The next St. Lawrence County Historical Association Brown Bag Lunch will take place on Thursday, November 16th. This lecture will focus on the railroads that crossed the terrain of upstate New York, connecting numerous small towns and improving individual travel and industrial shipping.
Art Johnson, retired professor of American and Canadian history at SUNY Potsdam, will look at tracks that survived and those that did not. Brown Bag Lunches are free and open to the public. Bring your own lunch and enjoy a beverage and dessert provided by SLCHA. » Continue Reading.
This August, the emerald ash borer (EAB) was confirmed in both St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and NYS Agriculture and Markets will hold a class on EAB on November 1, 2017 from 5:45 to 8 pm at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm, 2043 State Route 68, Canton. » Continue Reading.
TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, will present a screening of two Niagara Mohawk promotional videos, Floating Islands and Workhorse River, on Thursday, September 28 from 7 to 9 pm at The TAUNY Center in Canton.
These videos will give viewers the chance to witness the Raquette River power project – and one of the river’s most distinctive and challenging features, the “floating islands” of Higley Flow – through the eyes and ears of the Colton building boom era. » Continue Reading.
TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York has invited the community to a Raquette River dams exhibit research talk with Camilla Ammirati and Mary Jane Watson on Thursday, September 7 from noon to 1 pm at the TAUNY Center in Canton.
The presentation will focus on the oral history project that inspired TAUNY’s current exhibit, “‘Look Down, You’ll See Our Tracks’: Raquette River Dam Stories.” Attendees will have the chance to see the images, hear the stories, and learn about how this part of our regional heritage came into focus over three years of research and exhibit development.
Project partner Mary Jane Watson of South Colton will discuss the concentration of dams and powerhouses Niagara Mohawk built around the Colton area in the 1950s and how they transformed the local environment and community life. » Continue Reading.
Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) will hold the TAUNY Writers’ Fair, a one-day gathering on May 6, 2017 from 11 am to 6 pm, at The TAUNY Center in Canton.
The Fair will include established local writers and publishers of “place-based writing,” a concept that is tied to TAUNY’s mission of encouraging a better understanding and appreciation of a sense of place for the North Country. The featured writers come from across the region and have produced work about topics of Adirondack North Country culture and heritage, natural history, ecology, and more. » Continue Reading.
To mark the centennial of World War One the Historical Association in Canton is seeking to recognize St. Lawrence County contributions to the war effort as well as the war’s impact on local families.
In honor of the centennial of the United States’ entry into WWI in 1917, the Association has opened a new exhibition, “Come On!: Posters and Portraits of World War I.”
The exhibit shows posters for war bonds alongside photographic portraits of local soldiers. Most of the photos are unidentified, and the museum welcomes visitors who recognize a friend or family member to help identify them. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will host a public information session to answer questions and provide information on a recently finalized habitat management plan for Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in DEC Region 6, Town of Canton, St. Lawrence County.
The area is located on an important waterfowl migration route between eastern Canada and the Atlantic Coast. The upland portion of the WMA consists of woodland, small blocks of conifers, shrub land, grassland, and agricultural land.
The session will take place on Thursday, December 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at SUNY Potsdam, in the eighth (8th) floor meeting room, Raymond Hall. The meeting will begin with an open session with DEC staff; the presentation is at 7 pm. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions during the open session and after the presentation. » Continue Reading.
The 2016 Sugar & Spice gingerbread display will open at The TAUNY Center at the organization’s annual Holiday Open House, on Saturday, December 3. Bakers are encouraged to get creative and imagine the camp or cottage of their dreams, build a model of their own camp or cottage, recreate a landmark, or find their own way to interpret this year’s theme to craft their own unique gingerbread house.
Since 2002, contestants from throughout the region have competed annually in various age categories as well as for the People’s Choice award, which is announced at the end of December. Past themes have included local landmarks, fairy tales, children’s literature, and gingerbread around the world. » Continue Reading.
TAUNY will hold the 24th Annual Salute to North Country Heritage on Sunday, October 16th to honor the 2016 North Country Heritage Award recipients. This event will be held at The TAUNY Center in Downtown Canton from 2-4 pm, and is free and open to the public.
