Tag Archives: Clinton County

Governor George Clinton and Pok-O-Rushmore?


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Untouched scenic vistas and natural landscapes are treasured in the Adirondacks. Seventy years ago, Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain, a popular landmark since admired by millions, was nearly transformed into something far different from its present appearance.

It all began in 1937 with the editor of the Essex County Republican -News, C. F. Peterson. Formerly a Port Henry newspaperman, active in multiple civic organizations, and clearly pro-development and pro-North Country, Peterson was a force to be reckoned with.

Just how influential was he? The Champlain Bridge that was recently blasted into oblivion probably should have been named the Carl F. Peterson Bridge. In fact, efforts were made to do exactly that. Peterson originated the bridge idea, and as Vermont and New York debated whether to locate it at Ticonderoga, Crown Point, or Rouses Point, it was Carl who put his all into promoting the Crown Point site.

When Peterson talked, people listened, and eight years later, when he urged the Essex County Board of Supervisors to action, they took him at his word. The 200th anniversary of the birth of New York State’s first governor, George Clinton, was approaching. To honor the occasion, Peterson pushed for an appropriately lasting memorial to an undeniably great American.

The board responded with a succinct message to state leaders: “The resolution requests the legislative body at Albany to name a commission for the observance next year, asking that the group should consider the feasibility of perpetuating the memory of Governor Clinton by the carving of his likeness on the side of Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain.”

Seeking support for his proposal, Peterson framed the idea in patriotic terms, and it worked like a charm. Among the first to jump on the bandwagon was Senator Benjamin Feinberg of Clinton County. (The library at Plattsburgh State—Feinberg Library—was named in his honor).

A man of great power and influence, Feinberg wrote this in a letter to Peterson: “Your suggestion … is a good one. Undoubtedly, some action will be taken by the legislature to fittingly observe this anniversary, and I shall be glad to aid in carrying out such a plan. The carving of the likeness of Governor Clinton on the side of Pok-O-Moonshine would not only be a great attraction to visitors, but would commemorate the birth of the first Governor of the state in a magnificent manner.”

With Feinberg on board, the idea gained momentum. The Essex County branch of the American Legion adopted a resolution in support of the memorial. The idea also received the unanimous backing of the Adirondack Resorts Association.

After all, it sounded like a great cause and a fine way to express patriotism. Widespread approval was expected, and it didn’t hurt that the idea coincided with the pending completion of a national monument—Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

An editorial by the Plattsburgh Daily Press added this supportive comment: “We can think of no son of the State who has deserved better from the hands of the people, and it is sincerely to be hoped that the legislature will show its recognition of this by providing for this statue on rugged old Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain.”

The gung-ho beginning preceded a period of thoughtful consideration. Then, dissent began to surface. In January 1938, a Ticonderoga organization passed their own resolution, stating in part: “… it is the considered opinion of the Ticonderoga Kiwanis Club that the forests, streams, lakes, and mountains of Essex County constitute the county’s greatest asset … and that unnecessary artificial alteration of the natural state of these resources irreparably diminishes their value to our citizens. … Be it hereby resolved that the Ticonderoga Kiwanis Club is unalterably opposed to the said requested legislation and to any attempt to alter or deface the natural beauty of Pok-o-Moonshine Mountain …”

The letter was sent to several officials, including Governor Lehman and Senator Feinberg. The Kiwanis were soon joined by Ti’s Chamber of Commerce, the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the Keene Valley Garden Club. All supported the observance of Clinton’s birthday, but opposed the altering of Poko’s steep cliffs. One alternative proposal was a “super-improved highway through this region, to be known as the Governor Clinton Memorial Highway.”

Though many protests against the plan had surfaced, the danger to Pok-O-Moonshine was real. In March, among the final rush of bills passed by the legislature was the Feinberg-Leahy bill (by Feinberg and Assemblyman Thomas Leahy of Lake Placid). It called for a $5,000 funding package to prepare a celebration in Clinton’s memory.

With the state and the nation still struggling to recover from the Depression, many bills were vetoed, and that same fate befell Feinberg-Leahy. In April, Governor Lehman vetoed a second bill, “… designed to bring about the carving of a memorial to Governor George Clinton, the state’s first chief executive, on the face of Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain in Essex County.”
Supporters were disappointed, certain the carving would have been a great tourist attraction.

