John S. Apperson, Jr. (1878-1963)Protecting the Islands of Lake George: One Rock at a Time… by Ellen Apperson Brown Photo circa 1910…of Apperson, folding his tent at the Dollar Islands at Lake George
Telling his remarkable story: one photograph at a time Photo taken from scrap book of camping trip in 1906
Credits• Adirondack Research Library (Apperson correspondence – Schenectady)• Apperson Family Archives (Ellen Apperson Brown, and Barbara Rennie); Apperson Family website (www.vahistoryexchange.com)• Douglas Langdon – Preservationist Community (January 2011) – (see Ellen’s website)• Adirondack Museum – Apperson films• Apperson “Associates” – Bill White, Phil Ham, & Art Newkirk• Chester Sims, Richard Tucker
Youthful motivation: Love of exercise, rigorous sports, and the out-of-doors…• Hiking in all seasons (climbing Mount Marcy on skis!)• Skate sailing, skate skiing, and iceboating• Canoeing (Morris canoe purchased 1907)• Motor boats (barge, motor boats, Chris Craft – 1927) Appy – figure on the right?
Thinking globally… acting locally Young Apperson committed himselfto the protection of the islands in the Narrows, and developed a variety of creative ways to do so…Major Causes and Projects• Rip-rapping shores• Evicting squatters from state land• Photography and Publications (Warwick Carpenter) (Public Education)• Mastering the legislative process (partnering with Al Smith)• Watchdog…grass roots organizing - legislation that might endanger Art. 7, Sec. 7• Advocating for a Lake George Park (Tongue Mountain and Narrows)• Creating a “Preservationist Community” in Huddle Bay (see Doug Langdon’s paper)• Erosion; Lake George as a Mill Pond…
Schenectady…1900 Boston? This picture of a beached whale hints at a possible trip to a New England port…Brothers… Hull Apperson, John’s olderbrother, came to Schenectady first, in 1899,and John soon followed, about six monthslater. Here they are, seated on railroad ties,along the Mohawk River…looking a littleoverdressed for the occasion…
Dan WadsworthIn 1907, Apperson befriended an old man who lived in theBenson Tract, and took an interest in helping him find asuitable place to live. He wrote persistent letters abouthim to the Conservation Department, andeventually purchased him a small piece of land…
Transportation, Circa 1910…What were the modes of transportation available?Where could he stow his canoe, tents and other camping gear?Did he bring his camping equipment on the train? (The D&HRailroad was unwilling to allow campers and outdoorsmen tocheck their camping gear and skis, etc.)
Becoming a tour guide…offering friends, family, and even international visitors advice and hospitality in the North Country Scene: summer camping trip with his sister Nancy - 1906
Home grown industry: Something to do on week nights in SchenectadySkate sails..he and his friends manufactured them…and sleeping bags, too
A serious photographer, he had an eye for beauty, but also wanted to educate andprovide documentation…Many of his photos were used in early publications.“A barge named after the Constitution hauls rocks to protect Lake George Islands”(brochure by Warwick Carpenter, and the New York Department of Conservation, in 1917)
A bad case of Influenza, in 1918, put him into Ellis Hospital for a few days, buthe “escaped” and went hikinguntil he recovered. Not long afterward, he purchased property in Huddle Bay and on Tongue Mountain.
Lake George Park: Persuading landowners to give or sell their land to the State…before the price of land climbed out of reach…Ironically, just when Apperson became a land-owner, he also began trying to convince others to relinquish their land ownership. This effort brought him into a confrontation with Robert Moses concerning the proposed road over Tongue mountain.
