The Crooked Canes Journal

Viewing 6 of 57 - 2013


Camp Little Notch ~ Feb 7, 2013

Journal entry by Lenore Reber

At last the weather cooperated so that eighteen bundled Caners could enjoy a beautiful day in 2,800 acres of woods saved from development by Camp Little Notch alumni, friends, and the Open Space Institute. Ellen and Kate met us at the Inman Pond parking lot and gave us a brief overview of the efforts to save the acres of woods, water, mountain and history. (See and for more details.) Then we set off down the long, snowy driveway to CLN, chatting with friends we have missed due to previous trip cancellations. We admired the beautiful, woodsy camp area, the simple wood buildings and tent platforms mingled among the trees and dropped off our packs gear at the lunch spot. Then we crossed the “floating bridge,” heading toward the ruins of an iron smelter which closed in 1823. The old logging road led through hemlock groves and along tumbling, partly frozen Hope Mountain Creek. After stopping to soak up the sun and admire ice formations, we arrived at the smelter, which Kurt estimated at 40 feet tall, about half of its original height. After exploring the area for a few minutes, we hurried back to our lunch spot, where Jack, Ellen and Kate had a fire going, perfectly timed for roasting marshmallows. This, in spite of the fact that the fire was floating in a fire pit of melted snow and ice. After lunch and S'mores, Ellen took us through camp, across snowy and sparkling Lakes Pond, past a very high beaver lodge, and down a trail to a lovely view of Putnam Mountain, which we hope to climb next winter. Returning to camp on lake ice, listening to the booming and enjoying the bubble designs embedded in the ice, we gathered our gear, doused the fire and headed back to the cars, warmed by our 6.2 mile hike, the marshmallow fire and friends.

Some History of Mt. Hope Furnace at Camp Little Notch

I spent some time researching the history of the Camp Little Notch area with materials supplied by Ellen. Here’s what I learned. Jack

A village of about 21 houses and a store grew to support the Mt. Hope mining and smelting operation about 1825. The Mt. Hope post office opened in 1829 to serve a population of about 200, mostly men. The present chimney was built in 1836. The operation’s heyday was about 20 years, with an average output of about 1500 tons of pig iron a year, with a peak of 2000 tons.

Donkeys hauled the ore to the furnace. The process began by laying a fire in the opening at the bottom of the chimney, then sealing it with clay. The fire was started from the top of the chimney with bellows operated by a water wheel supplying air. Next charcoal, iron ore and lime were poured in the top. A bridge was built to the chimney top for men to unload the donkeys and dump the mixture down the chimney. Lime was needed to absorb the sulfur in the ore. The Mt. Hope ore had a high sulfur content. About half of the ore smelted came from Moriah on Lake Champlain which had lower sulfur amounts than the local ore. When the ore was melted, the operators knocked away the clay seal and liquid iron poured out of the bottom hole into trenches that looked like a sow with suckling piglets. Hence the name, “pig iron.” When impurities began to appear, the outpouring was diverted. When cooled, the waste product is known as slag. Most of this iron was shipped to Troy, where there were hundreds of shops making iron products.

The smelter continued operation until about 1857, but at reduced capacity. Several owners tried to keep it going, but with limited success. The mines continued to operate until the late 19th century. The site’s isolation has contributed to its preservation. The interior has collapsed and rubble can be seen pouring from the bottom opening. Many of the iron rods that bound the chimney together were looted to sell when iron was scarce. A few stick out where the looters failed to remove them.

I also learned some things about the area. The summer of 1816 was so cold that the creek froze and crops failed. The farmers in the area built dugouts for their pigs and let them roam freely to eat chestnuts. Farmers had no other food for them. People came from some distances to buy pork. Because they saw so many pigs running free, they named the village Hogtown.

There was a mill in the area that ground corn. The owners made johnny cakes from the cornmeal so the spot was called “Johnnycake Corners.” The site can be visited on the CLN property.

The mountain by the lake at CLN is called Putnam Mountain. There are four peaks, High Knob, Peaked, Nebo, and Hope. According to my reading, no one knows for sure which is which. There are two notches in the mountain. If you look at the picture of our group standing on the dock, you’ll notice a big notch to the right and a little notch on the left. You guessed it, that’s how the camp got it’s name.

13 photos

On the trail to smelter site

Lenore and her students

We found it!

A beautiful place

Ice and waterfall

Smoke in our eyes and S'mores in our tummy

Walking on Lakes Pond

Can you imagine the size of the beaver?

Jack is back

Viewing Putnam Mountain

Walking back

Ellen and Joanne

Tom at the site of the Hogtown Inn. Reliving good times?

Viewing 6 of 57 - 2013


Update entry