Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John Todd’s ‘Long Lake’ Recalls The 1840s

Long Lake Church in the WildernessThe Long Lake Historical Society has voted to acquire a first edition of John Todd’s book, Long Lake.

First printed in 1845, this small volume was written after Todd’s fourth trip to Long Lake. He first arrived in September, 1841 and found eight or ten families “scattered along towards the head of the lake. . . .They lived in their little log houses, and their little boats were their horses, and the lake their only path.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Mysterious Benchmark At Station 77

Colvin Division of Levels - Measurement of Whiteface MountainIt was late on the afternoon of November 4th, 1875.  A party of men worked feverishly in dense fog and deepening Adirondack frost, chiseling into the hard summit stone of Mount Marcy, New York’s highest point. They had been working since the first hint of daylight without the benefit of food or water, pressing on to finish their work as conditions worsened.  They turned their attention to setting a benchmark – chipping into anorthosite so tough that it had destroyed scores of their drill bits and chisel points.

Their leader Verplanck Colvin had just completed the final rod and level measurement in a series that had begun weeks before, many miles away on the shore of Lake Champlain. At last the height of the mightiest peak in the Empire State was determined with accuracy: 5344.311 feet above mean tide.

The benchmark they laid on Marcy in the growing darkness and cold that afternoon was number 111 in a long sequence rising from Westport. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Adventures With Hermit Noah John Rondeau

The Hermit cover for JohnIn 1951, Dr. Roger D. Freeman found himself sharing a lean-to camp at Indian Falls in the Adirondack High Peaks of Essex County with none other than legendary Noah John Rondeau.

“I remember descending from Mt. Marcy to Indian Falls and I remember the rainstorm” that evening, said Doctor Freeman, who was taking a break from his studies at Colby-Swarthmore Summer School of Languages in Maine to traverse the Great Range in the Adirondacks. Freeman wished he had known the old woodsman he shared the shelter with was the famed Cold River hermit. “I didn’t learn that until much later,” he said. “He was friendly. He was an expert at building and keeping a fire going on a day when it rained.”

Freeman’s is just one of the stories in The Hermit and Us: Our Adventures with Noah John Rondeau (2014) by William J. O’Hern, which recalls the experiences of backpackers who visited Rondeau’s Cold River hermitage where he lived for over 30 years. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Celestial Burial And Rocky Cabin Chores

DSCN1728In Tibet they practice celestial burial. The deceased’s body is cut up into pieces small enough to be fed to the gathered vultures, who, because of this practice, are considered sacred birds. In our part of the Adirondacks we see few vultures, but, in part, a like ubiquity of rocks drives certain practices here.

During our early family summers on the edge of Adirondack wilderness, we children dreaded being assigned to bury the garbage. Waste disposal still decentralized in the early 1950s. To find where you could dig a hole deep enough to inter garbage was a serial ordeal of trial holes frustrated by hitting nonnegotiable rocks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Book On Clinton County’s Civil War Record

Clinton County Historical Association New Civil War BookThe Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) has announced the publication of a new book, Clinton County Civil War Record: 1861-1865.

In 2010, the Clinton County Historical Association formed a committee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Since its formation, the committee has planned numerous lectures and programs at the Museum, and also took on a research project to culminate in the publication of a book. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fort Ticonderoga Announces Fort Fever Series

snowshoes13_main3Fort Ticonderoga’s “Fort Fever Series” returns this winter with monthly programs January through April 2015.

Programs take place on Sunday afternoons at 2 pm in the Mars Education Center. The cost for each program is $10 per person and will be collected at the door; free for Members of Fort Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Town of Inlet Beginnings (Part II)

1892 fulton chain club 1_0For many property owners in Inlet, the abstract of title invariably lists James and Jennie Galvin as early, if not the first, owners.  But until I began researching this narrative, I believed, as have other Inlet landowners and early 20th century newspapers, that the Galvins were sole owners of the 6,000 acres surrounding the Head of Fourth Lake.  I learned that Galvin was an agent for the Fulton Chain Club and it was through his efforts that the land was sold for hotels and camps, and ultimately to the first residents of Inlet.

James Galvin, the son of an Irish immigrant, was born in 1835 in Wilna, Jefferson County.  His father Edward was a successful farmer and also managed a prosperous charcoal production trade.  James was listed as a farmhand and a farmer on the 1850 and 1860 censuses, respectively, but from the age of fifteen, he dealt in horses and cattle and became successful in buying stock both in New York and Canada.  He commanded large credit with banks in both regions. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Today In 1859 John Brown Was Hanged

One hundred and fifty-five years ago today John Brown was executed after leading an anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, part of the radical movement of tens of thousands of Americans struggling to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War.

It’s often said that just one thing secured Brown’s place in the hearts of millions of Americans – his execution and martyrdom. But there is another more important reason to celebrate the life of John Brown – his courage in standing against unjust state and federal laws, the press, and popular culture in the cause of basic human rights.

In 2009, I wrote a ten-part series of posts following the last days of John Brown’s fight to end slavery. You can find that here (to read in chronological order, start at the bottom).


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Remembering Peace and Friendship

cathyblog1November 11, 2014 marked the 220th year of the Canandaigua Treaty, which was signed in 1794 by United States representative Colonel Timothy Pickering, and leaders of the Haudenosaunee Nations: the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. The Canandaigua Treaty established peace, friendship, and respect between the Nations and the United States.

