Tag Archives: Warren County

The Civil War And The Adirondacks: 1861-1865


By on

0 Comments

One hundred fifty years ago this country was torn apart by a great civil war. The Adirondack Museum will host a weekend dedicated to remembering the Civil War in the Adirondacks, the men who fought it and their loved ones at home, this Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22.

Visitors will be able to meet the members of the 118th Volunteer Infantry (the “Adirondack” Regiment”) and President Lincoln at a Civil War Encampment and learn the fate of Adirondack Civil War soldiers of the 118th themselves at a specially produced  presentation by author Glenn Pearsall on Saturday (7:00 p.m.) entitled “The Adirondacks Go To War: 1861 – 1865.”

In the Adirondacks many young men, boys really, left their hard scrabble farms and small towns for the first time in their lives to enlist. Learn what their thoughts were as they marched off to war and how they reacted to the horrors of war. Hear what it was like for the wives, children, mothers and father that they left behind, as well as the lasting impact of the war on the small towns in the Adirondacks following the war.

Pearsall spent two years researching the Civil War veterans from Johnsburg in the southeastern Adirondacks before preparing this special program based on letters and journals (which will be read by a Civil War re-enactors in uniform). The presentation will also include over 100 historic photographs of soldiers and battlefield scenes. “Each member of the audience will be given a name of a soldier from the Adirondacks who fought in the war and will ultimately find out if they survived the war,”  he told the New York History.

Pearsall’s presentation will focus on men serving with the 22nd New York (one of the first to respond to President Lincoln’s call to arms and recruited in Warren and Saratoga Counties), the 93rd (recruited from Essex, Fulton, Hamilton and Warren Counties who suffered horrific losses in the contest between U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee), the 96th or “Plattsburgh Regiment” (recruited primarily from Clinton County), the 115th (recruited from Hamilton and Fulton Counties) and the 118th or “Adirondack Regiment” (recruited from Clinton, Essex and Warren Counties, the first regiment to enter the Confederate capital in Richmond on its fall). Pearsall will also explain a special Adirondack link to the capture of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.

The “Adirondack Regiment” will also be the focus of the weekend-long encampment at the Museum.  Mustered into service in August 1862, over one thousand North Country men served in the unit. Re-enactors will camp at the museum and share stories of camp life, and what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War. Visitors will learn about the 118th assignments and movements, the battles they fought in, and the historic moment when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House.

President Lincoln will be portrayed by John R. Baylis, who has appeared as the 16th President of the United States at Gettysburg, Antietam, Cedar Creek, Ottawa, and as far south as Key West.

Pearsall’s presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. The program will be offered at no charge to museum members; the fee for non-members is $5.00. For additional information, please visit www.adirondackmuseum.org or call (518) 352-7311.


Photo: A volunteer infantry soldier of the  118th “Adirondack Regiment” (circa 1863, courtesy Adirondack Museum). 

Walt Whitman Portrait at The Hyde Collection


By on

0 Comments

The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls (Warren County) is offering visitors an unprecedented opportunity to see the remarkable Portrait of Walt Whitman (1887-1888) by Thomas Eakins (1844-1914).

The Whitman portrait is considered one of Eakins’s finest paintings, and only rarely leaves Philadelphia, where it is a featured work in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). The image of one of America’s most influential poets, by one of the nation’s greatest artists, will be in Glens Falls for six months, as a second exchange for the year-long loan of The Hyde Collection’s Portrait of Henry Ossawa Tanner (ca. 1897) by Eakins. Continue reading

Seneca Ray Stoddard Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum


By on

0 Comments

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″.

Daughter of Troy: Lily, Duchess of Marlborough


By on

0 Comments

When Sally Svenson, an summer resident of Lake Luzerne and occasional contributor to Adirondack Life magazine, was writing Adirondack Churches: A History of Design and Building (2006, North Country Books) , she stumbled upon the life of Eliza Warren Price, known as Lily, Duchess of Marlborough.

Lily, who was born in Troy, NY in 1854, was reported in an old history to have provided the funds for a chapel at st. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Lake Luzerne. That turned out to be a questionable assertion, but Svenson found Lily’s obituary in the New York Times and was hooked on her incredible life story which is told in Lily, Duchess of Marlborough (1854-1909): A Portrait with Husbands (2011, Dog Ear Publishing). Continue reading

Coleman Collectors to Light-Up Lake George


By on

0 Comments

It’s probably safe to say most everyone who has ventured into Adirondack woods or waters in the last 50 years has at some time used a Coleman product.

The company once sold Skiroule snowmobiles, Hobie Cat sailboats, and even its on pop-up trailers, but most recreationists are familiar with some of the smaller Coleman products: coolers, canoes and other small boats, sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, and the ubiquitous camp stoves and Coleman lanterns.

The company was  founded in 1900 by William Coffin Coleman, known as  “W. C.”, and a  former school school principal working as a typewriter salesman who founded the company while earning money for law school.  Coleman’s obsession with a lantern that burned a bright white light is matched by legions of Coleman collectors, who pour over the company’s American made designs (Coleman was born in Columbia County, NY and moved to the mid-west) and trade stories and knowledge.

