The summer season ends and brings a close to numerous outdoor entertainments. During the summer months, throughout the Adirondack Park, there is an abundance of outdoor concerts, musicians and entertainers. My family feels so fortunate to have such professional talent at our disposal. Come autumn, the leaves change and so do the musical entertainment opportunities.
In its fifth season, Piano by Nature in Elizabethtown is one musical organization that strives to bring live music to the Adirondacks during the other months of the year. Artistic Director Rose Chancier started Piano By Nature with the concept of giving back to her community. » Continue Reading.
Construction will begin on the North Country SPCA’s new shelter on Route 9N east of Elizabethtown tomorrow after a year of planning and two years of fund-raising. The shelter is expected to open its doors in February 2013. The North Country SPCA is the only animal shelter in Essex County. Each year they care for over 400 homeless, abandoned, and abused cats and dogs. Since it was founded in 1969, the no-kill shelter has helped thousands of animals find homes.
“At last, the needy dogs and cats of Essex County will no longer have to live in an overcrowded, unhealthy building until loving homes can be found. The 40-year-old Westport shelter is literally falling down and contractors said there were so many problems that the only solution was to start over,” said John Sawyers, President of the NCSPCA. » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a $5,120,000 investment for NY Works projects that will allow for eight flood control system and dam repair projects in the North Country. Projects slated for the Adirondack North Country include the Lower Lows Dam and Upper Lows Dam on the Bog River. Those dams, made of concrete and located in a area classified Primitive, are favored by paddlers on the Bog River, Hitchins Pond, and Lows Lake. The other dams slated for repair are Palmer Lake Dam in North Hudson (popular with anglers); Taylor Pond Dam in the town of Black Brook, southwestern Clinton County (part of the Taylor Pond Wild Forest); Kingdom Road Dam which holds back Lincoln Pond in Elizabethtown; Main Mill Dam in the City of Plattsburgh; and Whiteside Dam. All are considered “Critical Dam Repairs.” The funds will also support a Malone flood control project. Two notable back country dams gave way late last summer during Hurricane Irene. The Marcy Dam is expected to be rebuilt. DEC has decided that the Duck Hole Dam will not be rebuilt. » Continue Reading.
The Deer’s Head Inn, according to the sign in front, was established in 1806, though its current location is not the original. Fire, reconstruction, relocation and renaming have all taken place in the past two hundred years.
What remains is a charming inn, owned by JoAnne and Matthew Baldwin since 2006, bursting with history. We entered through the front door, into the intimate tavern, and were at once greeted with a sense of comfort, familiarity and warmth. We took a seat at the tiny bar, tucked neatly into a snug little nook in the back of the small room. Our initial impression on entering the pub area of the Deer’s Head Inn was that it was more a destination than a neighborhood restaurant, and it may well be, but the patrons all seemed to know one another, exchanging greetings and news as they came and went. The courthouse and municipal building across the street may be the main attraction luring visitors (willing or not) into E’Town. The Adirondack Northway routed travelers away long ago and the GPS has since taken most of those who may have inadvertently meandered through. Maps are simply lines in a cold, two-dimensional space. The GPS does its job, efficiently calculating time and distance; but it is the populace that gives a mere pinpoint its third dimension. People fill a space and give it history, personality, warmth and life. Does your GPS know that two presidents stayed here, as did John Brown’s widow? Will it show you their signatures in the inn’s guest registers? Locate Ben Stetson’s Prohibition stash?
Though a sign over the bar boasts “Martini Lounge”, Cosmopolitans are a house specialty at the Deer’s Head as the array of more than a dozen flavored vodkas attests. Pam decided on a Maple Manhattan, with Maker’s Mark whisky and local maple syrup. The beer lineup contains a few interesting choices including St. Pauli Girl, Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, Stella Artois, Kaliber (non alcohol from Guinness), and Wild Blue (a blueberry lager produced by Anheuser-Busch) and several domestic brands. Two regional craft brews (currently Magic Hat Howl and VT Switchback) are always available on tap.
The Deer’s Head Inn is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and serves lunch until 2:30; dinner from 5 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. Hours vary so be sure to check times on their website. They offer an extensive wine list, with prices by the glass from $5.00 to $8.00 or they can be purchased by the bottle.
The Inn consists of three dining rooms, each with its own characteristics, and although the bar only seats six, there seemed to be ample room for standing. The bar top has old postcards of Elizabethtown attractions safely held in time under layers of “glaze”. From the bar, an old oak phone booth, with original Bell Telephone insignia and beveled glass, can be seen in the hallway. Our bartender, Joyce, laughingly advised that the booth is reserved as her “office”.
