I spend a lot of time in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, where I turn up what I think are some of the gems of Saranac Lake and Adirondack history. Of course, I get carried away reading old scrapbooks and journals and looking at photos, which goes way beyond my frantic search for column material but that search is made easy by Curator Michele Tucker.
Here is the amazing story of Mount Marcy by George Marshall, younger brother of Bob Marshall, who spearheaded the preservationist movement for wilderness all across the United States and especially in the Adirondacks. George graduated with a master's degree from Columbia and a Ph.D. from the Brookings Institute. He and Bob, with Saranac Lake guide Herb Clark, were the first to climb all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks above 4,000 feet. The following is published verbatim. I believe this was written in 1927, when George was age 23.
"This summer the people of New York State are celebrating the sesquicentennial of a series of battles that marked a turning point in the military and political history of the United States. But few realize that this summer is also the ninetieth anniversary of the inconspicuous event which, though ignored by the jingoists who write our history books, has had a considerable influence on the social history of the state. On August 5, 1837, the highest peak of the state of New York was climbed for the first time. To speak of this occurrence in the same breath as the renowned mutual slaughter of a few hundred Englishmen, Indians and Americans may seem like heresy to some; but we shall tell our story for what it is worth.
"On June 2, 1836, Professor Ebenezer Emmons of Williams College was commissioned by Governor William L Marcy to make a geological survey of the northern part of New York State as part of a state-wide survey of natural resources. While engaged in this work on Whiteface Mountain in Essex County during the summer of that year, Emmons noticed a high peak to the south which appeared to him to be the highest in the state which, as far as was known, had never been climbed. During the same summer William G. Redfield, while exploring the property of the McIntyre Iron Company, northwest of the iron works, noticed the same peak and spoke of it as 'The High Peak of Essex.'
"The following year (1837) an expedition was organized under the leadership of Professor Emmons to explore the source of the Hudson River and to climb several peaks observed the preceding summer by Emmons and Redfield and believed by them to be the highest peaks in the state. The party was then formed to make this trip included an unusually large number of men of exceptional ability. Professor Emmons, besides being in charge of the northern section of the state geological survey, is generally considered one of the fathers of modern geology. Second in importance among the organizers of the exploration party was William C. Redfield, noted meteorologist, who was first to discover the cyclonic nature of storms.
"Then there was Archibald McIntyre, who had been comptroller of the state of New York, and David Henderson, proprietors of the McIntyre Iron Works, whose courtesy and assistance to the scientists facilitated matters.
"Professor Torry, the noted botanist; James Hall, who was to play a leading role in the geological controversies of the next three decades who, curiously enough, was to bitterly oppose the theories of Emmons; Professor Miller of Princeton and Mr. Strong of New York, both geologists; Mr. Ingham, the artist; Emmons Jr., of Williamstown and John Cheney of the Iron Works, and Harvey Holt of Keene, both famous hunters and guides, and three other woodsmen made up the remainder of the expedition." (My count has about 15 members of the exploration party.)
(Continued next week)