Monday, January 4, 2016

A Historic Defeat For Forest Preserve Exploiters

old white pine that would have been flooded by the Higley Mtn Dam. The tree, while dead, still stands today. It takes more than 4 people to put their arms around it.During his years as a senior advisor to many younger Adirondack conservationists, Paul Schaefer told some interesting stories. He witnessed the following incident in the New York State Legislature in 1953, when he was about 45-years-old, at the height of his effectiveness as a conservation organizer. The following story is about passage of what was called the Ostrander Amendment, an amendment to Article 14, Section 1 – the “forever wild clause” – of the New York State Constitution.

In 1953, the Ostrander Amendment had been twice passed by the State Assembly and the bill was on the floor of the State Senate, then being chaired by Lieutenant Governor Frank Moore. The Clerk of the Senate began to read the bill when a State Senator came up to the Lt. Governor’s desk, grabbed the bill from the Clerk, and quickly left the Senate Chamber. The Lt. Governor sent one of his aides after him and as the aide rushed out of the Senate chamber, he saw the Senator headed into a washroom. Following him, the aide found the State Senator about to flush the bill down the toilet. The aide, a big man, grabs the Senator by the collar, snatches the bill from his grasp and takes it back to the Senate Chamber and hands it back to the Lt. Governor, who said, according to Paul, “the next man who tries to take this bill I will personally hit with this gavel.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 28, 2015

A North Country Doctor Provides the Breath of Life

IsaacPatchenOf the many great stories about old country doctors, one of my favorites happened in the North Country just a few minutes south of Plattsburgh. The doctor’s name was Isaac Hutinac Patchen. His grandfather, Claude Hutinac, married a woman whose surname was Patchen. Their son, Stephen (Isaac’s father), fought in five Revolutionary War battles and endured the terrible suffering at Valley Forge. Following the war, he assumed his mother’s surname, and family members henceforth were known as Patchens.

Isaac Patchen was born around 1793, and at age 20 he began medical training. At the time, he lived in Vermont’s Lake Champlain Islands and in northern New York, where war was affecting locals on both sides of the lake. On September 11, 1814, during the Battle of Plattsburgh, he joined a militia force and volunteered to pursue fleeing enemy soldiers. More than twenty men were captured, and years later, Isaac received a land grant of 160 acres in return for a job well done. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Harrietstown Votes To Save The Rails

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)The Harrietstown Town Board voted Thursday night in favor of keeping the local railroad tracks in place, but it’s uncertain what effect the resolution will have on a state proposal to remove the tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

On a motion by Councilman Howard Riley, the board voted 4-0 to support keeping the tracks. The resolution says the rail line provides “a positive impact on the area.”

Harrietstown includes the village of Saranac Lake, whose depot is used by two local businesses: Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which runs tourist trains to and from Lake Placid, and Rail Explorers USA, which runs pedal-power excursions to and from Lake Clear.

Rail Explorers, which began operations in July, says it attracted almost 15,000 riders in its first season, which ended in the fall. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pro Tip: Don’t Drive Big Rigs On Snowmobile Trails

Tractor Trailor on harrisburg Road Adirondacks - Photo by Charles SeveranceThis week we mark a strange anniversary.

On December 15, 1973, Canadian Charbot Germain attempted to drive his tractor-trailer from Stony Creek to Utica on a snowmobile trail. It didn’t go well.

It started out as tales of lost Adirondack visitors often do, with directions from a local. It was suggested that Germain could shorten his trip by taking Route 8 from the Northway toward North Creek. He found himself instead in Stony Creek, headed down the rough Harrisburg Road in the dark. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Great Camp Santanoni Wins NYS Preservation Award

Great Camp Gate House SantanoniCamp Santanoni, the National Historic Landmark Great Camp in Newcomb, is the recipient of a 2015 New York State Historic Preservation Award from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Three organizations that have worked together to preserve it – Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), the Town of Newcomb, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – accepted the award at a recent ceremony at the State Capitol.

The annual New York State Historic Preservation Awards honor excellence in the preservation and revitalization of New York’s historic and cultural resources. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Bear Grease: Adirondack Slickum

BearGreaseRicksTrivia question #1: Can you identify the source of the following song lyrics snippet?

“Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, come be my loving girl; Don’t you marry Lester Flatt, He slicks his hair with possum fat, Change your name to Mrs. Earl Scruggs.”

Trivia question #2: What is the term applied to doilies that once appeared so often on the backs of chairs and sofas? (Or for you old-timers, on the backs of davenports.) Trivia question #3: What was the purpose of those doilies?

The three questions and two of the answers are tenuously related to last week’s piece on Allen’s famous bear fight up in Keene, and are linked to a world-famous product that was widely touted for preventing baldness, restoring hair growth, softening leather, cooking, hair styling, predicting the weather, thwarting attacks by all manner of biting insects, preventing frostbite, treating and healing skin injuries, sealing out the elements, and a bunch of other uses. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Allen’s Bear Fight Up in Keene

SketchFromPaintingIf you love Adirondack legend and lore, you’ll love this gem of a poem that first appeared in 1846. Since then it has appeared in print several times, often with revisions, and with the removal of certain stanzas. It’s the exciting story of a man-versus-bear encounter. The man was Anson Allen, whose colorful past included a fifteen-year stint as owner/editor of the Keeseville Herald, the village’s first newspaper. After moving to Westport in the early 1840s, he edited the Essex Co. Times and Westport Herald for four years.

