Posts Tagged ‘Lake Champlain-Champlain Valley’

Monday, March 28, 2011

Champlain Watershed Stewardship Summit Tuesday

The New York Citizens Advisory Committee to the Lake Champlain Basin Program is inviting the public to a Watershed Stewardship Summit which will present the successes and challenges in aquatic invasive species spread prevention in the Lake Champlain basin and Adirondacks.

The summit will held on Tuesday, March 29, from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm at The Nature Conservancy Office on Route 73 in Keene Valley. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 25, 2011

National Geographic Promoting Region’s Heritage

National Geographic Maps, established in 1915 to produce maps for National Geographic magazine as well as for travellers, is now using the worldwide web to promote geotourism, another name for the exploration of a particular area’s singular cultural, historical and natural topography.

Starting this spring, the company will work with a local organization to promote the unique attractions of the Lake George region around the world on the web.

“The National Geographic Maps Division is pleased to have the opportunity to spotlight this region and, in doing so, support and sustain it as one of the world’s treasured natural places,” said James Dion, business development associate, National Geographic Maps. “The MapGuide will celebrate the area’s abundant scenic, cultural and historical attributes from the unique vantage point of those who live there.”

On Thursday, March 3, Dion was joined by New York State officials at the New York State Museum in Albany to announce the new project, which will be undertaken in collaboration with Lakes to Locks Passage, the organization established to promote cultural and heritage tourism in the upper Hudson, Lake George and Lake Champlain corridors.

“The Lakes to Locks Passage Geotourism website will highlight the region’s history, unique points of interest, ongoing events, and outdoor routes and trails along the waterways,” said Janet Kennedy, executive director of Lakes to Locks Passage. “The National Geographic brand will attract visitors seeking the authenticity of people and places, traveling to several attractions throughout a vacation to truly experience a destination. Through this collaboration, Lakes to Locks Passage will link established attractions to the special places hidden away in small communities.”

According to Kennedy, local residents and organizations will be invited to nominate landmarks, attractions, activities, events and even foods for places on the website.
“Participation by local residents is critical to the program’s success,” said Kennedy. “Our goal is to receive nominations from across the region that identify the things people love best. Public forums and presentations will be conducted in communities throughout the Lakes to Locks Passage area to encourage nominations and community involvement.”

Lakes to Locks Passage has scheduled public meetings to encourage on-line nominations to the website and to promote its potential for attracting national and international visitors to the region.

The first in this area will be held on this Tuesday, March 29 at the Warren County Municipal Center, Room 6-103, from 3 pm to 5 pm.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror
or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fish Habitat Projects Slated for Ausable River

The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has received two awards that will fund trout and salmon habitat improvement projects. The project will identify and replace structures that act as barriers to the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms. AsRA will receive $46,910 from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and will work with The Adirondack Nature Conservancy and SUNY-Plattsburgh to complete a fish passage study. AsRA will also receive $52,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to replace culverts and deconstruct dams that act as barriers to fish migration.

The project will use field assessments and GIS mapping tools to identify and rank barriers to aquatic organisms, assess the overall connectivity of stream habitat in the Ausable Watershed, and prioritize structures for replacement. The collaborating groups will conduct a training workshop to present the results to Town and County
highway superintendents, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

Maintaining connections between rivers and small tributaries is important for protecting trout, salmon, and other aquatic organisms. Trout rely upon small upland tributaries for spawning and refuge from warm summer temperatures. Dams, culverts, and bridges can altered flow and block upstream movement to important refuge streams.
Connectivity to upland tributaries is becoming even more critical as temperatures in valley bottom streams rise due to climate warming.

The Ausable and River Association is a nonprofit watershed group that works cooperatively with landowners, municipalities, and government agencies to preserve the natural, scenic, and recreation resources of the Ausable Watershed. For more information call 873-3752 or write info@ausableriver.org.


