Thursday, January 31, 2013

Amelie's Friend

Lake Champlain at Chazy
     Amelie Cartier and her family live in a large stone and brick house at Chazy on Lake Champlain. Her father claims to be a distant relative of French explorer Jacques Cartier. Amelie is eight years old.
     Amelie does not have brothers or sisters. Shortly after she was born at the hospital in nearby Plattsburg, her parents decided against having more children.
     When Amelie was three years old, she didn't read but she listened intently as her parents read stories to her at bedtime. After a second reading, she could remember each story and tell it to others from memory. She was thrilled by some of the stories, especially the French fairy tales such as Bearskin and The Lost Children. There was also a story of the Abernaki people about a lake creature called Tatoskuk. Tatoskuk was larger than any fish and was seen occasionally in Lake Champlain. It was called Champ by New Yorkers and by those who lived over in Vermont.


     The morning routine for Amelie, except for the worst winter or summer weather, proceeds like this: she wakes up before dawn, washes and dresses appropriately for the weather, and at daybreak she picks up her home-made walking stick and walks along a path from her house to the lake's shoreline. The path makes a gradual descent. She has walked this path so often that she knows exactly how many steps she must take in each direction: seventy-eight.
    Her parents are fully aware of her early morning habit and allow her to do it, confident in her ability to avoid an accident or danger. However, her father or her mother watch her from a window in the house. In summer, her father and mother go outside and watch her from chairs by a flower garden.
     At the inception of this morning habit, her parents used to go with her to the shoreline. As she grew older, Amelie made it clear to her parents that she preferred to walk alone. Conversations with her new friend, Tatoskuk, ought to be private. Besides, walking alone always gave her a sense of pride and achievement.
     At the lakeshore, Amelie could hear Tatoskuk in the water. She had an extraordinary hearing ability, having trained herself to listen to every sound and silence since she was a very young child. She liked to touch things too, and often she dipped her fingers into the water of the lake. She could hear and locate the swimming and splashing sounds offshore, and she greeted the lake creature with joy and happiness.
     "Tatoskuk, good morning!" she said, and she listened as the lake creature splashed a reply.
     For several minutes or longer she would talk to Tatoskuk, and Tatoskuk grunted and splashed as if to say, "yes, no, or maybe." Amelie always interpreted the grunts as "yes" replies, which pleased her and made her smile.
     She asks Tatoskuk innocent questions from her curious mind, such as: "Isn't it cold today? How can you swim when there are large blocks of ice floating in the lake? Do you eat fish? What kind of fish? Do you have parents? Sisters or brothers? Where are they?"
     When Amelie is satisfied with Tatoskuks' answers, and begins to feel hungry for breakfast, she says goodbye to Tatoskuk and walks home. Her mother greets her at the door and directs her to the breakfast table.
     On weekdays, after breakfast and after her father leaves for work, she and her mother clear the table and prepare for home schooling. 
     Today a wrapped cardboard box stands on the table. As each item is carefully unpackaged, the new APH Braille textbooks and teaching materials create a sense of eagerness and excitement for Amelie.

Story credit: R. DuPage

Monday, January 28, 2013

Railroad Beginnings in Cortland County

     "Everybody wanted a railroad," wrote Henry Perry Smith in his 1885 History of Cortland County. The following text on railroads, found in Chapter IX, was copied from the 1885 History for education and research.

     The continued agitation of railroad projects resulted, in the spring of 1836, in the incorporation of the Syracuse, Cortland and Binghamton railroad company.

     Shut in, as the inhabitants of this county had been, from easy and rapid communication with the rest of the State, which was more fortunate in this respect, the exultant anticipations of the farmers along the rich valleys of the Tioughnioga and the tradesmen of the prominent villages in the county over this prospect of a railroad, may be left to the imagination of the reader. But railroad building was not then so well understood as it became within the succeeding few years, and this project was doomed to abandonment. This organization was given four years only in which to construct their road, the route of which is indicated by its name. Among the commissioners who were authorized by the act to receive subscriptions for stock we find the names of Henry Stephens (afterwards president of the Syracuse and Binghamton railroad), E. W. Edgcomb, Augustus Donnelly, Samuel G. Hathaway, E. C. Reed, Roswell Randall and William Randall. These names of Cortland county men, or many of them, are found in connection with all measures of importance; to them is undoubtedly due much of the credit for the early growth of the material interests of the county. Another railroad company incorporated that year was the Owego and Cortland. Its road was to run from Owego, through Dryden and thence to Cortland and Homer. Neither of these projects, as is well known, was consummated; but their incorporation shows that the idea of railroad communication with the other portions of the State was not allowed to sleep, imbued the inhabitants with faith in their ultimately standing on a level with other localities in this respect, and gave assurance that it was a question of only a short period before the locomotive and its train would dash through the fertile valleys of the country.

