Tag Archives: Clinton County

Clinton, Essex Counties 150th Civil War Anniv Meeting


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Town and village historians as well as historical organizations and individuals who may have a stake in creating an appropriate series of commemorative events for the Civil War sesquicentennial in Essex and Clinton counties are invited to join a meeting this week to coordinate possible events. Although the anniversary is fast approaching, there is as yet no commission or even an informal group organizing events in Clinton County.

Amanda A. Palmer, chairperson of the Adirondack Coast Cultural Alliance (ACCA) (and also Director/Curator of the Alice T. Miner Museum) and Jim Brangan of the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership are calling for coordinated events among local organizations, historians, towns, villages as well as with Vermont and groups south of Clinton and Essex counties.

The sesquicentennial will be the major item on the agenda of the next meeting of the Adirondack Coast Cultural Alliance (ACCA), scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on March 16 at the United Way on Tom Miller Road in Plattsburgh.

Fort La Présentation to Develop Schools Project


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A grant of $10,000 has been awarded to the Fort La Présentation Association by the telecom giant AT&T to develop and implement a five-year educational outreach project to elementary schools in the St. Lawrence Valley region.

The curriculum-based Hands-On-History project will provide reproduction 18th- and 19th- century heritage items, interpretive materials and lesson plans which will intrigue students and help teachers meet state and national standards for history and social studies.

Hands-On-History will run as the name suggests. Students will be able to handle, hold or try on the clothes, tools and other gear which will help them explore the history of Fort de la Présentation under the flags of France, Great Britain and the United States from 1749 to 1813.

“We are very grateful to AT&T for the generous funding,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “The donation significantly maximizes the Fort Association’s modest financial and in-kind resources to allow us to reach a major goal of our educational strategy.”

“Our thanks also go to our long-time supporter, former State Senator Darrel Aubertine,” O’Keefe continued, “who drew the attention of AT&T to our plans to enrich our children’s learning.”

To ensure the project continues beyond the first year, the Fort Association’s contribution is $4,700. Fort Association board is committing $300 annually in year’s two to five. The $1,200 investment is to maintain printed materials and replace lost or damaged items.

In-kind services worth $3,500 – volunteered by museum, history and education professionals affiliated with the Fort Association – will help develop evaluation criteria, meet curricular goals and promote the new education opportunity to schools across the region.

“By autumn 2011, Hands-on-History should be available to teachers,” said O’Keefe. “We look forward to students experiencing their local history and discovering a first-hand connection to early days in the St. Lawrence Valley region.”

Lecture on the Battles at Plattsburgh


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The Wilmington Historical Society invites you to their program with historian and author Keith Herkalo “September 11th, 1814: The Battles at Plattsburgh” to be held on Friday, August 20th at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center on Springfield Road in Wilmington, Essex County, NY.

Would the United States exist if our naval and land Battles at Plattsburgh on September 11, 1814 had been lost? For the United States, the War of 1812 is often referred to as “the second war for independence”. We have learned of the battles at Baltimore, Washington and Sacketts Harbor, but what about the Battles at Plattsburgh?


Keith Herkalo, using personal journals, military journals, contemporary newspaper accounts, and other original source documents, examines the evidence that leads to the conclusion that the Battles at Plattsburgh on land and on Lake Champlain, were actually the key battles of the War of 1812. He claims that were it not for the exemplary talents and skills of two young military officers, Commodore Thomas McDonough and General Alexander Macomb, a small force of regular army and navy personnel and New York Militia, a few thousand Vermont Militia, a handful of Native Americans and Veteran Exempts (those too old for military service), and a group of boys from a local school, the United States, as we know it today, would not exist.

Plattsburgh City Clerk and a charter member of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, Keith Herkalo believes that the Battles at Plattsburgh and the individuals who fought in the War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley and surrounding area deserve national recognition. Karen Peters, President of the Wilmington Historical Society, notes that many area residents of that time period participated in the land battle, including Major Reuben Sanford of Wilmington who commanded a regiment of detached militia. Stephen Partridge, also of Jay and Wilmington was one of the first to be killed in action in a skirmish at Culver Hill on September 6, 1814, a few days prior to the main battle.

