The Random Scoots Blog | Fred Provoncha
Ticonderoga Heritage Museum, Rock Collector
Writer, Author of Ticonderoga (Images of America)
Once upon a time in High School, I was dozing through history class when the teacher said something that cut through the haze. Something about John Brown and Harpers Ferry. Coming immediately to what passed for full attention to a probably 15 year old boy, I blurted out, “Hey, John Brown was a relative!” (He actually was not, but I didn’t find that out till years later). The teacher, startled perhaps that I had contributed anything, an extremely rare event, said something like, “I would not brag about it, he was a religious zealot.” That took care of that, the fog rolled back in, and I don’t think I ever said boo in that class again.
What I thought I knew was something I had read in a book my great grandfather, George L Brown had written, “Pleasant Valley” the history of Elizabethtown NY. As a kid we had all gone into the secret room behind the fireplace and watched the dust particles dance in the air in the sliver of light that was all the door would admit. That’s where the runaway slaves were kept till night, when a buckboard whisked them away toward the Canadian border. We also read in his book how John Brown had come by and begged his grandfather Levi Brown to join him on his attack on slavery in the South. That he didn’t go, taking his oldest son with him is the only reason that the history teacher had a foil for his wit that long ago spring day.
What I didn’t know then, G L Brown certainly did. John Brown had to resort to the Raid on Harpers Ferry, because his master plan had failed. Garret Smith was a very large landowner in the Adirondacks, and an abolitionist. He and John Brown had created a village called Timbuctoo, and gave away 120,000 acres of land to blacks who wanted to live there. They supplied almost everything needed to build a thriving community. It was a dream, and in that dream the village would grow, and other villages would spring up and grow, and slavery would wither away. Instead, Timbuctoo withered away. It’s mostly true, “If you build it, they will come”, but just being there is not enough. There would have needed to be schools, and training classes. Opportunities to learn a trade. Northern winters have vanquished many a native family and tribe. Putting folks there unprepared never had a chance. It was a dream. (Read more about Timbuctoo here)
Not far from where Timbuctoo once was, can be found large quantities of one of my favorite rocks, Labradoreite. It is very common in the Adirondacks, the bottom of the Opalescent river is filled with it, but without polishing it properly, it’ll just look like a rock. Unless…it gets wet. Then you just might get to see the gold or red or yellow or blue flashes.
Enjoy the day, hug somebody you love, or, just smile a lot, perhaps that will make someone hug you. Always a good thing.
P.S. (You can actually still get a reproduction of this out-of-print book! Check it out here: Pleasant Valley: a history of Elizabethtown, Essex County, New York)
- Before the Beginning: Random Scoots #3
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