Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Santa Claus Sam’s Adirondack Gift Giving

In 1930, Sam Coplon, the Santa Claus of the Adirondacks, was doing well financially but was by no means wealthy. The house he owned in Brooklyn was worth the equivalent of $230k in 2017, and served as home to his wife Rebecca, son Bertram (13), and daughter Judith (8), along with Rebecca’s mother and sister.

As he did each year, Samuel gathered a huge collection of Christmas gifts that winter and personally bore the cost of shipping them to North Creek. In previous seasons, this constituted upwards of 30 large crates or containers, a number that would soon increase. His employer and several of their clients donated toys and games at Sam’s behest, adding to the joy of children in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Santa Claus Sam’s North Creek Operations

Things appeared to be going well for Sam Coplon, the Santa Claus of the Adirondacks, but major change was in the works. Samuel had begun working as an Albany city clerk, limiting his ability to oversee the two business locations in Warren County. After spending several weeks at Johnsburgh in early 1910, he announced a going-out-of-business sale, offering all the hardware and furniture in his stores along with his horse, rig, and everything else related to operations there. By year’s end, most of the stock was gone. At Christmas time, he loaded a sleigh with toys and other gift items for delivery to homes across the area in what would become an annual tradition.

Years later, he recalled fondly the warm feelings generated by giving openly to beloved friends and neighbors, recognizing that many families, some of them quite large, struggled financially, and that even small luxuries were rarities in their lives. His remedy was to provide toys and games as Christmas gifts to show that someone cared.

In January 1911, he offered special closeout deals to folks in the Johnsburgh area before shuttering both business locations. For the remainder of the year, he made visits of several days each to the homes of friends in Johnsburgh, Bakers Mills, and Garnet, tended to his summer home, and made the gift-giving rounds again at Christmas. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Lake Champlain Naval History Program At Fort Ti

redoubts and batteries at Ticonderoga on Lake ChamplainFort Ticonderoga’s “Fort Fever Series” begins on Sunday, January 7, at 2 pm with “Vigilance and Discipline to be Observed through all the Vessels” presented by Nicholas Spadone, Director of Interpretation.

Fort Ticonderoga’s military history in the American Revolution extends well beyond just the land. Strategy and tactics were developed to command Lake Champlain and Lake George. British Royal Navy vessels on Lake Champlain demonstrate the strength and extent needed to attack American-held Ticonderoga as well as supply and defend Ticonderoga during British occupation. This presentation will include the design, construction, and legacy of the British Royal Navy vessels on Lake Champlain between 1775 and 1781. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Sam Coplon: Santa Claus of the Adirondacks

The collection of letters to Santa that appeared in this space last week epitomized life in the rural regions of northern New York a century ago. At Christmastime, children from families living a common, low-income existence asked Santa for the simplest of items: a pencil and notepad, candy and nuts, or clothing to keep them warm in the winter. Toys and playthings were often secondary requests if they appeared at all.

But the simple desires from long ago reflected something other than just poverty. A good number of rural folks were self-sufficient, and all family members, even young children, took part in the daily chores of life: working the fields and garden, milking cows, collecting eggs, adding logs to the fire, and so on. An early understanding of the effort behind daily sustenance was evident in children’s annual humble Christmas yearnings for pencils, books, and treats for the tummy, suggesting an appreciation for things in general, and gifts in particular.

Among those who came to the Adirondacks and developed a deep admiration for this rustic lifestyle was Samuel Coplon, who embraced the people, reciprocated their generosity, and in time became a nationally known hero of North Country Christmases, earning him the title Santa Claus of the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

NYS Loses Its Historical Association; Long Had Ties Locally

fenimore art museum

We recently learned that the New York State Historical Association, which has played a key role in protecting New York’s historic sites and artifacts for more than a century, is now defunct, having officially been absorbed by the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown. It is safe to assume that the museum will not retain the Association’s mission, that of promoting and preserving history throughout New York State.

Lake George residents have a special interest in the former Association, in part because it was founded on Lake George in 1899, met annually at the Fort William Henry Hotel and counted residents like John Boulton Simpson among its first trustees. It also had its first permanent headquarters in Ticonderoga’s Hancock House, built specifically for that purpose by Horace A. Moses in 1926.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2018 Ticonderoga Fort Fever Series Schedule Announced

Sarah Pell leading President Taft on a tour of the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga on July 6, 1909. Fort Ticonderoga’s “Fort Fever Series” will begin in January and run through April 2018. The lecture series will be held on Sunday afternoons at 2 pm in the Mars Education Center. Tickets are $12 per person and can be purchased at the door; Fort Ticonderoga Members and Ambassador Pass holders are admitted free of cost. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 4, 2017

North Country Crime and Justice: Adolphus Bouvia’s Murderer

Frank “Pork” Lafave, whom accused murder John Kinney said actually committed the horrific murder of Adolphus Bouvia, testified that he had been in Chazy for two months, a fact confirmed by his hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Eaton. In rebuttal, the defense called William Laforce, an inmate in the county jail. Laforce was facing two charges of horse theft, which may have reduced his credibility as a witness. He claimed that during Frank Lafave’s visit to the jail, Laforce had overheard him admitting the crime and promising revenge on John Kinney for being a snitch. According to Laforce, the comment was, “Kinney, I killed old Bouvia and gave you ninety dollars.” Then, on his way out, Lafave added, “John, you squealed on me, and I will get even with you yet.”

