Archive for November 16th, 2009

Logging near Forestport, NYThis is a scene from the Adirondack Mountains of New York near the town of Forestport, taken in the 1890’s.   There’s a possibility this is one of my great-grandfather’s crews.  I don’t really know.  Never knew much about  the man as I was growing up, didn’t even know his full name.  My family had little link to the past, few photos and very little oral history.  So little was known of our ancestors and their lives. Thanks to the access to old records and newspapers that is now available via the internet I have been able to find out much that would have been otherwise lost to our family.

For example, the great-grandfather I mentioned above was known to have ran a lumber camp in the Adirondacks, supposedly in the north near St. Regis Falls, where my father’s mother ( who died in 1979) was born and raised.  That was about the extent of our knowledge of the man.  I knew his last name was Perry and he ran a lumber camp.

A couple of years back, I did a quick Google search with what little info I had and much to my surprise an entry appeared.  There was a Gilbert Perry listed in a book from 1895 profiling the citizens of Oneida County, NY, in the southern part of the Adirondacks.  That didn’t seem to jive with what I knew but when I read the article it stated he was from St. Regis Falls and maintained a farm there as well.  His children were listed and I recognized one name as being a sister of my grandmother, who was not listed as she wasn’t yet born.

It was a thrill to finally find something on an ancestor, something that gave their life form.  I learned that he was a hard-working, ambitious entrepreneur who ran a number of lumbering enterprises as well as a couple of retail stores and his farms.  He was considered one of the pioneers of Adirondack logging, having several camps and crews of men numbering in the hundreds along with 50 or more teams of horses.  At the time, he was signed to bring in the largest contract of lumber in the Adirondacks.

After that I started doing more research and a whole new world  opened up to me when I came across the digitized newspapers from that time and region.  Local newspapers at that time were a true mirror of the area and people they covered, giving many details on their everyday lives and their travels.  I was able to piece together a full picture of the life my grandmother’s family lived in St. Regis Falls and Forestport.  I was even able to come across a full account of my grandmother’s wedding to my grandfather, something my dad and his siblings had never heard or seen.  It gave my memories of my grandmother a new depth.

I was even able to find numerous mentions of his lumber camps, including an account of a normal day in the camp, in a number of books outlining the history of the Adirondacks along with many stories of the men who worked for him.  One was a character named Atwell Martin, called the Hermit of North Creek, who is recalled in many stories and tall tales, including one where Paul Bunyan, having heard the tales of Martin’s exploits, traveled east to visit him.  They got along famously at first but ultimately ended up in a fight where trees were upended and used as clubs and the great Paul Bunyan ends up slain.  His body was buried in the headwaters of the Black River, the dam at North Lake.

I am still doing research but it’s an interesting and different world I keep uncovering, filled with great exploits and hard lives in a harsh environment.  It’s just been a thrill to find a link to a past of some sort…

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: