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A Journey Through Our Region’s Back Pages Re-Discovering North Country Life

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, June 24, 2013

By now, Adirondack history is a ground that has been covered almost as thoroughly as the Adirondacks themselves. (Any time you think you have discovered something new about the Adirondack guide-boat, for instance, you’ll find graffiti saying, “Kenneth Durant was here.”)  William J. O’Hern, though, has found a few out-of-the-way places that have escaped the notice of the hordes.

In addition to his books about Noah John Rondeau, O’Hern has published books about Harvey Dunham, the author of the classic “Adirondack French Louie: Early Life in the North Woods,” and Thomas C. O’Donnell, whose books in the late 1940s and early 50s chronicled the history of upstate New York.

His most recent book is “Adirondack Kaleidoscope and North Country Characters: Honoring the Mountains and Their History.”

Although you couldn’t know it from the title, the book is, for the most part, an anthology of pieces that appeared in the magazine ‘North Country Life’ between 1946 and 1974.

Bill "Mack" McAleese

O’Hern would have accomplished something significant had he done no more than republish some things that have not seen the light of day in years – pieces such as the folk artist Edna Way Teale’s recollections of life in the Champlain Valley in the 1800s.

But he’s done much more than that. He’s rescued Glyndon Cole and his tiny magazine from undeserved obscurity. For those unfamiliar with North Country Life, this anthology is the perfect introduction.

Carl Carmer once wrote, “upstate is a country,” and North Country Life helped delineate much of what was distinctive about that country.

According to O’Hern, Cole was inspired by the compulsion, shared by many others at roughly the same time, to document everyday life in upstate New York before all traces of it disappeared.

The same impulse drove Marjorie Porter Lansing to record folk songs in the farms and lumber camps, Richard W. Lawrence to create the Adirondack Center Museum in Elizabethtown, Harold Hochshild to begin Township 34 (out of which the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake emerged) and Carl Carmer, Harold Thompson and Louis Jones to collect folk tales.

Cole operated on a shoestring, says O’Hern. Nevertheless, “Throughout New York and across the United States, fans made the quarterly digest a much-anticipated periodical. People were as smitten then as they are now with the magic of the North Country, and Cole’s quarterly gave them a delicious dose of that magic. He included poetry, art and literature, and interesting reprints of old newspaper and periodical stories, true backwoods tales, pioneer stories and military history, among other topics,” says O’Hern.

This anthology, O’Hern says, includes “stories about hermits, guides, artists, philosophers and preachers, along with ghost stories, tales of lost mines, one-room schools and old-time general stores.”

Cole seems to have lacked the inclination or the temperament to wield the blue pencil with any force, and much of what appeared in North Country Life was written by amateurs, and not very well. But that was beside the point. The point was to have our history and our way of life documented.

Fred Stiles, the Knapp Estate caretaker whose family settled on the east side of Lake George in the 1850s, is a good example of the typical contributor to North Country Life, and O’Hern devotes a chapter to him.

“Fred’s recollections were the kind of accounts Cole found significant… they needed to be preserved for future generations. Stiles’ stories took readers back to humble farm and roadways,” O’Hern writes.

O’Hern says that a second volume of selections from North Country Life will appear later this summer, one that will include more recollections about individual characters who would be lost to history had not someone taken the time to write about them. And there are plenty of characters to choose from.

Among them: Bill “Mack” McAleese, who came to northern New York from Ireland in the 1870s and who worked on the log drives on the Grasse River and later opened a hotel on Cranberry Lake. More noteworthy than McAleese himself, though, is the man who chose to write about him: Eastwood Lane.

All but forgotten today, Lane was a composer from upstate New York whose music was performed by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and who was said to be a major influence on Bix Beiderbecke. His most significant work, it is said, was a piano suite, Adirondack Sketches, consisting of “The Old Guide’s Story”, “The Legend of Lonesome Lake”, “Down Stream”, “The Land of the Loon”, “A Dirge for Jo Indian”, and “Lumber-Jack Dance”.  If that music is ever performed again, perhaps it will be because someone, somehow, once stumbled upon an old issue of North Country Life and, like Jay O’Hern, began his own journey through our region’s back pages.

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Remembering Lake George’s Lost Ski Areas

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Book Documents the Days When Lake George was a Winter Destination

In the years between the 1932 Winter Olympic games in Lake Placid and the outbreak of World War II, small, single lift ski areas abounded in the Lake George area. Only a few remain.

According to Jeremy Davis, the author of the newly published Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks,

“The Adirondacks are filled with the ghosts of former ski areas. They range from the first J-bar in New York State in Lake George to large, planned resorts that were never completed.”

Davis, a meteorologist by profession, is a historian of vanished ski centers by avocation.

“This is my third book. The first was Lost Ski Areas of the White Mountains, the second, published in 2010, was Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont,” said Davis. “I’ve been collecting brochures, guides and newspaper clippings about former ski areas for twenty years, starting in college. I first posted my research on a website. The editors at History Press saw it, and they said this material should be published in book form. I didn’t set out to be an author.”

In Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks, Davis writes about ski areas in Bolton, Lake George and Warrensburg, in addition to approximately 30 others spread throughout the Adirondack Park.

“In Bolton, a rope tow was installed at the Sagamore Golf Club. Warrensburg had a ski area between the Schroon River and Harrington Hill known as Hull’s Slope. And Lake George had a J-bar at Prospect Mountain and a ski jump at Top of the World, as well as rope tows at lesser known areas near the present sites of Travel Lodge and Magic Forest,” said Davis.

