Category Archives: Natural History

Comments Sought On Historic Adirondack Fire Towers


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released the draft unit management plans (UMPs) for the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area and the Saint Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area. The UMPs contain management proposals for the fire observation towers located on the summit of Hurricane Mountain in the Town of Keene, Essex County, and the summit of Saint Regis Mountain in the Town of Santa Clara, Franklin County. Continue reading

The Cat Tail Company: Montezuma Fibre


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17234smallOn Monday, February 19th, 1917, Bankruptcy Referee Stone closed the books on the Montezuma Fibre Company, ending the short history of a business now forgotten. The company was $69,876 dollars in debt and the investors of the company were going to lose all. After ten years of business, the company had only $1,619 left in the bank.

The Montezuma Fibre Company had it origins in 1906 when Eugene Kimmey of Syracuse came up with a process to use flag (what we now call cat tails) as the main ingredient in making a heavy weight, cardboard like paper. The 20,000 acres of Montezuma swamps were filled with “Montezuma wheat”, or flag. It grew wild, it was easy to harvest and the land it grew on was cheap. In the late 1800’s many locals supplemented their income by harvesting and shipping flag to distant cities for use in the making chair seats and caulking barrels. But for all their efforts these men barely made a small dent in the vast swamp filled with cat tails. Thus, the raw material sat waiting for someone to invent a way to use it. Continue reading

Program to Feature Artists of Taconic State Park


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Kensett Bash Bish ViewHistorian and art enthusiast Jim Mackin will present “Artists of Taconic State Park” at a lecture and slide show on Saturday, October 26th at 1pm at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society, Corner of Route 344 and Miles Road in Copake Falls. Admission is free.

Mackin will share with the audience his quest to find artists who have painted in Taconic State Park since the early 1800s. His presentation will include related local and park history as well as stories about some of the renowned artists whose works found their way into prominent museums. The presentation will feature many images that illustrate how inspiring Taconic State Park has been to artists for nearly two centuries. John Frederick Kensett, Asher B. Durand and David Milne are among the artists expected to be featured. Continue reading

An Historic Trail From Lake George to Lake Champlain


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Lachute River in Spring (Tony hall Photo)The hill that separates the outlet of Lake George from the creek that opens into Lake Champlain is among the oldest portages in continuous use in North America.

The Native Americans gave it a name: Ticonderoga, “the place between waters.”

Up and down its slope have passed explorers and naturalists such as Isaac Jogues and Peter Kalm, travelers such as Thomas Jefferson and, of course, the armies of the French, the British and the Americans as supremacy over North America and its strategic waterways shifted from one nation to another. Continue reading

Montezuma Heritage Park: Interpreting Four Canals


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montezumaSince the mid- 1960’s. the idea of creating a park to celebrate the canal heritage of Montezuma New York has been tossed about. At the time, Town Supervisor Byron Lapp guided the purchase and consolidation of many acres of land located between the Seneca River and the hamlet of Montezuma. These acres, along with land owned by the State would eventually become the parkland.

The idea in the 60’s was to build a marina near the remains of the Montezuma or Seneca River Aqueduct. The idea was too big for the small community, and it was soon dropped. However, the land that had been acquired remained in Town hands. Continue reading

An Unlikely Witness to the Suffrage Movement in Rochester


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SBAHouseTreeImageThe only living witness to Susan B. Anthony’s life is a 150 year-old Horse Chestnut Tree that still shades her family’s front yard in Rochester, N.Y.  It personifies the gutsy woman people called Aunt Susan who loved her home and devoted her life to fighting for women’s rights and suffrage. The Tree has received a “Hero of Horticulture” award from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (http://tclf.org). “Hero” Trees are associated with great people and significant moments in American history.

