Protecting the Islands of Lake George: One Rock at a Time
Bolton Landing Community Center
Recording begins with a woman who is handing out copies of a book called Do It Yourself Water Quality: A Landowner’s Guide to Property Management that Protects Lake George. She is a volunteer for The Fund for Lake George/Lake George Waterkeepers…
Woman: So if there is anybody that needs a copy, I have them with me. They are free…
Ted Caldwell: Thank you.
Other: Here’s one…
Ted: It is great to see so many people from the Huddle… Without further adieu, I’m going to ask Doug Langdon to introduce our speaker, but it is wonderful that we’ve got people from Clay Island…lots of lake front owners…lots of people who are interested, obviously, in the legacy of John Apperson….and who would know more, or know better…than Dr. Doug Langdon?
Doug: Not long ago some friends who hadn’t been to the lake in recent years took a tour up to the Narrows and Black Mountain Point, and Tongue Mountain, and when they came back they said, “Why is it that nobody has done a full length bio of John Apperson?” He was responsible for all this beauty, and why is it that nobody has done a bio? I was kind of at sea for a minute, but then I stopped and thought, well, yes…three Bolton Landing people have written…started to write…begun writing a full length bio on John Apperson. You’ll remember the names…you’ll know these people…
Certainly Bill White, whose place looked out at Dome Island. He kept a watch on Dome all the time… right from Homer Point… Also Dr. Art Newkirk, right next to Huddle Beach…had that property…and then, finally, came Chester Sims, right on the hotel property for the Lake View Hotel… Sadly, all these people developed terminal illnesses just when they got to the half way point, so the bios were never written. So, we are still lacking a bio, so I thought we might tonight get together and form a committee and think about what the qualifications should be for a biographer for John Apperson. What should we be looking for? Well, one thing I was thinking…we’d like a young, energetic, healthy person…so that we won’t have any more problems with unfinished bios. Second of all…anybody have any input? George?
George Goodwin: Right over there.
Doug: Well, another qualification I thought of…Well, the person should be a good historian, a professional historian…if possible…maybe have a masters degree, at least, maybe two masters degrees…would be even better…so that would be important. Then, what other qualifications? Well, the person should be very familiar with Lake George, and Bolton Landing, especially, and the whole area of the lake, and they should also be very conversant with Schenectady, and that means you’d have to be conversant with the General Electric Company…and its corps of engineers that were the backbone of all our conservation programs in a large degree, not completely…and the GE research lab that provided so many people such as Roger’s grandfather (great-grandfather?)[Irving Langmuir]…So what are we going to do for this committee? How are we going to get all these qualifications together? Well, it so happens, we have that very person right here – Ellen Apperson Brown… She has lived in Schenectady; she has lived many summers at Lake George; she is a member of the family and called John Apperson Uncle John… So this is Ellen Apperson Brown, our star of the evening who is going to put on this show.
Ellen: Thank you…(Applause) This is so exciting! I really appreciate everybody coming out…There were a couple of really nice options to consider for tonight. I created an Apperson exhibit about ten years ago, so it was relatively easy to say, “Let me do a Power Point,” so it has been fun to sort through the images, pull some things out, and make talking points. I’ll try to give you a very informal talk using these images as talking points.
My main emphasis here is to tell the story that very few people are aware of… of how John Apperson came to be an activist and what influenced him at home in Virginia. You know we don’t have a book anywhere that you can pick up and read, but I’m not going to go into great length about his accomplishments and successes… but will give you the family history and his youthful time, from about 1900 until 1930, before he passed the torch to Paul Schaefer.
[Appy on Dome Island] This is a nice image to start out with… Many of you may know that by about 1910, John Apperson realized that he loved the Dollar Islands, and he was worried about the shoreline washing away. He loved the Narrows…and he made a commitment to come every weekend for a year, and he did, and he also brought two, three, or four people with him each weekend. We have letters that say that he brought thousands of people to visit the island and have a good time. Does anybody know what they had to do for work every weekend? Put lots of stones back on the island, and that was called rip-rapping.
What is really wonderful, too, as many of you know, especially those of you that came from Schenectady, he left a huge collection of photographs that were saved and archived by his close friends. Plenty of other people have taken pictures of Lake George and the Adirondacks, but what is unique about John Apperson’s photography is that they represent a sort of blend of the esthetic beauty of things… but also functioned as a teaching tool. He learned, early on, how to be a documentarian. He was showing that there were problems in Paradise…. Early on…with his photographs… He used them effectively in his political movements. Many of you have heard it said that one of his rules was… you cannot give a talk about some conservation issue if you haven’t been there, and hiked it, and seen it for yourself. He also said that if the greater public has no idea what something looks like, then they are not going to care. But if you show them a picture…it’s like a thousand words… whatever that expression is.
I want to credit the fact that the Adirondack Research Library (we have three folks up here on the front row from there)…they have a huge repository of Apperson correspondence and photographs. Bill White took a risk, about ten years ago, and snuck me in, even though they didn’t have lots of volunteers to watch out… He snuck me in and let me go crazy photo-copying, so I brought home to Virginia about four cubic feet of Apperson’s correspondence, thinking, “This is my chance.” Because I was afraid the library wouldn’t have anybody to help me… I think they also sent me some papers later, when someone did some photocopying for me. So, anyway, it is an amazing stash, and now it is a possibility that they may be able to share it with the public, and get interns… and have it digitized. For now, I am the one, practically the only one, who has read through it all, and I’ve been mining it…getting what I needed for the Apperson family archives. So I got what I needed from there, and I’ve also done the research in family genealogy and paid visits to Marion where the family lived, and, sure enough, I found some interesting pictures in that museum.
