On June 2nd, 1797, twenty-five years after Archibald Campbell surveyed part of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, another surveyor named Charles C. Brodhead, tasked with working to the same line but starting from the east and chaining to the west, made the following entry in his field journal: “3 Miles, 20 Chains: assg. Ye mountain, Top ye mountain – (snow 24 inches deep) Timber Balsom and Spruce. 3 Miles, 23 chains: desending steep rocks, no Timber.”
This relatively pedestrian entry has at least the curiosity of recording so much snow in June but it otherwise causes one to long for the florid prose and colorfully descriptive thoroughness of Verplank Colvin. Colvin’s accounts of his surveying journeys make for real drama, whereas this journal, typical of the time, offers the barest details beyond the numbers, with only occasional comments on the quality of the land or detours that needed to be taken.
The Depot Theatre Main Stage 35th Anniversary Season begins on June 28, 2013 with “Route 66”, a world premier musical romantic comedy about a charmingly neurotic big-city journalist and the cowboy photographer with whom she teams up to tell the captivating and quirky stories of the historic old highway. In the process of discovering the beauty of the small towns of America that follow ROUTE 66, the two of them fall in love – not only with one another, but with the good ol’ U.S.A.
On July 19, the Depot will open “Boeing-Boeing”, a hilarious farce about playboy Bernard, as he juggles three flight attendant fiances – one American, one Italian, and one German – with careful planning and the reluctant assistance of his beleaguered housekeeper. Weather delays and the invention of a faster Boeing jet bring all three to Paris – and Bernard’s apartment – at the same time, sending his elaborate love life into chaos. » Continue Reading.
Construction will begin on the North Country SPCA’s new shelter on Route 9N east of Elizabethtown tomorrow after a year of planning and two years of fund-raising. The shelter is expected to open its doors in February 2013. The North Country SPCA is the only animal shelter in Essex County. Each year they care for over 400 homeless, abandoned, and abused cats and dogs. Since it was founded in 1969, the no-kill shelter has helped thousands of animals find homes.
“At last, the needy dogs and cats of Essex County will no longer have to live in an overcrowded, unhealthy building until loving homes can be found. The 40-year-old Westport shelter is literally falling down and contractors said there were so many problems that the only solution was to start over,” said John Sawyers, President of the NCSPCA. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Land Trust (ALT), in cooperation with partner organizations, the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), is hosting an open house at Coon Mountain Preserve, in Westport, this Saturday, July 21, 2012, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
Acquired by the Adirondack Land Trust and opened for public use in 1992, Coon Mountain is an iconic hiking destination in the Champlain Valley. It offers panoramic views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The open house presents an opportunity to meet conservation professionals and learn about a broad range of conservation issues and programs—from land stewardship to invasive species control. » Continue Reading.
DaCy Meadow Farm in Westport is once again bringing a summer of localvore living to the Adirondacks. According to owner David Johnston the annual Blues and Burgers has been reinvented as a Barbeque and Bluegrass Pickin’ Party for July 21 and September 1 from 6 pm – 10 pm. The two events are just a sampling of the “Farm to Table” opportunities.
“We have different events all the time with the focus always being a unique food experience,” says Johnston. “In addition to our Sunday Brunch we have Chef Kevin McCarthy come and provide a gourmet slow food experience. The family-style meal emphasizes on the preparation of local foods. He comes out after each course and answers questions.” » Continue Reading.
The International Miniature Aircraft Association (IMAA) and the Champlain Valley Flyers are once again hosting “Valley of the Giants” at the Westport Airfield this weekend, June 29- July 1. Event Director Clarence Owen brought the large model plane event back to Westport last year after a 10-year hiatus.
“We held the event last year and it was a great success,” says Owen. “We are now adding on an extra day. We had 45 pilots last year and are expecting about the same. There will be food and raffles in addition to all the model flight demonstrations. We are also going to be donating our part in the North Country SPCA.” » Continue Reading.
I recently spent my Sunday in the Emergency Room due to a classic “target” shaped bite that showed up on my ankle after an Earth Day weekend of clearing trails and picking up roadside garbage near Westport, N.Y.