He later published a monthly titled The Old Settler, covering stories and reminiscences from the region’s earliest history. The paper literally defined him, for Allen became known widely as “the old settler.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Tidy Scam: Cats + Rats = Profits

1936CatRanchHdlineIf you’re obsessed with cats, you might not find what follows very funny – but I thought it was pretty amusing, and I’ve been owned by cats before. It has to do with a very efficient business plan offered periodically to folks around the country, including the readers of several North Country newspapers. Entrepreneurs sought financing for a slam-dunk proposal, the 1918 version of which targeted northern New York investors for a company based in Ontario.

The plan was to establish a Cat Ranch to supply furs for market. Clothing made from cat pelts?! Decidedly insensitive in modern times, but not so unusual when a single advertisement of the day in the Ogdensburg Republican-Journal offered coats using skins from beaver, seal, raccoon, muskrat, opossum, marmot (woodchuck), caracul (sheep), viscasha (chinchilla), fox, mink, skunk, panther, calf, and gray squirrel. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Gooley To Speak On Dannemora Prison History

Escape From DannemoraThe Clinton County Historical Association will host longtime Adirondack Almanack contributor and award winning local author Lawrence Gooley on Monday, December 7.

The program will begin with a 7 pm presentation, “Escape From Dannemora: Breakouts, Tortures, and Violence in Clinton Prison’s Past” featuring an overview of Clinton Prison’s history including details of numerous escapes and attempts, routine punishments and profiles of famous and infamous inmates. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Gold Cup Race Boats of A.L. Judson

The Whip-Po-Will - Lake George Mirror File PhotoAfter Gar Wood won the 1915 Gold Cup Race on Long Island and carried the cup home to Detroit, A.L. Judson said, “I’m going to bring the Gold Cup back east. That’s where it belongs.” Judson meant that it belonged on Lake George.

A president of the American Power Boat Association (APBA) and a commodore of the Lake George Regatta, the sponsor of the lake’s first motor boat races on the lake, Judson is, nevertheless, a relatively obscure figure. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Chapman Museum Celebrates 50 Years

Mayor Donnelly, Ralph Lapham, Frank Morey 1967This year the Glens Falls – Queensbury Historical Association, which operates the Chapman Museum, celebrates its founding 50 years ago.  To kick off the occasion the museum will host a free open house on Saturday, December 5, from 10 am to 4 pm, and a special reception Saturday evening from 5 to 7:30 pm for members and other supporters.  Guests are also invited to explore the Holiday Display in the historic DeLong House, which this year will feature a 1912 Christmas. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 23, 2015

William Anderson: Troy Newspaperman, Adirondack Booster

GraftonFreshAirHomeAt the age of fifteen, William Anderson of Troy was a busy boy. Besides working as a messenger for the common council and handling desk clerk duties at a local library, he had toiled as a newsboy for the Troy Times since he was twelve years old. Newsboys were once a critical part of operations for most newspapers. Instead of being hired, they were independent, which was good for the newspapers but not so good for the boys. They purchased papers and hawked them on the streets, earning a tiny amount of profit for each one sold, and taking the hit for papers that went unsold. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Lake George Steam Whistle Recalls A Bygone Era

Lake George - The Adirondac - Lake George Mirror File PhotoFor some folks, the bright notes they hear whenever Shoreline Cruises’ Adirondac circles Bolton Bay have a familiar ring.

That’s because they’re piped from an old fashioned brass steam whistle that once belonged to the Pamelaine, the private steamboat of Bolton Landing’s own Mason ‘Doc’ Saunders.

The Adirondac’s pilots blow the whistle in honor of Saunders, who died in 2006. Back in the day, that is, in the 1960s and 70s,  Lake George experienced something of a steamboat revival, and Mason Saunders quickly became its ringmaster. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Comments Sought On APA’s Rail-Trail Plan Review

NYC Railroad from Lake Clear LodgeThe Adirondack Park Agency (APA), at its November board meeting, announced a public comment period for Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance regarding proposals from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to amend the 1996 Remsen – Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan (1996 Plan).

APA will accept Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance comments until December 18, 2015» Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Forest Ranger History Is Rooted In The Forest Preserve

11037634_10205087400337684_4617104302708756954_nMost people think of today’s Forest Rangers as the stewards of the Forest Preserve and experts in wildland firefighting and search and rescue. The Rangers share their origins with the Forest Preserve itself. The decal on the side of a Forest Ranger vehicle states “serving since 1885.”

It was in May of that year that Governor David B. Hill signed into law Chapter 283, which authorized the appointment of a wildland fire fighting force called Fire Wardens. These men, according to their appointment, would “take charge of” and “direct the work necessary for extinguishing” fires that occurred in their assigned areas. Fire Wardens were generally only paid when involved in actual suppression but they did have some police-like powers with respect to fire and establishing a fire fighting force. Their official warrant stated, “All persons in the territory, whom you may order to render you such assistance, are required by law, to obey your order, and any person who may refuse to act in obedience to your order is, by statute, liable to a fine of not less than five nor more than twenty dollars.” » Continue Reading.