Adirondack Stories of the Black River Country
The stories and legends and a look at folks from the North Lake area provide a rare glimpse into a long-ago era in the Adirondacks. All of the stories are remarkably entertaining, rich in detail, and an interesting return to the Adirondacks of a century ago.
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I must confess that I look forward to reading true (and stretched) stories of lumbermen with their caulked boots and double-bitted axes. Eccentric hermits with maps of secret silver finds. The "Dirty Dozen" trying to outwit the New York State Conservation Department and the Adirondack League Club gamekeepers. Skillful guides with their tales of the ones that got away. You'll find them all here, along with period photographs of the Black River headwaters.
The Reverend A. L. Byron-Curtiss' arrival by buckboard in the village of Forestport, NY., in 1892 began a romance with the southwestern Adirondacks that was to last for sixty years. He felt an immediate affinity for the wild region and its people -- the hardscrabble farmers, hunters, guides, and lumbermen who eked out a living in an unforgiving but majestic environment. Byron-Curtiss recorded his observations with compassion and home-spun humor, painting a vibrant turn-of-the-century portrait of this little-chronicled region.
Though he gained some recognition during his lifetime with his biography of hunter and trapper Nat Foster, Byron-Curtiss' busy clerical schedule, as well as some persistent personal problems, prevented him from publishing most of his Adirondack tales. Some were generously given to author Thomas C. O'Donnell for inclusion in his 1952 book, Birth of a River, but most disappeared after the minister's death in 1960 until I discovered them in an unmarked and uncataloged file folder at the historical society in Rome, N.Y.. Compiling and editing the cleric's stories, pouring over nearly illegible handwriting in camp log books, interviewing locals who had known the minister and backpacking through the North Lake region to see Byron-Curtiss' stomping grounds with my own eyes, I have managed to preserve a part of Adirondack history which might otherwise have been lost. And in the process of bringing these writings to light, I bring their creator to life as well, showing Byron-Curtiss to have been as rich and interesting a character as the folks he wrote about.
-- William J. O'Hern - written at Hardscrabble Lake