Not only did I get to spend my leisure time with the ER staff but I, usually so diligent with tick searches, did everything wrong regarding my own health. So to save you a trip to the ER and a bothersome dose of antibiotics, here are some safety tips for tick prevention. » Continue Reading.
It isn’t always easy to imagine farming in the Adirondacks with factors like a short growing season, or faraway markets – but you can find a thriving and vibrant community of farmers and producers here and maybe not as far away as you might think.
One way farmers are able to have a more predictable revenue stream is through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Before the growing season begins, customers are able to purchase a share in the season’s harvest – your up-front investment typically entitles you to a weekly box of vegetables or fruit produced by the farm over the course of 4 to 5 months — and often times you pick up the share at the farm. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondacks’ professional theatre company, the Depot Theatre, has announced the addition of Angel Wuellner as its new Managing Director.
“We are thrilled to welcome Angel into our theatre family,” said George Davis, president of the Depot Theatre Board of Trustees. “She was a standout in the executive team’s national search, with ample industry experience and terrific energy.”
Wuellner has worked in the theatre industry for the past twenty years, as an administrator, stage manager, director, and actor. Most recently, she worked at Actors’ Equity Association in the Auditions Department. She has also worked with The Vineyard Theatre (NYC), Clarence Brown Theatre, Actors Co-op, Tennessee Stage Company, and Smoky Mountain Shakespeare Festival. Wuellner is the founder of PromCon, an organization that collects prom dresses for underprivileged young women. She is a graduate of NYU’s Performing Arts Administration Masters’ Program and of Northern Kentucky University’s theatre department. » Continue Reading.
An independent field biology study turned out to be especially fruitful for both teacher and student. Every week since January 2011, Westport ninth-grader Peter Hartwell and mentor David Thomas Train have been exploring the Champlain Area Trails along shoreline, streams, wetlands, and woods near Westport. Those explorations eventually prompted them to enter the Champlain Area Trails Society Travel Writing Contest.
Hartwell attends the BOCES Special Education program in Mineville. To supplement the Mineville curriculum, he studies several subjects privately—including field biology with Thomas Train. “Peter and I spend time together every Wednesday after school in outdoor science explorations, and we wanted to share what we do and see,” Thomas Train explained. “He is an avid outdoors explorer, with great observation and drawing skills.” And Thomas Train is certainly no stranger to the trails of the Champlain Valley: He is the guidebook author for the ADK Guide To The Eastern Region. “I know the CATS trails well and am excited every time a new one is developed, more open space is protected, and I have a new place to explore!” Thomas Train said. » Continue Reading.
I guarantee you’re going to enjoy this. Continuing in the vein of last week’s piece related to the Civil War (a Plattsburgh woman who served as a man), here’s another unique North Country link to that conflict. Though a true story, it’s perhaps best characterized as one of those Ripley’s Believe It or Not! items, and begs the question: What the heck are the odds of that happening?
I can’t answer that, but I do recall that in my former employment, it was notable when three men all having the same first name worked in the same department. So what can you say about a group of three war veterans called “The One-Legged Jims”?
Among the many Union outfits filled by soldiers from upstate was Company A, 77th Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Enlistment sites, always plentiful, included Chatham, about twenty-five miles south of Albany, and Westport, on the shore of Lake Champlain.
The interest here focuses on three enlistees: James G. Allen, 39; James E. Barnes, 35; and James A. Lawrence, 19. Barnes and Lawrence mustered in at Westport on October 1, 1861, while Allen mustered in at Chatham on February 4, 1864.
All three served in Company A, 77th Regiment. Even though there’s more than a two-year span between their muster dates, they all ended up serving at the same time in 1864. Three Jims, same regiment, same company―no big deal.
In June of that year, the men of the 77th were joined in battle at Petersburg, Virginia. During a lull, the troops relaxed behind the breastworks (barriers to protect from ground attack). Many of them laid down to rest, talking and joking amongst themselves to ease the tensions of war. Within their midst, by mere coincidence lying side by side, were the three aforementioned Jims.