Almost like family…Mrs. Mary Loines, and daughters (Hilda and Sylvia)Mary Loines’ gift to the state:
Dream of a Lake George Park: Finding Friends Who Shared the Dream The Loines family William K. Bixby
“Associates” who became his neighbors at Lake George: see Preservationist Community, by Douglas Langdon (www.vahistoryexchange.com)• Florence Christie• Katherine Blodgett• Edith Clark• Ellsworth Langdon• Irving Langmuir• Art NewkirkOther “associates”:• Bill White• Phil Ham• Jim Cawley• Hilda Loines• Paul SchaeferTwo GE scientists who agreed to purchase the Lake View Hotel property, sold out by1928: G. Hall Roosevelt (Eleanor’s brother) and William N. Dalton
Political action through letter writing…see… Becoming a Conservationist..One Letter at a Time (www.vahistoryexchange.com) “I have to confess to great astonishment and even more to being shocked at the language used and the temper of your editorial reply to Miss Loines. I have to admit that as a former stockholder in the Mirror, who surrendered his stock for the benefit of the community, I feel personally grieved that such language should appear in the editorial with reference to anyone. It seems to indicate a very different quality from the general temper of the constituency which formerly supported your paper… George Foster Peabody July 29, 1925 (Letter to the Editor, the Lake George Mirror)
• After twenty years with GE, and Reorganization at GE - 1921 advancing to the #2 position in Power and Mining…JSA lost his job. After about six months, he emerged in a new position with Engineering General, where he served until his retirement in 1947…• Imagine how hard it would have been for him to move to some other part of the country…
Joining, testing the waters, and often deserting various organizations • Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks • Lake George Association • American Canoe Association • New York Conservation Commission • NY Fish and Game Commission • Lake George Protective Association
Practical Education• Railroad – worked as foreman directing the construction of a branch railroad: engineering, surveying, lumbering, laying rocks (rip-rapping)• Carpentry – toboggan, book shelf• Engines, motors, inventions, turbines, patents, general science• Year in the student course at GE (on Test)• Chemistry, Calculus, etc. (he owned books, was either self-taught, or studied them in courses at VPI in 1898-99)• Engineer’s concern for accuracy and attention to detail
Civic and Political Education – back in Virginia• Thomas Thomas Hull (grandfather) – often quoted for his opinions about agricultural education (1850’s)• Dr. John Apperson (father) - a doctor and entrepreneur who managed a branch railroad, a foundry, and a mining company. He was also Commissioner to the Chicago World’s Fair (1893)• David Denton Hull (uncle) – wrote in a letter about “rolling up our sleeves” after the Civil War.• Abijah Thomas (great uncle) – developed several industries, but was taken to court repeatedly for bad debts…
Growing up in Southwest Virginia Dr. John S. Apperson (1837-1908) Ellen Victoria Hull Apperson (1840-1887)
Southwest Lunatic Asylum – 1887John (age nine) is #1; Dr. Apperson #2; sister Nancy #3; sister Nell #5
Death of his sister, Mary, soon followed by the death of his mother…
Young John, between age nine and sixteen…learned to love the land
Family Culture• Abigail Hull & David Denton …Aunt Abigail raised her nephew, and then raised her seven great nieces and nephews…• Abijah Thomas – octagonal house…woolen mills… slaves…bad debts• Hull family – from Ulster County, New York… Puritan ancestors came over in 1630• Thomas family; Bowen family – Welsh (ap Owen)• Apperson family – several generations in New Kent County, Virginia…traces back to d’Epernon… Normandy, and the French Alps…
Dr. Apperson with oldest set of children: John,Georgia, Nancy, Nell and Sallie. (c. 1899)Hull (not pictured) may have already moved away toSchenectady, where he worked from 1899-1905.Georgia married Lacy Tynes in 1905 and moved toTazewell; Sallie married Carleton Gibbons, moved toBaltimore..and died in 1908; Nell was a school teacherfor her entire life, living in South Carolina and Florida;Nancy married Capt. Ralph Dickenson and lived onarmy bases; Dr. Apperson died in 1908… Finding clues to explain John’s ideas about logging, forestry practices, and erosion…Here is a picture from 1935 showing what happened to forests in Virginia…
Uncle JohnVenturing onto black ice at the lake with nephews John and Jim, c. 1925
Friendships that spanned the decades (just one example…)Ethel Dreier to JSA… March 11, 1931“Did you see the Times article today alluding only to Mr. Morgenthau’s speech at the Albany Club? …That does not seem fair reporting. Did not Mr. Smoot speak there?”JSA to Ethel Dreier… Dec. 8, 1951“The various commercial interests trying to break down Section 7 could hardly wish for any better helpers than Mr. Hicks of the Lake Placid Club; Mr. Carson at Glens Falls, President of the Adirondack Mountain Club; and the acting President, Judge Ordway; and Secretary Torrey of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. These three front door contacts certainly would give the appearance of respectability to almost anything the crowd would wish to put over.