Skiing in Lake George was promoted by a Winter Sports Club and served by Snow Trains from Albany.

While only two hotels – the Worden and the Ballos – remained open year-round, there were several rooming houses within walking distance of the slopes, which were just a few blocks away from Canada Street. “Experienced skiers consider Lake George facilities the equal of the most popular winter resorts in New York State,” claimed a January, 1938 issue of the Knickerbocker News.

The Prospect Mountain slope, which opened in 1938, boasted the only overhead cable ski tow in New York State and, for a short time at least, the longest lift of that type in the US.

According to Davis, the Prospect Mountain slope was developed by Fred Pabst, the brewery heir who built the first ski centers in eastern Canada and New England.

“What’s interesting is that even small areas like Top of the World hired European ski instructors and famous ski jumpers,” said Davis.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Pabst dismantled the J-bar and moved it to Vermont, where he opened Big Bromley, Davis said.

The 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid made skiing a popular sport for the first time, said Davis.

“Equipment was inexpensive, even during the depression,” said Davis. “People could even make their own skis and bindings if necessary.”

After World War II, skiing became a big business as investors and developers created ski resorts in the Rockies and in southern Vermont. The days of the single lift, owner and sometimes community operated ski area were over.

Davis said his goal is “to get the histories of these ski areas on the record before it’s too late, and no one is left who will remember them.”

Davis acknowledges that some people might regard his interest in vanished ski areas as “a peculiar hobby.”

“But,” he says, “you’d be surprised by how many thousands of people have responded to the web site and books and have contributed photos and their own personal accounts.”

“The lost ski areas are like other lost pieces of roadside Americana: the amusement parks, the drive-ins, the diners. People are nostalgic about them because they associate them with their families and their own childhoods,” he said.

Davis does not merely collect ephemera about ski areas; he tramps through the woods to find what evidence he can of their brief existence.

“These are modern day archaeological sites,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly the ski slopes revert to wilderness. It’s almost instantaneous.”

He notes, for example, that the engine that powered the rope tow at the Ski Bowl in North Creek is now all but hidden in the woods a few hundred feet from the access road to the state-owned Gore Mountain Ski Center.

“It was the first rope tow in New York State,” he says. “Would people be interested to know that they’re driving by it every time they go to Gore? At least a few of us find that fascinating.”

Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks is available at Trees in Bolton Landing, the Lake George Historical Museum and the Lake George Steamboat Company in Lake George, the Warrensburg Historical Museum and Miller’s Art and Frame in Warrensburg and the Ticonderoga Historical Society in Ticonderoga.

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Fort William Henry Guides Offer Tour of Haunted Sites

By Mirror Staff

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Fort William Henry Hotel is not haunted, says Fred Austin, a Lake George resident and aficionado of all things paranormal who’s worked at Fort William Henry for many years.

“The location of the hotel is where the fort garden was,” says Austin. “It fed not only the fort but the nearby encampments. Since no one was killed there, the hotel is spared the hauntings. The Fort, however, is a different story.”

On summer evenings, the Fort’s guides offer a tour whose emphasis is somewhat different than daytime tours, which dramatize the historical significance of Fort William Henry and its role in the French and Indian War.

The Ghost Tours guide visitors through haunted sites, the places where spirits have been seen, heard or felt.

The Ghost Tour guides are the same young students who don costumes to conduct the daytime tours, which is appropriate, since it is the guides and other employees of the Fort who have the most experience with the spirits.

According to Fred Austin, the Fort’s ghosts are said to be the unhappy victims of the massacre of 1757.

In August of that year, 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,

“Many of these souls and many hundreds of others are said to still roam areas throughout Lake George Village and west to Prospect Mountain,” said Austin.

There is, for example, the Limper, whose distinctive gait has been heard on the bastions and is, perhaps, the spirit  of  an amputee whose skeleton was found when archeologists explored the site in the 1950s.

There’s also the Slammer, who delights in slamming doors in the faces of guides. And the ghosts of officers who punish guides dressed as conscripts for entering their space.  There’s the voice that urges tourists to leave the powder magazine.  And plenty of orbs, flashing lights and streaks of color.

With so many reports of similar incidents, all occurring in the same place, it’s not surprising that the stars of the television show “Ghost Hunters” arrived at the fort last summer to conduct an investigation.

“They spent considerable time investigating numerous claims of specific paranormal events,” said Austin. “They always try to find a natural explanation for things, but likewise, they acknowledge it when something is truly paranormal.”

And, reportedly, there were many things the Ghost Hunters could not attribute to natural or human causes.

“These could be memories or energy patterns within the fortification,” says local ghost expert David Pitkin.

The Ghost Tours are held every Friday and Saturday evening and begin at 7 pm. The cost is $14.95 per adult; $7.95 per child.  Call 668-5471 for more information.

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Wakonda Lodge

Wakonda Lodge

With help from LA Group’s Pro Bono Design Program, Wiawaka Plans for its Future

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fuller House

That good communities can be made better communities through good design is a principle with planning firms, one which they put into practice through the One Percent Pro Bono Design Program.

The LA Group, a Saratoga-based firm that has worked extensively with Lake George communities, has used the One Percent Pro Bono Design Program

to assist The Hyde, YMCA centers, Yaddo and several local churches with planning and design projects which they might not otherwise be able to afford.