The International Coleman Collectors Club will hold it’s 20th Anniversary Convention at the Fort William Henry Convention Center in Lake George on June 28th and 30th [link]. The event, the first convention to be held in the Northeast, will feature collectors from throughout the United States and Canada and as far away as Germany, Denmark, and The Philippines.  Thirty-eight tables filled with Coleman products from the early 1900s onward, some for sale, and a seminars on lantern restoration, how mantles are made, and the Coleman Model 202 Professional lantern, a nickle-plated beauty made from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. A highlight of the event will be two outdoor Coleman “light-ups”.

Steve and Robin Miller of Queensbury are serving as hosts of the gathering. “I thought this would be a perfect place to hold a camping equipment show, right here in Lake George,” Steve Miller told me.  “We thought that this would be a great place for the collectors from around the world, as it is very beautiful here and there is so much to do,” he said,  “Lake George also has the only Coleman outlet store in the northeast, just a few miles up the road from the convention center.”

The Millers have been collecting Coleman gear for about 25 years and have about 200 Coleman lanterns, stoves, gas irons, and more, but they are quick to point out that there will be even more knowledgeable “Coleman people” at the convention, including several who have worked at the Coleman company in Wichita, KS over the years.

The event will be open to the public on Saturday only, from 9 am to 1 pm, but it’s not too late to register for the convention (pdf).

Two “light-ups” will be held. The first in the Fort William Henry parking lot on Thursday at 8:30 pm, and the second on Friday night at the Georgian Resort’s beach, beginning about 7-8:00 pm (bring your lanterns!).

Photos: Above, Steve and Robin Miller, Coleman Collectors; Below, part of the Millers’ large Coleman lantern collection.

Roller Coaster Landmark: The Comet Marks 85 Years


By on

0 Comments

Summer means warm weather and visits to the amusement parks. This year, The Comet, a classic wooden roller coaster and without a doubt the most beloved ride at the Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, NY, turns 85. The Comet is such an icon that it was named a Roller Coaster Landmark three years ago by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

“The Comet is truly a special roller coaster that was able to get a ‘second lease on life’ (or in this case, a third as it was part of a previous roller coaster at Crystal Beach). The coaster is fast paced from beginning to end, featuring tremendous ‘air-time’ (that ‘out of your seat feeling’) that coaster lovers craze the most,” explains Dave Hahner, the Historian with American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization. “We are indeed fortunate to be able to still ride the Comet years after its original park had closed forever.”

“The Comet continues to be our most popular attraction at the Park,” explains Rebecca Close, Communications Manager for the Six Flags Great Escape. “Each year there are over 400,000 rides on the Comet, above all other rides. Another measure of the Comet popularity is that it has been the setting for many weddings for park goers and coaster enthusiasts.”

The Comet was first constructed in 1927 by legendary coaster builder Harry Traver. It was first named the Cyclone, and was thought by many to be the most intense coaster ever. “A nurses station was built near the exit of the ride to assist riders who may have been overcome by some of that ride’s intensity!” said Hahner. It had a laminated wood track and a steel superstructure, but was considered to be a wooden coaster by definition. The Cyclone’s first home was Crystal Beach Amusement Park, a short distance from Buffalo, NY in Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada. The Cyclone enjoyed a robust life until 1946 when decreased park patronage and increased ride maintenance led the Park to dismantle it.

Crystal Beach then contracted with the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) and Herbert Schmeck, considered one of the best coaster designers of all time, for the design and construction of a new, larger coaster. To save money, the new coaster was built with steel salvaged from the Cyclone. It featured a low-profile layout, which saved on materials, and produced the unbridled speed that riders crave. Unveiled in 1948 as The Crystal Beach Comet, the new coaster was thought by many to be the best of its kind because of its classic profile and thrilling interplay of G-forces.

When Crystal Beach Amusement Park closed in 1989 after its 101st season, enthusiasts mourned the loss of The Comet. A month later, the coaster was rescued from destruction when legendary Charles R. Wood, owner of The Great Escape Fun Park in Lake George, NY, purchased The Comet for a record $210,000.

After a lengthy approval process and several years of storage, reconstruction of this world-class wooden coaster began in earnest in October, 1993. More than 49 tractor-trailer loads of steel crossed New York state, while more than 1,000 concrete footers were poured at The Great Escape. The complex process of sandblasting, restoring, priming, and reassembling thousands of steel subassemblies was handled entirely in-house by park personnel. Hahner explains, “the ride reopened to the public in June of 1994 and is considered a great act of historic coaster preservation, which is also one of the reasons that ACE chose to classify it as a landmark roller coaster.

“This is our signature attraction and each year we invest significant dollars to keep it running smoothly,” said Close. “In the last two years we have replaced a significant portion of the wooden track to maintain its fantastic ride.”

The Comet stands 95 feet tall and reaches speeds up to 60 mph never ceasing to surprise riders with its gut-wrenching hills and drops along its 4,197 foot long track. The Comet is an icon, a classic, a universal favorite that perennially is chosen as one of the top ten roller coasters in the world.

