Tag Archives: Essex County

Pre-European Agriculture in the Champlain Valley


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When I set out to write From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in New York’s Champlain Valley, I became discouraged by the mixed information coming from various authors.

While there is archeological evidence of Native settlements in Plattsburgh at Cumberland Bay, across Lake Champlain in Vermont and along the Hudson River and its tributaries, little information exists for the rest of the Adirondack Coast. Continue reading

Henry Markham: New York’s Governor of California


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The section of Wilmington referred to as Haselton was once known as Markhamville. The name came from settlers who arrived prior to 1800, and it was more than a century before the change was made to Haselton. Among the early-nineteenth-century residents was Nathan Markham, who earned a living in iron manufacturing before turning to farming. He and wife Susan raised six sons and four daughters. The Markham work ethic served them well.
Three daughters and two sons were teachers in area schools. Several sons became prominent businessmen in different cities, and four of them were successful attorneys. George became the president of Northwest Mutual Life, an insurance company that is now 153 years old and holds more than $1 trillion in individual policies. And Henry became the governor of California.

Henry Harrison Markham was born in Wilmington on November 16, 1840. At the age of 19, he was still working on the family farm, but extended his education by attending Vermont’s Wheeler Academy, from which he graduated in 1862. Shortly after, he moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan.
An overriding concern at the time was the war, and just as his young father (only 18) had fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 23-year-old Henry enlisted, joining the North’s Civil War forces in December 1863. Tracking the movements of Company G, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry reveals their role in Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. Henry survived that campaign, but for him, the war ended soon after.
In January 1865 in South Carolina, the troops of the 32nd had slogged their way for days through the muddy morass of Whippy Swamp, sometimes waste deep in cold water. At a place known as River’s Bridge, the Confederates released a hellfire in defense of their position, but a relentless push forward by Union troops forced the rebels to fall back.
Dozens died in the battle, and Henry was badly wounded. After a period of recovery at Beaufort, S.C., he was mustered out in May 1865 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Returning to Wisconsin, Henry took up the study of law with a well-known firm, and within a few short years, he was admitted to legal practice at various levels, including the US Supreme Court.
When his brother Charles arrived, they formed a very successful law partnership in Milwaukee. Henry was joined in marriage with Mary Dana at Waukesha, Wisconsin, in May 1876, and from outward appearances, life was good.
But illness and the nagging effects of his war injuries took an increasing toll, compelling Henry to seek a more healthful climate. Catching his eye was a magazine advertisement: “To Health Seekers—A Beautiful Home in a Beautiful Land—A Fruit Farm in Southern California.” With 22 acres, 750 fruit trees, and a vineyard, Henry was sold. In the late 1870s, Pasadena, California, became the new Markham homestead.
In addition to operating his fruit orchard, Henry kept busy pursing civic and business interests in California. Besides investing in various mines, he helped found the Pasadena Public Library and served on the school board, assuming a position of prominence in the community.
In 1884, the Republican Party in southern California was searching for a strategy to defeat the Democrats, who had long wielded power. A few interested candidates seemed lackluster at best, and Henry was approached as a dark horse possibility. He consented, and then did what he had always done in any endeavor: worked hard. Success followed, and for the next two years, the interests of southern California were looked after in Washington by Congressman Markham.
At re-election time in 1886, he seemed a sure bet to win again. But, just as he had reluctantly surrendered his law practice in Wisconsin, Henry said “Thanks, but no thanks” in declining the opportunity. The east-coast climate had again diminished his health, and he opted for civilian life in Pasadena rather than another term in Washington.
Aware of his leadership capabilities and his interest in the plight of war veterans, Congress elected him as a manager of the National Homes for Disabled Soldiers. The position was unpaid, and Henry frequently used his own money to finance related expenditures. In that regard, the home in Santa Monica greatly benefited from his largesse.
In 1887, Henry commissioned a magnificent three-story home to be built on his property (the cost in 2010 translates to well over $1 million). The huge mansion would easily accommodate his growing family (three young daughters), but Henry wanted more for them. He began building a playhouse, specially constructed to also accommodate Dad, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall. It was a beloved structure that the children shared for years with many friends.
Next week: Markham’s career rises to new heights.
Photos: Top―Henry Harrison Markham, circa 1864. Bottom―The Markham Mansion, once a landmark in Pasadena, California.
The story of Henry Markham is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack & North Country Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Seneca Ray Stoddard Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum


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A new exhibition has opened at the New York State Museum showcasing the works of Adirondack photographer and conservationist Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Seneca Ray Stoddard: Capturing the Adirondacks is open through February 24, 2013 in Crossroads Gallery and includes over 100 of Stoddard’s photographs, an Adirondack guideboat, freight boat, camera, copies of Stoddard’s books and several of his paintings.