Back when the vision of women voting seemed an impossible dream, Susan B. Anthony endured hardship and ridicule while waging a tireless campaign for gender equality. Her heart stayed home, however, along with her roots. Anthony personally defended the Horse Chestnut Tree against threats from a road project. Now its rustling leaves resonate in the hearts of visitors to the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House. (www.susanbanthonyhouse.org) Continue reading

Absinthe: ‘The Guillotine Of The Soul’


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3g12144rIn 1869, alarming news about the dangers of drinking absinthe swept north from New York City, through Albany, all the way to Malone, near the Canadian border. A “brilliant writer” from the New York press and a “talented lady” had ruined themselves physically and mentally by drinking absinthe.

Comparing the drink to opium and morphine, the article warned readers that absinthe “obtains an all-powerful control over its votaries, deadens the sensibilities, and is, indeed the guillotine of the soul.” Continue reading

Judge OKs Tower Over Hudson River Palisades


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SavePalisades1In a lawsuit filed by two public interest groups and four individuals, Judge Alexander Carver of the New Jersey Superior Court yesterday upheld the grant of a variance to LG Electronics that would allow it to construct a 143-foot tower atop the Hudson River Palisades, four times higher than the 35-foot height limit respected for decades by all other companies.

The variance, approved by the Borough of Englewood Cliffs in February 2012, authorizes construction of a building that would rise 80 feet above the tree line, ending an unbroken natural sweep of the Palisades north of Fort Lee. Despite this, the court ruled that the Englewood Cliffs Planning Board had not abused its authority in granting the variance that exempted the LG tower. Continue reading

Rehabilitated Mount Beacon Fire Tower Re-Opens


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Beacon Fire Tower Before RenovationWhat follows is a guest essay by William Keating about the opening of the rehabilitated Mount Beacon Fire Tower in June.

The colonials used the 1,400 foot north peak of Mount Beacon along the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War to set warning fires to alert General Washington at his headquarters on the western side of the river of any British presence in the valley below.  From this activity, the City of Beacon got its name.  Continue reading

Celebrating Lake George Conservationist John Apperson


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C VW 228This year marks fifty years since the passing of John S. Apperson, Jr., a celebrated Lake George conservationist. To honor his memory and accomplishments, the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) held a gathering on July 21 hosted by LGLC Director Debbie Hoffman and her husband Bill, at their Bolton Landing home in the heart of “Apperson Territory”.

Over 60 people joined together for the casual event. Guests were able to walk around the property, which neighbored Bill and Kathleen Horne’s home known as the Annex, and enjoy the lakefront views. Continue reading

Early Animal Rights: The Hats For Horses Crusade


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1902 AD Horse Hats TiIf you like horses (and who doesn’t?) and some funny grammatical errors, check out these two sentence segments from regional newspapers. From 1927: “Mounted on his favorite and favored horse wearing a white broad-brimmed hat … ; and from 1980: “Fans hurled confetti at third baseman George Brett, who was atop a horse wearing a grey cowboy hat.” Both excerpts contain misplaced modifiers: it’s a pretty safe bet that neither horse was wearing a hat.

But as silly as it sounds, it’s an idea that was actually once in vogue. About a century ago, many of northern New York’s horses were sporting the latest craze―hats for horses.

In parts of Europe and the West Indies, it had long been a practice for operators of hacks―horse-drawn taxis, carriages, and the like―to bedeck their horses with hats, which minimized the wearing effects of the hot sun during long days of strolling the streets. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Offering New Guided Waterway Tour


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1775 lake champlain battoeNow you can see Fort Ticonderoga the way two generations of soldiers saw the great lakeside citadel in the 18th century during Fort Ticonderoga’s new sunset tour, The Place Between Great Waters. The ninety minute tour takes place on scenic Lake Champlain located just below the Fort’s imposing walls. Costumed historic interpreters will lead the tour in an 18th-century battoe while guests paddle along side in their canoes and kayaks (Fort Ticonderoga canoes will be available for rent the evening of the program). Continue reading

New Yorkers of Summers Past…They’re Just Like Us!


