August 5: The Birthday of David Weininger

euromug-96-weininger_dave-adjusted

August 5 was the birthday of David Weininger, born in Brooklyn, New York (1952), and raised in Schenectady. He was considered a visionary and pioneer in the field of chemical informatics and he’s known for inventing a chemical nomenclature system called SMILES (simplified molecular-input line-entry system).

He got his start in science as a 16-year-old at the Huyck Preserve in 1968. He was part of a group we called the Mill House Boys because they lived in the Mill House on Main Street in Rensselaerville. The seven boys were gifted and talented high-school students who were taking part in the Natural Sciences Institute (NSI), founded by cloud-seeding inventor Vincent Schaefer. The Huyck Preserve was one of several NSI campuses in the country.

Mill House -boys img251-adjusted-weininger-crop-

Dave was 16 years old when he participated in the Natural Sciences Institute program at the Huyck Preserve in 1968.

 

Mill House -boys img251-adjusted

The 1968 Mill House Gang and their fearless leaders Jim Small and Doc Reynolds (from left): Jim Small, David Weininger, Jim Anderson, Horace McMorrow, Ken Colby, Jack Brundage, Dave Rankine, Bruce Maughan, and Doc Reynolds.

In the mornings, the Mill House boys attended lectures, hosted by the Institute on Man and Science, and in the afternoons, they worked on their research projects. I was employed by the Institute that summer and staying with my grandparents (Lee and Katharine Huyck Elmore). One of my jobs was selling books outside Conkling Hall, where the Institute lectures—featuring prominent scientists, educators, economists, and other leaders—were held. The boys and I attended the lectures and we sat at a long table in front of the stage. We all had nameplates so the speakers could see who we were in case we asked questions. Dave gave me his nameplate at the end of the summer and I still have it. I must have given him mine.

Dave’s Research Projects at the Preserve

Dave had two research projects—one involved studying the sediments of Lake Myosotis and the other was tracking the currents in the lake. For the sediments project, he constructed a simple coring device out of long lengths of 1.25-inch-wide iron pipe and lined them with plastic sleeves. He would row to different parts of the lake, drop the device into the water, push it deep into the lake bottom until the pipe was filled with sediment, and pull it back up. He’d extract the plastic sleeve, insert another one, and row to another spot to take another core sample. Later, he took the plastic sleeves back to the dry lab to analyze the sediments inside.

coring device-IMG_2956-LG

Dave’s drawing of the simple coring device he built in 1968.

For the lake-currents project, Dave worked with Ken Colby to develop a photographic technique for tracing the currents on the lake’s surface. Dave had engineered tiny wooden rafts with masts topped by light bulbs that were powered by motorcycle batteries. On the shore, near the Ordway House, he and Ken had built a 50-foot tower and placed a camera on top. Each night, around 11:00 p.m., they opened the camera’s shutter, and released the rafts from the marsh on the north end of the lake. The shutter was open all night so by morning the exposed film would show a tracing of the light as the rafts moved south along the subsurface current from the marsh all the way to the dam. Before daybreak each day, the boys hiked up Pond Hill Road from the village to retrieve the camera and the rafts. Then, they’d ride back down the hill on their bikes. One morning, however, only one bike was operational. Ken and Dave decided to ride down the steep hill together on the bike that worked. Big mistake. The bike was going so fast by the time it got to the bottom of the hill that it sailed through the stop sign and crashed into the picket fence across the street. Dave was knocked unconscious. Ken managed to crawl back to the Mill House for help.

I actually met Dave for the first time a few days after the accident. I remember knocking on the Mill House door one afternoon when he appeared. He was home alone because he had just returned from the hospital and everyone else was out working on projects. His eyes sparkled mischievously as he regaled me with stories of the accident and his other escapades. We became good friends and stayed in touch off and on over the years.

Restless Dave

Dave dropped out of high school after that summer. He traveled around the country and the world trying to figure out what he wanted to do. Eventually he landed back in New York State and, even though he didn’t have a high school diploma, he was accepted at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music (he played guitar). But after a couple of years, he realized that as much as he loved music, chemistry was his true passion. He attended the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol (England) for a while, but soon grew tired of that. He returned to Schenectady and took at job as an assistant chemist in General Electric’s research and development lab. But he was still restless. He left again, this time to enter a Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1978, he earned a Ph.D.—his only academic degree—in civil and environmental engineering, with a specialty in water chemistry.

Inventing a Chemical Language

Next he took a position with the Environmental Protection Agency at the National Water Quality Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota. He was in charge of cataloging all the toxic substances found in various bodies of water. There were hundreds of toxic chemicals and it was impossible to keep track of them all by using traditional chemical-nomenclature methods. So, in 1983, Dave invented a universal computer-friendly language in which the names and structures of all chemical compounds could be expressed and the records kept in a computerized database.

His new simplified molecular-input line-entry system, called SMILES—enabled chemists to perform most of their experiments on a computer rather than in a lab. Drug developers could use the system, too, to create medical compounds faster than before. Dave went on to become co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of Daylight Chemical Information Systems, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The company does rapid analysis of massive chemical databases and also produces other specialized software packages for chemists, including Rubicon, a geometry program for creating 3-D forms, and Thor, a client-server database for chemical information.

