Vive la France!

Napoleon leads the 44th Annual French Festival Parade down Broadway in Cape Vincent in July 2012. The French left a legacy of culture and language that is celebrated in Cape Vincent with the annual French Festival every July. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

Napoleon leads the 44th Annual French Festival Parade down Broadway in Cape Vincent in July 2012. The French left a legacy of culture and language that is celebrated in Cape Vincent with the annual French Festival every July. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

French left legacy of culture, food in Northern New York [Read more…]

History lurks below the surface: New York is home to six of nation’s 36 meromictic lakes

 

Deadman’s Point at Green Lake in Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville, is home to one of New York’s six meromictic lakes, of which there are only 36 nationwide. Chalky shoreline formations created by bacteria are visible in the foreground. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Deadman’s Point at Green Lake in Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville, is home to one of New York’s six meromictic lakes, of which there are only 36 nationwide. Chalky shoreline formations created by bacteria are visible in the foreground. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

From the rugged majesty of the Adirondacks to the labyrinthine depths of the subterranean cave system, the serenity of Lake Ontario’s shores to the quiet whispering of the St. Lawrence River, chances are good that no matter where you stand in Northern New York, breathtaking views or interesting natural formations are just a stone’s throw away. While much of the beauty here is obvious, there are some formations that are not exactly what they seem.

Surface and bottom waters mix seasonally in traditional lakes, delivering oxygen to the bottom, which in turn allows fish and plant life to survive. A meromictic lake is one whose waters do not mix. They are rare, especially in temperate climates like that of New York state. There are only 36 known meromictic lakes in the world. New York state is home to six of them, and three of the six are located just outside of Syracuse in the towns of Fayetteville and DeWitt: Green Lake, Round Lake and Glacier Lake.

Meromictic lakes are Mother Nature’s time capsules. Because their waters do not mix, the sediment along the lake bottom is not disturbed. This undisturbed sediment forms a natural record of environmental and aquatic conditions that often predates recorded history. Not surprisingly, this sediment is of particular interest to geologists and environmental scientists. [Read more…]

A shrine with healing power: North country priest built famed shrine at LaFargeville church

St. John the Evangelist Church in the Village of LaFargeville has an open air Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes. North country priest Arthur J. Viau, once a pastor at the church, is said to have been cured of tuberculosis of the bone in 1912 by praying to Our Lady of Lourdes for 18 days; the Shrine once drew thousands hoping for similar cures. Mass is still held inside the church weekly. Photo courtesy Watertown Daily Times Archives

In 1858 a young peasant girl in Lourdes, France named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have received visions of the Virgin Mary. Near the bank of the Gave de Pau River stood a naturally occurring shallow cave, or grotto, in which the apparitions took place. As word of the apparitions spread, the grotto, which was transformed into a shrine that would eventually be called Our Lady of Lourdes, began to receive pilgrims from surrounding villages.

The number of visitors grew steadily over the years to become what is now one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Millions of people visit the site every year in search of physical healing and spiritual renewal that is said to be imparted by drinking or bathing in the water of the Lourdes Spring.

An interesting piece of religious history to be sure but what does a pilgrimage site in France have to do with the north country? [Read more…]

The nation’s oldest fair: 196th annual event set for July at Coffeen Street grounds

An aerial view of the Jefferson County Fair, ca. 1950s, at the present-day Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds on Coffeen Street, Watertown. Photo from Watertown Daily Times Archives

After the long, grueling north country winters there are few Northern New Yorkers who don’t look forward to summer. Warmer months bring barbecues, days on the river and, perhaps, the most famous harbinger of summer: the Jefferson County Fair. Lauded as the longest continually operating fair in the country, the fairgrounds along Coffeen Street in Watertown is transformed each July into a teeming gathering of people, young and old, who come to enjoy food, rides, crafts, exhibits and farm animals.

