The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Jason Bair of Macedon, Wayne County, reeled in a state record-breaking freshwater drum from Oneida Lake, Oneida County. Caught on June 16, and weighing in at 36 pounds, the new record drum surpassed the previous state record set in 2016 by more than 6 pounds.
Bair’s freshwater drum marks the fourth state record drum caught since 2005. While records for other more common sportfish have remained unbroken for years. In its announcement of the new record, DEC stated: “it appears that drum are growing to much larger sizes than they ever have in many New York waters. This growth is likely due to their ability to effectively forage on the abundant invasive quagga and/or zebra mussels found in these waters.” » Continue Reading.
The presence of emerald ash borer (EAB) has been confirmed for the first time in Oneida County by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). According to a press release issued by the Department, DEC staff discovered the presence of EAB in Rome, NY as a result of the regular monitoring efforts to detect the beetle.
The confirmation in Oneida County brings the number of New York counties with EAB to 35. In June it was announced that EAB had been found in Waterford, and Ballston Lake, in Saratoga County. » Continue Reading.
The final Vienna Woods Unit Management Plan (UMP) outlining the management of two state forests and 12 parcels of detached Forest Preserve in southwestern Oneida County has been issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The UMP addresses DEC’s management of 1,299 acres on Stone Barn State Forest and Fish Creek State Forest located in the Oneida County towns of Annsville, Camden and Vienna.
The UMP also covers 12 nearby parcels of detached Forest Preserve lands, ranging in size from 6 to 166 acres, located in the towns of Annsville and Vienna in Oneida County. » Continue Reading.
An effort latter this month hopes to gather public input about how to diversify and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the what organizers are calling the “Great South Woods” – a more than 2 million-acre area of public and private lands in the southern Adirondack Park that includes parts of Oneida, Herkimer, Hamilton, Fulton, Saratoga, Warren, and Essex Counties.
The driving forces behind this new initiative have been Bill Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). » Continue Reading.
When the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours. At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years. He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.
The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary. The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is preparing a unit management plan (UMP) which will include six state forests, 21 detached parcels of Forest Preserve and one Office of General Services (OGS) parcel located close to but outside the southwest boundary of the Adirondack Park in northern Oneida and Herkimer counties. The public is invited to submit comments for a draft Adirondack Foothills UMP that will guide management of these unique state lands well into the future.
The state forests included in the unit are Hogsback, Popple Pond, Punkeyville, and Woodhull in Oneida County and Black Creek and Hinckley in Herkimer County. These state forest lands total 7,252 acres. The Detached Forest Preserve Parcels total 2,025 acres and the OGS parcel is 25 acres in size. The Adirondack Foothills Management Unit lands are located in the Oneida County towns of Boonville and Forestport and Herkimer County towns of Norway, Russia and Salisbury. » Continue Reading.
As we near Election Day, I’m reminded of a man from a remote corner of the North Country, an individual who was once the right-hand man of a future president—and not just any president. Not everyone loved him, of course, but Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the few to consistently appear near the top of any list of our greatest leaders. The man I’m referring to was known professionally as M. William Bray (Bill to his friends). He’s a native of the town of Clinton, which borders Canada in northwestern Clinton County.
If you don’t like population explosions, avoid Clinton. Their 67 square miles added 10 new residents between 2000 and 2010, bringing the count to a whopping 737: 11 people per square mile. Many of them live in the hamlet of Churubusco. Such a sparse population provides little chance of producing influential citizens, but Clinton beat the odds. » Continue Reading.
New York State has purchased 518 acres of land in northern Oneida County which will become the area’s newest state forest, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The acquisition in the Town of Forestport will protect almost a mile of Black River shoreline, just outside the Adirondack Park.
According to the press announcement, the state paid $385,400 for the land, which came from the Environmental Protection Fund. The property will be its own named state forest, as it is not adjacent to other state forests and will remain on local property tax rolls. The property is characterized by shady ravines with several springs that run year round, northern hardwood and coniferous forests, bogs with rare plants like pitcher plants and forested wetlands. The area is adjacent to conservation easement lands that protect the Town of Forestport water wells and will provide added protection for the Town’s water supply. » Continue Reading.