There also are several Stoddard photos of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. These and other items come from the State Museum’s collection of more than 500 Stoddard prints and also from the collections of the New York State Library and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

Born in Wilton, Saratoga County in 1844, Stoddard was no doubt inspired by the Adirondacks at an early age. A self-taught painter, he was first employed as an ornamental painter at a railroad car manufacturer in Green Island, across the Hudson River from Troy in Albany County. He moved to Glens Falls (Warren County) in 1864, where he worked with sketches and paintings until his death there in 1917.

Early on he sought to preserve the beauty of the Adirondacks through his paintings but then became attracted to photography’s unique ability to capture the environment. He was one of the first to capture the Adirondacks through photographs. He used the then recently introduced wet-plate process of photography. Though extremely cumbersome by today’s standards, the technique was the first practical way to record distant scenes. It required Stoddard to bring his entire darkroom with him into the Adirondack wilderness.

His renown as a photographer quickly grew once he settled in Glens Falls, which also became his base camp for his explorations of the Adirondacks. He studied the Adirondacks intensely over a 50-year period.

Stoddard’s photos showed the challenges travelers faced in getting to the still undeveloped wilderness, along with their enjoyment of finally reaching their destination. His writings and photographs indicate that he was especially skilled at working with people from diverse economic backgrounds in a variety of settings. This was especially important as he used his photos to capture the changing Adirondack landscape as railroads were introduced and the area became an increasingly important destination for the burgeoning middle-class tourist, but also for the newly wealthy during the “Gilded Age.”

His work stimulated even further interest as he promoted the Adirondacks through his photographs and writings on the beauty, people and hotels of the region. Stoddard’s photographs showed the constancy of the natural beauty of the Adirondacks along with the changes that resulted from logging and mining, to hotels and railroads. As unregulated mining and logging devastated much of the pristine Adirondack scenery, Stoddard documented the loss and used those images to foster a new ethic of responsibility for the landscape. His work was instrumental in shaping public opinion about tourism, leading in part to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution.

The State Museum purchased over 500 historic Stoddard prints in 1972 in the process of acquiring historic resources for the Museum’s Adirondack Hall. They included albumen prints from Stoddard’s own working files, many with penciled notes. Nearly all are of the landscapes, buildings and people of the Adirondacks taken primarily in the 1870s and 1880s.

An online version of the exhibition is also available on the State Museum website at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/virtual/exhibits/SRS/ .

The State Museum will present several programs in conjunction with the Stoddard exhibition. There will be guided tours of the exhibition on September 8 and December 8 from 1-2 p.m. Stoddard will also be the focus of Family Fun Day on September 15 from1-4 p.m.

Established in 1836, the New York State Museum is a program of the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Stoddard’s “Indian Encampment, Lake George, 1872″.

Secrets Beneath the Walls of Fort Ticonderoga Tours


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Have you ever wondered what lies beneath Fort Ticonderoga’s stone walls? Fort Ticonderoga’s curator, Christopher Fox will lead explorations of Fort Ticonderoga’s hidden past to see remarkably preserved evidence of the Fort’s original structures and catch a glimpse at some of the systems that keeps the Fort running today.

This special behind-the-scenes tour will take visitors into five areas of the Fort not accessible to the general public. In these areas visitors will see original French stone foundations of barracks buildings and cavernous spaces beneath the parapet walls preserving clues to how the Fort was built over 250 years ago and then preserved over the last century.

This hour and a half tour is scheduled at 1:00 pm each Thursday in July and August. Space is limited, advanced reservations are recommended or tickets, as available, can be purchased on the day of the tour at the Guest Services Desk in the Log House Welcome Center. Price is $35 per person with regular general admission.

The tour will begin at the Guest Services Desk located in the Log House Welcome Center. Climbing stairs and passing through narrow spaces is required on this tour and it is not handicap accessible or appropriate for those who have difficulty walking.

Fort Ticonderoga was constructed beginning in the fall of 1755 by the French to protect the outlet of the La Chute River and the short overland portage between Lake Champlain and Lake George. It was captured by the British in July 1759 who held it until its capture by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys in 1775. The British recaptured the Fort in July 1777 and then abandoned it later that fall. After suffering the ravages of time and the elements, the Fort was restored by the Pell family beginning in the spring of 1909.