This years recipients are The Adirondack Playboys Band, Lowville, Lewis County; 4-H Camp Overlook, Mountain View, Franklin County; the St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum, Madrid, St. Lawrence County; and philanthropist Allan P. Newell, Hammond, St. Lawrence County. » Continue Reading.
Going solar has always been a dream of mine. I realize that it can be accomplished, but it hasn’t been the first, second or third step in our plan for energy efficient, green living. Our drafty, poorly insulated farmhouse has gone through some major changes during our tenure. My family has put up with spray foaming and putting in new storm windows, but there always seems to be a new area of heat loss. There is also the issue of my neighbor’s enormous white pine casting its massive shadow. » Continue Reading.
When New Yorkers say with pride that they come from the North Country, strength, courage and rugged individualism can be seen written all over their faces. In addition, everyone knows they have the ability to withstand abnormally cold and miserable weather, and to survive natural disasters, such as the Great Ice Storm of 1998. But, exactly where is the North Country?
Yes, it is in the northern part of New York State, but north of what? Yonkers? Albany? The Erie Canal? The Adirondacks?
The term North Country was first widely popularized for use in New York State by the author, Irving Bacheller, when his novel, Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country, became a literary sensation in 1900. Bacheller was born in Pierrepont, St. Lawrence County, NY in 1859 and graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1882. Two years later, he founded the first U.S. newspaper syndicate and introduced the writing of Stephen Crane, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad to American readers. Bacheller retired from newspaper work in 1900 to concentrate on writing novels. Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country was his fourth novel and it became a runaway best seller. » Continue Reading.
Cornell Cooperative Extension is hosting two workshops in the Adirondack Region in April, designed to bring accommodations together with farmers with products for sale. The project’s goal is to give innkeepers and farmers a chance to meet, get acquainted, encourage transactions, and, finally, to promote these opportunities in the future in a systematic way.
Each Innkeeper will take home a gift basket that could include jams and jellies, processed meat and grain products, flowers and produce in-season, or any kind of product or information on agritourism or services from New York farms. » Continue Reading.
Eating locally grown and raised foods is becoming increasing popular in the North Country. To help locavores shop for local products, plan meals, and prepare local vegetable dishes, the Cornell University Cooperative Extension associations of Northern New York have set the dates for the Northern New York Eating Local Yet? summer workshops.
A series of three hands-on classes will be held in Sackets Harbor at The Farm House Kitchen, in Canton at the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, and in Plattsburgh at the CV-TEC Culinary Kitchen. » Continue Reading.
Inspiring stories of success are often rooted in the lives of people widely perceived as being handicapped, yet have somehow managed to overcome daunting obstacles. A fine North Country example is Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones, who narrowly escaped death as a young boy but lost a leg in the process. For most people, the loss of a limb might well be the focus of the remainder of their lives. But Eddie’s story is one where outstanding achievements offered no hint on the surface that great physical impairment had been overcome.
Edward Jones was born in January, 1890, in New Haven, New York, southwest of Pulaski and just a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario. Life on the family farm included hunting, and just a few weeks before his thirteenth birthday, Eddie suffered a terrible accident. While crossing a stone wall, he was struck by the accidental discharge of his shotgun. The injuries were severe, and amputation above the knee was necessary. When he entered adulthood, Eddie engaged in the horse trade, buying and selling farm stock along the western foothills of the Adirondacks. Harness racing had long been a mainstay of North Country life, and dozens of communities hosted half-mile tracks. Through his love of working with horses, Eddie was drawn to the sport, so he jumped in with one foot.
The physical activity involved in training horses was challenging, but Eddie had no intentions of stopping there. He wanted to drive. Granted, it could be rough and rigorous, but it seemed a plus that this was a sport where the participant sat while competing.
That was true, of course, but without a second leg to provide balance and body control while racing, Eddie would have to improvise. A thick leather pad between his body and the sulky frame was all he used for support. He learned to balance by trial and error.
By the time he was 22, Eddie had proven he could drive. Using three main horses and racing at venues from Watertown to Batavia, he gained experience and earned several wins. Three years later (1915), behind five main mounts, Jones’ skills as both trainer and driver were unquestioned.
