Recently my son Adam and his seven-year-old daughter Mckenna were canoeing on the Hudson River above the Feeder Dam in Glens Falls when they noticed a small tree growing atop an old stone pier about 30 feet from shore – and something more. Tangled in the roots, they found a large old rusted chain with links 4 inches wide by 6 inches long.
Sharing pictures with Richard “Dick” Nason, the unofficial Finch Pruyn historian and an authority on river log drives, it appears likely the chain was left over from the heyday of log drives on the Hudson River. The chain was found in the Big Boom sorting area. Logs were released from the Big Boom upriver and floated down to the sorting area where they were tallied by owners, identified by the owner’s mark stamped on the butt end of each log. The sorting area was used from 1851 to 1929. Dick suspects the chain may be from the late 1800s. Continue reading
When you turn on your kitchen faucet you probably don’t give it much thought, yet it’s a marvel of modern history.
For centuries, to get water into the house it was necessary to fill your buckets from a fast moving stream and lug them home. Later, you might have filled them from a well or cistern, but still had the chore of lugging them back to the house. Every drop of water you wanted for drinking, cooking or washing had to be transported this way and it was a seemingly endless task. In winter, you might have to carry an axe with you so you could break through the ice that had formed overnight. Here in the Adirondacks, wells were sometimes dug right under the house so getting water wouldn’t be quite so arduous, especially in winter. Common indoor plumbing with water to a faucet didn’t arrive in most homes in the Adirondacks until the 20th century. But there were exceptions, one of which was the LeRay Mansion near the town of Leraysville in Jefferson County. Continue reading
One of the real pleasures in researching and writing When Men and Mountain Meet was exploring the actual sites of the historic places mentioned in my book: the little town of Castorland on the Black River, the LeRay Mansion at Fort Drum, Gouverneur Morris’ Mansion at Natural Dam and David Parish’s house, now the Remington Art Museum, in Ogdensburg. And then there was finding Zephaniah Platt’s grave in the Riverside Cemetery in Plattsburgh, in Lake Placid the site of the 1813 Elba Iron and Steel Manufacturing works , Charles Herreshoff’s flooded iron ore mine in Old Forge and the complex of building foundations that made up John Thurman’s 1790 development at Elm Hill.
There was one site, however, that was a little harder to locate than the others; Sir William Johnson’s fishing camp “Fish House”. Continue reading
The story goes that, in the summer of 1970, a Town of Johnsburg highway crew was straightening a Garnet Lake Road near Crane Mountain in Northern Warren County in the Adirondacks. While removing some of the ancient corduroy logs that once carried the road across a swampy section, they discovered what appeared to be an old cannon.
Vincent Schaefer had the cannon dated at the Watervliet Arsenal and it was determined that it was a swivel gun of the type probably used by Benedict Arnold’s troops during the battle of Valcour Island. Continue reading
The Townships of Johnsburg and Thurman were named for John Thurman when Warren County was split off from Washington County in 1816. Beyond the boundaries of these two townships, however, few have heard of him or his accomplishments.
The story of John Thurman is an important chapter in the history of the Adirondacks. For too many, Adirondack history is limited to the great camps, guide boats, and environmental protection. Yet there is so much more.
For hundreds of years the Adirondacks were a dark and dangerous place; anyone traveling through the area had best be well-armed. However, after the American Revolution the Adirondacks became, for the first time, a land of great opportunity, ready for exploration and commercial enterprises. Continue reading
The Adirondack Region of New York State is known for not only for its scenic beauty, but also for the strength and stubbornness of its people. This is especially true of its women. The early years of its history featured women who were particularly strong and resilient.
Phebe Cary was not only a woman, she was a full-blooded Abenaki. The story goes that at age 13 she was sold off by her father to William Dalaba. It is unclear if she was sold off by her father or whether William just paid her father a dowry. What is clear is that after William left money with her father, she was sent off – against her will – with a new husband to the 1857 wilderness of Bakers Mills, N.Y. Continue reading