Each year leaders of these Sovereign Nations and others remembering and honoring the treaty meet at the original site of the treaty’s signing, a place called Council Rock.  Council Rock sits on the front lawn of the Ontario County Courthouse on Main Street in Canandaigua, NY. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Origins Of The Town of Inlet

scythe herrershoff manor_2On November 27, 1901, the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an act that created a new town from northern Morehouse, with the South Branch of the Moose River dividing the two towns.  Afterwards, Inlet held its first town meeting on January 14, 1902.  Presently (2009), the Adirondack Park Agency reports that Inlet consists of 42,446 acres of which just under 4,000 acres is not state land.

But this narrative is about the over 6,000 acres in the northerly Part of Township 3 of the Moose River Tract surrounding the “Head of Fourth Lake”, as Inlet was formerly known, and the connections among the speculators who owned it prior to Inlet’s creation.  This square tract covers the lands from Fourth Lake to Seventh Lakes down to Limekiln Lake at its southwest corner. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sir John Johnson’s Escape: A Tale Retold

SJJ portait 2The legend of Sir John Johnson’s role in naming Raquette Lake has been written and re-written for more than a century.   Below is the earliest source I have found, from the 1891 Annual Report of the New York State Forest Commission.

Its name is founded on a bit of history, hitherto traditional. During the War of the Revolution, a party of Indians and British soldiers, under command of Sir John Johnson… passed through the wilderness on their way from the Mohawk Valley to Canada. It was in the winter time, and, on reaching this lake, the party was overtaken by a sudden thaw, which made further travel on snow-shoes impossible. As the Indians and soldiers did not want to carry their snow-shoes, or raquettes, as they termed them, they piled them up and covered them over, making a large heap that remained there many years. The expedition had reached the South Inlet when the thaw set in, and it was there, on a point of land, that the pile was made… Old Mr. Woods, the pioneer settler of Raquette Lake, heard this story from the Indians themselves, and often pointed out to hunters the decaying fragments of the raquettes.

Believing that “Old Mr. Woods” refers to William Wood, I was intrigued to unravel the mysteries of this folklore. Wood was known to be close friends with local Native Americans, and the passage continues with a reference to Woods “in company with ‘Honest John Plumley’, Murray’s celebrated guide”. Wood sold his land on Indian Point to Plumley in 1859. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Herb Clark, Marshalls 100th Anniv Events Being Planned

Bob Marshall and his guide Herb ClarkPreparations by the Adirondack Forty-Sixers are underway to recognize Herb Clark, and Bob and George Marshall’s first climb of Whiteface Mountain (their first High Peak) in 1918 with a 100th anniversary celebration planned for August 3- 5, 2018. On Saturday August 4th, hikers (encouraged to wear period dress and gear) will summit of all forty-six High Peaks at the same time.

Preliminary plans also include a night of Adirondack films outside in Saranac Lake, a barbeque, and a celebration at Whiteface Mountain, plus more is in the works.  Throughout the weekend, the Saranac Lake Free Library will highlight their George Marshall collection. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

State Land Plan: A Conversation with Peter Paine

Peter Paine with hunting companionThe APA’s “Listening Sessions” about the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) conclude this month. I’ve been to several on behalf of Adirondack Wild and appreciate the low-key, helpful competency displayed by the APA staff that receive inputs, write down comments, and field questions from the public in a one-on-one style. While absent of confident, inspired opening statements by the APA about the origins, importance and relevance of the Master Plan which they are by law obliged to uphold, these sessions do foster thoughtful, private questions, comments and enhanced listening, all of which are a good thing.

At Adirondack Wild, however, we see opportunities for strengthening the SLMP and its paramount purposes – the protection of natural resources and wild character of the Forest Preserve – and that’s been the theme behind our inputs to APA. To prepare ourselves, one of the first people we wanted to sit down with was the principal author of the SLMP, Peter S. Paine, Jr. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The End of Adirondack Horse Thief Alonzo Clark

B1LonClarkHdlineAfter release from prison, Alonzo Clark returned to New York and married a young girl in Brandon, south of Malone, where he worked as a farmhand. It wasn’t long before he returned to crime, stealing horses prior to engaging in a high-profile scam at Helena, a hamlet in northern St. Lawrence County. In early 1885, posing as a salesman and tinware repairman, Clark ingratiated himself to Adam Knapp, 69, and his wife, Susan, 50, claiming to be a cousin of Luella, their adopted 16-year-old daughter.

After several nights of reading from the Bible with the family and turning on the charm, Alonzo won them over, particularly Luella. He courted her for several days, using Adam Knapp’s own horse and cutter to woo her on country rides. Within about two weeks’ time, they married. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amy Godine On Black History in the Adirondacks

TMDA LogoBlack history in the Adirondacks has an anecdotal quality, maybe because the numbers of black Adirondackers have been so few. Here’s a story of a black homesteader who was good friends with John Brown. There’s a barn that may have sheltered fugitives on the Underground Railroad.  Outside Warrensburg is a place in the woods where a black hermit lived. And so on.

The temptation – and I should know; I’ve been a lead offender – is to make a sort of nosegay out of these scattered stories, pack them all into a story by its lonesome, a chunky little sidebar, and let this stand for the black experience.

It makes a good read, and it’s efficient. And it’s wrong. It reinforces the idea that the black experience in this region was something isolated, inessential. It ghettoizes black Adirondack history, and this wasn’t how it was. » Continue Reading.



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