Hell erupted in an instant, courtesy of a Rebel shell that landed virtually in their laps. In describing the scene firsthand, Dr. George Stevens said, “Its explosion threw them in every direction. One went high in the air and fell twenty feet from the spot where he was lying when the shell exploded. Strange to tell, not a man was killed, yet three had each a leg crushed to jelly, and two others were seriously wounded.”
But for the quick work and dedication of medical personnel, the three Jims with mangled legs might have died on the spot. The surgeon gave each a glass of brandy, administered chloroform, and went to work.
Within thirty minutes, three limbs were amputated, the remaining stumps were treated and bandaged, and the men were in ambulances. Their destination was City Point, eleven miles away, where they arrived within three hours of being wounded. The speedy effort saved their lives. Later, all three were transferred to Stanton General Hospital in Washington.
One shell, three legs lost … three left legs … and three one-legged survivors, all named Jim. What are the chances? The coincidence wasn’t lost on anyone, and it earned the men plenty of extra attention during their recovery. In the years to come, they became known informally as The One-Legged Jims. Their story developed into a sort of military urban legend: men would tell it as an incredible army tale from their own outfit, perhaps not aware that it was, in fact, a true story taken from New York’s 77th.
After the war, Jim Lawrence eventually moved west, but Barnes remained in his hometown of Westport. At veterans’ GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) reunions across the state, he became known as the best of storytellers. The highlight, of course, was the retelling of how The One-Legged Jims, a very exclusive club, came into being. Many of the listeners had been present when the shell exploded.
“Well, boys, it was down in a rifle pit before Petersburg on the 21st of June, 1864 – lots of you remember the day – myself, Jim Lawrence, and Jim Allen, all of Company A … had finished our coffee and were lying down, smoking our pipes. My head was supported by my arm, which rested on my knapsack, and my right leg was curled up under me, my left one being stretched out. The other two Jims were lying near me in about the same position. That Rebel shell came, it did, and three Jims lost their left legs.”
He was always careful to describe the treatment and efficiency of the surgeon and others who worked so hard to keep them alive every step of the way.
Barnes made his mark outside the military as well. A pension (equal to $800 a month today) for the loss of his leg helped financially, but he also worked. Those who follow the history of Lake Champlain might recognize James Barnes as the first keeper of Barber’s Point Lighthouse when it opened in 1873.
For the remainder of his life, Barnes attended GAR gatherings. The best one of all, from his perspective, came in 1884, when the annual reunion of the 77th Regiment was held at Westport. Jim’s stories were a highlight of the affair. Over the years, from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, he entertained folks in like manner and made many friends at veterans’ events.
The 1890 reunion was remembered by many as both sweet and bittersweet. Jim Lawrence, the only other surviving member of The One-Legged Jims, came all the way from Nebraska, reconnecting with his friend and sharing stories from the past. It was fortunate that he did.
After the Gloversville reunion, Barnes headed for Westport, but stopped to visit a friend at Fort Ann in Washington County. While there, he was struck down by a stroke and never made it home alive.
As fate would have it, the reunion for 1891 was held in Westport. The unfortunate absence of Barnes was noted in a published summary of the event:
“The ‘boys in blue’ … adjourned to the lower rooms, where refreshments were served and old army stories (which no doubt grow tougher as they grow older) were told. James Barnes, the champion storyteller, was missed from the ranks, he having been summoned by the last roll since their last reunion.”
Photo: The crimson silk flank marker of New York’s 77th Regiment.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Judson Kilpatrick, a Union general during the Civil War, has been described as flamboyant, rash, and tempestuous. There’s no doubt that he was often a rogue officer, sometimes to disastrous effect. The South developed a deep hatred of him for the extreme methods he employed, but he was certainly part of the team effort that led to the North’s victory.
As every leader knew during the war, many levels of support were necessary in order to win. Despite being brash and confident in his abilities, Kilpatrick famously cited a North Country man, Captain John Viall, as critical to the general’s own success, and the Union’s as well.
John Greeley Viall, son of William and Mary Viall, was born November 1829 in Westport, New York, on the western shore of Lake Champlain. In January 1852, when he was 22 years old, John left New York and settled in Texas. Nine months later, he purchased the San Antonio Tin, Copper, and Sheet Iron Ware Manufactory, which sold and/or fabricated stoves, cookware, water pipes, and just about anything made of metal. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Margaret Miller Reuther, past President of the North Country SPCA and now co-chair of the capital campaign to build a new animal shelter for Essex County. The Almanack asked Margaret to explain why we need a new shelter.