This past year, Wiawaka was chosen to be the program’s beneficiary.

“We’ve donated approximately 300 hours to the project since February,” said Mike Ingersoll, a founder of the LA Group. “Wiawaka’s mission, history and grounds deserve support, and the organization needed some guidance. Moreover, a project like this one is a good exercise for our staff; they truly buy into the One Percent Program when it’s for a good cause. So this felt right.”

Ingersoll and his staff helped Wiawaka’s Board and its director, Christine Dixon, develop a Master Plan that will help the century-old retreat for women preserve its past while accommodating change as it adapts to future needs.

“This is the first comprehensive look the campus has received in 100 years,” said Ingersoll. “The plan doesn’t have to be perfect; it can change as new priorities arise. But Wiawaka needed a basic tool for planning and fund raising, and this will help.

“It’s very exciting,” said Christine Dixon. “Once we had the drawings, the goals and improvements we had discussed seemed more real and attainable.”

Among the first goals, said Ingersoll, is to preserve the natural landscape.

“The goal isn’t to make it a Sagamore or a luxury resort. In today’s environment, this is a very distinct place; it’s very romantic in many ways. We want to preserve the landscape by enhancing it, by opening up vistas and making certain that facilities do not detract from the landscape,” said Ingersoll.

Over the years, parking lots and driveways have intruded upon the landscape.

Parking lots can be shifted to the road and driveways re-oriented to preserve open space, said Ingersoll.

Administrative offices could also be placed near the road, allowing Fuller House, the main building, to gain more space for lodging and events.

Fuller House also contains the kitchen, which should be moved to a new, modern facility, said Ingersoll.

“In Fuller House, the kitchen blocks view of the lake. If that were moved, there would be even more space for guests, groups, weddings and meetings,” said Ingersoll.

Since Wiawaka sees partnerships with programs for cancer survivors and women veterans, among others, as part of its path to sustainability, the facilities must accommodate group functions, said Christine Dixon.

The resort’s 1,500 feet of waterfront could also be better utilized, not only to provide more space for swimming but to dock a water jitney for transportation to Lake George Village, said Ingersoll.

Wakonda Lodge, built shortly after the resort opened in 1903 and which has been closed since 2002 is expected to be renovated and re-opened by 2013, said Dixon.

“We’re especially excited by the prospect of constructing an outdoor amphitheater at the site,” said Dixon.

According to Dixon, members of Wiawaka’s Board were scheduled to walk the grounds, plan in hand, earlier this week.

Among the topics still to be discussed include the future of undeveloped property across the road from the campus and accommodating off-season events, said Dixon.

“There has been some talk about winter activities and an expanded presence in the community, but no discussion about becoming a year-round facility, although that possibility exists,” said Dixon.

“This plan gives us a base-line,” said Dixon. “It’s fluid, and it can change, but in a generation from now, when there’s a new team in place, they’ll know where we were coming from.”

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Battle Bay: Skirmish Between Rangers and French Occurred Near Site of Re-Enactment

By Mirror Staff

Friday, June 8, 2012

When re-enactors gather at Bolton Landing’s Rogers Park on June 16 for Bolton Landing: Crossroads of the French & Indian War,” they will be camped just across the bay from one of the more obscure incidents of the French and Indian War: a skirmish between Rangers led by Robert Rogers and Israel Putnam and a party of French and Indians. As late as the 1890s, visitors such as Charles Dudley Warner, Mark Twain’s friend and collaborator, were being shown entrenchments at the north end of Green Island. These were the remains of breastworks believed to have been constructed in November of 1755.

In 1891, the Lake George Mirror published an account of the skirmish written in the 1850s, which we re-print below. 

“Green Island” may embrace some sixty acres in its area; it is quite flat, and in form somewhat like an open fan, narrowing towards its northern extremity. Between the island and the west main shore, is a beautiful bay, connecting itself with the broader expanse of water, and to the south by a very narrow strait. There falls into this bay a fine stream of water which comes crawling down from the west, through a gorge which in its primitive condition must have been exceedingly wild. There rises abruptly from this stream on the north, a lofty hill sloping gradually towards the lake. The view from the highest point on this hill is one of the finest in the region; the eye taking in the splendid picture of the lake and its surroundings, from the head of “North West Bay” to the southern terminus of the main body. I have a reason for being thus particular with regard to the topography of this particular section, which will soon appear.

I should have mentioned one other thing: At the northeast and most abrupt curve of the bay I have mentioned, another smaller stream falls into it; it is observable that the soil of this section of the shore, is clay. Let the reader note this.

To these features in the topography of the region, let a few facts of another class now be added.

Near the north end of “Green Island” and on its west side is a formation which is evidently artificial, and designed for defense. It was originally a high breast-work and would have constituted an excellent protection for a large body of men, in case of an attack from the west. On the main shore, and in different places from 200 to 300 yards from the water have been found various relics indicating an old encampment, or a battle ground. These have been hatchets of French manufacture, a bayonet, etc.

I now propose to show that the locality I have indicated was the scene of a battle or skirmish between a party led by Rogers and Putnam, and the French and Indians, on the 1st day of November, 1755. In the “Documentary History of New York,” Vol. IV, page 272, is the report of Captain Rogers, in relation to operations and a skirmish somewhere down the lake, on its western shore. From this quaint but authentic document some very important facts may be gathered which seem to me to leave no ground for doubting that the scene of this skirmish has been indicated.

