The Adirondack History Center continues its weekly summer lecture series at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening, August 5th, at the museum in Elizabethtown.
“Building Lake Placid’s Sports Culture” will be presented by Lake Placid and Olympic sports researcher Jim Rogers, a resident of Lake Placid.
“Lake Placid has a long and noble tradition within the world of winter sports,” said Director Diane O’Connor. “The area has a remarkable reputation as an incubator for winter Olympians and outdoor sports enthusiasts. This culture continues to influence both the history as well as the economy of the Adirondacks.” » Continue Reading.
On Saturday July 19th, several people around the Lake Placid Airport witnessed the final moments of a small plane as it attempted a landing. The single-engine Mooney may have stalled, spiraling 200 feet to the ground before bursting into flames. It will be some time before the NTSB releases its findings. Investigators have already been to the scene and the plane has been removed from the crash site, just 40 feet from the River Road. This tragic event that took the lives of three people drew comparisons to a crash that occurred in the same vicinity 25 years ago.
On the March 1, 1989, pilot Paul Ffield departed from the Lake Clear airport for a very short flight to the Lake Placid airport in his twin engine Beech Baron N1729Q. He was forced to abort a landing at Lake Placid, just as happened last week, but in this case the cause was poor weather. It was believed Mr. Ffield turned to the south but no other landing attempt was observed. Lake Placid Airport manager and pilot Steve Short went airborne just a couple hours later to look for the plane. He returned without success, finding no sign of the plane or an Emergency Locating Transmitter (ELT) signal. » Continue Reading.
In 1896, New York City resident Prestonia Mann purchased an Adirondack estate in Keene and set about to create a summer community based on the 1840s Massachusetts Transcendentalist utopian experiment, Brook Farm. She sent an invitation to her circle of acquaintances – mostly progressive social reformers and educators – describing the place she named Summer Brook in homage to the earlier colony:
It includes a large common hall, a cottage, and about twenty acres of land traversed by a fine trout brook. The region—at the northern end of Keene Valley—is in the noblest part of the great wilderness. The land lies 2,000 feet above the sea, upon a small plateau jutting out from among the foot-hills of Mount Hurricane, in the midst of wild and rugged scenery, commanding a splendid mountain range from Whiteface on the north to Tahawus on the south.
Unfortunately, a hotel upstream, The Willey House, was dumping all of their raw sewage into the same “fine trout brook”, known as Gulf Brook. » Continue Reading.
Rollin O. Sanford died on July 29, 1864 while a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. His only son, Rollin J, was born that very same day in Hopkinton NY, twelve hundred miles to the north, in what is now the Adirondack Park. While there are countless stories of tragedy and heartache that occurred during the Civil War, this story seemed especially poignant, since it involved our family.
Rollin O. Sanford, described as a large and powerful man, was the tenth child and youngest son of Jonah and Abigail Greene Sanford. He was a farmer in Hopkinton, married to Ermina Roberts, with whom he had two daughters, Lillian and Jeanette. “Nettie”, the younger daughter, died in November 1863 at age two, one month before Rollin went off to war. Years later Lillian wrote about the death of her little sister and how her father “held Nettie in his arms as her little life went out”. » Continue Reading.
During ex-President Benjamin Harrison’s first summer stay in 1895 at Dodd’s Camp, he gave a rare public address commemorating the raising of a new 112 foot flagstaff holding an 18 x 24 foot flag. This address, given on a rainy July 27, 1895 afternoon, was later printed in the Lowville Journal & Republican. Though the language is somewhat dated, its sentiments are just as inspirational today when we consider the struggles our diverse republic faces as a free nation.
Place yourself on the Old Forge dock facing, perhaps in the Forge Motel direction, and imagine a rainy day (not too difficult), a large flag and a former President with a long historical family tradition. Listen as Benjamin Harrison rises to speak…Oh, an interruption as Riley Parsons gets the crowd to give a “tiger” cheer. Then Harrison speaks, without the benefits of a wireless microphone… » Continue Reading.
On a warm September day in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed what is now recognized as one of the most significant legislative acts in American environmental history. This was the national Wilderness Act. Before then, federal lands, even those protected as national parks or national forests were expected to serve a variety of functions. The national forests, for example, permitted logging, mining, and grazing. The national parks were often centered on opulent hotels and other all-too-civilized amenities. The idea of setting aside part of the public domain as wilderness, even though this word was and is difficult to define, was radical then, and it remains controversial today. It was a monumental step, and its roots lie in the Adirondacks.