“There are currently 28 roller coasters designated as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark, with a 29th, Whizzer, an Anton Schwarzkopf steel coaster at Six Flags Great America, to be dedicated in August at our national ACE Preservation Conference,” said Hahner. “The purpose of the landmark award is to make the public aware of the historical significance of those rides that we feel are important to the evolution of roller coaster design or of special historical significance to the amusement industry.”

“We are honored to have such a high profile and historical attraction on our Park. The Great Escape loves to hear the feedback from park guests each year,” said Close. “Guests from all over the world come to ride the Comet and tell us about their first trip, when it was here or while it was at Crystal Beach. The Comet means a lot to The Great Escape and we look forward to providing many more years of thrills at The Great Escape.”

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga in the Upper Hudson Valley.

Lake George’s Sunken Fleet of 1758 Event


By on

0 Comments

On Tuesday, June 5, 7 p.m. at Thurman town hall underwater archaeologist  Joseph W. Zarzynski will present a talk on Bateaux Below’s study of “The Sunken Fleet of 1758,” a notable event at Lake George during the French & Indian War (1755-1763).

In the autumn of 1758, the British sank over 260 warships in Lake George to protect the vessels over the winter of 1758-1759 from their enemy, the French and their Native American allies. Many of the sunken warships were recovered in 1759 and reused by the British.  However, over 40 sunken warships were never retrieved by the British forces in 1759 and they offer underwater archaeologists an excellent opportunity to study these shipwrecks to find out about the colonial soldiers that used them.

Zarzynski’s talk will give details on Bateaux Below’s 24-year-long study (1987-2011) of “The Sunken Fleet of 1758.”Zarzynski is co-founder of Bateaux Below, co-author (with Bob Benway) of the book Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, and co-authored the documentary Search for the Jefferson Davis: Trader, Slaver, Raider.  The documentary, written with Dr. Samuel Turner, was a 2012 Peabody Awards nominee, and an “Official Selection” in the Orlando Film Festival (2011),  Amelia Island Film Festival (2012), and the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (2012). The documentary was named one of three finalists for “Best Documentary” in the 6th Buffalo Niagara Film Festival.

Zarzynski’s June 5th program, hosted by the John Thurman Historical Society, is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. Thurman town hall is located at 311 Athol Road, Athol, NY, about 6 miles from the Warrensburg Health Center via route 418 and Athol Road. For more information, call 518-623-9305.

Photo: Joseph W. Zarzynski holds a model of the type of 18th century radeau that plied the waters of Lake George during the French and Indian War (Photo courtesy Peter Pepe).

Stoddard’s Natural Views Exhibit Opeing May 4th


By on

0 Comments

Long considered beautiful photographs of the Adirondack landscape, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s views also serve as documents of the plants that inhabited the region in the 19th century. Since he was rediscovered in the late 1970s, Stoddard’s work has been featured in numerous exhibits that explored the history of 19th century life in the Adirondacks. A survey of the 3,000 images in the Chapman Historical Museum archives, however, revealed hundreds of images that are purely natural landscapes. The subject matter is the Adirondack environment – not great hotels, steamers, camp scenes or other obvious evidence of human activity.

The Chapman’s summer exhibit, S.R. Stoddard’s Natural Views, features forty enlarged photographs of varied Adirondack settings – lake shores, marshes, meadows, riverbanks and mountainsides. Included are such locations as Surprise Falls on Gill Brook, Indian Pass, Lake Sanford, Ausable Chasm, Wolf Pond and Paradise Bay on Lake George. The exhibit examines these photographs as documents of the history of ecological habitats, providing an opportunity to consider the issue of environmental change – an issue as relevant in Stoddard’s time as it is today.

To address this issue the museum consulted with Paul Smith’s College biologist, Daun Reuter, and Don Leopold of SUNY-ESF, who identified botanical species in Stoddard’s photographs. Plants that they discovered in Stoddard’s photographs — from small flowers to shrubs and trees – are highlighted in modern color images supplied by Ms. Reuter and others and in digital reproductions of period specimens from the herbarium at the New York State Museum. These show details of the plants in their various stages – details rarely visible in Stoddard’s photographs many of which were taken late in the year after the plants had lost their flowers and started to wither.

By bringing attention to this group of Stoddard photographs, the exhibit will give visitors the opportunity to discover and reflect on the changing environment – a topic of urgent concern in the region. Through their experience visitors will gain greater appreciation for not only Stoddard’s photographic vision but also the natural world of the Adirondacks. The exhibit is funded by grants from the Leo Cox Beach Philanthropic Foundation and the Waldo T. Ross & Ruth S. Ross Charitable Trust Foundation and sponsored by Glen Street Associates and Cooper’s Cave Ale Co.

For those who wish to learn more, the Chapman Historical Museum has scheduled a series of programs (detailed below) to be held at both the museum at and other sites. The museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY. For more information call (518) 793-2826 or go to www.chapmanmuseum.org.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Wednesday, May 30, 7 pm
Talk: “UNWANTED: Invasive species of the Adirondacks”
Speaker: Hilary Smith, Director, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program
At the Chapman. Free.

