Posts Tagged ‘Lake Pleasant’

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Dueling Sheriffs of Hamilton County

It’s relatively rare for a write-in candidate to win an election. A recent, high-profile example occurred in Alaska’s senate race when Lisa Murkowski bested Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate. Miller took to the courts, claiming that misspellings of Murkowski’s name on many ballots disqualified those votes. The ridiculous charge—it’s an election, not a spelling contest—was dismissed. Otherwise, candidates with easy-to-spell names (like Miller, as opposed to Murkowski) would enjoy a considerable write-in advantage.

A precedent for that situation had long been established, but it wasn’t always followed. More than a century ago, an Adirondack election was decided based on the electorate’s inability to spell a candidate’s name and to record it with consistency. The result? Across the state, headlines of potential bloodshed made the news. It was a year before the issue was finally resolved.

It all began prior to the election of fall 1901 in Hamilton County, where the Republicans chose B. Frank Kathan as their candidate for sheriff. The Democrats offered no opposition, yet Kathan lost the election. Say what? Yep, it’s true. He lost, even with no opponent on the ballot.

Leading up to November, a few dedicated Democrats, including some deputy sheriffs (led by William Osborne), felt the party should have offered a candidate. They began urging voters to support a certain write-in candidate, the very popular Jim Locke.

By all accounts, it came as a total shock on Election Day when the ballots were examined and Jim Locke had triumphed by 40 votes (326–286). He was declared the winner and was issued a Certificate of Election, verifying the outcome.

When Locke took over the office of sheriff, Kathan took off for court. Despite opposition, he obtained a show-cause order requiring the Board of Canvassers to recount the votes (Kathan’s claim was that some ballots were “defective”). The judge ordered that the votes be counted exactly as they were cast, and that presented a problem for James Nathan “Jim” Locke.

Though the voters’ intentions were clear, Locke’s name had been written in many forms. In some settlements he was known as Jim, and in others as Nat. On the ballots, there appeared Jim, James, James N., James Nathan, J. N., Nat, and other variations. The recount revealed new totals: Nat Locke–223; J. N. Locke–32; James N. Locke–24; and a number of other smaller groupings.

Since Frank Kathan had garnered 286 votes, he was declared the winner and was issued a Certificate of Election. Hamilton County now had a new sheriff. Well … let me rephrase that. Hamilton County now had two sheriffs. Jim Locke had already taken up residency in the county jail at Lake Pleasant, and he wasn’t going anywhere. Suddenly, the county had a big problem, and the entire state was waiting to see how it would play out.

It wasn’t pretty. Locke soon made his position clear—he expected to remain sheriff. To that end, headlines from Albany to Buffalo proclaimed that the Hamilton County Jail was under siege, and that violence might well play a role in the outcome. As one article noted, “Kathan demanded possession of the keys to the jail, but Locke had three guards on duty, armed to the teeth with revolvers and Winchesters. Kathan’s demands were refused.”

Adding drama to the situation, it was noted that Arietta sharpshooter Jim Higgins was among those defending the jail. A set of Albany headlines in mid-February said it all: “Crack Shot Guards Jail at Lake Pleasant—Supreme Court Defied—May be Necessary to Call Out Troops to Oust Locke.”

With the state militia already mentioned, Kathan turned again to the courts. A few days later, Locke was ordered to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt of court.

Next week: 2nd of two parts: Jailhouse Coup at Lake Pleasant.

Photo: At Lake Pleasant, old jail and courthouse on left, modern courthouse on right.

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.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Lawrence Gooley: Love So Strong, It’s Criminal

(Warning: If your partner reads this, expectations for today may rise.) Ah, Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Chocolates, flowers, and special cards are a must. Maybe a family meal, or perhaps a romantic dinner for two. Jewelry? Diamonds? The sky’s the limit when it comes to making your sweetheart happy and showing true dedication. But it’s all pretty amateurish compared to real commitment. Which brings us to Fred Roderick and Agnes Austin.

Here’s the story as described in 1883 in a couple of newspapers. Without hard facts, I can’t account for all the details, but you gotta love the sense of purpose, focus, and ingenuity this couple used to achieve togetherness.

At Sageville (now Lake Pleasant, a few miles southeast of Speculator), Fred Roderick, about 25 years old, had been jailed for stealing a pair of horses, which had since been returned. In those days, a convicted horse thief could expect to do time in prison. Next to murder, it was one of the most serious crimes—horses were a key component to survival in the North Country.