     But the greatest obstacle to material advancement was still the difficulty or reaching markets and of traveling beyond the boundaries of the county, except by methods that had begun to be looked upon as somewhat primitive. The plank road constructed between Cortland village and Syracuse in the years 1849-51 afforded a degree of relief, enabling passengers to take either of two lines of stages each way per day, which made the trip in about six hours, while freight was transported in heavier loads and in much shorter time than over the former turnpikes; the plank road was good in its way, but it was not what was needed. The old-fashioned coaches, drawn by four horses, guided by skillful drivers, who swung them up with a grand flourish at the doors of the famous hostelries---Van Anden's and Harrop's in Homer; the Eagle and the Cortland House in Cortland and scores of lesser establishments along the various turnpikes leading to Syracuse, Owego, Binghamton, Truxton and Cazenovia and other points---were often overloaded with passengers.

     Old residents still recount many amusing and interesting incidents connected with the former coaching days; but, while that method of travel was undoubtedly picturesque in favorable seasons and conducive to health and pleasure, it was decidedly slow when compared with the locomotive. It was doomed. The turnpikes, and later the plank road from Cortland to Syracuse, were necessarily thronged with heavily-laden wagons during the greater portion of each year, transporting the products of the county to the canal and railroads, and returning with goods for the merchants and stock for the young manufacturing interests of the villages; but this mode of freighting scotched the wheels of progress and growth, and the leading minds of this county and vicinity felt the force of that fact and deplored it. The Tioughnioga, and the Susquehanna, as far as it applied to this section, had long been given up as permanent and useful channels of transportation; the waters of the Tioughnioga, once a broad and rapid stream, were gradually but surely diminishing, and the last freighting of much importance on its freshet tides was done as late as about 1840.

     In this condition of affairs and for all these reasons, it is little wonder that one of the unfailing themes of discussion and the constant hope and dream of the inhabitants, in their semi-isolated situation, was a railroad. It had been discussed in all its bearings ever since the first charter was granted, by men who fully appreciated its importance and were ready and willing to contribute largely to its success, and by others all the way down the scale of brain, energy and wealth to those who could not have bought a single spike and could scarcely summon the energy to drive one. Everybody wanted a railroad.

     Syracuse was pushing forward under the impulse of her salt interests and canal and railroad connections, while farther north Oswego sat at the foot of the great lake system of the country, thriving upon her commercial marine. To the southward Binghamton, with a population of 10,000, contiguous to the opening coal fields of Pennsylvania, with the consequent extensive railroad connections, gave promise of being the bustling city of to-day. These were some of the outside business centers toward which Cortland stretched her burdened hands, but which could be reached only by the slow means of horse-power; her inhabitants saw the tide of commercial and manufacturing prosperity swelling around them in all directions, but were helpless---without a railroad.

     Hence, the renewed agitation of the subject of a road from Syracuse to Binghamton, running through the central portion of this county, in 1848-49, found hundreds of earnest men ready to favor it to the utmost of their ability; among them were several of the original charter petitioners. Again the Legislature was petitioned and a charter obtained. Meetings were held in the towns of the county, and along the entire line, at which the proposed road was explained and its advantages advocated. Subscription books were opened, and, early in the year 1850, such progress was made in this direction that steps were taken for preliminary surveys. W. B. Gilbert, a thoroughly competent engineer, was engaged for the survey. But it must not be presumed that this line of road was to be finished without meeting with obstacles. Difficulties in the way of organizing the company, growing, to some extent, our of personal feeling, were encountered, and just as the work of construction was begun, the country began to feel the effects of one of those periodical financial revulsions to which it has on several occasions been subjected. Those persons who had money became wary about letting it leave their possession for even such a boon as a railroad; those who had little or none, saw the apparent necessity or hoarding all they could get for future needs; many who had subscribed in good faith for stock in the road, found themselves unable to fulfill their obligations.

     Yet, in spite of all this, and through the persevering efforts and the indomitable energy of those who were at the head of the enterprise, many of whom were residents of this county, with the liberal subscriptions of all classes throughout the counties traversed by the line, the work was finished in 1854.

     A formal opening of the road occurred on the 18th and 19th of October, of that year. An excursion train of twenty-seven cars ran over the road from Syracuse of Binghamton and return, which was so loaded with enthusiastic passengers that many were compelled to stand. The gratification felt in this county over the auspicious event was exhibited in the ringing of bells, firing of cannon and display of banners at every station, while immense crowds congregated to witness the fruition of their long-deferred hopes.

     The original plans of the projectors of this road included connections with the Syracuse and Oswego road to Lake Ontario, and, or course, direct connection with the Erie canal in Syracuse. The feasibility of making these connections was used as among the strongest arguments in favor of the construction of the road. But the company were unable to secure the coveted connection to Oswego, or even to run their tracks through to the canal for the rapid and economical transfer of freight to the great waterway. Another company was, therefore organized under the general act to construct a broad gauge line to Oswego from Syracuse, on the east side of Onondaga lake and the Oswego river. But no satisfactory arrangement for this purpose could be made with the holders of the mortgage bonds of the existing road to Binghamton, and operations had to be suspended.