Preserving Camp Santanoni Great Camp Tour


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There will be a tour of Adirondack Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb (Essex County), NY this Thursday, June 28, 2012. Santanoni was built for Robert and Anna Pruyn of Albany beginning in 1892. The estate eventually included 12,900 acres and nearly four-dozen buildings.

Led by AARCH staff, the tour will include stops at the Gate Lodge, Santanoni’s 200 -acre farm, and the Main Camp on Newcomb Lake where we’ll see the ongoing restoration of the camp complex and learn first hand about the conservation planning and restoration work.

The Santanoni Preserve is a State Historic Site, on the National Register of Historic Places, and a National Historic Landmark. AARCH has long been associated with the protection, interpretation and restoration of this regional treasure.

The round-trip walk is 9.8 miles on a gently sloping carriage road. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $20 for members and $30 for non-members. There will be another tour on September 14.

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.

Photo: Camp Santanoni Gate Lodge in Newcomb, NY, built in 1905 and restored in 2007.

Fort Ti: Am Rev Teacher Scholarships Available


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Fort Ticonderoga has announced that four scholarships are available for teachers to attend the Ninth Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution September 21-23, 2012. This annual seminar explores the political, military, and social history related to America’s War for Independence
 
Seminar on the American Revolution takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. The scholarships are available for teachers at all grade levels.

This seminar at Fort Ticonderoga features presentations by authors and historians, including Benjamin Carp from Tufts University, Marla Miller from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Andrew O’Shaughnessy from the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. Topics include an examination of new sources related to the Battle of Valcour on Lake Champlain in October 1776.

Since 2001, Fort Ticonderoga has provided scholarships for 91 teachers from across the country to attend its seminars and conferences. Teachers interested in applying for a scholarship to attend the of the Ninth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution should download an application at www.fort-ticonderoga.org by clicking on “Explore and Learn” and selecting the “Educators” tab.  Applications are due by August 15. Successful applicants will receive free registration, two box lunches, and an opportunity to dine with the Seminar speakers at a private dinner the Saturday evening of the Seminar. Contact Rich Strum, Director of Education, at (518) 585-6370 if you have questions.
Non-teachers can register to attend the Seminar on the American Revolution as well. The cost is $120 if registering before July 15; $145 after that date. Registration forms can be downloaded from the Fort’s website at www.fort-ticonderoga.org under the “Explore and Learn” tab by selecting “Life Long Learning” on the drop down menu and then clicking on the Ninth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution. 

Photo: Detail from Plan of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence by Lieut. Charles Wintersmith from the collection of the FortTiconderoga Museum. Fort Ticonderoga is offering Teacher Scholarships to attend its Ninth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution September 21-23, 2012.

New Book: 50+ Adirondack North Country Stories


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New Larry Gooley BookRegular Adirondack Almanack and New York History contributor Lawrence P. Gooley has published a new collection of his stories in Adirondack & North Country Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (2012, Bloated Toe Publishing).

Gooley, whose diligence in local publishing is only matched by his research and storytelling acumen, has collected 343 pages worth of his finest short historical essays, some of which have never been published. “This could well have been two books, and possibly three (it’s well over 100,000 words), but I wanted to do a big collection,” Gooley said.

Chapters 5, 15, 25, and 35 are the book’s anchor pieces: they’re longer stories of some truly amazing North Country natives. Chapter 15, the story of local cluster -balloonist and daredevil Garrett Cashman, earned Gooley a mention in Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine. Those familiar with Gooley’s Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune (which won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008), or his regional best seller Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, will be at home with Gooley’s folksy and comfortable storytelling style, his deep appreciation for in-depth research, and his uncanny ability to know a great story when he sees one.

Gooley will be on the road this summer promoting the new book, and is finishing work on a collection of 25 regional murder stories (all with at least one remarkable twist). In the meantime with his partner, Jill McKee, Gooley runs Bloated Toe Enterprises, which has recently expanded to include web design services.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publisher’s Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates 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. That’s also where you can find Adirondack & North Country Gold and all of Gooley’s books.  

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.