Though perhaps more often a service bar for the restaurant, the pub at Deer’s Head Inn is an intimate place for quiet conversation, reflecting on the past, or escaping the crowds of Lake Placid. Joyce seems to enjoy having company at the bar, adding interest beyond serving drinks to diners she might never see. You’ll be welcome whether just stopping in for a drink or whetting your appetite before a good meal. Next time you’re heading to Lake Placid, be sure to set your GPS “via” point to Elizabethtown along the way.
The sun’s daytime shift had already ended when we arrived, so we were not able to photograph the Deer’s Head Inn’s exterior. Not wanting to intrude on the privacy of the patrons in the busy tavern, we abstained inside as well. Photos were obtained at the Deer’s Head Inn’s website.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
It was good to be back on the road after the holidays, off to visit the Cobble Hill Inn in Elizabethtown. A sunny, mild afternoon, by January standards, and a picturesque drive along the way, brought us to Elizabethtown. The lack of snow cover painted a drab landscape in need of a whitewash, but mountains stood in the distance, their faces blushing pink in the setting sun in colorful contrast to the tired old houses and naked trees.
Cashin’s Cobble Hill Inn was easy to find as we headed north on Route 9 in Elizabethtown. Plenty of parking suggested they might host some parties throughout the year. We discovered soon that, yes, they do have parties, pig roasts and musical entertainment in the large yard in back during the milder seasons. A long deck along the side of the building held chairs, benches, a table and probably even more seating in the summer. A large awning, though closed up for the winter, provides shelter from rain and sun when venturing outside.
The bar was fairly full but we found a few seats at the end, optimal for observation. The first few minutes of entry into an unfamiliar bar require a lot of processing, especially when the bartender is quick and attentive.
We surveyed the large chalkboard drink menu hanging over the bar, listing liquors, beers and pricing. It was a unique display itemizing various liquor types and brands, with “call” liquors at $3.00 “all day every day”, brands up to $7.00 for single shots and boasting, “All prices include mixers”. Since many of Pam’s specialty drinks include multiple shots, she opted for a simple Captain Morgan and Coke at a modest $4.00.
Though drink prices hint that every hour is Happy Hour, the Cobble Hill Inn offers Happy Hour drink specials every day from 5 to 7 p.m. With 12 draft choices from commercial domestics to regional craft brews, and an emphasis on clean draft lines, the “signature” drinks at Cobble Hill Inn are on tap and range from $2.50 to $7.00.
While we sipped our beverages we observed the atmosphere, both visual and audial. The NY Giants curtains adorning all windows in cafe style, along with NY Yankees memorabilia throughout, suggested that the owners and patrons supported these NY teams. Trophies and photos highlight the accomplishments of the inn’s Monday night dart league. Photographs along the upper walls indicated years of community team support as well. Mixed in here and there, Irish memorabilia completed the picture of the Cashin family passions.
A sign by the door offering “Ride Home $5.00” on Fridays and Saturdays conveyed a responsibility and a sense that the Cobble Hill Inn might be the place to go in Elizabethtown on the weekend. Most of the patrons appeared to know one another – hellos and goodbyes were exchanged when anyone came or went. Though we weren’t there for a long time, we even got goodbyes when we left.
The Cobble Hill Inn is a bar, restaurant and motel, owned by the Cashin family for the last 21 years, and by the bartender, Christina (Chrissy) Cashin, for the past six years. The motel has four efficiencies and a total of seven rooms and, like the bar and restaurant, is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. The bar is open from 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, noon on Sunday and closes as late as 2 a.m. when business requires.
Gaming amusements include foosball and pool in a separate room and darts in the bar area. The bar seats ten and includes another four tables with seating for 16 more patrons. A few barstools along the wall could allow a little more seating at the bar. Wifi is available to read your favorite blog, check out photos on Cobble Hill Inn’s Facebook page, or to keep in touch with loved ones. You can watch the Giants or Yankees on one of the two TVs in the tavern area.
Chris, Chrissy’s partner, was just putting the finishing touches on the newly leveled and re-covered pool table in the adjoining room. An ancient phone booth stands in a corner. A few more dining tables and a cozy sitting area by the fireplace give the space a homey, recreation room feel. Noticing an old upright piano on a far wall, Kim asked Chris if anyone actually plays it. Himself a musician who plays the piano and upright bass, Chris elaborated on the occasional entertainment at the Cobble Hill Inn and upcoming events. The Valentine’s Day jazz wine dinner promises to be well attended, with a four or five course dinner paired with wine for each course.