In rural Hamilton County, it was no simple task to organize a trial, so for several months the county jail served as Roderick’s home. It was lonely at times, but he wasn’t entirely without company. Every Sunday, the local Methodist pastor brought a dozen or so members of his congregation to the jail, where they sang songs and held a prayer meeting.

For a couple of years, young Agnes Austin was among the church goers who participated. Shortly after Roderick’s incarceration, parish members noticed that, instead of lending her voice to the choir at all times, she seemed to have taken a personal interest in Fred’s salvation.

Soon Agnes gained special permission from the sheriff for weekday visits which, she assured him, would lead Roderick down the straight and narrow. But it seemed to work in the reverse. Agnes began showing up less often on Sundays and more frequently during the week. Imagine the whispers among her church brethren. Their pretty little friend was consorting with a criminal!

Or maybe her missionary efforts were sincere after all. Fred Roderick finally came forward and accepted religious salvation, owing it all, he said, to young Agnes. People being what they are, tongues wagged more frantically than ever about the supposed scandalous goings-on. Mr. Austin forbade (what was he thinking?) Agnes from making any further jail visits. Taking it one step further, he spoke to the sheriff, hoping to kill a tryst in the making.

It wasn’t long after that Agnes disappeared. With her supposed lover lingering hopelessly in jail, why would she run away? Well, as it turns out, she didn’t. Agnes and Fred had made plans. She was told to hide out at his father’s camp, where he would join her after his escape. (Country jails were often loosely kept, and escapes were common.)

After waiting more than a week, Agnes took matters into her own hands, which led to a sight that shocked the residents of Sageville. A constable rode into town, and behind him trailed Aggie Austin. The charge? That she was a horse thief. In broad daylight, she had taken not just any horse, but one of the very same horses Fred had stolen.

Because she was female, and because she made no effort to run when pursued, bail was set at $600—which Agnes immediately refused. To the puzzled bondsman and the sheriff, she explained: if Fred couldn’t be with her, then she would be with Fred. To that end, she left the camp, stole a horse, made sure she was caught, and now refused to be bailed out of jail.

It gets better. The next morning, Fred informed the sheriff that he wished to marry Miss Austin, and Agnes confirmed the same. Papa Austin most certainly would have objected, but Agnes was 19, of legal age to make her own choice. And that choice was Fred.

The judge was summoned, and the sheriff and his deputies stood witness to the joining. The district attorney weighed in as well, contributing what he could to the couple’s happiness.

Though they must be tried separately, he promised to “bring both cases before the same term of court, and thus allow the pair to make their bridal journey together to their future mountain home at Clinton Prison.”

Now THAT’s commitment.

Photo: Clinton Prison at Dannemora, notorious North Country honeymoon site.

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, September 18, 2010

A New Book on Lake Pleasant and Speculator

A new book, Lake Pleasant and Speculator in the Adirondacks, by local authors Beverly Hoffman and Annie Weaver has been released by Arcadia Publishing. The numerous lakes and the forests of the southern Adirondacks provided an abundance of game, fish, and lumber for early settlers to the Lake Pleasant / Speculator area in the 1800s. Sportsmen from the city first came to Lake Pleasant and Speculator for invigorating camping trips and eventually brought the whole family to enjoy the wilderness. Two- and three-story hotels were built to accommodate the vacationing families. Individual cottages and rustic camps were built around Lake Pleasant, Sacandaga Lake, and Echo Lake, followed by children’s and church camps and state campgrounds, which swelled the seasonal population. Boxing and winter sports helped to make Speculator and Lake Pleasant a tourist haven.

Anne A. Weaver has been the Town of Lake Pleasant historian since 2005. She writes a weekly column, “Way Things Were,” for the Hamilton County Express. Beverly Hoffman has been the Village of Speculator historian since 2002. She is a descendant of many early area settlers and has lived in Speculator all of her life. Both authors helped to found the Historical Society of Lake Pleasant and Speculator, which provides artifacts for the town hall’s historical museum.

Over 200 vintage photographs are included in this most recent addition to the publishers pictorial history series of the Adirondack region. Other titles include Piseco Lake and Arietta, Indian Lake, Raquette Lake, Adirondack Hotels and Inns, Along the Adirondack Trail and more.

The book is available at the Historical Society of Lake Pleasant and Speculator, area bookstores and online retailers.