A lot of the information I know about, today, I learned this December, when Douglas Langdon sent me an amazing document called Preservation Community. He has been doing research on the people who had owned the Lakeview Hotel, originally, and all the families that bought land, and about their sort of communal relationships there…and I would never have been able to get all that since I live in Virginia
and I’m not up here. So I really appreciate Doug’s amazing work. As you may know, there is a collection of Apperson artifacts at the Adirondack Museum. Appy’s films are up there. I haven’t had a chance to see them yet, but they are taking good care of them, I am sure. I shouldn’t forget to mention that the Bolton Town Museum has many Apperson artifacts, too, including tents, cooking gear, sleeping bags, pack baskets, and his Morris Canoe (c. 1907).
Doug has already mentioned the work Bill White, Phil Ham, and Art Newkirk did, trying to collect information for the big biography. In 1963, when Appy died, Phil Ham brought everything out of the house on Teviot Road and dumped it in his own garage, and sent a couple of boxes of personal items down to Charlotte for us… But all that stuff went to Phil Ham’s garage and he, plus Bill White and Art Newkirk, spent weekend after weekend trying to get it all organized. Art Newkirk kept working on that for many years. He produced a huge stack of papers as a sort of index. He did all the right scholarly things. A lot of people cared about Appy’s work. Carrying on in the tradition, I think Doug has already mentioned Chester…and Dick Tucker, up on the front row, who has always encouraged me, because he has been working on Apperson’s story with skiing… He’s had that particular interest.
[Slide #2 – sports, etc.] This is Appy’s story. We all know that he was incredibly fit and energetic, and he absolutely loved sports… That’s the key. If you are looking for somebody who might be a good leader in the Adirondack movement, find somebody who is out there going great guns… hiking, swimming, skiing, even hunting. He loved all these energetic, athletic sports. So he hiked in all seasons… and as Dick has helped me to understand, he was probably one of the first people to climb Mount Marcy on skis (which is a tough job!) And as you may have heard, he rigged up an amazing device. I think there is some special skin that you could get to put on your skis, but he didn’t have that, so he managed to tie some knots and put a rope around his skis to make it possible to climb a mountain while wearing skis (downhill skis, not cross country).
[photo of iceboat] These are iconic pictures, and down in Virginia they say, “You’re kidding! Whoever even heard of an iceboat! But, of course, you have all seen these things… This is not skate sailing, but ski sailing… Has anybody here ever seen ski-sailing? It’s pretty weird, isn’t it?
[photo – two men on dock beside a boat] This I just love…there are a lot of photographs that I cannot identify, but this one eventually hit me…It has got to be Appy…The message is, “Lake George, New York…ready to leave for camp” And he wouldn’t have written that on a photograph if it wasn’t him…himself, and he was slender…so that was kind of cool. And that boat was called Chilhowie.
[barge – men moving rocks] What is really remarkable about what he did, and I think it has implications today, for recognizing the principles of the work he did in the Adirondacks, is that he created a model that can be copied in other parts of the nation or the world. So the techniques, and the thinking, and the actions that he and his friends took here, locally, have implications for how people in other communities can address their problems and find solutions. Many of you may have seen a picture like this one. The commitment to riprap the Dollar Islands led him to get in touch with the D&H Railroad, and he twisted arms and politicized it a little bit, and was able to get a crew of men. I think these are probably D&H Railroad men – not GE engineers…to help. They rigged up barges, and they rigged up this pulley. They had to cut a tree down to make the device, but they were seriously moving big rocks. They went after all the islands in the Narrows…
By 1917 he had gotten to know Al Smith and learned the ropes with the legislative process, so they were able to get ten thousand dollars out of the NY state legislature to spend on rip-rapping.
[List of major causes and projects]: The rip-rapping, I’ve mentioned… The next logical thing… he was taking people camping all the time, and he began noticing that there were these platforms that the State had allowed to be erected on many of the islands where people were camping…and it was state land. What was happening (and you can see this from his correspondence)is that lots of perfectly nice people were camping for a month, or two months each summer, and reserving their camping spots, and then began building houses on the platforms. This process was just inching forward…with the structures becoming a little bit more permanent. The squatters began to believe that they owned the island. In their minds… so Appy thought this was a very important issue to fight.
But what do you think happens when you start telling people that you are going to evict them from their favorite camping spot? They’re probably not going to be your friends forever. So there were a lot of people who were very angry at him, and you still pick up on that in conversations around here. That was the other side of Appy’s story.
Here are some of Apperson’s pictures that were published in a magazine written by Warwick Carpenter. He was a really good writer, and he was the number two guy in the conservation department around 1920… He and Appy did these publications together. Appy did the photography and Warwick Carpenter did this beautiful prose. You’ll see an example of that publication, and that was the first of many, many publications that Appy launched. Of course Warwick Carpenter and Appy were good friends, so what do you think happened to Warwick? He was not very popular in the conservation department for long…they fired him because of a stand he took…
Then Apperson got involved with the legislative process, with Al Smith. We’ve got correspondence with Belle Moscowitz, who was the most powerful woman in politics in New York State, and she was the brains behind Al Smith, who was governor for a long time.
That led to lots of other connections with powerful politicians and senators. Apperson became a watchdog and did an amazing job of grassroots organizing. We’ll go into some details later, but that is really his biggest contribution. He was learning how to develop political power.
He did it by, first of all, by influencing these young men, his friends, many of whom worked under him, in the test training department at GE, …they all were eager to come up to the lake and find out what was going on up here. Many of these young men left Schenectady and went off to jobs in Cleveland, or Japan, or somewhere else. They kept in touch, and they did the same thing in their communities, and they were building skate sails, and they were doing all the same stuff. So there was this Diaspora of engineers that moved on. We’ve got letters (in the archives) from WWI, from men who had been in training with Appy, who have gone off to war… That’s an important thing, because many of them are going to send him letters, telling him about legislation being considered in their new communities, thinking that Appy would want to know about it. He hears from them because they are friends, because they are sincerely interested in the same causes. This is very different from the sort of anonymous letter writing campaigns made popular in the 1970s and ‘80s.
