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19th century tourists visiting Cooper’s Cave

19th century tourists visiting Cooper’s Cave

Cooper’s Cave: America’s First Roadside Attraction

By Mirror Staff

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

James Fenimore Cooper’s knowledge of the French and Indian War may have been sketchy, but he was interested enough in its history to contemplate  a visit to Lake George, which he finally did with a party of Englishmen in August, 1824.

Lord Edward Stanley,  who would later become the 14th Earl of Derby and  Great Britain’s Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Victoria, was a member of the party. As they crossed the Hudson River at Glens Falls on the return trip to Saratoga, Stanley noted in his journal, “Cooper… was much struck with the scenery which he had not before seen; and exclaimed, ‘I must place one of my old Indians here.”

Cooper, Stanley and the others then climbed down to the rocks to get a closer view of the cave where the novelist would, in fact, set one of the most famous incidents  in  his ‘Last of the Mohicans.’

According to James A. Holden, New York State’s official historian  in the early 1900s, “(Stanley) family legend has it  that the future Lord Derby told Cooper ‘here was the very scene for a romance,’ and the author promised his friend that a book should be written in which these caves would play an important part.”

Holden added that Cooper “affixed to the cave an undying fame, so that for nearly a century it has been a visiting place for European and American travelers. for scientist and layman, for geologist and artist, for seekers after the unusual…”

In fact, the cave could be said to be America’s first roadside attraction.

According to historian Russell Bellico, a set of wooden stairs enabled 19th century visitors to explore the cave.

A concerete spiral stairway was constructed in 1915 and remained in place until 1962.

Until recently, no formal or official access to the cave was allowed. A viewing platform, however, has been constructed by the Village of South Glens Falls and the City of Glens Falls which at least allows visitors  to see the falls and a portion of the cave.

Given the prominence of Cooper’s novel and the popularity of the 1992 film version that starred Daniel Day-Lewis, it’s perhaps surprising that more hasn’t been done to take advantage of the landmark.

Someone who has is Patty Bethel, who grew up near the cave in South Glens Falls.

In 1995, she, her husband Ed and their son Adrian opened Cooper’s Cave Ale Company, a micro-brewery that has grown to include a pub, an ice cream stand and much-in-demand craft soft drinks.

Glens Falls artist imagines the scene from Last of Mohicans

Even its brews’ names are inspired by French and Indian War lore; they include a Pathfinder Porter, a Sagamore Stout, a Radeau Red, Garrison Ale and a Tavern Ale.

“Ed and I had been 18th century re-enactors since the 1970s, and our idea was to educate people about the fact that our local history is a very big deal,” said Patty Bethel.

She added, “I grew up in a family where we had to make do with what we had. Here, we’re surrounded by history. So we’ve utilized that.”

The Bethels secured an industrial building on the edge of Glens Falls that just happens to be on the Old Military Trail, which, in Cooper’s novel, would have been the route taken by Munro’s daughters – Cora and Alice – from Fort Edward to Lake George.

It’s also not far from the site of the historical event that inspired the novel – the massacre of  British and American by France’s Native American allies.

Once a railroad bed, the trail is now more or less coextensive with the Warren County Bike Path, which reached the Bethels’ building in 2000.

With an entirely new customer-base passing their building every day, the Bethels saw an opportunity to create a new revenue-stream; thus the ice cream stand was born. The ice cream stand, in turn, gave rise to a brisk business making and selling ice cream cakes.

The pub opened in 2007 when an adjacent building became available.

“We’re not here to save the universe, just this corner if it,” quips Bethel.

“We work hard,” she acknowledges. “If anyone gets anywhere, it’s because of hard work.”

Cooper’s Cave Ale Company beer, soda and ice cream products are available at its retail store at 2 Sagamore Street. The pub is open for lunch and dinner daily, with the exception of holidays (Super Bowl Sunday included.) For more information, call 792-0007.

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This map, dated to September 27, 1755, shows two British forts at the south end of Lake George. The smaller fort was torn down shortly after started and another, a sturdier fortification, was built (credit: National Archives of Canada, courtesy: Dr. Russell P. Bellico).

This map, dated to September 27, 1755, shows two British forts at the south end of Lake George. The smaller fort was torn down shortly after started and another, a sturdier fortification, was built (credit: National Archives of Canada, courtesy: Dr. Russell P. Bellico).

Adirondack Bookshelf: Empires in the Mountains: French and Indian War Campaigns and Forts in the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River Corrido, By Dr. Russell P. Bellico

By Mirror Staff

Friday, February 24, 2017

Empires in the Mountains: French and Indian War Campaigns and Forts in the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River Corridor, the most recent by historian Russell Bellico, is available in local bookstores.

Bellico, the author of three other authoritative books on the history of Lake George and the Champlain Valley, Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain, Chronicles of Lake George: Journeys in War and Peace and Chronicles of Lake Champlain: Journeys in War and Peace, is a summer resident of Hague.

He is a founder of the Lake George Battlefield Park Alliance and of Bateaux Below. He was a member of the underwater archaeological team that documented the 1758 Lake George radeau Land Tortoise.

