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A bench dedicated to Carl Schurz in Bolton Landing

A bench dedicated to Carl Schurz in Bolton Landing

The Adirondacks and the Civil War: Carl Schurz and the Emancipation Proclamation

By James H. Miller

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When he was 70 years old, Carl Schurz began to write his three-volume memoirs, The Reminiscences, at his Lake George summer cottage. The journalist Ida Minerva Tarbell, who often visited him there, had persuaded Schurz to write his life story after learning of the overlooked role he played in the emancipation of the slaves.

Appointed by President Lincoln, Carl Schurz became the Union minister to Spain in 1861. Schurz’s mission abroad was to test the waters in Europe, so to speak, and find out where foreign sympathies lied. Lincoln needed to be sure that foreign powers would remain neutral throughout the war; that if they chose to intervene, it would be to stand firmly behind the Union cause. In a way, the preservation of the Union depended on a war that would remain between countrymen.

Carl Schurz reluctantly boarded a ship to Europe with troubles of conscience about leaving in a time of war. Schurz was a passionate abolitionist, and in his mind, the Civil War boiled down to a conflict between those who were for slavery, and those who were against slavery. The South “had set up an independent confederacy, not to vindicate the constitutional liberty of the citizen and the right of man to govern himself, but to vindicate the right of one man to enslave another man…”

Soon after arriving in Madrid, Schurz realized that Lincoln’s fears were real. Public opinion doubted the North and appeared to favor the southern rebels. Newspapers routinely lampooned the Union and published Confederate propaganda. As Schurz noted in a telegram to Washington:

“While they carefully abstain from alluding to the rights of slavery, they speak of free trade and cotton to the merchant and the manufacturer, and of the right of self-government to the liberal.”

Governments, too, especially England and France, were whispering around ideas of backing the South. Louis Napoleon III of France would have benefited strategically in Mexico if he supported the Confederates to victory. And England had important commercial interests in the south, which had been disrupted by the Union blockade–England’s textile industry, which relied heavily on cotton from the south, was suffering.

When news of the Union retreat at Bull Run reached Europe in July, the diplomatic situation became worse. The North became a laughingstock for what many Europeans perceived to be the army’s incompetence and cowardice.

“I could not see a Spaniard smile without suspecting that he was laughing at our Bull Run rout,” Schurz remembered.

In November of 1861, tensions between England and the North became dangerously aggravated when Union Captain Charles Wilkes boarded British merchant vessel, the Trent. The vessel had been carrying Confederate diplomats who were on their way to garner support in Europe. Captain Wilkes immediately arrested the diplomats in spite of international law. England was outraged, and strongly considering entering the war.

Schurz knew some kind of action had to be taken in order to prevent England from doing so. And the abolitionist realized the only sure way to do that was to clearly define the Civil War as a war between the free North and the slave holding South. Britain had abolished slavery years ago, France as well.

“If, therefore, this having been made clear,” Schurz wrote, “any European power chose to countenance the Southern Confederacy, it could do so only with the distinct understanding that it was taking sides with the cause of human slavery in its struggle for further existence and dominion.”

After a stormy boat ride across the Atlantic, Schurz met with President Lincoln and explained to him his firm belief that an anti-slavery policy needed to be adopted in order to send a clear message to the world what the South really stood for.

Lincoln was convinced by Schurz that no foreign power would support a nation “built on the cornerstone of slavery”. But Lincoln was uneasy about an anti-slavery policy that might have an adverse effect on morale in the North. As things stood, the people were solidly united. If a new anti-slavery dimension were added to the war, there could very well be infighting. If Lincoln were going to unify the country, he would need a unified north.

Schurz was asked to learn how others in Washington might respond to an anti-slavery policy. So Schurz reached out to Democrats and rallied Republicans. He formed the Emancipation Society and planned a meeting. He drafted a speech, “Reconciliation by Emancipation”. And before the meeting, he read it to President Lincoln.