The Cobble Hill Inn is a clean, friendly bar with attentive and gracious staff. Patrons were polite and friendly, obviously comfortable sharing their favorite pub. The owners are proud of the family business and show community support by hosting a toy drive and other fundraisers throughout the year. Any time of year, whether nearby for skiing, golfing, leaf peeping or motorcycling, you must drop in and make some new friends. The Cobble Hill Inn is the social life for the mostly local crowd. Maybe if you mention Happy Hour in the High Peaks, you’ll meet some of the same people we met that day in January.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
Halloween is a unique time for New York History sites around the state as many of them transform themselves into spooky places to learn a little history. Costumed historic interpreters, cemetery tours, and the haunted history of restless spirits and unexplained events are all on tap for this Halloween at Adirondack history locations.
What follows is a listing of some of the most interesting, scariest, and fun-filled that are occurring around Halloween night. Ticonderoga: Discover the unexplained past at Fort Ticonderoga’s Flashlight Nights, Friday and Saturday, October 28 and 29 from 7 pm until 9 pm. This family-fun fall program will uncover Fort Ticonderoga’s layers of history and haunted stories at night in the Fort, on the landscape and in the 6-acre corn maze. The nighttime tours of the Fort will be led by costumed historic interpreters and will allow guests to enter areas of the fort where unexplained events have occurred. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 years and under. To guarantee a ticket, reserve a space for this special program by calling (518) 585-2821. Gates open at 6:30 pm and tours begin at 7:00 pm. Tickets are also available at the door the evening of the event between 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Bring your own flashlights. Flashlights required.
Elizabethtown: Adirondack History Center Museum is offering a program about Paranormal Discoveries on Saturday, October 29 at 4:00pm. The program begins with a report from Champlain & Adirondack Paranormal Investigations on their findings of paranormal activities at the museum. Jim Thatcher, Lead Investigator from Champlain & Adirondack Paranormal Investigations (CHAPI), will talk about their night at the museum on July 1, 2011. He will discuss the CHAPI team, their set-up, equipment and findings. Following the paranormal report, there will be a tour of the upper floor of the museum where unexplained activities occurred. Cider and donuts will be served. Come in costume – you may win a prize. Admission for the program is $5 for adults and $2 for students. The museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY. Please call the museum for reservations at (518) 873-6466.
Saranac Lake: Saturday, October 29 at 1:00pm, local storyteller Bob Seidenstein will lead a tour of Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake. Pine Ridge Cemetery is a microcosm of the history of Saranac Lake from its earliest settlement, through the village’s busy years as a health resort, to the present day. The cemetery began as a burial place for the Moody family, Saranac Lake’s first settlers. It grew to encompass the old St. Bernard’s Cemetery and the Hebrew Memorial Cemetery, as well as the lots surrounding them. Many of Saranac Lake’s prominent doctors are buried here, along with Norwegian Seamen, guideboat builders, and architects. Admission for the tour is $10 per person to benefit Historic Saranac Lake and the Pine Ridge Cemetery Association, a volunteer organization which maintains the historic cemetery. The tour will meet at 1:00 at the vault on the cemetery grounds.
Saratoga: Halloween Party and Car Show at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, October 29, 10 am to 2 pm. Dress up the car, yourself, and the kids, or don’t dress up at all. Candy bags, goody bags and fun for the whole family. Awards for the Best Dressed Cars and children’s costumes. Vehicle registration of $15.00 includes admission passes for the driver plus one, including the Museum’s new Porsche Exhibit. The Saratoga Automobile Museum is located at 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. For more information contact Peter Perry at (518)-587-1935 ext. 17 or [email protected]
After impersonating Walter W. Baker, heir to the Baker chocolate fortune, and bilking his Richmond fiancée’s mother out of $15,000 in 1928 (equal to $190,000 in 2011), Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne was sentenced to ten years in a Virginia prison. He was paroled after serving more than six years, but the gates had hardly closed behind him when Champagne was at it again.
Shortly after his release, the US Department of Justice was tracking him across the North Country. As he had done for years in the past, Bernard managed to move quickly and stay a step ahead of his pursuers. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea to leave prison after conviction on charges of impersonation and then return home to pass himself off as a federal officer, but that’s exactly what Champagne did. He also left Ticonderoga for several weeks with a vehicle that didn’t belong to him, prompting the town police force to join the feds in seeking his arrest.
