Olympia Brown made U.S. history in the North Country 150 years ago, early this summer. She became the first woman to become a fully ordained minister with a degree from a regularly established theological school. Olympia was ordained in the Universalist Church of Malone by the St. Lawrence Association of Universalists on June 25, 1863 and graduated from the St. Lawrence University Theological School in Canton two weeks later, on July 9, 1863.
Throughout the remainder of her 91-year-old life, she was an outspoken Universalist preacher and a fearless campaigner for suffrage and equal rights for women. Olympia marched, lectured, testified, published, protested and picketed a myriad of times from coast to coast. Read more →
Three organizations – Colton Historical Society, Grasse River Players and Colton-Pierrepont Central School – have announced new collaborative work for 2013 following the successful production of Sunday Rock—The Folk Musical in 2012. Last year, when they first combined their historical, theatrical and educational interests to produce the show along with author and Colton resident Evelyn Riehl and her family, they received lots of support and encouragement to continue.
The partnership has now committed to presenting a theatrical performance addressing a dimension of history each July around the time Colton celebrates its history. Over the winter plans were made to produce The 1940’s Radio Hour and to also pursue an oral history project in conjunction with it focusing on World War II. Read more →
The Rooftop Highway, conceived as a thruway extending from Champlain in northeastern New York to Watertown in northwestern New York, is considered by some as the last major link missing from the state system of highways. It has been in the news again in recent years, particularly with the availability of federal stimulus dollars to enhance our infrastructure. As always, plenty of pros and cons are presented, and a whole lot hangs in the balance.
At times, the concept has been described as 20 to 30 years old, but it actually goes back much further. I’m old enough to recall the intense discussions during the 1970s, which takes us back 40 years. But even that is still well short of the idea’s birth. Read more →
The local blacksmith could make most anything out of metal that your mind could imagine. And the blacksmith’s shop was certainly a warm place to be, even on the coldest winter day!
Find out how the hard work of bending metal to your will is accomplished at Blacksmith- the Second Saturday Children’s Program at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 E. Main St., Canton on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 11 a.m. This is another in the SLCHA’s series of fun and free monthly educational programs for kids ages 4-10. Read more →
Lisbon, New York encompassed all of the land that became St. Lawrence County when the town was created in 1801. At that time the Town of Lisbon was part of Clinton County, and the county of St. Lawrence was not created until the following year, 1802.
Lisbon’s history is the focus of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s 65th Annual Meeting at the Lisbon Wesleyan Church Fellowship Hall, 48 Church St., Lisbon on Saturday, November 3rd from 11 a.m. -2 p.m. The public is invited and you do not have to be a member of the SLCHA to attend. Read more →
Bob Wells speaks on “The War That Should Not Have Been” as part of the War of 1812 Lecture Series on Monday, September 17, 7 p.m. at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.
The United States of America, a young nation with a scattered peacetime army of only 12,000 regulars and a comparatively small navy did not let these facts stand in the way of going to war with England in June of 1812. But did the War of 1812 have to happen?
In his program “The War That Should Not Have Been,” Bob Wells will discuss reasons why the war was not inevitable or even particularly popular in New England and Northern New York, including St. Lawrence County. U.S. Justifications for the war, such as the annexation of Canada, the need to quell the hostile Native American tribes supposedly armed by the British, and the need to end the English naval practice of impressments of U.S. sailors could have all been handled differently. Another reason cited for war with England was the U.S. desire to be free to trade with France without the English blockading harbors or seizing merchant ships coming from French ports. This issue was actually settled in favor of the United States just prior to the beginning of the war.
The program will be presented by Bob Wells, who serves on the SLCHA’s War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee and Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. He is an active member of the association’s Civil War Roundtable. Wells is a former Mayor of the Village of Canton and was a professor for over 34 years at St. Lawrence University. He retired from full-time teaching in 1999 as the emeritus Munsil Professor of Government.
This War of 1812 program is part of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which was fought from 1812-1815. St. Lawrence County was one of the battlefields of the War of 1812.
The SLCHA Gift Shop is a great way to learn about the War of 1812. Books include Major Battles of the War of 1812 and Famous People of the War of 1812. SLCHA members receive a 10% discount on these books and most other items in the gift shop.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to 4 p.m., Friday noon to 8 p.m. Admission to the museum is free- admission to the archives is free for members and children, $2.50 for college students, and $5 for the general public. The St. Lawrence County Historical Association is located at 3 E. Main St., Canton. Parking is available in back of the SLCHA, next to the museum’s main entrance.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association is a membership organization open to anyone interested in St. Lawrence County history. For more information, or to become a member, call the SLCHA at 315-386-8133 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Exhibits and programs are made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Visit the SLCHA’s website, www.slcha.org, for more information on St. Lawrence County history
Illustration: Columbia Teaching John Bull his New Lesson from the Library of Congress by William Charles, 1813, a caricature presenting a U.S. view of the War of 1812. On the left, Columbia (the personification of the United States, holding a pole with a liberty cap on it, and with a stars-and-stripes shield behind her) says: ‘I tell you Johnny, you must learn to read Respect —- Free Trade —- Seaman’s Rights &c. —- As for you, Mounseer Beau Napperty, when John gets his lesson by heart, I’ll teach you Respect, Retribution, &c &c.’ In the middle, a short-statured Napoleon says: ‘Ha Ha —- Begar, me be glad to see Madam Columbia angry with dat dere John Bull —- But me no learn respect —- me no learn retribution —- Me be de grand Emperor.’ On the right, John Bull says: ‘I don’t like that lesson, I’ll read this pretty lesson’ (holding a book with ‘Power constitutes Right’, i.e. ‘might makes right’).”