More than a Chemist

Dave’s energy was boundless and he pursued many other interests, too. He was an accomplished musician who played the banjo and guitar and had his own recording studio. He was an amateur astronomer who designed and built an observatory—complete with two telescopes—on his property in Santa Fe. He was a licensed pilot, owned three aircraft including a decommissioned British military fighter jet, and was a stunt flyer. He was a licensed chef and built a kitchen sink inside a grand piano (and the piano still worked). He bought a surplus mass spectrometer from Los Alamos National Laboratory and used it to figure out how to decaffeinate chocolate. He sold his “caffeine-free chocolate” process to Cadbury. He took a course in film directing so he could create a chemistry educational film series called CHILE (Chemical Information Lectures and Exercises). And, for a doctor friend who wanted to take medical care to people living in the New Mexico desert, Dave purchased a surplus Swiss Army six-wheel, six-axle truck and converted it to a mobile medical clinic that could go anywhere—even up steep inclines, across streams, and over mountain ranges.

Farewell to Dave

He lived life to the fullest, accomplished many things, and always had fun. Sadly, Dave died on November 2, 2016. I will never forget Dave—neither will his many other friends—and will cherish my memories of him forever.


Read more about the Mill House Boys and their antics at https://lscnews.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/the-mill-house-gang/

Posted in Biological Research, historic research, Huyck Preserve, Uncategorized, Weininger | Leave a comment

July 6: The Birthday of Kennard F. Stephenson Jr.

2002-Stephenson-KFS-Vermont-SCAN0057

Kennard F. Stephenson Jr.  (July 6, 1926-January 14, 2012)

On this day in 1926, my father, Kennard Frierson Stephenson Jr., was born. He grew up in Loudonville, New York, but spent his summers in Rensselaerville, where he met my mother, Ann Elmore, daughter of Katharine Huyck and Lee Elmore and great niece of Preserve founder Jessie Van Antwerp Huyck. My parents met at the Huyck Preserve—at the old boathouse, one of the swimming areas at Lake Myosotis. They were on the social committee and helped to plan parties for the young people. My father was rather shy and not particularly social, so it’s a surprise that he was in such a group. But if it weren’t for that committee, I might not be here, today. In June 1950, my parents were married in Rensselaerville. My dad had already served overseas in the Army and was in the process of getting his graduate degree in chemical engineering from Princeton. In fact, he was studying for exams when I was born in 1952. By December 1960, I had become the oldest of six children.

We moved a lot growing up because of Dad’s job, but Rensselaerville and the Huyck Preserve were the constants in our lives. We all enjoyed hiking the trails, picnicking at the falls, and swimming and canoeing on Lake Myosotis. We learned to swim at the lake. My brothers learned to fish there, too. My dad served on the Preserve’s board of directors in the 1960s and was secretary at one point. But even after his official duties ended, he remained interested in Preserve activities. He would pepper me with questions when I was on the board (1982-2014), and always had helpful advice particularly when it came to matters where his engineering expertise could be put to use—like with projects concerning the dams (at Lake Myosotis and Lincoln Pond) and the community septic system for which the Preserve provided land for the leach field. He was always intrigued with what the researchers were doing and would ask lots of questions about their work, too.

My dad died in 2012. If he were alive today, he’d be enjoying the tranquility of the Preserve and taking in the splendor of the Falls. He’d also be going to the Thursday night lectures and the Science Symposium, no doubt, so he could hear the scientists give firsthand accounts of their research. And he’d ask questions. Lots of them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

July 4: The Birthday of Vincent Schaefer

 

schaefer older

Today is the birthday of atmospheric scientist Vincent Schaefer, born in 1906. As a scientist at General Electric in Schenectady, New York, he invented cloud seeding, a method of seeding super-cooled clouds with dry ice. He discovered the concept quite by accident in a lab in 1946. On November 13 of that year, he field-tested this technique by going up in a small airplane and scattering crushed dry ice into super-cooled clouds. Low and behold, it began to snow. Cloud seeding could be used to make it rain, too, but it turned out to be impractical as you can’t aim a cloud and force it to rain anywhere you want. Still, some airports do use the technique today to dissipate ice fog that occurs in winter.

Schaefer, who was self-educated and never attended college, accomplished many other things, too, including: holding 14 patents; helping to found and later serving as the director of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York at Albany; co-writing the Peterson A Field Guide to the Atmosphere; establishing the Natural Sciences Institute (NSI), a summer program for gifted high-school students who yearned to become scientists (one of the NSI campuses was at the Huyck Preserve); and fighting for the preservation of natural areas, including the Huyck Preserve where he served on the board of directors for many years.

You can read more about this remarkable man’s life at my blog post: https://lscnews.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/vincent-j-schaefer-1906-1993/

Posted in Biological Research, historic research, Huyck Preserve, Natural History, researchers | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Scarneck, the Huyck Preserve Snapping Turtle

 

turtle img188

Scarneck, the infamous snapping turtle at the Huyck Preserve, has been around since the 1940s.