No one in opposition was suggesting Governor Clinton wasn’t worthy of such honor. He was widely revered as one of the state’s greatest citizens. After serving under his father in the French and Indian War, George Clinton practiced law and held various public offices. A staunch defender of the colonial cause for independence, he was selected as a member of the Second Continental Congress.

Clinton voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence, but missed the signing, and for good reason, having been urgently dispatched to serve as brigadier-general of the militia by his good friend, George Washington (so good, Clinton named his children George and Martha).

Clinton saw action at White Plains and other locations. He eventually served as governor of New York for 18 consecutive years, and 22 years in all, the longest of any New York governors. He was vice-president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, one of only two vice-presidents to serve under two different presidents. He also became the first vice-president to die in office, succumbing to a heart attack in 1812.

Perhaps the governor’s carved likeness would have been a great tourist attraction, but Poko today gets plenty of attention for other reasons: spectacular cliffs clearly visible from Interstate 87; peregrine falcon nests; the climbing trail leading to magnificent views; the preserved fire tower; and a reputation as one of the most popular rock-climbing sites in the Adirondacks.

Photos: The cliffs of Pok-O-Moonshine; NYS Governor George Clinton.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Dannemora: Love So Strong, It’s Criminal


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Ah, Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Chocolates, flowers, and special cards are a must. Maybe a family meal, or perhaps a romantic dinner for two. Jewelry? Diamonds? The sky’s the limit when it comes to making your sweetheart happy and showing true dedication. But it’s all pretty amateurish compared to real commitment. Which brings us to Fred Roderick and Agnes Austin. Their love is one for the history books.

Here’s the story as described in 1883 in a couple of newspapers. Without hard facts, I can’t account for all the details, but you have to admire the sense of purpose, focus, and ingenuity this couple used to achieve togetherness.

At Sageville (now Lake Pleasant, a few miles southeast of Speculator), Fred Roderick, about 25 years old, had been jailed for stealing a pair of horses, which had since been returned. In those days, a convicted horse thief could expect to do time in prison. Next to murder, it was one of the most serious crimes—horses were a key component to survival in the North Country.

In rural Hamilton County, it was no simple task to organize a trial, so for several months the county jail served as Roderick’s home. It was lonely at times, but he wasn’t entirely without company. Every Sunday, the local Methodist pastor brought a dozen or so members of his congregation to the jail, where they sang songs and held a prayer meeting.

For a couple of years, young Agnes Austin was among the church goers who participated. Shortly after Roderick’s incarceration, parish members noticed that, instead of lending her voice to the choir at all times, she seemed to have taken a personal interest in Fred’s salvation.

Soon Agnes gained special permission from the sheriff for weekday visits which, she assured him, would lead Roderick down the straight and narrow. But it seemed to work in the reverse. Agnes began showing up at the jail less often on Sundays and more frequently during the week. Imagine the whispers among her church brethren. Their pretty little friend was consorting with a criminal!

Or maybe her missionary efforts were sincere after all. Fred Roderick finally came forward and accepted religious salvation, owing it all, he said, to young Agnes. People being as they are, tongues wagged more frantically than ever about the supposed scandalous goings-on. Mr. Austin forbade (what was he thinking?) Agnes from making any more jail visits. Taking it one step further, he spoke to the sheriff, hoping to kill a tryst in the making.

It wasn’t long after that Agnes disappeared. With her supposed lover lingering hopelessly in jail, why would she run away? Well, as it turns out, she didn’t. Agnes and Fred had made plans. She was told to hide out at his father’s camp, where he would join her after his escape. (Country jails were often loosely kept, and escapes were common.)

After waiting more than a week for her sweetheart, Agnes took matters into her own hands, which led to a sight that shocked the residents of Sageville. A constable rode into town, and behind him trailed Aggie Austin. The charge? Horse theft. In broad daylight, she had taken not just any horse, but one of the very same horses Fred had stolen!

Because she was female, and because she made no effort to run when pursued, bail was set at $600—which Agnes immediately refused. To the puzzled bondsman and the sheriff, she explained: if Fred couldn’t be with her, then she would be with Fred. To that end, she had left the camp, stolen a horse, made sure she was caught, and now refused to be bailed out of jail.

It gets better. The next morning, Fred informed the sheriff that he wished to marry Miss Austin, and Agnes confirmed the same. Papa Austin most certainly would have objected, but Agnes was 19, of legal age to make her own choice. And that choice was Fred.