Rogers – whose report is also signed by Israel Putnam and Noah Grant – informs us that he left the head of the lake on the 29th of October, and that on the night of the 31st he “made a discovery of a number of fires situated upon a point of land on the west side of the lake.”

Rogers seems to have had with him four bateaux, and for the purposes of careful observation would proceed slowly, so he would naturally be found in the neighborhood of “Green Island” on the night of the 31st. He goes on to say, ” we landed and secured our bateaux upon the same side of the lake about a mile and a half from their encampment.” Suppose Rogers to have camped near what was formerly known as McGee’s Point, and he would then have about a mile and a half between him and the point which completes the formation of the bay. This point is on the farm now owned by Rev.Mr. Goodman of Caldwell. In the evening,  Rogers despatched three spies to reconnoiter the enemy’s camp. Capt. Fletcher, one of the spies, at length returned “and made report that there were four tents and sundry small fires on said point.” The “point” here spoken of must have been either the point on Goodman’s farm or another of high projection north of the mouth of the larger stream which falls into the bay. It might be suggested as in favor of the last, that the relics which have been found were nearer this than the other point. Other considerations, however, lead to a different conclusion.  The relics can easily be accounted for as Rogers tells us the enemy showed themselves “on each side of the shore” and that he “gave them each a broadside which put them to the bush.” He tells us also the “divers” of the enemy were killed.

The commencement and progress of the battle seems to have been very nearly as follows. Upon the report of Fletcher, he was dispatched with six men and a bateau to the head of the lake for a reinforcement; Rogers meantime taking another bateau and five men and in his own words, ” went within twenty-five rods of their fires. Discovered a small fort, with several log camps within the fort, which I judged to contain about one-fourth of an acre. Said fort being open towards the water, the rest picketed.” Putnam, it seems, was one of the spies first sent out with Fletcher and who, with his comrade, did not return till 10 o’clock the next morning, and then reported that the enemy’s sentries were posted twenty rods from their fires, and that he actually approached within a rod of one of them, who discovered him and fired upon him, and that in attempting to return the fire he “fell into a clay-pit and wet his gun, and made the best retreat he was able, etc.” Let it be remembered that clay abounds in the neighborhood of Goodman’s Point, and from the adventure of Putnam, it seems probable that the frail French work called a fortress by Rogers, was there.

After Putnam’s return to the camp from his dangerous reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, “there was a discovery made of two Frenchmen upon a hill, a small distance, who called to us. Said hill overlooked our ambush, etc.” The elevation back of the former residence of Judge Pratt, and present residence of the Widow Anderson, suggests at once the position of the two Frenchmen; or, the still loftier elevation north of the stream which has been already described.

The Frenchmen very soon disappeared, and two canoes appeared, “and went and lay in the lake about 40 rods distance from each other.”

Rogers then, under the apprehension that a party on land was moving to take him in the rear, and that he was likely to be placed between two fires, proceeded at once to attack the canoes with two bateaux containing six men and a wall-piece each; one commanded by himself, and the other by Lieutenant Grant. The party in the canoes seem to have been pretty roughly handled and retreated towards the shore, where Putnam and the rest of the party awaited them, and when they came within ranged poured in a fatal volley upon them, “killing their cockswain and by our wall pieces, etc., killed divers of them,” as Rogers says.

At this juncture, however, Putnam is attacked in the rear by a party on shore, and barely escapes with his life, having only time to shove off his bateau and leap into it with his comrades, seeking security by pushing out of the range of the enemy’s fire into the bay. The report tells us that “the enemy shot through his blanket in divers places, and through the bateau.” It was not the only hairbreadth escape of that remarkable man.

The two bateaux united, now pursued the canoes “with constant fire upon them, ’til we came within 80 rods of their fires; discovered a number of men upon each side of the shore within about 40 rods of us gave each a broadside, which put them to the bush, and gave us a clear passage homewards, and after we got fairly into the lake, lay upon our oars and inquired after the circumstances of the party – found none killed, but one wounded, which gave joy to all of us, after so long an engagement, which I judge was near two hours.”

It is evident from this account that the conflict, and with the two canoes, began well toward the south side of the bay, and in the neighborhood of the strait separating “Green Island” from the main shore, and terminated near the north side of the bay and in front of what is know as “Goodman’s Landing.” The canoes retreated when attacked by Rogers and Grant in the direction of the French encampment, which I am now satisfied, was on Goodman’s Point. Rogers and Grant pursue with the two bateaux, until they approach within 80 rods of the enemy’s fires. Putnam and his six men on shore, meantime, had fired upon the canoes, and themselves been driven to the water by a party of the enemy on shore. Joining Rogers and Grant, and pressing on in the pursuit, the battle was brought to a close by the appearance of two bodies of the enemy at different points on the shore of the bay, the “broadsides” of Rogers by which he says he “put them to bush” and his escape to the broader lake.

We are now able to account for the artificial formation on the north end of “Green Island.” Rogers had two wall-pieces with him. He had despatched Capt. Fletcher on the night of the 31st to the head of the lake for a reinforcement. After the skirmish which has been described and Rogers had drawn off, the French in anticipation of his return, and a renewal of the attack had posted a party on “Green Island” directly opposite their works on “Goodman’s Point,” so that by having another party secreted near the strait at the south, when once Rogers was fairly in the bay he would be easily destroyed.