While several new books about the French and Indian War have been published in recent years, Empires in the Mountains is the first that focuses entirely on the campaigns and forts along the Lake Champlain, Lake George and Hudson River corridor.

And unlike Bellico’s own, earlier books about Lake George and Lake Champlain, ‘Empires in the Mountains’ treats land as well as maritime battles.

Bellico covers the epic battles and sieges of the war, including the Battle of Lake George in 1755 and the siege of Fort William Henry in 1757.

“I was able to include a great deal of previously unknown material, making use of maps located in Canada, as well as diaries, journals, letters, contemporary newspaper accounts and other archival sources,” said Bellico.

Bellico, for instance, found a map in the National Archives of Canada that shows that the Fort William Henry captured by the French in 1757 was, in fact, the second fort built at the site.

Historians knew from journals and letters that William Johnson wanted to build a substantial fort with ramparts and firing platforms, one that could withstand artillery fire, while his troops refused to build anything more than a picketed compound.

“Johnson accused the troops of being lazy, of having an aversion to digging,” says Bellico.

Portrait of King Hendrick engraved in London after his death in the Battle of Lake George

Johnson prevailed, of course, but without the map that Bellico found, we might never have known that the stockade fort was substantially completed before the second fort was built.

According to historian and archeologist Joseph W. Zarzynski, the cartographic drawing was made less than three weeks after the British defeated the French at the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755.

On September 29, the British decided to erect a more durable fortress to hold 500 men and constructed “in the manner that the French build.” The following day, troops began dismantling the first military installation and a sturdier earth-and-wooden fort was begun.

On November 7, 1755, shortly before the second fortification was completed, William Johnson wrote to Massachusetts Governor Shirley stating he named it “William Henry,” after two members of the British royal family.

The siege of that second fort in 1757 ended with what is, perhaps, the most famous incident of the French and Indian War, the massacre that became the basis of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans.

While modern historians have tended to minimize the incident, or assumed that 18th century accounts exaggerated the level and ferocity of the violence, Bellico concludes that the original accounts were substantially accurate.

“Every colonial newspaper described the incident as a massacre,” said Bellico. “It makes no sense to claim it was something else.”

In his introduction, Bellico writes, “The French and Indian War (1754-1763), the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War, would change the map of the continent and set the stage for the American Revolution. The conflict, which pitted the French and their Indian allies against the English, has often been misunderstood and largely received minor treatment in most general histories of America. To some, the name of the war itself has been puzzling and somewhat misleading because Britain also had Indian allies during the war. The war represented a culmination of a century-old struggle for control of North America. The clash was inevitable.”

Empires in the Mountains is available at Trees, the book and gift shop on Bolton Landing’s Main Street.

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Program from 1955 pageant

Program from 1955 pageant

Once Every Town Staged Historical Pageants

By Anthony F. Hall

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lake George’s historical pageants were not so much entertainment for visitors as civic exercises meant to strengthen the community, Margy Mannix told an audience at the Lake George Institute of History, Art and Science (the former Warren County courthouse) on August 24.

“They promoted pride and patriotism,” she said. “We learned more about our particular place through the passage of time.”

Mannix’s talk, “Pageants in Lake George,” was one of a series of talks presented this summer by the Lake George Historical Association.

According to Mannix, the first historical pageant to be staged in Lake George was in 1855 in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Lake George.

Highlights – if that is not too strong a word – included a long address in the courthouse titled “An historical discourse on the occasion of the centennial celebration of the Battle of Lake George, 1755” by the Rev. Dr. Cortland Van Rennselaer, a prominent American clergyman.

From the 1850s to the 1950s, historical pageants were a characteristic feature of life in American communities, celebrating the town’s founding, its most memorable historical events and its most prominent citizens.

Anyone willing to don a costume and a wig was more or less guaranteed a role, or, if the town happened to be a small one, multiple roles.

Program from 1938 pageant

Program from 1938 pageant

Pageants were staged in Lake George again in 1912, 1926, 1929, 1933, 1938 and 1955.

In many towns, the residents relied upon one vigorous, disciplined individual to write, produce, direct and cast the pageants.

In Lake George in the 1920s, that role appears to have fallen to Mrs. Charles Tuttle, who was able to persuade such prominent residents of “Millionaires’ Row” as the Ochses, the Peabodys, Louise and Sidney Homer and Marcella Sembrich to lend helping hands.

For the pageants of 1938 and 1955, the community relied upon the John B. Rogers Producing Company, an established supplier of costumes, sets, lights, and scripts for amateur theater.

According to historians of these matters, the company could also supply singers, dancers and actors if the local population was lacking the requisite talent.

That was unlikely to be the case in Lake George, which could rely upon vacationing actors like Edward Everett Horton and the Minzeys to give its pageants a bit of show biz flair.

Pageants declined in popularity as movie theaters, drive-ins and finally television displaced live, more public forms of entertainment.

In the popular imagination, however, historical pageants are still identified with small town American life. If you doubt that, stream “Waiting for Guffman” through your tv set.