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


Monday, September 13, 2010

APA Meeting: Lake George YMCA, Developments

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Thursday, September 16 and Friday Sept 17, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. On Thursday agency members and staff will participate in a field trip lead by Mr. Sean Ross, Director of Forestry Operations for Lyme Timber Company. Mr. Ross will discuss forest management and certification programs. On Friday the board will consider a setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, Blue Line Development Group’s 49 unit subdivision proposal in the Village of Tupper Lake, a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan, and more.

The Full Agency will convene on Friday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report.

At 9:30 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a shoreline structure setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook facility located on Lake George. The variance involves the replacement of a pre-existing one-story structure. The new structure will be used for camp operation purposes and to improve access to Lake George for participants in the Y-Knot Accessible Sailing Program. The project site is located in the Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.

The committee will consider Blue Line Development Group’s subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Tupper Lake, Franklin County. The project involves the subdivision of a 56±-acre parcel, involving class “1” wetlands and includes the construction of 13 townhouses with 49 total units. A dock would extend into Raquette Pond to accommodate 50 boats. The committee will also review a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County owned by Agency Commissioner Frank Mezzano and consider accepting proposed General Permit Applications for installing new or replacement telecommunication towers at previously approved agency sites and change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings.

At 1:00 p.m., the State Land Committee will hear a presentation from Dr. Chad Dawson discussing roadside camping in the Adirondack Park. The committee will consider Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan. This unit is located in the Town of Northampton, Fulton County. The committee will then hear a first reading on reclassification proposals related to fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains. The Board will take no action on the fire tower proposals this month.

At 2:30, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider approving a map amendment proposal for private lands located in the Town of Westport, Essex County. The proposal is for re-classifying approximately 25 acres of land from Resource Management to Hamlet.

At 4:00, the Full Agency will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The next Agency meeting is October 14-15 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

November Agency Meeting: November 18-19 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Murder of Adirondack Guide Eula Davis

In late 1928, the life of an Adirondack guide came to an unfortunate, premature end. Like many of his brethren who died from accidental shootings over the years, the victim succumbed to a serious gunshot wound. But the demise of Eula Davis was no accident. Clearly, this was a case of murder, and the beginning of a twisted saga that kept all eyes glued on the Lake Pleasant region for some time.

The story began on November 30 when local handyman and guide Ernest Duane, 34, reported to police in Speculator that he had found Davis, 60 (also a handyman and guide), dead. The body was located in the Ernest Brooks cabin on Whitaker Lake, several miles northwest of Speculator village. Duane offered to accompany them to the site, but the lawmen opted to investigate on their own, a decision that would prove vital as the case developed.

A sad scene awaited them. Davis’ corpse was frozen solid; apparently, he had died of exposure and/or loss of blood. A gaping bullet-wound in the lower back was the overriding cause, and Davis had not died easily. Unable to rise after being shot, he had dragged himself across the floor. His body was partially covered with a quilt, and a pillow had been drawn close to Eula’s head, signifying an attempt to keep warm and somewhat comfortable. He had used rags to form a rough tourniquet, and had broken a pencil tip while trying to write a note.

Further investigation revealed an empty wallet in Davis’ pocket, punctured by the fatal bullet.

Davis had many friends in Speculator, and they began searching for the killer while police worked to develop certain clues. Within a few days, they focused on one suspect: Ernest Duane.

An autopsy had uncovered bits of paper money embedded in the body, revealing that Davis’ wallet had not been empty prior to the shooting. Finding the damaged money would surely lead to the killer. But why would Duane kill a popular local man known to be his friend?

Davis, said to have guided for boxing champion Gene Tunney several months earlier, had done quite well financially. It was public knowledge that he had earned several hundred dollars, and had recently purchased winter provisions in town. Questioning of local merchants yielded critical information: in the past few days, someone else had been shopping. Among the legal tender used for payment was a $10 bill with two neat holes in it. The customer was Ernest Duane.

He was brought in for questioning, and after being confronted with evidence, Duane finally confessed to the crime. He offered a lengthy tale, including the decision to rob the old man, who was deaf. When Duane entered the cabin and saw Davis facing away from the door, he shot him in the back. He then took the old man’s wallet and headed for home. On the way, Duane said, he removed only one bill and then flung the wallet into the woods.