[photo of the Loines family] (Nancy knows all about that)…the Loines took him in under their wing and kept him around. He was a part of the family in a way, and yet it developed that Hilda, one of those sisters, became the head of horticulture, of the State Horticultural Society (whatever it was called), and so she was involved with all the garden clubs. Mary Loines was a suffragette and was a leader in getting the women to vote, and so that led to connections with the League of Women Voters…and then there was Eleanor Roosevelt… Hello…there is a good connection! She had a lot of friends, too, that came to
be friends with Appy, and could help him. Ethel Dreier is a name that comes up often in the correspondence.
I’m beginning to understand… I think people (even Doug was talking about this)…A lot of people don’t know about the effort to create a Lake George Park. Is that familiar to anybody? Have you heard talk about that? Well, apparently, as early as 1908 it showed up in the Lake George Association minutes. They wanted to create a Lake George Park. Eventually it sort-of morphed into this blue line, whatever it is… but for awhile, some people were beginning to say… lots of Lake George landowners were beginning to say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the Narrows and Tongue Mountain, and Shelving Rock, and the whole east side of the lake could be protected, and be considered a park?” This is on the heels of Teddy Roosevelt and the national parks that were being founded. So that was the early concept, but get this: In order for Appy to be effective working to create a Lake George Park, the essential ingredient would be to persuade some of the people who owned property to give their land to the state. That sounds good, but how in the world would you go up to someone (like Mr. Bixby, Mary Loines, or Becker, or the Knapps,) and say, this is a great idea… why don’t you just leave your land to the state…or sell it for a song…It would be good for everybody! Of course he met with resistance.
But that is what I think is the most incredible thing and is a testament to his persuasiveness, his resourcefulness, his genuine passion for it, as he labored on for many, many years to try and make it happen. Eventually Becker’s land became the property of the State… George Foster Peabody supported the notion, and French Point was named after him. GE gave the land. It just went on and on, but it took someone spending time, individually, to persuade them. And then the last big cause, and a lot of these things kind of blur into others, is the fight for the water levels.
Has anybody heard about the conflict over water levels? What Appy thought (and you can see it in the early correspondence) is that the lake levels had been affected by a dam at Ticonderoga, since 1797. It had been there a long time, starting out perhaps as a mill dam, but eventually operated by a lumber operation (International Paper Company). Over the years, some observers began to figure out that it’s not right that the dam at Ticonderoga should be able to control and manipulate the water, making Lake George essentially into a mill pond. So that’s an interesting issue. People can argue on all sides of it, but it is true that that is what had happened. He began saying, and he became a witness for the State of New York, in the 1940s, and Irving Langmuir had his name on the law suit, too…They were trying to say that the mill owners, by raising and lowering the water, and by sending this water onto the shores, that was state land or private, that they were “trespassing” on the land, so it became the “Lake George water trespass case.”
Some people I’ve been talking to this week say that he essentially lost the court battle, that he and Langmuir didn’t win their case…but on the other hand, you could say that it resulted in a wonderful compromise… because the State agreed to regulate everything carefully, and that it encouraged others to act as watchdogs. So today, the [levels of] lake water are not so bad. In some of these pictures along the wall, you’ll see docks that were submerged and docks that are standing about 6 feet tall, and the water is way out there…so it was fluctuating up and down about four or five feet…
[photo of two men] OK, now to his story… He and his brother, Hull, arrived in Schenectady around 1900, and this is another one of those pictures where I thought, “Who are these dorky looking people sitting on the log?” … and then I figured out, “Oh! It’s got to be my grandfather and my great uncle!” Aren’t they cute? Looking a little over dressed… The older one, on the right, Hull, came up about six months before John did. As far as I know he worked in the international department at GE, whatever it was back then…in 1900, and he also started the training program…which was called “on test…”
[photo of beached whale] Appy started exploring, and he found this beached whale…Can anybody recognize the harbor? I figure it might be in Boston…I don’t know…
[photo of old man holding dog] One of the other stories that I extracted from his papers is from correspondence with a young man named Seth Wadsworth, who is this man’s son. I think he also went by “Jack,” but anyway, this old man lived in the Forest Preserve, and someone hassled him and said that he was not supposed to cut down any trees. This old man would have cut down dead trees and removed dead things in order to build his fires, but he would have been protecting the forest preserve. He was feeding the deer, he was clearing the trails, and he was not doing any harm. So this is a characteristic of Apperson… his letter writing… that he starts writing a cordial, very pleasant letter to the conservation people, saying, “Can you explain to me…is it true that this man is going to be kicked off of his property because he cut down trees? “ And of course they come back with, “No that is silly. Of course we should be nice to him. We can see that he is harmless.” But Apperson continued to press his point, and eventually bought the old man a couple of acres and made sure that he had a building he could live in…so those are the kind of ideas that he had.
[man holding fish] I just love this picture of Apperson fishing. Apparently he did a lot of fishing in the first few years, until he got really busy. He liked skate sailing and skiing. I guess this is from Black Mountain? I don’t know.
[hydroplane] Some of you may know these locations on the lake. But this picture of a hydroplane… if you look carefully it’s got the name of David Rushmore… riding on the hydroplane. Rushmore was Apperson’s boss. He was the head of Power and Mining. …Which tells you a lot about the sort of camaraderie, and the fact that all these engineers were getting into this… when even your boss will come and participate in water sports with you on the weekend.
