Tag Archives: Plattsburgh

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.

World War One and Charles Dabney Baker


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War heroes come from all walks of life, and are deemed noteworthy for all sorts of reasons. In April 1918, during World War I, the North Country was justifiably proud of five lesser headlines in the New York Times beneath a bold proclamation: “Plattsburg Youth A Transport Hero.”

The story was particularly unusual for one main reason—though the youth was a lieutenant in the infantry, he and his foot-soldiers had performed heroic deeds with no land in any direction for perhaps 1000 miles.

Plattsburg (no “h” used in those days) was a principal military training facility, and many death announcements during the war ended with a single, telling entry: “He was a Plattsburg man.” In this case, the Plattsburg man in question, Charles Dabney Baker, was still very much alive and receiving praise from both sides of the Atlantic for astute leadership and remarkable calm during a crisis situation.

The odd circumstances surrounding Baker’s citation complemented his unusual path from childhood to the military. Historically, the vast majority of fighting men do not come from affluent backgrounds. Men of money and power have often been able to protect their children from serving. Poorer folks, on the other hand, often joined for the guaranteed income and the financial incentives dangled before them. A few thousand dollars was nothing to a person of wealth, but constituted a small fortune for someone in need.

Charles Baker was certainly part of an affluent family. He was born in Far Rockaway, Long Island in 1891, the son of a Wall Street banker. When he was but eight years old, the family household of four children was supported by a live-in staff that included two nurses, a waitress, a cook, and a chambermaid. A kitchen maid and a laundress were later added. Life was sweet.

Charles graduated from Princeton in 1913 and went to work for the Bankers’ Trust Company in New York City. It was an ongoing life of privilege, but after two years in the banking industry, he opted to join the military. Following a stint on the Mexican border, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and then trained at Plattsburg as America finally entered the war in Europe.

For Baker, who was prepared for battle, disappointment ensued when his regiment was ordered to France without him. He was instead tasked with commanding a detachment of men assigned to care for 1600 mules and horses that were being shipped to Europe in support of the troops.

As the journey began, a series of problems developed, culminating in a crisis situation in the middle of the ocean. A powerful storm threatened the mission, with winds estimated at 80–90 miles an hour. The ship was badly tossed, and a coal port lid failed (it was said to have been the work of German spies who had loosened the bolts when the craft was docked).

As the ship began to flood, chaos and disaster loomed. Baker, the highest ranking officer aboard, took charge of his landlubber crew and whipped them into action. The partially flooded ship rocked violently, and its precious cargo suffered terribly. A sailor on board later reported that many of the horses and mules “were literally torn to pieces by the tossing and rolling. Their screams of agony were something awful to listen to.” A number of others drowned.

Under Baker’s orders, bailing crews were assigned, dead and living animals were tended to, and the remaining men battled to keep the ship afloat. Days later, they limped into port and assessed the damages. It was determined that 400 animals had been lost, but the remarkable response by Baker and his infantrymen resulted in the survival of 1200 others. A complete disaster had been averted, and after delivering their cargo, the 165th Infantry was soon on the front line in France.

The story of the ocean trip might have remained untold except for brief mention that appeared in some newspapers. Among those reading the report was a sailor who had shared the voyage. He contacted the newspapers, and soon the story was headline news, praising Baker and his soldiers for great bravery and heroism under extreme conditions.

While the story gathered momentum, Charles and his men were otherwise occupied, already engaging in trench warfare. Just a few weeks after joining the fight, the 165th was pinned down under withering bombardment by the Germans. As Baker encouraged his troops, a shell exploded nearby, puncturing his eardrum.

For three days the barrage continued. Against the advice of his men, Baker endured the pain, refusing to withdraw to seek treatment. He felt his troops were best served if he remained on duty with them.

In early May it was announced that the French government had conferred upon Baker the Croix de Guerre medal, accompanied by the following citation: “First Lieutenant Charles D. Baker showed presence of mind and bravery during a heavy bombardment of nine-inch shells. Went calmly to his post in the trenches despite a destructive fire, assuring the safety of his men and locating the enemy’s mortars which were firing on the positions.”

Baker was forced to spend time recovering in the hospital. Despite his adventures, the frequent praise, and the French medal, Baker was described as humble, unassuming, and much admired and respected by his men. Soon he was back on the battlefield, right in the thick of things.

In July 1918, less than six months after Baker’s arrival in Europe, the 165th was involved in heavy fighting on the Ourcq River about 75 miles northeast of Paris. The Germans had the better position, and Allied forces suffered very heavy casualties as machine gunners cut down hundreds of men. Some of the Allied commanders took to an old method of moving forward by sending only two or three men at a time, backed by intense cover fire. It was difficult and deadly work.