     These untoward circumstances crippled the road and so restricted its operation and profits that in 1856 the bondholders were forced to foreclose and sell it. It was bought by J. M. Schermerhorn, then of Homer, and the company subsequently reorganized. The road was finished to the canal, and arrangements were perfected whereby the Erie railroad would accommodate the cars of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western road for the transportation of coal and freight, making the Syracuse, Binghamton and New York road (as it was renamed) the proper and most available channel for carrying their coal to the canal at Syracuse and to Oswego, Canada and the great west. This road passed into the hands of the great corporation, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company, a double track was laid, and it is now one of the best equipped and most successful branches in the State.

     While the sale of this first railroad in this county under the mortgage was disastrous to the original stockholders, none of whom realized anything directly from their investments, it is doubtless true that not one of them failed to see in the near future that their money had thus been wisely expended. Every acre of land in the county was increased in value, while the annual benefits to farmers, tradesmen and manufacturers, after the road went into operation, could scarcely be over-estimated.

     The construction of railroads in this county produced the common effect of building up some of the villages at the expense of others. It was about the period under consideration, or a little later, that Cortland began to show unmistakable indications of rivaling and outstripping her sister village on the north; though the almost phenomenal growth of the former place did not begin until some years later. Preble and Little York, which were (especially the former) busy and thriving villages previous to the advent of the railroad, soon came to a stand-still, if they did not actually retrograde, in favor of Homer and Cortland; the same may be said of Virgil and Blodget's Mills, the former once thriving and growing village suffering materially from its permanent isolation from railroad communication. Marathon is situated far enough south of Cortland to prevent the loss of much of its business in that direction, while it has profited by the contiguity of Lisle (Broome county) on the south, and the hamlet of State Bridge and East Virgil on the north. It is, moreover, in the midst of an excellent grazing and agricultural district, and became a market of importance for butter and other products, so that its advancement has been continuous. Cincinnatus, Taylor, Willet, Scott, and most of the hamlets of the county have not directly gained in business importance through the construction of the railroad.

Internet Archives--1885 History of Cortland County

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rise and Fall of Plank Roads in Central New York

     We take many things for granted. The convenience and usefulness of paved roads may serve as an example.

     In New York State, during the first half of the 19th century, rivers, canals, and dirt roads were the main arteries of transportation. Railroads were in early development, peeking around the bend. Dirt roads, which people relied upon for most transportation, were often in a state of disrepair. It wasn’t unusual to see a heavy wagon pulled by four or six horses stuck on a muddy road pockmarked with holes of standing water.

     The Dutch commissioned the first post road in New York between New York City and Albany. Early Dutch mail carriers rode their horses on a road which was as narrow as a foot path in many places.  

     In 1703 the English Province of New York declared the same road a “public and common general highway” and renamed it the Queen’s Road. A fifty foot right-of-way was established. Improvements were made to the road surface and all wooden bridges, and later mile markers were added. At the conclusion of the American Revolution, the road was renamed Albany Post Road.

     The Albany Post Road was a dirt and gravel road like so many others. Horse and rider, and carriages or wagons pulled by horses, had to traverse ruts, holes, flooding, and thick mud. Mud season occurred during the months of April and May, dust season throughout the summer, and more mud and flooding could be expected in autumn. Travel was difficult for horse and rider on these roads.

     Mud season and the weather were subjects for conversation and letter writing. In 1789 a Connecticut minister visiting Vermont in mud season wrote that he found himself “mud belly deep to my horse and I thought I should have perished.”

     At social gatherings, real experiences were mixed with tall tales. A mud season story was passed down from generation to generation in the Town of Preble, and it is still told today with minor variations:

      After several days of heavy spring rain, a farmer hitched his horses to a wagon and went into the woods for some firewood. About eight miles from home, the horses and wagon got stuck in deep mud. The farmer had a pair of long snow shoes in the wagon and he put them on and then started for home to get help. He guessed the depth of mud at several feet in some places, but his snow shoes kept him from sinking in it. On his way home, in sight of his house and now walking smoothly on the muddy surface of the town road, he saw a western hat on the road.

     “There’s only one man around here who wears a western hat and that would be Brother John, my neighbor. I reckon the wind took it for a ride. I’ll take it to the house, clean it up and return it to him tomorrow,” he mused.

     The farmer broke off a stick from a tree beside the road and used it to lift the cowboy hat. Brother John’s head appeared as the hat was lifted.

     “Brother John, looks like you be in deep distress,” said the farmer.

     “Well, I suppose I’m all right, Brother Bill.  But I’m not so sure ‘bout this horse I’m sittin’ on.”

     Snow-covered dirt roads made a good surface for sleighs hauling heavy loads of logs. Blizzards and deep snow in winter slowed or stopped transportation. Drifting snow was always a problem. But nothing was more aggravating or disliked than travel during mud season.

     Between 1789 and 1846, state surveyors supervised the building and repair of post roads. Private roads were commissioned, and many of these were turnpikes with toll houses. The first turnpike was chartered in Pennsylvania in 1792.

     As traffic on dirt roads in New York State increased, the condition of roads was a major concern of state surveyors, farmers, businessmen and civil engineers. George Geddes, a civil engineer who lived on a farm near Syracuse, visited Toronto twice to inspect the newest road technology--a plank road. Canadians built the first North American plank road in 1836.