Having grown up in both Philadelphia and Plattsburgh, and spending more than a decade in military service, Keith Herkalo returned to Plattsburgh developing a keen interest in Plattsburgh’s history with a particular attention to Plattsburgh’s involvement in the War of 1812. He is a builder and member of the boat crew of the award-winning bateau “Rooster” (the 37-foot replica of an 1812 era work boat). As an 1812-era re-enactor and an amateur historian he is the research catalyst behind the archaeological re-discovery and preservation of the 1812 Camp Site known as “Pike’s Cantonment” and the Crab Island Graves location. He is the editor of The Journalof H.K. Averill. Sr.: An Account of the Battle of Plattsburgh and Early North Country Community, and author of September 11th, 1814: the Battles at Plattsburgh which documents Plattsburgh’s importance in the War of 1812.

The “September 11th, 1814: The Battles at Plattsburgh” program on August 20th is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen Peters at (518) 524-1023 or Merri Peck at (518) 946-7627.

Illustration: Naval battle on Lake Champlain. Engraving in 1816 by B. Tanner.

Former Plattsburgh State Museum Director Recognized


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SUNY Plattsburgh has announced that the recipient of the college’s 2010 Distinguished Service Award is Edward R. Brohel. After 30 years and 10,000 works of art, Brohel hung his last painting as Plattsburgh State Art Museum director in the summer of 2008.

When Brohel arrived on campus in 1978, the college was a different place. In the words of E. Thomas Moran, SUNY distinguished service professor and director of the Institute for Ethics in Public Life, “The galleries were undeveloped and underutilized. Much of the architecture seemed cold and austere.”

During his tenure on campus, Brohel went a long way toward changing all of that. Under his leadership, the college’s art collection grew from less than 500 pieces to 10,000 pieces and came to include the Meisel Collection, the Student Association Collection, the Nina Winkel Collection, and the Slatkin Study Room and Collection. In addition, Brohel helped to oversee the installation of the Rockwell Kent collection, a gift Sally Kent Gorton bestowed on the college because of the Kents’ friendship with then-President George Angell. This collection represents the largest gathering of Kent’s work in the world.

In addition, new galleries took shape, including the Hans and Vera Hirsch Gallery, the Louise Norton Room, the Winkel Sculpture Court and the Rockwell Kent Gallery.

But Brohel’s work was not limited to galleries. He changed the face of the campus by erecting the Museum Without Walls – a network of art, placed in public spaces and offices throughout campus, based on a concept by Andre Malraux. And, with the help of co-curator Don Osborn, he put in place the college’s sculpture park – a permanent collection of monumental pieces.

“In addition to beautifying the campus in ways that cannot be measured, Ed’s efforts have helped to raise more than $1 million in charitable gifts to the college’s museum, including the George and Nina Winkel, Rockwell Kent, Regina Slatkin, Don Osborn and Hasegawa Art Collections endowments,” said SUNY Plattsburgh College Council Chair Arnold Amell, “His service has, indeed, meant a lot to this campus.”

As Moran said at a retirement reception honoring Brohel two years ago, “In the end, he created everywhere on campus little grottos of beauty and contemplation. In doing so, he gave our college genuine distinction and amplified the ideal and the essence of what a campus should be.”

Brohel and his wife, Bette G., reside in Plattsburgh.

The Distinguished Service Award is presented by the College Council to honor individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the college, community, state, nation and/or to the international community. The award will be given to Brohel during the college’s commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15.

‘Hidden Room’ Highlight of Underground RR Site


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Last week student volunteers from SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam took part in exploratory archaeological excavations at the former Stephen Keese Smith farm on Union Road, midway between Keeseville. The Smith farm (also known as “the old Stafford place”) is a historic Underground Railroad site where refugees from slavery were hidden in the 1850s and 1860s. Although several of the buildings on the farm are believed to have housed runaway slaves, one barn in particular that includes a “hidden room” was the target of the weekend’s excavations.

Archeologists and volunteers organized by the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association (NCUGRHA) worked last weekend to conduct an archeological survey in advance of restoration work on the barn. The dig was organized by Andrew Black of Black Drake Consulting and SUNY Plattsburgh, assisted by members of the NCUGRHA, and with the permission and assistance of the of the property owners, Frank and Jackie Perusse.

Stephen Keese Smith was a Quaker, who shared his story of the smuggling former slaves through Clinton County to Canada in 1887:

I first became acquainted with the “Under Ground Rail Road” twenty years or more before the [Civil] War … Samuel Keese was the head of the [Underground RR] depot in Peru. His son, John Keese – myself, and Wendell Lansing at Keeseville [publisher of the Essex County Republican] were actors. I had large buildings and concealed the Negroes in them. I kept them, fed them, often gave them shoes and clothing. I presume I have spent a thousand dollars for them in one-way and another. There were stations at Albany, Troy, Glens Falls and then here in Peru. The Negroes would come through the woods and be nearly famished. We kept them and fed them for one or two days and then ran them along to Noadiah Moore’s in Champlain… He went with the Negroes to Canada and looked out places for them to work.

