As the Civil War loomed and politicians from the North and South debated the fate of slavery, brave New Yorkers risked their lives to help fugitive slaves escape bondage. Because of its clandestine nature, much of the history of the Underground Railroad remains shrouded in secrecy—so much so that some historians have even doubted its importance.
After decades of research, Tom Calarco recounts his experiences compiling evidence to give credence to the legend’s oral history in a new book The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York (History Press, 2014). Continue reading
How does the much-loved little robot from Star Wars connect with Essex County History? Answer: He is “ArtoD2,” built by Essex County native Arto Monaco, creator of the Land of Makebelieve. Monaco’s work is a featured exhibit running through October 13 at the Adirondack History Center and Essex County Historical Society in Elizabethtown.
Lynda Denton, Monaco’s niece and long-time assistant, says the model was constructed “just for fun” soon after the first Star Wars movie came out. It was operated with a model airplane remote control and included a tape with sound effects. Continue reading
Late spring of 1845 found , a leader of the Liberty Party, touring the North Country in search of disaffected “Whigs and Democrats, whose intelligence and Christian integrity will not permit them to remain longer in their pro-slavery connections.”
Smith, from Peterboro, in Madison County, traveled from Saratoga Springs, through Glens Falls and then into Essex and Clinton counties on his quest to build a credible third party, a devoted anti-slavery party. His report, printed in the Albany Patriot in late June, details the villages his visited, the people he met, and the difficulties he faced. Continue reading
Last week in this space, I addressed the subject of cross-burnings in the North Country, which became common in the 1920s during a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the region, meetings were conducted by Klan leaders, and thousands of followers were added to their ranks. For many of us, it’s an uncomfortable part of Adirondack history, but there is another side to the story. Despite widespread intimidation spawned by secret meetings, robed figures, and fiery crosses, New York’s citizenry rose in opposition to the Klan policies of bigotry and exclusion.
Speaking out against the KKK carried inherent risks for average folks, and for politicians as well. Between 1915 and 1922, more than a dozen senators and government officials in Washington were acknowledged members of the Klan, and the organization played a role in the national elections of 1924 and 1928. But in spite of their rise to power behind claims of patriotism and “Americanism,” the KKK was judged by many as a blight on society and distinctly un-American. Continue reading
Slavery and New York State have a long history together. Indeed, the history of slavery in New York predates the birth of New York as an English and originates in the days of New Netherland, part of the extensive international slave trade.
As we are regularly reminded by events today, slavery has not disappeared. The current issue of Time includes an article on the worldwide continuance of slavery today, especially targeting young women and girls.
What does this have to do with New York history today? Continue reading
Among the new exhibits at the Lake George Historical Association Museum this summer is “The Lake George Mirror: The History of a Newspaper, the Story of a Community.” Established in 1880 , the Lake George Mirror became a medium to promote Lake George as a summer resort in the 1890s. Published to this day, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.
The exhibit includes reproductions of covers from 1880 to the present, artifacts such as the burgee from the small steamboat in which the editor gathered news in the 1890s, books and brochures promoting Lake George and its businesses which were printed by the publishers in the 1940s and 50s and the stories of those who have owned and edited the newspaper. Tony Hall, editor of the Lake George Mirror will give a talk at the Museum on Wed July 9, at 7pm, when the Association will host a reception for this exhibit. Continue reading
Ticonderoga resident Diane O’Connor has joined The Essex County Historical Society as director. She replaces Margaret Gibb, who led the organization for more than 14 years and recently joined Lakes to Locks Passage as program director.
O’Connor brings to her new position more than 20 years of experience in non-profit management for diverse organizations, including The National Genealogical Society, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (now the Civil War Preservation Trust). Most recently, she worked at Fort Ticonderoga. Continue reading
Mike Prescott often jokes that “someone has to be the dam historian,” because that’s what he’s become – the historian of the various dams in the Adirondacks.
Now the Warrensburgh Historical Society is hosting a presentation by Prescott, “Proposed Dams on The Upper Hudson River” on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm in the Richards Library Community Event Room, Warrensburg, NY. Continue reading
Historic Saranac Lake is gearing up for a busy month in May, with a variety of talks, tours, and events scheduled celebrating Saranac Lake’s unique history and architecture.
The month kicks off with a walking tour on May 1 as part of Saranac Lake’s “Daffest” Festival. A walking tour leaves Riverside Park at 10:30 AM. The group will stroll along the shores of Lake Flower, learning about some of the cure cottages that once catered to TB patients. The tour ends at the Bartok Cabin, where the great composer, Béla Bartók, spent the last summer of his life. The tour is $5 per person or free to Historic Saranac Lake members. A boxed lunch is available following the tour for $15. Continue reading
Refrigerators can float. There are many things that can be learned from flooding, and that’s one tidbit that stuck with me from when my parents’ house took on about two feet of water more than a decade ago. When the water subsided enough to safely wade across the road to their front door, I went alone to assess the damage—but the door wouldn’t budge. Finally, it began to give an inch or two at a time.
When I managed to squeeze in, I was more than a little surprised at what I found. As the water had deepened in the kitchen, the refrigerator toppled and then somehow floated through the kitchen doorway into the house entrance, blocking the front door. The rest of the first floor was similarly wrecked—everything was sopping wet and coated with mud. Continue reading
A little-known forest retreat called Brandreth Park has several unimpressive dwellings and sparse communication with the outside world. Yet back in the dark days of World War II generals Eisenhower, Marshal, Patton and others in the American military headquarters of England and Europe felt it necessary to keep their lines of communication open and flowing with one of its residents, Major General Fox Conner, U.S Army, Retired.