     Plank roads promised to be cheaper than macadam roads, more reliable for the transportation of heavy wagon loads, and plank roads promised to give a return of at least ten percent on capital investment. George Geddes and other investors formed the Salina-Central Square Plank Road Company and completed a 16.5 mile plank road by July 1846. It was the first plank road in the United States. The road cost $23,000 to build. It had four toll stations. The road company charged one cent per head of cattle, five cents for a horse and twenty-five cents for a horse and wagon. There were two utilitarian sides to the road. One side of the road was built of sills (runners) and planks 8 feet wide for the use of loaded wagons. The other side of the road was dirt. Empty wagons and single horses used the dirt side for passing. Bicycles used the planked side on Sundays for racing. Maintenance crews were always busy making repairs. Horse shoes and iron-hooped wagon wheels “took a toll” from the toll road.

     Geddes wrote about the road building in the Scientific American:


The road is of hemlock plank, four inches thick and eight feet long, laid on four-inch sills. The earth was broken up fine, the sills bedded into it, the surface graded smooth and firm and planks laid on the sills, care being taken that the earth is up to and touches the plank at every point. This is very important, for, if any space be left underneath for air, dry rot ensues. We did not let out to con­tractors the construction of the road, for the reason that we were desirous of securing the bedding of the timber perfectly, a thing that my observations in Canada convinced me was not always done when the work was done by the rod. By doing our work by the day, we not only secured a perfect construction in this particular, but we saved some thousands of dollars in the cost. If you make a plank road, I advise you, by all means, to do the work by the day, and to put at the head of the business a man competent to engineer and direct the whole business. A variation of a few inches in the line of the road may tell largely in the cost. The estimated cost per mile for a single track, eight feet wide, is $1,500


     Plank roads were an exciting new experiment for transportation. The train had not yet achieved parity with roads or surpassed the utility of roads. A plank road building boom started in 1847. The New York State legislature passed a law making it easier to incorporate plank roads. The legislature also regulated the roads and established a price structure for tolls. Within a short period of time, 3,500 miles of plank roads were built in New York.

     The Cortland-Homer Plank Road Company was chartered in 1848. The company built a plank road at Main Street from the junction of Tompkins Street and Port Watson Street to Homer and then to Syracuse [Rt. 11]. At the completion of the road in 1851, Cortland was two years short of incorporation as a village. In 1854 a railroad station was built on the east side of the village for the Syracuse-Binghamton railroad trains. In the following years, a plank road was built from Cortland to Afton [Rt. 41].

     A Minute Book (1850-1868) compiled by the Board of Directors of the Cortland-Homer Plank Road Company is available at: Syracuse University Library--Homer-Cortland Plank Road Company. The book describes operations of the road, meetings, and subscriptions of stock.

     During the plank road boom, with the excitement of profits in the air, it was often suggested that plank roads would last 7-12 years. Most were worn or rotted in 3-4 years. Eventually, the high cost of maintenance and the superior transportation and economy of railroads put an end to the plank road boom in Central New York. Many plank roads were converted to macadam roads.

1) 1885 History of Cortland
2) Plank Roads of Jersey County
3) Internet Archives--Plank Roads by W. Kingsford (includes letter by Charles E. Clarke and remarks by F.G. Skinner.
4) Rootsweb Ancestry--The First Plank Road by Jo Anne Bakeman
5) Genesee County Village and Museum--Toll House
6) Wikipedia--History of NYS Department of Transportation
7) Wikipedia--Old Albany Post Road
8) Teach Us History--Roads and Travel in New England, 1790-1840
9) Road Fever


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Little York Ice Company

Ice harvesting
     In 1910 the Little York Ice Company employed over 70 seasonal workers for the annual ice harvest. Eighty five railroad cars were loaded with "ice cakes" in one day. The ice was sold to the Lackawanna Railroad and was shipped to Oswego, Syracuse, Chenango Forks and Binghamton. The railroad company put some of the ice in storage tanks for drinking water on passenger and Pullman cars.
     It was estimated that the number of railroad cars loaded and dispatched in 1909 would have stretched from Little York to Blodgett Mills.
     Collecting the ice was a coordinated process. Men with horse-drawn plows cleared snow on the lake and cut into the ice to a depth of several inches. Cakes of ice were broken off by workers using ice spuds. A typical ice spud or chisel was over six feet long and weighed fifteen pounds. Some had wooden handles and a special steel head fixed with tang and collar. Ice fishermen still use ice spuds and augers.

ice spud bar
     The ice cakes were loaded on a conveyor and run to a railroad loading platform. Several men were assigned to the conveyor to keep it running. Five men worked at each railroad car. One man used an ice pick to move the ice cakes from the conveyor into the car. The other four men arranged and loaded the car. Tongs were not used.
     The seasonal workmen came from Scott, Preble, Little York and Cortland. Workers from Cortland rode the 6 A.M. train to Little York lake.
     A big ice house at Little York lake and another in Cortland were filled with ice after the work for the railroad was completed.

