Property Rights Foundation of America®


Pre-Filed Testimony of Carol W. LaGrasse
June 5, 2002

Cold Brook Properties/Keith McHugh
Adirondack Park Agency Project No. 2000-158
Proposed Single Family Dwelling on Lens Lake, Stony Creek, N.Y.


Q. Give your name and qualifications.

A. My name is Carol W. LaGrasse. I am a retired civil and sanitary (environmental) engineer, licensed professional engineer in the State of New York. I have practiced in areas of civil engineering ranging from skyscraper design to sewage treatment plants and air pollution control facilities, including environmental impact statements. Reading and understanding maps, surveys, and legal and historical documents related to land are incidental, commonplace, and essential parts of this practice, including my own background. Analyzing dams and hydrology are basic parts of my formal training and have been incidental aspects of my practice. My degree included extensive courses in surveying and the professional engineer license assumes understanding of maps and surveying. In addition, I am an amateur historian, and have edited and written a book on the history of Stony Creek as one aspect of my several involvements in historic research related to this town. In addition, my experience includes serving nine years as a Stony Creek Town Councilman, from which I am retired, and currently being the president of the Property Rights Foundation of America; in these posts I have gained historical information about the town of Stony Creek and the North Country, the people, and landscape.

Q. In what ways are historical records, maps, and engineering information related to the land of interest to the project deliberations?

A. On numerous occasions throughout the correspondence to the Adirondack Park Agency and in public hearing statements and correspondence to the DEC Administrative Judge who is the hearing officer in this matter, individuals opposed to this project have made the claim that the "natural" state of the property should be preserved. At numerous times the opponents to the project have claimed that Lens Lake should be preserved in its natural state, as though it were presently in its natural state. They have referred to the land in the area surrounding Lens Lake, including the shoreline, as natural, largely undisturbed by human beings. This theme that the project property, Lens lake, and the shoreline and land around Lens Lake are natural and undisturbed by humankind (henceforth "man"), is one of the central themes of opponents to the project and given as one of the reasons that the project should be relocated even further from the lake than proposed by the applicant at the public hearing, subjected to other restrictions, or even not allowed at all.

There is also a sub-theme that the lake is vulnerable to interference with the surrounding landscape, even interference as small as construction and clearing for one house, and construction of waste water disposal facilities for a single residence. This theme is based on the assumption that the lake has not been disturbed, when, in fact, the lake is extensively altered by man.

I intend to refer to historical records to show that the landscape around the lake and the land itself have been greatly disturbed by man during the past 150 years, and that the lake itself in its present configuration, along with large areas of marsh and flow to the south, known as the "Middle Flow," is an artifact of man. Historical documents show, contrary to the allegations of opponents of the project, that the area along Lens Lake Road, like most of Stony Creek, has been populated by farmers, who intensively cultivated the land to produce a large part of their human needs. In addition, historic maps show that the lake is far larger than in its natural state, confirming relatively recent and extensive manmade flooding that is maintained by a man-made dam, whose lift, confirmed by an engineer's most rudimentary observations from maps, extensively alters the hydrology and vegetation of the landscape, and the landscape itself.

These records and documents will demonstrate that the claims that the lake, project property, and/or surrounding land, including the lake shore, are "natural" are fallacious and cannot be used for argumentation that the project should be restricted to protect this "natural" situation.

Q. Describe relevant historical records and their relevance to this project.

A. First, let me present the cover of a book of maps and a map from that book of maps:

1. County Atlas of Warren, New York published by F. W. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York 1876. This is an Offset Reproduction in 1977 by B & E Printers, Inc., No. 174 of 300 copies.

This is a copy of the cover of this book of maps, which copy I obtained on June 3 from Pamela Vogel, the Warren County custodian of records at the Warren County municipal center. (Henceforth, this volume of maps is referred to as the Beers Atlas.)