Shooting the horse of a Confederate officer convinced the rebel force which vastly outnumbered him to surrender to 1st Lt. John T. Rutherford from Waddington, St. Lawrence County, NY. Two weeks earlier, Rutherford, in command of the 9th New York Cavalry, led a successful charge that captured 90 Confederate soldiers at Yellow Tavern, VA on May 12, 1864.
Rutherford is just one of the Congressional Medal of Honor Winners from Northern New York highlighted in the traveling exhibit Hometown Heroes on display through September 15th at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton. Read more →
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 attachment—a 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 honeymoon—it 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.
The 11th annual Civil War Reenactment Weekend at Robert Moses State Park in Massena will be held this Saturday and Sunday, July 28-29. The Reenactment Weekend is part of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s (SLCHA) Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which began in 1861.Union and Confederate reenactors will stage mock battles, perform military drills, talk about camp life, and demonstrate such skills as coffin-making, cooking, cannon firing, and medical practices. There will be a fashion show of Civil War-era clothing, a basket auction, historical displays and period music. Reenactors from New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Ontario and Quebec, Canada, are expected to attend, including, President Lincoln, several generals, and sutlers (vendors of period goods and clothing).The military camps are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday. Mock battles will be at 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Closing ceremonies will follow the Sunday battle. The Marine Corps League, St. Lawrence County Detachment 408 provides a food concession both days.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association presents the weekend, which is hosted by the 2nd Michigan, Co. E Reenactment Unit. Admission is $4 per person per day, free for children 6 and under, maximum charge of $15 per vehicle. For more information, call SLCHA at 315-386-8133, e-mail email@example.com, or visit their website.In addition to SeaComm Federal Credit Union, other sponsors include Gene and Connie Barto, and Stewart’s Shops.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to 4 p.m., Friday noon to 8 p.m. Admission to the museum is free- admission to the archives is free for members and children, $2.50 for college students, and $5 for the general public. The St. Lawrence County Historical Association is located at 3 E. Main St., Canton. Parking is available in the back of the SLCHA, next to the museum’s main entrance.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association is a membership organization open to anyone interested in St. Lawrence County history. For more information, or to become a member, call the SLCHA at 315-386-8133 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Union troops from the 2nd Michigan in the field during a previous Civil War Reenactment Weekend.
Seaway Trail, Inc. has named Michael “Mike” Bristol as its new President and CEO. The Great Lakes Seaway Trail is a 518-mile, two-state National Scenic Byway, a New York State Scenic Byway, and a state-designated Bicycle Route in New York and Pennsylvania. Bristol becomes only the second President and CEO in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail’s 34-year history.
The Seaway Trail scenic driving route was designated in 1978. The Seaway Trail, Inc. nonprofit organization formed in 1986 with Teresa Mitchell as its first director. Mitchell passed away in January and Charles “Chuck” Krupke served as Interim Executive Director.
Mike Bristol began his new leadership role July 2, 2012. He brings nearly 30 years’ experience in tourism, athletics and nonprofit management to the tourism and economic development organization based in Sackets Harbor, NY.
A Florida State University graduate, Bristol was the Associate Director of his alma mater’s Seminole Boosters, Inc., a national-level fundraising corporation. He served as President and CEO of the Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2002 to 2005.
Upon returning to his native northern New York, Bristol served as Director of Marketing and Outreach for The Antique Boat Museum on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in Clayton, NY. Bristol is a member of the Clayton Local Development Corporation Redevelopment Committee that is overseeing a new dock and hotel development.
The Great Lakes Seaway Trail organization is known for diverse travel theme marketing, a “Best of the Byways” guidebooks series, Great Lakes Seaway Trail “Outdoor Storyteller” signage, and innovative programming that includes a American Volkssport Association-approved series of War of 1812-theme walks.
Popular travel themes include scenic driving road trips, maritime and military history, four seasons’ outdoor recreation, birdwatching, lighthouses and shipwrecks, bicycling, quilting and cultural heritage.
To learn more about the Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway that runs alongside the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania, go online to www.seawaytrail.com.