Since its doors opened in 1969, the North Country SPCA has helped literally thousands of surrendered, abandoned and abused cats and dogs find loving homes. Now, after more than 40 years of helping others, we need your help.
A new shelter is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The current shelter in Westport is so old and rundown that our only option is to start over. In our small shelter we must put up to four cats in a cage that’s half the size the Humane Society recommends. Our dog cages are about a third of the recommended size. Also, we are forced to keep dogs and cats in the same room. This creates high stress levels, making the animals less adoptable because they are either more aggressive or very shy. And our shelter has no place to isolate sick cats and dogs, putting all of our animals at risk.
The North Country SPCA plans to build a new shelter in Elizabethtown. The new facility has been designed by ARQ Architects, a small firm which has revolutionized the field of animal care with major shelters in New York City and San Francisco.
The new facility will be a prototype for smaller shelters nationwide. It will feature animal housing which meets modern criteria for animal care, a get-acquainted room where people can spend time with a pet before adopting, and an energy-efficient “green” building that will save money as it uses up to 30% less energy. Finally, studies show that modern shelters increase adoption rates by 50 to 100 percent, so our new building will help many more cats and dogs, puppies and kittens find a second chance at a loving home.
Representative Teresa Sayward says “Our cat, Harriet, and I ask that you help us build a new facility that is properly equipped to house the dogs and cats that are awaiting a family of their own. Your tax-deductible donation will be greatly appreciated.” Senator Betty Little concurs. “A new facility is now needed and incorporating environmental and energy-efficient standards is the right long-term approach.”
We are 80% of the way to our goal, but we still need $250,000. To put us over the top, we recently received a Challenge Grant and until October 1st, all gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $125,000. Please be generous and help us build a new home for the many needy dogs and cats in Essex County.
Westport vet David Goldwasser says “The woefully inadequate facility in Westport can no longer serve the needs of our homeless animal population. I am thrilled that we will finally have a new facility which we can be proud of.” Ticonderoga vet James Mack agrees, “A new shelter is a welcome and needed addition to the North Country.” And Sue Russell at the Westport Veterinary Hospital says “The 1960’s building has outlived its usefulness. A new shelter is a necessity.”
The NCSPCA does not received state or federal funding. Private donors provide 85 percent of our annual budget while adoption fees and town contracts account for only 15 percent.
The NCSPCA is the only SPCA animal shelter in rural Essex County. We are a no-kill shelter that provides refuge to over 400 dogs and cats each year. Some are brought in by owners who can no longer care for them. Others are strays. Numerous cats and kittens are dropped at our doorstep in the middle of the night. And the police bring us animals that are victims of unspeakable abuse.
Adirondack storyteller and writer, George Davis, needs you to help him kill a few stories on Wednesday, August 3 at The Depot Theatre in Westport, NY. Prepare for a pell-mell parade of vignettes, monologues and readings ranging from a wader-wearing Amazon named Rosslyn to a perennially pickled bathtub yachtsman.
“Back in 2006 my bride and I were seduced by a sagging-but-still-sexy old house in Essex,” Davis explains. “So, we swapped New York City for Adirondack bliss, eco-historic rehab and four years of marriage testing misadventure.”
This solo performance pokes fun at the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of renovation, marriage and North Country life while inviting the audience to participate in editing a memoir. » Continue Reading.
Shakespeare in the Park comes to the Adirondacks in many forms this summer from the Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s five-week tour of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) to the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts traveling performance of Romeo and Juliet. The one theatre presentation set apart from the others is The Depot Theatre’s annual Shakespeare program for young people.
For the tenth year Westport’s The Depot Theatre has introduced Shakespeare to those children from 7th grade and older to the wonders of the Baird. Directed and instructed by theatre educators Lindsay Pontius and Scott Gibbs, The Depot Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park do not hold formal auditions but use word of mouth and The Depot website to let interested children know when rehearsals will start happening for the annual Ballard Park performance. » Continue Reading.
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