Many local fairs are, or were at some point, connected with an agricultural society. Agricultural societies were initially developed in Europe during the Enlightenment, a period during the 18th century of intense scientific discovery and intellectual growth in the Western world. The expressed common goal of agricultural societies was the promotion and development of agricultural techniques. With the scientific spirit of the age, early society members conducted experiments in soil rejuvenation, crop rotation and breeding, animal husbandry and the study of weather patterns. The results of these experiments were then disseminated among local farmers in the hopes of improving farming techniques, technology and crop yields. As a forerunner to the agricultural fair, early agricultural societies offered premiums for new research on field topics, such as innovative methods for eradicating pests that threatened crops. [Read more…]

A scandalous past: Oneida flatware began as necessity for utopian community

A postcard dated June 26, 1907, shows the Oneida Community Home Building in Kenwood, N.Y., near Oneida. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

There are few people today who have not used or at least heard of Oneida cutlery. The flatware is ubiquitous in restaurants, hotels and kitchen drawers worldwide. Since its founding in the 19th century, Oneida Limited flatware has become something of an American tradition, although its roots are anything but traditional.

The flatware was originally manufactured by the Oneida Community, a religious utopian commune based in Oneida between 1848 and 1880.

A man named John Humphrey Noyes led the group. He was born in Battleboro, Vt., in 1811 to John and Polly Noyes. His father was a businessman and United States Congressman. His mother was an ardently religious woman who had hopes that her son would one day pursue a religious vocation. [Read more…]

A life-saving discovery

Sackets’ Dr. Samuel Guthrie credited with chloroform application

The Dr. Samuel Guthrie home on County Route 75, Sackets Harbor. Photo courtesy of Johnson Newspaper Archives.

Maybe it’s something in the water? That’s one possible explanation for the long list of entrepreneurs and inventors who have called Jefferson County home. Safety pins, bed springs, tile drains, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (better known as the S.P.C.A.), and the concept of the five and dime were all invented or created within Jefferson County’s borders. Tyler Coverlets are native to the county as are percussion caps and a mechanism for their ignition that made flintlock muskets obsolete. But perhaps one of the best known inventions is that of chloroform. [Read more…]

Jefferson County Historical Society model train exhibit on display through February

A vintage train set and scenery are on display at the Jefferson County Historical Society, along with other sets, through February. Photo by Justin Sorensen/Watertown Daily Times

North country residents have until the end of February to visit the Jefferson County Historical Society before the model trains on exhibit leave the station.

Executive Director William G. Wood said the agency has been getting assistance from the Watertown Model Train Club to perfect the model train exhibit in the basement of the Paddock mansion, 228 Washington St.

“They’re adding scenery; it’s a long, manual process,” he said.

The exhibit features three scenes: Public Square in winter, Black River in fall and farm life in summer.

Mr. Wood said the exhibit is a repeat from last December to February, but it has grown as final pieces come together.

[Read more…]

New York’s other ‘Central Park’

Park-goers enjoy the wading pool at Thompson Park, ca. 1910. The pool was reputed to only be 14 inches deep. Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Historical Society.

By the 1850s, many American cities were undergoing significant changes. Hundreds of thousands of people across the nation had left their homes in outlying rural areas and moved into urban centers looking to fill jobs created by the Industrial Revolution.

[Read more…]

An esteemed gentlemen’s Klub

Prominent men gathered first for academics then island getaways

Phortnightly Klub members on Galloo Island during their yearly gathering. Former Secretary of State Robert Lansing is in the seated row, fifth from the right. Photo courtesy of the Jefferson County Historical Society.

Social clubs were popular organizations during the 19th and 20th centuries. Initially segregated into men’s and women’s clubs, these organizations afforded like-minded people the opportunity to gather together and share common interests. Among these late 19th century clubs was the iconic Fortnightly Club. Still in existence today, active Fortnightly Clubs are sprinkled throughout the country.

[Read more…]

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Up, up and away

 Hot air balloon adventurers crashed in Henderson tree on way to NYC

Sept. 22, 1859: The hot air balloon Atlantic begins to inflate for its ascent. The event attracted an estimated 10,000 people to Watertown's Public Square that day. Photo courtesy of the Jefferson County Historical Society.

There is an unusual picture in the photographic archives of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Stored in a lone folder simply marked “Public Square: Hot Air Balloon” the photograph shows a semi-inflated hot air balloon set against the backdrop of the old Baptist church. This incongruous scene is crowded with horses, carriages and thousands of people. The only identifying information is a date of “1859” written across the back in sprawling handwriting. This is the history of that photograph.

[Read more…]