2. "Part of Stony Creek" from the Beers Atlas, along with the cover sheet. This is a copy that I made personally this spring from my copy of the Beers Atlas, which is copy no. 183 of the 1977 reproduction by B & E Printers. I purchased my bound copy of the Beers Atlas by mail from Martin Wehls, a company specializing in county atlases and county histories of New York State, on April 1, 1978. I have the full bound copy of the Beers Atlas reprint in my possession and the Warren County Historian has an original bound copy from 1876, which I have referred to on several occasions.

Over the years I have found that the 1976 Beers is accurate and reliable. The format of the Beers Atlas is to show the topography with elevated areas shown only diagrammatically, but to accurately show roads, down to their actual bends, curvature, and location (unless the roads are shown in phantom), and the residences and businesses and other aspects of human construction, such as churches and schools, with the last name and first initial of the head of household for the residences. Also shown accurately are shorelines of water bodies including lakes and significant streams where these are relatively near the farmsteads, businesses, and residences.

The Stony Creek map in Beers Atlas shows Lens Lake, Lens Lake Road, and the residences, a saw mill, and a school along Lens Lake Road. (The road is configured the same today, which can be readily seen by comparison with a tax map.)

Along Lens Lake Road, the following names of heads of households appear on the Beers map, numbered by me from south, which is in the direct vicinity of the lake, to north, which is the intersection with what is generally referred to as Roaring Branch Road:

(1) G. Murray (east side)
(2) T. White (west side)
(3) School (east side)
(4) John Fuller (east side
(North of the John Fuller residence, the brook that is the outlet of Lens Lake crossed Lens Lake Road.)
(5) S.M. (east side) (This stands for saw mill. Stony Creek once had many water-powered sawmills and grist mills.)
(6) J. Fuller (east side)
(7) Unidentified (west side)
(8) J. Ormsby (west side)
(9) J. Ackley (west side)
(10) J. Austin (west side)
(11) J. Fuller (west side)

Near the intersection of Lens lake Road, to the east on Roaring Branch Road are J. L. Fuller and A. Aldrich.

Near the intersection of Lens Lake Road, to the west on Roaring Branch Road is T. Wakeley.

Missing at the intersection of Lens Lake Road is the United Methodist Church which was built later in the nineteenth century, and is still standing, but long deserted as a church for most of the twentieth century.

3. I present historical tax assessment records: copies of 16 pages (on 8 sheets of paper) from "Assessment of the town of Stony Creek for 1876," including the copy of the original attestation by the three assessors of the town of Stony Creek. In my presence on June 3, 2002, these were copied by Pamela Vogel, the records custodian of Warren County at the Warren County municipal center from the original duplicate handwritten copy of the assessment records which has been kept at the county center since the records were originally made, the other record copy being originally kept in the local assessor's office, but many lost books were lost over the years. My husband Peter La Grasse is the chairman of the Stony Creek Board of Assessors. He was also present when the copies were made and has attested to the official nature of these records.

I would like to read certain entries (my numbering) from the assessment records of 1876, selectively extracted as they occur alphabetically. It can be seen by comparison with the patent outlines on the Beers Atlas and on another map excerpt that I will also present that the lot locations within the patents referenced match with the cited landowners on Lens Lake Road and in the immediate vicinity. Other records of for the patent locations are available, but these two maps are adequate. The purpose of doubly locating these residents and land owners on both the 1876 Beers Atlas and in the 1876 Stony Creek assessment records is so that the names and household information can be extracted from the New York State census records, which were taken every ten years, including 1975, and it can be shown that these same people were heads of households engaging in intensive agriculture in the area of Lens Lake Road in 1875-76.