The judge was summoned, and the sheriff and his deputies stood witness to the joining. The district attorney weighed in as well, contributing what he could to the couple’s happiness.

Though separate trials were required, he promised to “bring both cases before the same term of court, and thus allow the pair to make their bridal journey together to their future mountain home at Clinton Prison.”

Now THAT’s commitment.

Photo: Clinton Prison at Dannemora, notorious North Country honeymoon site.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Wind Power Has A Long History in America


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Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent. Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region.

Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails approached the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “… a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment. When the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors (in 2012, the new ones will be 492 feet high), and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photos: Above, windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground). Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks. Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown. Below, advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Candy, Nuts, and Fruit: Christmas Gifts of the Past


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Children’s Christmas wishes and expectations years ago were much different from today’s world of high technology. I was so struck by this—the simplicity and innocence—that I included a chapter entitled Letters to Santa in a recent book on the history of Churubusco, New York. The sample letters below were published in newspapers of northern New York from 1920–1940. They portray the sharp contrast to the modern holiday, where expensive gifts have become the disproportionate norm.

Churubusco was a farming community. Families were self-sufficient, and even small children had daily chores. This fostered teamwork and family unity, and gave children a firsthand understanding of the values of goods, services, and hard work. Those lessons were conveyed in their missives to Santa. And some of the comments in the letters are just plain cute.

1923
Dear Santa,
This year, money being scarce, my wants are few. I want a doll, set of dishes, ribbon, candy, and nuts. Don’t forget my brothers and sisters.
Your girl, Eva Lussier

Dear Santa Claus,
I want you to bring me a little serving set, ball, candy, nuts, and bananas. Never mind the sled this year because I am expecting one from my aunt. My Xmas tree will be in the parlor near the stove, so take your time and get good and warm before you leave.
Wishing you a merry Xmas, your little friend,
Louis Patnode

1925
Dear Santa Claus,
I would like you to bring me a little bedroom set, some candy, nuts, and bananas.
Your little friend,
Louise Recore

Dear Santa Claus,
I would like a flashlight, sled, gold watch, some candy, nuts, oranges, bananas, and peanuts. Please don’t forget my little brothers, Walter and Francis. Walter would like a little drum, mouth organ, candy, nuts, gum, and oranges. Francis would like a little wagon full of toys, and some candy, nuts, and bananas.
Your little friend,
John Brady

1938
Dear Santa,
For Christmas I want a bottle of perfume and a locket, a 59 cent box of paints that I saw in your sale catalog, a pair of skates, a nice dress, and candy and nuts. I am eleven years old, and Santa, I hope you have a very merry Xmas.
Your friend,
Anita Robare

Dear Santa,
I am writing a few lines to tell you what I want for Christmas. I want a toothbrush, and there is a set of 12 different games in your Christmas catalog for 98 cents. Some of the names of the games are bingo, checkers, and jacksticks. Please bring me this set. I hope you don’t forget my little sister and brothers.
Your friend,
Henrietta Matthews

Dear Santa,
Christmas is drawing near and I would like these things: a pair of ski shoes, pair of fur bedroom slippers, a dump truck, and banjo. I will leave some crackers and milk on the breakfast table.
Your friend,
Ann Elderbaum

Dear Santa,
When you come around for Xmas, I would like to have you bring me a pair of skates and a woolen shirt. It’s all I want for Christmas for I thought that you are getting old and those chimneys will be hard to climb. You will have some bread and milk at Christmas Eve.
Yours truly,
Theodore Leclair

Dear Santa Claus,
I wish you would bring me a sled and a ring. I don’t want very much for I know you are getting old and I don’t want you to carry too much. You will find my stocking near the stove, and on the kitchen table you will find some bread and milk. I want you to leave me some candy, especially peanut brittle. I am 12 years old.
Your friend,
Cecelia Louise Miller

Dear Santa,
I wish you would bring me a popgun, tractor, truck, and an airplane. You will find a bowl of bread and milk near the Xmas tree. You will find my stocking near the stove. I am only seven years old.
Your friend,
Clayton Miller

My Dear Santa,
I am eleven years old, and I wish you would bring me a cowboy suit and a sweater. You will find my stocking near the stairway, and on the kitchen table you will find some corn meal mush.
Your little friend,
Herman Leclair

