Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Taking Down a Bear with a Knife on Haystack Mountain

From my research on the history of Mount Matumbla:

The December 16, 1936 edition of the “Plattsburgh Daily Press” gave a riveting report of two local hunters who dispatched a 302-pound black bear with just a hunting knife during a hunt off Mount Matumbla.

Roland Rushford and Joe Weaver, both of Faust, recalled coming across the track of a black bear near their camp at Pitchfork Pond on December 8th. They followed the track for about four miles, upward towards the eastern end of the Mount Matumbla ridge. The newspaper called a point at the end of this ridge “Haystack Mountain.”

When the two men closed in on the bear on Haystack Mountain, the bear rolled onto its side, apparently weakened from exhaustion. Rushford recalls closing in on the snarling bear and ending its life with the thrust of his knife into its throat. Rushford told the paper that he intended to use the bear’s pelt as a rug. A photograph of the knife Rushford used to kill the bear is shown here.

As for Haystack Mountain, this news article was the only instance I found referring to the eastern end of the Mount Matumbla ridge by this name. Further inquiries on Facebook, which asked if Tupper Lake residents ever heard of a Haystack Mountain off Mount Matumbla, went unanswered.

Photo: Carrie Snye’s father stabbed a bear with this hunting knife in 1936. Photo courtesy of Carrie Snye.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Mount Matumbla: The highest point in St. Lawrence Co.

Perhaps the most striking feature of Mount Matumbla is its odd name which “tumbles” off one lips (some pun intended) when pronounced. At 2,688 feet, Mount Matumbla is the highest point in St. Lawrence County, and is about 5-1/2 miles north of Arab Mountain. The peak overlooks the Raquette River to the west, and the St. Lawrence/Franklin County boundary line crosses the Mount Matumbla ridge. There is no trail to the summit, which is on private land, so please respect private property!

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Paying tribute to what’s lost

Sacandaga art

This week’s story about the history of Great Sacandaga Lake and the communities that were lost in the creation of the reservoir/damming of the Sacandaga river struck a chord with readers. It was the most shared story of the week.

In the process, we heard from Northville artist Linda Finch, who happens to be showing a exhibition of her Sacandaga Valley Folk Art. The work is on display at the Northville Public Library until Thursday Oct. 29th. It then moves to the Nigra Arts Center in Gloversville from Nov 12, 2020, to Jan. 21, 2021.

Finch says this about the series: “It’s a historic visual retrospective of the valley before, during and after flooding. All 14 paintings have been meticulously researched as to accuracy. Including the Boneyard Gang, who exhumed some of the 3,872 bodies that were relocated.”

Click here for an overview of this week’s top stories from Adirondack Explorer and the Almanack.

Note: I also run through the week’s top stories in my “Adk News Briefing” email newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Mitchell Sabattis: Tales of a well-respected and celebrated guide

Long LakeLooking out over Long Lake, it is difficult to think of it as a place of extreme hardship. But life in the central Adirondacks in the mid-19th century was not easy. In 1849, for example, Livonia Stanton and her family moved to Long Lake in the middle of the winter and her father had to use an ax and shovel to clear their cabin floor of snow and ice before they could even use the fireplace.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Little Boxes

What’s not to love about a house in a box? In the first part of the 20th century, thousands of Americans ordered their homes out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The homes were shipped in railroad cars, all parts ready to assemble — little boxes, just like the Pete Seeger song.

Customers could choose from a wide variety of architectural styles and price points, from the tiny metal “Lustron” to the elegant “Alhambra.” Both styles can be found here in the village. An untold number of other Saranac Lake homes were built from kits.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, October 9, 2020

A few words from a young City Visitor (Also Your Neighbor)

By Vanessa Banti

Awake! Open your eyes, my friend from that small Adirondack town. Do you hear the distant sound of my car exiting the Northway? It’s me, the young city dweller! I am coming to visit. 

My Subaru is stuffed with gear, and I’m listening to a liberal podcast. I’ve started driving at 4AM to snag trailhead parking. I’m coming to AirBnB, to regular BnB, to hammock, to hike, to paddle, to leaf peep, to mountain bike, (even to take Instagram photos!) and to generally hang around in your wilderness. Yes, I know, because a lot of people remind me: it’s your wilderness, and I am but a visitor. 

But perhaps you don’t think that last bit is quite right. Since I’ve woken you up, my headlights strafing past your window, I think the least I owe you is an explanation. 

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 8, 2020

The making of Great Sacandaga Lake (and the flooding of communities)

Like many beautiful Adirondack Lakes, the Great Sacandaga Lake is man-made.

It was created in 1930 when the newly constructed Conklingville Dam closed its valves and filled the valley with 38 billion cubic feet of water. The seed for damming the Sacandaga River was planted in 1874 when the New York State Canal Commission suggested that the “creation of reservoirs on the head-waters of the Hudson would allow control over its seasonal flow and prevent flooding of downstream communities.”

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 1, 2020

‘Beaver fever’: French Emigres in Castorland 

Castorland was the location of a courageous but heartbreaking attempt to settle the western edge of the Adirondacks in the late 18th century.

