The 2016 Summer Olympics have ended, and as usual, they were quite the spectacle. Folks in the Adirondacks and North Country are perhaps bigger fans of the Winter Olympics, for obvious reasons: the games have been held twice at Lake Placid, and a number of area natives have attained lifelong dreams by earning a place on the podium. But a man born in this region achieved summer Olympic glory long ago, one of many highlights in a very accomplished life.
Karl Telford Frederick was born in 1881 in Chateaugay (northern Franklin County), where his father was a Presbyterian minister, which required a somewhat nomadic existence (five relocations in 14 years). Before Karl was three, the family moved to Essex on Lake Champlain, remaining there until 1888—not a long time, but sufficient to establish a lasting connection between him and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
The recent pursuit of prison escapees near Mountain View and Owl’s Head in northern Franklin County ignited for me a few memories from the area, both related to iron ore. Lyon Mountain, a few miles northeast of Standish, produced the world’s highest-grade iron ore for a century. Standish was home to the iron company’s blast furnace, and the village is linked to Mountain View by an unsurfaced, 11-mile stretch of the Wolf Pond Road.
When I interviewed old-timers back in the early 1980s for a couple of books about Lyon Mountain’s history, they told me of how the blast furnace stood out several decades earlier for residents of Franklin County, south of Malone, especially in the Mountain View area. Across the valley where the Salmon River flows parallel to the Wolf Pond Road, there was a nightly bright glow on the eastern horizon. At times the furnace, which ran 24/7, looked like a giant torch in the distance. The effect was powerful when nights were truly dark, before everyone decided that floodlights were a great idea. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will develop a unit management plan for 21,239 acres of public lands in the Northern Franklin County State Forests, DEC Region 5 Director Robert Stegemann has announced.
The Northern Franklin State Forest includes five state forests (St. Regis River, Deer River, Titusville Mountain, Valley View and Trout River), seven detached forest preserve parcels, a state fish hatchery and over 50 miles of public fishing rights. The lands are located in the towns of Bangor, Bellmont, Brandon, Chateaugay, Constable, Dickinson, Malone, Moira and Westville. » Continue Reading.
In the New York Times of February 11, 1877, appeared the obituary of a North Country native, Theodorus Bailey, who was born in Chateaugay in 1805 and moved to Plattsburgh with his family around 1811. The Battle of Plattsburgh took place three years later, on September 11, 1814. Although Theodorus was just nine years old, that historic event made quite an impression. His obituary, in fact, pointed out that Bailey “accepted as his pet hero Commodore Macdonough, the American commander in the battle,” and was thus inspired to seek a career in the navy.
It’s also interesting that among the War of 1812 battles that are considered pivotal, Plattsburgh has often been overlooked in favor of three others: Baltimore, Lake Erie, and New Orleans. And yet this same Theodorus Bailey was lauded as a hero of the Battle of New Orleans.
How can that be? Well, there were actually two Battles of New Orleans, but because the name was already taken during the War of 1812, the second one, which occurred during the Civil War, is often referred to as the Capture of New Orleans. » Continue Reading.
No bones were broken. It’s a statement of relief that frequently appears in accident reports, emphasizing the fact that perhaps bones should have been broken, but due to amazing luck or some other reason, the victim survived perilous circumstances to emerge relatively unscathed. Stories of that type appear occasionally, and they’re always interesting.
It’s remarkable that in July 1895, three North Country survival stories appeared on a single newspaper page. Forget broken bones—it’s amazing that any of the victims survived. Yet among the three, there was only one broken bone. Fourteen-year-old Frank Blanchard of Buck’s Bridge, about eight miles north of Canton in St. Lawrence County, was driving a load of hay when he fell from the wagon. He unfortunately fell forward, and as the horses drew the loaded wagon down the road, it ran over his shoulders and neck.
Despite the brush with death, young Blanchard was apparently intact and reportedly on the way to a quick recovery.
Along the Black River in Jefferson County, Mrs. Carl Hart was performing a routine chore in the field, untying a cow for milking. As she did so, a train passed by, spooking the cow, which bolted for parts unknown.
The rope became wrapped around Mrs. Hart’s ankles, and in an instant she was being dragged to almost certain death. Her body bounced terribly across the rough ground and then into the underbrush, where branches and thorns tore at her clothing and skin. The resistance of dragging through the brush caused the rope to slide down until it finally pulled her shoes off. That may well have saved her life.
The cow continued, but Mrs. Hart was left lying unconscious in the brush, bleeding from a multitude of cuts and scrapes, and nearly naked, her clothing having been shredded. Noticing her unusual absence from the home for so long a period, Mr. Hart began searching, and about thirty minutes after the incident, he found her.
After carrying his wife’s limp form to the house, Mr. Hart tended to her wounds and summoned a doctor. When Mrs. Hart finally regained consciousness, it was determined that she had suffered a broken bone in her right arm. It was termed “a miraculous escape from a terrible death.”
