Tag Archives: Hamilton County

A Backcountry Murder in Lake Pleasant

In late 1928, the life of an Adirondack guide came to an unfortunate, premature end. Like many of his brethren who died from accidental shootings over the years, the victim succumbed to the effects of a serious gunshot wound. But the demise of Eula Davis was no accident. Clearly, this was a case of murder, and the beginning of a twisted saga that kept all eyes glued on the Lake Pleasant region for some time. Continue reading

Northern New York Survival Stories

I recently covered some pretty tough hombres from Lyon Mountain in far upstate New York. Rugged folks, for sure, but by no means had they cornered the market on regional toughness. Here are a few of my favorite stories of Adirondack and North Country resilience. Continue reading

Serial Killer Robert Garrow Talk Sunday

On Sunday, September 30, 2012, the Virginia Hosley Free Library in Wells, NY, will host a talk by Adirondack Almanack contributor Lawrence P. Gooley, author of Terror in the Adirondacks. The chilling true story of Robert F. Garrow started in the summer of 1973 when Garrow went on a murder spree that spread alarm and fear through the Southern Adirondacks.

is crimes and much of the longest manhunt in Adirondack history took place in and around Wells and Speculator. Hear the true story of Robert F. Garrow, from his unfortunate childhood, his crimes and capture, his escape from prison, to his manipulation of legal, medical, and corrections professionals. Gooley’s authoritative book is based on official records, court transcripts, prison records, and more than 800 newspaper and magazine articles.

Due to the graphic criminal nature of this story, this program is not recommended for children. The presentation will start at 1:30 pm at the Wells Community Hall located on route 30 in the center of Wells, NY. The Wells Library is suggesting a donation of $5 to help defray the author’s speaking fee. Free refreshments will be served. For more information, contact M. E. Stofelano at 518-924-6358.

Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Political History: A Hamilton County Write-in Campaign


It’s relatively rare for a write-in candidate to win an election. A recent, high-profile example occurred in Alaska’s senate race when Lisa Murkowski bested Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate.

Miller took to the courts, claiming that misspellings of Murkowski’s name on many ballots disqualified those votes. The ridiculous charge—it’s an election, not a spelling contest—was dismissed. Otherwise, candidates with easy-to-spell names (like Miller, as opposed to Murkowski) would enjoy a considerable write-in advantage.

A precedent for that situation had long been established, but it wasn’t always followed. More than a century ago, an Adirondack election was decided based on the electorate’s inability to spell a candidate’s name and to record it with consistency. The result? Across the state, headlines of potential bloodshed made the news. It was a year before the issue was finally resolved.

It all began prior to the election of fall 1901 in Hamilton County, where the Republicans chose B. Frank Kathan as their candidate for sheriff. The Democrats offered no opposition, yet Kathan lost the election. Say what? Yep, it’s true. He lost, even with no opponent on the ballot.

Leading up to November, a few dedicated Democrats, including some deputy sheriffs (led by William Osborne), felt the party should have offered a candidate. They began urging voters to support a certain write-in candidate, the very popular Jim Locke.

By all accounts, it came as a total shock on Election Day when the ballots were examined and Jim Locke had triumphed by 40 votes (326–286). He was declared the winner and was issued a Certificate of Election, verifying the outcome.

When Locke took over the office of sheriff, Kathan took off for court. Despite opposition, he obtained a show-cause order requiring the Board of Canvassers to recount the votes (Kathan’s claim was that some ballots were “defective”). The judge ordered that the votes be counted exactly as they were cast, and that presented a problem for James Nathan “Jim” Locke.

Though the voters’ intentions were clear, Locke’s name had been written in many forms. In some settlements he was known as Jim, and in others as Nat. On the ballots, there appeared Jim, James, James N., James Nathan, J. N., Nat, and other variations. The recount revealed new totals: Nat Locke–223- J. N. Locke–32- James N. Locke–24- and a number of other smaller groupings.

Since Frank Kathan had garnered 286 votes, he was declared the winner and was issued a Certificate of Election. Hamilton County now had a new sheriff. Well … let me rephrase that. Hamilton County now had two sheriffs. Jim Locke had already taken up residency in the county jail at Lake Pleasant, and he wasn’t going anywhere. Suddenly, the county had a big problem, and the entire state was waiting to see how it would play out.