The party posted on the north end of “Green Island” threw up the breast-work which may still be seen. This, from its contiguity to the fort on the mainland, was the more important point.

Having thus determined the scene of an incident in the military annals of Horicon, I have only to ask the tourist and antiquarian to examine it, and to claim the privilege of bestowing a name upon the bay of which so much has been said. Let it be called Battle Bay.

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Skeletons from the Fort were displayed in public until 1993

Skeletons from the Fort were displayed in public until 1993

Fort William Henry Seeks Return of Remains

By Mirror Staff

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fort William Henry officials have requested that the remains of 18th century soldiers unearthed at the site in the 1950s be returned to the place where they died.

According to Bob Flacke, Sr., the president of the Fort William Henry Corporation, the skeletons have been in the possession of forensic anthropologists since 1993, when the bones were finally removed from public display.

“Apparently, some of the people in that profession are quirky; they carry the remains with them as they move from job to job. These remains have been traveling around the country,” Flacke said.

The time has come for them to be returned to Lake George, Flacke said.

“We feel responsible for them,” said Flacke.

The plight of the soldiers’ remains became international news this month when it was reported that the remains of several soldiers were never interred during a burial ceremony held at the Fort in 1993.

Skeletons found at the site where Fort William Henry stood were a draw for tourists when the Fort was reconstructed in the 1950s

Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais was quoted by the Associated Press as being surprised by the discovery, asking, “Most of them aren’t there?”

But Fort William Henry officials and archeologists never made a secret of the fact that forensic anthropologists removed several skeletons for study and analysis.

At least four of the skeletons studied by the anthropologists appear to have been victims of the August 1757 massacre, archeologist David Starbuck wrote in his 2002 book, “Massacre at Fort William Henry.”

During the massacre, which became the basis of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, “Last of the Mohicans,” Indians aiding the French attacked the survivors of Montcalm’s assault on the fort, killing 69 people and taking 200 prisoners.

At least one soldier had been decapitated, Starbuck wrote.

New technologies may enable anthropologists to learn more about the identities of the soldiers and the causes of their death, Flacke said.

But should scientists at the New York State Museum in Albany have no further interest in studying the skeletons, they will be reburied at Fort William Henry, said Flacke.

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Heart Bay

Heart Bay

Heart Bay In History

By George Chapman Singer

Thursday, March 22, 2012

During the nineteenth century Heart Bay was known as Stone’s Bay. John Stone, who appears to have been the original settler, came to South Ticonderoga about 1797 from Shoreham, Vermont with his wife, a Miss Litchfield, from Scituate, Massachusetts. The John Hammond subdivision map of 1880 locates “Stone’s Bay Farm.” An E. Stone is named by Joseph Cook in his Ticonderoga Centennial Address, 25 July, 1864. Cook noted that the Stone farm was separated from the nearby steamboat landing at Baldwin by a fence.

Baldwin Dock and Baldwin Road memorialize William G. Baldwin who operated a stagecoach service connecting the foot of Lake George with Lake Champlain until 1875 when the rail link was completed.

But Heart Bay had an earlier, if somewhat shadowy, history. By the terms of the Peace of Paris in February, 1763 which ended the French and Indian War, the French forfeited all of their territorial claims in northern New York and Canada. Heart Bay had been a part of a French grant, the Seigniory of Alainville, by a Royal Proclamation of George III. The victorious British rewarded soldiers who had fought in the contested areas with grants of land carved from the French claims. Private soldiers received 50 acres, sergeants 200 acres, officers up to 2000 acres. Heart Bay may have been part of a grant made to George Robertson, a “private soldier in His Maj’s 22nd Regiment of Foot.” Robertson’s petition, dated from Crown Point, 21 September, 1766, specified “a Certain piece of Land Lying on the North side of Roger’s Rock upon the west Side of Lake George.”

Many of these military grants were bought up by developers in the period during and after the Revolution. Heart Bay was incorporated into the Alexander Ellice tract. Ellice was an Englishman who most likely never set foot in northern New York. His name survives in Alexandria Avenue, all that remains of the tiny settlement of Alexandria at the very foot of Lake George.

In 1802 the Ellice Tract was subdivided by William Cockburn, Jr., into large lots covering the area from Rogers’ Rock nearly to Trout Brook on the north. It was quitclaimed to Edward Ellice who owned it in 1840. An 1858 map shows that what is now Coates Point was part of the Simeon Coates farm which dated from around 1800. Further along the outlet of Lake George was The Homelands, the extensive property belonging to Andrew Jackson Cook.

The panoramic photo shows the western half of Heart Bay as it looked around 1910. The reason for its name is evident from the small aerial shot. The cleft of the heart forms the western edge, the right ventricle the extended shoreline, the left ventricle the water side. Although “Heart’s Bay,” was legitimized by its unfortunate inclusion in the 1950 U.S. Geological survey, it was “Heart Bay” as early as the 1880s when the Rogers’ Rock observatory was built. The name was used before 1900 on postcards, even appearing in the Lake George Mirror in 1904. “Heart Bay” has now been officially recognized by the U.S. Survey Board of Proper Names and will be included in the next topo revision.