Since the empty wallet had already been found in Davis’ pocket, police knew Duane was lying. (He really didn’t seem to have much of a plan. Why admit the shooting but lie about the robbery?) At any rate, a search crew with rakes went to Whitaker Lake in hopes of finding the missing cash buried beneath new-fallen snow. They found nothing.

The next day, police returned to take evidence photographs of the crime scene—but it was gone! That’s right—the entire crime scene was no more. In one of those great Adirondack mysteries, the remote cabin had burned overnight. Arson by Duane’s sympathizers seemed the only plausible explanation.

A day later, Ernest told police where the money was hidden, admitting he had emptied the wallet and placed it back in the victim’s pocket. In Duane’s woodshed they located a roll of bills, pierced by what appeared to be bullet-holes. Employing a bit of trickery, they told him they hadn’t found the money, so Ernest provided written directions. The successful ruse created physical evidence that might later prove valuable.

Police also discovered that Duane owed $200 in fines for game law violations. With a motive and a confession, they now had what appeared to be an open-and-shut case.

But appearances can be deceiving. Still, Duane would go on trial, though under unusual circumstances. Neither the Hamilton County district attorney nor the county judge were lawyers. That unprecedented situation was addressed by Governor Al Smith, who appointed a special prosecutor and assigned a judge. In the meantime, Duane enjoyed cowboy novels in his cell and visits from his new bride, a 14-year-old that he married only a month before the Davis murder.

The prosecution played a powerful hand in the trial, led by impressive witnesses. Doctors dismissed Duane’s epilepsy as a non-factor, and Leonard Egelston, a police officer, introduced some surprising evidence. Early in the investigation, he had taken photographs inside and outside of the cabin. The apparent arson was, as it turned out, a futile attempt to destroy evidence.

The prosecution also offered Duane’s signed confession, along with the note directing officers to the hidden stash of bills. The note was presented as proof that Duane was sane and clear-headed enough after the murder to hide the stolen money and remember where it was hidden.

The defense focused on proving Duane’s supposed mental abnormalities, which they claimed had been exacerbated by the lonely life of a woodsman who often spent long months alone. It seemed like a weak argument at best, but then came the kicker: Duane’s epilepsy, seized upon by his attorneys in a strategy described as the “dream defense.”

Medical experts and Ernest’s brother, Joe, testified about his condition, bolstering claims that he had committed the crime, but had done so “in a fit of insanity.” Supporting the argument was his dismissal from military service during World War I due to a mental disorder (again, epilepsy).

Contrary to what had been earlier announced, Ernest finally took the stand in his own defense. Despite his detailed confession and the note leading officers to the stolen money, Ernest now claimed a seizure had enveloped him as he entered the clearing near the cabin that day, and it subsequently erased all memories of the next several hours. If he had killed Davis and stolen the money, he had no recollection of having done so. (Forty-five years later, serial killer Robert F. Garrow would make the same claim in the same courtroom for the same crime of murder.)

But there was more to Ernest’s story. Later that night, he suddenly awakened, believing he had shot and robbed Davis. Frantically, Duane jumped out of bed and searched his pockets for money. Finding nothing, he concluded it had been nothing more than a terrible nightmare, and went back to sleep.

In the morning, Ernest went out to cut some firewood. Reaching into his jacket pocket for a match, he instead found a wad of bills. With an earnestness befitting his given name, he told the court, “Then I knew that what I had dreamed was true.” During final summation, his attorney cited “the murder dream which turned out to be reality.”

The jury struggled, and early on, one member promised his vote for acquittal would never change. (So much for an open-and-shut case.) Eventually, they found Duane guilty. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Heffernan was reluctant to pronounce sentence, but he had no choice.

Through a breaking voice, and with tears flowing, he said, “I have but one duty to perform. I have wished it would never come to me, but Mr. Duane, you stand convicted of murder in the first degree, for which the punishment is death.” Seated nearby, the judge’s wife wept openly.

At 3 am, Ernest Duane was removed from his cell and sent off to Sing Sing to await execution. The odd hour was chosen to avoid an expected rescue attempt by Duane’s family and friends.

The defense appealed the verdict, causing an immediate stay of execution. When the appeal was denied, a new trial was sought, but that too was disallowed. Ernest was scheduled to die the week of January 15, 1930. Only one hope remained—commutation by the governor.