In Chateaugay, ten-year-old Delor Bushey and some friends spent a hot summer day playing in the river above a waterfall. The strength of the current proved too much, and young Delor was swept downstream over the 35-foot-high falls.
Landing on his head and shoulders, he was drawn into the whirlpool at the base of the falls, and it was five minutes before his friends finally managed to pull Delor ashore, an apparent drowning victim.
His body was taken to the Bushey home, where a doctor found signs of life in the boy. But Delor remained unresponsive, and as the hours passed, hope faded.
Then, in the unlikeliest of outcomes, he regained consciousness about eight hours after plunging over the falls. On the very next day, he was out and about as usual.
Despite sliding along the rocky riverbed and dropping 35 feet, Delor’s final assessment was — no bones were broken.
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 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
A tornado in the northeastern states, as happened recently in Massachusetts, is a comparatively rare event, but it’s by no means anything new. Many similar storms in the past have wreaked devastation in New York and New England, but few have had the incredible impact of the tornado that struck northern Franklin County on June 30, 1856.
The storm system caused chaos across the North Country, and in lower Quebec and northern Vermont as well, but the villages of Burke and Chateaugay bore the brunt of the damage when a tornado touched down, causing destruction of historic proportions. In the 1850s, northern Franklin County was mostly a vast, wooded wilderness. The arrival of the railroad had led to accelerated growth and the development of several population centers, including Burke and Chateaugay, just five miles apart in the county’s northeast corner.
Farming and lumbering were the chief occupations, and until sections of forest were cleared, most of the farms were located near the villages and along the Old Military Turnpike (modern-day Route 11). About the only way a storm’s effect could be truly devastating was for it to strike the population centers—and that’s exactly what happened.
Not that it would have made much difference, but this storm also had an extra element of surprise—it struck shortly before mid-morning. The great majority of tornadoes strike in the late afternoon after the sun has had plenty of time to heat things up.
Farmer Lucas Wyman of Constable watched as two dark, threatening cloud systems moved towards each other, one from the southwest and one from the northwest. He described their meeting as a thunderous collision, after which the storm began devouring everything in its path. Taking a northeastern track, it flattened trees and fences as it sped ominously towards Burke.
Arriving at the village, it tore the roofs off several buildings, sending their contents high in the air to parts unknown. As the storm raged, only pieces of some homes were left standing, and all barns, less sturdily built by nature, were leveled.
At the hamlet of Thayer’s Corners, the store of Daniel Mitchell was completely destroyed. Thirty-six-year-old Jeremiah Thomas, father of two young children, had recently sold his farm and gone to work for Mitchell. Thomas became the storm’s only fatality.
The storm’s route from Burke to Chateaugay suffered near-universal destruction, with reports indicating that “… one hundred and eighty-five buildings, either unroofed, blown down, or moved from the foundations can be counted as you ride along the road.”
At Chateaugay, the twister still had more than enough energy to lay nearly the entire community to waste. One reporter stated it plainly: “The village of Chateaugay is a complete desolation. Not a building escaped injury, and a great number—we do not know how many—are completely destroyed. The scene is one which baffles description. Stores, churches, dwellings, barns, sheds, outbuildings, all present a sad spectacle —they are awfully shattered and broken to pieces.”
Perhaps as important were other losses—gardens and fruit trees destroyed; farm crops flattened; cows, pigs, horses, sheep, and chickens killed. With all fencing destroyed, any animals that did survive were left wandering the countryside.
Though only one person died, many suffered serious injuries. Dozens were struck by flying roof shingles and shards of glass. One survivor was said to have lost his scalp to airborne debris.
The power of the storm yielded the usual stories of extreme occurrences. Entire sections of forest were flattened. A stone schoolhouse, one of the more solid buildings, was demolished. A lumber yard was completely devoid of lumber, all of which had been lifted high in the air and strewn across nearby fields.
A railroad handcar, weighing about a ton, was destroyed when it was carried aloft and dropped into the nearby woods. The tornado’s power was such that rubble from Mitchell’s Store at Thayer’s Corners was later found ten miles east in the town of Clinton.
In the days following the catastrophe, a traveler from Springfield, Massachusetts (coincidentally the site of recent tornadic destruction in 2011) rode the train across northern New York. After encountering the Chateaugay area, his report on the damage was published in the Springfield Daily Journal, including the following excerpts.
“The railroad track for some thirty or forty miles lies directly in the path of the tornado, and I never saw such a scene of destruction before. … it is in fact quite impossible to picture the scene on paper as it really appears. The villages of Chateaugay and Burke have sustained such serious damage that long years will come and go before its traces can be effaced.
“… Acres of forest trees are upturned, broken, twisted, and shattered; fences are torn to pieces, and the fencing timber scattered miles away from whence it was taken; piles of lumber, with which that section abounds, are nowhere to be found; barns are entirely blown to pieces; dwelling houses blown down, unroofed, and shattered. The eye rests on nothing else but such sights as these for miles and miles.”