[map showing railroad connections] Another question…Bill White used to say, that he thought Appy, from the first ten years or so, when he came up to the lake, that he came up on the railroad, and would have gotten off at Fort Ann, and hiked in, to somewhere near Shelving Rock…or Pearl Point. But the more I have thought about it… I’m sorry, Bill, I just really don’t think that made much sense. He got off Saturday afternoon, from GE, because that’s when they got off, and then had to be back for Monday morning. It was not a long, extended weekend, and he was coming up here every weekend to the Dollar Islands… So I am pretty sure that he would have taken the steamboats up to Pearl Point. There are a lot of references to that.
Of course it is fun to think of all the rail lines and the connections. In one of these pictures there is a picture of three men holding their skis… at some kind of bus-stop. So they had a challenge to get around.
This is a wonderful picture of my great aunt Nancy, his sister, was getting married in the summer of 1906, and for her wedding present he planned an excursion into the lake region, and she kept a scrap book. I am sure these are his photographs, so that is how they got there. [Picture of canoe on a wagon]…with a horse drawn carriage and a canoe…
It is a wonderful memory. Plus, you can recognize that these are pictures from that scrap book. You can recognize her “That’s Nancy!” Here is another one from that scrap book. I often have called this “A Happy Meal, c. 1906.” This shows you some of their wonderful camping gear.
Also, some of the letters, and maybe y’all can correct me from the era, I’ve heard that as many as maybe 2,000 or so people… that he invited to visit the islands…even the Shah of Iran. GE had international
visitors who would want to see the lake, and they’d ask Appy… By the ‘teens he was organizing…leaving camping gear here and camping gear there…leaving a canoe and making it possible for people to find out where to go, get up there and use the equipment, and bring it back… and thank him later on. So he was a dynamo.
Of course the skate sails…It was well known that a whole bunch of them , ten or fifteen of these young engineers, got into manufacturing their skate sails. They were ordering spars from appropriate places. And Appy, in 1911, bought a sewing machine, through the GE shop, and I think it cost $36. They were having fun!
But this is so neat! [picture… Before and After picture from GE publication] tells you a little about the tenor of life at GE… This was a publication put out by GE in 1929… Just before the crash. It shows before and after pictures. There were a lot of other charming ones. But isn’t that cute to see what Apperson looked like in 1900…again, kind of dorky, and how sophisticated and confident he looks in 1929.
[photo of 2 men in tent] This was a part of that camping trip, I think, and notice what is on the side there, beside the blond. Can you see what he’s got lying there? A revolver… I think he may have been the hired guide, to take them through the lake region… And I got to thinking, maybe they became good friends. Maybe they did a lot of cooperative tour-guiding together. But that is Appy on the left… Many people are familiar with the fact that he got the Camp Fire Girls, and any other kind of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, to come and help him rip-rap the shores.
I read a book by Michael Eisner called Camp, about a camp over in Vermont, and it was talking about that process of teaching kids about the out of doors, and what is important, and I’m thinking, here’s another evidence of it – getting old and young to come and learn about this ethic…
[Tragic Truth About Erosion] In the thirties, I think he was responsible…I think it was through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he was responsible for a publication about erosion…in 1935…in the middle of the dust bowl… He has pictures in there of gullies in North Carolina, and problems in Virginia, and problems in the Adirondacks, so he was not just thinking about the Adirondacks. So I think that raises him to an interesting status…
This was put out in the 1950s…Lake George a Mill Pond… and in it he goes back and shows correspondence in the twenties, thirties, and forties…showing what people had written. He puts in a lot of letters from Conservation Commissioners… who try to say, “Oh, that’s ridiculous! We are doing a wonderful job … we’ve been taking care of that…we have men who are going over there to…” And Appy said, no… NO! Actually it is this way! So he really put some pressure on (and turned the screws on) for people in public jobs… And that’s what we all need to be doing.
[photo of island] This is fun because this example I think showed you the esthetic, while it is also a documentary. It looked like the water is rather high, and that island…it looks a little precarious. I don’t know which one it is. Does anybody know? You know there was one island that had three trees that looked like ship’s masts, and it was called Ship Island… and I think it was washed away…
I mentioned Warwick Carpenter a little while ago, and this is the cover of that publication, and it had a nice narrative, and it had this picture in it, which is very familiar to a lot of us…this boat… this barge… and it was called Art. VII, Sec. 7… which is the clause in the New York Constitution that says that the forests will be forever wild.
[Ellis Hospital] In 1918 he got Influenza. In my family we had always heard the story that he got Influenza, he was sent… or he was taken by his friends to Ellis Hospital, and that he was so stubborn that he didn’t want to die in the hospital, so he checked himself out (escaped) and got on a street car or something and went as far north as he could go.
As it turns out, I’m beginning to think that there may have been several occasions in his life when he got sick and he didn’t want to die at home… In one case he went up all the way into Canada. But I believe in 1918 he made it to Lake George, and I think Jay Taylor took care of him…and I think the illness took the wind out of his sails…
He had been so busy… taking people hiking, and arranging to do all this stuff for everybody else for so long, and he was just getting tired. …and wanting to put down roots, so this was when he started seriously looking for property.
This is the Lake View Hotel. It is also called Parodi Point… This structure is no longer there… That is what William Dalton purchased, eventually… Back behind it is the house that Bill Horne lives in now, the one which was called the annex.
This is where he really kicks in his efforts with the Lake George Park. Because he had property that he could leave his gear and equipment in… it freed him up to get up there and start seeing people, and getting around the lake.
This is a letter from Robert Moses. There are so many tantalizing letters to and from people like that… If you don’t know Robert Moses, he was the most powerful man in New York for four or five decades. He started out under Al Smith, and Al Smith did everything Moses wanted him to do. Robert Moses built parks and palisades… he did Long Island… he did Niagara Falls… he did development…all over the state… And then he tackled urban renewal. He was huge . But Appy fought him in two major battles, and won.