Initially, their search efforts covered from the Albany area to southern Quebec. It was then expanded statewide, and finally extended across the Northeast. Two weeks later, Champagne was in Elizabethtown’s Essex County jail, facing local and federal charges.
What had he done? After arriving home from the prison in Virginia, Bernard needed transportation to execute his latest scam. At the automobile dealership of Charles Moore in Ticonderoga, he tried out a large Oldsmobile and expressed an interest in purchasing it. Moore accepted his promise to return with the car and pay for it when some expected funds arrived.
Champagne then visited stores, restaurants, and bars across the region, presenting himself as a representative from Washington. Presenting his official federal credentials, including a badge, Bernard saved them money by accepting a smaller direct payment of the liquor tax, which relieved them of paying the regular rate to county alcohol officials.
When local liquor authorities made their normal rounds, they viewed the receipts left by Champagne and knew immediately that something was amiss. By that time, he had scammed businesses across the region and then vanished.
An investigation failed to locate Bernard, but certain savings accounts were discovered. No one knew for certain where the money came from, but in banks located in Burlington and Saratoga, Champagne had $56,000 ($890,000 in 2011).
He was traced as far as Maryland, and then officially listed as “whereabouts unknown.” A week later, Champagne was arrested in Hyattsville, Maryland (still driving the Oldsmobile), and was brought north to face charges.
Five months later (in October), an Essex County jury found him not guilty of stealing the car. Their reasoning was simple: he had promised to return it, and with no firm timeframe in place, he hadn’t actually reneged on that promise.
As he had done earlier in the Richmond case, Bernard presented no defense on the federal charges. He pled guilty in Albany to three counts of impersonation and was sentenced to one year and one day in the US Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
In December 1936, Champagne walked out of prison once again a free man, and immediately proved himself an incorrigible lawbreaker. Without hesitation, he returned to criminal activity, and for the next several years left few traces of his whereabouts. (It was very difficult tracking his story today through newspaper archives and public records. Gaps were unavoidable. After all, seven decades ago, the FBI chased him for seven years before achieving any success.)
Having already served two prison sentences, Champagne had proven catchable, but the third time wouldn’t be easy for his pursuers. He worked multiple scams at the same time in a particular city, but when the heat was on, he slipped away to a new location. And there’s no denying that Bernard Champagne was one slippery customer.
His exploits out West provide a fine example. After several impersonations in San Francisco, he was indicted there by a federal grand jury in May 1942. But Champagne was already long gone, posing as a secret service agent in Salt Lake City, where he found at least six more victims. He was particularly adept at securing small cash amounts, which tended to attract less attention.
To make the process profitable, he worked several targets simultaneously. They were nearly always women, and many of them were widows. In Salt Lake City, impersonating a secret service agent netted him $5,000 from six targets. As if to intentionally taunt his pursuers, in two of those cases Bernard also claimed to be a special agent with the FBI.
This especially annoyed Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was very protective of the agency’s image. He turned up the heat on Bernard, but despite the intensified effort, their quarry from the North Country remained elusive.
The charges at San Francisco were followed by several other federal indictments: in Salt Lake City, June and November 1942; Danville, Illinois, September 1942; New York City, January 1943; and Cleveland, April 1943. Complaints had also been filed against Bernard in Omaha, Nebraska; Kankakee, Illinois; Daytona Beach, Florida; and in Maine.
FBI agents described Champagne as “a prolific impersonator,” but the true extent of his success is unknown. Because so much of his fakery escaped detection, it’s unclear how many identities Bernard actually assumed. One agent said he had “at least 50 aliases,” and at one point, there were 34 names documented. It was the list of professions, however, that really impressed them.
Among his successful impersonations were: a graduate of Columbia University; a doctor employed by the US Public Health Service; a secret service agent; an FBI agent; a member of the US diplomatic corps; and the nephew of noted politician Hamilton Fish, a ruse that allowed him to pass $600 worth of bogus checks ($8,000 in 2011).
On a grander scale were his military personas: an army medical officer; aide to General Arnold, who was chief of the nation’s air forces; a member of military intelligence; a lieutenant colonel in the army (good for another $8,000 in 2011); a lieutenant commander in the US Navy; and a nephew of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was commanding the Allied forces in Europe.
At times he claimed to have lost three brothers in the Battle of the Coral Sea; that his brother-in-law was an admiral; and that his grandfather was a navy captain. Those lies, offered convincingly, gave him legitimacy in the eyes of an intended victim. It was an important factor leading up to the payoff scheme: ensuring that he could secure the release of relatives in Germany. By carefully selecting his marks (victims), Bernard achieved continued success.