Three years ago in anticipation of the decennial census, reapportionment and redistricting, Adirondack Almanack suggested a congressional district (red outline on the map) that would comprise the entire Adirondack Park and lands reaching to the St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay to Cornwall and the US/Canadian boundary from Cornwall east. If necessary there was plenty of room on the map for the district to expand below the park to accommodate larger numbers.
The numbers were loosely based on a guess that New York would lose only one congressional seat this time around. The fact that New York lost two seats in the reapportionment process, and that prison populations would no longer be credited to the prison’s district, meant that any resulting congressional district would have to cover more territory. The map of the new 21st CD released yesterday by Special Master, US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann (blue outline on the map) came pretty close to the imagined Adirondack/North Country district—with Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill added for good measure. The only scrap of the Adirondack Park missing from the new district is the northeastern point of Oneida County, now assigned to the 22nd district. Oh so close, especially when you consider the extra wart on the new 21st CD below the Adirondack Park at Hinckley Reservoir, encompassing Gravesville and the town of Russia. Not to be petty here, but would it have killed someone to swap a few dozen Russians for as many resident Adirondackers settled around White, Long and Otter Lakes?
This post was amended to reflect the correct name and official designation of US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced awards for “Clean Air Grants” to 13 New York communities, including three in the Adirondack region. The grants are hoped to assist counties, towns and villages in reducing open burning of leaves and other organic materials, educate residents about the dangers of open burning and assist with the purchasing of recycling and composting equipment.
“DEC is committed to reducing harmful air pollutants and the prevention of destructive wildfires,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement. “In addition to releasing harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, the open burning of residential organic waste such as leaves and branches, is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state.” A total of $60,000 was awarded for 13 projects statewide ranging from helping the Village of Windsor in Broome County better manage wood waste to partnering with the Dutchess County Town of Tivoli to conduct a home composting pilot project and help educate residents about safer alternatives to open burning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides DEC with the funding for these grants.
DEC recently extended restrictions on the open burning of residential organic waste in all communities statewide, regardless of the community’s size in population.
The Clean Air Grant Program was designed to help local communities better manage residential organic waste materials and also build better community understanding of the dangers associated with open burning. Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to the following local communities:
Town of Pinckney, Lewis County, to assist in the purchase of a commercial wood chipper to give area residents a safer option for disposing branches and other tree waste. The Town will partner with the Tug Hill Commission and Development Authority of the North County to educate residents about the availability of the chipping service, the dangers of open burning and how they can get wood chips and mulch from the program.
Town of Webb, Herkimer County, to assist in the purchase of a municipal leaf vacuum to help the community safely and efficiently remove and compost organic materials. In addition to the health and safety benefits of reducing of open burning, the Town also identifies the economic benefits of maintaining clean air and a healthy eco-system within the Adirondack Park.
Town of Boonville, Oneida County, to repair and refurbish a municipal leaf collection vacuum to reduce the possible loss of life and property that can often result from open burning and the added burden it puts on local volunteer fire companies.
Among the North Country men who made their mark in the Old West was a native of Boonville, in the foothills of the southwestern Adirondacks. He became a success in business, politics, farming, and law, and played an important role in the development of a wild territory into our 44th state. But it was ties to some notorious characters that brought him a measure of fame.
Jesse Knight was born in Boonville on July 5, 1850, the son of Jesse and Henrietta Knight. His grandfather, Isaac, had settled in Oneida County in the early 1800s and raised a family, among them Jesse’s father. But young Jesse never knew his dad, who left that same year for California, and died of yellow fever on the Isthmus of Panama. (The isthmus was a newly created US Mail route to reach California and Oregon, and a popular path for pioneers headed West.) Jesse attended schools in Lewis, Oneida, and Fulton counties, and at 17 went to live with an uncle in Minnesota for two years. He moved to Omaha, and then settled in the Wyoming Territory. Within a decade, Knight progressed from store clerk and postmaster to court clerk and attorney. At Evanston, near Wyoming’s southwest border, he ran a successful law practice and served as Territorial Auditor.
He also acted as a land sales agent for Union Pacific. Among the properties he sold was 1,906 acres on the Bear River … to one Jesse Knight.