How European-Americans have thought about this amorphous thing we call wilderness has been a complicated, often torturous story. (How Native Americans navigated these shoals is another story altogether, but their views have seldom if ever been consulted as this country has gone about the process of setting land-use policy.) If we go back far enough, we find a pervasive hostility to what many of us now treasure. In 1620, for example, the Pilgrim William Bradford contemplated the forests of eastern Massachusetts, which seemed to stand between his band of cold and hungry settlers and any sort of security, and declared despairingly that nothing lay before them other than “a hideous and desolate wilderness.” Wilderness, in other words, was the enemy. If these people expected to survive, let alone prosper, the wilderness had to be eliminated as soon as possible. » Continue Reading.
Just when I think I have learned all of the origins and instigators for the building of the Raquette Lake Railroad during 1899, I find a new participant.
I have read of Collis Huntington’s impatience with the inefficiencies of the Fulton Chain steamers and stages from Old Forge’s transportation monopoly’s companies, his sitting on a keg of nails during a long wait. Also, that his wife refused to visit him at Pine Knot until this builder of the transcontinental railroad built a railroad to their camp. Dr. William Seward Webb did plan in 1892 on a road from Clearwater to Raquette Lake. Later, the Raquette Lake Railroad would use the two mile lumber railroad built in 1897-1898 by John Dix to Rondaxe Lake as the beginning of this road’s route.
In the Harold Hochschild private history Township 34 excerpt published by the Adirondack Museum, we learn that William West Durant determined that the Delaware & Hudson Company would not be extending his father’s line past North Creek. This meant that Dr. Webb’s line built in 1892 would be the only railroad available to connect Raquette and Blue Mountain Lakes to major population centers. Hochschild wrote that it was Durant who thought a railroad should be built connecting with the New York Central and that, lacking the funds to do so, Durant interested Collis Huntington in the project. » Continue Reading.
It’s time for another installment of what I call “Oops Moments” from the North Country’s past—incidents that resulted in unforeseen consequences (but in many cases should have been foreseen). I enjoy collecting these because of the humor involved: most of them will either make us laugh or leave us shaking our heads in wonder.
The first takes us back to 1899 Ogdensburg and involves an important part of the region’s past: ice harvesting. In early February, it was noted that several parties had begun cutting ice from the St. Lawrence River in front of Spaulding Boat Works. Perhaps a little more thought should have gone into choosing where to cut, for it was also noted that the ice being harvested was not fit for use as drinking water. It came from “the direct line with sewer drain from the boat works, and is very likely filled with sewer contamination.” Hmm … could Ogdensburg be the originator of novelty ice cubes? » Continue Reading.
Our family has two large metal boxes filled with George Hornell Thacher’s handwritten letters. We are fortunate to have three letters written from the Thacher “Camp” on Indian Point on Raquette Lake.
George Hornell Thacher’s correspondence to his son George Jr. dated August 7, 1881 is a unique piece of history. He references a tragic affair which became the talk of the major NY newspapers
Camp, Aug. 7th, 1881 Dear George,
My health is about as usual. Nothing new here of importance except the recapture of Parker yesterday, the desperado, the man who outraged a lady on the carry between Forked and Long Lakes. He was arrested at Lowville while fleeing to Canada and taken back to Long Lake where he got away from the constable. Yesterday the same officer overhauled him on Forked Lake near the outlet, shot and broke his arm and recaptured him. The lady was a sister of the wife of U.S. Senator Platt of Connecticut. Parker was a newcomer here and took up the business of guiding. He was guiding her to Long Lake and perpetrated the deed near Butter Milk Falls.
P.S. Parker was shot through the arm and breast. The Doctor says he will die probably before night. The way of the transgressor is hard. 10 A.M.
The Troy Press said, “Probably no event occurring in the Adirondack region has caused as much comment and excitement as the crime that is attributed to Charles Parker.” » Continue Reading.
I have noticed some opinions floating through the media lately calling into question the extent to which the Adirondacks really qualify as a wilderness.