Fort Ti Presents Scots Day Event Saturday


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Fort Ticonderoga will present the Fifth Annual Scots Day on Saturday, June 16. The commemoration of Scottish heritage and their significant contributions to 18th century North American history runs from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Visitors can tour the Scottish Clan tents and vendors to discover more about your own connection to Scottish Culture, and explore the stories of centuries of Scottish soldiers in the British Army through a military timeline offered throughout the day.

Admission to Scots Day is included in a Fort Ticonderoga’s general admission ticket. To learn more about the event visit www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821.

Special Memorial Ceremony
A special memorial ceremony honoring the 42nd Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch, will take place at the Scottish Cairn on the Carillon Battlefield located at Fort Ticonderoga. The procession to the Cairn will begin at 11 am at the Log House Welcome Center. The Memorial Ceremony will take place at 11:30 am and will remember the incredible bravery and discipline of the Black Watch against insurmountable odds at the 1758 Battle of Carillon.
Bagpipe Performances

Hear the sounds of Scottish bagpipe music throughout the day as the Plattsburgh Police Pipes and Drums will perform during the day on the Fort’s historic Parade Ground at 12:30 pm and 2 pm. The Police Pipes and Drums of Plattsburgh, formed in 2005, perform at police and fire functions, as well as at events throughout the North Country. The Plattsburg Police Pipes and Drums performance is made possible, in part, by the Arts Council for the Northern Adirondacks CAP Grant, supported by the Essex County Board of Supervisors.

Participating Scottish Clans and organizations

· St. Andrews Society of Vermont
· Clan Buchanan
· Clan Campbell
· Clan Forbes
· Clan Hamilton
· Clan Johnston/Johnstone
· Clan MacIntyre
· Clan MacPherson
· Clan Murray
· Clan Rose

Black Watch Military Living History Programs

Meet some of the present-day Scottish soldiers of the Canadian Black watch to learn about the modern legacy of Scottish military heritage and learn the history of the Black Watch Regiment through living history programs presented throughout the day by members of a Black Watch reenactor unit from Montreal. Highlighted programs include a living history time-line of the Regiment. The re-enacting group depicts its history from the 18th century through the early 21st century, with various members representing different significant points in the unit’s history. Learn about the incredible bravery and discipline of the Black Watch against insurmountable odds at the 1758 Battle of Carillon.

The 42nd Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch, played a crucial role at Ticonderoga during the Battle of Carillon on July 8, 1758. The regiment suffered over 50% casualties during the failed British assault on the French Lines at Ticonderoga during the French & Indian War. Ticonderoga continued to be an important part of the regiment’s history. During its involvement in the Iraq War, the Black Watch Regiment’s base near Basra was called “Ticonderoga.”

North Star Underground RR Museum Opens for Season


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New York’s newest Underground Railroad museum kicked off its second season last week and will present a series of presentations this year entitled “Hot Spots of Anti-Slavery Activity in the North Country,” supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council of the Northern Adirondacks.

This Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, there will be tours of Underground Railroad sites in Peru and Keeseville at 9:30, both led by Don Papson.  There is a $10 fee; call 834-5180 to pre-register. Also, historic re-enactor Barbara Wass will portray Catherine Keese, the committed Peru abolitionist at 10 a.m. on Saturday and 1:30 on Sunday.  Those events are free.


On June 2, during Museum Day festivities, the Museum will present, “The War Before the War,” about the radical abolition movement that responded to the Fugitive Slave Law and other pro-slavery leanings by the federal government leading up to the Civil War.

Jane Williamson, director of the Rokeby Farm museum in Vermont, will illuminate the organizing efforts that mushroomed in Vermont and Northern New York.

The North Star Museum first opened in May 2010, and drew over 4,000 visitors to the restored stone house overlooking Ausable Chasm, just a few miles from Lake Champlain. Education programs are offered for school children, both at the museum and in schools, and the museum shop boasts an extensive collection of books on slavery, abolition, the underground railroad and related topics. For further information, visit: www.northcountryundergroundrailroad.com.

New Fort Ticonderoga Exhibit Features Weapons Collections


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Fort Ticonderoga has unveiled its newest exhibit, Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution. The exhibit highlights over 150 of the museum’s most important weapons and is a comprehensive and expanded reinterpretation of its world renowned historic arms collection.

Divided into seven sections and including a wide variety of muskets, pistols, swords and powder horns (some of which are one of only two or three of their types known), the exhibit explores the weapons used in America from the early 1600s through the end of the American Revolution. The exhibit is included in Fort Ticonderoga’s general admission price and will be on display throughout the 2012 season.

