Remembering Adirondack Hermit
Noah John Rondeau, an American Legend
by William J. O'Hern
Brief Description of the Future Work: Sit back, Adirondack affectionis, the time
machine has just cranked -- perhaps -- the last comprehensive human interest inspired work
that will ever be written about one of the most interesting characters to rise out of
Adirondack Mountain lore.
Noah John Rondeau, most famous hermit of the Adirondack Mountains, became a legend
before he died in 1967. From early twentieth century's sporting public to Clayt Seagears,
who put him in a New York state Conservationist magazine article, Rondeau was celebrated
as the "mayor of Cold River city -- population one," and a woodsman.
Noah sitting in one of his wigwams
But until he was the age of 30 Rondeau was just one more hemmed-in barber who cut hair
and trimmed beards and every year saw his savings account at the Lake Placid bank remain
at zero. He was an unimpressive figure, of short height; simple in lifestyle and dress;
his voice could be quaint when telling a tale but turn sharp when expressing his abrupt
vocal straight forward criticism toward authority. This turned his normally composed
nature a bit ostentatious. His piercing eyes were a signal for the view of intention and
detachment in them. For he had a fancy of a remote valley, a secluded separatist fur
trapper's life in the woods, without the hassles and care, boredom of an ordinary job and
the rules civilization required.
Cold River, flowed beyond the Sawtooth and Seward mountain ranges, more or less
uninhabited wilderness save for the occasional logging camp. Few men had ever been there
except loggers and trappers.
On a late summer morning in 1913, Rondeau set out determined to reach Coreys -- a
remote hamlet at the end of the "Indian Carry," his jumping off place into the
There, he made the acquaintance of pioneering families who managed to eak a living on
the edge of a vast forested territory. People bent toward scandalmonger, speculated
Rondeau might have had something to hide or to hide from. The quixotic gambled that he was
living a romantic life of freedom. The vast majority of mountain folk simply paid little
or no attention to the long black bearded stranger who rarely appeared in public.
1940s trail sign
Hardened, self reliant, skilled in woodcraft, capable of surviving nature with the
benefit of crude technology, Noah John Rondeau made a life for himself in the mountains
where others less skillful might have failed.
Once, he killed a bear with five arrows. He cooked unbelievable concoctions he termed
"Everlasting Stew" in a big iron kettle and roasted field mice. He guided
parties and could let off a hearty laugh as he shook the hands of mountain climbers he led
to the summit of Couchsachraga -- "Cou-a-cra-ga or the Dismal Wilderness"
Rondeau accepted the trials associated with a desolate way of life. There was plenty of
game in the forest and fish in the river. Survival required hard work. Thirty-seven years
of living in the woods free the need to earn wages, pay taxes, hearing men wearing
"Roman collars," and listening to "Jackass Democrats" provided ample
time for the reflective ex-barber to explore what he called his "dozen points of
failure" to focus on what mattered most to him and to invent a code that stumped
cytologists. The diverse landscape of the Cold River country afforded the backdrop for the
hermit to develop an affable philosophical outlook that his friends found most pleasing.
This book is about Noah John Rondeau and how his friends knew him. It was the author's
purpose to rely on primary sources of information to provide a view of Rondeau that has
not been documented. It is also about the Adirondack Mountains. Its face. Its environment.
Many of the Adirondacks champions have been fanciers of Noah John Rondeau. Remembering
Noah uses extensive quotes from Rondeau's journals, interviews with journalists and
acquaintances. Additional insight is provided in antidotes that have come from Rondeau's
circle of friends. Through their eyes, the 'Mayor' is seen pure, not in a pseudo-folksy
image but as he was known by those who were there, the people who knew him best.
Through a succession of incidents, stories, recorded conversation of humor and
adventure ( run-of-the-mill as one might think the doing of a hermit were), Rondeau's
unique choice of blended words convey the peacefulness he had found living in the
wilderness. Having escaped the borders of civilization where he felt failure at every
turn, Noah John Rondeau regained his sense of direction, self esteem and learned how to
live well with those things wild. The simple peace engendered was exactly what his
admirers who lived in crowed cities could only long for until their long awaited
once-a-year experience in the Cold River country.
The hermit of Cold River followed his own leisurely path throughout life. Some have
voiced their opinion that Rondeau did nothing with his life, he
was simply "a man who throughout his life worked at nothing
other than being himself." Yet, it was through his living that
he captured the hearts of so many.
In the Adirondacks: Flapjacks and
Lumberjacks, Logging Days Scrapbooks
by William J. O'Hern
Brief Description of the Future Work: This is a series of three books that cover
the stages of logging in the Adirondacks.
Typical logging days sluice dam
It contains hundreds of never before published pictures including Gould Paper Company's
Adirondack operations. The rich first hand remembrances of men and women who worked in the
lumber camps make this limited edition a valuable historical collection.
In the Adirondacks: Depression Years
and the Civilian Conservation Corps
by William J. O'Hern
Brief Description of the Future Work: Determined to establish a conservation
work program for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression, President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt directed the secretaries
Duck Hole CCC side camp
of interior, war, and agriculture to work out the precise details of the large public
works program known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. This book is an informal history.
It includes first person narratives from some of the native Adirondack women the Outsiders
met and reflections from men who worked in a number of the CCC camps in the Adirondack