The following abbreviations apply:


D.S.T.  =

Dartmouth Small Tract (the southerly part of the Dartmouth Patent, the first number is the lot no., and the second number is the range no. for this patent)

 Divis. =

Division (part of Palmer Purchase)

G.  =


 P.P. =

Palmer Purchase

 sub. =


  (1) Ackley, James, 7 - sub of G. lot 1 P.P. mid Divis., 40 ac., $30 real estate valuation, $35 aggregate valuation.
  (2) Aldrich, A. J., 1 - 2 D.S.T., 80 ac., $100 real estate valuation
    1 - 2 D. S. T., 80 ac., $70 real estate valuation
  (3) Fuller, Jas. L., 1 - 2 D.S.T., 54 ac., $150 real estate valuation
  (4) Fuller, Joseph A., 2 sub. of G. lot w, P.P. Mid. divis., 100 ac, $100 real estate valuation
    7 Div., 75 ac., $300 real estate valuation
    7 Div., 100 ac., $100 real estate valuation
  (5) Fuller, Harmon J., 2 sub. of G. lot 2 P.P. Mid divis., 20 ac., $25 real estate valuation
  (6) Murray, George, 1 - sub. of G. lot 2 P.P., 60 ac., $85 real estate valuation
  (7) Ormsby, Jacob, 7 sub. of G. lot 2 P.P. mid divis., 53 ac., $50 real estate valuation
  (8) Ormsby Dewitt C., 7 - Dv. 20 ac., $20 real estate valuation
  (9) Wakely, Thomas, 1 - 1 D. S. T, 48 ac., $125 real estate valuation
    8 - sub. of G. lot 1 P.P. mid. divis., 17 ac., $20 real estate valuation
    1 - 1 D. S. T., 30 ac., $60 real estate valuation
    7 - sub. of G. lot 1 P.P. mid divis. 35 ac., $65 real estate valuation

4. I present pages 16 and 17 from the official New York State Census of Stony Creek, 1875. I obtained these copies on June 3, 2002 from Pamela Vogel, the Warren County custodian of records at the Warren County municipal center. In my presence, she made these "xerox" copies from the original census document dating from 1875, which is in her custody.

The census takers in those days went along the roads taking their information down household by household, and entering the households in the record in roughly the order in which the households appeared along the highway. They are listed and numbered consecutively in the official record. I would like to read the following names as they appear and are numbered in order in the census. I have selected them because, once they are compared with the names on the Beers Atlas, it is apparent that they represent the census taker's record of households that were along Lens Lake Road and nearby.

I am going to list the entries for the following relevant data as recorded in order in the numbered columns for each numbered entry that I select in order. No adjustments for spelling (which not unusually vary for the same person during this period) will be made and only the existence for the wife and children will be given, although all are named with their ages in the record:

Below are extracted:

Dwellings (Numbered order of visitation, Of what material built, Value); Families numbered in order of visitation; Name of every person whose usual place of abode was in the Family...; Age; Sex; Now married, Now widowed, Single; Profession, trade or occupation; Voters (Native); Owner of Land.

125, Framed, 400, 134, Thomas Wakely 30, M, married, Farmer, Native voter, Owner of land.
followed by: wife and one child age 3.

126, Framed, 500, 135, James L. Fuller, 55, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter, Owner of land.
followed by: wife and one child age 18
- - - 136, George W. Baker, 31, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter, Owner of land.
followed by: wife and 4 children ages 2 to 8

127, Plank, 100, 137, William D(?) Ormsley, 24, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter, not land owner.
followed by wife and Elizabeth Harington age 64

128, Framed, 200, 138, James Smith, 43, M, Married, Farmer, not voter, Owner of land.
followed by wife and 6 children ages 11/12 to 15 with last names Harington and Smith, the early Smiths born in England.