The storm system caused considerable damage elsewhere, but the extent of destruction along the eight-mile path through the towns of Burke and Chateaugay was of near-biblical proportions. In the final tally, 364 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
Few North Country disasters can compare in scope and intensity with the tornado of 1856. For decades into the future it was used as a reference point for comparing other tragic events.
Photo Top: Tornado headlines, 1856.
Photo Middle: St. Lawrence County opportunistic ad after a tornado, 1914.
Photo Bottom: Hammond Insurance ad for routine needs, 1935.
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.
In honor of the Belmont Stakes being run this weekend, here’s an item from 1963, when a horse whose name had North Country ties nearly won the coveted Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont). Any idea what the horse’s name was?
The owner was John W. Galbreath, well known nationally, and a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks. While his wealth was notable, it was in the world of sports that Galbreath earned his greatest fame. He owned baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946–1985 (one of his partners was Bing Crosby), winning the World Series in 1960, 1971, and 1979. He was also a graduate of Ohio State and a longtime supporter of the school’s athletic program, one of the most successful in the nation.
Like Donald Trump did in more recent times, Galbreath became fabulously wealthy as a real estate developer, owning major properties in Columbus, Los Angeles, New York, and Pittsburgh. In 1986, the family fortune was estimated at $400 million.
Despite his substantial fame in baseball and real estate, Galbreath’s favorite subject was horseracing. Perhaps the name of his birthplace (in 1897) was a good omen for a future in the sport: he was born in Derby, Ohio.
Among other things, Galbreath’s great wealth allowed him to indulge his passion. He became involved in horse racing in the 1930s, eventually serving as chairman of Churchill Downs in Louisville (where the Kentucky Derby is run). Near Columbus, Ohio, he developed the famed Darby Dan Farm into a 4,000-acre spread, producing many outstanding racehorses.
He had never won the Kentucky Derby, a goal of all major owners, and in 1963, none of Galbreath’s horses seemed particularly promising. Then, shortly before the Derby, one of his colts captured three straight races, including the Blue Grass Stakes. Suddenly, anything was possible.
The horse’s name was Chateaugay, and despite the sudden success, most of the hype went to several other competitors prior to the Triple Crown races. Never Bend was the leading money-winner, and Candy Spots and No Robbery were the first undefeated horses to face off in the Derby in 88 years. In front of 120,000 fans at the Kentucky Derby, Galbreath’s favorite horse went off at 9-1 odds. There appeared to be little chance for success.
After running at mid-pack for much of the race, Chateaugay moved up to fourth. Near the final stretch, future-hall-of-fame-jockey Braulio Baeza steered his horse through an opening to the inside, where Chateaugay strode to the front, topping all the pre-race stars to win by 1¼ lengths.
In race number two, the Preakness, the same strategy was employed. This time, Chateaugay came roaring to the front but fell just short, finishing 3½ lengths behind winner Candy Spots. In the Belmont, the results were very similar to the Preakness, but this time, Chateaugay’s charge to the lead was successful, overtaking Candy Spots to win by 2½ lengths.
Only a close loss at the Preakness prevented Chateaugay from winning the Triple Crown, but Galbreath’s colt had proven nevertheless to be a great racehorse.
During this time, the excitement in the North Country was fairly palpable, especially in the town of Chateaugay (in the northeast corner of Franklin County). Many were fervent supporters of Galbreath and his horse, and the famed owner expressed his appreciation in a letter that appeared in local newspapers:
Dear Mr. Peacock:
It was certainly nice of you to write me a letter about Chateaugay winning the Kentucky Derby. Several people have asked me how we happened to name this horse as we did.
As you perhaps know, we have some interest in Lyon Mountain and Mineville, New York [the iron mines], and while I was up there several years ago, I saw the name Chateaugay. I made the remark at the time that I thought it was a pretty name for a town, and also thought it would be a good name for a horse.
Since Chateaugay’s older sister, Primonetta, was our best filly to date, we naturally hoped this colt would be a good one, and for that reason, we applied the name to him.
It has been very gratifying indeed to have so many nice letters from people of your town, and I hope you will thank the members of the Chamber of Commerce for their nice telegram which they sent under your name last week. I am going to have some pictures made just as soon as we receive the proofs, and I will eventually send you a picture which you can use for publishing in the paper.
Thank you again for your nice letter and wire. Sincerely yours, John W. Galbreath
In honor of the victory, Galbreath named one of Darby Dan’s buildings “Gay Chateau” (well before a new meaning entered the vernacular).
A few years after winning the Derby, Chateaugay was retired to stud service, first at Darby Dan Farm, and later in Japan after his sale to racing interests there. He died in 1985.
Galbreath died in 1988 at the age of 90. Besides a grand legacy in the sporting world, he left behind the John W. Galbreath Company, America’s third-largest real estate developer. A second Darby Dan horse, Proud Clarion, won the Derby in 1967, but it was Chateaugay who first made Galbreath’s long-held dream a reality.
Photo Above: Chateaugay after winning the Kentucky Derby.
Photo Below: Chateaugay after winning the Belmont Stakes.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
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