The archeological teams excavated three places along the exterior foundation walls of the barn in search for artifacts. Aside from some scattered 20th century trash and earlier barn construction debris (nails, hardware, window glass), they found nothing of significance, meaning that some restoration work can begin without harming historically significant remains.

The stone-walled room built into the barn’s lower level, believed to be one of the places Smith hid runaways, was too flooded to excavate. The team had hoped to establish the original floor level in the “hidden room” and see if there are deposits directly related to the room’s occupation by refugees. Unfortunately those investigations will have to wait until the groundwater level subsides, when archeologists will return to the barn to explore this hidden gem of North Country Underground Railroad History.

Photos: Above – Archaeologists and volunteers gather for a photo during the Smith barn excavation in Peru, Clinton County, NY (Courtesy Helen Allen Nerska). Below – The hidden room in the lower level of the Smith barn (Courtesy Don Papson).

Underground Railroad Association Presents ‘Herstory’


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In celebration of Women’s History Month (March), the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association will host a celebration of the role of women in humanity’s great moments, from Miriam at the Red Sea to Catherine Keese who hid fugitives from slavery in Peru, New York, during the Underground Railroad era. The event will be held March 19, 2010 at 7 pm, at the Peru Community Church, 13 Elm Street, in Clinton County.

The evening will include short presentations on women prominent in the success of the underground railroad and a photo journal of the Keese-Smith barn project narrated by the local restoration, history and archeological specialists who are donating their time and skills to the stabilization.

Music and song will be provided by Sounds of the Northway, a trio of local women: Ann Ruzow Holland, Cathie Davenport and Jennifer Van Benschoten who sing and play guitar, piano, flute and violin.

The cost will be $10 for adults, $8 for children and seniors. Proceeds will provide the materials necessary for the stabilization of Peru’s most recognized Underground Railroad hiding place, the Stephen Keese-Smith barn, located at the former Stafford property on Union Road. All labor is being donated for this project.

Illustration: Catherine Keese, Peru NY Abolitionist.

Plattsburgh’s Anti-Slavery Interpretive Panel Unveiling


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Plattsburgh’s first interpretive panel celebrating the Anti-Slavery movement will be dedicated at 5 pm on February 16, 2010. The unveiling will take place in front of the main entrance to the First Presbyterian Church at 34 Brinkerhoff Street. Interim pastor Virginia Murray and North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association president, Don Papson, will be joined by members of the church and the association.

The distinctive panel is one of a series of state funded markers on New York’s Underground Railroad Heritage Trail. The North Country has three others-at the John Brown Farm in North Elba, the Essex County Courthouse, and the First Congregational Church in Malone.

Plattsburgh’s First Presbyterian Church played a pivotal role in the early stages of the area’s anti slavery movement. It was a moment of change in the fall of 1837 when the Clinton County Anti-Slavery Society convened for its first annual meeting in the original edifice constructed on the site. Among First Presbyterian’s founding members were some of Clinton County’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. Several owned slaves before New York abolished slavery in 1827.

Agitating for the nation to end slavery was a divisive issue by 1837. In the spring of that year, First Presbyterian Trustee, General Benjamin Mooers, circulated a petition against the immediate abolitionists meeting anywhere in Plattsburgh; their activities would destroy the nation. The abolitionists were denied use of widow Sperry’s Meeting Hall on Broad Street, the Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church. When several wagon loads of non violent Quakers and Methodists arrived from the village of Peru and attempted to convene in the County Court House, a name calling, egg throwing mob stopped them. General Mooers’ son-in-law, attorney John B.L. Skinner Esq., entreated the angry, unruly protesters to desist. The delegates were then allowed to quietly adjourn to Beekmantown’s Old Stone Methodist Church where they were warmly welcomed. Champlain Presbyterian Noadiah Moore presided at their historic convention.

By August of 1837, antagonism against the abolitionists had subsided to a degree in Plattsburgh, and they were allowed to hold their first annual meeting in the First Presbyterian Church. Nonetheless, they were subjected to annoyances-the doorway to the building had been tarred in the night, two boys sang out “Jim Crow!” beneath the windows, and retired judge Caleb Nichols told them slavery should be perpetual.