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Irving Langmuir conducting cloud seeding experiments at the GE Research Lab with Bernard Vonnegut and Vincent Schaefer

Irving Langmuir conducting cloud seeding experiments at the GE Research Lab with Bernard Vonnegut and Vincent Schaefer

Dr. Irving Langmuir and the Brothers Vonnegut

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is there a dark, malignant side to science? To even raise that question in the 1950s, as the novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr did, was to cast doubt upon the entire, mid-century American project. It’s no wonder that in the 1960s, Vonnegut found himself a hero of the counter-culture.

According to Ginger Strand’s The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Science, a dual biography of the novelist and his MIT- educated brother Bernard, Kurt Vonnegut’s qualms about the benevolence of science began to percolate years earlier, when he worked for General Electric’s publicity department in Schenectady.

Bernard arrived in Schenectady in 1945, a few years before Kurt, to work in GE’s Research Lab, the first of its kind in the nation and the so-called “House of Magic.” He, too, would be forced to come to terms with technology’s potential for harm as well as good, with its capacity to make the deserts bloom and to make a desert out of cities.

For both Vonneguts, the internal contradictions of science were embodied in the person of Irving Langmuir, prominent Lake George conservationist, summer resident and the first industrial scientist to win a a Nobel prize.

Langmuir was famous for having his head in the clouds, literally – his cloud seeding experiments, which created at least two thunderstorms over Lake George, earned him a place on the cover of Time magazine – and figuratively. Kurt Vonnegut based his character Felix Hoenikker, the physicist in the novel Cat’s Cradle, on Langmuir’s apparent cluelessness about humans and their concerns.

“He could walk right by a colleague without so much as nodding. When a woman fell down on the stairs in front of him, he famously stepped over her and continued on. Once he stepped in a can of paint, pulled his foot out without pausing and kept on walking, leaving a trail of safety-yellow footprints in his wake,’ writes Strand.

Kurt Vonnegut in uniform, 1943.

With the denotation of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, scientists no longer had the luxury of being oblivious to their fellow creatures or to the ramifications of their studies, if they ever did.

Shortly after the bombs were dropped, Langmuir was among the scientists invited to attend a conference at the University of Chicago to discuss the threats posed by the invention of the bomb to all and any life on the planet. Here, he publicly acknowledged the civic responsibilities of the scientist and joined his colleagues in advocating international controls over the new technology.

As a defense contractor as well as the home of a Research Lab, General Electric exemplified the conflict between scientific theory and practice.
Nothing illustrated that tension better than the cloud seeding experiments of Langmuir and his assistants – Vonnegut, Vincent Shaefer, Katherine Blodgett, Duncan Blanchard and Ray Falconer

As Strand notes, “the eccentric but brilliant researchers followed their curiosity wherever it took them…”

Ultimately, their curiosity led them to see if they could harness nature itself.

While Kurt was busy writing snappy press releases about turbines and refrigerators, Bernard and his colleagues were experimenting with making better clouds – clouds that could release rain or snow at will.

Not surprisingly, those experiments attracted the attention of the US government; weather had been a constant factor in World War II, determining when and if, for example, armadas could sail and cities be destroyed. If the military could control the clouds, fog and snow, the possibilities were endless.

Only in 1966 was it learned that Langmuir and his team’s discoveries about the control of weather had been used covertly by the US Army in Vietnam.

“Bernard was horrified to see his invention used in actual combat. But news of the missions led to an international outcry and, eventually… a UN treaty banning the use of weather modification as a weapon of war,” writes Strand.

Langmuir, of course, had been dead for at least a decade, but he no doubt would have been gratified by the UN’s vote, since it produced something akin to the policies he had once hoped would abolish nuclear war.

“It would be desirable… to destroy all atomic bombs, all large plants for making them and all reserves of plutonium,” Langmuir wrote in 1946.

By then, Langmuir may have already concluded what Kurt Vonnegut would state a quarter century later: the ethical scientist “is the one who declines to work on weapons.”

The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Science is available at Trees, the book and gift shop located on Bolton Landing’s Main Street.

Doug Deneen, Trees’ co-owner, notes, “In this fascinating cultural history, Ginger Strand chronicles the intersection of these brothers’ lives at a time when the possibilities of science seemed infinite. As the Cold War looms, Bernard’s struggle for integrity plays out in Kurt’s evolving writing style. The Brothers Vonnegut reveals how science’s ability to influence the natural world also influenced one of our most inventive novelists.”