Saturday, June 9, 8:30 -11:30 am
Bird Walk in Pack Forest, Warrensburg
Guide: Brian McAllister, Adirondack Birding Center

Bird watch along the nature trail to the old growth forest. Bring binoculars, field guide, water, snack, bug repellant, hiking shoes, and appropriate dress. For birders of all levels. Call (518) 793-2826 for directions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 7 pm
Talk: “Go Native! An Introduction to Gardening with Native Plants”
Speaker: Emily DeBolt, Fiddlehead Creek Farm & Native Plant Nursery
At the Chapman. Free.

Thursday July 12, 9:30-11:30 am.
A plant paddle at Dunham’s Bay.
Guide: Emily DeBolt, Lake George Association.

Part of the 7th annual Adk Park Invasive Species Awareness Week Bring your own canoe or kayak. Meet at Dunham’s Bay Marina For reservations call the LGA at (518) 668-3558

Saturday, August 4, 1 – 3 pm
Guided Bog Walk of Native Adirondack Plants
Guide: Daun Reuter, Dept Biology, Paul Smith’s College

At Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center. Reservations: $20. Call the VIC at (518)327-6241

Saturday, August 18, 8 am
Guided alpine plant hike up Wright Peak
Guide: Sean Robinson, Dept Biology, SUNY Oneonta

Meet at ADK LOJ parking lot. Parking $. Info & Reservations: Call the museum at (518) 793-2826

Photos: Above, Silver Cascade, Elizabethtown by S.R. Stoddard, ca. 1890.

Exec Dir David Setford to Leave Hyde Collection


By on

0 Comments

The Hyde Collection has announced that David F. Setford has informed the Board of Trustees that he intends to leave his post as Executive Director in August. A nationwide search will be conducted to identify a successor.

Setford, who has led the Hyde for four and a half years, spearheaded high-profile exhibitions including Degas and Music in 2009 and Andrew Wyeth: An American Legend in 2010 and oversaw a successful $3 million capital campaign. He has accepted a position with International Fine Art Expositions in Florida, as Managing Executive directing international art fairs in Palm Beach and Miami. Continue reading

Documenting the Birthplace of Mathew Brady


By on

0 Comments

What follows is a guest essay by Glenn L. Pearsall who recently confirmed the birthplace of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady in Warren County, NY. The essay originally appeared in the Warren County Historical Society newsletter.

On November 10, 2011 the Town of Johnsburg Historical Society commemorated the birthplace of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. They had a cast iron historic marker made and placed at the entrance of the C. Ernest Noxon Community Center in Wevertown, Warren County, NY. Brady was born in Johnsburg Township about 4 miles south of Wevertown in 1822 or 1823. A story of that dedication ceremony was featured in the Glens Falls Post Star and then picked up by the Associated Press. From there the story was distributed nationally and online versions of the story appeared across the country including the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and the New York Times.

The research into documenting Brady birthplace in Johnsburg began in 2006 and reads like a detective story or an episode of the PBS show “History Detectives”.

Mathew (only one “t”) Brady was an internationally known figure and much of what we know of the Civil War and famous leaders of the 19th Century comes from his photographs. Mathew Brady’s photographs of the dead at the battle of Antietam, featured in his New York City Gallery on October 1862, brought home to America for the first time the true horror of the Civil War. His corps of photographers documented that war with tens of thousands of photographs. His February 9, 1864 picture of Abraham Lincoln was featured on the U.S. $5 bill since 1928 and when that bill was re-designed in March of 2008 a new picture of Lincoln was used, taken by Brady that same day in 1864. Although most famous for his Civil War work, Brady’s Gallery of Illustrious Americans featured luminaries from Andrew Jackson to Andrew Carnegie. Brady’s work helped record and preserve American history, and yet, until just recently, the birthplace of this famous American remained a mystery.

Mathew Brady’s personal letters indicate that he was born north of Lake George, NY of “poor Irish immigrant parents”. Most Brady biographies are silent as to his exact place of birth. Others list his birthplace as Lake George, or just Warren County, New York. Local folklore here in the southeastern Adirondacks has said for years that he was born in Johnsburg, NY, but there was no documentation to substantiate that claim.

In 2006 I began research for my first book Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, An Adirondack Community (Pyramid Press, 2008, recipient of a “Letter of Commendation” from the 35 county Upstate History Alliance in 2009). In writing that book I took on the challenge to try to actually document the place of Brady’s birth.

The Federal Census in the early 1800s does not include the names of children. I began, therefore, with Mathew Brady’s father. It is commonly acknowledged that Mathew Brady died in New York City January 15, 1896. With his name and date and place of death it was easy to obtain a certified copy of Mathew Brady’s death certificate from the New York City Dept of Health (New York City Death Certificate #1746). That certificate lists his father as Andrew and mother as Julia. The death certificate notes his place of birth only as “U.S.”.