“First, the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and wherever the National Government had immediate authority. Secondly, the confiscation, and, ipso facto, the emancipation of slaves belonging to persons engaged in the rebellion. And thirdly, the offer of a fair compensation to loyal Slave States and loyal masters who would agree to some system of emancipation.”

After Schurz had finished, Lincoln said, “Now, you go and deliver that speech at your meeting…And maybe you will hear something from me on the same day.”

The group did hear from Lincoln. A telegram arrived that asked Congress to adopt a resolution “that the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery…”

The first steps had been taken on the road to emancipation. Lincoln’s proposed resolution was adopted, and a month later, slavery was banned in the District of Columbia. Not a single foreign country ever entered the war.

North of downtown Bolton, off of Route 9, is a small, overlooked park dedicated to the memory of Schurz and his good friend, Abraham Jacobi. The inscription on a bench reads, “For fourteen summers, he achieved and rested in these precincts whose beauty was his never ending joy”.

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Photos by Clea G. Hall

Photos by Clea G. Hall

What’s Up: Stand Up Paddling on Lake George

By Melanie Houck

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

“This is almost like walking on water!”  This was my first thought as I successfully stood up, tottered a bit, and managed to stay upright.  I felt my leg muscles tense, and my toes automatically tried to cling to the wet, smooth surface I balanced upon.  I tried not to think about all those little waves constantly rocking my fiberglass  island, nor the steady wind that would be felt all the more once out of the haven of the docking area.  I was fully decked out in my bathing suit and life jacket, 110% sure I was going to involuntarily perfect the ‘art’ of falling off my board.  It was a beautiful day with few clouds, and despite my trepidation about the waves, the wind felt good.

Ah summer in the Adirondacks!  It is finally here, as fleeting as it is.  For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s no end to the possible activities to squeeze in those free hours.  Today I took a lesson in another fun activity to add to my ever growing list of watery escapades; using a stand up paddle board, otherwise called a SUP.

When asked if I would be interested in trying it, I was definitely curious as I’d never heard of SUPs before.  I felt just a tad concerned because  I know that I don’t have the sense of balance I used to, for whatever reason (never age!).  Once upon a time I played sports regularly, was pretty athletic, and considered myself to be fairly ‘balanced.’

I was relieved that the day was nice and warm, so falling often wouldn’t be quite so horrible.  My friend Oli and I arrived at the boathouse of the Lake George Kayak Company and were greeted by instructor John Flynn.  He introduced us to our boards which are similar to surf boards.  I really didn’t know what to expect, other than what the brief video on YouTube showed me.

Melanie and Oli

Our gear was simple; a paddle board ranging anywhere from 9 to 14 feet long,  really long single blade paddles, and life jackets.  That’s it!  John shared with us some tips on several of the different strokes we’d use to maneuver, and also some of the history of SUPs.  The sport has a Hawaiian origin and is relatively new in the rest of the states. In just the last few years the sport’s popularity has spread throughout the US, starting to reach further inland into places like Lake George.  I felt pretty excited, knowing we had the privilege of learning a sport that maybe few people had yet to hear of.

Once the initial instructions were complete, we slid into the ‘warm water, and by ‘warm’ I mean…bbbrrr!!  This was my first time this year getting into the beautiful crystal clear waters of LG and it took a minute to adjust.  I tried not to think about what it might feel like if I involuntarily plunged my whole self into the water.  I learned how to get onto my 12 foot board, hoisting up onto my chest and then sliding on.  We started out on our knees, getting a feel for the board and the motion of the small waves.  Slowly we stood up and took another few minutes to get our bearings.  We stood facing forward, not sideways like in surfing, making sure to be in the center of the board.  I looked around grinning like a fool.  This was cool!  After my initial excitement over ‘walking on water,’ the fisherwoman in me thought how much fun it would be to fish standing on one of these things.  John said that people do, and even mentioned seeing a video on YouTube of a guy reeling in a shark off one of these boards.  Later on, I checked it out and while I wouldn’t mind a bass or trout off this thing, I’m not quite ready to take on a shark.  In fact, I think I’ll skip that activity altogether.  The video is worth seeing though!