And Moses recognized that… The first time Appy defeated him had to do with Tongue Mountain. If you know the lake, Tongue Mountain is like a tongue sticking out into the lake, and it is all wild today, but on August 17  Senator Rabenold sent Appy a note and said, “you know, I’ve heard that there is legislation that’s going to be proposed later this week, to extend a highway around the rim of Tongue Mountain, on the rocky coast. Would you please see what you can find out about it?”
So Appy… well, there was a flurry of correspondence. Appy was in touch with Moses, just a few days later, and with Al Smith, and with Bixby, securing Bixby’s launch, and who knows… perhaps a couple of other senators, probably, and the story is they kidnapped the governor, maybe…I don’t know…but they persuaded him to get into the Bixby’s launch and to not do whatever other important things he was supposed to do that day. This is a picture of William Bixby. This was not his launch… it was a bigger boat [The Spirit of St. Louis].
So they took the governor up the middle of the lake, they started down at Lake George Village, and Appy had a chance to tell him about the comparison of costs, “If you do that highway around the rim, on the cliffs, it was going to be astronomical.” Then he mentioned a few other things, like the scenery that would be completely devastated…Our family has always said, “Yeah, and they wanted to put a gas station up there, too.” So you name it, and Appy was going to hear about it and fight it. The other alternative would be to send the highway back behind Tongue Mountain, in a road bed that had already been there for many decades, and to let the public come out and see the lake at Deer Leap. But they
didn’t need to see it in a continuous drive. So, Al Smith, who was very fond of Appy, agreed. And Moses was “spitting bullets” on the shore. He lost that one.
And then in the thirties, I guess it was… one of the big battles was called the Closed Cabin Amendment…
Moses thought it would be nice to have…not just little cabins, but houses, and maybe hotels… and not just little roads, but bigger roads… and so he was inching toward constructing things for the public to stay in… throughout the preserve. Appy knew that that was a very scary, very frightening prospect, because it would open a wedge to allow more and more development. So he managed to get Paul Schaefer’s help, and they put their organization to work… and they defeated Robert Moses, big time!
Moses wrote about it in his memoirs. He was not happy!
This letter is from Boas, and the Alma Farm. If you are interested in how Apperson connected with the people around here, these archives are just amazing… all the letters that mention families who were landowners, that he was contacting. And, of course, the purpose in coming up here for me is to get in touch with people who can correct me… and tell me things I don’t know.
Nancy [Rogal] and I were working on this the other day and she said, “No, Ellen, that is not Mary Loines in the picture…” I always thought this picture was of Mary Loines and her daughter Sylvia. It just seemed so plausible… So we don’t know who this is… Does anybody know who they are? This girl, with the hat, shows up a lot, so this winter hat makes her easy to identify. So isn’t that fun, that you can know a lot, but still have all these mysteries, and need to do detective work.
This is a very important letter… I’m sure you’ve seen it, Dick. This is from Mary Loines shortly after that incident on the boat… with the governor… the same week. She sends the letter in to the Park Commission and puts down her terms for what she will do to give them her land, and what they need to do. So that was the anchor, the critical gift, that was made… of land… and critical, too, in that she stipulated what exactly she thought she was doing and why. And, her son died, shortly before that and her husband had died… her daughters were all single at that point, and Appy became like a son-in-law, …like family…
He took upon himself to check on the State for all the things they were supposed to do for Mary (Mrs. Loines)… And so there is a fascinating relationship that you can see back and forth in their letters, where they are saying…”It looks like they are taking the wrong trees down, Mr. Apperson, so could you please check with somebody and get back to me? “
Again, I have apparently identified the people in the picture wrong, but definitely the two most important connections, I think, were with the Loines family and with William K. Bixby. I do have some pictures of Sylvia, now that I know that she had the white snow suit, but I’m not sure that I have any pictures in my possession of Mary Loines, but both of them (Mrs. Loines and Mr. Bixby) were very well respected, very influential… They were members of the Lake George Association and would have had a great deal of influence around here… It just comes up over and over again…what they did to make this all happen.
Here are some of his associates who became his neighbors at Lake George. As Doug Langdon has written, there are people who initially bought property with Appy, and they were… G. Hall Roosevelt, and William N. Dalton, and the three of them “divvied up” this Lake View property, and that was in about 1920, but by 1928, Hall Roosevelt had moved to, I think it was Chicago… and William Dalton and
Appy had had a real falling out… over esthetics, I guess you could say… So Appy acquired all of it and Mrs. Christie took the part of it where the annex was.
G. Hall Roosevelt, by the way, do you know how he was related to other Roosevelts? He was Eleanor’s brother. So it is really close… We have correspondence in which Eleanor writes and says, “Elliott and I are coming hiking this weekend. What should we wear?
There is an intriguing letter from Franklin, when he was governor, in 1926, and I went back and looked at the dates, and looked at the dates, and it says something to the effect of…”I really enjoyed out trip up Black Mountain…” and he got polio in 1922, so I’m wondering how in the world did Franklin get up Black Mountain with Appy. Whoah! That’s a story. Once the Daltons and the Roosevelts had left the picture, that’s when it kicked in for Appy to talk with Irving Langmuir and Edith Clark, who was a scientist at GE, and Katherine Blodget, who was a scientist at GE…, and Florence Christie and her husband, Kilgore. There are people here tonight who know where Irving lived, and people who remember Art Newkirk, so there is a real continuity here.
