February 5, 2014

The folksinger and the folklorist

PLATTSBURGH — The late Pete Seeger’s reach was immeasurable, and touched locally due to his and his wife’s love of the Adirondacks and their long friendship with historian/folklorist Marjorie Lansing Porter.

The great-granddaughter of abolitionist and Essex County Republican founder and publisher Wendell Lansing, Porter was a newshound by blood.

She was an editor of the Essex County Republican and columnist for Adirondack Life, North Country Life, Press-Republican, North Countryman, Valley News and Elizabethtown Post.

Porter was also Essex County Historian and one of the founders of the Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown.

In her spare time, she collected traditional music all over the Adirondacks.


Seeger recalled meeting Porter at a Lake George festival in the early 1950s, according to a YouTube video posted by Porter’s granddaughter and music producer, June Millington, May 18, 2009.

At the festival, Porter was accompanied by Lawrence Older, an Adirondack fiddler and singer, and Ray Tehanetorens Fadden, founder of the Six Nations Indian Museum at Onchiota.

Porter told Seeger about Older Timer’s Day in Keene. Seeger attended one on July 25, 1954.

“On the field recordings she made, you can hear Pete on the banjo backing Dean White of Elizabethtown and Lawrence Older,” said Lee Knight, a folksinger/storyteller/outdoor leader, who lives in Cullowhee, N.C. He is a Saranac Lake native and was a friend to both Porter and Seeger. 

“Pete’s playing his banjo on these recordings,” Knight said. “He came with a folklorist named Kenny Goldstein.”

Porter entrusted Knight with her field recordings including folk ballads, French-Canadian songs and fiddle music. He also has correspondence sent by Seeger.

“She didn’t keep everything,” Knight said. “In some ways she was a pack rat, and sometimes she didn’t keep stuff. I have a dozen letters and Christmas cards. She let me take a lot of her material for working on her book.”

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