Tag Archives: Cohoes

Cohoes in Vintage Images and Postcards


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9781467121293Using vintage images and postcards to highlight history is Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series book Cohoes. The new book by the Spindle City Historic Society is releasing on March 24, 2014. It displays more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by.

This new pictorial history is a tour of landmarks of Cohoes through postcard images, taking readers through distinctive sections of the city including downtown, the mill district, the island and the hill. The book also features notable residents of Cohoes who impacted the city, including vaudeville performers, Revolutionary War officers, explores, industrialists, entrepreneurs, sports figures and daredevils. Continue reading

The Fenian Brotherhood in Troy, Cohoes, and Waterford


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Fenian meeting coverThe Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center will present a program entitled “Irish Revolutionaries: The Fenian Brotherhood in Troy, Cohoes, and Waterford” with local historian Aaron Robinson.

In the mid-19th century, Irish revolutionaries could be found on the streets of Troy, Waterford, and Cohoes. The lecture talk will consider the Fenian Brotherhood in that area.

This event will be held at 7pm, on March 11, 2014, at McGreivey’s restaurant at 91 Broad St, Waterford, NY. Food and drink available are available for purchase; suggested donation is $6 per person ($5 members).

Canal Life: Near Tragedy on the George W. Lee


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In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River intersection: south led to Albany and New York City, and north was the path of the Champlain Canal, which ran from Waterford to Whitehall, at Lake Champlain’s southern tip. Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island.

At the mouth of the river was a dam, maintaining calm water so the boats could cross the river, and about 500 feet upstream from the dam was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank of the Mohawk to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old; his ten-year-old son; and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, an angle much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge, over the dam, to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam; three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river; two men swimming for their lives in icy water; and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photos: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island; A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

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.

Mastodon Tusk May Be Largest Ever Uncovered in NYS


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Research under way at the New York State Museum indicates that a huge mastodon tusk, recently excavated by Museum scientists in Orange County, may be the largest tusk ever found in New York State. The nearly complete but fragmented tusk, measuring more than nine feet long, was one of two excavated this past summer in the Black Dirt area of Orange County at the confluence of Tunkamoose Creek and the Wallkill River, on the property of Lester Lain of Westtown. Museum scientists believe that the other less complete tusk, about 5-6 feet long, came from the same mastodon, which has been named the Tunkamoose mastodon.

Glen Keeton of Mount Hope, N.Y. and Chris Connallon of Hampton, N.J. came across the tusks in November 2008 as they were canoeing down the Wallkill River. Keeton contacted the Orange County chapter of the New York State Archeological Association, which then contacted the State Museum. Weather conditions delayed the excavation until this past
summer.

Since then, Dr. Robert Feranec, the Museum’s curator of vertebrate paleontology, has been researching other mastodon excavations in New York State. Feranec believes that the Warren Mastodon tusk, which is 8 feet, 8 inches long, is the longest one uncovered to date. It was discovered in New York State in the 1800s and is on exhibit at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The tusk of the Cohoes Mastodon, on display at the State Museum, is about 4-5 feet long.

Based on the age of similar fossils, Feranec suspects that the tusks are about 13,000 years old. However, carbon dating results to determine the exact age, will not be available until later this year. In the meantime, the tusks have been taken apart to be cleaned and conserved for their long-term survival. It is hoped that eventually the tusks can be made available for scientific research and exhibits at the State
Museum and at a museum in the area where the tusks were found.

Abundant mastodon fossils have been found in Orange County, especially in the rich Black Dirt area which Keeton calls “a gold mine for these fossils.” Other fossils have also been found including those of giant beavers, stag moose, ground sloths, peccaries and reindeer. Several Museum scientists will be involved in an integrative research
project in the Black Dirt area where they will investigate the ancient environment in which the mastodon lived, as well as how that environment changed over the last 13,000 years.

“From my perspective, this is a significant find,” said Feranec. “These fossils will tell us more about the ancient history of New York. We hope to be able to reconstruct the environment in which the mastodon lived, as well as to try to understand why they went extinct.”

In 2007, Feranec oversaw the relocation of the Cohoes Mastodon from the State Museum lobby window to its new location in the Museum’s Exhibition Hall, where temperature and humidity levels are more stable and more conducive to the skeleton’s long-term preservation. The iconic Museum treasure is now the centerpiece of an expanded exhibition.

Discovered in 1866 near Cohoes Falls, the Mastodon once stood about 8 ½ feet tall, was about 15 feet long, and weighed between 8-10,000 pounds. Its tusk weighs 50 pounds.

Photo: During the excavation process in Orange County, Dr. Robert Feranec, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the New York State Museum, poses next to part of the tusk of a mastodon. (Photo courtesy of NYS Museum)