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A Main Street Republican Who Liberals Can Love

By Anthony F. Hall

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Liberals, even and especially liberal Republicans, were never fans of the Republican Senator from Ohio, Robert A. Taft (1889-1953). Here in upstate New York, he was disliked for attempting to deprive Governor Thomas Dewey of the party’s presidential nomination. He demonized Wall Street in order to champion Main Street, a view that won him few friends in the city. He never overcame his reputation as an isolationist, a position he abandoned only after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Nevertheless, in today’s political climate, he would be regarded as a champion of liberal values. Taft was a constitutionalist, perhaps the last in American politics. He believed that every policy, whether foreign or domestic, should be judged by the extent to which it expands or limits the rights of individuals. According to that standard, Taft would have opposed President Trump’s January 27 executive order banning visitors from seven largely Muslim countries and placing limits on our refugee program. Among other things, the executive order appears to violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against the government’s establishment of religion as well as the Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. Taft would have been especially alarmed by Trump’s attempt to enlarge the executive’s powers at the expense of those of Congress in the area of foreign policy. An unrestrained power to respond to threats from abroad can lead easily to the abuse of that power, he concluded, noting, “If the President has arbitrary and unlimited power… there is an end to freedom in the United States.” The decision by the federal judge who blocked parts of Trump’s executive order to grant standing to the states challenging it would have had Taft’s approval. Taft never ceased urging state governments to assert their prerogatives and resist encroachments upon their powers by the federal government. He was less concerned about protecting states’ rights than he was about protecting a bulwark for the right to local, self-government. The habits of exercising responsibility for local communities had to be perpetuated, he believed, if Americans were to remain spirited enough to resist governmental infringements upon their rights. Taft’s last, great opponent in his fight to sustain the Constitution as a system of checks and balances was President Harry S. Truman, who in 1952 directed his Secretary of Commerce to seize the nation’s steel mills on the grounds that a national emergency existed. Taft declared, “The Constitution says nothing about national emergencies, and if the President could increase his powers by such a declaration, there would be nothing left to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.”

Robert A Taft

US Senator Robert A. Taft

The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that Truman’s executive order was illegal. Truman complained, of course, calling the decision “crazy,” one that “tied up the country.” But he accepted the decision and deferred to the authority of courts. As the Economist magazine has noted, Trump’s predecessors in the White House “retreated… when checked. That is not an attitude that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric suggests he shares.” If he does not share that attitude, then the country will face, at some point in the next four years, a constitutional crisis of the sort that Taft sought to avert. It is unlikely that any Democrat in Congress will invoke Taft’s name or example, but for those who view politics through the prism of the Constitution, his principle that policies must be judged by their effects on the rights of ordinary Americans has much to recommend it. It’s one that should be embraced not only by liberal Democrats but by conservative Republicans as well, including, we believe, those who voted for Donald Trump.

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Inez Mulholland leading a suffrage parade on a white charger at Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 inauguration.

Inez Mulholland leading a suffrage parade on a white charger at Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 inauguration.

Lake George Commemorating Women’s Suffrage

By Mirror Staff

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Women won the right to vote in New York State in 1917, three years before the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified.

To commemorate that event and raise public awareness of the role of New York in securing women’s rights, the Lake George Historical Association will produce “Women’s Suffrage in the Lake George/Lake Champlain Basin,” a series of dramatic performances, exhibitions and interpretive materials.

With a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program/Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP). Lake George Historical Association curator Lisa Adamson has enlisted the aid of North Country Community College professor Innam Dajany and others to create dramatic pieces that will be performed at the Lake George High School in December, 2016.

According to Adamson, Dajany will guide her womens studies class through research and development of a short dramatic script based on the life of suffragist Inez Milholland.

Milholland, who is buried in a family plot at the Congregational Church in Lewis, Essex County, died in California while campaigning for passage of the constitutional amendment to enfranchise women in 1916.

Milholland, Vassar graduate who held a law degree from NYU, was notorious in her day as a figurehead of the suffragist movement.

On March 4, 1913, the day Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated for his first term, women from every state gathered in the capital and staged a great parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Leading the parade on a white charger was Milholland, then 25 years old.

Thanks in part to Milholland, New York became one of only a dozen or so states within the Union to grant women the right to vote in local and state elections before the 20th amendment was adopted in 1920.

“The Adirondack native and pioneering suffragist is now a candidate for the Presidential Citizen’s Medal.

She was nominated by California Congresswoman Jackie Spier, who stated in a letter to President Obama that Milholland was “a shining star in the pantheon of inspiring leaders” of the 20th century.

The collaboration with Professor Dajany will also produce interpretive signage at Milholland’s grave, Adamson said.

According to Adamson, two teachers from Lake George High School and their classes will draft additional vignettes with Dr. Sally R. Wagner.

Wagner, Adams said, is a nationally recognized lecturer, author and performance interpreter of women’s rights history. n the Ken Burns PBS documentary, “Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony,” for which she wrote the accompanying faculty guide for PBS. She was also a historian in the PBS special, “One Woman, One Vote.”

Those scripts will be based on pro and ant-suffragist meetings held on Lake George, in which prominent Lake George summer residents Spencer and Katrina Trask, George Foster Peabody, Dr. Mary Jacobi and Mary Loines all participated.

Their roles will be re-enacted by students, wearing period costumes created with the assistance of Lisa Hall, a former professional couturier who worked with Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren and others.

A video of the performance will be among the features of the Lake George Historical Museum’s 2017 exhibition about the suffrage movement.

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Last of the Mohicans Revisited

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Historian to Present the Tale That Made Lake George Famous at Fort William Henry August 12


“It was in this scene of strife and bloodshed that the incidents we shall attempt to relate occurred, during the third year of the war which England and France last waged for the possession of a country that neither was destined to retain.”