Other “associates” who we’ve talked about tonight, live right there on Parodi Point. Bill White would have been the major one. He was out there moving stones with Appy in the late 1940s. …And Phil Ham. Does anybody remember Phil Ham? No? Well I remember hearing about him all the time, because he played a really important role…and Jim Cawley… He was a real close friend who worked with Appy to organize a regatta, and a big celebration for the American Canoe Association… So Appy was like the tourism department for this part of Lake George. He went to great lengths, bringing in mattresses, and carts and boats, and everything possible – food and whatever else needed to be done to host the American Canoe Regatta.
And Paul Schaefer… I guess most of you know a little bit about Paul. He is really well known in Schenectady, and he is really well known in the while Adirondack Park, but he doesn’t particularly have a Lake George connection. So that is one of the great things about bringing it all together tonight, is to remind you of all these relationships that have existed. I have correspondence that shows that Paul Schaefer got a letter from Appy, describing what Appy was trying to do, in 1931, and Appy says, “We need for you and your friends to go out with your cameras to all of these places where there have been rock slides, and clear cutting, and erosion, and logging, and take pictures, bring it back, and then we’ll use it.
I’m sorry, I am running on.
[Letter from George Foster Peabody] This shows a little bit of Appy’s style. He was good friends with Peabody. Appy was delighted when his friends wrote letters, like this one to the Lake George Mirror, instead of Appy himself. He quickly learned that he could be more effective if other people, who were not thought of as activists, or extremists, but those who were among the most respected people of all, could do the letter writing. So here is a letter concerning Sylvia Loines, indicating that Peabody didn’t think that The Mirror treated her very nicely.
Here is a letter by Rabenold, who was one of the best thinkers and political supporters for Appy.
Somehow in this I need to make sure you know about an important sequence of events…that first Appy got the flu, then he bought land, and started to form the park, and then he lost his job! Some people don’t think that is true, but the letters are there in the files, and I have some family ones that give every particular…everything that was said in a discussion at work. What was happening was that GE was reacting to the end of WWI, and you saw the same thing after WWII… when the military production
winds down, when all these industries that have been doing military production have to rethink what they are going to do to make a profit, so GE, which had been producing big steam turbines and generators, and all that kind of thing, was switching to appliances… At least that process was underway…
So he was devastated. It is hard to imagine what the next six months were for him, because he had invested so heavily in everything here. I know he must have been wondering if he was going to end up going to Chicago or California, of Timbuktu… I am sure he just couldn’t imagine life on a different trajectory. He was so invested…But then it shows up on various records that by 1923, he was in the Engineering General.
By the way, that is a pretty neat thing, if you think about it. He was responsible for coordinating all of the projects that have to do with patents, and the coordinating of things coming from different departments, the many different branches of GE, the specifications…man, it was pretty responsible “stuff” that he was involved in. But he rebounded.
This is a picture of that American Canoe Association gathering. I think this is a picture taken at the regatta. What he did that was characteristic, and all of you may have heard about it, was he’d start an organization himself, get his best friends to help him, and two of three years later, if it wasn’t working, he would just stop…just quit… and let somebody else do it.
Another thing he did was to join the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, back in the thirties, and if he eventually disagreed with them, he would drop out. But meanwhile, he knows everybody. He knows who said what, what their tactics are, and he has surveyed it… He has mined it for the information and for the relationships.
The last big organization was the Lake George Protective Association. George, did you join? Did you say that you went to some of those meetings?
George: Yep. I was a member and probably other people here were. I remember my father and mother joining. I was thinking we actually should recreate the Lake George protective Association.
Ellen: Absolutely! That’s your cue…
Then a little back ground on him, in Virginia. He knew about rip-rapping because he had built the roadway for a railroad, from Marion into Grayson County… and at age eighteen, he had about 400 people working under him. So he was a pretty self confident guy. He also was a good carpenter. We have a Presbyterian minister, I think the name was Russell Stevenson, who had little boys, and Appy loved going over there. He built them a toboggan and built them a book shelf, and helped them build a model railroad. He certainly knew all about the science of all these patents and inventions.
Back in Virginia, he had taken a year in a sort of academy at what is now Virginia Tech, and then he got into real classes, and then we have letters from his father, writing his older brother, saying, “What are we going to do about John, he’s not attending class, I see here that he’s got demerits… so he couldn’t sit still. He ended up dropping out, and he became the manager of a railroad, yet in his possession, that I later found, were chemistry and calculus books all dated 1898, so I think he acquired the books, and his brother was still at Virginia Tech, too, so he managed to get there and learn what he wanted to learn.
Certainly his interest in accuracy was helpful.
The political and civic education that he received was an important clue. His grandfather, Thomas Thomas Hull… we have letters from him showing that he was really involved with agricultural education. In Virginia they depleted the soil with tobacco. Three fourths of the state was just ruined with bad agricultural practices. So that was a political stand that Thomas Hull took.
His father, Dr. Apperson, was a medic. There is a book over there you might have a glance at… of his Civil War documents. He was a Civil War medic. After the war, he was one of those people that really wanted the South to come back, and have a New South. And so he was very entrepreneurial and tried a lot of things.
One of the uncles …we’ve got a letter in which he said, “ we’ve just got to roll up our sleeves…and move on.” Because in the South, everything was devastated, and some southerners were nursing their wounds, and angry, and celebrating the Lost Cause, for several more generations. But I am pretty convinced that this branch of the family was not like that. They were eager to find a way forward.
One of his uncles (great uncles, Abijah Thomas, was the great industrialist of the Southwest. All of his businesses …but the family hated him because he borrowed and borrowed money that didn’t exist and treated all these women in the family…his siblings and his nieces and nephews abominably. So I think John learned some lessons, listening in the family, about who was admired and who was not…who was respected and who was not.
Here are some images of his mother, who died at 47… She had anemia, and she looks pretty ill. I have a prettier picture of her, but I couldn’t find it when I was making this slide show.