It’s safe to say that most Americans have never heard of Brandreth Park or of this soldier who never served in WWII but who nonetheless contributed to the victory over Germany. Those who do remember Conner, consider him “the man who made Eisenhower”. Continue reading
Launching John Brown Day 2014, students from high schools across the Adirondacks will attend special screenings of 12 Years a Slave, the Academy award-winning film based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free Black Adirondacker who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the mid-1800s.
Born in Minerva in 1808, Northup lived many of his early years in the region, married and made a home with his wife and their three children in Saratoga Springs. It was there in 1841 where his harrowing entrapment and subsequent enslavement on a Louisiana cotton plantation began.
Eighteen years later in October 1859 John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, lit the spark that ignited the war that ended the chattel slavery that Northup and millions of other people of African descent endured in the United States. Continue reading
The Warrensburgh Historical Society (WHS), Warrensburgh Beautification Inc. (WBI) and Richards Library are co-sponsoring a monthly four part Historic Preservation Lecture Series beginning Wednesday.
The purpose of the series is to educate the community and its leadership to the benefits of historic preservation – the funding sources and financial incentive programs available, the advantages of adaptive reuse, and the direct correlation with economic development. Continue reading
Governor Al Smith helped block the construction of a highway along the shore of Tongue Mountain, but it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who was instrumental in protecting the east shore of Lake George, documents in the Apperson-Schaefer collection at the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College in Schenectady suggest.
With funding from the bond acts of 1916 and 1926, much of Tongue Mountain and many of the islands in the Narrows were now protected, permanently, as parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
But by 1926, John Apperson, the General Electric engineer who dedicated much of his life to the protection of Lake George, had become concerned about the future of the east side. Continue reading
The highest museum exhibit in New York won an Award of Merit in the ‘Innovation in Interpretation’ category from the Museum Association of New York (MANY). Awarded at MANY’s annual conference on March 31st, Whiteface Mountain: The Exhibit was recognized for its engaging programs that enlivened participation in the community. There was a large and diverse pool of nominations this year. Other winners include The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City.
A total of 15 projects, ranging from exhibitions to educational programs, received recognition. Eight of these received an Award of Merit, the highest honor, given to institutions or individuals whose projects represent outstanding contributions to the field and overall innovation and excellence. Continue reading
Among the interesting stories to review during this sesquicentennial of the Civil War are those of North Country families who paid an unusually high price. In covering such tragic tales, the principal difficulty lies in getting it right―no small task when the main event occurred 150 years ago. In many cases, we may never be sure exactly what happened, but the availability of digitized records has changed the game. The truth sometimes emerges to replace embellishments that appeared in the long-accepted, oft-repeated version of a story.
The Tupper family of Pierrepont in St. Lawrence County offers a fine example. There’s no question they suffered tragic losses during the Civil War, but parts of their story may well have been juiced up by reporters hoping to inspire deep empathy or poignancy. Continue reading
At the height of her career in mid-1873, Kate Field was said to be “a more prominent journalist than Clemens [Mark Twain].” The Washington Post said she was “one of the foremost women of America,” and the Chicago Tribune called her the “most unique woman the present century has produced.” Yet in her tales of adventure in the Adirondacks, she called herself “a babe in the woods.”
She wrote, “To be a babe in the woods watched over by a human robin redbreast, is as near an approach to Eden before the fall as comes within the ken of woman.” Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This tribute to Lake George’s Winnie LaRose was written by the late Robert F. Hall and republished in his 1992 collection of essays, Pages from Adirondack History. He included this piece in the collection because, he wrote, “Winifred S. LaRose, who died on December 6, 1979, was the very embodiment of the environmentalist – a person whose love of her own native place and whose determination that its beauty would not be spoiled led her to the forefront of the environmental movement, not only in Lake George, but throughout New York State.”
Governor Hugh Carey proclaimed August 21, 1980, as Winnie LaRose Day, but any day would have served because that lady was busy every day of the year for the past 30 years in battling for the environment.
The governor chose that date because it coincided with a memorial service to the late Mrs. LaRose at the Fort George Battleground Park on the Beach Road at Lake George. This was an appropriate site for the service because Winnie, more than anyone else, was responsible for turning this swampy piece of ground into a park for people to enjoy. But it was done not only for people. As Victor Glider, a good friend and now retired as director of Environmental Conservation Field Services, told the gathering, Winnie insisted on clearing away the brush so that the statue of the martyred Father Jogues would have a good view of the lake where he served his mission in the 17th century. Continue reading
The Kelly Adirondack Center in Niskayuna, NY has announced an upcoming four-part lunch and learn series, “People in the Wilderness” with Hallie Bond.
Bond was at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake from 1983 until 2012, first as Education Director and then as Curator.
On April 7, the topic will be “Adirondack Life”. Before the automobile and good roads, Adirondack life ran in traditional channels, tied to the seasons and the land. Cash was scarce, and people worked at many different jobs. How Adirondackers used the woods to support themselves is essential to understanding Adirondack life today. Continue reading
During the first decades of the twentieth century, as women first agitated for and then began exercising the right to vote, many became intrigued by the political process and the possibilities for influencing public opinion. One of the topics of great interest and debate concerned the best use of forest lands in the Adirondack Park, and whether to uphold the protections of Article VII, Section 7, the forever wild clause of the New York Constitution. Although little has been written on this subject, I am convinced that women contributed significantly to this debate.
My source of information is a collection of letters saved by John S. Apperson, Jr., an engineer at the General Electric Company in Schenectady. By 1920, he had earned a reputation as a leading preservationist, and was fighting a vigorous campaign to protect the islands at Lake George. His connection to women’s organizations apparently got its start there, as he became friends with Mary Loines, from Brooklyn, New York, who owned land in Northwest Bay. Continue reading