When the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours. At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years. He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.
The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary. The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians”, Albany historian and former longtime New York State Assemblyman Jack McEneny on the Pine Hills, the Quackenbush House and the politics of history. In the second half of the show I talk with Adirondack historian Don Williams about his latest book Adirondack Tales of Tragedy and Tidings Between the Sacandaga River Bridges. (Leader Herald, 2014).
Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
This week on “The Historians”, Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Larson, author of The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 (Harper Collins-Wm. Morrow, 2014).
In the second half of the show I talk with Leader Herald history columnist Peter Betz on the White Cap vigilantes in late nineteenth century Northville. Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Through the efforts of a statewide grassroots committee, public and private colleges and universities throughout upstate New York have been spending this fall commemorating the Empire State’s role in inspiring federal wilderness preservation.
These activities are occurring in celebration of the anniversary of the signing by President Lyndon Johnson of the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964, legislation that created the legal definition of “wilderness” in the United States and now makes provisions for wilderness management on more than 109 million acres of federal land. Continue reading
The Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) Awards Program annually recognizes exemplary historic preservation work throughout the Adirondack Park. AARCH seeks examples of sensitive restoration, rehabilitation, and demonstrated long-term stewardship.
Program Director Kate Ritter highlights this event as “a celebration of the work and care that individuals and organizations have put into a variety of historic resources throughout the Adirondack region.” Continue reading
In the summer of 1892, the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, Caroline Scott Harrison, became extremely ill. She primarily suffered from tuberculosis, but experienced complications from pleurisy and the accumulation of fluid in her chest. Medical treatment of T. B. at the time mainly amounted to having the patient rest. For this reason, it was felt that a stay in the Adirondacks offered the best chance for restoring the First Lady’s health.
Early in July, the journey from Washington, D.C. to Loon Lake was undertaken, via a special train. The Troy Daily Times dutifully reported on the train’s progress. It arrived in Troy in the wee hours of the morning on July 7, then proceeded to White Creek, Rutland, Vermont, Rouse’s Point, and Malone, reaching the latter place at 10:30 am. There, a crowd that included some local officials met the two-car train, but the President asked that they refrain from cheering, so as not to disturb his sick wife. 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
I’ve learned so much about the history and culture of my state (NY) and local communities in which I reside (Buffalo NY and Piercefield NY in the Adirondack Mountains) through the traditional music of these places.
Similarly, my interest in local and state history has informed my understanding and appreciation of the music of our forebears. Before mass media came into the home, you got your music as you got your food – from someplace local, mostly. The newspaper, perhaps. Travelling shows, yes. But also from people in your community. Family members, neighbors, coworkers. What did they sing about? And what can those long-forgotten songs tell us about a community? Continue reading
Several nonprofits from across the Adirondack region have partnered to raise funds to rebuild the historic and iconic Wanakena Footbridge in the Clifton-Fine community. The suspension bridge was destroyed in January, 2014 when an ice jam on the Oswegatchie River broke and slammed into its side.
Built in 1902 by the Rich Lumber Company, the footbridge provided pedestrian access to residential and commercial areas of Wanakena. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Estimates put the full cost of construction at $250,000.
The Wanakena Historical Association has already raised nearly $38,000, but to extend the campaign’s, reach the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has partnered with other local nonprofits to establish an online Adirondack Gives crowdfunding effort. The Wanakena Footbridge campaign can be found on the Adirondack Gives website. Continue reading
In a new biography being released in October by SUNY Press, The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman, author Stephen L. Dyson tells the story of William J. Stillman (1828–1901), a nineteenth-century polymath. Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, Stillman attended Union College and began his career as a Hudson River School painter after an apprenticeship with Frederic Edwin Church.
In the 1850s, he was editor of The Crayon, the most important journal of art criticism in antebellum America. Later, after a stint as an explorer-promoter of the Adirondacks, he became the American consul in Rome during the Civil War. When his diplomatic career brought him to Crete, he developed an interest in archaeology and later produced photographs of the Acropolis, for which he is best known today. Continue reading
The Adirondack History Center will conclude its summer lecture series with a showing of the documentary The Mountains Will Wait for You at 7 pm on Tuesday evening, August 26 at the museum in Elizabethtown, NY.
The film tells the story of the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks and a founder of the Adirondack 46ers hiking club. Grace Hudowalski was born in Ticonderoga and recently East Dix, one of the 46 High Peaks, was renamed Grace Peak in her honor. Continue reading
The Town of Newcomb will celebrate its annual TR Weekend on September 5-7, 2014 with more events than you can shake a big stick at. TR Weekend celebrates the town’s connection with Theodore Roosevelt, a naturalist, explorer, and historian from New York City who served as the 33rd Governor of New York State the 26th President of the United States.