The sheer rock face of Rogers’ Rock, or “The Slide,” rises to the west of Heart Bay, beyond the photo. From its highest point, a stunning view reveals the heart. Around 1880, Flavius Joseph Cook built the two story observatory and, more lastingly, the narrow wagon road from Cliff Seat (Joseph Cook’s summer home on the grounds of his father’s farm) to the top. The observatory was a favorite hiking destination for several generations of Heart Bay residents and their guests. Struck by lightning in 1925 and severely damaged, it was pulled down by the owners of the Rogers Rock Club. The stubs of eight large iron bolts, driven into the solid rock, are all that remains of this landmark.

The most prominent feature of the western half of Heart Bay was the Rogers Rock Hotel (far right in the photo) which opened to the public in 1874. It was a graceful three story building designed by O. H. Hinckley and built for the brothers William D. and John Q.A. Treadway. Hiking trails, a large steamboat dock, the “Casino”, a shoreside building with a bowling alley and pool table, and other amenities completed the facility. The facility was purchased by David Williams in 1903. Williams, publisher of Iron Age, built a windmill which pumped water from the lake to the hotel and added refinements to the décor including oriental lanterns which still light. In 1925 the property passed to three resident families who formed the Rogers Rock Club. The descendants of one of them, the A. F. Wilson family, still occupy “a summer place” on the property. The other two were Grace Pullman Perkins and Belle Lobenstine.

The onset of the Great Depression and the resulting decline in steamboat traffic on the lake brought hard times to the hotel. Pearl Harbor dealt the lethal blow. In the spring of 1942, the Club’s directors ordered the grand old lady pulled down and the site grassed over. (In 1941, the author spent his first summer at Lake George as a guest at the hotel.)

In 19978, descendants of the original members of the Rogers Rock Club, headed by Geoffrey Wilson and his wife Elizabeth DeCamp Wilson, whose family came to Heart Bay before World War I, sold the property. The buyers were Thomas and Virginia Adams, who had rented Bayside Camp (not visible in the 1910 photo but located in the left atrium of the heart), and Marcelino and Judy Lavin. The property has been both sensitively and sensibly developed including four new camps and upgrades to the existing twelve camps scattered over approximately 150 acres of wooded and hilly land.

Although not well known, the Rogers Rock property includes the Slide itself. In 1999, the Slide and about 50 acres of land adjoining the Rogers’ Rock Campsite in Cook Bay were gifted to the Lake George Land Conservancy by the Adams and Lavin families.

The dock, boat house, barn and main house in the cleft of the heart was known, collectively, as Tippetts’ Property. The site was part of the Andrew Jackson Cook holdings that stretched into Cook Bay south of Rogers’ Rock. It was added to the Treadway brother’s holdings, one half was conveyed to William in August, 1876, and the other half to John in December, 1878. William and Clara Tippetts acquired it in October, 1882 from the then owners Sarah and George Weed, at which time the structures now standing were presumably constructed. It was locally known as the “Miss Eliza Tippetts Cottage” and was so named on a September, 1887 survey map.

Hard times, death or some other untoward event intervened and the property was foreclosed by the purchase money mortgage holders Mr. and Mrs. Weed. It was conveyed to H. G. Burleigh in April, 1890. Talk about land speculation! This parcel changed hands five times in about 14 years. Burleigh sold it to William Hooper and that name stuck through subsequent sales, coming to David Williams in November, 1907 and to the Rogers Rock Club in February, 1925 with the rest of the hotel property. It was still the Hooper Cottage when acquired by William D. Wallace in September, 1943 and is now owned by his three children and their families, Ken and Sally (Wallace) Murray, Dean Wallace and Dr. Robert Wallace.

At The tip of the heart’s left atrium, beyond the Hooper/Wallace cleft, is Windmill Point. Just offshore, in shallow water, is the graveyard of the steamboat Ticonderoga I. Little but fragments of pottery, rusted fasteners and pieces of spar remain, marking the spot where on 29 August, 1901 the steamer came to rest after burning to the waterline. Fire, probably from an improperly banked furnace, was discovered shortly after its early morning departure from Baldwin Dock on its daily trip up the lake. The Captain was able to reach the Rogers Rock dock where the crew was taken off. When the mooring lines finally burned away, the ship drifted beck to what was then called “Hawkeye Point,” and foundered.

In the foreground of the photo, occupying most of the right atrium of the heart, was the George Cook farm, settled in the 1880s. Cook’s father, Dalthus Cook, was the son of Andrew Jackson Cook, proprietor of the Homelands. George’s sons, Dr. G. Peter and Warner, helped farm as young boys. According to Pete they “lived off the land,” had a truck garden, sold milk year round and ice in the summer. George Cook was the winter caretaker of the Rogers Rock Hotel during David Williams’ tenure. The family lived in Rose Cottage in the winter and Hooper Cottage in the summer. Warner Cook’s widow, Jerry, lives in the Cook farmhouse (left foreground in the photo) that was originally the summer home of Col. William E. Calkins.

Born in Burlington, Vermont in 1816, Calkins moved to Ticonderoga in 1830. After graduation from Dartmouth College and a stint as a teacher in an area school, (he was one of the founders of the Ticonderoga Academy), he became a prominent member of the business community. He was manager of the American Graphite Company facility (Dixon Ticonderoga Pencils), Essex County Clerk and Town Supervisor in 1874.