It wasn’t pretty. Locke soon made his position clear—he expected to remain sheriff. To that end, headlines from Albany to Buffalo proclaimed that the Hamilton County Jail was under siege, and that violence might well play a role in the outcome. As one article noted, “Kathan demanded possession of the keys to the jail, but Locke had three guards on duty, armed to the teeth with revolvers and Winchesters. Kathan’s demands were refused.”

Adding drama to the situation, it was noted that Arietta sharpshooter Jim Higgins was among those defending the jail. A set of Albany headlines in mid-February said it all: “Crack Shot Guards Jail at Lake Pleasant—Supreme Court Defied—May be Necessary to Call Out Troops to Oust Locke.”

With the state militia already mentioned, Kathan turned again to the courts. A few days later, Locke was ordered to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt of court.

Next week: 2nd of two parts: High drama and a jailhouse coup at Lake Pleasant.

Photo: At Lake Pleasant, old jail and courthouse on left, modern courthouse on right.

Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Auburn Prison, Gillette Case Documentary, Lecture

A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake is a documentary feature film that explores one of the most famous American murder cases. Grace Brown, a pregnant young woman from upstate New York, was killed in the Adirondacks on July 11, 1906 [watch the trailer].

Her lover, Chester Gillette, was eventually tried and convicted of her murder. Gillette died in the Auburn Prison electric chair on March 30, 1908. The case became the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.

A North Woods Elegy explores the fascination America had, and still has, with the case, encompassing issues of class, jurisprudence in America at the turn of the 20th century and ethics and sensationalism in news reporting.

The documentary film will be shown in Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum, twice on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 pm. and again at 4:00,. Derek Taylor, the film’s producer, director and editor, will answer questions after each screening.

At 3:00 p.m., there will be a lecture on “Gillette in Auburn” by Tompkins County Judge Jack Sherman, editor of The Prison Diaries and Letters of Chester Gillette. Gillette spent more than a year in Auburn Prison before his execution- his diary from that time is today in the collection of Hamilton College. Both the film screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival Saturday

Join the Adirondack Museum for the Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival on Saturday, September 15, 2012. Celebrate all things fiber during this annual event with fabulous and unique fabrics, regional artists, spinning, weaving, quilting, knitting, knotting and more.

Demonstrations throughout the weekend include: quilting with the Adirondack Regional Textile Artists association, mixed media with Louisa Woodworth and Julie Branch, recycled fiber items with Maria Wulf, Northern Needles quilting demonstration and displays, and wool arts demonstrations with The Serendipity Spinners. Aaron Bush, Jane Mackintosh, and Carol Wilson demonstrate a variety of knitting techniques and will also lead a knit-in for visitors who bring a project.

A special display, “Upcycling Fabric: Ideas from the Past” provides a chance for visitors to talk with Curator Hallie Bond and discover the frugality and creativity of our forebears.

The Festival will also include a vendor market where you can shop for locally made fabric and fiber treasures. Vendors for this year’s Festival include: Baskets by Linda, Keller Country, Liberty Fibers, Heirlooms, Cat in the Window Weaving, Icy Acres, Patridge Run Farm, Kalieidoscope Kolors, Ewe’ll Love the Weather, Color My Loom, Nana Joanne, Kirbside Gardens, 2nd Time Around, The Silver Studio, Harvest Herb Company, Adirondack Handmade, Adirondack Doll Co.
and Laura’s Quality Knits.

Singer and songwriter, Peggy Lynn, will provide music throughout the day.

25th Rustic Furniture Fair at Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum will host its 25th Annual Rustic Furniture Fair on Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9 in Blue Mountain Lake. Renowned artisans from throughout the United States will showcase and sell their one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture, furnishings, and artwork.

The show will be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Visitors interested in an early buying opportunity can visit on Saturday, September 8 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tickets will be available at the door, and are available now online.

The Adirondack Museum’s Rustic Furniture Fair is recognized as the premier event of its kind in the country. This gathering of talented artisans includes both traditional and contemporary styles of furniture design, handcrafted from natural materials. A list of the sixty participating artisans can be found on the museum’s website. Demonstrations of furniture making and painting will take place throughout the weekend. Exhibitors will answer questions about their work, or discuss custom made pieces.