Monday, March 7, 2011

2010 Lake Stewards Report Released

The Lake George Association has released a report with findings from the 2010 Lake Steward program. The Association considers the Lake George Lake Steward Program “a critical part of protecting the water quality of Lake George and preventing the spread of invasive species between waterbodies by boaters throughout the Lake Champlain Basin and the Northeast.” Despite the fact that dozens of aquatic invasive species have already made inroads nearby, only four are currently found in Lake George. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History

The eastern edge of the Adirondack Park stretches into the middle of Lake Champlain, that great river-lake 120 miles long, four times the size of Lake George. Standing between the states of New York and Vermont, it’s the largest body of water in the Adirondacks, one that connects Whitehall and (via the Champlain Canal and Hudson River) New York City to Quebec’s Richelieu River and the St. Lawrence River. Two routes inland from the Atlantic Ocean that have had a historic impact on the entire North County, New York and Vermont. The book Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates what is unquestionably America’s most historic lake.

Four hundred years of Champlain history are conveyed in the coffee-table book’s more than 300 color photographs, drawings, maps and vintage images. Chapters on the towns along the lake, the Chaplain basin’s First Peoples, its critical military and transportation history, and the sports and recreation opportunities are eloquently contextualized by regional writers, including occasional Almanack contributor Chris Shaw who provides the book’s Prologue and Epilogue, and Russ Bellico who offers a chapter entitled “Highway to Empire”.

Published by Adirondack Life in Jay, Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History is a great book for those who love the lake, local and state history buffs, and nature lovers.

You can pick up a copy online.

You can hear an interview with the book’s editor Mike McCaskey on the Vermont Public Radio website.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Local History: A True Story of Sunken Treasure

Recent acts of piracy on the high seas brought to mind stories of what some call “the Golden Age of Pirates” (like Blackbeard, or Henry Morgan). That conjured images of sunken treasure, which in turn reminded me of what might well be the shallowest sunken treasure ever recovered. And wouldn’t you know it? It happened right here in the North Country.

It occurred at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, near Whitehall, already the site of many historic lake-related treasures. Arnold’s Valcour fleet was built there, and it’s also the final resting place of the ships that survived the Battle of Plattsburgh. Most of them eventually sank in East Bay, which is a vast marshy area surrounding the mouth of the Poultney River.

If you’ve never toured the lower part of Lake Champlain, you’re missing a great experience. Besides playing a critical role during centuries of regional history, the scenery is spectacular. South of Ticonderoga, the lake narrows into a 20-mile, river-like channel previously referred to as Wood Creek. It features cliffs, narrows, lush vegetation, and copious wildlife.

Just outside of Whitehall is South Bay, bound in places by high, steep, cliffs that once hosted a historic battle. It also hosts a healthy population of rattlesnakes. The long, high ridge to the west, from here to Ticonderoga, separates South Bay from Lake George. Of all the canoe trips I’ve taken, South Bay is one of the all-time best.

A little further east down the lake is a sharp bend known simply as the Elbow, a shortened form of Fiddler’s Elbow. It was here that a famed member of Roger’s Rangers, General Israel Putnam, led an attack against Marin’s forces in 1758. To the east, just past the Elbow, is the entrance to East Bay, less than a mile from downtown Whitehall, where Lock 12 provides access to the New York State Barge Canal. Like I said, this place is extremely rich in history.

The story of sunken treasure is tied to the possession of Fort Ticonderoga, about twenty miles north. In early July, 1777, General Arthur St. Clair was the US commander at Ticonderoga, but the American troops were far outmanned and outgunned by the forces of Sir Johnny Burgoyne, whose great show of strength prompted St. Clair’s decision to evacuate the fort.

Some of St. Clair’s men crossed Lake Champlain and retreated across Vermont territory. Others went south on the lake to Whitehall. Burgoyne pursued the latter group, taking control of Whitehall (known then as Skenesborough). As the patriots fled, they destroyed many boats and just about anything they couldn’t carry, lest it fall into enemy hands.

Burgoyne’s forces were involved in other battles before finally meeting defeat at Saratoga, but it’s his time at Whitehall that is a vital link to the treasure story. His men at Fort Ticonderoga and elsewhere frequently suffered the same problems as the Americans—exhaustion, hunger, and lack of pay. Many unpaid soldiers voiced their discontent, and mutiny could soon follow.