As I write this, on July 10th, a sad and sobering anniversary has arrived. Then in September we will mark the seventieth anniversary of another tragedy, one of many plane crashes that have occurred in the park, this one remarkable for the longevity of its mystery. Both anniversaries remind me just how formidable a wilderness the Adirondack region really is. » Continue Reading.
At the stockholders and directors meetings of the Old Forge Company held in December, 1900 at Little Falls were Dr. Alexander Crosby, Judson J. Gilbert, Homer P. Snyder and Eugene Arthur, representing 90% of the Company’s shares. Snyder was elected vice-president and Nelson R. Gilbert was continued as treasurer, a position held since 1896.
For the first time since its founding, the Company elected a new president, Dr. Alexander Crosby, replacing Samuel Garmon, and a new secretary, Eugene A. Arthur, replacing Hadley Jones. Eugene Arthur was appointed to handle land contracts for a salary plus expenses. According to Charles Snyder, “the members of these companies have gotten into a row among themselves and that only one or two of them are financially capable of seeing things through.” » Continue Reading.
After several years of public debate, the state has decided to consider tearing up the tracks and establishing a bike trail in at least part of a 90-mile rail corridor that cuts through the heart of the Adirondack wilderness.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation announced today that they would reopen the management plan for the corridor and look at establishing a recreational trail in the 34 miles between the villages of Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. In addition, the state will examine the possibility of expanding rail service on the rest of the line between Tupper Lake and Old Forge.
“Our goal is to protect our natural resources, while also exploring ways to increase opportunities for people to enjoy outdoor recreation activities in the Adirondacks,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a news release. “We recognize that the future of the Remsen-to-Lake Placid Travel Corridor is important to local residents, communities, and the regional economy.”
The Adirondack History Center Museum kicks off its 2014 Summer Lecture Series at 7 p.m. tonight, July 8th, as Professor Richard Robbins presents “The Anthropology of Holidays and Amusement: An Introduction to the Birth of Vacations and the Growth of Pleasure Palaces.”
Robbins will place Adirondack theme parks, such as Land of Make-believe, Frontier Town and the North Pole in both a historical and cultural context and examine how theme parks originated, how they fit into the evolution of popular culture, and where they fit in the history of the idea of “vacations.” The heyday of these regional attractions in the mid-20th century is an important part of Adirondack history and an emphasis for the Museum’s summer exhibition on “Arto Monaco and the Land of Makebelieve.” » Continue Reading.
A striking old black and white photograph of a Forest Ranger posted on the NYSDEC Twitter feed recently caught my attention and captivated my imagination. The tweet read “Ranger w/pack basket putting up Canoe Carry Trail sign. Raquette Falls in the (Adirondacks) 1949.”
The ranger had a striking pose, wearing a Stetson, boots tightly laced half way to his knees. The ranger’s face was hidden from view, not surprising for a profession, that – especially then – toiled in the outdoors, their daily routine invisible to the public. I quickly tweeted back “Do you know who that is?” Unfortunately no one did. » Continue Reading.
John Pierpont Morgan owned Camp Uncas. To reach the railroad connection for his Manhattan headquarters, he faced two options, neither to his liking. He could race his team up Durant’s new road from Uncas, passed the Seventh-Eighth Lake Carry, reached the Sucker Brook Bay Road (now Uncas Road) and turned left for Eagle Bay to hopefully meet the scheduled Crosby Transportation Company steamer. Then he transferred in Old Forge to the Fulton Chain Railroad terminus for the two mile spur to Fulton Chain Station. Instead of going to Eagle Bay, he could have continued north about a mile from Eagle Bay and followed the Durant trail past Cascade Mountain to connect with the road from Big Moose Lake and meet the railroad at Big Moose Station.
Collis P. Huntington owned Pine Knot on Raquette Lake. I do not know if he ever sat on a keg of nails on a Company steamer to Eagle Bay as some suggest, but he wrote about his experiences on the tedious series of stages, carries and small steamers necessary to travel from Fourth Lake to Brown’s Tract Inlet, crossing the road from Camp Uncas used by Morgan.
But Morgan and Huntington knew that travelers deserved a faster and cheaper way to reach the North Woods. In Huntington’s words, “It is a health resort for the rich and poor, for in these forests may be found the castle, the cabin and the tent, and the inmates of these forests share alike in the life-giving air of the woods”. » Continue Reading.
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