The Lake George steamer Sagamore may hold a unique record. At 224 feet and able to carry 1,500 passengers, the Sagamore was largest of the steamboats plying the lake for the Champlain Transportation Company – it also had a dubious record of groundings and collisions. [Read more…] about The Accident Prone Lake George Steamboat Sagamore
As the first full day of John Brown’s raid dawned almost no one in the village of Harpers Ferry knew what was happening. Charles White for instance, a Presbyterian minister who had spent the evening the raid began on an island between the rifle works, and the armory and arsenal reported that he “knew nothing until daylight when the gentleman with whom we were staying came into our room and notified us.” [Read more…] about John Brown’s Defeat And Capture (The Last Days of John Brown Series)
October 16th is the anniversary of the anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry that ended in the trial and execution of John Brown of North Elba. You can read the entire “Last Days of John Brown” series here.
In 1859, John Brown and the men he led from atop a wagon loaded with supplies went undiscovered on their march from the Kennedy Farm to Harpers Ferry. John Cook and Charles Tidd went forward to cut the telegraphs wires into the village from the east and west.
As Brown reached the Ferry Bridge, he sent his most experienced men, Aaron Stevens and John Kagi, to the front of the small column and onto the bridge. There they encountered William Williams and held him.
On October 2nd, 2005, the 40-foot cruise boat Ethan Allen capsized on Lake George with 49 senior citizens on board. Twenty were killed making it the most deadly tragedy in the history of Lake George and the Adirondack Region.
Until the sinking of the Ethan Allen, that lamentable distinction belonged to a similar-sized steam-powered boat, the Rachel. [Read more…] about The Deadly Wreck of the Lake George Steamer Rachel
You could see Charles F. Dumbleton coming for blocks. Although he wasn’t exactly well-dressed, he held his head high and had a swagger that said “I’m coming to YOU.” This despite his uncertain gait, a limp supported by his ever present crutches, which confirmed from a distance it was Taffy – the name given to one of the most notorious men in the city of Troy in the mid-nineteenth century.
He wasn’t always notorious. He had built that reputation over years of street fights, petty thievery and bullying his betters. He was a frequenter of bawdy houses, a bartender, a saloon operator, a gambler and political operative. He was one of the leaders of a band of men. Newspapers and night watchmen called them a gang – “a terror of the town,” but loyal friends on the make is a more accurate description. [Read more…] about Taffy Dumbleton: Troy’s ‘Terror of the Town’
In early October, 1859 John Brown and his small militia were making their final preparations for a raid on the slaveholders of Virginia.
The time and place for a raid seem right even now. It was the harvest season in the south and the fields would be filled with disgruntled and overworked slaves bringing in the crops, a perfect opportunity to turn them to revolt.
Harpers Ferry was lightly guarded and the arsenal there contained about 100,000 muskets and rifles – enough to carry on a lengthy guerrilla war against southern slaveholders. [Read more…] about The Last Days of John Brown: Final Harpers Ferry Preparations
On July 30th, 1856 the 140-feet long John Jay (built in 1850) was delayed at Ticonderoga’s Baldwin Dock waiting on the stagecoach from Lake Champlain, where the large number of passengers required several trips to get everyone to the boat.
It wasn’t until 7 pm that the Jay, now loaded with 70 people, pulled away from the dock. About an hour later they were ten miles down the lake. Below, the fireman stoked the boilers as they made top speed – then the worst happened. [Read more…] about The Sinking of the Lake George Steamboat John Jay
It’s likely that the early farmers, millers, colliers, lumberers and teamsters helped spread the word of the springs and waterfalls on the Poesten Kill, but it was the early artists and travelers whose record remains. One of the first depictions of the beauties of the Poesten Kill High Falls was an engraving made in Paris in 1817. As the 19th century wore on, changing attitudes about nature combined with regional guides and maps led to increase in American travel for travels sake. [Read more…] about ‘Wild, Picturesque and Beautiful’: Mount Ida, Poestenkill Falls and Troy’s Prospect Park
On the Hudson River along upstate New York’s eastern border, within the natural boundaries of river and mountains, lies the rough rectangle of Rensselaer County. It is bisected by the Poesten Kill,* a powerful stream that scours its way from the mountains to the sea level flats of the Hudson River at Troy.
The Poesten Kill splits the county across the middle into two pieces of roughly equal size, north and south. From its source at about 1,600 feet in the Petersburg Mountains, to the village which bears its name, it’s a smaller steam tumbling over forested rocks and ledges, and forming pools and small waterfalls. At the village of Poestenkill it begins to meander across a 10-mile wide plateau of farmlands before falling abruptly through a series of steep gorges at Troy to settle into the Hudson. [Read more…] about The Poestenkill: Mountains, Waterfalls and Waterworks
One of the familiar attacks on John Brown (and by extension his anti-slavery legacy) involves his failed business ventures and accusations that he was a swindler and a drifter, roaming from place to place – only briefly and uneventfully staying in North Elba, Essex County, NY.
“Over the years before his Kansas escapade Brown had been a drifter, horse thief and swindler,” Columbia University historian John Garraty once wrote. Garraty served as the president of the Society of American Historians and was co-author of the high school history textbook The American Nation (he died in 2007).
A closer look at Brown and the his family, however, reveals an experience typical of many Americans, then and today, and the importance of North Elba in Brown’s plans for a raid into Virginia. [Read more…] about The Last Days of John Brown: North Elba