Then, on April 25, 1838-precisely one year to the day the riotous mob of men had barred the abolitionists from meeting in the County Court House-John Townsend Addoms, the son of former slave owner, Major John Addoms-“respectively” invited the “Citizens of Plattsbugh” to gather in the Court House and organize a “Town Anti-Slavery Society.”

John Townsend Addoms and the principal organizers of the Clinton County-Anti-Slavery Society, Noadiah Moore and Samuel Keese, would become leading Underground agents, secreting an untold number of fugitives from slavery and aiding them on their arduous journey to freedom in Canada.

Following the unveiling of the interpretive panel, members of the Board and Steering Committee of he North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association will convene in the church for their regular monthly meeting. First Presbyterian has graciously hosted the association for the last five years and will do so until the grand opening later this year of the Town of Chesterfield Heritage Center and North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausable Chasm. The public is invited to the unveiling of the interpretive panel and the meeting.

‘Old Port Towns Along Lake Champlain’ in Lake Placid


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Adirondack Life writer Tom Henry will deliver a slide presentation entitled “Exploring Old Port Towns Along Lake Champlain: Curious Stories Behind Their Relics” on Saturday, October 3rd at Northwoods Inn in Lake Placid, NY. From Shelburne’s elegant passenger steamships to Bridport’s world-famous 19th-century racehorses to Moriah’s strange subterranean world of railroads and iron mines, this slideshow of now and then images from old port towns around Lake Champlain will help us visualize many of the 400-square-mile lake’s unusual early enterprises.

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s discovery of the lake. Henry’s Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates America’s most historic lake and offers stunning photos, vintage postcards, paintings, maps and military history. Tom Henry’s portion of the book “Towns Along the Lake” provides some of the book’s most interesting writing. He highlights each of Lake Champlain’s principle shoreline communities and provides their link to the lake’s history.

The evening begins at 6:30pm with a half hour cash bar cocktail reception with Tom Henry. Mr. Henry will deliver his presentation at approximately 7:00pm. Following the presentation, we invite any of our guests to join us in our Northern Exposure restaurant for dinner with Mr. Henry.

More information visit www.northwoodsinn.com.

Historic Vessels Arrive in Plattsburgh For Events


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The historic canal motorship Day Peckinpaugh arrived in Plattsburgh today as it travels the Champlain and Hudson Corridor on its 500-mile Quadricentennial Legacy Voyage. The 259-foot canal boat, built in 1921, will be joined by the replica 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure and 1901 Tug Urger at the Wilcox Dock in Plattsburgh on August 11-12 and at the Burlington waterfront on August 14-16. The public is invited to step on board free of charge (see tour schedule below for hours). Continue reading

New Additions to Online Newspaper Archive


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Additional content from two newspapers has been added to the Northern New York Historical Newspapers site at http://news.nnyln.net. The Plattsburgh “Press-Republican” coverage has been expanded to 1998, with a starting date of 1942. The newspaper’s own indexed archive takes over with 1999. The Saranac Lake “Adirondack Daily Enterprise” has been expanded to 2007, with a starting date of 1948. It can be searched by itself or as part of the Franklin County group search.

The increased content of these two newspapers join over 40 titles with a total of more than 1,620,000 pages on the NNY Historical Newspapers site. The site is provided free of charge to the public by the Northern New York Library Network (NNYLN) in Potsdam.

While it is always fun and interesting to search decades back in the older newspapers, the more recent years make it easy to go back and check facts or clear up if something was remembered correctly.

For instance, with a few clicks through the Plattsburgh paper readers can be reminded of the “Champlain hires engineers for flood mitigation” story from Sept. 11, 1998 which read, “With $46,000 promised from Clinton County, the Champlain Village Board voted recently to hire Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratories to build a flood-mitigation system in the Great Chazy River.”

Those going through the Saranac Lake paper can see the December 27, 2007 edition reported the following: “The Mountaineer’s 12th annual Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival is coming up on the weekend of Jan. 11, and there are still openings in some of the ice climbing, avalanche and snowshoeing clinics.”

The Northern New York Historical Newspapers website averages well over one million searches every month.

Northern NY Discusses Interviewing and Oral History


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The Clinton-Essex Counties Roundtable will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 at the Northern New York American Canadian Genealogy Society, Keeseville Civic Center, 1802 Main St., Keeseville. The topic will be “Community Scholars Training: Interviewing & Oral History” and will be presented by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) Executive Director Jill Breit.