To alleviate the problem, British authorities in Quebec dispatched a sloop. Manned by a crew of ten, it carried sufficient gold to pay Burgoyne’s thousands of soldiers. After the long trip down Lake Champlain, the sloop reached Fort Ticonderoga, only to find that Burgoyne had traveled farther south. Captain Johnson (first name unknown), in charge of the gold-laden craft, decided to deliver his goods to Burgoyne at Whitehall.

Nearing the village, Johnson was informed that Burgoyne’s men had been victorious at Hubbardton, about 15 miles northeast of Whitehall. East Bay led directly towards Hubbardton, and about 8 miles upstream was a bridge the soldiers would cross as they made their way towards Albany. Johnson entered the bay, planning to intercept the troops at the bridge and give them the gold.

The sloop traveled as far as possible, anchoring just below Carver Falls, not far from the bridge. While waiting for Burgoyne’s men, the sloop came under attack by patriot forces, (possibly men retreating from the loss at Hubbardton). Captain Johnson scuttled his ship, but the men were killed trying to escape, and the Americans quickly left the area that would soon be crawling with British soldiers. The sloop lay on the river bottom.

Years later, it was learned that England’s military had offered a reward for the capture of Captain Johnson, for it was assumed he had made off with the booty, it having never been delivered.

Fast-forward 124 years to fall, 1901. Civil Engineer George B. West, who oversaw construction of the power dam at Carver Falls, learned that raging spring torrents had left part of a watercraft exposed in the riverbed below the falls. Aided by a crew of 30 men, he diverted the river temporarily to further explore the wreck and clear it from the channel. Using tools, and then a charge of dynamite, they managed to free the hull. Inside, they found various glass items, several muskets, and an interesting iron chest in the captain’s quarters.

Imagine the excitement of the moment, opening the lid to reveal 10,000 gold sovereigns, coins that today might fetch between $5 and $10 million!

As the spoils of a long-ago war, the coins were deposited in the Allen National Bank in nearby Fair Haven, Vermont. But ownership of the money was questioned by the New York Times, Boston newspapers, and many others across New England. Some said it should be returned to Great Britain as a gesture of good faith. Others said to keep it. After all, if the soldiers had recovered the gold when the boat sank, it surely wouldn’t have been returned to the Brits.

But it wasn’t that simple. The boat sank in 1777. Previous to that, the battle between New York and New Hampshire over land grants had led to the creation of the Republic of Vermont, located between the two litigants. Neither New York nor New Hampshire recognized Vermont independence, which led to an interesting scenario: in 1777, the site at Carver Falls could have been part of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, or British territory.

Further complicating matters, when statehood was finally settled (and before the gold was discovered), the NYS-Vermont border in that area was placed right down the center of the Poultney River. In the end, it is believed the money remained in Vermont coffers.

There is an interesting side story that was not included in published accounts about the recovered gold. It helps explain how the boat went undetected for more than a century. Above Carver Falls, seven years after the sloop sank, the river’s path was diverted, whether by natural means, man-made means, or a combination of the two. A supposed dispute over water rights may have played a role, or the river may have naturally chosen a new course through a widespread sandy area.

What’s most important is the result of the change in path. Up to 1783, East Bay was navigable by ships weighing up to 40 tons. The course diversion caused massive amounts of sand and sediment to wash over the falls, reducing the channel’s depth dramatically.

In subsequent years, though rumors of sunken treasure persisted, it hardly seemed plausible that a boat of any size could have made the journey to Carver Falls. Who could have known the river was once much deeper? It wasn’t until 124 years later that nature released a torrent strong enough to reveal the truth. And to clear the long-sullied name of Captain Johnson.

Photos: Top, map of key locations; below, sample of a British gold sovereign from the late 1700s.

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.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Benedict Arnold’s Retreat from Valcour: A Revisionist’s Version

When it was reported in the summer of 1997 that the wreck of a Revolutionary War vessel had been discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain, most newspaper accounts included some information about the battle in which she was lost – the Battle of Valcour –and how Benedict Arnold, in command of the remains of the New American Navy, eluded the British fleet and sailed up Lake Champlain toward Fort Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 7, 2011

The Wreck of the George W. Lee

In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River leading south to Albany and New York City, but Frawley’s intended route was north. At this critical waterway intersection, the Champlain Canal led north from Waterford to Whitehall at Lake Champlain’s southern tip.

Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island. Just as there is today, at the mouth of the river was a dam, constructed by engineers to enable canal boats to cross the river. About 500 feet upstream was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old; his ten-year-old son; and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, which was much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge over the dam to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam; three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river; two men swimming for their lives in icy water; and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photo Top: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island.

Photo Bottom: A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

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.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Travelling by Ice: Ice Bridges and Short-Cuts

Ice sports bring us out on frozen lakes for the sheer pleasure of being there. But through the years, folks have traveled our “winterized” lakes and rivers for a number of more practical reasons such as visiting friends and relatives, or hauling food, hay, coal, firewood, furniture, logs, milk and just about everything else imaginable.

In the late 19th to the early 20th century, the term “bridge” was commonly used to refer to the ice which allowed for these crossings. Note the following report from the Plattsburgh Sentinel, 2 March 1923: “The ice bridge between Willsboro and Burlington is quite extensively used, many visiting the city for both profit and pleasure.”

Throughout the 1800s, horse-drawn sleds and stagecoaches carried paying passengers on regularly scheduled trips back and forth across Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont. As recently as 2010, when the worn Crown Point bridge had to be destroyed, folks again took advantage of the ice to commute across Lake Champlain to their jobs.

Milda Burns of North River said her father told her that from 1890 until 1930, he bridged the Hudson River by “brushing” it. This meant laying tree branches and twigs across a shallow part of the river to damn up the ice flowing downstream. In this way, ice built up to a depth sufficient to make a road strong enough to support horses and wagons crossing to the other side.

Ice crossings were also carried out for military reasons. By the 1600s, Indians, French Canadians and the English traversed Lake Champlain, most often to do battle with one another. One of the more famous crossings was that of Rogers’ Rangers, a British scouting force, which in the 1750s, retreated from the French by snowshoeing some thirty miles down the length of Lake George.

In 1870, Thomas H. Peacock accompanied his father on a trip from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake to bring supplies to several lumber camps. As the road would have been long and hilly, they cut the distance in half by traveling over the frozen Saranac Lakes, pulling a sled full of 25 to 30 bushels of potatoes, two or three quarters of beef, a large load of horse hay and eagerly anticipated mail. The trip took eighteen hours.

Loggers also followed frozen lake routes to shorten trips and bring logs out onto the ice where they were dumped and left waiting until spring. When the ice thawed, the timber was floated downriver to the sawmills.

An extraordinary variety of “freight” has been moved across the ice. Some folks still live year-round on road-inaccessible lakeshores or islands. In the winter, they must pull their groceries home using skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles.

Contractors and caretakers take advantage of the frozen lakes to move equipment and materials to road-inaccessible construction and camp sites. There was even an occasion in the early 1920s when rock-loaded sleds were pulled across Lake George by skaters holding sails, the stone used to rebuild the eroded shoreline of Dome Island. To reach remote ice fishing locations, sportsmen cross ice with snowmobiles, ATVs or trucks.

In earlier days the term “freight” included any number of things, not the least of which were houses! That moving buildings across the ice was not so unusual is demonstrated by a real estate advertisement found in the Essex County Republican of 10 September 1915 offering a 141′ long building which “could be moved over the ice to any point on the lake for trifling expense.”

Sometimes overlooked, ice serving as a bridge, has had a major influence on the North Country’s transportation history.

Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Lafayette Spaulding:
Old Time North Country Music on Broadway

Ol’ time, foot-stompin’ fiddle music is a North Country staple, rooted in times past when people made their own fun. Its heyday was principally from the mid-1800s to the 1940s, finally giving way in the post-war years to the automobile and widespread availability of electricity. Sources of entertainment changed, but before that, the tradition of barn dances and the like was strong across the Adirondacks.

For the past seventy years or so, that tradition has been preserved by a number of outstanding musicians. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when some of the old tunes were rolled out, it brought back memories of Crown Point’s Lafayette Spaulding. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dave Gibson: Wilderness is not a ‘Special Interest’

Ed Zahniser is the son of Howard and Alice Zahniser (Howard was chief author and lobbyist for the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964), and Ed’s essay “Wilderness and our Full Community of Life” is now on the Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve website. It was written as a public address, but also stands on its own as an exciting piece of writing.