Cortland Standard--January 27, 1910

Monday, January 21, 2013

Peaveys and Ice Tongs

Ice Castle at Saranac Lake

     The first Saranac Lake Winter Carnival was sponsored by the Pontiac Club in 1898. It was a two-day, mid-winter carnival featuring a parade, skating races and the construction of an ice tower. Over time, a castle took the place of the original ice tower.
     Men with hand saws cut 2' x 4' blocks of ice on Flower Lake and hauled the ice blocks to shore by a conveyor belt. The ice blocks were handled with peaveys and tongs, and hoisted with cranes and log loaders. They were cemented in place with slush.
     See how it was done at Saranac Lake Winter Carnival History and Ice Palace History.

     The largest and most extensive man-made snow and ice sculptures are found at the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.  Harbin is a city located in Northeast China. Its month-long festival begins each year on January 5. View magnificent photos of the 29th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival at Framework--LATimes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fair Elections?

     Governor Cuomo has suggested reform of campaign financing in New York State.
     "Implement a public financing system based on New York City. It works well in New York City, it'll work well in New York State," said Governor Cuomo.
     Governor Cuomo's remedy for the current corrupting system is called Fair Elections, in which candidates get public matching funds for small donations.
     Since the Supreme Court ruled for Citizens United on the basis of the First Amendment, a massive infusion of secret unlimited donations has been channeled to super PACs.
     Some questions arise. Under Governor Cuomo's proposal, who will distribute the matching funds and what are the rules? What about the continued use of large secret donations by candidates who refuse to accept expenditure limits and enhanced disclosure? Will union donations be on a par with corporate donations and donations by wealthy individuals?
     See article United We Donate at the Albany Times Union, Brennan Center--NYC small donor matching funds, and Fair Elections for New York.
     Another useful website is Rootstrikers and Lawrence Lessig's pitch for the American Anti-Corruption Act and other campaign finance reforms.
     The "fiscal cliff" bill has specific sections with generous benefits for corporate campaign contributors. Read Boston Globe--fiscal cliff bill benefits Amgen and NYTimes--big Senate gift to drug maker

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Behind the Eight Ball


     The phrase "behind the eight ball" derives from the game of Eight Ball played on a pool table. A ball located behind the eight ball is difficult to hit. While several balls are on the table and in play, a player forfeits a turn if his cue ball hits the eight ball, and loses the game if his cue ball slams the eight ball into a pocket.
     This introduction takes us to the "behind the eight ball" position of the City of Cortland in connection with the number of alderpersons serving on Common Council. When the new county Local Law is applied, Cortland County will reduce the number of legislator positions in the city from eight to seven, part of the total reduction in the county from nineteen to seventeen
     Unless the city acts before the scheduled election, it will present eight alderperson positions at the same election. This incongruity with the county legislator positions will be costly and confusing.
     Years ago, when the county increased the number of city legislators from six to eight, the city quickly followed with the same number of alderpersons. An increase in alderpersons and an increase in spending appeared to go hand-in-hand. 
     A part-time alderperson taking salary and benefits currently costs the city about $20,000 each year.
     It is time for Mayor Brian Tobin and Common Council to make the necessary cut to seven alderpersons, and come out from behind the eight ball.
     If you live in the city and share this opinion, contact your alderperson.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Incident at Malmedy