An FBI memo from summer 1943 notes that Champagne’s proclivity for “victimizing women, especially widows” was featured in a radio broadcast by the legendary Walter Winchell. Hoover, passionate guardian of the FBI’s reputation, felt that publicly citing a longstanding, unsolved case made the Bureau look bad. It was his baby, and he felt the need to respond.
The same memo confirmed that increased attention was now focused on Bernard: “An identification order was issued on Champagne during the past week, and a very active fugitive investigation looking to his apprehension is in progress.”
Less than two months later, Hoover had his man. Bernard’s modus operandus was well known, and information detailing it was disseminated to scores of law enforcement agencies. Anything remotely resembling his style was looked at, and a case in Ohio proved his undoing.
In the small village of Dalton, Bernard had targeted a widow, Gladys Mohn, in a real estate scheme. Presenting himself as Allen Steven Klein, a navy surgeon, he convinced Mrs. Mohn to invest $4,312 ($55,000 in 2011) in some Florida property, land that he said the government was going to purchase for airport development. The return promised by Champagne on her investment was $22,000 ($277,000 in 2011).
A glitch developed when Mohn went to Florida with Champagne to look the site over. After several excuses “prevented” him from showing her the property, which of course didn’t exist, Bernard finally abandoned her and vanished.
Mohn’s subsequent complaint to authorities, with details on how her “partner” operated, suggested that Allen Steven Klein may well have been Bernard Frederick Champagne.
On April 10, a warrant was issued for his arrest, adding to the list of previous indictments, but also triggering an intensified FBI manhunt. And this time, Bernard’s luck finally ran out when several FBI agents from the Cleveland branch arrested him in Dalton. At his arraignment the next day in Canton, Ohio, Champagne did what he had always done in the past—pleaded guilty.
Hoover addressed the media, mentioning several of the personas Bernard had assumed, including that of FBI agent. The Director noted, “Champagne operated from coast to coast, leaving a trail of disillusioned women who gave him sums ranging up to $4000 [$50,000 in 2011].”
Though his documented crimes may have been the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” an aura of mystery surrounded Champagne’s incarceration, much as it had his life of crime. After pleading guilty, he was held under $10,000 bond ($120,000 in 2011) at Cleveland for federal grand jury action. At that point, he seems to have vanished.
Perhaps the FBI avoided publicizing his story any further once he was captured. Champagne had defrauded hundreds of victims out of untold thousands of dollars—certainly the equivalent of millions of dollars today. To the embarrassment of lawmen, he had gotten away with most of it during the past seven years. Heavily redacted records limit our knowledge of his activities.
Despite the vast number of charges pending against Bernard in at least nine cities (for fraud and for impersonating federal officials), the Cleveland grand jury settled on a puzzling set of indictments: “Violation of the Mann Act, in transporting a waitress from Orrville [Ohio] to California via Winter Haven, Florida; violation of the Selective Service Act for not having his registration card with him; and posing as a lieutenant commander in the US Navy with intent to defraud.”
It appears that he served approximately 18 years in prison and was released in the early 1960s, returning to the North Country. Champagne passed away in 1977 at the age of 73.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
What follows is a guest essay by Margaret Miller Reuther, past President of the North Country SPCA and now co-chair of the capital campaign to build a new animal shelter for Essex County. The Almanack asked Margaret to explain why we need a new shelter.
Since its doors opened in 1969, the North Country SPCA has helped literally thousands of surrendered, abandoned and abused cats and dogs find loving homes. Now, after more than 40 years of helping others, we need your help.
A new shelter is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The current shelter in Westport is so old and rundown that our only option is to start over. In our small shelter we must put up to four cats in a cage that’s half the size the Humane Society recommends. Our dog cages are about a third of the recommended size. Also, we are forced to keep dogs and cats in the same room. This creates high stress levels, making the animals less adoptable because they are either more aggressive or very shy. And our shelter has no place to isolate sick cats and dogs, putting all of our animals at risk.
The North Country SPCA plans to build a new shelter in Elizabethtown. The new facility has been designed by ARQ Architects, a small firm which has revolutionized the field of animal care with major shelters in New York City and San Francisco.
The new facility will be a prototype for smaller shelters nationwide. It will feature animal housing which meets modern criteria for animal care, a get-acquainted room where people can spend time with a pet before adopting, and an energy-efficient “green” building that will save money as it uses up to 30% less energy. Finally, studies show that modern shelters increase adoption rates by 50 to 100 percent, so our new building will help many more cats and dogs, puppies and kittens find a second chance at a loving home.
Representative Teresa Sayward says “Our cat, Harriet, and I ask that you help us build a new facility that is properly equipped to house the dogs and cats that are awaiting a family of their own. Your tax-deductible donation will be greatly appreciated.” Senator Betty Little concurs. “A new facility is now needed and incorporating environmental and energy-efficient standards is the right long-term approach.”
We are 80% of the way to our goal, but we still need $250,000. To put us over the top, we recently received a Challenge Grant and until October 1st, all gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $125,000. Please be generous and help us build a new home for the many needy dogs and cats in Essex County.
Westport vet David Goldwasser says “The woefully inadequate facility in Westport can no longer serve the needs of our homeless animal population. I am thrilled that we will finally have a new facility which we can be proud of.” Ticonderoga vet James Mack agrees, “A new shelter is a welcome and needed addition to the North Country.” And Sue Russell at the Westport Veterinary Hospital says “The 1960’s building has outlived its usefulness. A new shelter is a necessity.”
The NCSPCA does not received state or federal funding. Private donors provide 85 percent of our annual budget while adoption fees and town contracts account for only 15 percent.
The NCSPCA is the only SPCA animal shelter in rural Essex County. We are a no-kill shelter that provides refuge to over 400 dogs and cats each year. Some are brought in by owners who can no longer care for them. Others are strays. Numerous cats and kittens are dropped at our doorstep in the middle of the night. And the police bring us animals that are victims of unspeakable abuse.
The Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown, Essex County, is opening for a new season beginning on Saturday, May 28. The museum will be offering some new exhibitions including What do You Want to Do? that focuses on the Brewster Memorial Library’s collection of old recreational brochures related to Essex County’s past attractions.
The Human Face exhibit highlights paintings of local people from the past, emphasizing the human presence within one of the Adirondack Park’s most fascinating corners. Opening on Saturday, July 23, is the new permanent exhibition, Worked/Wild. Through artifacts, photographs and stories that examine a wide spectrum of community life, this new exhibition explores the dynamic environmental and social structure of our region. The museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown. It is open every day from 10am -5pm. For more information contact the museum at 873-6466 or visit the website at www.adkhistorycenter.org.
Like most gardeners my little plot of earth was mud until recently and now has just become the holding place for the dismal looking storm windows the insulators found hidden in the crawl space. (I am curious if whether the windows were placed there as a substitute for the lack of any insulation or for some other nefarious reason.) Thankfully struggles with the weather does not stop professional farmers and craftspeople from showcasing locally produced items at Farmers’ Markets around the Adirondacks.» Continue Reading.
“Putting a bluebird nesting box near a school or house brings wildlife closer to you,” says NYS DEC Wildlife Biologist John O’Connor, “ Children can then become interested in wildlife and that knowledge will stay with them for life.”
O’Connor says, “The New York State Bluebird Society is a good starting place. Bluebirds look like robins except the males are blue instead of grey on the back.” The Eastern bluebird is a medium-sized thrush related to the robin and can be found in farmlands, orchards and fields. You will not find this bird at your feeder because it eats grubs (yippee), insects and berries.
In Elizabethtown this weekend (May 14) the Fish and Game Club will be hosting a Bluebird Education day at 10:00 a.m.. Kathy Linker of the NYS Bluebird Society will be on hand to lend her expertise as well as the opportunity for all registrants to build a nesting box.
O’Connor says, “It is not too late to build and put up a bluebird nesting box in the Adirondacks. The birds have most likely been in the nesting phase and are just starting to bring materials to the boxes.”
You do not need to attend this workshop to make a nesting box. Here are plans using only one plank of wood.
“The bluebird is a cavity nesting bird and there are other birds out there that are more aggressive,” say O’Connor. “They nest in holes. The nesting boxes give the bluebirds a safe place to nest from urban sprawl, predators and other birds competing for the same space. House wrens and house sparrows compete with the bluebirds for nesting holes. The wrens will even go into the box and pull out the bluebird’s nest and destroy its eggs. ”
For children it is important to realize that these songbirds not only provide hours of entertainment but are a natural insect deterrent. Bluebirds are said to be tolerant of human interaction, if monitoring the nesting boxes, one can easily peek inside to check on the nest. Children can be part of the process in assuring the survival of these native songbirds.
Presidents’ Day brings to mind an interesting historical connection between some North Country men and the Abraham Lincoln story. On the downside, the men in question are linked to the aftermath of Lincoln’s death, a dark subject. On the upside, they played a positive role in the hunt for the president’s assassin. With admiration, they have been referred to as Lincoln’s Avengers.