Just 24 hours before his execution time, word arrived that Governor Franklin Roosevelt had commuted Duane’s sentence to life in prison. Among other things, the governor felt that a person denied military service due to a mental disorder should not be put to death for that same disorder. When the message was relayed by his keepers, Ernest’s comment was a flippant, “Then I guess I’ll lose my chicken dinner,” the last meal he had requested. He was removed from death watch and assigned to work in the prison shoe factory.

Was it really an out-of-character, spur-of-the-moment decision for Ernest Duane to shoot and rob Davis? Perhaps not, if the “apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree” theory holds water. Duane’s father, with a wife and seven children at home, had once pursued and married the 15-year-old daughter of the man with whom he was boarding. That offense netted him five years in Dannemora Prison for bigamy. He later was convicted of game violations.

Ernest had been arrested for drunkenness, game violations, and had married a 14-year-old girl. His character witness and brother, Joseph Duane, had been arrested for car theft and fighting, and he and Ernest had been arrested together for operating a “Disorderly House” (their hotel was used for prostitution).

The Duanes earned plenty of notoriety in their time. With this writing, perhaps Eula (Ulysses) Davis will escape relative anonymity, having suffered a terrible, undeserved fate.

Photo Top: Map of the Speculator-Lake Pleasant-Whitaker Lake area.

Photo Right: L to R: Speculator today remains an outdoor playground.

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


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

APA Meeting:
Lake George YMCA, Benson Mines Wind, More

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, August 12 and Friday August 13, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY.

The Agency will consider a third renewal for the Westport Development Park’s commercial/industrial use permit, a shoreline structure setback variance for Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, a Benson Mines wind project, Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP, Champlain-Hudson Power Express’s proposed 300-mile, 2,000-MW electric transmission line from Canada to New York City via Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, a memorandum of understanding between the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation concerning State-owned conservation easements on private lands within the Adirondack Park, and the Route 3 Travel Corridor Management Plan. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 2, 2010

The Cougar Question: Have You Seen One?

Several months ago, I confessed here on Adirondack Almanack that I once saw a cougar—or thought I did. I say “confessed,” because if you tell people you saw a cougar in the Adirondacks, some of them will look at you funny.

Others will tell you about their own cougar sighting.

I’m bringing up cougars again because the Adirondack Explorer recently received an interesting letter from Don Leadley, a longtime outdoorsman from Lake Pleasant. Leadley responded to an Explorer column written by our publisher, Tom Woodman, discussing our endless fascination with the possibility that cougars may be living in our midst. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Terror in the Adirondacks: Serial Killer Robert Garrow

Lawrence P. Gooley has published another outstanding chronicle of Adirondack history, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow. The book chronicles the story of Garrow, an abused Dannemora child, turned thief, serial rapist and killer who admitted to seven rapes and four murders, although police believed there were many more. Among his victims were campers near Speculator where Garrow escaped a police dragnet and traveled up Route 30 through Indian Lake and Long Lake and eventually made his way to Witherbee where he was tracked down and shot in the foot. Claiming he was partially paralyzed, Garrow sued the State of New York for $10 million for negligence in his medical care. In exchange for dropping the suit, Garrow was moved to a medium security prison. He was shot and killed during a prison escape in September 1978 – he had faked his paralysis. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adirondack Park Agency Nominations Update

From the Adirondack Council‘s John Sheehan, an update on last night’s APA confirmations.

At 11:20 p.m. last night, the NYS Senate confirmed the nominations of three commissioners to the Adirondack Park Agency’s 11-member board of commissioners. The confirmations fill the existing vacancies, including the position of chairman.

Curt Stiles, Tupper Lake, was appointed chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency. Stiles is currently president of the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation, which recently hired the first Waterkeeper to guard an interior Adirondack water body. Lake George and Lake Champlain are the only other Adirondack lakes with Waterkeepers. The foundation has been active in protecting water quality, while fighting pollution and invasive plant species.

Curt is also vice chairman of the Adirondack Council Board of Directors, although stepped down from that role upon his confirmation as APA Chairman by the Senate. He joined the Adirondack Council’s board in 2005. Stiles is also on the board of the Trudeau Institute, a medical research facility in Saranac Lake. He is a past board member of the Adirondack Medical Center (Saranac Lake) and Paul Smith’s College. His a former member of the Harrietstown Planning Board, so he has some local government experience and is familiar with the task of reviewing land-use plans, a chief duty of the APA. He is a retired senior executive with Xerox.