In celebration of the 25th or Silver Anniversary of the Rustic Fair, more than twenty-five artisans have elected to design and create a unique commemorative piece for this year’s show. Each piece will bear a tribute plaque. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the commemorative pieces will benefit the museum.

In addition, there will be a very special silent auction happening during the Fair featuring the works of Barney Bellinger, Randy Holden, Larry Post, Russ DeFonce, Jonathan Swartwout, Bill Perkins, Rick Pratt and Bob Jones. Winners will be announced Sunday, September 9 at 3 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Adirondack Museum.

Music throughout the weekend will be provided by Intermountain Trio. They will be releasing their second album “Can’t Find the Words” at the Rustic Fair this year. Intermountain Trio will be playing starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 8, and at 10 a.m. on September 9.

Hochschild Award Presented at Adirondack Museum

The Board of Trustees of the Adirondack Museum formally presented the Harold K. Hochschild Award to John and Margot Ernst at their annual Gala Benefit on July 28, 2012.

The Harold K. Hochschild Award is dedicated to the memory of the museum’s founder, whose passion for the Adirondacks, its people, and environment inspired the creation of the Adirondack Museum. Since 1990 the museum has presented the award to a wide range of intellectual and community leaders throughout the Adirondack Park, highlighting their contributions to the region’s culture and quality of life.
“On behalf of the Adirondack Museum, I would like to congratulate John and Margot Ernst on receiving this prestigious honor for their commitment and service to the Adirondack region,” said David M. Kahn, Executive Director of the Adirondack Museum.

John and Margot Ernst split their time between New York City and Elk Lake Lodge, a family owned resort near North Hudson, N.Y., located in the 12,000 acre Elk Lake-Clear Pond private preserve, which National Geographic called “the jewel of the Adirondacks.” John and Margot are involved in public service through their work with non-profit organizations in New York State and the North Country.

The Adirondack Museum, accredited by the American Association of Museums, offers 65,000 square feet of exciting exhibitions housed in twenty-two modern and historic buildings. Visitors can explore how people have lived, worked, traveled, and played in the Adirondacks from the 19th century up to today. The museum is supported in part by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. For additional information, visit www.adirondackmuseum.org or call (518) 352-7311.

Photo: (l-r) John Ernst- Nancy Keet – Chair, Harold K. Hochschild Award Committee- and Margot Ernst.

Mountain Men Encampment at the Adirondack Museum

The fur trade comes to life at the Adirondack Museum this weekend, Friday, August 17 and Saturday, August 18. Join the museum and educational interpreters in period dress as they showcase a variety of survival skills at the annual American Mountain Men Encampment.

Visitors will see colorful demonstrations of tomahawk and knife throwing, campfire cooking, firearms and shooting, and fire starting. There will be displays of pelts and furs, clothing of eastern and western mountain styles, period firearms and much more.
Mountain men are powerful symbols of America’s wild frontier. Legends about the mountain man continue to fascinate because many of the tales are true: the life of the mountain man was rough, and despite an amazing ability to survive in the wilderness, it brought him face to face with death on a regular basis.

The American Mountain Men group was founded in 1968. The association researches and studies the history, traditions, tools, and mode of living of the trappers, explorers, and traders known as the mountain men. Members continuously work for mastery of the primitive skills of both the original mountain men and Native Americans. The group prides itself on the accuracy and authenticity of its interpretation and shares the knowledge they have gained with all who are interested.

Participants in the museum encampment are from the Brothers of the New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts segment of the national American Mountain Men organization. Participation in the encampment is by invitation only.

All of the American Mountain Men activities and demonstrations are included in the price of Adirondack Museum admission. There is no charge for museum members. The Adirondack Museum is open 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., through October 14. The museum will close at 3 p.m. September 7 for special event preparations.