At Gouverneur, Canton, Watertown, Fulton, Rome, and Cortland, he was a multiple winner. More success came at Batavia, Elmira, and De Ruyter, and at Brockport, Ontario, Canada as well. Other forays outside of New York to Mount Holly, New Jersey and Hagerstown, Maryland led to more wins. In 120 heats, races, and free-for-alls, Eddie took first place 64 times, finishing outside of the top three on only 26 occasions.
While training and racing horses could be lucrative, it was also expensive. Eddie was married by then and needed a steady income, some of which was earned from bootlegging during Prohibition. He routinely smuggled booze in the Thousand Islands area until he and several others were arrested shortly before Prohibition was repealed.
After that, Eddie assumed a more legitimate lifestyle, managing hotels and other establishments while continuing on the racing circuit from Buffalo to Ogdensburg. In the winter he competed in ice races, which were often as well attended as the summer races. Heuvelton, one of the smaller venues, once drew more than 600 for an event held in February.
Through the 1930s, Jones continued to win regularly on tracks from Ormstown, Quebec to Syracuse, Elmira, and Buffalo, and many stops in between. The nickname “Easy Pickins” followed him, based on two things—his initials (for Edward Parkington Jones), and his uncanny use of pre-race strategies that helped him rise to the occasion at the end of a race.
In 1936, Jones took over as manager of the Edwards Hotel in Edwards, midway between Ogdensburg and Watertown. While working there, Eddie dominated the regional racing circuit and increased his stable of horses to 16.
He also began competing in Maine, but in the late 1930s, like so many others during the Depression, Jones fell on hard times. Though he was winning regularly, Eddie was forced to auction his horses, and in 1939, he filed bankruptcy. Life had taken another tough turn, and it looked like Jones, now 49, would end his career on a low note.
But “Peg Leg” Jones, as he was widely known in the media, was far from average. If losing a leg at age 12 hadn’t stopped him, why would he give up now?
And he didn’t. Eddie frequented the same tracks where he had raced over the years, now driving for other horse owners who were happy to have him. Eventually, Syracuse horseman Charles Terpening hired Jones to train and drive for him. Relieved of day-to-day money worries, Eddie flourished. In the early 1940s, despite his age, he began winning more and more races, particularly behind a famous horse, The Widower.
Soon Eddie was a big name in harness racing across the state, winning at Saratoga and many other venues, and competing on the Maine circuit as well. But the best was yet to come.
At the end of the 1944 season, Peg Leg Jones was the winningest racer in the US Trotting Association (covering the US and the eastern Canadian provinces). No one else was even close to Eddie’s total of 152 victories (86 with pacers and 65 with trotters).
Such a heavy schedule surely took a toll, and in the following year, Eddie (what did you expect?) took on even more work. Driving in 437 races across the Northeast, Jones, now 55, once again led the nation in wins with 118. His blue and red-trimmed silks became famous at northern tracks as he finished in the money in 78 percent of his races.
Jones had another excellent year in 1946, and continued racing and winning for several more years. In 1948, at the age of 58, Eddie set the track record at Booneville, just as he had done at Gouverneur in 1934 and Sandy Creek in 1942.
In the early 1950s, Jones began entering horses at Dufferin Park in Toronto. After an illness for which he was treated in the hospital at Oswego in fall, 1952, he went once again to Toronto in January. It was there that Eddie’s journey came to a sudden, tragic end.
On January 7, his lifeless body was found in the tack room. A razor lay nearby, and Eddie’s throat had been cut. More than $2,500 was found on him, and with no apparent motive for murder (like robbery), his death was officially ruled a suicide.
No one knew for sure the reason, and the truth will be clouded forever. As one report said, “The ‘backstretch telegraph’ laid it to a jealous husband or a money deal gone bad.” On the other hand, the suicide angle was supported by the money found on his person, and the fact that he had recently been ill. It was suspected that he may have had a serious disease or was in a lot of pain.
The tall, slim form of Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones would be missed by many. He won hundreds of races and thrilled thousands of spectators, and for more than four decades, the man with one leg had stood tall in the world of harness racing.
Photo Top: Saratoga Trotting Track.
Photo Bottom: Trotting scene from 1915.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
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