Dear Santa,
Christmas is drawing near and I thought I would drop you a line and let you know what I want for Christmas. I would like a red sweater, western book, and a fur hood. I will leave you some bread, cake, peanuts, and milk. I don’t want very much because you are growing old and your bag will be too heavy. So I will close and hope to have all I want for Christmas.
Sincerely yours,
Rita Theresa Leclair

Dear Santa,
I would like a new pair of shoes for Christmas.
Ruth Demarse

Dear Santa,
I want a tractor and some colors for Christmas.
Henry Lagree

1939
Dear Santa,
I have been a very good girl this year. I thank you for the things that you brought me last year. For Christmas I would like a doll and a Chinese Checker game. I will leave a lunch for you on the table. I will clean our chimney so you can slide down it. I will hang our stockings near the Christmas tree. I would like to stay up and see you but I am afraid that I would not get any presents so I will go to bed. Well we will have to close.
Your friend,
Helen and Patty Smith

Dear Santa Claus,
I have been a good boy this year. I would like a car that pedals. If you couldn’t bring that, I would like something smaller. And don’t forget Carol my baby sister. And I would like some candy, gum, oranges, and nuts.
Your little friend,
Robert K. Smith

Dear Santa,
I have tried to be a good little girl this year. I am nine years old and in the fifth grade. I would like a pair of ice skates between my sister and I. And don’t forget my baby sister, because she wasn’t here last year and I through that maybe you would forget her. But I guess that you wouldn’t do that trick. And don’t forget the candy, nuts, oranges, and gum.
Your friend,
Helen L. Smith

Dear Santa,
I would like for Christmas a pencil box and drawing paper, candy, and nuts.
Your friend,
Beulah Perry

1940
Dear Santa Claus,
I want a train and candy.
Norman Lafave

Dear Santa,
I would like a box of colors, a teddy bear, candy and nuts.
Agnes Lagree

Dear Santa Claus,
I want a pair of shoes, dress, and Christmas candy and nuts.
Ruth Demarse

From Bloated Toe Publishing, Happy Holidays to all.

Photo: 1916 Christmas advertisement.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Civil War: Lester Archer, 96th New York Infantry


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In this, the year marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, there is a North Country native who served with particular distinction in the 96th Infantry. The 96th, often referred to as the Plattsburgh Regiment (and sometimes Macomb’s Regiment), was recruited from villages across the region, spanning from Malone to Plattsburgh in the north, and south to Ticonderoga, Fort Edward, and Warrensburg.

Among those to join at Fort Edward was 23-year-old Lester Archer, a native of nearby Fort Ann. Lester enlisted as a corporal in December, 1861, and for three years served with hundreds of North Country boys and men who saw plenty of combat, primarily in Virginia.

In June, 1864, Archer was promoted to sergeant amidst General U. S. Grant’s heated campaign to take Richmond, a critical Confederate site. Guarding Richmond several miles to the south on the James River was Fort Harrison, a strategic rebel stronghold.

To divide Lee’s troops, a surprise attack was launched on Fort Harrison on September 29. The men of the 96th were among those who charged up the hill against withering fire, successfully driving off the fort’s defenders and assuming control. As the fort was being overtaken, a Union flag was planted by Sergeant Lester Archer, emphatically declaring victory.

Until Harrison fell, it was considered the strongest Confederate fort between Richmond and Petersburg, 25 miles south. Lee’s forces regrouped to launch several bloody efforts at recapturing the vital site, but the North stood their ground, protecting the prize.

Union General Burnham was killed in the battle, and in his honor, the site was temporarily renamed Fort Burnham. More than 800 soldiers were buried nearby at what is now known as Fort Harrison National Cemetery.

The 96th remained in the vicinity of Fort Harrison for three weeks, and in late October, an assault was launched against Fort Richmond at Five Oaks. The result was a bloody, hard-fought battle, with both sides claiming victory, but both suffering heavy casualties. Many North Country soldiers were killed or captured. Just three weeks after heroically planting the Union flag atop Fort Harrison, Sergeant Lester Archer was among those who perished at Five Oaks.

On April 6, 1865, Archer’s exceptional efforts were officially acknowledged. The highest US military decoration for valor was conferred upon him with these words: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (posthumously) to Sergeant Lester Archer, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 29 September 1864, while serving with Company E, 96th New York Infantry, in action at Fort Harrison, Virginia, for gallantry in placing the colors of his regiment on the fort.”