If you go down to Marion today, you can find this workshop… back behind the house… He and his brother both loved carpentry. And there is the early fireplace.
[hospital] This is a neat building, isn’t it? In 1887, Dr. Apperson decided to work on starting this great hospital, and it was a hospital for lunatics. A lunatic asylum… People were excited that this came to Marion, bringing jobs. It looks kind of bleak, though, and in 1887, Dr. Apperson drove the ten miles from Chilhowie up to the big city of Marion and started living there, and back home his oldest daughter got Typhoid. She died within a few weeks and they all moved to this barren place, to the third floor… And Mrs. Apperson, after nursing her daughter through the illness, never recovered her own strength. She died soon thereafter. So it looked bleak… Here is a picture of the family soon after Mary (John’s sister) had died. And this is cute little John here.
So that was a seminal event, a big event. He lost his sister and his mother…and they lost their home in Chilhowie, because they had moved to this gosh awful place…If you look at the person with the number 6 in the doorway, that was the infamous Dr. Preston, and according to our family lore, he and his wife had a nice apartment on the first floor, but they were very unwilling to consider letting poor, sick Mrs. Apperson to live on the first floor. They made them live upstairs. And so you’ve got here a young sister, Nancy. Remember you’ve seen pictures from her scrap book when she visited the lake region in 1906, well this is Nancy as about a six year old. This is a few weeks later …the one in the Napoleon stance is my grandfather, Hull. He was a little bit like that… And look at little John. Isn’t he cute…such a waif. And his mother looks like she’s not got much longer for this world…
And I just put this in…I took this picture about ten years ago, taken from right near their house. I think that he ran wild. He may have had uncles, and neighbors, and former slaves who kind of looked out for him, but he was on his own. He had all these sisters, but his brother Hull was nine years older, and he was gone.
It is pretty down there. I was telling Doug tonight that Chester Sims was getting ready to come down and see this part of Virginia, just about the time he died. One of the stories that really hits me, is the story of his great aunt Abigail.
Back around 1810, there was a man who came down to Virginia, a Hull, and he married a local girl, and they had a baby, and the mom died. So what did he do? He moved to Illinois and left the baby with his sister. So Abigail Hull [Denton] raised Thomas Thomas Hull. And then fast forward to 1852 or so, and Thomas Hull is married and has seven children, and his wife dies, and then he dies, so guess what happens? All of the great nephews and great nieces are raised by Abigail and her husband, David Denton. And funny thing…there are a lot of David Dentons in the family! That name was popular because they must have really admired him.
So that is a nice reality check on what was happening in the nineteenth century…and what was happening to real families, before there was social security and all that. The Hulls came from Ulster County, New York, but before that they were from Connecticut. They are related to Aaron Burr and Princeton, and all those blue blood things. …Very Puritan, good education…
This is what I really love, doing a lot of Ancestry.com… the name Apperson, I am pretty sure, goes back to the French name, D’Epernon, in Normandy, and you keep going, and it goes back to the Pyrenees. And I’m going, “That’s it! That is why he was such a good hiker!”
His father was very stern, so that when John went off to school, a careful ledger was kept, and I’m sure that when Dr. Apperson died, they had to make account for it.
This is from a student publication at VPI, (Virginia Tech) and there is John Apperson. That’s not his picture, of course, but this was the academy, called here the Ship’s Crew. So these were sort of pre-college level kids. But it proves that he was there.
This is Dr. Apperson’s second family. He remarried, and Lizzie became the proverbial “step-mother!” John wrote a letter when he was about fourteen, to his older brother, saying, “You just wouldn’t believe what it is like to live with a woman who is not your own mother but who is telling you what to do!” So he was glad to get out of the house. He was very independent and stubborn, and glad to leave all that behind, although interestingly enough, he had close relationships with his half-brothers and sister. This is Harvey, who corresponded with John, and earned a law degree. He became the Attorney General of Virginia. He was slated to be running for governor, but he had a heart attack and died in his forties. John had good relationships with his siblings.
This is the last picture of him and his older siblings (before he left for New York)… You see Dr. Apperson with John behind him, at age twenty, and Hull is probably already up in Schenectady at that point. Those are his sisters.
This is an interesting picture from the Marion Museum that shows you what was happening in Virginia on into the thirties, with all the clear cutting. And you know, if Appy was building a railroad, for a year and a half, as the foreman…he was noticing what they were doing to the forest, in order to build the railroad. And he was not happy. Another theme here, and I know I am keeping you late, and I’m sorry, but…
For me, we were all impacted tremendously by our Uncle John. This is a picture of my Uncle Jim and my father, at the lake with Appy. This is Uncle Jim, if any of you remember Jim Apperson, who used to wear a funny little hat and a work shirt…he was really kind of an odd ball, but he was a dear soul. That was
him at Fork Union Military Academy in the 1930s. These are family pictures that show all of his nieces and nephews coming up to the lake, which was a big operation to bring them all up from different parts of Virginia. This is from the same visit, with a lot of his siblings and in-laws, and people like that.
I love this picture from our family archive. This is my dad, my Uncle Jim and my Uncle Hull, as paper boys in Richmond. But Appy would go down there every Christmas, and there are a lot of references to him catching the train to go down there and play Santa Clause…and they really loved him.
This is an iconic photo, on the top left, of my father, my brother and my great uncle John (3 generations of John Appersons) at the main camp at Chilhowie. That’s my father and my brother; my father and my mother with my brother, and, I loved this…Most of us never remember ever seeing Uncle Jim actually getting in the water, but back in the fifties I have this one of him helping with the canoe. That’s me up in the right hand corner.