He replaces acting chairman Cecil Wray, Manhattan, who had stepped into that role following the resignation of chairman Ross Whaley in September. Wray was a member of the Adirondack Council board of directors until his appointment to the APA by Governor Pataki more than a decade ago. He is an attorney.

Richard Booth, Ithaca, was appointed commissioner to hold one of three seats reserved for non-Park residents. Booth is a Plattsburgh native. He has experience in both Ithaca City government and the Tompkins County Legislature. More importantly, he is an environmental law professor at Cornell University and one of the most respected environmental legal experts in the nation. Booth served on the Adirondack Council board of directors from 1982 through 1992. He was initially nominated as chairman by Governor Spitzer, but a handful of local government officials and state Legislators complained that he was not a Park resident. Spitzer withdrew Booth’s name as a chairman nomination, but resubmitted him as a regular commissioner on the APA board.

Frank Mezzano, Lake Pleasant, was reappointed to a four-year term. His current term ran out earlier this year. Frank joined the board early in the Pataki Administration over the objections of the Adirondack Council and other environmental groups, who objected to the fact that Mezzano was a sitting local government official. The groups argued that as Town Supervisor and a member of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, Mezzano was being put in a position of conflicting interests. How, we asked, could he impartially judge the merits of development projects that might affect the finances of the community for which he is chief financial officer? This conflict still exists. Mezzano left the board briefly at the end of his third term, then came back to take the remaining term of another local representative who had left before her term had expired (Deanne Rehm of Bolton, Warren County).

The APA Board of Commissioners has 11 members. Five must be full time Park residents, while three seats are reserve for non-Park residents. The remaining three belong to the commissioners of Environmental Conservation and Economic Development and to the Secretary of State. No more than five of the eight citizen members may be from the same political party.

The APA’s staff still lacks an Executive Director, following the retirement of Richard Lefebvre of Caroga Lake, Fulton County, this summer.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Timing of Pataki’s APA Appoints Questioned

We just received this press release from the Adirondack Council and thought it was worth sharing, in light of our last post. Also, Adirondack Base camp has an interesting post on the APA and what needs to be done.

Timing of Pataki APA Appointments to Park Agency Could Boost Chances of 800-lot Tupper Lake Subdivision

Governor Pataki has appointed (and the Senate confirmed at 2:15 p.m. today) two Adirondack Town Supervisors to serve on the 11-member Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners. The board has regulatory authority over all major development projects in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.

The Adirondack Council is disappointed by these two appointments at this time, for two related reasons. First, both gentlemen are being asked to serve two masters. Both are the chief financial officers for their towns, as well as being representatives of their towns on their respective County Board of Supervisors. How, then, can they be impartial judges of development projects that might bring needed revenue into their communities, but would also harm the environment?

Worse, the two are from Warren and Hamilton counties, which together comprise more than one-third of the entire Adirondack Park, making a conflict of interest more likely. The Park Agency has no formal rules or guidelines to clarify what commissioners should do when faced with such conflicts. In some cases, commissioners have recused themselves, while in others they have not.

More curious is the timing of the appointments, one day before the Adirondack Park Agency is set to rule on whether it will accept as complete the application of failed savings & loan executive Michael Foxman for a sprawling 800-lot subdivision on the slopes around Big Tupper Ski Center. We are very much opposed to the project. However, the co-applicant for the project is the Town of Tupper Lake, causing us some worry that the appointments were made to grease the skids for the Tupper mega-development.

The appointees are Frank Mezzano, Supervisor of the Town of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County, and Bill Thomas, Supervisor of the Town of Johnsburg (North Creek is the biggest community) in Warren County.

There are two more interesting twists here. One: We and many other environmental advocates think Bill Thomas will, over time, be a good commissioner. He’s a smart guy and a dedicated public servant. We had suggested his name to the next administration, but cautioned that they wait until his tenure as Town Supervisor had ended in January 2007 (to avoid pressure and conflicts as commissioner). His appointment fills the seat vacated by Deanne Rehm of Bolton, who resigned at the end of her term this summer. Thomas’s term will run until 2010.

Two: Frank Mezzano resigned from the APA Board of Commissioners in the summer of this year, stating he would not serve out his term. He said some bitter things about the APA and the way commissioners made decisions. Yet, here he is again. He has been appointed to fill the vacancy left by his own resignation. This appointment is good only until June.