Part Two: The Homing Pigeon in NY History

Homing pigeons have long been used for racing and for their unique ability to navigate, an asset once capitalized upon by the military. As noted in last week’s entry here, “Their use during World Wars I and II is legendary, and many were decorated with medals. In 1918, pigeon racing was temporarily banned in the United States to ensure that all birds were available for the use of the military.”Domestically, homing pigeons were an accepted form of communications, and thus enjoyed legal protection. The public shared the responsibility of nurturing any pigeon found in distress, and if need be, contacting the owner via information from the bird’s leg band.
For more than a century, the pigeons were regularly encountered in the North Country. “Homers” were often used for races from 100 to 500 miles, and they didn’t always alight where the owner intended, usually due to stormy weather.Many of the birds that landed in the Adirondack region came from Montreal, where their use for racing and message carrying was common. In 1912, one such Canadian visitor settled inside the walls of Clinton Prison at Dannemora. The warden dutifully cared for the bird and attempted to contact its owner.In 1898, little Miss Gertrude Hough of Lowville received a letter by US Mail from the Los Angeles post office. It had arrived in LA attached to a pigeon that had been released by Gertrude’s father from Catalina Island, more than 20 miles offshore.And in 1936, a homing pigeon landed on the window sill of a Malone home, where it was treated to the proper care. Well beyond the norm, the bird’s journey had begun in Montana.Invariably, efficient systems like bank accounts, credit cards, the internet, and homing pigeons are usurped for other purposes. In recent years, pigeons have been used by ingenious crooks to smuggle drugs from Colombia and diamonds from African mines.In both cases, the North Country was light-years ahead of them. In 1881, an elaborate case of diamond smuggling from Canada into St. Lawrence County was uncovered. A Rensselaer Falls farmer brought to customs authorities a dead “carrier pigeon” with part of a turkey feather, filled with diamonds, attached to the bird’s leg.During the investigation, two more diamond-carrying birds were shot. It was discovered that baskets of birds were being mailed to locations in Canada, and other flocks were located south of the border, awaiting duty. Shipments of pigeons had originated at DeKalb Junction, Heuvelton, Rensselaer Falls, and Richville, and the value of diamonds successfully smuggled was estimated at $800,000 (equal to about $17 million today).

During Prohibition, both booze and drug smuggling were rampant. In 1930, US officials were tipped off that a number of homing pigeons were routinely being shipped north into Quebec. Upon release, they crossed back into northern New York.Authorities at Ogdensburg were put on the case when it was found that each pigeon bore a payload of about one ounce of cocaine. At times, it was literally a fly-by-night operation—some of the birds had been trained to fly under cover of darkness.Homing pigeons also played a role in regional historical events. In 1920, a military balloon launched from Rockaway Point in New York City sailed across the Adirondacks. Last sighted above Wells in Hamilton County, it then vanished. Extended high-profile searches turned up nothing, and three men aboard the balloon were lost.Such missions routinely carried homing pigeons for air-to-ground communication. It was believed that an injured pigeon found on a Parishville (St. Lawrence County) farm had been launched from the balloon, and that its message had been lost during the accident that had broken the bird’s leg. This led to the belief that the balloon had gone down over Lake Ontario.One of the most famous kidnapping cases in American history occurred in 1932 when the Lindbergh baby disappeared. When the body was found, nearly every newspaper in the land covered the story the next day with multiple articles.Among the first stories was one emanating from Lowville, New York, where a homing pigeon had landed at the home of Arthur Jones. The bird’s leg had a non-traditional attachmenta piece of twine holding a paper tag bearing the inscription, “William Allen, New Jersey.” It was William Allen of New Jersey who found the Lindbergh child’s corpse.Lead investigator Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf (Stormin’ Norman’s father) followed up on the information and then issued a statement: “Reports from Lowville show that no registry tag was found on the carrier pigeon. This practically precludes the possibility of further tracing the pigeon unless the owner of the same voluntarily reports its absence.”In June, 1936, before more than two dozen reporters and celebrities, former World Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey and his wife released a homing pigeon from the tower of the Empire State Building at 11:20 am. Less than five hours later, it arrived at Scaroon Manor on Schroon Lake, bearing the first honeymoon reservation of the season.It wasn’t for Dempsey’s honeymoonit was just a publicity stunt to keep his name active in the media, and certainly raised the manor’s profile as well.Photos: Top?Homing pigeon with message in tube. Bottom?US Naval Station pigeon houses (1925).
Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 22 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.