In 1869, alarming news about the dangers of drinking absinthe swept north from New York City, through Albany, all the way to Malone, near the Canadian border. A “brilliant writer” from the New York press and a “talented lady” had ruined themselves physically and mentally by drinking absinthe.
Comparing the drink to opium and morphine, the article warned readers that absinthe “obtains an all-powerful control over its votaries, deadens the sensibilities, and is, indeed the guillotine of the soul.” Continue reading
This year’s August 17th Champlain Day festivities will honor two local “law breakers” — Noadiah and Caroline Mattocks Moore. They were key participants in the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad, an illegal network of safe places which sheltered hundreds of fugitives from slavery as they made their way from the Southern slave states to freedom in Canada before the Civil War. Continue reading
Minerva in Essex County, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.
Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. Continue reading
The 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.
Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.
Northup was born a free man in Minerva, Essex County, NY, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. Continue reading
When what has been described as “the second most destructive draft riot in the nation” broke out in Troy on July 15, 1863, worried city residents, especially African-Americans, wondered if the Dean of the Roman Catholic churches in Troy, Father Peter Havermans, would, or could, do anything to calm the rioters and curb anticipated violence.
The bulk of the two to three thousand angry protestors in the streets were Catholics who worked in the city’s mills, factories and iron works. Continue reading
Long before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.
The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading
An exhibition featuring a Civil War love story, I Shall Think of You Often: The Civil War Story of Doctor and Mary Tarbell, opened Saturday, March 30, 2013 at the New York State Museum.
The exhibit focuses on the life and marriage of Doctor and Mary Tarbell of Tompkins County, New York, during the Civil War. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War, a 7,000-square foot exhibition commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Both exhibitions are open through September 22, 2013. Continue reading
FBI agents described Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne as “a prolific impersonator,” but the true extent of his success is unknown. Because so much of his fakery escaped detection, it’s unclear how many identities Bernard actually assumed. One agent said he had “at least 50 aliases,” and at one point, there were 34 names documented. It was the list of professions, however, that really impressed them.
Among his successful impersonations were: a graduate of Columbia University; a doctor employed by the US Public Health Service; a secret service agent; an FBI agent; a member of the US diplomatic corps; and the nephew of noted politician Hamilton Fish, a ruse that allowed him to pass $600 worth of bogus checks ($8,300 in 2013). Continue reading
After impersonating Walter W. Baker, heir to the Baker chocolate fortune, and bilking his Richmond fiancée’s mother out of $15,000 in 1928 (equal to $197,000 in 2013), Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne was sentenced to ten years in a Virginia prison. He was paroled after serving more than six years, but the gates had hardly closed behind him when Champagne was at it again.
Shortly after his release, the US Department of Justice was tracking him across the North Country. As he had done for years in the past, Bernard managed to move quickly and stay a step ahead of his pursuers. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga’s connection to the world of chocolate has been well documented over the years. Several additions and improvements were funded by Forrest Mars, Jr., husband of Deborah Adair Clark of Ticonderoga (they are now divorced). Forrest is worth approximately $10 billion as one of the heirs of the Mars candy company.
Eighty years ago, another famous name in chocolate—Baker—was bandied about in Ticonderoga, and it again involved mention of great wealth ($80 million at the time, equal to $1 billion in 2013). But for the village, the story left in its wake an embarrassment as bitter as the company’s most famous product (Baker’s bittersweet chocolate). Continue reading
The Adirondack Correctional Facility at Raybrook is hosting a series of special Black History Month programs for inmates that focus on 19th Century stories of African-Americans in the North Country.
“Dreaming of Timbuctoo,” the display put together by John Brown Lives! back in 2001, reveals the story of families that came to the Lake Placid area in the years before the Civil War, to establish farms and gain voting rights. Continue reading
Victoria Woodhull 1828-1927
Love was too important to be left in the hands of the state, thought Victoria Woodhull. And she said so, at Steinway Hall just off Union Square in New York City in 1871, speaking to a packed audience on the principle of “social freedom,” the code word for the right to choose your sexual partners.
“Yes, I am a free Lover, I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please.” The audience went wild. Continue reading
Despite the physical evidence against Saranac’s Allen Mooney in the murders of Ellen Thomas and Viola Middleton, he could still hope for a lesser conviction, even manslaughter, due to extenuating circumstances. Epilepsy, a weakness for drink, extreme jealousy—the man was obviously beset by many problems. Not a saint by any stretch, but was he a wanton killer? Continue reading
On May 12, 1903, Franklin County attorney Robert M. Moore was at wit’s end. After two years of haggling, all possibilities had been exhausted, and he knew his client was in serious trouble. There was nothing left but a claim of insanity. If that failed, a man was sure to die.
The client was Allen Mooney, and his crime in Saranac Lake became one of the most talked-about murders in North Country lore. It’s not a particularly complex tale, but its salacious and violent aspects guaranteed plenty of media coverage. Legally, it was pretty much a cut-and-dried case. Mooney admitted the shootings, and there was plenty of evidence against him. Continue reading
Though Ernest Duane had eventually admitted killing popular Lake Pleasant guide Eula Davis, there was no guarantee he would be found guilty in court. The defense focused on proving Duane’s supposed mental abnormalities, which they claimed had been exacerbated by the lonely life of a woodsman who often spent long months alone. It seemed a weak argument at best, but then came the kicker: Duane’s epilepsy, seized upon by his attorneys in a strategy described as the “dream defense.” Continue reading
Gordon Parks bought his first camera in a pawn shop and got his first real photography job at the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration (FSA).”American Gothic,” his bold arrangement of a White House cleaning lady with a mop in front of a flag, got him in trouble on his first assignment.
As a multifaceted creative artist, Parks stacked up firsts again and again in a long career that has been seeing numerous tributes over the past year. 2012 was the 100th anniversary of his birth, and exhibits are still underway. Continue reading
In late 1928, the life of an Adirondack guide came to an unfortunate, premature end. Like many of his brethren who died from accidental shootings over the years, the victim succumbed to the effects of a serious gunshot wound. But the demise of Eula Davis was no accident. Clearly, this was a case of murder, and the beginning of a twisted saga that kept all eyes glued on the Lake Pleasant region for some time. Continue reading
Americans are captivated with outlaws. Our history is filled with those colorful characters who bent the law to fit their own ends, from Jesse James to Al Capone.
Newspapers fed this fascination by following every move of many of these individuals. They were given curious names such as “The Kid,” “Gyp the Blood,” or in the case of Capone, “Scarface.” Many people do not know that a small hamlet in Ulster County had its own outlaw, known as “Big Bad” Bill Monroe. He was also identified as the “Gardiner Desperado.” Continue reading
As downtown Manhattan assesses damage, more specifics are being reported, especially in low-lying Zone A. The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), which is running the South Street Seaport Museum ,says that the storm surge waters soaked drawers of metal type in the Bowne and Co., Stationers. Continue reading
In The Impeachment of Governor Sulzer (SUNY Press, 2012), Matthew L. Lifflander brings to life the dramatic story of a forgotten incident in New York State political history. When William Sulzer was elected to the office of governor of New York State in November 1912, it represented the culmination of a long and successful career in politics.
The son of a German immigrant father and a Scotch-Irish American mother, Sulzer (1863–1941) rose through the powerful Tammany Hall machine to become the youngest man ever to serve as speaker of the New York State Assembly. In 1894, he was elected to Congress, where he served with distinction for eighteen years, rising to chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. When he became governor, it was with the support of the Tammany Hall machine, and everyone expected that he would duly perform his duties under the direction of Tammany boss Charles F. Murphy. Continue reading