Savage, sinister, vicious. A reptilian terror.

These are just some of the words biologists have used to describe the ferocious snapping turtle. He lives in muddy rivers, streams, ponds, or marshes. He’ll embed himself in the mud and look like a rock—his beady eyes alert for unsuspecting fish swimming by—or prowl along a pond’s edge, hunting frogs and stalking young waterfowl. Then he’ll suddenly thrust out his head to capture and devour his prey. He’ll drag a bird underwater, drown it, and then use his dangerously sharp, hooked beak, strong jaw, and forelimbs to tear it apart. In fact the jaws of a full-grown snapping turtle are so strong that they could sever a human finger.

There are a few of these savage creatures at the Huyck Preserve living in Lincoln Pond, Lake Myosotis, and elsewhere. Note that in the scientific name, Chelydra serpentina, “serpentine” suggests snake. Indeed, the snapping turtle’s biting motion is as quick as a rattlesnake strike. The most famous, and likely the oldest, snapping turtle at the Preserve is Scarneck, so named for the ugly scar on the back of his neck. Weighing 50-60 pounds, and measuring 13 inches wide by 16 inches long, he could be more than 75 years old. We have a photo of him from the 1940s as well as ones taken of him in summer 2016. He lives in Lincoln Pond.

IMG_20160607_112138013

Huyck Preserve staff netted Scarneck last summer so they could measure and weigh him.

Maybe Scarneck got that scar by fighting. Snapping turtles are aggressive and fight often. “It believes most thoroughly in the survival of the fittest, and to it the Fittest is ‘Number One,’” wrote American zoologist and conservationist William T. Hornaday in 1914. “It is a chronic fighter, and inasmuch as its jaws are very strong—and [it] never knows when to let go—it is a reptile to be either mastered or avoided.”

Researchers haven’t studied snapping turtles at the Preserve—they have focused on the more benign wood turtles and painted turtles instead—but they have recorded their observations about them from time to time. Jean Piatt, who specialized in frogs and was the Preserve’s resident biologist in 1941, reported collecting a 35-pound snapping turtle, which he and the other biologists promptly killed and ate for dinner. While it may seem startling for scientists at a field station to kill and devour specimens, they apparently thought catching and eating snapping turtles was no different than catching and eating fish. Snapper soup is still considered a delicacy by some.

One of the scientists who dined on the Huyck snapping turtle was Cornell biologist Ed Raney. He studied frogs at the Preserve (1939-1943), but in 1954, he wrote an article for the journal Copeia about a fight between two large snapping turtles at Cornell’s Ringwood Preserve near Ithaca, New York. The turtles were near a cleared hummock in the middle of a large pond. “In combat they faced each other and each attempted by rapid thrusts of the head to grasp the other by the neck,” Raney wrote. They used their front feet to keep from being grabbed and were making low puffing sounds throughout the struggle. “Occasionally one would make contact by mouth. Then both would either sink slowly under water where much bubbling could be seen and heard, or the one that was bitten would roll on its back, and with this twisting motion seemed to be consistently successful in freeing itself.” They’d be under water for about 30 seconds, and as they resurfaced, they’d start fighting again. Finally, when the fighting subsided, there didn’t seem to be a winner, but neither seemed to be badly injured. Raney was puzzled as to what the fight was all about—it was August, and typically mating season was in May and eggs deposited in June. “Therefore the combat seems not to be associated with territorial fighting in connection with reproduction,” he concluded. “Perhaps it indicates a tendency for a snapping turtle to defend an area at a time other than the spawning season.”

In the 1970s, another Preserve researcher—Edmund Brodie Jr., who was studying amphibians and aquatic insects—described defensive behavior in snapping turtles he’d observed in South Carolina. Most turtles, when threatened, defend themselves by retracting their head and limbs into their shell. But not the snapping turtle. Instead, he assumes the downward dog yoga position: He lowers the front of his shell and extends his back legs while he’s hissing and lunging at the predator. If the threat comes from the side, the snapper dips sideways so his shell faces the predator.

brodie-jr-defensive-postures-Screen shot 2017-03-05 at 10.08.11 PM

Snapping turtles defend themselves from predators by assuming threatening postures.

One can only assume that Scarneck must have been quite successful in defending his territory, and protecting himself from predators, to still be alive after so many years.

And who knows how many offspring Scarneck has produced.

The snapping turtle mating season is in May. In June or July, the female leaves her pond to find a suitable place to lay her eggs. She may travel a mile or more, even crossing roads, in her journey. Once she finds a good nesting spot, she’ll dig a hole with her hind legs, lay 20-40 creamy white eggs the size of small ping-pong balls, and bury them. The nest-building process could take as long as a week. Then she’ll trudge home. Generally it takes 80-90 days for the eggs to hatch. The inch-long, soft-shelled hatchlings burrow up to the surface, and then instinctively find their way to water. Of course, they have to evade all kinds of predators that want to eat them—raccoons, foxes, dogs, skunks, birds, and snakes. Even when they reach the water, they have to watch out for fish and other snapping turtles. But once the young’uns have grown and their shells harden, they are less vulnerable. It takes around five years for males to reach reproductive maturity; it takes females four to seven years.