An inspection of the 1830 Federal Census of towns north of Lake George indicated that the only Andrew Brady listed was in the Census for the Town of Johnsburgh (then spelled with a “h”). That census lists Andrew Brady with 5 children; three boys and two girls. Two of those boys are listed in that 1830 census between the ages 5 to 10. Most sources list Mathew Brady as being born in 1822 or 1823 so he would have been 7 or 8 in 1830. The only reference to an exact date of birth is on www.NNDB.com which lists his date of birth as January 15, 1823, but there is no documentation listed for this and the exact date of January 15th may be confused with his date of death on January 15, 1896, 72 years later).

The next challenge was to determine exactly where he might have been born. In the early 1980s I had visited regularly with Lewis Waddell, then Town of Johnsburg Historian (now long since deceased). Lewis had told me about where the old foundation site was, but we never got around to visiting it together so I was not sure of its exact location. In the Johnsburg Historical Society files, however, I found a sketch that Lewis Waddell had made as to the location of the foundation. It was not to scale, however, so it took some exploring. Bushwhacking around the base of Gage Mountain my wife Carol and son Adam and I located the old road that went from the Glen to Wevertown (the road was later straightened and is now NYS RT 28). Referencing the other foundations along that old road that Waddell had sketched in, we located what I believe to be the foundation of the house where Mathew Brady was born in 1822 or 1823.

The actual site of Brady’s birthplace lies 4.1 miles south of Wevertown off of NYS Rt 28. The house foundation lies about 275 yards off the west side of the road (GPS N 63 degrees 36’00.6”x W 73 degrees 52’44.4”) on private property.

It has been written that Brady left the area at age 16 (in 1838 or 1839). Some sources indicate that his first stop was Saratoga Springs, N.Y. where he met famed portrait painter William Page. Brady became Page’s student and in 1839 the two of them travelled to Albany, N.Y. In 1844 they continued south to New York City where Brady’s instructions were supplemented under the tutelage of Samuel F. B. Morse (portrait painter and inventor of the single wire telegraph system). Morse was enthusiastic about the new art of capturing images through daguerreotype having met Louis Jacques Daguerre in Paris in 1839. Soon Brady was also excited about the new process and established his first photographic studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street. In 1849 he established a studio in Washington D.C. so that he could photograph the famous men of his time there.

In 1896, depressed by the death of his wife Juliet (“Julia” Handy) 9 years earlier and suffering from alcoholism and loneliness, Mathew Brady died in the charity ward of the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Penniless at the time of his death, his funeral was paid for by veterans of the famous 7th New York Volunteer Infantry. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Photos: Above, Glenn Pearsall at the re-discovered Mathew Brady foundation in Johnsburg; middle, a hand drawn map by former Town of Johnsburg Historian Lewis Waddell showing the possible location of the Brady homestead (not to scale); below, the newly installed historic marker in nearby Wevertown, NY. (Photos courtesy Glenn Pearsall).

Adirondack Local History: Echoes in these Mountains


By on

0 Comments

Glenn L. Pearsall’s Echoes in these Mountains, is subtitled “Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community,” but thanks to Pearsall, a tireless advocate for local history, those historic sites and stories are being remembered.

The geography of Johnsburg, the largest township in New York State, is central to Echoes in these Mountains. The book is arranged in chapters highlighting various historic sites, all with handy maps to help locate them on the landscape. That approach – locating historical stories around town on the landscape – is part of what drives Pearsall’s personal exploration of his town’s history, and what led to the answer to an interesting historical question.

In 2006, as Pearsall began writing Echoes in these Mountains he set out to confirm long-held local oral history that Mathew Brady was born in Johnsburg and lived there until heading off to become, after his death, the most famous photographer of Civil War. (Brady’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln appears on the $5 bill – both the old and new designs).

From Brady’s personal letters historians had long known that he was born and spent his youth north of Lake George. Pearsall confirmed through vital records and census schedules that Brady had in fact grown up in Johnsburg, off the old road that went from the Glen to Wevertown (now the straightened Route 28). Bushwacking the old road near Gage Mountain, which now crosses private property, Pearsall found the remains of the homestead.

The story is illustrative of the trove of historical sites in Adirondack small towns, some yet hidden, some in plain sight. Echoes in these Mountains brings those in Johnsburg to life again.

The book is handy as well. GPS locations of each of the book’s 55 historic sites are included in addition to the maps, along with a driving tour. At more than 400 pages, this local history is comprehensive, and well footnoted, though disappointingly lacking an index when would make it all the more important a as reference work. But that’s a minor complaint considering the depth and breadth of Pearsall’s effort. It’s among the most important references to Johnsburg’s local history and an outstanding small study of one Adirondack community.

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

Forest to Fields: Champlain Valley Agriculture History


By on

0 Comments

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.

Searching for Justice Joseph Crater (Part 2)


By on

0 Comments

After NYS Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crater went missing in New York City in 1930, the search led to Plattsburgh and then to the Meridian Hotel, a few feet across the border from Champlain.

Nothing concrete was found in New York’s northeastern corner, but a few days later, Crater was sighted at Fourth Lake in the Old Forge area. He was also “positively” identified as one of two men seen at a Raquette Lake hunting lodge in late August. Two detectives followed that trail, while others were summoned to confirm a sighting at the Ausable Club near Keene Valley.