Re-reading Ed’s presentation gives me goosebumps because it ties together so much of the human experience. As he makes clear, wilderness is not about natural resource management, ecology, or Adirondack State Land Master Plan guidelines, as important as those are to keeping and restoring of wild places through the management of human use. As Ed says, wildness causes us to think about right relationships with the broader community of life.

To see wilderness is to see ourselves, as his father Howard Zahniser described it, as “dependent members of an interdependent community which gains its energy from the sun.” It is “where we feel most keenly our interdependence with all life.” Most keenly. We can feel also this in our backyards, in our parks, in our guts after a rich meal. But wild places are set aside in law to help us to come face to face with this interdependence in a very real way.

Thinking about what that word interdependence means leads one to recognize how little we know about the land as a whole community of life, not dissected under the microscope, but connected to us. Ed compares the Hubble Space Telescope looking at galaxies spiraling outwards with soil layers and organisms spiraling downwards. If there was ever a “4 G network,” it is in the soil. It is even in the teaming mites and bacterial life on our heads! Towards the end of her life, my mother thought wildness was coming a bit too close to our house, as foxes and deer moved ever closer as the result of a kind of re-wilding going in the neighborhood. Well, it turns out wilderness was always that close – even closer.

Experience with the wild really is a humbling experience, and that humility is critical to our Christian traditions as well. Ed traces today’s wilderness ethic to many biblical stories and traditions, to Christ himself wandering in the desert, and the spiritual purification, and the finding of “right relationships” to man and the universe which many people have found there.

One of those humbling days for me was in the Split Rock Wild Forest near Essex and Lake Champlain. Gary Randorf led Ken Rimany and me on a ski trip there with six inches of powder on top of an icy crust. Gary flew uphill; we edged our way up, slipping constantly. From white and red pine plantations, we moved into mixed hardwood forest and occasional glades of hemlock, and then scrub oaks and red cedar near the cliff face above Champlain. Huffing and puffing (Gary was resting easy); we watched bald eagles circling, meeting in mid-air, their talons hooked together in an aerial spiral. A raven checked on the eagles. The sky above was a deep blue. Wow. What a wild moment.

We headed into a deep ravine, following the sun in its southern arc to Champlain’s Barn Rock Bay. Gary explained that here huge rock ballast was cut and slid on great bridges and docks into waiting ships. We tried to comprehend, and all we saw was thick hemlock above us. Here another of our great human enterprises was swallowed up by the unmoved, unimpressed earth organism. Knowing what was once here and how many people sweated, or bled to create this enterprise is an exercise in humility. Now, animal tracks, mouse, deer, bobcat accompanied our ski tracks up the ravine, as we scrambled after Gary, finding him again after a wonderful swoosh back to the parking lot.

Fundamental to Ed’s essay, then, is that wilderness is not a special interest, but part of a core interest in the human condition which is constantly seeking “right relationships” with others and with communities, human and more than human. Protection of wilderness is part of a broad movement which included women’s suffrage and civil rights, and today’s struggle to spread economic justice and opportunity and the search for spiritual meaning in our lives. Ed, like his parents, has read widely and thought laterally as well as deeply about these matters. His presentation connects us, lessens the divides between us and our worlds. Enjoy it.

Photo: Ed Zahniser


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Public Input Sought for Bridge Re-opening Celebration

The Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition has announced the formation of the Lake Champlain Bridge Community (LCB Community). The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has entrusted the Coalition and LCB Community to create, plan and lead the public festivities that will celebrate the replacement and re-opening of the Lake Champlain Bridge. The celebration will also showcase the reunited regional communities of Addison, Vt. and Crown Point, N.Y. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Lawrence P. Gooley: Missing Aunt Mary

The death of a friend, and her burial on the last day of 2010, leads me a brief departure from my usual posting here. The friend, Mary (Pippo) Barber of Whitehall, was nearly four decades my senior, but acted so young that she made me feel old. I first met her around ten years ago when she came 100+ miles north to Plattsburgh with a friend and then stood with us in line for three hours at a job fair. She was there as moral support, talking and joking all day long. I had no idea she was 84 at the time. As I would learn, she never looked anywhere near her age.