Old Scarneck reached maturity a long time ago and he’s still going strong. We hope he stays with us for a good long time.

J_Heide_SnappingTurtle

In June 2016, Huyck Preserve Com.En.Art artist Jessica Heide came across a female snapping turtle who had crawled uphill  from Lake Myosotis to the edge of Pond Hill Road to lay her eggs. To see more of Jessica’s work, go to https://jessicaheide.com. To see her blog post on this snapper, go to https://jessicaheide.com/a-turtle-from-the-huyck/.

 


References

Ditmars, Raymond L., “Reptiles of the World,” New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927

Dodd, C. Kenneth, Jr. and Edmund D. Brodie, Jr., “Notes on the defensive behavior of the snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina.” Herpetologica 31:286-288, 1975.

Hornaday, William T., The American Natural History, Volume 4—Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fishes, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, pages 39-41, 1914.

Raney, Edward C. and Josephson, Ruth A., Record of combat in the snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina. Copeia 1954:228, 1954.

 General info:

Snapping turtle fact sheet (Publication of the Snapping Turtle fact sheet was funded by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Division of Wildlife, Pierre, SD.): https://www3.northern.edu/natsource/REPTILES/Snappi1.htm

The Mating Season and Reproduction of the Snapping Turtle: http://animals.mom.me/mating-season-reproduction-snapping-turtle-1721.html

University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology: http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Chelydra_serpentina/

Bosch, A. 2003. “Chelydra serpentine” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 05, 2017 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Chelydra_serpentina/

Conn Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2723&q=469200

Link to blog post on Raney: https://lscnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/tagging-frogs/

Posted in Huyck Preserve, Natural History, reptiles, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Beast from Lake Myosotis

creature_from_the_black_lagoon_poster-crop

Could the Creature from the Black Lagoon have vacationed in Lake Myosotis?               (CREDIT: Reynold Brown)

 

You may be familiar with such New York State monsters as Champ (the Lake Champlain monster), Adirondacks Bigfoot, or the Kinderhook Creature, but did you ever hear of the Beast of Lake Myosotis? In the 1960s, people in Rensselaerville were all abuzz about strange-looking footprints that appeared each morning on the muddy shores of the lake. Was there a monster sleeping in the depths of the lake during day and coming ashore at night to hunt unsuspecting night swimmers or hikers? Not even the Huyck Preserve researchers dared to investigate.

Then late one night, some young people from the village were having an unsanctioned party at the boathouse when they thought they heard loud splashing near the spillway. Was it the beast? A couple of the guys bravely volunteered to investigate. They climbed in a car, kept the headlights off because the full moon cast a bright light over everything, and drove slowly down the dirt road toward the spillway. In the moonlight, they could just make out the silhouette of a hulking figure dancing around in the shallow water. It was holding what looked like a harpoon and every so often it would stop, aim the harpoon, and then thrust it down into the water. Eventually the figure waded out of the water and began walking toward the car. Frightened, the guys turned on the headlights to get a better look at the beast. Standing before them was the famous Japanese artist Kenzo Okada who had a home in town. It turned out that he often came up to the lake at night to do a little spearfishing. His traditional Japanese footwear left the strange footprints the townspeople were so worried about. Mystery solved.

jikatabi-soles

The footprints from the so-called Beast of Lake Myosotis could have been made by traditional Japanese footwear similar to this.

Posted in Biological Research, Huyck Preserve, Natural History, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

August 25, 2016

When the National Park Service was created on August 25, 1916, there were just 35 national parks and monuments. Today The National Park System comprises more than 400 areas  covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. These areas are of such national significance as to justify special recognition and protection in accordance with various acts of Congress.

March 1, 1872: Yellowstone National Park (Territories of Montana and Wyoming) was established. The founding of Yellowstone National Park, administered by the Department of the Interior, began a worldwide national park movement. Today more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.

yellowstone sign mom dad 2012DSCN1367

Geoff and Laura Carter (blog author) visiting Yellowstone in winter.

In the years following the establishment of Yellowstone, the United States authorized additional national parks and monuments, many of them carved from the federal lands of the West. These, also, were administered by the Department of the Interior, while other monuments and natural and historical areas were administered by the War Department and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. No single agency provided unified management of the varied federal parklands.

 

OTHER EARLY PARKS AND DATES ESTABLISHED

Yosemite-sunset-2013-DSCN2435-crop

Sunset in Yosemite National Park.

October 1, 1890: Yosemite (California)

September 25, 1890: Sequoia National Park (California)

March 2, 1899: Mt. Rainier (Washington)

January 9, 1903: Wind Cave (South Dakota)

June 29, 1906: Mesa Verde (Colorado)

May 11, 1910: Glacier (Montana)

January 26, 1915: Rocky Mountain (Colorado),

August 1, 1916: Haleakala (Hawaii)

August 25, 1916: President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments then managed by the department and those yet to be established.