Another inmate, Robert Morrison, was re-called to the stand after testifying earlier about letters he had supposedly written on behalf of Kinney. The DA pressed Morrison to admit that he had been paid by the defense to testify. At that point, attorney John E. Judge took the stand briefly, explaining that, just six hours earlier (at 3 am), he had been dispatched to locate Morrison in Burke, a Franklin County village about forty-five miles west of Plattsburgh. Morrison was informed he would be paid fifty dollars by the county for appearing in court later that morning. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

New Book: Saving the Shawangunks

saving the shawangunksCarleton Mabee’s new book Saving the Shawangunk: The Struggle to Protect One of Earth’s Last Great Places (Black Dome Press, 2017) with foreword by Cara Lee of The Nature Conservancy takes a look at the grassroots fight to stop the construction of a 400-room hotel/conference center and 500 condominiums around Lake Minnewaska in New York State’s Shawangunk Mountains in the 1980s.

The authors argue that these efforts were a landmark victory for Hudson Valley environmentalists and became a blueprint for subsequent struggles to preserve open space against encroaching development. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Murder of Adolphus Bouvia

George Lashway, murder suspect John Kinney’s father-in-law, testified that John didn’t support his family adequately (he and his young wife had three children), so Lashway was obliged to take care of them. In deep poverty and with nowhere to go, the family had recently moved into George’s home.

Lashway then told about an unusual incident involving his son-in-law. Kinney had asked to be awakened at 3 am on Wednesday, December 29, so he could go to his home (near Bouvia’s) and start a fire in the fireplace. When George went out to feed the horses at 6:30 that morning, he encountered Kinney, who said he had fallen asleep for a few hours after starting the fire. That absence identified a window of opportunity for Kinney to have committed the crime. Lashway also identified the gun that Kinney had borrowed for so long from George Trudeau, and had returned on January 2. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Rap Shaw Club’s 1925 Hunting Accident

rap shaw club club houseIn early October of 1925 about a dozen members and guests of the Rap-Shaw Club, hailing from Buffalo, Rochester and Elmira – plus an unlucky guest from Hartford, CT named William C. Roach – gathered at their Beaverdam Pond camp for deer hunting.

The camp was located deep in the forest about six miles north of the Beaver River along the western edge of Nehasane Preserve. Since 1917 the club had rented ten acres on the pond from the Webb family. They had a spacious clubhouse, four cabins and a number of outbuildings.

Every year since the club was founded back in 1896 deer hunting was under the direction of a local guide named Jimmy Wilder. He was a young man when he was first hired as a guide for Rap-Shaw Club. Now he was a 55-year-old experienced woodsman. The members of the Club liked the hard working but soft spoken Wilder. He was short, strong, and ordinary looking. Most importantly, he knew the Beaver River country so well he could walk the woods on a moonless night without a light. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanks For Giving

If the Pilgrims had only known what a big deal Thanksgiving was going to become in America they would undoubtedly have taken some pictures. Even the menu has been lost to us, although Wampanoag oral history, plus a few Pilgrim grocery receipts found at archeological sites, suggest there was corn, beans and squash as well as fowl and venison. Beyond that there may have been chestnuts, sun chokes (“Jerusalem” artichokes), cranberries and a variety of seafood.

Many historians believe the Pilgrims would have all perished during the winter of 1620 if not for food provided by the Wampanoags, whose land they appropriated. In the spring of 1621, Wampanoags gave the Pilgrims crop seeds, as well as a tutorial (possibly an App; we can’t be sure) on the production, storage and preservation of food crops such as corn, beans, and squash. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lumber Camp Cook Adolphus Bouvia’s 1909 Murder

A century ago, it was common during the Christmas holidays for North Country lumber camps to empty, at least briefly. In 1909, in far northeastern New York, the men of Altona in Clinton County enjoyed a welcome break after several weeks in the woods.

Near the settlement of Purdy’s Mills, the camp cook, Adolphus Bouvia, closed down operations on December 23. Widowed a year earlier, he planned to return home and spend time with family, friends, and neighbors, some of whom worked with him on the lumber jobs. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Trailblazer: David Kanietakeron Fadden

Storytelling — stories about Native American history as told by the people who lived it and not the abridged school textbook version — is part of Dave Kanietakeron Fadden’s makeup, his DNA. He is Mohawk.

Read more about how the Six Nations Indian Museum began

More about Dave

Though he’d never in his life addressed a group, Fadden went ahead and listed “storyteller” on his resume when applying for a position as an educator for the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, NY, in 1993. He got the job, and his first talk was to a busload of sixty third-graders. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 13, 2017

North Country ‘Birdstones’: Mysterious Ancient Relics

Early Northern New York history goes far beyond the bounds of stories of pioneer families and colorful guides. As archaeologists like to say, the Western Hemisphere was invaded, not discovered. Many different societies, civilizations, or cultures existed here long before Europeans crossed the ocean and discovered “new” lands.

The history of humans in the Americas is extensive. In general (and brief) terms, the Lithic stage ended about 8,000 BCE (10,000 years ago), followed by the Archaic stage, (ending around 1,000 BCE or 3,000 years ago), and then the Woodland Period, which extended to around the year 1500.  I mention this because certain North Country artifacts written about by scholars more than 100 years ago, were created during the Late Archaic or Early Woodland period, about three thousand years ago. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Conservation History: Northwest Bay, Lake George

loines preserveLands above Northwest Bay acquired by Stephen and Mary Loines between 1898 and 1908 – in part to protect them from the same destructive forces that threatened the Adirondacks – and which were sold to private landowners over the ensuing decades, are now largely protected again, this time permanently, thanks to land conservancies and New York State.

That’s something Tim Barnett recognized last spring, when the Lake George Land Conservancy announced that it had purchased a 159 acre parcel that includes Wing Pond “This would appear to complete a four decade- long project to protect the Loines holdings,” remarked Barnett, the first director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and a founder of the Lake George Land Conservancy. » Continue Reading.



Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.

Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.