My partner, Jill, is from Whitehall (at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, where the barge canal begins). It is through her that I met “Aunt Mary,” a very important person in Jill’s life. On every visit to Whitehall during the past ten years, Aunt Mary was on our schedule of stops. She was always nice, friendly, inquisitive, and fun to chat with … just a classy lady.

Her memory was as sharp as anyone’s, and our interest in history often prompted us to steer the conversation in that direction. As many of you know (but many of us neglect), elderly citizens provide an invaluable connection to the past. When we republished Whitehall’s pictorial history book a few years ago, it was Aunt Mary who readily answered dozens of questions, helping us correctly define many buildings when we prepared the captions.

At one point in our conversations over the years, she mentioned that a movie had once been filmed in Whitehall. That was news to me and Jill, and we had to wonder if maybe she had made a mistake. It would have been easy to believe that she was a little mixed up—after all, she was about 90 then, and nobody else had ever mentioned a movie. Still, we just couldn’t believe she was wrong.

Jill’s faith in Aunt Mary drove her to keep digging, and much to her surprise, delight, and amazement, it was true! After much time and considerable research, she was able to uncover the entire story, a tale that may have been lost except for the teamwork of Jill and Aunt Mary.

It strengthened the already solid bond between them, and it didn’t stop there. A poster re-creation of the original movie advertisement is now an exhibit in the Whitehall museum, donated by Jill in Aunt Mary’s name.

Aunt Mary’s passing is certainly a sad loss, but it offers a reminder of the wonderful people and great historical resources that are often neglected—our elderly, whether they are relatives, friends, or nursing home residents. If you have considered talking to any of them and asking all kinds of questions, do it. They’ll enjoy it, and so will you. Don’t put it off and eventually live with painful regret.

I’m certainly glad we asked Aunt Mary all those questions over the years, learning about her life and Whitehall’s history. It was not only a smart thing to do. It was respectful, educational, and just plain fun.

Photo Top: Mary (Pippo) Barber, circa 1943.

Photo Bottom: Mary (Pippo) Barber, circa 2005.

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.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rare Maps of the American Revolution in the North

The 1776-1777 Northern Campaigns of the American War for Independence and Their Sequel: Contemporary Maps of Mainly German Origin by Thomas M. Barker and Paul R. Huey is the first, full-scale, presentation in atlas form of the two, abortive British-German invasions of New York – events crucial to understanding the rebel American victory in the War for Independence. The book includes 240 pages with 32 full-color illustrations.

The bulk of the maps are from the German archives. The material has previously been little used by researchers in the United States due to linguistic and handwriting barriers. The volume includes transcriptions, translations, and detailed textual analysis of the naval and land operations of 1776 and 1777. It is written from a novel military-historical perspective, namely, British, German, loyalist, French Canadian, and First American.

The attack of Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery on Québec City, the colonial assailants’ repulse and withdrawal to the Province of New York and the Hudson River corridor, prior actions in the adjacent St. Lawrence-Richelieu river region of Canada, the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and the Battles of Bennington and Saratoga all receive detailed attention. The last section of the atlas deals with the less known, final phase of combat, in which the Britons, Germans, refugee tories, Québec militia, and Amerindians kept the insurgents off balance by mounting numerous small-scale expeditions into New York.

The significance of the publication is highlighted by Russell Bellico, author of Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime History of Lake George and Lake Champlain. He writes that Barker’s and Huey’s tome is “a superb work of scholarship based on exhaustive research on both sides of the Atlantic.” J. Winthrop Aldrich, New York State Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, states that the maps “are of significant help now as we continue to build our understanding of what happened in our war for independence, and why. This rediscovered treasure and the illuminating commentary and notes superbly advance that understanding.”