“This is the first major new weapons exhibit the museum has undertaken in over half a century. The creation of this exhibit is an important step in a process to improve Fort Ticonderoga’s exhibits and make them more engaging and informative for the public,” said Chris Fox, Fort Ticonderoga Curator of Collections.

Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution features important, never before seen, pieces from the Grafton H. and Barbara W. Cook Collection of historic weapons donated to Fort Ticonderoga in 2009. Highlights in the collection include numerous rare and important examples of British cavalry swords and pistols and the massive basket-hilted swords carried by Scottish Highland troops.

Additional important highlights from the Cook Collection include an extremely rare British military pistol used during the reign of England’s King James II and a fine example of the important Ferguson patent breech loading rifle whose technological innovations resulted in the British army’s first breech loading firearm adopted in 1776. The oldest weapons in the exhibit were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Cook including a rare early 17th century matchlock musket similar to the type used by Samuel de Champlain during his brief engagement with the Iroquois Indians on the Ticonderoga peninsula in 1609.

For more details visit www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821.

Doris Kenyon: Famed 1920s Adirondack Actress


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Ausable Forks was once the favored respite of one of America’s most famed and beloved actresses of her time. During the prime of her career in the 1920s, to escape constant media scrutiny, this lady returned often to the Adirondacks, a quiet, peaceful place filled with the memories of childhood.

Doris Kenyon was born on September 5, 1897, the daughter of James and Margaret Kenyon. James, once a protégé of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a person of some renown in his own right, achieving widespread fame and praise for his skills as a poet. Many of his works were featured in Harpers, the Atlantic, and other reputable magazines.
After writing two books, James remained in the literary world and became a publisher. His position would someday help open doors for his talented daughter.

The family lived for a time in Chaumont, New York, northwest of Watertown, and then moved to Syracuse, where Doris was born. Her brother, Raymond, nineteen years older than Doris, was a dentist and oral surgeon in both Philadelphia and Syracuse. Health issues and a deep love of hunting and fishing prompted his move to the Adirondacks in pursuit of a less strenuous life.

Ray Kenyon chose Ausable Forks as his new home, immersing himself in local life, business, and politics. He served in several key positions, including many years as chairman of the Essex County Republican Party, and several more as state assemblyman. Due to his great skill as a dentist and his affable nature, Raymond became a fixture in the community.

Young Doris was a frequent visitor and guest at her brother’s home—so frequent, in fact, that she has sometimes been claimed as an Ausable Forks native. She spent many summers at Fern Lake and was well known in the village, particularly for her singing ability.

When Doris was in her teens, her father became head of the publishing department of the National Encyclopedia of Biography. It was a position of prominence and power, earning James close ties with luminaries from many venues, including show business.

By this time, Doris had sung with different choirs and had developed a reputation for the quality of her voice. At a meeting of the Authors Club, which she attended with her father, Doris was invited to sing, delivering a very impressive performance.

Among the attendees was the renowned Victor Herbert, who had been a superb cellist in Europe, having played in the orchestra of Johann Strauss. In America, he worked at the Metropolitan Opera and became a famed composer and conductor. Like many other stars, Victor maintained a home in Lake Placid.

Her performance before the Authors Club wowed Herbert, and though Doris was only sixteen years old, he decided to cast her in the stage musical Princess Pat. The show opened on Broadway in the Cort Theatre, and Doris’ stage debut as the character Coralee Bliss was a big success. The movie industry soon showed an interest in her (apparently for her acting skills and not for her lovely voice. The silent film era wouldn’t give way to talkies for another 14 years.)

Doris couldn’t resist the opportunity. She left a promising stage career to appear as Effie MacKenzie in The Rack (Milton Sills was the leading star), which was released in December 1915. That performance earned her the lead role in Pawn of Fate, released in February 1916. Within a month, Worldwide Film Corporation signed Doris to an exclusive three-year contract at $50,000 a year ($1 million per year in today’s dollars) … and she was still a teenager!

Despite her youth, Doris displayed maturity with her newfound wealth, donating to projects like the Children’s Home in Plattsburgh. She supported the troops during World War I, subscribing to $50,000 worth of Liberty Bonds, the highest amount of any actress in show business.

Under her new contract, Doris played the leading role in many movies. In 1917, after making A Hidden Hand for Plathe Films, she formed her own company, De Luxe Pictures. The crew stayed at the Lake Placid Club while filming its first project, The Story of Seven Stars.