Executive Order in 1933: transferred 56 national monuments and military sites from the Forest Service and the War Department to the National Park Service. This action was a major step in the development of today’s truly national system of parks—a system that includes areas of historical as well as scenic and scientific importance.

 

PARKS FOUNDED AROUND THE SAME TIME AS THE HUYCK PRESERVE (1931)

Tetons Dec 2012 DSCN1306

Grand Teton National Park in winter.

1929: Grand Teton (Wyoming)

1930: Carlsbad Caverns; was a National Monument first in 1923 (New Mexico)

1934: Everglades designated as a National Park, but not officially established until 1947 (Florida)

1934: Great Smoky Mountains chartered but not established until 1940 (North Carolina and Tennessee)

1938: Olympic; was Mt Olympus National Monument first in 1909 (Washington)

 

GENERAL AUTHORITIES ACT
1970: Congress declared in the General Authorities Act of 1970 “that the National Park System, which began with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every region…and that it is the purpose of this Act to include all such areas in the System….”

 

REFERENCES
https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/history.htm
http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/oldest-national-parks-in-the-united-states.html
Websites for various parks

Posted in National Parks, Natural History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Many Lives of Lincoln Pond Cottage

Tired from the day’s dull task I steal away
At evening to a pond where willows grow
Against the taller hemlock’s dark array;
And crowning all, great sun-swept hills aglow.
           (Excerpt from a poem, “Lincoln Pond,” by Edmund Niles Huyck)

“My father didn’t even know we went there,” Grandmother told me. “He would have spilled the beans.” My Grandparents—Katharine Huyck Elmore and Probien Lee Elmore— stole away after their elegant wedding ceremony and reception to spend their honeymoon secluded at Lincoln Pond Cottage. It was September 4, 1926—Labor Day weekend. “Only the chauffeur and the chef knew we where we were—they brought us our meals,” Grandmother said. “The fog was so dense that not even the Greenes at Bullfrog Camp realized we were there.”

elmore-wedding-crop-corrected-IMG_2100

Lee and Katharine Elmore spent their honeymoon at Lincoln Pond Cottage in September 1926.

Today, Lincoln Pond Cottage serves as a seasonal residence for scientists, artists, and students working at the Huyck Preserve. Back then it was Edmund (Ted) Niles Huyck’s fishing retreat where he could relax with friends away from the more formal Huyck House, his summer home on the Huyck estate. (Ted Huyck was Katharine’s uncle.) But the cottage’s history goes back much further than the 1920s, providing more than a century’s worth of stories since its first hemlock logs were slated for the foundation.

Early History
The cottage was built in the 1790s just a few years after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, but prior to New York State’s abolishment of the “feudal tenure” system (1846); meaning, the settlers could only lease the land from the Dutch patroons—the Van Rensselaers, for whom the town is named. During this time, the Rensselaerville forests, dominated by Eastern hemlock trees, were being logged and cleared for farming. The felled hemlocks made their way to the noisy water-powered sawmill on Lincoln Pond, which sat adjacent to the cottage site. The sawmill busily cut the logs into beams and boards for constructing new homes and businesses. Two huge beams—each measuring 24 inches wide by 12 inches high by several feet long—were dragged to the site of Lincoln Pond Cottage and became part of its foundation. They are still there today.

lincoln-pond-sawmill-pmihh-Ren_55

Lincoln Pond Farm in the 1800s. The sawmill (right) operated from the 1790s to the early 1900s. Lincoln Pond Cottage, just beyond it, was once a farmhouse.

The best I can tell, Lincoln Pond was named for Joseph Lincoln who lived on Lot #267, near Lot #286 where the Lincoln Pond Cottage is situated. Lot #286, was first leased in 1792 by Thomas Watson. Over the next 75 years, members of the Bouton and Lincoln families were the primary lessors or owners of the land, which also included the sawmill: John H. and Harvey Bouton (Harvey’s dad was Harry Bouton and his mom was Elizabeth “Betsy” Lincoln, a daughter of Levi Lincoln); Baldwin Bouton; Levi Lincoln (leased the lot in 1850 and listed as owner in 1866); and others.

On May 20, 1875, the Rensselaerville Press ran this advertisement: “Farm for Sale: The farm known as the Levi Lincoln Farm situated a mile north of the village of Rensselaerville, containing 135 acres of land. Has a good orchard, house, barn, and wagon house in good repair Wood lot of 20 acres, heavy timbered. Also on premises a new sawmill with circular saw in good running order, never failing supply of water. Will sell cheap.”

I don’t know who bought the farm then, but at some point, John Niles owned it; then, in 1888, his daughter, Cornelia Niles Devereux, acting as executor of his estate, sold it to Myron Bryant, who also had butcher shop in town. Bryant was the last person to run the sawmill. Sometime before the start of World War I in 1912, the sawmill ceased operations, rotted, and fell down. Today, the only evidence left of the mill is the spillway it straddled on Lincoln Pond. In 1913, Bryant sold the 130-acre farm to Ted Huyck.

