Tag Archives: Essex County

The Lake Placid Legacy of Willis Wells


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WillisWellsNYHAmong the folks who played an important role in Northern New York regional history and personified the traditional Christmas spirit was Willis Wells of Lake Placid.

Long before Willis gained attention, his father, Duran, a native of Peru, New York, had become a North Country fixture, operating a peddler’s cart in the post-Civil War years. From the shores of Lake Champlain to the Paul Smith’s area, he supplied homes and farms with the daily needs of life, an important function in those early days when stores visited many of their customers. Continue reading

Johnny Hayes, Ticonderoga’s Music Man


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AdTi1945JHayesIn late 1935, young Ticonderoga saxophonist Johnny Hayes sat in during a performance by a traveling orchestra from Boston. His performance so impressed the band leader that a permanent position was offered. Hayes had recently completed a summer stint at the Deer’s Head Inn (Elizabethtown), followed by a tour of central and northern New York cities with his own band.

He accepted the offer and began traveling with the orchestra within two weeks. It was the first step in a journey that would link him with many all-time greats of the Big Band Era. Continue reading

The Perils of North Country Linemen


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1936 ADLinemenNYHHard history is great, but while conducting research, I’m constantly collecting odd and unlikely stories on a variety of subjects. I like to think of them as the offbeat side of history (stretching the definition of history to include all news items from the past) … of little value to historians, but certainly entertaining. Collecting them helps relieve the (sometimes) tedious job of searching hundreds of pages for a few nuggets of information.

Take, for instance, the subject of North Country linemen, those workers who climb utility poles to make connections or repairs. Their daily routine might be as boring as any other job most of the time, but linemen have a measure of danger built into their profession, beginning with working high above the ground. When something goes wrong, the results can be spectacular. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Specialty Tours Offered This Summer


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImmerse yourself in the epic history and incredible natural beauty at Fort Ticonderoga with richly informative and entertaining guided specialty tours this summer. Thrill at the power of artillery during Guns by Night tour; discover the History Within the Walls in the 1826 Historic Pavilion house tour; walk in the steps of great generals during the Armchair General tour; and discover the legends of the past while taking part in the Garrison Ghost Tour. All prices are in addition to Fort Ticonderoga admission and advanced purchase is required. Space is limited for tours. To learn more about our specialty tours visit www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Names Director of Exhibitions


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Matt KFort Ticonderoga has announced the appointment of Matthew Keagle to serve as Director of Exhibitions at Fort Ticonderoga. Keagle began work at Fort Ticonderoga on May 27, 2014 and is responsible for the development and implementation of Fort Ticonderoga’s newly established Exhibition Department.

Matthew Keagle is originally from Vermont and has been involved in curation, exhibitions, research, historical interpretation, and program development for historic sites and museums in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Virginia, North and South Carolina. Continue reading

Aird Dorrance: A Family History In Plumbing


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Henry Aird 01Last week’s coverage here of Airdmore, that unusual camping colony at Elizabethtown in 1922, prompted a number of questions for me, particularly about the unusual surname of the main player, Henry Aird. The name was familiar in only one regard―from the locally well-known plumbing supply company, Aird Dorrance, based in Morrisonville, near Plattsburgh, and with facilities in Ballston Lake and Clifton Park. I wanted to know: could there be a connection between the modern company and the business founded more than a century ago by Henry Aird?

If so, then he left a remarkable and lasting impact on North Country history in an economic sense, creating jobs for more than a hundred years, all of them resulting from choices he made in his business career long ago. Continue reading

Gerrit Smith’s 1845 Abolition North Country Tour


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Gerrit Smith in the 1840sLate spring of 1845 found , a leader of the Liberty Party, touring the North Country in search of disaffected “Whigs and Democrats, whose intelligence and Christian integrity will not permit them to remain longer in their pro-slavery connections.”

Smith, from Peterboro, in Madison County, traveled from Saratoga Springs, through Glens Falls and then into Essex and Clinton counties on his quest to build a credible third party, a devoted anti-slavery party. His report, printed in the Albany Patriot in late June, details the villages his visited, the people he met, and the difficulties he faced. Continue reading

1920s: The North Country Rises Against the KKK


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KKK hdline1924NYHLast week in this space, I addressed the subject of cross-burnings in the North Country, which became common in the 1920s during a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the region, meetings were conducted by Klan leaders, and thousands of followers were added to their ranks. For many of us, it’s an uncomfortable part of Adirondack history, but there is another side to the story. Despite widespread intimidation spawned by secret meetings, robed figures, and fiery crosses, New York’s citizenry rose in opposition to the Klan policies of bigotry and exclusion.

Speaking out against the KKK carried inherent risks for average folks, and for politicians as well. Between 1915 and 1922, more than a dozen senators and government officials in Washington were acknowledged members of the Klan, and the organization played a role in the national elections of 1924 and 1928. But in spite of their rise to power behind claims of patriotism and “Americanism,” the KKK was judged by many as a blight on society and distinctly un-American. Continue reading

Essex County Historical Society Appoints New Director


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indexmap3Ticonderoga resident Diane O’Connor has joined The Essex County Historical Society as director. She replaces Margaret Gibb, who led the organization for more than 14 years and recently joined Lakes to Locks Passage as program director.

O’Connor brings to her new position more than 20 years of experience in non-profit management for diverse organizations, including The National Genealogical Society, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (now the Civil War Preservation Trust). Most recently, she worked at Fort Ticonderoga. Continue reading

Two More Winter Weekends Planned at Camp Santanoni


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santanoni winterFollowing the success of last year’s open house ski weekends at historic Great Camp Santanoni, located off Route 28N in Newcomb (Essex County) in the Central Adirondacks, they are being offered again this year. Over two more weekends, visitors can arrive at their leisure and enjoy a self-guided trip from the Gate Lodge, past the Farm and on to the Main Lodge.

On the far side of the Lodge is the Artist’s Studio, where cross-country skiers and snowshoers will be able to warm up before the return trip. Staff will be on hand to answer questions, discuss the ongoing restoration and offer impromptu tours of the Main Lodge. Continue reading