, CCC researcher, will give a short presentation and will invite participants to share memories of the camps at each of the events in anticipation of a forthcoming book on the CCC. You can check out his webpage here.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began on March 31, 1933 under President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to relieve the poverty and unemployment of the Depression. Camps were set up in many New York towns, state parks, & forests. Workers built trails, roads, campsites, dams, fire tower observer’s cabins & telephone lines; fought fires; stocked fish; and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in WW II.

Podskoch is a retired teacher and the author of five books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, two Adirondack fire tower books: Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore (volumes for the Southern and Northern Districts) and two other books, Adirondack Stories: Historical Sketches and Adirondack Stories II: Historical Sketches from his weekly illustrated newspaper column.

Podskoch is interested in meeting individuals who may have CCC stories to contribute to his next book. Marty Podskoch will have all of his books available after the presentation for sale and signing. For those unable to attend this reunion, Marty Podskoch has planned five other reunions:

June 22 6:30 pm Oneida Historical Society, 1608 Genesee St., Utica (315) 735-3642
June 23 6:30 pm Franklin Co. Hist. Society, 51 Milwaukee St. Malone (518) 483-2750
June 25 at the Schenectady County Historical Society, Schenectady, NY
June 26 1 pm Fulton Co. Hist. Society, 237 Kingsboro Ave., Gloversville (518) 725-8314
June 27 2 pm Bolton Landing Hist. Society, Bolton Free Library (518) 644-2233

If any one has information or pictures to share of relatives or friends who worked at one of the CCC camps, please contact Marty Podskoch at: 36 Waterhole Rd., Colchester, CT 06415 or 860-267-2442, or podskoch@comcast.net


Thursday, June 17, 2010

John Brown Lives! Honors Juneteenth With Event

June 19th commemorates “Juneteenth”, the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, and is observed in more than 30 states. It is also known as Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day. Join us in honoring “Juneteenth” with an author reception for Scott Christianson, author of the critically acclaimed book Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War (University of Illinois Press, 2010).

Scott will speak about the life and dramatic rescue of a captured fugitive slave from Virginia, Charles Nalle, who was liberated by Harriet Tubman and others in Troy, NY in 1860. » Continue Reading.


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).



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