Tuesday, August 10, 2010

From Farmland to Mature Forest: The Changing Landscape of Crumhorn Mountain

Doug Kendall, Curator of Collections

While working on a recent blog ("See It Now in 3-D! Hi-tech imagery of the 1880s"), I came across another stereograph made by Cooperstown photographer Washington Smith that caught my eye because I had recently been at the same location—Crumhorn Mountain in the Town of Maryland, New York, about 15 miles south of Cooperstown.

Lake on Crumhorn Mountain
Stereographic print on cardboard
Washington G. Smith, mid-late 19th century

Smith’s caption added that Crumhorn Mountain was 2000 feet above sea level and someone else penciled in “Highest water in the state.” I don’t know whether that’s true, but today Crumhorn Mountain is home to Boy Scout Camp Henderson. My son’s troop spent a week there in July. According to the camp’s website, Henderson “is situated on 630 acres of rolling hills and mature forest on Crumhorn Mountain in upstate New York. Its’ reservation is home to a superb lake and miles of hiking trails that meet all ability levels.”

Lake on Crumhorn Mountain
Digital photograph
Douglas Kendall, July 15, 2010

As the description suggests, the area is heavily forested today. Entering “Crumhorn Lake, NY” into a Google Maps search and viewing the satellite image confirms that the trees come nearly to the water’s edge all around Crumhorn Mountain’s lake.

But look at Smith’s stereograph of the lake. Although there are trees around the far side of the lake, the entire foreground (apparently including about half the lake shore) is devoid of trees. Instead, the landscape is one of cleared fields with barns near the lakeshore.

Even 2000 feet above sea level, the scene recorded by Smith was typical of the landscape of upstate New York and New England in the mid to late 19th century. Land was relentlessly cleared for agriculture and mining throughout the region. By the end of the 19th century, many farmers had moved further west where the land was flatter and farms were larger. Marginal farmland, such as that atop Crumhorn Mountain, began to give way once again to forest—so much so that today the area appears to be a “mature forest” inhabited mainly by deer, small animals and the occasional bear, except for 6 weeks every summer (and other occasions throughout the year) when Camp Henderson is home to Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from central New York and beyond. I doubt many of them suspect that their campsites were cleared farmland 150 years ago…but Wash Smith has left us the proof.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin