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
“The Batestown and Ball Mountain Railroad.” Lansingburgh Gazette. October 21, 1851: 2 cols 3-4.
MOUNT RAFENESQUE, Bald mountain or what. We cannot find, on examination, that down to 1824, any particular name other than the “Lansingburgh Mountain,” had been given to this rocky prominence. In the second edition of his Gazetteer published in that year, Mr. Spafford asks, in speaking of this locality, “who will describe to me this range and give it a better name than the ‘Lansingburgh Mountain?'”
Lansingburgh Semi-Weekly Chronicle. September 21, 1864: 3 col 2.
☞ 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 Visit to Bald Mountain.” Lansingburgh Weekly Chronicle. September 19, 1866: 1 col 5.
Yesterday afternoon the woods on the farm of Calvin Hayner on Bald mountain near Lansingburgh, were discovered to be on fire. It caught in the pines, and, as the wind was blowing briskly at the time, it gained considerable headway before the discovery. The trees were dry and caught readily, and it was feared that not only all the woods on the mountain, but many buildings in the vicinity, would be destroyed. The farmers turned out in full force, and were engaged fighting the flames all the afternoon and evening. The barn of Jacob Hayner was threatened at one time, but was saved by considerable effort. The United States coast survey pole, erected some time ago, was burned down. The turf was very dry, and the fire spread rapidly through it in many places unnoticed, until it burst out in a blaze in some new locality. It is supposed the woods became ignited from the burning turf, the flames starting at the railroad track or in the vicinity. The fire is still burning, but the extent of the damage is unknown. At an early hour last evening it made a very bright light, and was plainly discernible from this city. During the afternoon a fire caught in the woods near the north end of Lansingburgh. This was extinguished, however, before any damage had been done.
Troy Weekly Times. August 17, 1876: 3 col 2.
[The “United States coast survey pole” might have been placed for the map published in 1877 which does include Mount Rafinesque:
“Primary Triangulation Between the Hudson and St. Croix Rivers.” U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Coast Survey. https://historicalcharts.noaa.gov/historicals/preview/image/AR03-00-1877 ]
—William Howard, of Bald Mountain fame, has become a Lansingburgher. He occupies the old Lansing house in the Fourth ward, and is engaged in the milk trade.
“Personal.” Lansingburgh Gazette. April 3, 1880: 3 col 4.
—Lewis Dormandy, who resides on Bald mountain, set out Thursday afternoon with his wife and babe to come to this village. In descending the hill a short distance from his house the sleigh was upset and all the occupants thrown out. Mr. Dormandy, to prevent himself from falling upon his wife and child, sprang forward as the vehicle went over and landed on the ground a few feet in advance of his companions. At the same moment the horse fell heavily on Mr. Dormandy, crushing his collar bone and seriously injuring him internally.
“Casualties.” Lansingburgh Courier. March 8, 1884: 3 col 2.
[…] 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.
—George Dormandy was thrown from a load of lumber on Bald Mountain Wednesday and had his right foot badly crushed. Dr. Magee attended.
“Personal.” Lansingburgh Courier. August 11, 1888: 3 col 3.
—The Cestus Tennis club will hold a picnic Saturday. Bald mountain will be the destination of the party.
“Local News and Seasonable Jottings.” Lansingburgh Courier. July 13, 1893: 3 col 1.
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.