Looking 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
State Parks Stabilizes Childhood Home of Suffragist Susan B. Anthony
On the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, State Parks and community leaders joined to celebrate a $695,000 stabilization project at the 19th century brick home in Washington County, where suffragist Susan B. Anthony spent part of her childhood.
Work at the deteriorated 1832 two-story brick home on Route 29 in Battenville where Anthony lived from ages 13 to 19 includes repairs to the roof, masonry and drainage, as well as mold remediation and water damage, is expected to be completed this fall.
State Parks has a purchase agreement on an adjoining four-acre site that contains a former historic tavern dating to the period when the Anthony family lived next door. Supported by the state Environmental Protection Fund, the $130,500 purchase will allow for future creation of adequate parking for the Anthony home and serve as a staging area for continued phased redevelopment of the building for an as-yet undetermined future use.
In a time when compassion and logic often seem in short supply, many of us have a newfound appreciation for doctors and scientists. Saranac Lake’s history is full of professionals in medicine and science who had a passion for learning and an intense curiosity about the natural world.
Our own Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau was a naturalist at heart. He learned an interest in the natural world from his father James, who accompanied his friend John J. Audubon on scientific expeditions. When Edward fell sick with TB, he credited the peace he found in the Adirondack forest for his ability to fight the disease.
Later, that same appreciation for nature inspired Trudeau to pursue the scientific study of tuberculosis. In 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of the tuberculosis bacterium. Trudeau learned of his study and rushed to replicate Koch’s work, despite never having used a microscope himself. Motivated by his desire to find a cure and his own curiosity, Trudeau demonstrated incredible persistence in the face of adversity. He began his work in a remote, freezing village with no running water, electricity, or train service. As he stated in his autobiography, “One of my great problems was to keep my guinea-pigs alive in winter.” Trudeau worked with improvised laboratory equipment, and even when his first home and home laboratory burned down, he didn’t give up.
I revisited Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain last spring, making it at least four ascents I have done of it, thus far, from both the north and south trails. The views of the Lake Champlain region from the summit never fail. Poke-O-Moonshine, located in the Town of Chesterfield in Essex County, just 3/4-mi north of the Town of Lewis
boundary, is a peak on the Fire Tower Challenge and whose east-facing cliffs are popular with rock-climbers.
This write-up is more of a historical “brief” on this peak, as there is a bit more history surrounding it than provided here. For those interested in the history of Poke-O-Moonshine in regards to fire observation and its tower, see Martin Podskoch’s book “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, The Northern Districts” (2003).