129, Logs, 50, 139, Joseph E. Austin, 20, M, Single, no occupation, not voter, Owner of land.
followed by: sister, age 18

130, Plank, 25, 140, Ezra Lapoint, 27, M, Married, Carpenter, Naturalized voter, not land owner.
followed by: wife and two children ages 1-10/12 and 3-1/12

131, Logs, 150, 141, James Ackley, 50, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter , Owner of land.
followed by: wife and father age 85, retired farmer

132, Framed, 200, 142, Jacob Ormsby, 60, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter, Owner of land.
followed by: wife and two children ages 13 and 22

- , - , - , 143, Harris E. Ormsby, 28, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter, Owner of land.
followed by: wife and two children ages 11/12 and 3

134, Logs, 25, 145, Wing A. McDonald, 36, M, Married, Farmer, Native voter, not land owner.


5. Next I present copies of pages 38 through 42 of the same New York State Census of 1875. These are the "Agricultural Statistics of that portion of The Sixteenth Election District of the Town of Stony Creek," taken by the same enumerator on June 12, 1875. These were copied on June 3, 2002 in my presence from the original census records from that date by Pamela Vogel, records custodian of Warren County, Warren County municipal center. This is a public document, as are the previous census and assessment records.

The entire set of Stony Creek 1875 agricultural statistics is presented, but I will point out only particular farmers, using the numerical system and sequence of the enumerator, and specifically cite only a small fraction of the selected entries from the 159 tabulated entries for each relevant farm for want of space and for simplicity, to give a quick picture of the degree of farming that took place at this area along Lens Lake Road.

Below are the names of some of the farmers whose farms were tabulated, in the order and by consecutive number noted on the 1875 agricultural census. These appear to be listed by the enumerator along the Lens Lake Road and area.

27. Thomas Wakely.
28. James L. Fuller
29. George W. Baker
30. James Smith
31. Joseph E. Austin
32. James Ackley
33. Jacob Ormsby
34. Harris D. Ormsby
35. Joseph A. Fuller
36. Charles C. Thomasan
37. George Murray
38. Timothy White
39. Philemon Fuller
40. James H. Fuller

Of the 159 entries available for each farm, the following list indicates those categories where harvests are generally entered for the farms in Stony Creek, including those along Lens Lake Road. As I stated, although these items generally have entries for all Lens Lake vicinity farms, only a few actual entries are entered below for brevity. The list applicable this vicinity, shown without the statistics, is to point out the variety of routinely involved agricultural forms of agricultural production:

Improved land
(In order in this vicinity: Thomas Wakely - 100 ac., James L. Fuller - 35 ac., James Smith - 35 ac., Joseph E. Austin - 5 ac., James Ackley - 10 ac., Jacob Ormsby - 15 ac., Harris D. Ormsby - 3 ac., Joseph A. Fuller - 100 ac., Charles L. Thomson - 40 ac., George Murray - 30 ac., Timothy White - 25 ac., Philemon Fuller - 120 ac., James H. Fuller - 30 ac.)
Unimproved land - Total
In Wood and Timber Land
Cash Value Of Farms
(Few farms in Stony Creek had a cash value as high as $1,000, but several of these farms did have this value: Thomas Wakely - $2,000; James L. Fuller - $1,000; and George Murray - $1,000. George Murray was located at the southerly extreme of the residences along Lens Lake Road, on the opposite side from the lake. The Lens Lake area was a prosperous farm area of Stony Creek.)

Of Farm Buildings other than Dwellings
Of Stock
Of tools and Implements
Of gross sales from Farms in 1874
(A minority of farms have an entry for gross sales from farms in 1874, but several of those listed in order that would indicate that they are in the Lens lake Road vicinity do - Thomas Wakely, James L, Fuller, Joseph A. fuller, Charles C. Thomasan, George Murray, Philemon Fuller, and James H. Fuller.)