Breit will share examples of successful oral history projects and demonstrate the many ways interviews can be used for different outcomes. She will focus on how to organize an oral history project, the basics of an oral history interview, the importance of field notes and follow-up interviews, recorders and other equipment for collecting oral history.

There will also be a tour of NNY American Canadian Genealogy Society Library and the Anderson Falls Heritage Society. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $5.00, payable at the roundtable.

The roundtable is provided free of charge to the public on behalf of the Northern New York Library Network, Potsdam, and Documentary Heritage Program. To register for this event contact the NNYLN at 315-265-1119, or sign up on-line at www.nnyln.org and click on “Classes.”

Civil War Fort Montgomery Needs Preservation


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According to an editorial in the Plattsburgh Press Republican this week, Fort Montgomery – not the Hudson River American Revolution fort, but the Lake Champlain (mostly) American Civil War one in Rouses Point – is in ruins, the victim of nothing less then neglect.


According to the Press Republican:

In April 1980, a huge portion of the northwest bastion collapsed into the moat, and cracks in the rest of the structure have raised concerns that a similar fate awaits the rest of the fort.


And there are other obstacles. Liability is an acute concern, as the unstable structure has long been used as a party spot for teens. Also, the location is surrounded by environmentally sensitive wetlands.


But the potential as a historic landmark and tourist destination — accessible by car, bus or boat — is undeniable. In fact, it can be seen by the preservation of a similar landmark, Fort Lennox, just a 20-minute drive upriver in Isle aux Noir, Quebec.

It took hundreds of stonemasons thirty years to build (1844 and 1871), according to the great Wiki:

Named for Revolutionary War hero General Richard Montgomery who was killed at Quebec City during the 1775 invasion of Canada, construction began on Fort Montgomery two years later in 1844. Fort Montgomery was one of a very few “Permanent” or “Third System” forts built along the Northern Frontier, most being constructed along the Atlantic Coast. Work on the fort remained almost continuous through 1870, with the peak of construction taking a frenzied pace during the American Civil War, amidst rumors of possible British intervention against the Union from Canada. These fears were actually proven to be not that far fetched when the Confederate led St. Albans Raid, the northernmost action of the Civil War, took place in nearby Vermont in 1864 involving an incursion by the enemy from Canada.

In 1926 the United States Government sold Fort Montgomery along with its adjacent Military Reservation at public auction. During the period of disuse which followed, as had also happened with the abandoned 1816 fortification, many locals visited the fort, carting off untold amounts of lumber, bricks, windows, and doors for use in their homes and other buildings. Ultimately the majority of the fort, aside from the gutted westward facing officer’s quarters, a small portion of the southern wall and 3 bastions, (2 of which remain today) was demolished in 1936-1937. Its massive stones were crushed and dumped into the lake for fill to construct a nearby bridge between Rouses Point, New York and Alburg, Vermont. After a number of private owners, the property was sold to Victor Podd, Sr. who constructed the headquarters of the Powertex Corporation on the adjacent “Commons” to the west of the fort. Island Point, the actual fort site, was left untouched. During the mid-1980s Podd worked with local historical societies to have the State of New York purchase the property with a view toward possible restoration of the site. Despite being offered the fort at no cost, negotiations were unsuccessful and the State declined to accept the property. Since May 2006 Podds’ heirs have attempted to sell the fort on eBay. The first auction ended on June 5, 2006, with a winning bid of $5,000,310. However, the sale was not completed, and the fort and lands surrounding it remain for sale.

There are current concerns among local preservationists that what remains of the fort today is in danger of a catastrophic structural collapse. This is in part due to the removal of iron reinforcing rods, emplaced around 1886, which were likely cut out for their scrap value during the wartime scrap metal drives of World War 2. These rods were originally devised to brace up and support the massive weight of the fort’s detached outer wall face, a defensive element of the fort’s construction which later proved over time to be a structural flaw. Previously a third remaining bastion on the northern side of the fort suffered a similar collapse and was completely destroyed in 1980, mostly falling into the moat.

Thanks in part to a National Register of Historic Places listing in 1977, the fort is often confused with “Fort Blunder,” for which construction began in 1816. Thanks to a surveyor error, it was discovered that this first fort had been accidentally built on the Canadian side of the border and the site was abandoned. Materials from the fort were taken by locals for local building projects. It was never officially named.