But little would be known of this history if it had not been for William Appleton, Jr. who, in 1862, stumbled across the Journal of Castorland in a Paris bookstand. Castorland…the English translation means ‘Land of the Beaver’… was overseen by Simon Desjardins and Peter Pharoux, who kept a detailed record of the Paris based La Compagnie de New York (Company of New York) from July 1793 until April 1797.

Two years before Appleton discovered the journal, Franklin Hough had published a highly regarded History of Lewis County, New York, in which he dismissed Castorland as ‘unrealistic and overly romantic.’ But Hough, at the time, was unaware of the journal’s existence and had little knowledge of what the New York Company actually experienced. Hough then spent three years translating the document with the intention of revising his History of Lewis County, but he died before that mission was completed.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Long Path of New York: A historic note

By James M Schaefer

The Long Path was created in 1931 by my father, the late Vincent J Schaefer (1906-1993). It followed in the tradition of the Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Maine) and The Long Trail of Vermont. Both the AT and Long Trail popularized “End-to-End”—through hiking. 

The Long Path was designed as a corridor rather than as a singular blazed trail. My father’s hiking philosophy was to leave no trace – “all one needs is a compass, map and good woods sense.” From the start his concept was to engage hikers in finding landmarks on the Long Path — a mountaintop, a waterfalls, a geologic anomaly, or a cultural or historic site.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hermits and a millionaire: The story of Lake Lila

Sometime in the later half of the 1810s, hunter, trapper, and hermit David Smith set up his camp on Beaver Lake, far from civilization of any kind.  Beaver Lake is located deep in the wilderness near the western border of the Adirondacks, about half way between Lowville and Tupper Lake, inaccessible by any road.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Goodman Mountain and honoring a legacy

There are taller mountains in the Adirondacks, those that leave a middle aged hiker feeling the effects of time for days after the climb. There are mountains with names that inspire the imaginations of those who plan to add them to their list of alpine accomplishments, names like Hurricane, Skylight, or Giant. Every named peak in the Adirondacks carries a story, stories of local history, stories of New York’s early leaders, or stories of the early woodsmen that first fought their way to the top and placed the rocky summit on the map.

Goodman Mountain outside of Tupper Lake bears a different story with its name, and I was compelled to climb it not because of the bragging rights that come with success, and not because I wanted to test my endurance and the ability to push myself a little past my comfort zone. The 2,176 foot summit offers a very pleasant vista, but not a visit to the dwarf forest that circles the bald crest of many peaks, or the 360 degree view of endless woodlands and lakes that High Peaks regulars crave. I wanted to climb Goodman Mountain BECAUSE of the name, and to find out if I could find some connection with its namesake as I followed the narrow pathway to the top. 

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Herreshoff Manor and the other John Brown

There are two John Browns that are famous in the Adirondacks. The more famous, of course, is John Brown the abolitionist who is buried in North Elba near Lake Placid.

The other John Brown, of Old Forge fame, is of the same family that founded Brown University in Rhode Island, and quite unlike Brown the abolitionist, the Rhode Island Brown vigorously defended slavery while he was a member of Congress in 1799-1801. He was an extremely wealthy man; he owned one of the largest shipping fleets in the world and routinely shipped goods from China to Great Britain and North America.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ticonderoga Historical Society Presents: Fake News and Fisticuffs

The Ticonderoga Historical Society will present “Fake News and Fisticuffs – Nothing New in American Politics,” a free public program to be held on Friday, Sept. 25 6 p.m. at the Hancock House, 6 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga.

This program — closing out a recent lecture series — will highlight the history of the fake news and violence that has been present throughout the ages in American politics, and how neither is unique to today’s political environment.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Belfry Mountain – Beyond the Fire Tower

Belfry Mountain is a 1,864-foot peak located in the Town of Moriah in Essex County, just over 0.6 miles south of the Moriah-Elizabethtown town boundary and near the old iron mining communities of Mineville and Witherbee.
This runt of a peak is a popular destination for those working on the Fire Tower Challenge. It is often combined with other hikes in the region given the short, 0.4-mile hike along a gravel road from the trailhead off Dalton Hill Road, in which one ascends an “incredible” … 137 feet! Although there is not much for views from the summit rock itself, the cab of the 47-foot steel tower lets one view a beautiful panorama of the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Champlain Valley, and the High Peaks region.

Much of the history given here is apart from Belfry Mountain’s historical role in fire observation. I discuss the name origin of peak and the people connected with it. Thus, like the trail to the summit, this historical profile is short and sweet. For a well-written, detailed history of the use of Belfry Mountain for fire observation, see Martin Podskoch’s “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts.”

» Continue Reading.


Monday, September 14, 2020

The Show Must Go On

During this quiet summer, one of the things we are missing is the theater. From Broadway in New York City to Pendragon in Saranac Lake, stages have gone dark. Actors are a lively, irrepressible bunch, and so it’s a testament to the seriousness of the situation that theaters are closed.

In interesting contrast, through the 1918 flu pandemic, Broadway did not shut down. A New York Times article this past July titled, “’Gotham Refuses to Get Scared’: In 1918, Theaters Stayed Open” described how, at the height of the flu epidemic, New York’s health commissioner declined to close performance spaces. Instead, he instituted public health measures such as staggering show times, eliminating standing room tickets, and mandating that anyone with a cough or sneeze be removed from theaters immediately.

» Continue Reading.



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