Several men from Clinton, Essex, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties belonged to the Sixteenth New York Cavalry. Shortly after Lincoln’s death, the troop was among the military escort at the president’s funeral. An honor, surely, but not the event that would bring them a measure of fame. In the days following the assassination, several search missions were conducted in Washington and elsewhere in the hopes of finding John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. After several false alarms, important new information was uncovered, requiring a swift response.
On April 24, five days after Lincoln’s funeral, headquarters in Washington ordered Lieutenant Edward Doherty to gather twenty-five men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry and report to Colonel L. C. (Lafayette) Baker, Special Agent for the War Department. Among those to step forward and answer the call were ten men from the Adirondack region.
Doherty met with his captain and later reported: “He informed me that he had reliable information that the assassin Booth and his accomplice were somewhere between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. He gave me several photographs of Booth and introduced me to Mr. Conger and Mr. Baker, and said they would accompany me.
“He directed me to scour the section of the country indicated thoroughly, to make my own disposition of the men in my command, to forage upon the country, giving receipts for what was taken from loyal parties.” In other words, move now. There was no time to prepare, so food and other needs would have to be secured from sympathetic US citizens, who would later be reimbursed.
For two days the troop pursued leads almost without pause, finally ending up at the now infamous Garrett farm in Caroline County, Virginia. Inside the barn was perhaps the most wanted man in American history, Booth, and one of his conspirators, David Herold.
The men of the Sixteenth surrounded the barn while negotiations and threats were passed back and forth between Booth and Lieutenant Doherty. Booth refused to leave the barn despite warnings he would be burned out. He even offered to shoot it out with Doherty’s men if they would pull back a certain distance from the barn.
Realizing he faced almost certain death, David Herold decided to surrender. After leaving the barn, he was tied to a tree and questioned. He verified for Doherty that it was indeed Booth inside the barn. The original plan, he said, was to kidnap Lincoln, but Booth instead killed him, and then threatened to do the same to Herold if he didn’t help Booth escape.
Doherty again turned his attention to the barn and its lone desperate occupant, who refused to come out. Finally, Everton Conger, one of Lafayette Baker’s detectives who accompanied the troop, set fire to the barn around 3 am. The idea was to force their quarry out, but things didn’t go as planned.
Due to the rapidly spreading blaze, Booth could be seen moving about inside the barn, and one of the men, Boston Corbett, decided to act. Claiming he could see that Booth was about to shoot at Doherty, Corbett fired. His shot hit Booth in the neck, coincidentally only an inch or two from where Booth’s own bullet had struck Lincoln.
Their captive was dragged from the barn, still alive, but he died about three hours later. Shortly after, his body and the prisoner, Herold, were taken to Washington. The most famous manhunt in American history was over.
Within several months, the men of the Sixteenth were discharged, carrying with them the pride (and the attending glory) for delivering what many felt was justice. Most of them returned to humble lives, sharing their story with family and friends over the years.
Six of the ten North Country men who participated lived at one time or another in the Saranac area. They had connections to many regional communities, having been born, lived in, or died in: Bangor, Beekmantown, Brushton, Cadyville, Chester (Chestertown), Elizabethtown, Minerva, Norfolk, Olmstedville, Plattsburgh, and Schuyler Falls.
As often happens, the spelling of names varies widely in census records, military records, and newspapers. This admired group of North Country heroes included: David Baker, William Byrne, Godfrey Phillip Hoyt, Martin Kelly, Oliver Lonkey (or Lompay), Franklin McDaniels (or Frank McDonald), John Millington, Emory Parady, Lewis Savage, and Abram Snay (Abraham, Senay, Genay).
In 1865, Congress voted reward money to those involved in the capture of many individuals. Among those so honored were the men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, the envy of all others for killing the man who himself had murdered a legend.
Photo Top: Conspirators at the ends of their ropes. Hanging, from left to right: Mary Surratt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, and George Atzerodt at Washington, DC, on July 7, 1865.
Photo Middle: Actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Photo Bottom: Congressional reward list for Lincoln’s Avengers.
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.
I recently covered some pretty tough hombres from Lyon Mountain. Rugged folks, for sure, but by no means had they cornered the market on regional toughness. Here are a few of my favorite stories of Adirondack and North Country resilience.
In most jobs where dynamite was used (mining, farming, lumbering), it was kept frozen until needed, since freezing was said to render it inert. Thawing the explosives was extremely dangerous—accidents during the process were frequent, and often deadly. A “safest” method was prescribed by engineers (slow warming in a container that was placed in water), but many users had their own ideas on how it should be done.