Bodies in field near crossroads

     At dawn on December 17, 1944, highly decorated and controversial SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Joachim Peiper led an armored and motorized unit of the German 6th SS Panzer Army and spearheaded a surprise assault on American lines in Belgium. It was the second day of the Battle of the Bulge.
     Peiper's objective was the capture of bridges over the Meuse River. Directly in the path of his army were lead elements of Battery B of the American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion. Coming under intense fire from Tiger tanks, those elements of Battery B scattered while the rest of Battery B, about 140 American troops, were trapped near the crossroads town of Baugnez, Belgium. The outgunned American troops surrendered to German SS troopers under Peiper's command.
     WWII army veteran Ted Paluch was with the soldiers of the 285th and he described what happened next.
     "We left Schevenhutte early in the morning on the 17th of December and were heading in the direction of Malmedy. I remember that it was wet, foggy, and damn cold. It wasn't snowing yet, but I remember it being very cold. The lead vehicles of our convoy were fired on. The lead vehicles were way ahead of us and the Germans were still a good bit away from them, so when they fired on the lead vehicles they had a chance to run and get out of there, which they did.
     "I saw them coming and our column stopped. I jumped out of the truck and into a ditch full of icy cold water. All I could hear was firing. I popped my head up to see and all I could see was tracers. I never saw so many tracers in my life. I pulled my head back down as a tank rolled around the corner and came toward us. I could see that the men in the tank and the troops with them were SS troopers. They had the lightning bolts on their collars. All we had was carbines and here was this tank coming down the road at us. As it got close to us it leveled its gun at the ditch and the tank commander told us to surrender. What were we going to do? I threw my carbine down and threw my hands up."
     The American prisoners were marched into an open field near the crossroads. Ted Paluch continued his narration:
     "I had socks, gloves, and cigarettes, anything of value they took. The guys who captured us were young, they seemed like OK guys. They didn't mishandle us or rough us up, they simply took us prisoner, searched us and then moved on. They were combat troops and didn't have time to mess with us POWs. The guys that captured us and the tanks that were with them stayed around for about ten minutes and then disappeared. We were standing there in the field with our hands up not knowing what was coming. I could hear guys praying, maybe I was too--you know--you could hear it, all you could think of was getting away."
     The rear guard of German infantry came into view. Tanks and other motorized vehicles.
     "One of the vehicles came around the corner and started firing into our group. I don't know who the hell it was, or why they started firing but they did. We were standing there with our hands up and I was in the front of the group nearest the crossroads. As the German tanks passed they fired into the middle of the group of us, everybody started to drop and I dropped too. I got hit in the hand as I went down. After that as each vehicle passed they fired into the group of us laying there dead or dying in the field. Anyone who was moaning they came around and finished them off. After that they went back and took off. After laying there for I guess an hour or more I heard a voice I recognized yell, 'Let's go!', so I got up and ran down a little road towards a hedgerow. The Germans came out of the house on the corner and took a shot at me and I dove into a hedgerow. I had some blood on me and I lay down in the hedgerow. I heard one of them come running towards where I was laying and look me over. I could feel that guy standing above me, he could have shot me in the back and gotten it over with, but he didn't. I knew he was waiting for me to move but I just laid there, dead still."
     Ted Paluch escaped by leaving the hedgerow and crawling along a railroad track to Malmedy. His wound was treated and he was interrogated by army intelligence. Two weeks later he was sent back to the front lines to join remnants of the 285th, who were now on the offensive against the Germans in the Ardennes.
     Eighty four American soldiers died on or near the open field at the crossroads.
     Peiper was the subject of controversy prior to the Malmedy massacre. On September 8, 1943, in Boves, Italy, about 45 Italian civilians were killed and 350 houses were destroyed by artillery fire from Peiper's SS unit. The bombardment was ordered in retaliation for the capture of two German NCOs by Italian partisans, who freed the German soldiers before the bombardment began.
     Shortly after the Malmedy massacre, Peiper's SS troops murdered several more American POWs and Belgium civilians in Ligneuville. At Stavelot, Peiper's SS troops murdered about 100 Belgium civilians.
     On the same day of the Malmedy massacre, eleven black American soldiers were taken prisoner at Wereth, Belgium by the German 1st SS Division. They were tortured and killed.
     After the war ended, a war crimes commission indicted 74 Germans in connection with the Malmedy massacre.  Peiper was one of them. A trial by military tribunal was held at Dachau in 1946. During the trial, Peiper's lawyers told the court that evidence against their client was obtained by torture and mock executions of German prisoners by American military personnel. Peiper told the court that he accepted responsibility for the conduct of troops under his command. He admitted the murder of civilians in Belgium but claimed they were partisans. Peiper and 42 other German defendants were sentenced to death by hanging on July 16, 1946.
     An appeal was made to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis of "illegal and fraudulently obtained confessions." A special judicial commission and the U.S. Senate investigated the trial and its findings. The death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment and Peiper was released on parole in 1956. He returned to civilian life and worked for Porche.
     Peiper and his family moved to France in 1972. In 1976, the French Communist Party and former French resistance fighters discovered that he was living in Traves, France, still using his given name. After death threats were made against him, he sent his family back to Germany but he continued to reside in Traves.
     On July 14, 1976, Peiper was shot several times in his house and the house was set on fire. His burned corpse was discovered later that day. No one claimed responsibility for his murder.

1) Wikipedia--Malmedy Massacre.
2) National WWII Museum, Oral History Spotlight.
3) Wikipedia--Joachim Peiper.
4) Axis History.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Who Am I? (Number 16)

     I was born in a little village in New York State in 1801. I attended schools in New York State and was graduated from Union College with a law degree. I passed the bar exam and became a lawyer.
     I partnered with a judge in an established law firm. A few years later I married the judge's daughter and my wife and I moved into the judge's house at his invitation.
     My controversial friend Thurlow Weed introduced me to politics. I was elected to the state senate and later served two terms as governor.
     My parents owned slaves until 1827, but I always had strong resentment and opposition to slavery. I recognized the senseless inequality of it as a boy. My wife and I were abolitionists. We helped rescue and transport fugitive slaves.
     In the course of my law practice, I defended two convicts who were murderers. I used a novel "insanity" plea. However, both men were convicted and one was executed.
     I was a Republican with an appetite for politics. Eventually I ran for the Republican nomination for president but lost.
     Although I came up short in my bid to become president, I was given a cabinet appointment by the new president. Thurlow Weed was involved in that appointment process. While serving as a cabinet officer, a politically motivated man tried to kill me. I survived the attempted murder and went on to serve three presidents as a cabinet officer.
     Two years after a severe government crisis ended, I became the subject of ridicule and derision for my cold and calculated diplomacy in connection with the president's acquisition of a "snow and ice garden."
     I travelled around the world after I left office. I returned to my house in New York State, and a year later I passed away.
     My wife and two children survived me.
     Who am I?
     My name is William Henry Seward, former Secretary of State.