President Lincoln himself would die just nine days later.

Photo Top: Lester Archer.

Photo Bottom: Scene at Fort Harrison, Virginia 1864.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Collaboration Nets Tech Funds for Adk Libraries


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A grand total of $95,000 has been granted to the Chazy Public Library and the Plattsburgh Public Library, thanks to a collaboration organized to help Adirondack libraries win state funding for technological upgrades.

The Charles R. Wood Foundation, the Lake Placid Education Foundation and the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT), worked together to support the expanding role of libraries in the Adirondack region.

Libraries exist to serve the public. In difficult economic times, they are a particularly valuable community resource, available to all residents regardless of economic status. “Our libraries are now called upon to support technological literacy and skills development,” said Bobby Wages, President of the Board of the Charles R. Wood Foundation. “That means they need electronic hardware and software, and librarians need to know how to use it and teach others to use it.”

”In May, ACT convened a meeting of the region’s library systems, the state’s library system, and these two regionally-focused foundations to explore the changing roles of libraries and what we could do to help,” said Cali Brooks, ACT Executive Director. As a result of the meeting, the Charles R. Wood Foundation and the Lake Placid Education Foundation offered funding for libraries already seeking funding for technological upgrades through the Public Library Construction Grant Program of New York State Public Library. The New York State Public Library had opened a $14 million competitive grant to regional library systems for a range building renovation projects. In order to qualify for a grant, a library would have to supply at least 50 percent of the funds that would be matched through the Public Library Construction Grant Program.

Working in partnership with the Clinton, Franklin and Essex County Library System, ACT reached out to libraries all over these counties to encourage them to apply for funds and offer assistance. Once a library’s technology project application was approved for the Public Library grant program, the Charles R. Wood and Lake Placid Education Foundations matched each other’s grants to qualify each library to receive the funds.

“Our goal is to strengthen the technological capacities of the Adirondack North Country libraries to make them even more vital community centers of initiative,” said Fred Calder, President of the Lake Placid Education Foundation. “We are committed to helping these libraries gather funds through matching grants and to do so in collaboration with the Charles R. Wood Foundation and others whenever possible.”

“Since ACT’s inception, we have considered libraries important community partners. We manage 12 library endowment funds and have made over $500,000 in grants to support Adirondack libraries,” Cali Brooks reported.

The Chazy Public Library is converting a former physician’s office building into a technologically sophisticated, rural public library. Grant funds will be used to transform the basement into a Community Room for multimedia applications and training/retraining for life skills. Many Chazy residents rely on the services of the public library to fulfill technological, academic, and leisure needs. With the new Community Room, the public will have access to state-of-the-art multimedia equipment for job-preparedness workshop presentations, special training sessions, tutoring by Literacy Volunteers, and more.

The Plattsburgh Public Library is the central library of the Clinton, Essex, Franklin County Library System, better known as CEF. It provides online reference help to residents throughout the three-county region. Grant funds will be used to create a private computer interviewing cubical in the public computer room for video and interviewing by residents searching for jobs. In recent years, Plattsburgh Public Library has become increasingly involved in literacy and skills development initiatives. The Library also provides a career center, where job seekers use technology and learn computer skills to obtain gainful employment. The computer interviewing cubical will enhance support to those patrons.

Photo: Kelly Sexton, Local History Librarian, and David Robinson, Library Page at the Plattsburgh Public Library.

‘Lies My Teacher Told Me’ Author Event Friday


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James W. Loewen, award-winning author of the popular Lies My Teacher Told Me titles, will visit the North Country tomorrow Friday, October 14 from 10-12 pm at SUNY Plattsburg.

The freedom education project John Brown Lives! and SUNY Plattsburgh’s Honors College, Department of Anthropology, Department of Education, Health & Human Services and the Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion are teaming up to sponsor Loewen.

Loewen’s address, “Lies My Teacher Told Me About the Civil War—And How They Still Affect Civil Rights Today”, is open to the general public. Known for his engaging style and gripping retelling of U.S. history, Loewen has inspired K-16 teachers across the country to get students to challenge, rather than memorize, their textbooks. His best-selling title, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, resulted from two years studying U.S. history textbooks and it has sold more than 1,250,000 copies.