In November 1901, Bill Casey of Elizabethtown was thawing dynamite to use for blasting boulders and stumps while building logging roads on Hurricane Mountain. Fire was his tool of choice for thawing, and the results were disastrous. From the ensuing explosion, Casey’s hat was blown into a tree; his clothes were shredded; his legs were lacerated; his face was burned and bruised; and he was temporarily blinded by the flash and deafened by the blast.
Then came the hard part. He was alone, and nearly a mile from the logging camp, so Casey started walking. When he encountered other men, they built a litter and began carrying him from the woods. The discomfort for both Casey and his rescuers must have been extreme. There were eighteen inches of snow in the woods, and when he couldn’t be carried, they had no choice but to drag him along on the litter.
When they finally reached the highway, they were still five miles from the village. A doctor tended to his wounds, and Casey was brought to his home in Elizabethtown where his wife and five children helped nurse him back to health.
Kudos also to Chasm Falls lumberman Wesley Wallace, who, in winter 1920, suffered a terrible accident while chopping wood. He started the day with ten toes, but finished with only six. Somehow, he survived extreme blood loss and found the strength to endure two days traveling by sleigh to the hospital in Malone, only to have the surgeons there amputate his mangled foot.
Whitehall’s John Whalen found reason to attempt suicide in 1920, and the aftermath was nothing short of remarkable. Three times he shot himself, including once in the head. Whalen then “calmly walked into the YMCA, told of what he had done, and asked to wash the blood from his face. He was absolutely cool about it as be announced that the ‘lump over his eye’ was the bullet that he had fired through the roof of his mouth.” He was taken to the hospital in Ticonderoga where it was reported he was expected to recover.
Indian Lake’s Frank Talbot was on a crew constructing a logging camp on West Canada Creek in June 1922, when a log rolled on top of him, causing a compound fracture of his right leg. Bad enough, sure, but the rescue was the kicker. According to the newspaper report, “His companions carried him on a stretcher 31 miles to Indian Lake, and from there he was taken to the Moses-Ludington hospital, arriving at four o’clock Sunday morning [the accident happened on Saturday morning]. The fracture was reduced and he is getting along nicely.”
Toughness wasn’t the sole purview of men. In December 1925, two women, one with a ten-month-old baby and the other with a nine-year-old son, left Santa Clara by car with the intent of reaching Lake Placid. They departed shortly before 9:00 pm, but on the lonely Santa Clara Road, the car malfunctioned. Since the odometer showed they had traveled about five miles, they began walking in the direction of Hogle’s Fox Farm, which they knew to be some distance ahead.
It was snowing heavily, and the trip turned into a major ordeal. They finally reached the farm, but there was no room for them, so they kept walking another quarter mile, where a Mrs. Selkirk took them in.
It was later determined that the car had broken down just two miles outside of Santa Clara. The assumption was that the tires spinning constantly in the wet snow (remember, this was 1925) had caused the odometer to rack up five miles of travel. This fooled the women into thinking they were much farther from the village, and thus going in the right direction.
From where the car was recovered, it was calculated that the women (and the nine-year-old boy) had walked on a wilderness road “eleven miles in snow nearly knee-deep, under a moon whose rays were obscured by falling snow, and carrying a ten-months old baby.”
Eleven miles in the snow wouldn’t be attempted today without the proper gear from head to toe, plus water and snacks. By that measure, their impromptu hike was pretty impressive. And they made it back to Lake Placid in time to spend Christmas Eve with family.
Photo Top: Headline from 1922.
Photo Bottom: Headline from 1926.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eight 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.
After five years as Director of Conservation for the Adirondack Council, John Davis will be leaving his post at the end of the year to commence a conservation project aimed at improving the wildlife habitat connections between the Atlantic, Appalachian and Adirondack landscapes.
Wildlife migration is gaining in importance as climate change alters the locations of suitable homes for many species of animals and plants. Davis’s departure creates a job opening on the Program Team at the Adirondack Council, a leading environmental research, education and advocacy organization based in Elizabethtown. Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council has fourteen full-time staff members. » Continue Reading.
They call it “Crazy Corners” or “Spaghetti Junction” or “Dysfunction Junction.”
For years I’ve driven through the unique, bizarre intersection at Routes 9 and 73 in New Russia, a hamlet of Elizabethtown. For years, I’ve wondered: who on earth designed this crazy confluence, and why? » Continue Reading.
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