Quotes:• December 1931… Commercialization of our State Parks… Bulletin #3 If we honestly claim these lands are a “priceless treasure” we should prove our sincerity by continuing to protect them in our Constitution and help to defeat this proposed amendment that would remove that protection. Signed by: John S. Apperson Irving Langmuir E. Mac. D. Stanton Richmond D. Moot
Letter to the Editor… New York Times January 27, 1931“The Conservation Commission…has more than it can do if it confines its activitiesto those purposes – but it may be tired of its job. It may want a new toy – cuttingtrees – deforestation rather than reforestation. But that is no reason foramending the constitution…” Richmond D. Moot Letter to Mrs. Henry (Belle) Moskowitz… December 23, 1931 “Some of my conservation crusaders succeeded in finding six copies of the paper, which I mailed to you yesterday – first class…I am sorry they were all marked, but I hope they will serve your purpose. I am leaving this afternoon for my annual visit to Virginia, returning Monday… John S. Apperson
Paul Schaefer, the Adirondack Club, and the Schenectady group…Letter to Paul Schaefer June 30, 1931 “There is much interesting and important work for a group able and willing to give sufficient time to understand true conservation, particularly as applied to the Adirondacks, and there are, of course, no people who frequent these mountains at all times of the year as do our Schenectadians…. They would, of course, have to be willing to take friendly issue with the group that have for several years dominated the parent organization. The Adirondack Club is sometimes referred to as a subsidiary of the Conservation Commission, and while there are certain advantages in such a close relationship, the Club is at a decided disadvantage when basic principles are being violated by the Commission. Being a charter member…my impression of the administrative possibilities of the Club for true conservation are not very good.” John S. Apperson
Legacy – Almost Fifty Years after his Death, in 1963 Lake George Reflections, by Frank Leonbrunno… lists details of the many islands saved…. One rock at a time! Leonbrunno also tells the story of Apperson’s gift of Dome Island to the Eastern Chapter of the Nature Conservancy – 1956. Often called the centerpiece of Lake George, Dome Island offers a lasting tribute to a lifetime of devotion…If you would like to help carry on JSA’s impressive legacy, please read more about him on my website, theVirginia History Exchange (www.vahistoryexchange.com) and contact me if you have stories to share!
Key events in the life of John S. Apperson, Jr.• 1878…born in Chilhowie, Virginia• 1887…death of his mother (Ellen Victoria Hull Apperson)• 1888…father (Dr. John S. Apperson) married Elizabeth Black• 1894… enrolled in Virginia Polytechnic Institute…in Blacksburg• 1897…Left school to work for the Marion and Rye Valley Railroad• 1900…Moved to Schenectady to seek employment with General Electric• 1908…Death of his father• 1915…worked with Al Smith to pass legislation (rip-rapping shores of islands)• 1918…Influenza (Ellis Hospital)• 1920…all-out effort to create a Lake George Park (protecting Tongue Mountain and the Narrows); purchased Lake View Hotel Property with G. Hall Roosevelt and William Dalton• 1922…Transfer from Power and Mining to Engineering General• 1927…purchased Chris Craft Cadet• 1940s…gave testimony in ”Trespass Case” (Lake George as a Mill Pond)• 1956…gift of Dome Island to the Nature Conservancy (Eastern Chapter)• 1963…JSA death…buried in Marion, Virginia