Thus begins James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans. Published in 1826, it was the first novel based on America’s own, relatively recent history.

In August, 1757, after enduring a siege that had lasted six days, outnumbered three to one and deprived of any hopes of re-enforcements, Lt. Commander Munro, the Scots veteran charged with the defense of Fort William Henry, surrendered to the Marquis de Montcalm on the condition that the garrison be allowed to march out with the honors of war – flags, arms, but no ammunition. Montcalm agreed to escort the garrison to Fort Edward. The wounded were to remain at Fort William Henry until they were able to travel.

Somewhere between Lake George and Halfway Brook, the soldiers, along with women and children, were attacked by Indians allied with the French. It has been estimated that anywhere from 200 to 1500 people were killed that day, and that at least 200 people were taken to Canada as captives.

In Last of the Mohicans, this is the attack in which Munro’s daughters are taken captive by the Hurons. Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas pursue them into Canada.


Historian to Discuss Novel at Fort William Henry


On Friday, August 12, Bruce W. Dearstyne will present “Last of the Mohicans Revisited” at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George.

According to the sponsors of the lecture, Dearstyne will discuss how “James Fenimore Cooper blended fact and fiction to create a novel that still resonates today. The history itself was exciting. But Cooper masterfully embellished it by introducing fascinating historical characters,descriptions of harrowing hand-to-hand combat, kidnapping, and rescue, and vivid descriptions of the northern New York wilderness.”
Writing in the New York History Blog recently, Dearstyne commented, “Last of the Mohicans was based on Cooper’s own incomplete and sketchy research into the events it describes. He took considerable liberties with history, including simplifying the colonial wars and presenting the stereotypes about Indians that were typical of his era.”
An 1824 Trip to Lake George Inspired the Novel
However “incomplete or sketchy” Cooper’s knowledge of the French and Indian War may have been, he was interested enough in its history to plan a visit to Lake George, which he finally did with a party of Englishmen in August, 1824.
Lord Edward Stanley, who would later become the Earl of Derby and Great Britain’s Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Victoria, was a member of the party. According to his journal (published privately one hundred years later) , the purpose of the visit was indeed to explore the scenes of the French and Indian Wars. They examined the ruins of the forts, “in which,” wrote Stanley, “are collected as relics buttons, bullets, tomahawks, etc.”
Cooper, Stanley and their friends stayed at the Lake House, the present site of Shepard Park. Built in 1801, the hotel had piazzas facing both the lake and the street. Lawns sloped gradually to the lake’s edge, where steamboats landed and an orchestra played in a summer house constructed on the docks.

James Fenimore Cooper\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"

From the piazza of the Lake House, Cooper could look out upon the scenes of the conflict, as a visitor in the 1840s noted: “From the Lake House, fronting the water, a comprehensive view of the historic grounds may be seen. In the distance is French Mountain. By the trees on the shore is the site of Fort William Henry; and further on the left, is the site of Fort George.”

The group climbed Prospect Mountain, and then boarded the Mountaineer for a voyage down the lake. They passed “immense forests on the banks,” wrote Stanley. In fact, much of the description of natural scenery, which is as important a part of the novel as the narrative and the characters, was based on impressions Cooper received during that trip. The climb up Prospect Mountain, for instance, was the inspiration for this scene from the beginning of the novel: “To the north stretched the limpid, and, as it appeared from that dizzy height, the narrow sheet of the”holy lake,” indented with numberless bays, embellished by fantastic headlands, and dotted with countless islands… Directly on the shore of the lake, lay the extensive earthen ramparts and low buildings of William Henry.”


From Fact, Fiction and Political Science…..


In his novel, Dearstyne says, Cooper “exaggerated the aftermath of the conquest of the fort, which included killing and kidnapping some of the people who had surrendered.”

Even if the events that followed the surrender did not quite constitute a massacre, the contemporary accounts upon which Cooper based his version revealed something important about the Europeans’ and the Native Americans’ differing understandings of warfare, writes political scientist Eliot Cohen in Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War.

Two illustrations by N.C. Wyeth from a 1919 Charles Scribner’s Sons edition of Last of the Mohicans

“Having imported European norms of warfare to the New World, English and French commanders struggled to impose them… For the English, (the so-called massacre) was an unconscionable violation of the laws of war. . . After all, the garrison had been granted surrender on honorable terms,” writes Cohen, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (and a member of Fort Ticonderoga’s Board of Directors.)
For the Native Americans, on the other hand, allowing the garrison to march out with the honors of war “must have seemed bizarre, indeed, incomprehensible. Prisoners were trophies, potential adoptees, sources of brutal entertainment, perhaps valuable sources of ransom,” Cohen writes.

For Cohen, the events that took place at Fort William Henry, and the way in which they were interpreted afterward, help illustrate the development of a distinctive, American Way of War. American armies learned to adapt to unforeseen and changing circumstances on and around Lake George in part by observing the behavior of their enemies. They would abide by the legal and conventional norms of warfare until, or unless, forced to do otherwise, “resorting to ruthless means when that appeared necessary.”

