Heat and hard physical work can be a debilitating combination. Two of my experiences with them from the long-ago past were a challenge and a heck of a workout — under a blazing sun, doing the haying, and, my personal favorite, picking rocks. But the most exhausting of all was harder than both — digging graves with a shovel and pick during the hottest days of summer. I quickly understood why the veteran diggers joked that people who died during the summer were so inconsiderate.
Decades ago, while researching my first book, the details of another very hot and difficult job were revealed to me by a kind and accommodating woman named Emma Johnson, who was 85 years old at the time. The subject was a remarkable place in northern Clinton County known locally as the Altona Flat Rock. New York State’s Natural Heritage Program, established in 1985, defined the Altona Flat Rock as “sandstone pavement barrens,” a natural rarity. Continue reading
On July 29, 1928, Herbert R. Mackie, an inmate at what was then known as Clinton Prison (today called the Clinton Correctional Facility) in Dannemora was being escorted to a practice session for the prison’s band. He told an officer that he had forgotten something, and asked for permission to return to his cell. He was not seen again by prison staff for six weeks.
He was not at liberty during most of that time, however. He was still within the facility, busily digging a tunnel that would be a key part in what seems to have been a carefully planned plot for Mackie to escape the prison with fellow inmate Otto Sanford. Continue reading
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a Draft Lake Champlain Islands Management Complex Unit Management Plan (Draft UMP) in compliance with the Adirondack State Land Master Plan. The plan includes a number of historic and recreational sites.
Public comments on the plan are being accepted through September 18, 2015. A Public Meeting on the Draft UMP will be held August 20th in Plattsburgh. Continue reading
The hunt by law enforcement officials for two escaped convicts from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora became a nonstop reality show in the media. For several weeks, each and every movement of the convict hunters was chronicled. When one was killed and the other wounded and captures, the show was over. So was the economic windfall. Continue reading
After he and Amos Whitney formed Pratt & Whitney in 1860, Francis Pratt served as president until 1898, while Whitney was the general superintendent.
Their personal and joint histories prior to forming the company are well documented in many sources. Comparison with other records suggests only one discrepancy, but to historians it’s a whopper. The issue: where was Francis Pratt born and who can claim him as their own? Continue reading
Earlier this winter, our forecast in Clinton County was light rain and temps in the upper 30s, conditions that were expected to last a couple of days. Forty-eight hours later, 23 inches of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable covered everything in sight. Tree collapsed, power outages were frequent, and roads were a slushy mess. Removal of the stuff from driveways was best done by machine, but for some of us, manual effort was the only way to go. As I toiled, my mind wandered to similar jobs I’ve endured in decades past. Continue reading
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) will open a new exhibit from 12 to 3 pm on Saturday, January 24th: Saranac: Life and Times of an Adirondack Town. Since 2010, the CCHA has invited Clinton County Historians to take part in the Museum’s I Love Clinton County Exhibition Series. The Town of Saranac is being highlighted in this year’s series focusing on town history.
Jan Couture, Town of Saranac Historian and the Seney family of the Saranac Family History and Research Group curated the exhibit which highlights Saranac’s history as a mining, manufacturing, logging and farming town. The exhibit which will be on display at the Museum until October 2015. Continue reading
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) has announced the publication of a new book, Clinton County Civil War Record: 1861-1865.
In 2010, the Clinton County Historical Association formed a committee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Since its formation, the committee has planned numerous lectures and programs at the Museum, and also took on a research project to culminate in the publication of a book. Continue reading
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