No matter how long a life lasts, the residue left behind is often fleeting, and within a generation or so, most of us are largely forgotten. But it’s also true that every life has a story, and many are worth retelling. I often glean subject matter from obituaries, or from gravestones as I walk through cemeteries. A tiny snippet of information stirs the need to dig for more, perhaps revealing unusual or remarkable achievements and contributions.
A fine example involves Benjamin Wood Haynes, a native of Westford, Vermont, who lived and worked in northern New York in the latter half of the 1800s. Intriguing to me was a reference to him as a “builder,” and so the digging began, yielding some impressive nuggets. Continue reading
As we near Election Day, I’m reminded of a man from a remote corner of the North Country, an individual who was once the right-hand man of a future president—and not just any president. Not everyone loved him, of course, but Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the few to consistently appear near the top of “our greatest leaders” lists. The right-hand man I’m referring to was known professionally as M. William Bray (Bill to his friends), a native of the town of Clinton, which borders Canada in northwestern Clinton County. Continue reading
To celebrate International Archaeology Day, the SUNY-Plattsburgh Anthropology Department and Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) invite community members to bring their artifacts and collections to the Museum to participate in their Annual Artifact Identification Day.
Archaeologists Chris Wolff and Andy Black from SUNY-Plattsburgh will be on the grounds of the CCHA to identify and provide more information about your artifacts from 11 am to 2 pm on Saturday, October 18th. They will also be displaying some of their findings from local excavations for visitors to view. Guests are also encouraged to take advantage of the Museum’s free admission for this event and free family activities. No appraisals will be given at this event. Continue reading
Rouses Point businessman, Mark L Barie, has written the first biography of North Country politician Smith Weed. In The President of Plattsburgh, The Story of Smith Weed (Crossborder Publishing, 2014), Barie paints a portrait of Weed – six feet tall, with piercing black eyes – a man who was said to smoke nine cigars a day.
Smith Weed was instrumental in the establishment of the Champlain Valley Hospital, the YMCA, the Plattsburgh Library, and the Hotel Champlain, but was perhaps best known nationally for his central role in “The Cipher Dispatches” voter fraud controversy during the fiercely disputed presidential election of 1876. Continue reading
The Bluff Point Lighthouse on Valcour Island in Lake Champlain will be open most Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3 pm through the summer. Dedicated volunteers look after and interpret the lighthouse and island for visitors under the sponsorship of the Clinton County Historical Association.
The lighthouse, once the home of the lighthouse keepers, now is filled with themed rooms containing interpretive materials. The gallery around the light at the top of the building, is at the same level as the osprey nest at the top of the tower next to the building.
In recent years, the island has become a popular day trip for kayakers and canoeists as there is no public transportation to the island. There will be docents there this Sunday, barring heavy rain or lightning. Continue reading
The Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society is has announced the first program of its 2014 “Odds and Ends” Winter Lecture Series on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at Howard Johnson’s Restaurant in Lake Placid.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 pm with attendees encouraged to come for dinner at 6:00 pm. This opening program in the four-part series is titled “The Ghosts of Clinton County” presented by Gordie Little. Continue reading
The War of 1812 Museum, operated by the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, has announced the hiring of a new museum manager. Dave Deno, a native of Plattsburgh will be taking the helm as of January 6th, 2014. Deno replaces departing museum manager Tammy Brown, who has left to take a sales position with Essex Pallet and Pellet Company of Keeseville, N.Y.
Deno studied at Clinton Community College and earned a Bachelor’s of Art Degree in History from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2009. He has recently been working toward the establishment of a new Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum which is expected to open Saturday, June 7, 2014. Continue reading
Election fraud! It makes headlines, and it has many faces. When I was a young boy growing up in Clinton County near the Canadian border, I overheard stories from adults talking about election fraud in nearby towns. With a wink, it was mentioned that so-and-so, an annual candidate, would once again be standing by the door at the polls all day long to greet the electorate―that’s just how dedicated he was to representing the interests of locals. He was, it was said, “greeting” them with $5 bills.
I never forgot the image that placed in my head―votes for sale at five bucks a pop. Years later, when I neared voting age, I assumed those stories were exaggerations, but as it turned out, they were right on the money (an excellent choice of terms, as we’ll see). Continue reading
If terms like Roaring Twenties, Winter Weekend and Homecoming Weekend sound familiar, you may be a graduate or staff member of SUNY Plattsburgh.