… To a Major Motion Picture

Since the novel was published in February, 1826, Cooper’s tale has been recast as nine feature films, two animated movies, three television series and a 1942 comic book, says Russell Bellico, the Hague summer resident who’s written frequently about the region’s military and maritime history.

According to Bellico, only one movie based on Last of the Mohicans was actually shot on Lake George, a silent film made in 1911.

The 1992 film by Michael Mann, which starred Daniel Day-Lewis, was filmed in North Carolina.

According to Mark Ricker, now an award-winning production designer who was at the start of his career when he was hired as a set dresser for Last of the Mohicans, Mann wanted to make the film on Lake George, but came to the conclusion that the region’s over-development made that impossible.

Nevertheless, Bellico writes, of all the versions made, Mann’s film is “the most authentic depiction of hostilities during the French and Indian War.”
Bellico says that Mann “insisted on the use of flintlocks, black powder and realistic Native American dress and weapons.”

Dearstyne notes that the frequent reinterpretation of Cooper’s novel “shows the continuing power of the book to call attention to an important New York writer and to New York as an important place where history unfolded. It also reveals the power of fiction to spark interest in history.”

Dearstyne will discuss contemporary versions of the story when he gives his talk at Fort William Henry on August 12. The lecture begins at 7 pm and is free and open to the public.

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Women recreating on Lake George, circa 1917. Photo by Fred Thatcher, courtesy of Bolton Historical Society.

Women recreating on Lake George, circa 1917. Photo by Fred Thatcher, courtesy of Bolton Historical Society.

Women, Boats, and Lake George

By Hallie Bond

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

“As to ‘physical exertion,’ there is no such exertion known here. It is the laziest of all imaginable places….” So “Adirondack” Murray appealed directly to women, even those “fragile or delicate,” in his 1869 Adventures in the Wilderness. In those decades after the Civil War, Murray was not alone in feeling that women—at least upper middle class city women—were delicate and fragile. Not only were they supposedly far less strong than men, but they were supposed to conserve what energy they had for the female functions. Bearing children and keeping a genteel home was her highest and best duty. She could breathe fresh air on gentle strolls, but that was about it for exercise. As Murray pointed out, though, “tramping is unknown in this region. Wherever you wish to go, your guide paddles you.” The Adirondack region was ideal for women. They didn’t even have to walk to enjoy the scenery and breath healing “air odorous with the smell of pine and cedar and balsam.”

Women did come in increasing numbers to Lake George in the 1880s and 1890s. Perhaps they were encouraged by Murray’s book, but also about this time doctors and the popular press began to encourage them to improve their health and fitness, the better to bear healthy children and keep up with their domestic duties. At Lake George, comfortably lodged at one of the hotels or camps now ringing the lake, women began to exert themselves. Rowing a boat was ideal—women could get into the vessel with relative ease in their long skirts, and even mild exertion opened up to them the lake and its glorious scenery.

A century and a half ago, each region in the watery US had its own boat type, built for local conditions by local builders. On Lake George it was a transom-sterned vessel that became known as the Lake George rowboat. Fishing guides used them, boat liveries used them, summer folk used them, and by the end of the century they had become essential for active—and sociable—women.

At one time or another in the first half of the 20th century, Lake George was home to 13 camps for girls. The earliest two, Camp Ronah and Glen Eyrie, were founded in 1910.

In the 1880s and 1890s groups of young people would engage a small steamer to tow a flotilla of Lake George rowboats past the hotel, each boat decorated with colored Japanese lanterns. Groups in boats would row out onto the glassy lake of early evening to sing and strum their ukuleles. Both scenes were lovely entertainment for the aunties and grannies rocking on the verandahs as well as the young ladies and gentlemen themselves. Hotel boat liveries and boathouses at private camps were stocked with the craft. Some lucky young women had their own special boats. John Boulton Simpson, one of the Sagamore Hotel’s owners, had F.R. Smith and Sons of Bolton Landing build a custom boat for each of his daughters. Their names, “Helen” and “Fanny,” decorated the elaborately carved stern seat backs.

A few adventurous women adopted a different sort of boat and began, literally, “paddling their own canoes.” One of them was Mary B. Bishop. Mary’s husband, Nathaniel Holmes Bishop, was a cranberry grower in New Jersey, but he was known among canoeists for his trip in a paper canoe from Troy, New York, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Bishops had a camp on Lake George, and it was at his suggestion that a group of canoeists met on the lake in August, 1880 and formed the American Canoe Association. Mary and seven other women, mostly sisters and wives of members, were involved right from the beginning, and by the end of the century the ACA program included races specifically for women.

Even if they came with “their men,” women at early ACA meets had to camp in their own area, and couldn’t visit the other parts of camp between nine in the evening and five in the morning. (Camping apart kept women from catching the men taking their early morning dips in the buff.) “Squaw Camp” became the social center of the camp, especially in the evenings around the campfire.