In 1888 he was elected prosecuting attorney of Uinta County, and in 1890, when Wyoming attained statehood, he was voted a member of the state constitutional convention. He was also elected as judge of the Third Judicial District.
By this time, Knight was doing quite well financially and had added to his landholdings. On nearly 1400 acres along the Bear River and more than 800 acres of hills, the judge’s ranch had developed into an impressive enterprise. Within the fenced property, he grew high-quality hay (250 tons) and rye (50 tons), and raised herds of superior-grade cattle and horses.
Irrigation was a key element: two main ditches (one was 3 miles long, 20 feet wide, and 4 feet deep) supplied ample water. The Union Pacific rail line bisected the property, allowing Jesse’s products easy access to markets elsewhere.
Besides his showcase farming operation, Knight’s public career was also flourishing. In 1896, he suffered what appeared to be a setback, failing to win the Republican re-nomination for district judge. Unfazed, he ran as an Independent and won handily. A year later, he was appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Wyoming to fill an unexpired term. In 1898, Knight was elected to a full 8-year term.
His business ventures were similarly successful. Besides the ranch, he owned part of a copper mine. He was also one of only two Americans working with several of Europe’s wealthiest men in developing oil wells in Wyoming. The consortium was valued at $10 million (equal to over a quarter billion in 2011). Jesse had a seat on the board of directors.
In 1902, his prominence was noted in the naming of the Knight Post Office, which served a community near Evanston for 19 years.
On April 9, 1905, though still a young man of only 55, Supreme Court Justice Jesse Knight died of pneumonia. He had accomplished a great deal for any man, let alone a poor, fatherless boy from the wilds of New York. His survivors included a wife and five children.
Among Knight’s legacy are connections to some of the West’s notorious characters. In his capacities as rancher, lawyer, prosecutor, and judge, he dealt with many violent, dangerous men over the years. According to biographers of “Big Nose” George Parrott, it was Judge Jesse Knight who sentenced Parrott to hang for the attempted robbery of a Union Pacific pay car and the subsequent killing of two lawmen who were pursuing him.
It was pretty much an average crime story until Parrott tried to escape from jail before Knight’s sentence could be carried out. The attempt prompted an angry mob to forcibly remove Big Nose from his cell and string him up from a telegraph pole. (But it wasn’t easy.)
John Osborne, one of the doctors who had possession of Parrott’s body, examined the brain for abnormalities. Further dissection of the body led to lasting fame for Parrott’s remains. The skull cap that had been removed was saved, and over the years it served as an ash tray, a pen holder, and a doorstop. A death mask of his face was also made. That aside, now it gets gruesome.
The body was flayed, and the skin was sent to a tannery, where it was made into a medical bag, a coin purse, and a pair of shoes, all of which were used by Osborne. The shoes were two-toned—the dark half came from the shoes Parrot wore during the hanging, and the lighter part was made from his own skin.
Doctor Osborne wore the shoes for years—even to the inaugural ball when he was elected governor of Wyoming! The rest of Parrott’s remains were placed in a whiskey barrel filled with a salt solution, and eventually buried. The barrel was uncovered in 1950, and it was found that the skull cap neatly fit the remains, proving it was Parrott’s body. Other tests later confirmed the results. The death mask and “skin shoes” are now on display in a museum in Rawlins, Wyoming.
In 1903, Supreme Court Justice Knight was involved in the famous case of Tom Horn, a former lawman and detective turned outlaw and hired gun. In a controversial trial, Horn was convicted and sentenced to hang for the killing of a 14-year-old boy. Justice Knight was among those who reviewed the appeal, which was denied. Horn was hanged in November, 1903.
The most famous character linked to Knight was Roy Parker, who was actually Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy. They met when Cassidy was arrested for horse theft, a case tried in “Knight court.” After delays, the trial was finally held in 1894. Cassidy was very popular, and many of his friends were in town with the intent of intervening on his behalf.
A verdict was reached, but Knight ordered it sealed, to be opened on the following Monday, by which time it was hoped many of the visitors would have left town. But Cassidy’s friends were loyal, and high anxiety reigned in the packed courtroom when the verdict was read. To counter the danger, the sheriff, several town officials, many private citizens, and the attorneys all came to court armed. Famously, Judge Jesse Knight carried a pistol, hidden beneath his robes.
