My childhood eyes and ears took in all that the Adirondack small town communities like Caroga Lake, Edinburg, Northville, Day, Hadley, Canada Lake and Speculator had to offer way back when. And because of that, I know the Adirondacks like the back of my hand, or at least I thought I did. Perhaps at one time when I explored the area by foot and bike more than I did by car, I knew the nooks and crannies of this region where I spent most of my summers.
On a recent trip, we spent more time on the Sacandaga Lake and surrounding communities and I learned a few historical and quirky things about the area I never knew as a child.
The Sacandaga Reservoir @ Batcherville Bridge
I was surprised to learn about the history behind Northville and Batchellerville and the Batchellerville Bridge given that I grew up in the area and no one ever shared some of the tragic incidents that took place in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.
The Batchellerville Bridge was originally constructed in 1930 when the Hudson River Regulation District built the Conklingville Dam and the area was flooded to form the Great Sacandaga Lake, a 42 square mile reservoir, the largest in the state. This I knew.
It cost $12 million for the dam and creation of the reservoir. What was new to my ears is the history of the peasants and farmers who had to give up their land (eminent domain) to the government for the construction of the dam. It is said that there were people who tied themselves to their homes and went down with the flooding.
Locals who have been diving deeper into the history of that period are discovering the sad tragedies of the families who lost their homes. Apparently people who refused to leave were forcibly removed from their homes, and saw them burned along with schools and churches they had built. According to a more recent article in the Saratogian who shed some light on this sad period, entire cemeteries were relocated. We talked to people who remember coffins surfacing to the top over time.
A fairly new 70-minute documentary, “Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga,” co-directed by Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts and county Planning Director Jason Kemper explores these stories in more depth.
The thousands of farmers who lived in these tiny communities such as Conklingville, Fish House, Batchellerville and Osborn Bridge didn’t have money or power to fight so simply had to leave. Their unique businesses that made items like rakes, clothespins and washboards became a thing of the past.
A few we spoke to wonder if the turbulent waters around the Batchellerville Bridge, which is where the original valley of farms were located before the flood, isn’t due to angry ghosts who feel that their plight was unjust and unfair.
It’s not the only history of ghosts we heard from locals from yesteryear. From the local Fuller’s Store and historical restaurants between Northville and Warrensburg (be sure to dine at the Grist Mill if you head up that way), we listened to stories of unsettled homes and buildings and of people who are certain ghosts are refusing to leave because of their jarred and unfortunate history.
Other parts of the Great Sacandaga aren’t quite so turbulent and makes for great swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and even waterskiing.
William Coffey Studio & Gallery
We had a chance to get a private showing of William Coffey’s Studio & Gallery, which is located in downtown Northville. He defines his art as “at the intersection of contemporary and rustic design.”
His furniture making interest started as early as 12 years of age where he grew up in New York City. After an apprenticeship in his younger years and a degree from The Germain School of Photography, his first shop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard kicked off his career.
His work has been exhibited in the William Proctor Munson Museum in Utica, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His work is unique and shows up in luxurious rustic homes and buildings around the country.
He fashions furniture from re-purposed materials, metal, stone and wood. Bill says:
“My designs come from a subtle balance of looking back and looking forward. I am revisiting myself in balance.”
Also in his studio are other artists, including other rustic furniture designs, hand-made fly rods, lighting, paintings and pottery.
Other amazing work from local artisans include pottery by Reah Haggart Costello, sculpture by Matt Horner, paintings by John Swartwout, Iconicscapes by Ron Defelice, lighting and paintings by Bob Stump, and assemblage by Diane Golden to name a few. The line up of artists rotate at times although you’re likely to find some of the staples there most of the time.
His studio can be found at 322 North Third Street in Northville New York, 12134. The phone number is 518.774.0531 and email is [email protected]
When we return to our old hood, we typically spend time in Caroga Lake or Gloversville since these are the haunts we knew the best, however this time around since we stayed with friends on the Great Sacandaga, we explored Day, Northville, Broadalbin, Edinburg, Hadley and the surrounding communities.
Paddles and fishing items can be found everywhere as can artisan made wooden tables and chairs.
Small Town Quaintness Meets Natural Beauty
The drives through the Adirondacks are breathtaking regardless of which direction you drive.
The Copeland Covered Bridge in Edinburg nearby was built in 1879 by Arad Copeland, who moved to the area around 1832. Previously, there was a small bridge over Beecher Creek that connected Copeland’s house and a small pasture which he apparently owned.
According to the Adirondack.net, “this bridge was built with a queen post truss design, which uses two central supporting posts. Some of the bridge’s renovations have included a new metal roof, new flooring, and side board replacements.” The Copeland Covered Bridge is around 35 feet long, and in 1998, was placed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Sites.
If you want to stay in the area, you can rent a summer camp on either the Sacandaga, or other nearby lakes (Canada, Pecks, Caroga), cottages at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center or the ever so quaint cabins at The Cabins in Hope.
Travel Back in Time at the Northville Five & Dime
Supposedly the oldest Five & Dime Store left in the country, the Northville 5-10-25 cent store may not still be full of items under a buck, but it’s still fairly inexpensive by national standards.
You’ll travel back in time as you walk through the aisles, and feel as if time has literally stood still. If you’re over forty, you’ll find some knick knacks and toys from yesteryear you may have forgotten about or at best, didn’t realize was still available without bidding on eBay.
If you’re old enough to remember batons and barbies, the racks at the Northville Five and Dime will blow you away.
Other Articles You May Enjoy:
- How Nature and the Adirondack Mountains Can Heal You
- A Very Vibrant Adirondack Loop
- The Allure of an Adirondack Summer
- Lake George, the Queen of American Lakes