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rockawayHow are you planning on spending your summer? Visiting Rockaway Beach? Biking in a city’s parks? Perhaps getting away from it all with a visit to the country? Well the New York City residents of the past spent their summers in a very similar way, as seen in these images from these photographs from New-York Historical Society’s digitized library collection!

New Yorkers have always hung out at the beach, whether it’s Rockaway (shown here in an undated photograph by John S. Johnson (c. 1890-1899)… Continue reading

NY Weather History: The 1856 Chateauguay Tornado


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A1 1856 Chat Tornado HeadlinesTornados in upstate New York, like those that struck recently in the Capital Region, are comparatively rare events, but are by no means anything new. Similar storms in the past have wreaked devastation in New York and New England, but few have had the incredible impact of the twister that struck northern Franklin County on June 30, 1856. The results bore strong similarities to the recent destruction near Oklahoma City.

The storm system caused chaos across the North Country, in lower Quebec, and in northern Vermont as well, but the villages of Burke and Chateaugay in New York bore the brunt of the damage when a tornado touched down, causing destruction of historic proportions. Continue reading

Tell Me… Exactly Where is The North Country?


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north county eben holdenWhen New Yorkers say with pride that they come from the North Country, strength, courage and rugged individualism can be seen written all over their faces. In addition, everyone knows they have the ability to withstand abnormally cold and miserable weather, and to survive natural disasters, such as the Great Ice Storm of 1998. But, exactly where is the North Country?

Yes, it is in the northern part of New York State, but north of what? Yonkers? Albany? The Erie Canal? The Adirondacks? Continue reading

Westchester Co. African-American ‘Hills’ Community Hike


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Westchester County African American Hills CommunityOn June 2, a unique history-hike will take participants into the “Hills” community, the largest, African-American community in Westchester County in 1860.

The land on which the Hills community farmed and lived is now part of Silver Lake Preserve, still very rugged territory, and will be the destination of a guided historic hike.

Naturalist Zaac Chaves will lead the hike and discuss changes to the environment and evidence of the “Hills” community on the land, while Edythe Ann Quinn, Ph.D., Professor of History at Hartwick College will provide history of the African-American community, focusing on the 1860s.  Continue reading

Mount Lebanon Herb Festival at Historic Shaker Village


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2nd annual mount lebanon herbfest finalThe Mount Lebanon Herb Festival will be held on Saturday, June 8, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, rain or shine on the campus of the Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY, the historic grounds of Mount Lebanon Shaker Village.

New Lebanon has a remarkable history with herbs. Its famous warm spring feeds the Shaker Swamp in the village of New Lebanon, and that supported an extraordinary collection of wild herbs long used by Native Americans. The Shakers, who based their national headquarters in New Lebanon, expanded on the uses of these herbs and created an industry around their sales. In 1824, Elam Tilden (father of politician Samuel J. Tilden) put this knowledge toward the start of one of the nation’s first pharmaceutical companies, the Tilden Company, using herbal tinctures, extracts and compounds derived in New Lebanon that were eventually marketed around the world. Continue reading

NY Dog History: Famous Ticonderoga Canines


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Headline Ti Canine Hero 1935 4WIn an eight-month span in the 1930s, two Ticonderoga canines made headlines for something dogs are known for in general: loyalty. Few relationships are more rewarding in life than the human-canine experience, as anyone reading this who shares a dog’s life can attest. For those who have children as well … some might be loathe to admit it, but dogs provide many of the same positives without all the complicated baggage.

Humans in dire circumstances react in two ways—save themselves or save others. We part company there with dogs, whose devotion compels them to maintain the relationship to the sweet or bitter end. Continue reading

NY State Expands Moreau Lake State Park


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New Moreau State Park PavillonNew York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey has announced the state added a 200-acre parcel to Moreau Lake State Park, expanding hiking opportunities in the Adirondack foothills and preserving open space in fast-growing Saratoga County.

Additionally, Commissioner Harvey announced that work has been completed on a new pavilion/outdoor classroom near the park’s nature center. Continue reading