As life became more hectic, Doris returned frequently to her childhood roots in Ausable Forks, spending time with Raymond. She and her brother shared an affinity for fox hunting, a very popular pastime in those days. Raymond’s camp on Silver Lake was one of Doris’ favorite places, and there she hosted luminaries from show business and other industries.

Next week, the conclusion: Doris reaches the stratosphere of fame, but tragedy strikes as well.

Photo: A Doris Kenyon collectible tobacco card.

The Doris Kenyon story is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Lawrence Gooley: The Power of Wildlife


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While collecting materials about attacks by animals in the Adirondacks, I came across several stories involving birds of prey. Maintaining a healthy skepticism is important, especially when reading such accounts in old newspapers, where the tendency was to embellish. But I came to realize that bird attacks were not such a rare phenomenon. Nature films offer scenes of birds assailing creatures much larger than themselves and carrying off some impressive loads.

After all, odd things do happen. I once observed a hawk plummeting at amazing speed into the center of the village where I lived. Moments later, the hawk flew past me, a cat dangling from its talons. Decades ago, when ravens were a rarity in the northern Adirondacks, I was dive-bombed repeatedly by several of them as I bushwhacked across the Silver Lake Mountain Ridge. And on three occasions while canoeing, I’ve had very close encounters with eagles (I’ll admit that a couple of them were scary).

Taking all of that into consideration, I reviewed some interesting regional confrontations between humans and birds. In 1888, at Brier Hill (St. Lawrence County), a bald eagle was said to have attacked ten-year-old George Richards. George used a stick to defend himself until older brother Berton, 20, drove the eagle off. Bert later baited a steel trap with newborn calves that had died. He succeeded in capturing the bird, which was held by the Richards family for display.

In 1893, a Bellmont (Franklin County) farmhand working for Frank Winkley was on horseback, rounding up a herd of cows, when he was attacked by two eagles. He was knocked to the ground, where the birds continued the assault. The farm dog came to his aid, and he eventually managed to club one of the birds and capture it. According to the report, the golden eagle’s wingspan was seven feet. It was briefly kept in Winkley’s barn as a curiosity.

Predatory raids on farm fowl were once common. A dramatic case was reported in Chaumont (northwest of Watertown) in 1903 on the farm of Charles Graham. A hen hawk (any hawk that preys on poultry) grabbed a large Plymouth Rock hen, but about 20 feet above the ground, the hen broke free and landed at Graham’s feet. The hawk followed, knocking the farmer down, gashing his face and neck, and pecking at his eyes. Even as Graham stood to defend himself, the bird continued the attack, finally departing when the farmer grabbed a shovel.

Also in 1903, John Sullivan of Jay (Essex County) was set upon by an eagle, eventually driving it off after suffering lacerations to his face. In 1904 came a report from the Bowditch cottage on Upper Chateaugay Lake (Clinton County), where caretaker Frank Nicholson battled two eagles that attempted to make off with some chickens. One of the birds managed to sink its talons into Nicholson’s leg, but he eventually succeeded in “dispatching them.”

In 1909, a Pitcairn (St. Lawrence County, near Harrisville) farmer, Josiah Almtree, offered a dramatic tale of battling a powerful eagle that had lately been harassing his sheep. The victim this time was Almtree’s daughter, who was carried briefly but then dropped “unhurt on the roof of a little building near the barn.” Almtree managed a shot at the bird, which escaped. Of course, “unhurt” wasn’t possible, but I’ll beg the Fox News defense here: “We report, you decide.”

Most such stories are quite old, but a more recent one (though still over 50 years past) occurred in Ausable Forks in 1957. Young Jimmie Camire, while playing with friends, was attacked by a hawk. The bird grabbed his shoulder, but the boy broke free. Under renewed attack, Jimmie’s shouts brought his brother Butch and friend Jeff Hewston to the rescue. They had been cutting small trees nearby, and used an axe to kill the hawk, which they said had a wingspan of 43 inches.

Not all regional fowl attacks came from above. In 1908, Gouverneur’s Louis Boulet owned a particularly raucous Rhode Island Red, a breed that can be incredibly aggressive. (They’ve been known to kill snakes, cats, foxes, and small dogs.) The big rooster’s frequent attacks made it clear the farmer was not welcome in his own hen house. Egged on by frequent muggings and occasional blood loss, Boulet decided this chicken’s goose was cooked, so he had him for dinner.