Thus, our suspicion that the Pataki Administration is scrambling to pack the APA board of commissioners prior to the Thursday/Friday vote to determine the fate of the Tupper mega-development. If the APA says the application is complete and sets a date for the first public hearing, the entire project could be ready for a final decision on the permit before June.

Keep in mind that Governor-elect Spitzer will have the authority to appoint his own chairman of the APA board, but cannot remove a sitting commissioner without just cause (proof of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance). He will have to await new vacancies to appoint his own commissioners.

John F. Sheehan
Communications Director
The Adirondack Council


Tuesday, January 3, 2006

New Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Conditions Website

From the Adirondacks Speculator Region Chamber of Commerce comes a new website that offers snowmobile trail conditions laid out in tables that identify each route (with trail numbers, segments between intersections, and municipal locations), the date the trail was last groomed, the date conditions were assessed and the conditions (great, good, fair, poor, closed).

The page includes trails in Lake Pleasant, Speculator, Arietta, Piseco, Wells, and Morehouse. The page also links to Trail Etiquette, a Trail Map cover 650 miles of area trails, GPS points, a Webcam and Photo Gallery, and a discussion board covering the area plus Indian Lake, the Moose River Plains, and other areas of the park.

Here at the Almanack, we have always believed that appropriately placed snowmobile trails (kept out of wilderness and wild forest areas) are an important component to the Adirondack economy. Riders should accept and defend the seven wilderness “leave no trace” principles.

Links to area snowmobile clubs – enjoy.


Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Abandoned Adirondack Veterans: Loring Peck

A reader of our recent post on forgotton veterans remembered:

hiking to the grave of “Colonel Peck” in Speculator when I was a child. My grandfather used to bring us up there, but it seemed as if he was the only person who knew about it. There may have been a roadside marker at the trailhead, but I don’t remember anything else that really commemorated Col. Peck’s service. If I recall correctly, he was a hero of the Revolution.

That he was. According to field notes made by Melvin W. Lethbridge and printed in the New York State Historical Association’s quarterly journal in 1926:

On the shore of Lake Pleasant, which is the head of one branch of the Sacandaga River, and about one and one-half miles in on a trail which leaves the mountain road to the lake at Signboard Hill, and bears to the left around the head of the lake, at the foot of Speculator Mountain, in a family cemetery lies the body of a Revolutionary soldier together with his wife and son. This man settled here shortly after the Revolutionary War and hewed a farm out of the wilderness and now rests peacefully there. His name was Colonel Loring Peck, and the place is yet known as “Pecks Clearing.” It is now the property of the State and is overgrown with woods. It should be cleared and preserved by the State.

Peck was born in 1744 and according to History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence plantations (1859-60, over at Making of America) Loring Peck was made a Captain in Colonel Henry Babcock’s Second Rhode Island Regiment (Babcock was replaced by Colonel Christopher Lippitt a month later). This “Second Rhode Island” was actually made of men of the State Militia who were eventually turned over to the Continential Congress. The Regiment “played an important role” at the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton according to the Rhode Island Historical Society which holds many of the regiment and Lippitt’s papers.

After his service in the Second Rhode Island Loring Peck was at Bristol, Rhode Island in 1777 and 1790 and was living in Amenia, Dutchess County NY in 1800 and 1810 and moved to Lake Pleasant before 1820. He had three sons who served in the War of 1812:

  • Dr. George Peck who married Elizabeth Dunning served as a surgeon in the War of 1812. He was a land speculator and founder of Camanche, the first county seat of Clinton County, Indiana, in the 1830s.
  • Richard Peck served in the War of 1812 with some other men from Wells and Lake Pleasant.
  • William Burke Peck was a Captain in the War of 1812 on the Canadian Frontier with some other men from Wells and Lake Pleasant. According to local historians he opened the first store at lake Pleasant in 1817.

Loring Peck was living with his son Loring Jr. in Lake Pleasant 1830, at the reported age of 80 to 90. His gravestone says “In Memory of Col. Loring Peck, a Patriot of the Revolution. Died July 29, 1833 in the 90th year of his age.” In 1935 a small bronze plaque was placed at the back of his gravestone by Minnie Peck Hall Krauser a member of the (Denver, Colorado) Regent Peace Pipe Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

It would be interesting to know how he got the sobriquet “Colonel.” If anyone has any additional info on Peck or other abondoned veterans – let the Almanack know.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Emery, Gloversville, NY. Visit her online at http://www.visitsacandaga.com/



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