I came across a typed list of Ted Huyck’s land purchases and noted what he wrote about Lot #286: “I purchased of Myron Bryant the farm known as the Lincoln Pond Farm consisting of about 130 [acres]. This farm consisted of one small triangular lot, wedge shaped, along the pond road adjoining on the South the property of the Becker-Aley property, on the North West a part of the Harvey Bouton or Geo. Swart farm and on the North East by the pond road. The rest of the property consisted of land West of the Creek adjoining the Lincoln Pond and the big pond [Lake Myosotis], extending from the Becker property on the South and extending West by the Chas. Bryant farm to the point where it reached and crossed the road running West toward Crystal Lake, thence extending to the line that ran North to the property owned by Fannie Bouton and then along her farm to the road commonly known as the Salem-Smith, thence along this road to the junction of the pond road, thence down to the creek in a straight line. This property contained Lincoln Pond and the old sawmill, as well as a farmhouse and barns. Lincoln Pond lies about half a mile North of the big pond [Lake Myosotis].”

A  Fishing Retreat and Informal Gathering Spot
Even though Ted and his wife Jessie Van Antwerp Huyck had a lovely summer home a half-mile down Pond Hill road from Lincoln Pond, he had always longed for a cozy fishing retreat. Lincoln Pond Cottage was perfect. He had the sawmill torn down, leaving only the spillway that remains today. He removed some of the other buildings leaving the barn, which was later used as a primitive lab and eventually replaced by the Eldridge Research Center (blog post to come). And he renovated the cottage: He added a “high porch” facing Lincoln Pond, dormer windows, and a roofed entryway over the front door.

HUYCK-PRES-LINCOLN-POND-COTTAGE-DSCN8328

Lincoln Pond Cottage looks much the same today as when Edmund Niles Huyck turned it into his private fishing retreat in the early 1900s.

Ted loved fishing for pickerel, yellow perch, and bullheads on the pond, but he didn’t seem to really care whether he caught anything. He and his fishing buddies often spent more time chatting than fishing. And, on Sunday summer evenings, the Huycks and their friends and family gathered for picnics on the cottage porch. Afterwards, everyone usually went to Huyck House to sing hymns.

“How lovely I thought it was for the people in Rensselaerville to gather [at Lincoln Pond Cottage] for Sunday supper almost every week and sit for the calm hour of the evening by the water that gleamed among the thick shadows of the woods,” wrote a young Japanese college student who was a guest of the Huycks for several summers. “Only now and then a fish came near the surface and caused circles to ripple over the glassy sheet of water. I know that no fish that sent up circling bubbles from beneath the dusky waters of forest pools or mountain creeks ever escaped Mr. Huyck’s eye.”

huyck-lincoln-pond-spillway-DSCN4152

All that remains of the old sawmill is the spillway at Lincoln Pond.

Lincoln Pond Becomes Part of the Huyck Preserve
After Ted died in 1930, his wife Jessie Huyck established the Huyck Preserve in his honor. She was fulfilling his wish that 500 acres of his land—the part that included the Rensselaerville Falls, Lake Myosotis, and Lincoln Pond—be set aside for the public to enjoy forever. The Preserve has since grown to encompass more than 2,000 acres.

In 1938, the Preserve’s Board of Directors established the biological field station at Lincoln Pond and agreed to leave the area around the pond untouched so it could be used for ecological research. For a fuller description, see my post on “The Early Years of Biological Field Station.”

Lincoln Pond Cottage became a summer residence for scientists and graduate students who were doing research at the Preserve. Lively discussions took place in the evenings after dinner as the scientists shared stories about their day’s work, talked about their unexpected discoveries, and engaged in lively debates about scientific theories. In fact some of those early discussions laid the groundwork for Eugene Odum’s founding of the field of ecosystems ecology, the study of how the living and nonliving components of ecosystems interact.

HUYCK-PRES-LIN-POND-NO-FISHING-CROP-CORRECTED-DSCN8329

Lincoln Pond was where Ted Huyck loved to fish in the early 1900s, but once the Huyck Preserve established its biological field station, recreational fishing was no longer allowed there. The only fishermen these days are researchers who must collect the fish they are studying. (But never fear: Fishing is allowed on Lake Myosotis, which is only a half  mile away.)

Ongoing Improvements
But back to how Lincoln Pond Cottage changed over the years. Some improvements seemed strange—such as the shower that was added in 1952 in the middle of a bedroom (the Preserve didn’t want to give up precious bed space so didn’t want to convert the bedroom to a bathroom). In 1964, Lee Elmore, Preserve caretaker Alan Davis, and local carpenter Stanley Bennett renovated the kitchen—they built cabinets, boarded up a side door, and installed a washing machine, which drew its water from the pond. As the summer progressed, the algae bloom gave the laundered clothes a green tinge. Today, the cottage gets all its water from a well.

In 1982, the central fireplace was removed because the foundation was no longer strong enough to support it and the cracked walls around the chimney posed a fire hazard. And that bedroom shower was eventually removed and various other improvements were made.

Then in 2011, Tropical Storm Irene struck and caused considerable damage to the Preserve: The upper falls bridge was swept away; the foundation of the lower falls bridge was severely compromised; the basement of the Eldridge Research Center Lincoln, where important papers were stored, was flooded; and at Lincoln Pond Cottage, the septic system backed up and the first floor filled with water and sewage. (See my blog post on “Rescuing Historic Papers After a Flood.”)