As if that weren’t enough, it was announced that Crater had spent a couple of days at Hulett’s Landing on the eastern shore of Lake George, and then at Brant Lake. Police and detectives pursued every lead, while headlines told the story from New York to Texas to Seattle.

A sure sighting was confirmed by three employees of Tupper Lake’s Altamont Hotel. Investigators there pursued the trail to Cranberry Lake. Elsewhere, police spent two days searching every room of every cabin on Saratoga Lake. Later, the Altamont sighting turned out to be a businessman from Buffalo, and the Horicon (Brant Lake) report was proven bogus.

By mid-September, the search had gone nationwide, but most of the top investigators still believed Crater was roaming through the Adirondacks.

Five months after Crater vanished, the plot thickened. Returning to their Fifth Avenue apartment for the first time, Stella found hidden envelopes containing insurance policies, cash, stocks, bonds, uncashed checks, a list of people who owed money to her husband—and a long note, ending with what appeared to be, “I am weary. Love, Joe.”

Police insisted those materials were not present when they searched the apartment months earlier. As the mystery deepened, suspicions and theories abounded. Why would a popular judge simply disappear? Speculation raged as the hunt continued.

It all proved futile—Crater was nowhere to be found, and none of the sightings were positively substantiated. Within a year, the modern equivalent of $4 million had been spent, and leads had been followed in New York City, Maine, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba.

At Crown Point on Lake Champlain, exactly a year after his disappearance, New York City investigators followed up on a report that an unidentified man, now said to be Crater, had died in a fall from the cliff at Big Hollow. Nothing conclusive was ever found.

Like the ubiquitous sightings of Elvis since his death, Crater was everywhere: hunting in the Adirondacks; lounging on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City; a patient in a Virginia sanatorium; prospecting in California; shaved by a barber in North Dakota; and found floating off the coast of New England. Eventually, he was seen in Europe, South America, and in all 50 states.

One caller from Montreal gave the hotel and room number where Crater could be found at that very moment. Authorities in Canada were notified. Rushing to the scene, they burst in to find a thoroughly embarrassed couple on their honeymoon. The prank caller must have been pleased.

Five years after Joseph’s disappearance, an inmate at Dannemora Prison claimed to have knowledge of Crater’s whereabouts, but would share the information only with Stella. She declined, based on the advice of the warden, who said it was nothing more than a scam to seek commutation of the prisoner’s sentence in return for his story.

For insurance purposes, Joseph Crater was declared legally dead in 1939, but the story had legs. The search went on and sightings continued for many decades. Those “I saw Judge Crater!” stories above are rooted among the 16,000 tips received through 1980, half a century after he vanished. He was long referred to as “the Most Missingest Man in New York.”

At the end of his act, Groucho Marx was said to have often commented, “I’m going to step out and look for Judge Crater.” Common for decades as a joke and in graffiti were lines like, “Judge Crater, call your office” and “Paging Judge Crater.” His name made it into the vernacular as well. For decades, the phrase “pulled a Crater” was an everyday expression referring to someone who suddenly disappeared or was being evasive.

His was a complex story with many possible endings: a new life, suicide, a mob hit, and death because of political problems, mistress troubles, or financial dealings. In August 2005, 75 years to the month after Crater disappeared, a new wrinkle surfaced with the death of 91-year-old Stella Ferrucci-Good in New York City.

Among her belongings in a safe-deposit box was a letter marked for opening only after her death. The letter said that over drinks long ago, her husband had heard the names of Crater’s killers. She named them (investigators have followed up with varying results), and said Crater was buried under the Boardwalk, beneath the current site of the New York Aquarium.

Perhaps he sleeps with the fishes after all.

Photos: Judge Joseph Force Crater; Dapper Judge Crater was always dressed to the nines.

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.

Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Event


By on

0 Comments

The Adirondack Museum will offer its fifth event in the 2012 Cabin Fever Sunday series, the “Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps: History, Memories and Legacy of the CCC,” in North Creek, (Warren County) on Sunday, March 11, 2012.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public works program that operated from 1933 to 1942 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. In the Adirondacks, enrollees built trails, roads, campsites and dams, they stocked fish, built and maintained fire towers, observers’ cabins and telephone lines, fought fires, and planted millions of trees. Learn about camp life and Adirondack projects with author Marty Podskock.

Marty Podskoch, a retired reading teacher, is the author of three other books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore (2000); Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts (2003); Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts (2005). While gathering stories of the forest rangers and fire tower observers, he became fascinated with other aspects of the Adirondacks such as the logging and mining industries, the individualistic men who guided sportsmen, the hotels they stayed in, the animals, railroads, etc. Marty and his wife, Lynn, live in Colchester, CT where they are close to their family and two granddaughters, Kira and Lydia. He enjoys hiking in the nearby Salmon River Forest and is doing research on the CCC camps of the Adirondacks and Connecticut. For more information, visit http://www.cccstories.com/index.html.