As they took more active roles in boating, women also simplified their dress. You can hardly imagine a woman trying to win a canoe race restricted by a corset. The “New Women” of the turn of the century abandoned tight bodices and voluminous skirts when out on the water, and by the 1920s sensible active women were wearing straight skirts several inches above their ankles or even (gasp) knickerbockers and stockings or leggings.
The New Woman wanted health, fitness, and independence for her daughters as well as herself. The result was a flourishing of “sleepaway” camps in the Adirondacks where girls could spend the summer supervised by trained female educators. Paddling a canoe with another girl (or seven other girls in a 25-foot war canoe), girls learned teamwork. Paddling or rowing by themselves, girls learned self-reliance. At one time or another in the first half of the twentieth century Lake George was home to thirteen camps for girls. The earliest two, Camp Ronah and Glen Eyrie, were founded in 1910.

The Horicon Sketching Club.

As boating became an acceptable sport for “the gentle sex,” some women, just like some men, yearned for really fast boats. The very first time the speedboat championship came to the lake in 1914, a woman owned the winning boat. Paula Blackton, who owned Baby Speed Demon II, was a pioneer woman in the film business as well as a pioneer woman in speedboating. At the second Gold Cup races held on Lake George, in 1934, a woman actually drove a speedboat. Delphine Dodge Baker in Delphine VII couldn’t catch George Reis in the local favorite El Lagarto, but she finished all the laps averaging 59 miles per hour in the first two heats.

By the 1920s outboards were reliable and cheap enough to appeal to boaters of all levels of skill and outdoorsiness—even women. Sexual stereotypes persisted, however. Thinking that female strength (or lack of it) would keep women from outboarding, the Penn Yan Boat Company, touted its little twelve-foot-long, 67 pound Cartopper outboard boat in 1942 by saying “actual tests show that the light end of a 60 pound boat (about 25 pounds) is the absolute maximum that a woman can be expected to handle.” they wrote. People puttering around Lake George in such a rig probably assumed that the man would run the motor, conforming to the old stereotype that things mechanical were beyond women. They would have been confounded if they saw one of the region’s outboard races. Doing very well, thank you, and servicing her own motors would have been Anne Jensen, “nurse at night, speed queen by day,” as a 1951 article called her. Jensen, who was an RN at the Flushing hospital but spent as much time in and around Schroon Lake as possible. She competed against men (sometimes her own husband) and fueled the Evinrude “alky” on her C-Service runabout with castor oil, alcohol and ether—all liquids that were used in her nursing, as one magazine pointed out.

Today, you’ll find women in any and all vessels on Lake George. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a regatta in a time warp? What would Mary Bishop say about the women paddling SUPs in their form-fitting tops and skimpy shorts? She’d probably disapprove of the clothing, but she would certainly approve of the paddling.

Hallie E. Bond is currently the Director of the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College. She also served as Education Director and Curator of the Adirondack Museum from 1983 until 2012. She is the author of “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks,” among many other works.

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Members of the Litwa Family Join Mayor Blais, Sheriff York and Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan in opening the new exhibit  at the Lake George Historical Museum.

Members of the Litwa Family Join Mayor Blais, Sheriff York and Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan in opening the new exhibit at the Lake George Historical Museum.

Lake George Pays Tribute to Its Police Forces and Law Enforcement History

By Anthony F. Hall

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The late Ed Litwa, Lake George’s last Chief of Police, was honored at the opening last weekend of a new exhibition exploring law enforcement in the resort community.

The exhibition, which is mounted at the Lake George Historical Association’s museum in the old Courthouse, was organized by museum trustee Scott Bauberger and curator Lisa Adamson.

“Law enforcement history is local history, especially in Lake George,” said Bauberger, noting that the so-called rioting of college students in the early 1960s and mid 1970s made national headlines.

Until the early 1960s, the courthouse also housed the county jail, and the exhibit is displayed, appropriately enough, in the jail’s corridors and inmate’s cells.

It consists of uniforms, badges, photographs and magazine and newspaper articles culled from the hundreds that Bauberger has archived over the years.

“I’d like to see the historical association and the museum become a research facility for anyone interested in Lake George law enforcement,” said Bauberger.

Among the artifacts displayed is the 1957 national magazine advertisement for Camel cigarettes, which featured Warren County Sheriff Carl McCoy.

“Some photographers were looking for a place to stage a Camel cigarette commercial,” Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais recalled. “Sheriff McCoy came over, with a package of Camels in his shirt pocket. They asked him if he was a Camel smoker and when he said yes, they asked him if he would like to appear in a commercial for the cigarette. He would. He recruited a friend to pose as a deputy, and they were photographed at the lookout at Sabbath Day point. In return, he received two cartons of Camels a week for life.”

Sheriff Bud York noted that McCoy and his wife lived in an apartment above the jail in the courthouse, and that McCoy’s wife cooked the inmates’ meals.

“I don’t think my wife could be persuaded to do that for our inmates,” quipped York.

Blais said, “If it wasn’t for the Lake George Village police, I wouldn’t be here today as Mayor of Lake George. As a college student, I came to Lake George looking for a job. The Chief of Police, Bill O’Riley, gave me a badge and a firearm. I had never held a pistol, much less shot one and prayed the occasion would never demand it.”