The water is so clear on LG, and looking down from the board, it was a neat sight to behold.  I was literally on top of the world, the aquatic world that is.  John once again demonstrated some of the paddle motions, how to go forward in a straight line, which is called the Jay stroke.  Seconds later Oli and I were blown away in the opposite direction by the wind.  Skinny people standing on a board can be easily influenced by a good gust.

Learning from the experts at Lake George Kayak Company

After just an hour though, my legs stopped wobbling and shaking, and I could not only paddle forward (maybe not quite in a straight line but I was no longer floundering in circles!) with or against the wind, but I could also voluntarily go backwards and turn around!  Along with John’s simple and clear instruction, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of paddling, especially if you have any experience in canoeing.  There’s something magical and even a bit majestic about standing tall on one of these boards and gliding along.  Races do exist for SUPs, especially on the west coast.  John told us that races range from distances of 3k to 22k!  He also noted that women seem to be the most interested, as this is a great and easy workout.  Even though you don’t move your legs much, you are engaging those muscles for balance, as well as your arms and your core for paddling.  You can’t beat that.  A great workout, all while standing still!

It was hard to get back off my little floating island and end our incredibly fun lesson.  Speaking of lessons, the Lake George Kayak Company offers them seven days a week if you call a week ahead to schedule, and they have great instructors like John Flynn.  They offer great rates, and you can rent SUPs for an hourly rate, a half day or four hours, up to a full day.  This is their second year selling and renting stand up boards and they are excitedly anticipating what the future holds for  this sport.  You can sign up for a lesson, rent a board, and then if you really enjoy it, buy your very own, all right there at the LGKC.  They have a fantastic and very informative website at  HYPERLINK “http://www.lakegeorgekayak.com/” http://www.lakegeorgekayak.com/. You can call them at 518-644-9366, or check out their store right on Main Street of Bolton Landing, across from the Grand Union.

One day there just might be races on Lake George.  I’m not sure I could picture myself at that level just yet, but I am looking forward to trying it again.  I really like the idea of cruising along on one of these boards, working my way up Lake George.  Talk about the beautiful views, both above and below!  This activity has definitely been added to my list, and I encourage all of you to sign up for a lesson and check them out for yourself!  Oh and by the way, I didn’t even fall by accident once!  Neither of us did!  I voluntarily ‘fell’ in to practice getting back onto the board and it was surprisingly refreshing.  So if I can stay on and have a blast, so can you!

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The Sembrich studio. Photo by Clea G. Hall.

The Sembrich studio. Photo by Clea G. Hall.

This Summer at the Sembrich

By Mirror Staff

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sembrich, Bolton Landing’s lake shore performance space and opera museum, is now open for the season.

“The museum’s new exhibits reveal the accomplishments of Marcella Sembrich’s life including showcases of her many tributes. Additional displays highlight the Flonzaley Quartet and its founder as well as a “La Boheme” exhibit,” said Executive Director Beth Barton-Navitsky.

The museum also features memorabilia from Sembrich’s stage career, as well as furniture and fine art collected from her travels throughout Europe. Photographs depict the singer in a variety of roles, and framed letters to Madame Sembrich from legendary composers such as Puccini, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, and Verdi are on display.

Old Wicked Songs

The highlights of the season’s live performances and presentations include musical celebrations   of great composers; genres of international music such as African drumming and Klezmer in World Music Wednesdays; a piano recital by the renowned Christopher Johnson; a vocal performance by contralto Lucille Beer; and a number of lectures on musical greats, including “Bartók in the Adirondacks,” by distinguished New York University professor Michael Beckerman.