Dr. Thomas M. Barker is emeritus professor of history, University of Albany, State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of numerous books about European military history, especially the Habsburg monarchy, Spain, World War II as well as ethnic minority issues. Dr. Paul R. Huey is a well-known New York State historical archeologist and also has many publications to his credit. He is particularly knowledgeable about the locations of old forts, battlefields, colonial and nineteenth-century buildings, and/or their buried vestiges. He works at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation Bureau of Historic Sites office on Peebles Island in Waterford, New York. The book is co-published with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Friday, December 31, 2010

Early Lake George Traveler’s Birch Bark Canoe Discovered

Lt. John Enys, a British officer who visited Lake George in the 1780s and whose travel journals were published by the Adirondack Museum in 1976, returned to England with an unusual souvenir: a birch bark canoe made by Native Americans.

The 250-year-old canoe not only remained stored in a barn on the family’s ancestral estate and survived; it is to be restored and ultimately returned to North America, the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall has announced

“There is a strong family story that this canoe was brought back to England by Lt. Enys,” said Captain George Hogg, an archivist at the National Maritime Museum. “Once artifacts such as this are collected by a wealthy landed family, they remain on the estate where there is plenty of space to store them and there is no pressure to dispose of them. We believe this is one of the world’s oldest Birch Bark Canoes, a unique survival from the 18th century.”

According to Hogg, the museum was contacted by a descendant of Lt. Enys, Wendy Fowler, who asked the staff to look at a canoe lying in the Estate’s barn.

“The Estate is very special to us and holds many secrets, but I believe this is the most interesting to date. I’m most grateful that my great, great, great, great, great Uncle’s travels have led to such a major chapter of boating history being discovered in Cornwall,” said Fowler.

After receiving little attention for a number of years (it may have been restored in the Victorian era, archivists say), the canoe saw daylight for the first time in decades when it was moved from its shed to its new temporary resting place at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall.

Andy Wyke, Boat Collections Manager said, “Moving the canoe is the beginning of a whole new journey back to Canada for this incredible find.”

Lt. Enys sailed from Falmouth in a Packet Ship to join his regiment in Canada to relieve the city of Quebec, which was under siege from the Americans. He fought in the Battle of Valcour, on Lake Champlain, in 1776 and in raids against the frontiers of Vermont in 1778 and New York in 1780. Instead of returning to England in 1787, he traveled through Canada and the United States. In 1788, he sailed back to Canada, taking with him the canoe.

“It’s incredible to think its legacy has been resting in a barn in Cornwall all this time,” said Wyke.

The archivist, Captain George Hogg, said, “When we received the call from the Enys family to identify their ‘canoe in a shed’ we had no idea of the importance of the find. But we knew we had something special.”

Prior to her arrival at the Museum, the canoe was digitally recorded by the curatorial team and during the canoe’s time at the Museum, teams will be researching her history, conserving the remaining wood and preserving what’s left as well as preparing her for the trip back home and representing what she might have looked like over 250 years ago.

In September, 2011 the Native American canoe will be repatriated to Canada where the Canadian Canoe Museum will conduct further research to see where the boat may have been built and by which tribe. The canoe will be displayed in Cornwall, England from January through September.

Enys visited Lake George in 1787. According to his journals, Enys set sail for Fort George, at the head of the lake, from Ticonderoga on November 10.

He spent the night in a “House or Rather Hovel” at Sabbath Day Point, where his sleep was disturbed by hunters who were arguing about the best method of collecting honey from the hives of wild bees.

“So very insignificant was their information that altho deprived of my rest I could learn nothing by it,” he wrote.

On November 11, Enys passed through the Narrows, rowing rather than sailing. “Tho the wind was fair it was not in our power to make use of it, the Lake being here very Narrow and enclosed between two high ridges of mountains; the wind striking against them forms so many eddy winds that unless the wind is either in a direct line up or down it never blows five minutes in the same direction,” he wrote.

Near Fourteen Mile Island, the boat’s sails were hoisted and Enys sailed on to Fort George, arriving in time for dinner.
He then left for Albany and proceeded to New York, Philadelphia and Mount Vernon, where he visited George Washington.

The American Journals of Lt. John Enys, edited by Elizabeth Cometti and published by the Adirondack Museum and Syracuse University Press in 1976, is out of print but available through rare and used book dealers.

Photos: Lt John Enys; Removing the canoe from a storage shed in Cornwall, England

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