Currently residing in Washington, D.C., Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont and previously at the predominantly black Tougaloo College in Mississippi. He has been an expert witness in more than 50 civil rights, voting rights, and employment cases and is also Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Visiting Professor of Sociology at Catholic University in Washington, DC, and Visiting Professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.

Lawrence Gooley: Lincoln’s Avengers


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There is a historical connection between a group of North Country men and the Abraham Lincoln story. On the downside, the men in question are linked to a dark subject, the aftermath of Lincoln’s death. On the upside, they played a positive role in the hunt for the president’s assassin. With admiration, they have been referred to as Lincoln’s Avengers.

Several men from Clinton, Essex, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties belonged to the Sixteenth New York Cavalry. Shortly after Lincoln’s death, the troop was among the military escort at the president’s funeral. An honor, surely, but not the event that would bring them a measure of fame.

In the days following the assassination, multiple search missions were conducted in Washington and elsewhere in the hopes of finding John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. After several false alarms, important new information was uncovered, requiring a swift response.

On April 24, five days after Lincoln’s funeral, headquarters in Washington ordered Lieutenant Edward Doherty to gather 25 men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry and report to Colonel L. C. (Lafayette) Baker, Special Agent for the War Department. Among those to step forward and answer the call were ten men from the Adirondack region.

Doherty met with his captain and later reported: “He informed me that he had reliable information that the assassin Booth and his accomplice were somewhere between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. He gave me several photographs of Booth and introduced me to Mr. Conger and Mr. Baker, and said they would accompany me.

“He directed me to scour the section of the country indicated thoroughly, to make my own disposition of the men in my command, and to forage upon the country, giving receipts for what was taken from loyal parties.” In other words, move now. There was no time to prepare. Food and other needs would have to be secured from sympathetic US citizens, who would later be reimbursed.

For two days the troop pursued leads almost without pause, finally ending up at the now infamous Garrett farm in Caroline County, Virginia. Inside the barn was perhaps the most wanted man in American history, Booth, and one of his conspirators, David Herold.

The men of the Sixteenth surrounded the barn while negotiations and threats were passed back and forth between Booth and Lieutenant Doherty. Booth refused to leave the barn despite warnings he would be burned out. He even offered to shoot it out with Doherty’s men if they would pull back a certain distance from the barn.

Realizing he faced almost certain death, David Herold decided to surrender. After leaving the barn, he was tied to a tree and questioned. He verified for Doherty that it was indeed Booth inside the barn. The original plan, he said, was to kidnap Lincoln, but Booth instead killed him, and then threatened to do the same to Herold if he didn’t help Booth escape.

Doherty again turned his attention to the barn and its lone desperate occupant, who refused to come out. Finally, Everton Conger, one of Lafayette Baker’s detectives who accompanied the troops, set fire to the barn around 3 am. The idea was to force their quarry out, but things didn’t go as planned.

Due to the rapidly spreading blaze, Booth could be seen moving about inside the barn, and one of the men, Boston Corbett, decided to act. Claiming he could see that Booth was about to shoot at Doherty, Corbett fired. His shot hit Booth in the neck, coincidentally only an inch or two from where Booth’s own bullet had struck Lincoln.

Their captive was dragged from the barn, still alive, but he died about three hours later. Shortly after, his body and the prisoner, Herold, were taken to Washington. The most famous manhunt in American history was over.

Within several months, the men of the Sixteenth were discharged, carrying with them the pride (and the attending glory) for delivering what many felt was justice. Most of them returned to humble lives, sharing their story with family and friends over the years.

Six of the ten North Country men who participated lived at one time or another in the Saranac area. They had connections to many regional communities, having been born, lived in, or died in: Bangor, Beekmantown, Brushton, Cadyville, Chester (Chestertown), Elizabethtown, Minerva, Norfolk, Olmstedville, Plattsburgh, and Schuyler Falls.

As often happens, the spelling of names varies widely in census records, military records, and newspapers. This admired group of North Country heroes included: David Baker, William Byrne, Godfrey Phillip Hoyt, Martin Kelly, Oliver Lonkey (or Lompay), Franklin McDaniels (or Frank McDonald), John Millington, Emory Parady, Lewis Savage, and Abram Snay (Abraham, Senay, Genay).

In 1865, Congress voted reward money to those involved in the capture of many individuals. Among those so honored were the men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, the envy of all others for killing the man who himself had murdered a legend.