Skepticism can be valuable, but before deciding how feasible some of those old stories might be, check out some “eagle attack” videos on YouTube. Be forewarned: several are graphic. Some are simply amazing, demonstrating the willingness of large birds to mix it up with creatures of all sizes, even striking a black bear in a tree.

Photos: Eagle in flight; 1957 headline from hawk attack in AuSable Forks.

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 20 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Fort Ticonderoga’s War College of the Seven Years’ War


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Limited space is still available to attend Fort Ticonderoga’s Seventeenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 18-20, 2012. This annual seminar focuses on the French and Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required.


Begun in 1996, the War College of the Seven Years’ War has become one of the premier seminars on the French & Indian War in the country. It features a mix of new and established scholars in an informal setting for a weekend of presentations related to the military, social, and cultural history of the French & Indian War. Speakers include:

De Witt Bailey, British author and 18th-century arms expert, on British weapons of the war.

Maria Alessandra Bollettino, Framingham State University, on slave revolts in the British Caribbean during the war.

Earl John Chapman, Canadian author and historian, on the experiences of James Thompson, a sergeant in the 78th Highlanders.

Christopher D. Fox, Fort Ticonderoga, on Colonel Abijah Willard’s Massachusetts Provincials in 1759.

Jean-François Lozier, Canadian Museum of Civilization, on the use of paints and cosmetics among Natives and Europeans.

Paul W. Mapp, College of William & Mary, on the role the vast western lands played in the battle for empire.

William P. Tatum III, David Library of the American Revolution, on the British military justice system, using ten courts-martial at Ticonderoga in 1759 as case studies.

Len Travers, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, on the “Lost Patrol of 1756” on Lake George. The weekend kicks of Friday evening with a presentation by Ticonderoga Town Historian William G. Dolback on “Historic Ticonderoga in Pictures.” Dolback is also President of the Ticonderoga Historical Society and leading local efforts to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the first settler in Ticonderoga in 1764.

Registration for the War College is $145 for the weekend ($125 for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga). Registration forms can be downloaded from the Fort’s website under the “Explore and Learn” tab by selecting “Life Long Learning” on the drop down menu and then clicking on the War College. A printed copy is also available upon request by contacting Rich Strum, Director of Education, at 518-585-6370.

John Brown Day Planned for May 5th


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Frederick Douglass’ great-great-great grandson Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., will give the keynote address at the annual John Brown Day celebration to be held on Saturday, May 5, at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, NY. Morris will talk about the friendship and enduring legacy of Douglass and fellow abolitionist John Brown.

The two men first met in Massachusetts in 1848, a decade after Douglass successfully escaped from slavery on a Maryland plantation and eleven years before Brown’s history-changing raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. By the time they met, Douglass had become one of the most eloquent and sought-after champions of freedom and equal suffrage for women and men, regardless of race.

Founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, Morris will also discuss the Foundation’s work today to create a modern Abolitionist Movement in schools all over the country through the vehicle of Service-Learning.

There are an estimated 27 million men, women and children held in some form of slavery in the world today, generating billions of dollars along the supply chain of labor and products that make much of our daily lives possible.

Joining Morris will be Renan Salgado, a Human Trafficking Specialist based in Rochester, who will shed light in his remarks about slavery and trafficking in New York State today. According to the U.S. State Department, there are approximately 17,500 people trafficked into the U.S. each year. Along with California, Texas, and Florida, New York ranks among the states with the greatest incidence of documented slavery in the country.

Young, award-winning orators from the Frederick Douglass Student Club in Rochester will recite from Douglass’ speeches and excerpts from Brown’s letters. The folk quartet The Wannabees and the hip-hop recording artist S.A.I. will also perform.

John Brown Day revives the tradition dating back to the 1930s of making a pilgrimage to remember and honor Brown by laying a wreath at his grave. Over the last 13 years, the grassroots freedom education project John Brown Lives! has worked to keep that tradition alive and relevant.

John Brown Day 2012 is free and open to the public and it is held outdoors. A brief reception will follow in the lower barn at the site. Donations will be appreciated.

For more information, contact Martha Swan, Executive Director of John Brown Lives! at 518-962-4758 or mswan@capital.net.

Visit the John Brown Lives! Friends of Freedom on Facebook.

International Sliding Sports Museum Moves Forward


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Phase-one of the International Sliding Sports Museum at the Olympic Sports Complex at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, in Lake Placid, is scheduled to debut this summer. 2012 world bobsled champion Steven Holcomb (center) was presented with a copy of his “Legends of Mt. Van Hoevenberg” poster during a ceremony held last Wednesday, at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. The poster is part of the legends project, which was unveiled during the FIBT World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships, held in Lake Placid in February.