On July 29th, while involved in fierce fighting, Charles Baker was badly injured by machine-gun fire and was once again removed to a base hospital in France. Nearly six weeks later, on September 12, he succumbed to his wounds.

From the crisis on the high seas to his eventual death on the battlefield, barely eight months had passed. It was a tragedy that was repeated millions of times during the war. And in this case, it was duly noted: Baker was a Plattsburg man.

Photo: Charles Dabney Baker, 1913.

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.

Books: The War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley


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As the 200th anniversary approaches, there will be a steady stream of new books about the War of 1812. But for readers interested in the effects of the war on the ground in the Champlain Valley, there remains just one foundational text, now available for the first time in paper by Syracuse University Press. Although first issued in 1981, Allan S. Everest’s The War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley is still required reading for those hoping to understand the Plattsburgh campaign, considered critical to the war.

The War of 1812, ranks with the often overlooked American conflicts of the 19th century, but unlike the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) or the Spanish-American War (1898-1902), the War of 1812 really was a Second War for Independence. America stood at the other side of Britain’s own Manifest Destiny, the homes, farms, property, and lives of Americans in the Champlain Valley stood in the middle.


The first months of 1814 spelled gloom for America, then only 35 years old. The war against England was stalled. The British continued to kidnap and impress American for service on their warships. They supported Native Americans who attacked outposts and settlements on the American frontier. American harbors were blockaded by the British and New England, never sympathetic with the narrow vote of Congress for war, had become openly hostile and was threatening to secede.

Still worse, Napoleon had been defeated in Europe and Britain could now devote more time and effort to America. The British saw an opportunity to split the new American republic and once again take control of sections of the young colonies. The bold plan called for a combined army and naval strike at Plattsburgh, followed by a drive down the lake and through the Hudson Valley to New York City, splitting the colonies in two. The Americans saw that opportunity too.

The Navy Department contracted Noah Brown, one of New York’s finest shipwrights, to build a fleet to protect the way south from Canada along Lake Champlain. In less than two months, Brown constructed, armed, and launched a total of six of war ships: Allen, Borer, Burrows, Centipede, Nettie, and Viper. With the help of the small Vermont town of Vergennes and its iron foundry that could supply spikes, bolts, and shot, and it’s water-powered sawmills, and surrounding forests filled with white oak and pine for ship timber, Brown built the 26-gun flagship Saratoga, in just 40 days, and commandeered the unfinished steamboat and completed it as the 17-gun schooner Ticonderoga.

Vastly out-manned and outgunned on both land and sea, a rag tag inexperienced group of 1,500 Americans commanded by Capt. Thomas Macdonough met the greatest army and naval power on earth. Because of a serious shortage of sailors for his fleet, he drafted U.S. Army soldiers, band musicians, and convicts serving on an army chain gang to man the ships.

Their leader Macdonough had some experience. He had served against the Barbary pirates in North Africa, but two decades of warfare had given the British considerably more experience. It had for instance, led to the promotion of officers by merit, rather than by purchase or birth. As a result the British forces were the best trained and most experienced in the world and they enjoyed the backing of the world’s greatest military power. Sir George Prevost led the large British army and its fleet into New York and down Lake Champlain to meet the Americans. But what happened that September 11th no one could have predicted.

By the end of the day, the U.S. had achieved the complete and unconditional surrender of the entire British fleet and the full retreat of all British land forces. More importantly, the American victory at Plattsburgh helped persuade the British to end the war.

That’s the bigger story, but the local story is the strength of Allan Everest’s history. As a professor of history at SUNY Plattsburgh, and the author of Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution, Our North Country Heritage, and the seminal book on the region’s prohibition history drawn from local interviewees, Rum Across the Border, Everest had a grasp of the topography of the region’s political, social, and cultural history.

Over some two and a half years, the region saw armies raised, defeated, and disbanded, including their own militia, which was repeatedly called out to protect the border areas and to serve under regular army units. Everest catalogs the political and military rivalries, and the series of disheartening defeats, loss of life, and destruction of property and markets resiliently borne by local people, who were forced to flee when battle threatened, and returned to rebuild their lives.

2001′s The Final Invasion: Plattsburgh, the War of 1812’s Most Decisive Victory painted with a broader brush and suffered criticism for misunderstanding the Plattsburgh campaign. As a result, Everest’s 30-year-old work – despite its age – is still the definitive work on the impact of the War of 1812 on northern New York.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

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.

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