Mount Rafinesque (Bald Mountain)
Mount Rafinesque has not ever been part of Lansingburgh, though the westernmost part of it had been part of the Patent of Stone Arabia and Mount Rafinesque had been frequently visited by people from Lansingburgh. As noted in Warren Broderick’s article, quoted and linked below, it had at times been called Lansingburgh Mountain and was given the name Mount Rafinesque on the suggestion of Alexander Walsh of Lansingburgh.
While in the area, [Constantine] Rafinesque visited Alexander Walsh (1783-1849), a prominent horticulturist who resided in Lansingburgh. Rafinesque stayed with him for a few days and “went to visit many remarkable places” near Lansingburgh. Rafinesque also met the Rev. Elijah Wiley, the minister of the local Baptist Church, who led the naturalist on a hike to the local landmark a few miles to the east, then known as Bald Mountain. Despite its prominence, the mountain had never been given a formal name; it was known at various times as Lansingburgh Mountain, Mount Washington, or more frequently Bald Mountain. Rafinesque later recalled his visit in A Life of Travels and Researches in North America:
“I ascended the Bald mt. 4 miles east of [Lansingburgh], which is not on the maps altho’ 1030 feet high; I surveyed it, and explored the plants and minerals of it. As there are many mts. of that name, Mr. W. proposed to change it to Mt. Rafinesque. It is an insulated mt. wild and wooded except on the summit. It is primitive and transitive like the mts. Taconick in the neighborhood. It is visible afar, and is 10 or 12 miles in circuit.”
From this time forward, the peak would be known as Mount Rafinesque, in honor of its distinguished visitor. On August 10, the Editor of the Waterford Atlas led the first expedition to the newly named summit, until then taken for granted by its neighbors but now given celebrity status by the colorful and distinguished scientist from Philadelphia. The editor of the Atlas and his companions, noted his paper, experienced the “most awfully grand and sublime…sight” they had ever witnessed. It urged “every soul of suitable years…male and female…to make the experiment of this grand ascension” of the mountain. “Go simply attired, and the most delicate will be able to surmount every obstacle, and reach the summit in safety.” Other expeditions, led by persons in Lansingburgh and Waterford, followed that summer and autumn. The Atlas commented that it “highly approved” renaming the local landmark as a “deserved compliment to the distinguished naturalist, Professor Rafinesque, who first directed public attention to it.”
Broderick, Warren F. “A Mountain With an Unusual Name.” Hudson River Valley Review 21(2). Spring 2005. 32-39. http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/review/pdfs/hrvr21pt2.pdf
☞ LANSINGBURGH.—It is stated that W. H. Howard is negotiating for the purchase of Mount Rafenesque (Bald Mountain,) and will make arrangements for the accommodation of tourists and excursionists during next Summer.
Troy Daily Times. January 4, 1866: 3 col 4.
[…] A party of ‘burgh business men, with their families, are arranged for a vacation to be passed in camping out on Bald mountain.
Troy Daily Times. July 2, 1887: 2 col 4.
Lansingburgh, with a population of about 10,000, has its water supply in the hills above it. The typhoid rate during past five years has been about 5 per 10,000 living. […]
Lansingburgh has had introduced a bill in the present Legislature granting the city increased facilities for impounding or collecting water from the streams upon the watershed of Mount Rafinesque.
Featherstonhaugh, James D. “Our Water Supply, and That of Our Neighbors.” Albany Medical Annals 20(8). August 1899.
431, 433. https://books.google.com/books?id=BzZYAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA431
The College also owns a 62-acre parcel of land known as the Bald Mountain site in the Town of Brunswick, Rensselaer County, with the option to construct a small building for educational purposes.
“Hudson Valley Community College 2009-2013 Facilities Master Plan.” 6. http://www.hvcc.edu/phyplant/masterplan/2.pdf
Kelly, Christina. “Rudy Helmo, Expressionist artist of Rensselaer County.” History of the Town of Schaghticoke. September 15, 2015. Blog. https://schaghticokehistory.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/rudy-helmo-expressionist-artist-of-rensselaer-county/
“Hudson River Bridge near Waterford, New York [Mount Rafinesque]” painting by John William Hill 1832.
“View of Cohoes [Mount Rafinesque]” painting by William Guy Wall ca. 1850.