Local News

September 15, 2013

Vagabonding: chronicles of North Country origins

ELIZABETHTOWN — Lines in a handwritten letter dash across pages consumed quickly by their measure.

Words and phrases pressed in ink trace tight-woven paragraphs as crisp and tangible as homespun cloth.

In bright cursive, historian and journalist Marjorie Lansing Porter described to her daughter, Betty Millington McNamera, the early chores of building the Adirondack Center Museum here.

Her “rooms” were laid out in the vacant high school closed a few years before.

Porter, then 64, was Essex County’s historian and, at last, her collection of newspapers, manuscripts, recordings, hand tools, farm implements, wagons, quilts, sleds, pots, pans and the myriad stories she wrote of early frontier life had a home.

Margaret Gibbs, the museum’s director and current Essex County historian, read a few sections of Porter’s letter out loud.

She couldn’t help but smile at the piquant voice packed in a small charge of words.

“And so it goes,” the letter closed.


Other letters described Porter’s ongoing work to build a museum, a task she took on with support from local beneficiaries.

“Writing dozens of letters in connection with plans for the Adirondack History Center at E’town, as actual working out of plans seems to be up to me,” Porter wrote to her daughter.

“Heat is turned on in building, plaster repairs (where water leaked in) are supposed to be done this week, and I have set a work meeting for April 2.

“We will paint cupboards, walls of halls on first floor, etc. I have set up plans for four exhibit rooms on the first floor, which is all we can do this season, besides put auditorium in order for special programs and put up art and crafts exhibit in hallways. 

“Next step will be to choose colors for halls and Room 4, which will be used for my newspaper file, and heavy wallboard panels, painted bright colors will be set on chalk trays of blackboards on two sides of room, for photo mounting.

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