Billed as the first of its kind anywhere in the world, the museum will feature the history of the sports of bobsled, luge and skeleton and will also exhibits tracing the evolution of equipment and sections of past and present sliding tracks with a display explaining how those tracks were built. Plans are being developed for a historical walking tour of the 1932/1980 track and the new combined track with informational signage creating a self-guided exploration of the venue.

Organizers hope to build a comprehensive sliding display that will include historic race sleds, equipment, video, photographs, medals and trophies. Several of these items are already on display at the Olympic museum.

Photo: Steven Holcomb (center) with (L-R) Ted Blazer, ORDA president/CEO; Jack Favro, associate director of Lake Placid Olympic Training Center; Joe Lamb, community organizer; Craig Randall, Village of Lake Placid mayor; and Mary Lou Brown, chairman of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

Henry Knox Lecture at Fort Ticonderoga


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Fort Ticonderoga’s new “Fort Fever Series” concludes for the season on Sunday, April 22, at 2 pm., with “Henry Knox: Beyond the Noble Train of Artillery” presented by Director of Education Rich Strum. The cost is $10 per person and will be collected at the door; free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga.

Best known at Fort Ticonderoga for his Herculean feat in transporting 59 pieces of artillery from Ticonderoga to Cambridge during the winter of 1775-76, Knox went on to become one of George Washington’s most trusted officers.

Learn about Knox’s early life, when he was forced to begin work at the age of nine to help support his family. A bookseller in Boston in the years leading up to the Revolution, Knox conversed with customers who would fall on opposing sides in the coming war.

After a distinguished military career, Knox continued to help shape the young country, serving as Secretary at War through most of the 1780s. He remained in that position during the first year’s of Washington’s presidency, before retiring to Maine.

The program takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. Doors open at 1:30 pm for the program.

In the coming months, the Fort Fever Series will be replaced by the Fort Ticonderoga Author Series, which returns for the third year. The first program in this series will be on Sunday, June 3, with Eliot Cohen, author of “Conquered into Liberty.” The Fort Fever Series is one of several new education initiatives in 2012. You can learn more about upcoming education programs at Fort Ticonderoga by visiting the Fort’s website and selecting the “Explore and Learn” button.

Photo: Fort Ticonderoga Artillery (provided).

Forest to Fields: Champlain Valley Agriculture History


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A short booklet, From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in new York’s Champlain Valley published by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Essex County and the Lake to Locks Passage Scenic Byway highlights the rich history of the Champlain Valley with a focus on the region’s farms and fields.

From Forests to Fields is authored by Anita Deming, who has more than 30 years experience as an agricultural extension agent with CCE, and Andrew Alberti, Program Manager for Lakes to Locks Passage since 2008 (where he focuses on 21st century technology applications and local and regional interpretation and planning) and a contributor here at New York History. Alberti is also editor for the Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic Geotourism website.

Chapters cover Native American agriculture, early explorers and settlements, the agricultural revolution, farming in the modern era and a short review of the architecture and use of farm buildings and a list of resources. The authors explain the impact of the 1807 Embargo Act, the influence of the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823 on local farm trade, the grange movement, and changes in the local sheep and dairy industries, and more.

The booklet is 48 pages and profusely illustrated. You can request a copy by contacting Lakes to Locks Passage. There is a suggested $10 + S&H donation.

Quadricentennial Photo Exhibit Unveiled


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The Essex County Historical Society in Elizabethtown, recently announced an online commemoration of the 2009 Quadricentennial in Essex County. The Lake Champlain Quadricentennial 1609-1909 site has been designed to highlight photographs by Jack LaDuke acquired by the Essex County Historical Society in 2010. The site celebrates pride of place expressed through LaDuke’s photographs of the 2009 commemorative year, and features photographs and items from the Essex County Historical Society’s own collection from the 1909 Tercentenary and 1959 commemorations. The public is encouraged to contribute their own photographs to compliment items featured on the site.

Jack LaDuke was hired in 2009 to take photographs of the many significant events in the Champlain Valley region of New York State during the Quad year. LaDuke has forty years experience as a photographer, journalist and story-teller reporting on the Adirondacks and the North Country. He works for Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, New York as a contributing reporter after spending most of his career with WCAX in Burlington, Vermont.