In 2012, the cottage underwent a major renovation to repair the storm damage, remodel the kitchen, add a bathroom, modernize the bedrooms, add new floors, and be properly winterized.

Throughout these changes, the cottage’s bones have remained and its exterior looks almost as it did when it was built more than 200 years ago. And those two giant hemlock beams are still helping to hold the house up. Eastern hemlock trees have been known to live for more than 500 years. If we took a core sample from the beams, we could determine the age of the mother tree before she was chopped down. Could she be 500 years old if she was still alive today? Someday we may know.

hemlock-tree-usda-tsca_013_pvp

Eastern hemlock trees, like this one, dominated the forests around Rensselaerville in the 1700s, but many were cut down so their lumber could be used for construction. There are still hemlock trees on the Huyck Preserve today,  but not as many as there once was. (Credit: E.S. Shipp, USDA Forest Service)

 

Note: My husband and I were married on my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary on September 4, 1976—Labor Day weekend—at their home, Stonecrop, which part of the original Huyck estate and where they held their reception in 1926. Although we didn’t spend our honeymoon at Lincoln Pond Cottage like my grandparents did, we have a special affection for the place and always will. — Laura Stephenson Carter —

 

REFERENCES

Brown, Francis (1935). Edmund Niles Huyck: The Story of a Liberal. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 224-225.

Huyck, Edmund Niles (1922). “A rough history of my purchase of land in Rensselaerville.” (typewritten document).

Huyck, Edmund Niles (1947). Lincoln Pond and Other Poems. Albany, N.Y.: private printing.

Riter, Henrietta (1977). People Made It Happen Here: History of the Town of Rensselaerville ca. 1788-1950. Rensselaerville, N.Y.: Rensselaerville Historical Society, pages 16-24.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Lincoln Pond (poem)

By Edmund Niles Huyck

Tired from the day’s dull task I steal away
At evening to a pond where willows grow
Against the taller hemlock’s dark array;
And crowning all, great sun-swept hills aglow.

A little pond where peaceful breezes blow
Catching the sunlight on its rippled face;
Where fleurs-de-lis in green and purple row
Border its margin with their stately grace.

Oh! little flower of France, can it be true
The same world shelters you in safety here,
While in yon land, afar, hell’s blasting crew
Tear you in shreds, and leave all black and sere?

In the clear shallows little fishes swim,
When suddenly, from deeper darkness glides
An armored monster, wide of jaws and slim,
Designed to kill and live, and nought besides.

Just so, the nation boasting of its might,
Forgetting beauty everywhere unfurled,
Denying all belief in common right
Reverts to brute, and tries to rule the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pseudoscorpion Named for Huyck Preserve

In 1955, when research fellow William B. Muchmore was searching for snails and salamanders in the deep, damp understory of the Huyck Preserve’s deciduous forests, he discovered several tiny pseudoscorpions hiding under some rocks. Pseudoscorpions look like miniature scorpions—minus the stingers. Though their giant crab-like claws may be scary to the arthropods they feed on, pseudoscorpions are harmless to humans. And the ones Muchmore spied were only about a 10th of an inch long. It’s a wonder, he ever saw them.

pseudoscorpion

The Syarinus enhuycki pseudoscorpion was discovered at and named for the E.N. Huyck Preserve by research fellow William Muchmore, who later became a biology professor at the University of Rochester and a world-renowned expert in pseudoscopions. The above specimen (3.7 millimeters or 0.14 inches in size) was found in Quebec, Canada. Photo credit: Pierre-Marc Brousseau (used with permission)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Muchmore continued to find specimens of this as yet unnamed species in New York State, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Finally, in 1968, after exhaustive research to verify that these tiny critters were indeed a new species (out of the 3,000 already known species), he named them for the Huyck Preserve—Syarinus enhuycki—and published his findings in the Journal of the New York  Entomological Society. Since then the S. enhuycki pseudoscorpions have been found all over North America, including Canada.

Muchmore, who also served on the Huyck Preserve’s Scientific Advisory Committee in the 1950s, went on to have a distinguished career as a biology professor at the University of Rochester (Rochester, N.Y.) and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on pseudoscopions. He retired several years ago and is now a professor emeritus at the university. I contacted the university’s Biology Department in hopes of reaching him and getting him to talk about his early years at the Preserve. I learned, however, that he is ill and no longer comes to the office (often emeriti faculty maintain an office on campus so they can continue their research). I wrote him a letter in September, but so far I have not received a reply.

 

Papers Based on Muchmore’s Work at the Huyck Preserve:

Muchmore, W.B., Brassy flecking in the salamander Plethodon c. cinereus and the validity of Plethodon huldae.  Copeia 3:170-172, 1955.

Muchmore, W.B., Notes on some salamanders of Warner’s Hollow, Ashtabula County, Ohio. The Ohio Journal of Science 55:267. 1955

Muchmore, W.B., Some exotic terrestrial isopods (Isopoda:  Oniscoidea)  from New York State.  Journal, Washington Academy of Sciences 47:78-83, 1957.

