Tag Archives: Adirondacks

“Wild Jess” Elliott: Setting the Record Straight


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camp elliottJessie Elliott was a unique figure in the history of the Beaver River country in the west central Adirondacks. Visitors to the tiny settlement of Beaver River are still told she went to prison for her role in the bootlegging that was rampant in the lumberjack days of the early 1920s. She is listed among the “lawless ladies” in Niki Kourofsky’s recent book, Adirondack Outlaws. Pat Thompson’s memoir about life in Beaver River claims Jessie rode her steed through the settlement with her long hair flowing and a pistol in a holster on her belt. More fantastic stories about Jessie can be found in Bill Donnelly’s Short History of Beaver River where she is described, among other things, as a good-looking Calamity Jane, a bootlegger, and a prostitute. The truth underlying the legends reveals a much more complex and interesting wilderness woman. Continue reading

Herbert Short: Lost in the Boreas River Country in 1930


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In early November 1930, a hunting party in the Boreas River area split up to do what Adirondack hunters so often do: execute a deer drive. Among those taking part were Lew Buck, Leo Adams, Edward White, Murray Short, and Murray’s brother Herbert. Herb was a corrections officer who had recently been promoted and transferred to Auburn Prison from Clinton Prison in Dannemora. It was Dannemora that provided the link between him and the other men: Buck was the village’s former postmaster, White was a retired Clinton keeper, and his close friend Adams still worked there as a guard.

Concern mounted at day’s end when the men reassembled and Herbert was a no-show. But he was a very experienced woodsman, and the entire party was aware that a storm was moving into the area, so in that sense he was prepared for anything. His companions surmised he may have been turned around while trying to get back to camp before the snow fell. At that point, the explanations they considered carried reassurances that everything was OK, or soon would be. Continue reading

Profile: Adirondack Experience School Programs


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adk experience school programAdirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX, formerly the Adirondack Museum) has been offering school programs since 1976. The outreach has expanded exponentially since, now hosting off-and on-site programs free of charge to schools within the Adirondack Park.

In 2017 the Museum; visited over 55 schools in 12 counties; delivered 393 programs to classrooms; drove 10,039 miles to reach students in the ADKS and beyond; engaged with 3,069 students and teachers during field trips to the Museum; and served 8,046 students and teachers in their classrooms. Continue reading

New Book: Blacks in the Adirondacks


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blacks in the adirondacks bookSally E. Svenson’s new book Blacks in the Adirondacks: A History (Syracuse University Press, 2017) tells the story of the many African Americans who settled in or passed through this rural, mountainous region.

In the Adirondacks for a variety of reasons, some were lifetime residents, while others were there for a few years or months ― as summer employees, tuberculosis patients, or in connection with full- or part-time occupations in railroading, the performing arts, and baseball. Continue reading

David Brooks: A Canal for the Adirondacks


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The Historians LogoThis week on The Historians Podcast, David Brooks describes unfulfilled plans to build a canal linking the Erie Canal with Johnstown, Gloversville and the Sacandaga Valley in the Adirondacks.

The story first appeared as an article in The New York History Blog. Brooks is education coordinator at a state Erie Canal history site, Schoharie Crossing in Fort Hunter.

Listen to the podcast here.     Continue reading

A Fisher of Men and a Fish in the Water


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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 of the Fulton Chain


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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.
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Adirondack Philosophers’ Camp Features Beowulf, Grendel By Canoe


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Philo camp campers on bridgeThe 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

1890s Adirondack Freshwater Pearl Fever


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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

New Book: Upstate Uncovered


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upstate uncovered book coverChuck 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