This program will be held at the Tannery Pond Community Center, North Creek, N.Y., and will begin at 1:30 p.m. Free to members and children; $5 for non-members. For additional information, please call (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibition at the Hyde Collection


By on

0 Comments

The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, Warren County, has announced it will present the exhibition Toulouse-Lautrec & Company: Prints from the Belle Époque. On view in Hoopes Gallery from March 3, 2012 through May 27, 2012, the exhibition will feature ten lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec and approximately twenty prints by his contemporaries including Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Jules Chéret (1836-1932), Maurice Denis (1870-1943), Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923), and Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940). Continue reading

Stoddard Views Coming to Chapman Museum


By on

0 Comments

Long considered beautiful photographs of the Adirondack landscape, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s views also serve well as documents of the plants that inhabited the region in the 19th century. The Chapman Historical Museum’s summer exhibit, S.R. Stoddard’s Natural Views, which will run from May 4 through September 2, will feature fifty enlarged photographs of different Adirondack settings – lake shores, marshes, meadows, riverbanks and mountainsides. Highlighted in modern color images will be examples of the plants discovered in Stoddard’s photographs — from small flowers to shrubs and trees.

Since he was rediscovered in the late 1970s, Stoddard’s work has been featured in numerous exhibits that explored the history of 19th century life in the Adirondacks. A survey of the 3000 images in the Chapman archives, however, revealed hundreds of images that are purely natural landscapes. The subject matter is the Adirondack environment – not great hotels, steamers, camp scenes or other obvious evidence of human activity.

The summer 2012 exhibit will examine these photographs as documents of the history of ecological habitats, providing an opportunity to compare the present environment with the past. To address this issue the museum is consulting with Paul Smith’s College biologist, Daun Reuter, who will identify botanical species in Stoddard’s photographs, and exploring 19th century biological fieldwork records housed at the New York State Museum.

By bringing attention to a group of Stoddard photographs that have been overlooked but are significant examples of his work, the exhibit will give visitors the opportunity to discover and reflect on the changing environment – a topic of urgent concern in the region. Through their experience visitors will gain greater understanding not only to Stoddard’s photographic vision but also of the natural world of the Adirondacks.

Photos: Above, Silver Cascade, Elizabethtown by S.R. Stoddard, ca. 1890. Below: modern color photo of Wild Raisin by Dawn Reuter, Biology Dept., Paul Smith’s College.

World War One Nurse Florence Bullard


By on

0 Comments

In Adirondack history, like in most other parts of America, war heroes abound. Traditionally, they are men who have lost limbs, men who risked their lives to save others, and men who fought valiantly against incredible odds. Some died, while others survived, but for the most part, they shared one common thread: they were all men. But in my own humble estimation, one of the North Country’s greatest of all war heroes was a woman.

Florence Church Bullard, the female in question, was “from” two places. Known for most of her life as a Glens Falls girl, she was born in January 1880 in New Sweden, a small settlement in the town of Ausable.

By the time she was 20, Florence had become a schoolteacher in Glens Falls, where she boarded with several other teachers. Seeking something more from life, she enrolled in St. Mary’s Hospital, a training facility of the Mayo Brothers in Rochester, Minnesota. After graduating, she worked as a private nurse for several years.

In December 1916, four months before the United States entered World War I, Florence left for the battlefields of Europe. As a Red Cross nurse, she served with the American Ambulance Corps at the hospital in Neuilly, France, caring for injured French soldiers. They often numbered in the thousands after major battles.

On April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered the war, but the first American troops didn’t arrive in Europe until the end of June. Florence had considered the possibility of returning home by fall of that year because of potential attacks on the home front by Germany or Mexico (yes, the threat was real).

But with the US joining the fray in Europe, Florence decided she could best serve the cause by tending to American foot soldiers, just as she had cared for French troops since her arrival.

Until the Americans landed, she continued serving in the French hospital and began writing a series of letters to family and friends in Glens Falls and Ausable. Those missives provide a first-hand look at the war that took place a century ago.

The US had strongly resisted involvement in the conflict, but when Congress voted to declare war, Florence described the immediate reaction in Europe. Her comments offer insight on America’s role as an emerging world power and how we were viewed by others back then.

“I have never known anything so inspiring as Paris has been since the news came that America had joined the Allies. Almost every building in Paris is flying the American flag. Never shall I forget last Saturday evening. I was invited to go to the opera … that great opera house had not an empty seat. It was filled with Russians, Belgians, British, and French, with a few Americans scattered here and there. Three-quarters of the huge audience was in uniform.

“Just before the curtain went up for the second act, the wonderful orchestra burst out into the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ In a flash, those thousands were on their feet as if they were one person. One could have heard a pin drop except for the music. The music was played perfectly and with such feeling. Afterwards, the applause was so tremendous that our national anthem was repeated.

“The tears sprang to my eyes and my heart seemed to be right in my throat. It seemed as if I must call right out to everyone, ‘I’m an American and that was my national anthem!’ I have never witnessed such a demonstration of patriotism in my life. The officers of every allied nation clad in their brilliant uniforms stood in deference to our country.”