Acres Plowed In 1874
In 1875
Acres in Pasture 1874
Meadow Acres, 1874
Acres, 1875
Tons of Hay, 1875
Bushels of Grass Seed, 1874
Oats-Acres sown 1874
Bushels harvested 1874 (a minority have this entry)
Buckwheat -Acres sown 1874
Bushels harvested 1974
Indian corn - For the Grain - Acres planted - 1874
- 1875
Bushels harvested - 1874
Potatoes - Acres planted - 1874
Bushels harvested - 1874
Apples - No. of trees
Bushels of Fruit harvested in 1874
Pounds of Maple Sugar made in 1875 (a minority of farms harvested maple sugar)
Neat Cattle - Heifer Calves - Season of 1873 (0, 1, or 2 each year per farm)
- Season of 1874 (same)
- Season of 1875 (same)
Bulls of all ages (in the entire town, only Joseph A. Fuller and Francis H. Dean, whose prosperous farm is now a historic site, had bulls)
Working oxen and steers (2 on about half the farms)
Milch Cows - Average No. 1874
Total No. 1875
(Thomas Wakeley - 6, James L. Fuller - 2, George W. Baker -2, James Smith - 1, Joseph E. Austin - 0, James Ackley - 1, Jacob Ormsby 1, Harris D. Ormsby - 1, Joseph A. Fuller - 3, Charles C. Thomson - 2, George Murray - 4, Timothy White - 2, Philemon Fuller - 2, James H. Fuller - 2)

Cattle Killed for Beef 1874
(James L. Fuller and Joseph A. Fuller, Lens Lake Rd., were among only six farmers who killed cattle for beef in all of Stony Creek, accounting for 4 of the cattle slaughtered)
Butter - Pounds made by Families in 1874
Horses - Colts of 1874
Colts of 1875
Two years old and over, owned in 1875
Swine - Pigs of 1875
Season of 1874 and older
Number slaughtered 1874
(Very few on Lens Lake Road, but James L. Fuller and George Murray each slaughtered one)
Pounds of Pork, 1874
Sheep - Shorn in 1874
- 1875
Lambs raised in 1874
- in 1875
Pounds of wool - 1874
- 1875
Sheep slaughtered 1874
Poultry - value owned - 1875
Value sold - 1874
Value of eggs sold, 1874
Domestic Manufactures - 1874 - yards of fulled Cloth
yards of cotton and mixed cloths
Other Activities of Domestic Manufacturers



The closest of all the listed farms to Lens Lake, on the same side of the road, was that of Timothy White. Even this relatively small farm, compared to others in the area and in Stony Creek, demonstrates the extensive cultivation of the land and intensive production:

Timothy White Farm, Lens Lake Road, Statistics -1875 NYS Agricultural Census

Improved land - 25 acres
Unimproved land - Total - 40
In Wood and Timber Land - 40
Cash Value Of Farms - $550
Of Farm Buildings other than Dwellings - blank
Of Stock - 50
Of tools and Implements - blank
Of gross sales from Farms in 1874 - blank
Acres Plowed In 1874 - 5
In 1875 - 5
Acres in Pasture 1874 - 10
1875 - 10
Meadow Acres, 1874 - 10
Acres, 1875- 10
Tons of Hay, 1875 - 4
Oats-Acres sown 1874 - 3
1875 - 2
Bushels harvested 1874 - 21
Indian corn - For the Grain - Acres planted - 1874 - 1-2
- 1875 - 1-2
Bushels harvested - 1874
Potatoes - Acres planted - 1874 - 2
-1875 - 2
Bushels harvested - 1874 - 75
Apples - No. of trees (One of the few farmers with no apple trees)
Bushels of Fruit harvested in 1874
Pounds of Maple Sugar made in 1875 - 40
Gallons of Maple Molasses made in 1875 - 40 (One of only 5 farmers in Stony Creek producing maple molasses)
Neat Cattle - Heifer Calves - Season of 1873 - blank
- Season of 1874 - 1
- Season of 1875 - 1
Milch Cows - Average No. 1874 - 1
Total No. 1875 - 2
Butter - Pounds made by Families in 1874 - 100
Sheep - Shorn in 1874 - 3
- 1875 - 6
Lambs raised in 1874 - 2
- in 1875 -2
Pounds of wool - 1874 - 8
- 1875 - 10
Poultry - value owned - 1875 - $7
Domestic Manufactures - 1874 - yards of cotton and mixed cloths - 25

6. Next I present two sheets of paper comprising a partial copy of "Map of the Adirondack Forest and Adjoining Territory" by J. B. Koetteritz, C.E., by authority of the State Forest Commission, 1893. This copy was made by Pamela Vogel, custodian of records, Warren County, at the Warren County municipal center, while I observed her, on June 3, 2002, from a worn, full color printed map.