Photo Top: Actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Photo Middle: Conspirators at the ends of their ropes. Hanging, from left to right: Mary Surratt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, and George Atzerodt at Washington, DC, on July 7, 1865.

Photo Bottom: Congressional award list for Lincoln’s Avengers. The North Country men received the modern equivalent of $28,000 each.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

New Contributor:North Country Historian Lawrence Gooley


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Please join me in welcoming New York History‘s newest contributor, Lawrence Gooley of Clinton County. Gooley is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 40 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored eight books and several articles on the region’s past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area. His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. His most recent effort is Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow.

Gooley’s fascination with area history serves his readers well and he’s not afraid to get away from his desk an onto the ground where that history happened. He once researched a brief history of each bay on the Lake Champlain shoreline for example, prepared it in a binder with protective plastic sheets, laid it open on the bench seat of his canoe, and “lived history” for a week while paddling from Whitehall to Plattsburgh.

Gooley is a strong supporter of the Lyon Mountain Mining & Railroad Museum, where a 6-foot-long wall plaque hangs with the names of 162 men who died in accidents in Lyon Mountain’s iron mines. The plaque is based on information from his book Out of the Darkness.

With his partner, Jill McKee, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. They especially enjoy helping organizations and new authors navigate all the pitfalls of getting their work published, and seeing authors earn profits from their books. Besides Bloated Toe Publishing, they also operate an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage Upcoming Events


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What follows are descriptions of three upcoming tours in Gloversville, Willsboro, and southern Clinton County, hosted by Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) that still have space available. AARCH also has a golf benefit at the end of the month in Ticonderoga.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the nonprofit historic preservation organization for New York State’s Adirondack Park. AARCH was formed in 1990 with a mission to promote better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondacks’ unique and diverse architectural heritage.



Early Industry and Architecture in Gloversville

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The city of Gloversville, unsurprisingly, developed around the glove industry, relying on the tanneries that were so abundant in the southern Adirondacks to provide leather. With the departure of this important industry, the city is now working to build a new identity. Fulton County Chamber of Commerce President Wally Hart will lead this walking tour of downtown Gloversville, exploring a stunning collection of turn-of-the-century commercial buildings in various stages of rehabilitation and learning about the city’s rich history. We’ll also visit the ornate Carnegie Library and the Glove Theater, formerly one of three theaters in town owned by the wealthy Schine family. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. The fee is $30 for AARCH and Chamber members and $40 for non-members.

The Clarks of Willsboro Point

Saturday, August 20, 2011



During the late 19th century Orrin Clark, and his sons Solomon and Lewis, operated a successful quarry on Ligonier Point in Willsboro, providing “bluestone” for a number of regional buildings, as well as the Champlain Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition to the quarry the Clarks ran a dairy farm and a shipbuilding business. This tour will visit the quarry remains; the Clarks’ homestead, Old Elm; the quarry master’s house, Scragwood; and the surrounding grounds. These buildings have remained nearly untouched since the Clarks’ occupancy, providing a rare view of life at the turn of the century. You will also be able to explore the family’s history through extensive documents meticulously organized in a private collection. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $35 for AARCH and $45 for non-members.

200 Years of Farming

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Farming has been important to the Champlain Valley for more than two centuries. On this southern Clinton County tour, we will explore a series of homesteads and farms from the early 19th century to the present day, which will collectively show how farming has changed over time. We’ll begin the day at the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum, then visit the Keese Homestead (c. 1795) built by Quaker settlers in a community called The Union. Other stops include Remillard Dairy Farm, family owned for three generations; Forrence Orchards, one of the largest McIntosh orchards in the state; and finally Clover Mead Farm, where we’ll see how organic cheese is made and sample their exceptional line of farm-fresh products. Led by AARCH’s Steven Engelhart, the tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $35 for AARCH and $45 for non-members.

Golf Tournament to Benefit AARCH

Ticonderoga Country Club

Monday, August 29, 2011

Join us for our third annual golf Tournament. This year’s event will be held at Ticonderoga Country Club. This scenic course is set in the historic Lord Howe Valley and features an open yet challenging layout. The day will include a buffet lunch; a round of golf with cart; and the opportunity to win great prizes.The format will be a four man scramble with a shot gun start. The cost is $100 per person.

Photo: Downtown Gloversville.

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.