The work she had done thus far received strong support from the folks back home. In a letter to her sister in Ausable, Florence wrote, “Try to know how much gratitude and appreciation I feel to you and all the people of Glens Falls who have given so generously of their time and money. It was such fun to help the committee open the boxes and to realize that the contents had all been arranged and made by people that I know personally.

“The committee remarked upon the splendid boxes with hinged covers and the manner in which they were packed. When the covers were lifted, the things looked as if they might have been packed in the next room and the last article just fitted into the box. I was just a little proud to have them see how things are done in Glens Falls. Again, my gratitude, which is so hard to express.”

Florence’s credentials as a Mayo nurse, her outstanding work ethic, and connections to some important doctors helped ease her transition into the American war machine. The French, understandably, were loathe to see her go, so highly valued was her service.

In a letter to Maude, her older sister, Florence expressed excitement at establishing the first triage unit for American troops at the front. They were expected to treat 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers every 24 hours. Upon evaluation, some would be patched up and moved on; some would be operated on immediately; and others would be cared for until they were well enough to be moved to safer surroundings.

Florence’s sensitive, caring nature was evident when she told of the very first young American to die in her care. “He was such a boy, and he told me much about himself. He said that when the war broke out, he wanted to enlist. But he was young, and his mother begged him not to, so he ran away. And here he was, wounded and suffering, and he knew he must die.

“All the time, that boy was crying for his mother … he was grieving over her. And so I did what I could to take her place. And during the hours of his delirium, he sometimes thought I was his mother, and for the moment, he was content.

“Every morning, that lad had to be taken to the operating room to have the fluid drawn from off his lungs because of the hemorrhage. When finally that last day the doctor came, he knew the boy’s time was short and he could not live, so he said he would not operate. But the boy begged so hard, he said it relieved him so, that we took him in.

“And then those great, confident eyes looked into mine and he said, ‘You won’t leave me mother, will you?’ And I said, ‘No, my son.’ But before that simple operation could be completed, that young life had passed out. And I am not ashamed to tell you that as I cut a curl of hair to send to his mother, my tears fell on that young boy’s face-—not for him, but for his mother.”

Working tirelessly dressing wounds and assisting the surgeons, Bullard displayed great capability and leadership. She was offered the position of hospital superintendent if she chose to leave the front. It was a tremendous opportunity, but one that Florence Bullard turned down. Rather than supervise and oversee, she preferred to provide care directly to those in need.

Next week: Part 2—Nurse Bullard under hellish bombing attack.

Photos: Above, Florence Church Bullard, nurse, hero; Middle, World War One Red Cross poster; Below WWI wounded soldier in France.

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.

Civil War: Lester Archer, 96th New York Infantry


By on

0 Comments

In this, the year marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, there is a North Country native who served with particular distinction in the 96th Infantry. The 96th, often referred to as the Plattsburgh Regiment (and sometimes Macomb’s Regiment), was recruited from villages across the region, spanning from Malone to Plattsburgh in the north, and south to Ticonderoga, Fort Edward, and Warrensburg.

Among those to join at Fort Edward was 23-year-old Lester Archer, a native of nearby Fort Ann. Lester enlisted as a corporal in December, 1861, and for three years served with hundreds of North Country boys and men who saw plenty of combat, primarily in Virginia.

In June, 1864, Archer was promoted to sergeant amidst General U. S. Grant’s heated campaign to take Richmond, a critical Confederate site. Guarding Richmond several miles to the south on the James River was Fort Harrison, a strategic rebel stronghold.

To divide Lee’s troops, a surprise attack was launched on Fort Harrison on September 29. The men of the 96th were among those who charged up the hill against withering fire, successfully driving off the fort’s defenders and assuming control. As the fort was being overtaken, a Union flag was planted by Sergeant Lester Archer, emphatically declaring victory.

Until Harrison fell, it was considered the strongest Confederate fort between Richmond and Petersburg, 25 miles south. Lee’s forces regrouped to launch several bloody efforts at recapturing the vital site, but the North stood their ground, protecting the prize.

Union General Burnham was killed in the battle, and in his honor, the site was temporarily renamed Fort Burnham. More than 800 soldiers were buried nearby at what is now known as Fort Harrison National Cemetery.

The 96th remained in the vicinity of Fort Harrison for three weeks, and in late October, an assault was launched against Fort Richmond at Five Oaks. The result was a bloody, hard-fought battle, with both sides claiming victory, but both suffering heavy casualties. Many North Country soldiers were killed or captured. Just three weeks after heroically planting the Union flag atop Fort Harrison, Sergeant Lester Archer was among those who perished at Five Oaks.

On April 6, 1865, Archer’s exceptional efforts were officially acknowledged. The highest US military decoration for valor was conferred upon him with these words: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (posthumously) to Sergeant Lester Archer, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 29 September 1864, while serving with Company E, 96th New York Infantry, in action at Fort Harrison, Virginia, for gallantry in placing the colors of his regiment on the fort.”

President Lincoln himself would die just nine days later.

Photo Top: Lester Archer.

Photo Bottom: Scene at Fort Harrison, Virginia 1864.

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.