A few weeks ago, the Adirondacks and North Country lost a native who led a unique life, a man who three years ago added “author” to his resume. Robert “Bob” Manning of Massena passed away on September 28 at the age of 81. My personal connection with him is a strange one indeed. We met back in 1966, but I hadn’t been in touch with him since 1969, so you might suppose that our phone conversation in 2014, when we became reacquainted, might have been a bit awkward.
It sure could have been, but not for the reason you might be thinking — that 45 years had passed. No, that wasn’t an issue at all, but these next few lines should help explain my use of the word “strange.” When I knew him back in the 1960s, he was a Catholic priest and one of my schoolteachers (nothing odd about that). He called in 2014 to ask if he and his wife could come and visit me (and there it is!). Continue reading
A new history covering the Fulton Chain of Lakes region from Moose River Settlement to its boundary west of Raquette Lake is now available from North Country Books and selected regional bookstores.
Regular contributor to the Weekly Adirondack of Old Forge Charles E. Herr’s new book, The Fulton Chain: Early Settlement, Roads, Steamboats, Railroads and Hotels, documents the story of the stalwart folk whose lives shaped the Fulton Chain.
The book represents the first general history of the Fulton Chain region in almost seventy years.
The Philosophers’ Camp, an annual collaboration between SUNY-ESF’s Northern Forest Institute and St. John’s College Santa Fe, reimagines the original Adirondack excursion as a weekend retreat in elegant Great Camp style at the historic Masten House, will be held September 29 to October 1, 2017.
The 1858 expedition immortalized in William James Stillman’s painting provides historical grounding for this contemporary revision and an opportunity this year for conversations related to the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, John Gardner’s 1971 novel Grendel and The Old Testament book of Ruth. Continue reading
Balsam pillows, maple syrup, spruce gum, custom-made rustic furniture — they’re all products comprised of raw materials native to the Adirondacks. Other businesses, current or defunct, have similar roots, but occasionally in regional history we find homegrown livelihoods that seem an odd fit for the North Country. Among the unlikeliest of those is pearl harvesting — not in the St. Lawrence River or Lake Champlain, but in creeks and rivers of the Adirondacks and foothills.
Pearls, considered the oldest of the world’s gems, are deeply rooted in history dating back thousands of years. They were highly valued in ancient Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Roman, and Arabian cultures. Polynesia, Ceylon, and the Persian Gulf were the primary pearl sources, but as man is wont to due, excessive harvesting badly depleted the world supply. While the search continued for natural alternatives, the first cultured pearl (cultivated through a process that imitated nature) was developed in the 1890s. Patent battles to control the method continued until 1916, but in the meantime, many countries turned to harvesting pearls from fresh-water clams. Continue reading
Chuck D’Imperio’s new book Upstate Uncovered: 100 Unique, Unusual, and Overlooked Destinations in Upstate New York (SUNY Press, 2017) shares an array of fun and amazing places in Upstate New York that the casual traveler might otherwise miss.
As one of Upstate’s most ardent advocates, D’Imperio has traveled the backroads and byways of the region seeking out the stories, tales, and folklore writ upon the landscape. He takes readers to one hundred small towns and cities from the Hudson Valley to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks and out through the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes region. Not only a reflection of “the road less traveled,” Upstate Uncovered includes pertinent information such as websites, photographs, personal interviews, and explicit directions to each of the included entries. Continue reading
“These are mere deserts on both sides of the river St. Lawrence, uninhabited by beast or bird on account of the severe colds which reign there.”—Samuel de Champlain.
“One cannot see a more savage country, and no part of the earth is more uninhabitable.” —Pierre Charlevoix, 1756. And about winters in the north: “It is then a melancholy thing not to be able to go out of doors, unless you are muffled up with furs like the bears…. What can anyone think, where the very bears dare not show their face to the weather for six months in the year!”
The last quotation (1767) is from John Mitchell, who cited the above comments by Charlevoix and Champlain in assessing New England, New York, and Quebec during discussions about the future of the American colonies. His writings at that time supported a solution Mitchell had proposed a decade earlier, one that would have drastically altered today’s map of the Americas and seriously revised the history of the Adirondack region. Continue reading
A new book by Ellen Apperson Brown, John Apperson’s Lake George (Arcadia Publishing, 2017), offers a significant collection of many Apperson photos published for the first time.
Writing from Virginia where John Apperson spent much of his youth, Ellen Apperson Brown has compiled a collection of captioned photos, along with an introductory essay that reveals much of the public, and private, life of her great uncle, who had such a large impact on protecting Lake George and the Adirondacks.
Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club; immigrant-rights organization Migrant Justice; and Don and Vivian Papson, founders of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, will receive Spirit of John Brown Freedom Awards at the John Brown Day celebration on Saturday, May 6, at 2 pm.
The annual event, which is organized by North Country-based human rights and freedom education project John Brown Lives!, will be held at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. The public is welcome. Continue reading
All this talk from me during the last two weeks about spruce-related subjects (Sprucelets and spruce beer) is linked to past conversations with my mom, a native of Churubusco in northern Clinton County. It’s officially known as the Town of Clinton, but to local folks, it’s just Busco — and about as country as it gets around here. Growing up there on a farm in the 1920s and ’30s, Mom partook in things that were once the norm, like drinking raw milk and chewing spruce gum.
Her repeated mention of loving to chew spruce gum intrigued me. But as a young boy, I made the mistake of thinking any old evergreen would do, so I tried white-pine sap, something I still regret to this day. Maybe it doesn’t actually taste terrible, but in my recollection, it was terribly terrible, like turpentine. To avoid steering anyone away from it based on an old memory, I confirmed through our state DEC website and others that white-pine resin can be used to make turpentine. And the higher the pitch level, the stronger the turpentine taste — so my memory is good that the taste of raw pine resin was awful. Continue reading
In keeping with last week’s spruce theme — Sprucelets: An Original Adirondack Medicine — is a look at one of the most common drinks in early Adirondack history: spruce beer. Like the aforementioned Sprucelets, it was believed to be of medicinal value due in part to its vitamin C content. Several evergreens share those same properties, and their use dates back centuries.
In one of the earliest mentions of evergreens used as a health aid in North America, there remains disagreement as to which tree along the St. Lawrence River (at today’s Quebec City) was used by Jacques Cartier in 1536 to cure scurvy. His voyage journal says that after learning nearby natives were quite ill with an unknown disease, Cartier quarantined his men on their ships, which were frozen in the ice.
As he noted, the precaution didn’t work. “Not withstanding these defences, the disease begun inside our group, in an unknown manner, as some of us were getting weak, their legs were becoming big and swollen, the nerves as black as coal. The sailors were dotted with drops of blood, and then the disease went to their hips, thighs, shoulders, arms and neck. Their mouths were so infected and rotten that all the flesh fell to the level of the roots of the teeth which had fallen out.” Continue reading