Editor's note: Identity, photo and links added 36 hours after initial post.

1) Wikipedia--William H. Seward
2) Seward House Museum
3) University of Rochester--William Henry Seward Papers


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

State Impact Debt Study January 2013

     The New York State Comptroller has released a debt impact study which shows New York State debt has risen over $63 billion. The debt averages about $3,253 per resident. New York's debt is second only to California.
     "At this point, 95 percent of the borrowing over the past 10 years has been without voter approval," Comptroller DiNapoli stated. Sidestepping the prohibition in the state constitution against debt without voter approval, most of this debt came from public authorities.
     DiNapoli stated that the total debt increased by 62% over the past ten years. He cautioned that it could threaten critical infrastructure projects for roads, bridges and schools.
     Read the full report:
     Be sure to read Short-Term Fix, Long-Term Costs--Attica, on page 5. Separately, NYS transferred all maintenance of Interstate 84 to the Thruway Authority between 1992-2010 in order to avoid higher taxes in the state budget.* Between 1992 and 2008, Thruway Authority tolls paid for I-84 maintenance. Some have called it slight-of-hand in place of highway robbery.

Wikipedia--NYS Thruway Authority  --read System Expansion and Toll Elimination I-84.

Who Am I? (Number 15)

     I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1912. Shortly after my birth, my family moved to New Jersey where I received my education in public schools and graduated from college in 1932. The following year I earned an M.A. in a discipline that would firmly establish my career and reputation.
     Teaching was my lifelong vocation.
     In 1934 and 1935 my work involved statistical research. Later in 1935 I went to Washington, D.C. and joined the "New Deal." I thought that the WPA, CCC, and PWA were appropriate responses to the critical situation of the Great Depression. However, I did not like the imposition of price controls at the National Recovery Administration and Agricultural Adjustment Administration. I believed that the Great Depression was caused by an ordinary financial shock whose duration was extended by the contraction of the money supply by the Federal Reserve. I worked for several agencies in the federal government, including the National Bureau of Economic Research.
     In 1940 I was appointed an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A year later I returned to Washington, D.C. to work for the Treasury Department. In 1942 I advocated a Keynesian policy of taxation. I helped to invent a payroll tax withholding system during the war.
     In 1943 I moved to New York on a fellowship to participate in research at Columbia University. In 1946, after I obtained a PhD at Columbia, I accepted a university teaching job which was to last for 30 years. I also rejoined the National Bureau of Economic Research.
     I am an author of several books. I have received many honors, recognitions and awards, and I won a Nobel prize for work in my discipline. When I retired, I joined a popular TV series to present my challenging opinions on economic and social philosophy. I was also a presidential advisor.
     During my long teaching career, I opposed the draft, supported free choice and competition, recommended legalization of drugs, and I was critical of the U.S. Post Office for its monopoly privileges.
     I had several hobbies. I played tennis and I skied. I read. I made furniture in my own woodshop, including a comfortable sofa.
     I called myself a classical liberal.
     Who I am?
     My name is Milton Friedman.

Editor's note: Identity and links added 36 hours after initial post.

  1) Academy of Achievement
  2) Wikipedia--Milton Friedman
  3) You Tube-- Milton Friedman

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff

Now that we've had a chance to see the DC elephant bring forth the proverbial, and very predictable, mouse along with its numerous exceptions for special interests and its companion farm bill, it's time to consider the larger picture, and no, I don't mean the debt ceiling.

We have an economy that is in unsustainable imbalance. We have a large mismatch between the production of wealth (please recall that wealth is that which can be set aside for the future acquisition of goods and services) and the consumption of wealth. Further, we have committed to widening the gap over the next few years while assuming that future politicians will carry through our good intentions to make it all even out in the end.

The imbalance:

We have high systemic unemployment even as the percentage of our population participating in the work force is going down. If we seek to address this problem in a way that will reduce the imbalance in our economy, our options are limited to those that will result in more private sector investment. Some combination of the following will help: Eliminate, or at least reduce crony-capitalism*. Implement free trade, no exceptions for special interests. Fund infrastructure that reduces the cost of doing business (the Erie Canal), no pie-in-the-sky political favorites. Scrap our tax code and adopt the most business-favorable code in the developed world (check out Ireland, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Singapore and others). Set up a G I bill for worker retraining (Bill Clinton's idea). Encourage immigration of skilled and educated foreigners. Change our attitude toward business, businessmen, and entrepreneurs, most of these people are far better, and more productive citizens than our elected officials.

Our federal, state, and many local governments are outrunning their supply lines. The concept of responsible spending in harmony with actual income is totally missing, as is the idea that one might consider eliminating some earlier spending plans in favor of the new 'oh so important' new one. What family can get away with these attitudes for very long? If our objectives for a better society in the future are good and worthy, shouldn't we have the discipline to not destroy our chances by piling up debt to a degree that can ruin it all?