For a look into these events, as well as many others, go no further than the closest Internet connection. A total of 87 SUNY Plattsburgh Cardinal Yearbooks, consisting of 16,046 images, are now part of the New York Heritage site (www.nyheritage.org). This project was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the college and the Northern New York Library Network based in Potsdam. Continue reading
This year’s August 17th Champlain Day festivities will honor two local “law breakers” — Noadiah and Caroline Mattocks Moore. They were key participants in the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad, an illegal network of safe places which sheltered hundreds of fugitives from slavery as they made their way from the Southern slave states to freedom in Canada before the Civil War. Continue reading
Tornados 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
The same “prove or disprove” mission I undertook to investigate Mary Johnson’s claims (to have passed as a man and fought in the Civil War) was attempted by Eleanor Vashon after interviewing Mary Johnson in 1924. Several parties were involved: a pension attorney; the Massachusetts adjutant general; the Daughters of Veterans; the Convent of St. Rock, Quebec; the Canadian Red Cross; the Tewksbury Hospital; and acquaintances of Mary with whom she had shared the unusual story of her life.
The Red Cross managed to confirm that Thomas Hill indeed served in the Massachusetts 53rd, but found no record of a Saul Hill in the same outfit. They did find a Joseph Saul, and considering Mary’s age and her earlier jumbling of General Nelson Miles as Mills Nelson, the similarity was noted as a possible link. Continue reading
In Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922, while working in a private home, Mrs. Mary Johnson was badly injured in a fall. At the age of 82, with few resources at her disposal, neither Mary nor her husband Peter could care for themselves. During the next two years, the couple resided in three different poorhouses, living at Fitchburg and Tewksbury before moving to the Worcester City Farm. At Fitchburg, Mrs. Johnson had begun telling stories about her secret war past, and at Worcester, folks began to take her seriously.
According to Mary, she had served honorably in two branches of military service, most notably a stint during the Civil War. Combat was reserved for men only, but Mary openly shared the details, insisting her story was true. Continue reading
Religious differences are often the root causes of war, and in 1870 Utah, that’s what dominated politics. Unlike most of the nation, Utah had no Democratic or Republican parties. Instead, it was the Liberals (the anti-Mormons) versus the People’s Party (the Mormons). Eventually playing a fateful role in the outcome was a North Country man, George Montgomery Scott, a successful businessman in the territory.
The anti-Mormons made gains over the years, particularly in Tooele County, which became known as the Republic of Tooele when residents voted the Liberals into power for a five-year period. During that time, it created an odd situation. Tooele leaders, under the Liberal flag, instituted women’s suffrage. Continue reading
During battles for the presidential nomination, a candidate’s faith has sometimes been an issue, with the intention of fostering fear or negative feelings about a candidate whenever the religion is mentioned.
In 2012, one target early on was Mitt Romney and the Mormon religion. It’s interesting that fear and loathing of Mormons coming to power is not a new thing. In the 19th century, when they dominated life in the Utah Territory for several decades prior to statehood, a fierce battle was waged between two religious factions.
Many factors came into play before things were finally resolved. In one of the climactic moments that helped eliminate a powerful theocracy, a North Country man ended the Mormon’s 43-year rule of their greatest bastion, Salt Lake City. Continue reading
The Rooftop Highway, conceived as a thruway extending from Champlain in northeastern New York to Watertown in northwestern New York, is considered by some as the last major link missing from the state system of highways. It has been in the news again in recent years, particularly with the availability of federal stimulus dollars to enhance our infrastructure. As always, plenty of pros and cons are presented, and a whole lot hangs in the balance.
At times, the concept has been described as 20 to 30 years old, but it actually goes back much further. I’m old enough to recall the intense discussions during the 1970s, which takes us back 40 years. But even that is still well short of the idea’s birth. Continue reading
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. The funds are expected to support the creation of an interactive digital exhibit highlighting the history of the Catholic Summer School in Cliff Haven, NY. Continue reading
British royalty were the most famous of foreign visitors to the village of Rouses Point, located in New York State’s extreme northeast corner.
In 1919, the Prince of Wales toured Canada and accepted an invitation to visit President Woodrow Wilson at the White House. Wilson was bedridden with illness at the time, so a “bemedalled staff of admirals and generals” was dispatched to greet the Prince when he first stepped onto American soil at Rouses Point.
On November 10, Edward, Prince of Wales, arrived at the train station. Awaiting him were Secretary of State Lansing, Major General John Biddle of the US Army, Rear Admiral Albert T. Niblick of the US Navy, and Major General Charleston of the British army. Continue reading
Few villages in New York State can lay claim to as rich a heritage as Rouses Point, and like the oft-used real-estate axiom says, there are three primary reasons—location, location, location.
As New York’s northeasternmost village, Rouses Point can be found at the north end of Lake Champlain. Bordering on Canada to the north and Vermont to the east, for decades it was a shipping and transportation crossroads, serving both water and rail traffic. Continue reading
Despite the physical evidence against Saranac’s Allen Mooney in the murders of Ellen Thomas and Viola Middleton, he could still hope for a lesser conviction, even manslaughter, due to extenuating circumstances. Epilepsy, a weakness for drink, extreme jealousy—the man was obviously beset by many problems. Not a saint by any stretch, but was he a wanton killer? Continue reading