Blais served as a Village patrolman, police sergeant and deputy sheriff before entering business and politics. He also presided over the dissolution of the Village’s police department in 1988, where Litwa had served since 1970.

“No chief wants to hear his force has been disbanded,
But Ed took it as a professional and as a gentleman,” said Blais.

After the Lake George Police Department was abolished, Litwa joined the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Bud York, who was a career New York State Police officer before seeking elective office, and who knew Litwa as both a Lake George officer and a member of the Sheriff’s department, said Litwa was the personification of loyalty, integrity and persistence.

“If we could mold the police officers of the future, that mold would be formed by Ed Litwa,” said York.

Litwa joined the office of District Attorney Kate Hogan as an investigator after retiring from the Sheriff’s office. He died in August, 2015.

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The Gates Diner as it was displayed at the Adirondack Museum.

The Gates Diner as it was displayed at the Adirondack Museum.

Museum Pieces

By Mirror Staff

Saturday, June 11, 2016

 What Do the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum’s Trolley Car Diner and Early Launch Have in Common?  They’re Both From Lake George

If the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum in Plattsburgh,  NY is not among your scheduled  day trips this summer, perhaps it should be. Two Lake George artifacts are on display there: a 1900 launch and an 1890s trolley car that served as Bolton Landing’s Gates Diner.

The launch, a Lozier, is owned by Fred and Doreen Brown of Bolton Landing. Lozier, of course, was the Plattsburgh-based manufacturer of  boat engines, and the Browns’ 22 foot launch was originally owned by a Bolton resident who worked at F.R. Smith and Sons. It passed through the hands of Bob Gates before Charles “Juddy” Peer acquired and restored the boat.

According to Fred Brown,  Peer replaced the cypress bottom and several ribs.  The original Lozier marine engine was beyond repair, so Peer replaced it with one from a Fay and Bowen.

Peer only used the boat in the off-season, recalled Brown.

Charles “Juddy” Peer in his Lozier on Lake George. Photo courtesy of Doreen and Fred Brown.

 “He kept the boat at John Apperson’s dock in Huddle Bay.  He only used it for fishing in the spring and fall.  He never went out in it during the summertime,” said Brown.

Peer also installed a Jeep 3-speed transmission on the engine so he could gear it down for slow trolling, Brown said.

The Browns acquired the boat in 2004, after it had been stored in Peer’s barn for a decade.  Fred said all he had to do to make the boat sea worthy was to remove and clean the fuel tank,  rebuild the carburetor and put on a few coats of paint and varnish.

“Structurally the boat was sound.  It took about five days to soak up, after having sat for 10 years,” said Brown.

There are probably no more than a couple of other Loziers on Lake George, said Brown, who renamed his in honor of Juddy Peer.

“They are extremely rare,” he noted.

After admiring the Browns’ Lozier, locate the Bill Gates Diner, a fixture in Bolton Landing from 1949 until 1989, when it was purchased by Henry Caldwell and Ike Wolgin and donated to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.

The diner, which was converted from a trolley car in 1937 and is believed to be only one of eleven such diners left in the United States, has been on loan to the Plattsburgh facility since 2003.

Last fall, officials from the Adirondack Museum informed the donors that the diner had been de-accessioned and that its long-term loan to the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum was to become a permanent donation.

The donors acknowledged having doubts as to  whether the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum was the appropriate resting place for the old diner.

“While it is a piece of transportation history, its true historical value lies in its character as roadside architecture and as an example of the kind of businesses that lined Adirondack highways before the Northway was built,” Ike Wolgin said recently.

“The diner is about one small town in the Adirondacks, and how it served the community of Bolton Landing,” said Henry Caldwell.

From 1937 until 1949, the diner was owned by two brothers, Chris and George Liapes, who sold it to the Gateses.

The interior of the restored diner.

According to Bill Gates, Jr, the son of diner owners Bill and Dawn Gates, the diner was originally a trolley car built for the Hudson Valley Railroad.

In 1901, the electric railway line was brought to Lake George and the next year was extended to Warrensburg. Until 1927, the year it closed,  a family, businessman or tourist  could travel by trolley from Warrensburg to Saratoga Springs and, after switching lines in that city, to Albany and Troy.

The donors said they were satisfied that the diner would be properly cared for at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum.

“We welcome the opportunity that has been offered for the diner to  be maintained in a safe place,” said Wolgin.

But, said Wolgin, should the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum close or find itself unable to retain ownership of the diner, the artifact would become the property of the Bolton Historical Society.

“Should that happen, it probably wouldn’t stay in Bolton Landing, because we have no place to put it,”  said Ted Caldwell, the Town Historian and vice-president of the Historical Society. “Our job would be to find it an appropriate home. The important thing is that the diner is now on display in a place where people can see and appreciate it.”

The Champlain Valley Transportation is located on the grounds of the old Plattsburgh Air Base at 12 Museum Way.  Call 518-566-7575 for more information.

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