We have to rebalance, become simple-minded about the need to create more wealth-- taxes won't get us there. Every tax increase raises government revenue but reduces private sector jobs and wealth production. If the government continues to raise taxes, the private sector will shrink to the point where government income declines below the starting point. This happened in Canada about thirty years ago. Considering the delicate state of our economy, this is a dangerous game. And raising taxes a little too high will exacerbate the imbalance. Cutting government wealth consumption would help, but most of our politicians seem to hale from Greece.

My advice? Prepare for a continuum of what we're seeing and its consequences. Invest conservatively. While a big jump in interest rates and inflation remain unlikely as long as Europe remains in recession and our unemployment is high, watch out for the bond bubble (higher interest rates) and be sure to have employable skills.

Lastly, please, no good ideas on how Congress should fix itself, or those that presume a change in human nature.
Joe Bakewell

* Includes teachers' and other public sector unions.

A BIRD NAMED ENZA & WILL’S WAR are now available as e-books on all major sites including Smashwords (in all formats) for $2.99.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Organization of Cortland County

"An Act to divide the county of Onondaga, passed April 8, 1808.

   1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, That all that part of the county of Onondaga, to wit: Beginning at the south corner of the town of Cincinnatus, and thence running north along the east line of the towns of Cincinnatus, Solon and Fabius, to the north-east corner of lot No. 60, in said town of Fabius, thence running west along the north line of that tier of lots through the towns of Fabius and Tully, to the north-west corner of lot No. 51 in said town of Tully; thence south along the east line of the county of Cayuga, to the south-east corner of the towns of Virgil and Cincinnatus to the place beginning, shall be called and known by the name of Cortland.
   2. And be it further enacted, That the Courts in and for the said county, shall be held at the school-house on lot No. 45, in the town of Homer.
   3. And be it further enacted, That all that part of the town of Fabius, situated in the county of Cortland, shall be called Truxton; and all that part of the town of Tully, in said county of Cortland, shall be called Preble.

   Additional sections provide that Cortland shall have one member of Assembly, and that it shall form part of the Western Senatorial District, and part of the Thirteenth Congressional District."

Excerpt, page 102, Cortland County and the Border Wars of New York by H. C. Goodwin (1859)

Tompkins County Library
Cortland County and the Border Wars of New York

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Grip's Historical Souvenir of Cortland

     The Tompkins County Public Library has a variety of regional history content and many of the latest digital resources.
     Sixteen pages of Grip's Historical Souvenir of Cortland including vintage photographs and illustrations are available to the public at the library. If you are interested and can spare a little time, click on sixteen pages for a treat. See photos of the Water Works, members of the Political Equality Club, officers of the Pecos Tribe, the first police officers of the Village of Cortland, and a trio of village streets.
     To read the entire book of 234 pages, click on Grip's Historical Souvenir of Cortland. The history, which includes many vintage photos and illustrations, was published by the Standard press in 1899. Page one credits Prof. James M. Milne of Cortland Normal School for the descriptions in the book. The Internet Archive credits Edgar L. Welch as author of the book. The pages open in pdf.
     In Grip's Historical Souvenir of Lyons, N.Y., the Internet Archive mentions Edgar L. Welch, "Grip", as "designer and proprietor" of Grip's Historical Souvenir series.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Words to Prolong a New Year's Hangover


1. Great minds rarely think alike.
2. Elected office holders do think alike, and elevate the meaning of stupidity with every public action which has an economic consequence.
3. Taxation is theft--taking something of value by force.
4. Put another way, taxation is theft by an association of thieves, and you are one of them.
4. Things that happen not by choice, happen by chance, or not at all. Same difference. (oxymoron)
5. I think, therefore I am (different). Wishful thinking? 


  1. All Greek to me.
  2. Be good.
  3. Egg on your face.
  4. Keep your eye out for----
  5. Pig out.
  6. Funny farm.
  7. Drink like a fish.
  8. Pull my finger.
  9. What national debt?
10. Bottom line.
11. Living wage. (A tad more useful than a dying wage.)
12. Social justice. (Two words where one will suffice, but only if the petitioner can afford it.)
13. Birds and bees.
14. War on drugs.
15. War on poverty.
16. Fair share.
17. Republican Party Principles.
18. Democratic Party Principles.
19. In a pig's eye. (A kinder substitute for B.S.)

                                    MORE POTPOURRI

1. Relax, gringo, I'm here legally.
2. I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.
3. Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.--Mark Twain
4. It is better to receive than give.--Rev. Farley Smoot
5. Those who criticize past mistakes are likely to repeat them.


  1. Pre-owned.
  2. Mechanically separated meat.
  3. Full-figured.
  4. Doing it.
  5. Pro-choice. (all choices?)
  6. Pro-life. (anti-war, anti-capital punishment?)
  7. Peacekeeping troops.
  8. Underprivileged.
  9. Abortion.
10. Blow.
11. Collateral damage.
12. Landfill.
13. Sleep around.
14. Knocked up.
15. Civilization.

                          Words Scheduled for Burial in 2013

1. Awesome.
2. Really?
3. Diet.