“We are once again bringing our audiences world-renowned performers and music to enjoy along the scenic shores of Lake George,” said Barton-Navitsky. “Richard Wargo, Artistic Director and Composer-in-Residence, has developed a summer schedule filled with traditional classics topped off with music from around the world.”

“Under the descriptive banner of Weekends with the Masters, the season ahead at The Sembrich presents a diverse lineup of programs that we trust will include something to appeal to every taste,” said Wargo. “July 7, 2011 marks the 100th birthday of the great Italian-American composer, Gian Carlo Menotti, and we’ll be celebrating the occasion with Opera Saratoga in an evening that will include a performance of Menotti’s effervescent comic buffa  “The Telephone.”

Christopher Johnson

From July 21to 23, the Sembrich will pair a reading of Jon Marans’ Pulitzer-nominated play “Old Wicked Songs,” with a performance of Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe.”  The play concerns a student and his music professor, worlds apart and at odds, who find common ground and understanding through the study of this set of Schumann lieder. Wargo says that The Sembrich is an ideal venue in which to delve into a theme over the course of several days.

“This event presents a unique opportunity to experience a beautiful, moving work of theater read by world-class actors, to hear one of the most expressive works in the vocal repertoire performed by a pair of up-and-coming young musicians and to meet first-hand the playwright Jon Marans who will be on hand to direct,” says Wargo.

The museum is located at 4800 Lake Shore Drive and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 to 5:30 p.m.  Admission is by donation. It is operated by the Marcella Sembrich Memorial Association, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1940, honors the life and career of internationally renowned soprano, Marcella Sembrich.

Media Sponsor for the museum’s 2011 season is The Lake George Mirror. Programming is sponsored in part by Warren County, the Town of Bolton, Bolton Recreation Commission,  LARAC and Stewart’s Holiday Match.

For more information about The Sembrich Museum or for a complete calendar of the 2011 summer performances visit www.thesembrich.org or contact the office at (518) 644-2431 or the museum at  (518) 644-9839.

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Antique fishing lures

Antique fishing lures

Native to the Adirondacks: Chairs, Guide-boats – and Fishing Lures

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, April 11, 2011

To the double-ended guideboat and the slanting-back, wide-armed lawn chair,  add the fishing lure to the list of Adirondack products that have contributed decisively to the pleasures of summer everywhere,  says antique tackle dealer and collector Henry Caldwell.

According to Caldwell, the owner of Bolton Landing’s Black Bass Antiques,  the man credited with inventing the fishing lure was J.T. Buel, a Whitehall furrier who spent most of his time fishing and testing various baits on Lake George.

Folklore has it that Buel, born in Vermont in 1812,  was eating his lunch on the lake one day when he dropped a tea spoon overboard. As the bright silver object twisted through the water, “a fish hit it,” Caldwell said.  Buel attached some hooks to it and a crude form of the spooner was born.

Fred Streever of Bolton Landing, O.C. Tuttle of Old Forge and Williams and  Woodbury of Diamond Point were among other local manufacturers of fishing lures, said Caldwell.

Live bait spring hooks, he said, were invented on Schroon Lake.

New York’s thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams also made it the home of the reel, according to Caldwell. “More patents were issued for reels from New York State than from any other state,” he said.

Antique fishing tackle is now highly collectible, according to Caldwell. “Fishing is the largest participatory sport in the world,” he said. “There’s a long history to it, and people want to know more about the sport. They may start with the tackle they grew up fishing with, and go from there.”

Like most other collectibles,  value is established by rarity.  Items fetch anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars,  but things of value can still be found in yard sales, flea markets and junk shops.

Caldwell said his collecting began at an early age, as a boy, fishing on Lake George and exchanging lures with his brothers.

Like many another fishermen, he discovered that while fish were not always been attracted to his lures, he found them irresistible.

Asked how soon he knew some lures were valuable, he said, not soon enough.

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