The jury pronounced Cassidy guilty, recommending him to the mercy of the court. Knight sentenced him to two years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary at Laramie. A few months before his scheduled release, Cassidy’s sentence was commuted. The term imposed by Judge Knight was the only prison time Butch Cassidy ever served during his lengthy, notorious career.
Photo Top: Jesse Knight.
Photo Middle Right: Big Nose George Parrott.
Photo Middle Left: Shoes of George Parrott … literally.
Photo Bottom: Robert LeRoy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy.
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.
Bob Sullivan, of the Schenectady Digital History Archive, has announced that the first two (historical) volumes of Nelson Greene’s four-volume history of Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Schenectady and Schoharie Counties, History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925 is now online.
Included are more than 300 photos and maps, and a biographical section – more than 2000 pages so far. Greene’s History joins the Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, a four-volume set with more than 1300 family entries from Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington Counties.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will meet on Thursday and Friday (November 12th and 13th) at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook to consider the temporary re-opening of the Big Tupper Ski Area, reconstruction and widening of Route 28 in Oneida County, and more. Amendments to the park’s land use maps will also be considered, including whether to set a public hearing for the re-classification of about 31,570 acres. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a legislative hearing on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at the Forestport Town Hall on a proposed widening and improvement of a ten mile stretch of Route 28 from Route 12 (in Forestport, Oneida County) to the Moose River in the Town of Webb (Herkimer County). The project sponsors, NYSDOT and National Grid, will also be there to answer questions or address concerns about the design of the project. APA staff will be available to discuss the permitting process. The legislative hearing will start at 6:15pm. Here is a description of the project and other details on the meeting which were supplied by the APA:
The project begins approximately 6 miles north of the intersection of Routes 12 and 28 in Alder Creek and terminates at the Moose River in McKeever for a total project length of approximately 10.3 miles. The project consists of resurfacing a section from the southerly limit of the project for a length of approximately 2 miles; a reconstruction section for approximately 2.5 miles through Woodgate and a portion of White Lake; resurfacing a section with minor widening for a length of approximately 1.5 miles through a portion of White Lake; and resurfacing a section for the remainder of the project for a length of approximately 4.5 miles through Otter Lake to the Moose River in the Town of Webb. There will be utility relocations throughout the reconstruction section to provide a minimum offset from the edge of travel lane of 16 feet. There will be additional isolated utility pole relocations within the resurfacing sections to provide the same 16 foot offset.
PURPOSE OF MEETING: This is an informal legislative hearing conducted by the Adirondack Park Agency pursuant to APA Act section 804(6) to receive public comment on the proposed project. The hearing will include introductory presentations on the project design by the NYS Department of Transportation and National Grid. Agency staff will take notes on the public comment. Comments may be submitted by verbal statements during the hearing or by submitting a written statement. Agency Board Members and Designees may be present to hear the public comments. The Agency Board will make its decision on the project at one of its monthly meetings at some time in the near future.
GOAL OF THE MEETING: To allow the public to express concerns regarding this proposed project and how it may positively or negatively impact individual properties or the community.
MEETING FORMAT: NYSDOT, National Grid and APA personnel will be available from 5:30 to 6:15, prior to the formal presentation, to address any questions or concerns that individuals may have about the design of the project or the APA permitting process. At 6:15 APA Deputy Director Mark Sengenberger will commence the formal portion of the hearing. He will introduce NYSDOT and National Grid personnel who will make brief presentations concerning the project objectives, scope, schedule and cost. During the presentations, the public can ask questions for clarification purposes only. Following the presentations, members of the public will have the opportunity to make brief verbal statements about the project. There will be a sign up sheet for any persons wishing to make public comment. In order to allow everyone to speak who wants to, comments will be limited to no more than 3 minutes in length and speakers will go in the order that they signed up. Members of the public can provide additional written comments to the Agency at or after the meeting. Town of Forestport and Town of Webb officials will be present and introduced at the meeting.
Local county fairs start this week, so here is our full list of Adirondack county fairs, listed according to opening date. As usual, I’ve included a few of the most important regional fairs as well. See you at the fair!