The remaining shoreline of Heart Bay, the right ventricle, so to speak, beyond the left margin of the photo, was largely developed by about 1910 and, with a few exceptions, had achieved its present appearance at that time. Seneca Ray Stoddard’s map of 1881, based on an 1880 survey shows the summer homes of Clayton DeLano and his partner, Clark Putnam on the westerly side of Baldwin Road. Their sash and door factory was a mainstay of the local economy in post Civil War Ticonderoga. But DeLano’s most lasting contribution was founding the Ticonderoga Chemical Pulp and Paper Company in 1882, a business which eventually became International Paper Company’s Ticonderoga Mill. DeLano was a member of the Ticonderoga Centennial Committee and delivered an historical poem on the occasion of the centennial.

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Whatever It Takes – A distinctively American way of war emerged along the shores of Lake George

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More than 250 years separates the massacre at Fort William Henry in 1757 and the slaying of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, but according to Eliot A. Cohen, the author of “Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath,” the two events are not unrelated.

The unofficial motto of the US Army is, Cohen reminds us,  “Whatever it Takes.”

American armies learned to adapt to unforeseen and changing circumstances in the 18th century, along the corridor between Albany and Montreal, at the center of which, of course, lies Lake George. 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.”

“In 2011 a liberal American president had no compunction about ordering raiders into an allied country to kill, not capture, the architect of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The Navy SEALs who shot Osama bin Laden reported his death using as code for the founder of Al Qaeda the name of an Indian chieftain. Once again, the ruthless norms of frontier warfare trumped whatever compunctions international law and custom might have created,” writes Cohen.

According to Cohen, that approach to warfare can be traced, at least in part, to the massacre at Fort William Henry.

Disregarding the terms of surrender negotiated by Monro and Montcalm, Indians aiding the French attacked the survivors, killing 69 people and taking 200 prisoners.

In response to the massacre, and to frontier warfare in general, Cohen writes, “European soldiers found themselves accepting savage acts that they would have rejected in Europe, as when Amherst himself later proposed infecting the Indians with smallpox. Indian warfare had never recognized the punctilio of European military manners; the freedom and equality of life in the wilderness or on its edge… made English and French colonists willing to do what seemed practical, and avenge what appeared vicious, even if doing so meant stepping beyond the rules of war.” 

Whether anyone today would call the events of 1757 a massacre is questionable. But there is no doubt that it was seen as such by the colonists.

Another newly published book, “The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier” by Ben Hughes, helps explain why.

Based on the journals, memoirs and letters of witnesses, “The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier” captures the ferocity of the attack.

Relying upon contemporary sources, Hughes arrives at a higher number of dead, wounded and enslaved than does Cohen: 200 dead and 900 captured.

Regardless of how many were actually killed, descriptions of women’s “bellies being ript open” and children being “grabbed by their ankles and swung against trees until their brains were beat out,” which appeared in the colonists’ newspapers, could not help but outrage the Americans and give rise to the attitudes toward warfare discussed by Cohen.

But Cohen, who teaches at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, is interested not only in how Americans make war, but why.

The conflicts along the great warpath suggest possible answers to that question, too.

Those of us who live in the valleys of Lake George and Lake Champlain and who grew up on the stories of battles at Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga, tend to think of the Great Warpath as the route open to invaders from the north, and the forts as defensive outposts.

But as Cohen reminds us, that same corridor is also the most direct route from the US into Canada, and it retained its strategic value for the US well into the 19th century.

“For well over a century, from the colonial period through American independence, the military struggle with what is now Canada, was America’s central strategic fact. For at least a half century beyond that, war between the United States and British-ruled Canada was a very real possibility,” he writes.

The phrase, “conquered into liberty,” was, in fact, coined by the American leaders who invaded Canada in 1775 in the unsuccessful effort to bring the provinces into alignment with the rebellious colonies.

Cohen concludes, “The abortive invasion of Canada combined, in a distinctively American way, idealism and calculating realpolitik.  The invaders sincerely advocated representative government and individual liberty, while manipulating local beliefs and brazenly attacking a neighbor… In years to come, Americans in many other places – from Mexico to the Philippines, Vietnam to Iraq – would behave similarly.” 

Although Cohen himself championed the invasion of Iraq (and is currently an advisor to Mitt Romney), I suspect he understands the reluctance of many Americans to engage in any other efforts to “conquer others into liberty.” The results of such ventures, as we learn from him, have been mixed, and too often, disastrous.

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Battle on Snowshoes at Fort Ticonderoga Held on March 10

By Mirror Staff

Friday, March 2, 2012

Experience an exciting living history event at Fort Ticonderoga highlighting Major Robert Rogers and the Battle of Snowshoes on Saturday, March 10 from 10 am – 4 pm! Visit the French Garrison in the middle of winter inside Fort Ticonderoga and tour through opposing pickets of British rangers and French soldiers, both well trained and adapted to frontier, winter warfare. At 1 pm on Saturday, visitors will experience the hectic tree to tree fighting in a recreated battle. Watch as the rangers make a brave stand against superior odds, only to retreat through the deep woods. Event tickets are $10. Free admission is offered to the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga and residents of Ticonderoga. For more information call 518-585-2821 or visit  www.fortticonderoga.org.

Visitors will be invited to tour Fort Ticonderoga as it appeared in the winter of 1758, and meet the French and Indians who overwhelmed Roger’s experienced woodsmen. See how natives and French soldiers alike survived the deep winter at this remote military post. More adventurous visitors can take a hike led by a historic interpreter through the uneasy quiet of opposed pickets of soldiers in the deep woods. In these tours visitors can see how rangers kept a vigilant watch for subtle signs that might reveal their ferocious enemy.