About at that point of my life, my Mother got T.B. and disappeared from my life. …And came back about eighteen months later. She was at Glenwood, Glenridge…I forget the name of it. So, who helped? Uncle Jim came over from Marblehead, Mass. every weekend. And Uncle John helped as best he could…
Hilda Loines took this picture of Appy’s interior… of the main camp, or Chilhowie. Believe it or not, I took that table down to Virginia on top of my car, after we had our barn sale. It was wonderful to have that table. This is Peg Cawley, or Margaret Cawley, and she is an artist and photographer, and she sent me a copy of that print, so I am sure it is her. That’s the way the main camp looked. I’m not sure of the year, but there was a big blow in 1949 that took down a lot of the trees in front of the main camp.
This shows my mother, in Richmond, looking absolutely like a skeleton. There is Appy, on the back row…the second one… and Uncle Jim is over there on the right.
This is in the thirties, 1936… down in Dunedin, Florida… where his spinster sister Nell had retired… with all of his siblings.
And this is a pretty famous family shot. He bought a Chris Craft in 1927, and I don’t know if it was the first one on the lake, but knowing that Appy was very tuned in to what his options were… and wanting to buy just the right boat, and knowing he could use his connections with Hall Roosevelt and with Dalton, and with a lot of other people who knew a lot about boats and were living in other places… Anyway, he researched it, and it seems to me that there is evidence to suggest that it was probably the first Chris Craft at the lake. And he was proud, but it was going to be a working boat. As you all know he carried canoes around in it. But these folks were all from Virginia, and it shows them christening the boat with a bottle of water from Virginia. There was my grandfather, Hull, and that is my Dad, right there. In the twenties and thirties… Can you just imagine how, for boys from Virginia, to come up to this lake in the summer, to get to go in a motor boat? It was not happening in Richmond. And in the winter to do all this skate sailing and camping and all…it was just Heaven!
[Quotes] Just a couple of samples and we’re almost done. I mentioned Ethel Dreier. She was good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1931 she is writing Appy to say, “Did you see the Times article about Mr. Morgenthau?” And in 1951, just plain old conversation, she is saying, “It looks like the commercial interests are trying to bring down the”…whatever. They were really into politics, and they are keeping this up over twenty years. So it was definitely an ongoing, very serious effort.
[Quote] And this is a kind of neat thing… “If we earnestly claim these lands are a priceless treasure, we should prove our sincerity by continuing to protect them and our constitution and help defeat this proposed amendment that would remove that protection.” December, 1931.
Signed by Irving Langmuir, E. McDonald Stanton, Richmond Moot (an attorney who gave Appy lots of good advice.)
Appy had a gun license, and this is a good picture of him.
Here is a letter about Belle Moscowitz, who I mentioned… She was the brains behind Al Smith. There was a political thing going on between Al Smith and FDR. They were not talking… And Al Smith came out in favor of a wilderness thing, and he and Belle Moscowitz were working closely with Appy …
Here is this wonderful letter. I think I mentioned it before… where Appy describes to Paul Schaefer what needs to be done. And it really does lay it out pretty well. And if you notice, he is even talking about the dynamics of … I think the American Canoe Association was trying to have a regatta…with all these big wigs in it… and the group was sort of synonymous with the Adirondack Club… so there are interesting and intriguing things going on. This is a priceless picture, though, because Appy was short and Paul Schaefer was tall, but to see him in the background …having an influence, but letting the next generation come take the reins… I think it says that pretty well.
And, his legacy? I thought a page from a book by Frank Leonbrunno was a good example, because it talks about how… Apperson did this and Apperson did that. Leonbrunno acknowledged Apperson’s activities and contributions…
I haven’t even mentioned Dome Island!
But Dome Island is of course the most tangible thing to mention about Appy’s contributions. Starting in 1912 or so, he and Bixby started negotiating about how they could find a way to protect Dome Island. And that vigilance went on for years. In the twenties it was… Appy took upon himself to rip-rap Dome Island… because the owner was not very well and was not caring… So he went out there and made sure that it didn’t wash away. By 1958, he (and Langmuir, who had helped him buy it) figured out that he could give it to the Eastern Chapter of the New York Nature Conservancy, and endow it so that it would be protected. There would be a Dome Island Committee. Some of you here tonight, like Doug, have served on that committee and you’ve gone out in the boat to make sure no one is building a fire out there.
And this is the last slide…I promise… These are just some dates, so you can look at that…
I also have an exhibit that I did about ten years ago as part of a masters degree program down at UNC-Asheville, and I’m hoping to find a way to leave it up here(under the stewardship of some group or some individual) to make sure that it gets put on display from time to time… So that school kids can see it, or it could be put on display at G.E. You know, in one of their buildings, or maybe some other pubic building. I could come up and give another talk, but it is also true that there are several people here that could fill in some of this information… and they could give a program or two…
I’m also hoping that people will take my cards that I’ve distributed around the room, and please look at my website. I’ve got a lot of papers up there about Apperson… And you could share with me if you’ve got information, because this has been a phenomenal week. I’ve met people that know things that I
didn’t know… and they didn’t know what I knew, so it has been kind of fun. So I’ll close with that. And thank you very much for coming, and I’ll invite your questions.
Woman: Were you going to let people know that you are going to do this again tomorrow?
Ellen: Thank you! That’s right! We heard about the talk tonight at the Darrin Institute (about WWII), and figured we couldn’t compete, so we organized it to come here tomorrow at ten. So if you know of somebody that was busy tonight and couldn’t be here, it would be wonderful to have them come by. It might be a more informal session. And we’d have more of a chance to let you tell me what you know. And visa versa. But we’ll give it a shot. I do know of a couple of people who are planning to come. You all got a really nice crowd out tonight. Thank you! Thank you again, Doug. Thank you, Ted.