Like the Beers Atlas of 1876, the 1893 map clearly shows the patent lines in the area of Lens Lake, with certain information included that is omitted from Beers. Between the Beers Atlas and the patent outlines on this map excerpt, the patent areas noted on the assessment records that I cited in the area of Lens Lake Road can be verified to be in that area, if cross examination of my statements is desired to verify that the properties are where I claim.

In addition, this map contains important information about the extent of Lens Lake before the dam was built at the outlet to the north to a brook flowing toward the stream known as Roaring Branch, then into that known as Stony Creek, and then into the Hudson River. On the map it is clear that Lens Lake is much smaller than at the present time. Lens Lake was basically a small roundish lake, instead of the oblong lake of today. The dry land separation from Livingston Lake to the south was at least four times the length of Lens Lake. Livingston Lake can be seen to flow to the south. There is no Middle Flow at all linking much of the distance to Lens Lake in Stony Creek as at the present time. Instead Livingston Lake, greatly separated from Lens Lake, flows toward the Sacandaga River, which meets the Hudson about ten miles south of where Stony Creek enters the Hudson.

The hydrology of the area of Lens Lake and Livingston Lake is quite different on the 1893 map from that at the present time. Lens Lake was a fraction of its present size, its outlet at the northeast corner, as opposed to the present extent of the lake to a distance north of the outlet that is greater than that to the south. This makes the outlet a little south of the middle of the easterly long side of the lake. In addition, at its south end, Lens Lake comes closer to the highway than in the past. Neither the swampy area partially bridging Lens Lake and Livingston Lake nor the extensively flooded Middle between Lens Lake and Livingston Lake existed.

7 & 8. To make these comparisons clear, I submit the 1954 U.S. Geological Survey map of the Harrisburg, N.Y. quadrangle, where Lens Lake, Livingston Lake, and Middle Flow all appear. This is an original map that I purchased about two to three decades ago from the USGS. I also present a copy of the USGS Harrisburg quadrangle Edition of 1910 certified by the acting director in 1984. On this map Lens Lake has the same length as in 1954 but the width is apparently greater. The dam is in the same location as in 1954.

The maps show the change in Lens Lake and the vicinity between the late part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, with the enlargement of Lens Lake caused by the dam. Lens Lake remains a much larger lake in 1954 than in the late nineteenth century and remains that approximate size today. The difference in the configuration and hydrology of the lakes and the obvious flooding of surrounding area resulting from the damming of Lens Lake are readily apparent. It is not necessary to even measure the height of the dam at the outflow to see the impact, because it is shown in black and white on maps already prepared.

However, the dam has a valve at the bottom of the structure by which Lens Lake can be drained to a level of the elevation of the natural outflow to the stream. At any time, if human hands turn that valve and it is left open long enough, the lake will be restored to a much-disturbed natural state, natural at least with respect to a shoreline far from that at present.

In any case, historic records show the extensive, intensive agriculture that altered the landscape of Lens Lake's environs over 125 years ago. The next disturbance was the flooding of the natural shores of Lens Lake about 100 years ago, creating a lake about four times larger, and helping to create flooding of areas to the south that are not directly navigable from Lens Lake.

Efforts to maintain this new landscape without allowing additional dwellings or substantial clearing of the shoreline can hardly be characterized as preserving the area of Lens Lake in its natural state, because the natural state is gone and in its place is a landscape that is the result of great human interference.


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