Muchmore, W.B.,  Land snails of the E.N. Huyck Preserve, New York.  Nautilus 72:85-89. 1959

Muchmore, W.B. , A new species of Pseudoscorpion genus Syarinus (Arachnida; Chelonethida:  Syarinidae) from the Northeastern United States.  Journal of the New York  Entomological Society 76:112-116, 1968

Posted in Biological Research, Huyck Preserve, insects, arachnids, Natural History | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What I Learned on Lake Myosotis

Lake Myosotis has always been one of my favorite places. It’s where I learned to swim, row a boat, and paddle a canoe. I’ve hiked around it countless times. And it even factored into an adventure on the night before my wedding. More on that later.

IMG_0407picnic area at lakeWhen I was a little girl, my family would spend at least part of each summer in Rensselaerville. We kids (there were six of us and I was the oldest) were expected to take the Red Cross swimming lessons that were offered by the Huyck Preserve. I remember learning to kick—you’d lie in a sort of push-up position in the shallow water, your head angled toward the shore, hands on the lake floor, and kick your feet. There’d be maybe 10 of us in the class all kicking our feet harder and harder to see who could created the biggest splashes. We mastered the back float. And at some point, we started blowing bubbles in preparation for the side-to-side breathing that is an essential part of the crawl (now it’s called “freestyle).

One summer, we couldn’t take our lessons in the lake for some reason; a bus took us to nearby Thatcher Park where there was a big outdoor pool. The pool was huge—and boy was the water cold. And it had that horrible chlorine smell. We changed in the locker room and put our clothes in small wire baskets that we took outside and set on the pool deck. One day, my instructor told me to get out of the water and grab my basket of clothes. He hustled me to another part of the pool and left me shivering with another group of kids. Bewildered, I thought I had done something wrong. Turns out that I had passed some kind of test and was “promoted” to a higher-level swim class. I didn’t even realize I had taken a test. I much preferred the slower pace of the swim lessons at Lake Myosotis and was relieved that the lessons resumed there the following year.

Until the early1960s, there were two public beaches on Lake Myosotis: One was a beach with a boathouse—we just called it “The Boathouse”—and the other was a community beach. The boathouse was where Huyck family members and guests would swim. Since my grandmother was a Huyck, my family was invited to swim there. All the parents would sit on the boathouse porch or the sandy beach and keep an eye on the kids. We would change in and out of our swimsuits in the boathouse. It was dark and cool inside and a nice place to retreat to on a hot day. There were also a few canoes and boats stored there.

floating dock

The most fun thing was being able to swim out to the floating dock if you were a good swimmer. And when you were old enough, you had the privilege of being allowed to swim across the lake as long as a grownup followed you in a rowboat. We waited with eager anticipation for that day. When it was my turn—I think I was about 12—I swam all the way across the lake and back without getting tired. I was so proud of myself.

Some time in the 1960s, the Preserve shut down the boathouse beach and everyone had to swim at the community beach where there were lifeguards. The boathouse was used to store boats for a while, but in the 1980s it was removed entirely. Huyck Preserve board member Vincent Schaefer who had a longtime interest in restoring Dutch barns, arranged to have the boathouse removed and reassembled somewhere else in New York State. I’m glad it wasn’t destroyed.

I loved going to the community beach. Not only was it strangely comforting to return to the place where I had learned to swim, but it was nice hanging out with friends on those long, hot, summer afternoons. When we weren’t sunbathing on the beach—or flirting with the lifeguards—we’d swim out to the floating dock (yes the community beach had one, too), where we’d practice diving or linger in the cave-like coolness underneath.

Canoe-AccessoriesBeing allowed to use a rowboat or canoe by yourself was another rite of passage. My earliest memory of being in a rowboat was the summer when my sister who was a year younger than me (she was four) had her hand bandaged from a burn she had sustained that spring. She had her hand in a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get wet. She dragged her unbandaged hand in the water as my dad rowed us across the lake. Years later, I would be canoeing on the lake almost every day.

Thanks to my “training” on Lake Myosotis I would later become a swim instructor, lifeguard, and even a canoeing instructor. But my fondest memory is of what happened the night before my wedding. My then fiancé—Geoff—and I were getting married at my grandparents’ house just up the hill from the lake. After the rehearsal dinner, we took a group of our out-of-town friends for an evening stroll and headed down to the lake. It was pitch dark out, and we couldn’t see one another, but Geoff and I could have done the walk with our eyes closed because we were so familiar with the terrain. We were standing on the lake’s shore with our friends, when we overheard them whispering about how much fun it would be to throw us in. Geoff and I backed quietly away until we were standing, hidden, in a nearby stand of trees. We listened with amusement as our friends stumbled around in the dark trying to find us.

Eventually they gave up and made their way back to house leaving Geoff and me to enjoy the now quiet calm of Lake Myosotis.

Today, nearly 40 years later, the memory of that night still makes me laugh.

Posted in Huyck Preserve | Tagged , | 2 Comments