The Lake Placid – North Elba Historical Society has announced the Annual Heritage Day to be held Saturday August 16 from 10 am to 2 pm. This is the most important fundraiser of the year for the Historical Society and will feature a flea market, food, live entertainment, book sale, the ever popular bake sale, children’s activities and a silent auction.
The live entertainment includes the Adirondack Saxaphones at 10 am and the Pine Ridge Rounders at 12:00 pm. These local bands will play a variety of music and provide a focal point for the Heritage Day activities. Continue reading
Last week, following the announcement that the Old Stone Barracks in Plattsburgh was named to the Preservation League of New York State’s “Seven to Save” list, The Friends of the Old Stone Barracks announced that it has launched a campaign to purchase the property from its private owner. Continue reading
Almost everyone within sniffing distance of public history these days, in any capacity, is on the lookout for the silver bullet that will somehow “rescue” their particular site, or organization, or even the entire field, from the edge of a financial ruin.
For many boards and staff, technology has become the most sexy aphrodisiac around. Even though I haven’t yet seen it effectively used, partly because it becomes dated so quickly, museum and other sites continue to reach for phone tours, or apps, or touch screens, to add that extra element of engagement that will magically connect to those ever-elusive younger audiences that sites yearn to attract. Continue reading
If you’ve spent any time rambling New York’s north country roads, you may have wondered how Eagle Lake got its name, or how little towns like Schroon Lake and Chateaugay and Redford came to be before the north became a tourist haven. Where is that Cold River hermit that your grandfather told you about? What about the weird beliefs of early Adirondack days? Maybe you’re still holding out for the possibility of a sea serpent in Lake Champlain, or hoping you’ll chance upon a legendary lost silver mine while you’re out enjoying a hike in the balsam wood.
This is the sort of interesting and sometimes unusual information that readers of Adirondack Memories and Campfire Stories (2014) will find fascinating. William J. “Jay” O’Hern has compiled first-hand stories from a series of little quarterly magazines that native Adirondack archivist, historian, and folklorist George Glyndon Cole published from 1946-1974. Few complete collections now exist, in less than a handful of North Country libraries, but back then readers eagerly anticipated each new issue. Some readers will remember reading North Country Life, later called York State Tradition, from cover to cover. It was exciting indeed to read about one’s own rural region, especially when the articles came straight from the pens and hearts of one’s neighbors. Continue reading
In 1896, New York City resident Prestonia Mann purchased an Adirondack estate in Keene and set about to create a summer community based on the 1840s Massachusetts Transcendentalist utopian experiment, Brook Farm. She sent an invitation to her circle of acquaintances – mostly progressive social reformers and educators – describing the place she named Summer Brook in homage to the earlier colony:
It includes a large common hall, a cottage, and about twenty acres of land traversed by a fine trout brook. The region—at the northern end of Keene Valley—is in the noblest part of the great wilderness. The land lies 2,000 feet above the sea, upon a small plateau jutting out from among the foot-hills of Mount Hurricane, in the midst of wild and rugged scenery, commanding a splendid mountain range from Whiteface on the north to Tahawus on the south.
Unfortunately, a hotel upstream, The Willey House, was dumping all of their raw sewage into the same “fine trout brook”, known as Gulf Brook. Continue reading
The Adirondack Museum has announced that the institution will receive into the museum’s collection the wilderness cabin Anne LaBastille, famous worldwide from her Woodswoman series of books, built and lived in, along with many of her personal effects.
An accompanying gift of $300,000 will support the costs of moving the cabin to the museum and incorporating it into a new exhibition, The Adirondack Experience, expected to open in 2017. The gifts were made by the Estate of LaBastille, an author, ecologist, environmental advocate, and former Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner, who passed away in 2011. Continue reading
Rollin O. Sanford died on July 29, 1864 while a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. His only son, Rollin J, was born that very same day in Hopkinton NY, twelve hundred miles to the north, in what is now the Adirondack Park. While there are countless stories of tragedy and heartache that occurred during the Civil War, this story seemed especially poignant, since it involved our family.
Rollin O. Sanford, described as a large and powerful man, was the tenth child and youngest son of Jonah and Abigail Greene Sanford. He was a farmer in Hopkinton, married to Ermina Roberts, with whom he had two daughters, Lillian and Jeanette. “Nettie”, the younger daughter, died in November 1863 at age two, one month before Rollin went off to war. Years later Lillian wrote about the death of her little sister and how her father “held Nettie in his arms as her little life went out”. Continue reading
Remember the hit song, “Sixteen Tons,” taken to #1 by Tennessee Ernie Ford many decades ago? Most people are familiar with the famous line, “St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the Company Store,” meaning, “Hey, I can’t die … I’ve got debt to pay.”
The line referred to Company Towns of the coal-mining industry, where the company owned everything: coal, land, and houses. Workers were paid with scrip―coupons redeemable only at the Company Store, where prices were artificially inflated. Continue reading