“The Battle on Snowshoes event recreates the savage fight between Robert Roger’s rangers, and a mixed French force of regular soldiers, milice, and allied native warriors on March 13, 1758,” said Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga.  “This event is designed to be a rich experience for both participants and visitors alike.” Re-enactors portraying French soldiers and native allies will live inside the period furnished barracks rooms of Fort Ticonderoga. They will recreate the winter garrison for Fort Carillon, as it was known until 1759. Just as in the March of 1758 these re-enactors will sortie out from the Fort to meet and overwhelm Roger’s men.

Major Robert Rogers force of both volunteers from the 27th foot, and his own rangers headed out on an extended scout from Fort Edward along Lake George, following an attack on a similar patrol from Captain Israel Putnam’s Connecticut rangers. Hiking on snowshoes due to the three feet of snow, the tracks of Roger’s force were spotted on its march up the west side of Lake George. Near the north end of Lake George, Major Rogers, advanced scouts spotted their French counterparts. Rogers and his Rangers took up positions in a ravine, setting his force in ambuscade to await whatever French patrol would come to meet him.

The French patrol that met Roger’s men proved far larger than he imagined, and in this Battle on Snowshoes, the rangers’ ambush was itself surrounded and overwhelmed. In deep woods on deep snow, the rangers were forced to retreat with heavy casualties as the French regulars, malice, and natives pressed home their attack. Despite brave stands along the way, this retreat quickly became chaotic as rangers, Roger’s included, ran for their lives from superior numbers of French.

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Fort Ticonderoga Hotel, circa 1895

Fort Ticonderoga Hotel, circa 1895

Wish You Were Here – Fort Ticonderoga and the 19th Century Tourist

By Mirror Staff

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fort Ticonderoga is considered one of the oldest tourist attractions in America. Shortly after the American Revolution tourists began visiting the Fort ruins to pay homage to the site of important events in both the Revolution and the French and Indian War. Among those early tourists were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the painter Thomas Cole, and the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as thousands of other everyday tourists with their families.

Ticonderoga Steamer dock

Thanks to the foresight of William Ferris Pell, the Fort ruins were preserved beginning in 1820 when Pell purchased the Garrison Grounds comprising 543 acres on the Ticonderoga peninsula.  Pell quickly realized that the growing tourist trade visiting the Fort via steamboat needed a place to stay, and so in 1826 he built The Pavilion as a hotel in the shadow of Fort Ticonderoga and overlooking Lake Champlain.

The Fort ruins, now with a first-class hotel, became a must for 19th century travelers taking the “Northern Tour.” These tourists were eager to discover the history of this new young nation and to view the spectacular scenery found in the Adirondacks.

The staff of Fort Ticonderoga is slowly piecing together the history of The Pavilion hotel, which operated throughout the 19th century.  Adirondack guidebooks from the period praise the accommodations, the food, and the wonderful scenery and history found here. Photographs of the hotel were taken by professional photographers and sold as souvenirs.

Always on the search for new historic material on The Pavilion, the Fort recently acquired through auction a letter dated September 30, 1868 from a tourist named Hayes to his friend Herbert Hutchens of Dover New Hampshire. The letter is written on Fort Ticonderoga Hotel stationary, the name used for the hotel from the mid-19th century on, and notes J.B. Wicker as the proprietor.  From Fort archives the staff know that in 1868 the hotel had undergone extensive renovation and reopened with Wicker as hotel manager. This four-page letter sheds some light onto a typical tourist vacation of the period, which included a visit to Fort Ticonderoga, Mount Defiance, fishing and sailing on Lake Champlain, and taking the steamboat down Lake George to visit the village. Some things never change.  Here is the letter reproduced:

Fort Ticonderoga, September 30th 1868

Friend Herbert,

I presume that you would like to receive a letter from this romantic old spot, and I have just time before starting for Lake George to commence one.  This is a very beautiful place.  There is a good Hotel here, and the old ruins are still standing, of Fort Ticonderoga.  Here you will recollect the Enterprise. 

Ethan Allen utterred those illustrious words in demanding the surrender of the fort from the british officer telling him that the authority by which he demanded its surrender was “by the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.”  And you could spend a few days as pleasantly here rambling about the old ruins and battle grounds, going fishing and sailing on Lake Champlain and have a grand time generally. The scenery about here is very pretty.  On the south is Mount defiance upon which the americans climb, planting their artillery, and stormed the old Fort, and captured it. On the lake the scenery is very beautiful, although a few miles up, when you have passed Crown Point it widens and the views are constantly increasing in beauty the entire length.  On the west side are the Adirondacks beginning at the waters edge and rising imposingly up in to the heavens, looking down upon us poor mortals in defiance.  On the east shore the scene is far different and affords a very pretty contrast.  Fertile meadows begin at the waters edge instead of high barren rock, and graitvally rising and making their way back into the country until the Green Mountains a few miles back are seen rearing their lofty peaks, and piercing the clouds until they are lost and seem to be part and parcel of them. 

There is some of the finest scenery here that can be found in any part of the world, and in looking at it we cannot but feel thankful for being blessed with such priviledges as we are in every respect.  The waters of Lake George are very clear and it was called by the Indians Lake Horicon on account of the purity of them. 

In an awful hurry, Stage waiting.  You can judge the haste that I am in from the appearance of this.  Of course you will understand it. Believe me to be as ever, your true friend,


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