Under An Adirondack Influence
The Life of A. L. Byron-Curtiss
By William J. O'Hern and Roy E. Reehil
352 pages - 6 x 9
Over 60 Vintage Photographs
Includes an Index and Bibliography
Signed Hard cover
Signed Paperback $21.95
Here's an excerpt from the book about Nat
Foster, the Adirondack rifleman who Byron-Curtiss (AKA B-C) wrote a
biography about in 1897:
In June of 1894, a copy of Jeptha R. Simms’s Trappers and Hunters of Northern New York fell into B-C’s hands. It contained a biographical sketch of Nathaniel Foster. The account, he said, ignited within him “the flame of interest in the fabulous prowess of the old hunter that had been smoldering since the days of his youth when he had known Aaron Foster, a nephew of old Nat.” Byron-Curtiss began jotting down the oral histories and first-hand accounts he heard about Foster with the idea of organizing them into a book.
He visited and interviewed many sources: Aaron Foster, Jemima and Daniel Edgerton, Thelma Edgerton, as well as other relatives of Foster who lived near the original family farm in Salisbury, N.Y.
Aaron Foster told a variety of tales about the “six-foot giant of the wilderness”: “Uncle Nat could load and fire his special, muzzle-loading rifle six times in a minute . . . he was such a dead-shot that he could place a bullet anywhere he wanted . . . .”
He learned from Aaron how Nat Foster had bagged seventy-six deer and twenty-five wolves in one year and ninety-six bear in three seasons. There was a story about an incident at the end of the War of 1812, when a Captain Forsyth had offered Nat thirty dollars a month to join his riflemen, but Foster had refused the offer. Here is how one of the first-hand accounts developed, following an interview with Foster’s youngest brother, Shubael. The story of the “special, muzzle-loading rifle” went something like this:
A company of riflemen from South Carolina, commanded by Captain Forsyth, passed through the town of Salisbury, near Diamond Hill, two miles north of Salisbury Corners. The troops were on their way from the Mohawk Valley to the military lines between New York and Canada. They encamped at Manheim over one day for the purpose of washing their clothes. The celebrity of Foster as a rapid shooter and accurate marksman came to the ears of Captain Forsyth, and he sent for Foster and questioned him in regard to his ability to fulfill all the extraordinary stories told by his friends about him. Foster did not have much to say, merely telling the captain that he would wager that he could “put more balls into the bigness of a man in the space of one minute than any one in his command.” Now, Captain Forsyth had in his company a most expert and rapid rifleman named Robinson, and so he immediately took Foster at his word and arranged to have him pitted against his crack marksman. The terms of the wager were agreed upon and the manner of the test settled. They were to shoot six times at targets ten rods away, each beginning with unloaded rifle at the same time. They took their places, with the company drawn up in line to witness, as they supposed the defeat of the lank and uncouth trapper. Foster had his six well pared rifle balls between his fingers, which were unobserved.
The signal was given and they began. Foster made things hum for a minute, while he poured the powder from his horn into the gun, mysteriously spread his fingers over the muzzle of his rifle, knocked the butt gently on the palm of his hand, and blazed away at his target, always putting a ball there, though where it came from none could imagine. He put the sixth ball in his target, having made a little circle of six holes in the piece of bark, while Robinson was still fumbling in his bullet pouch for his fourth bullet. A murmur of applause ran through the ranks, and Foster was at once a lion in the camp. Captain Forsyth was greatly surprised at finding so skillful and rapid a marksman on the frontier of New York, and anxious to secure his service, he offered him thirty dollars a month to join his company with the complimentary assurance that he might eat at his table. But as the war was regarded as nearly over, and Foster in common with many men of the interior, did not approve of the war anyway, he declined the offer.
The excitement of sharing such spectacular accounts made the project a labor of love that never failed to remind Byron-Curtiss of his beloved woodland mission whenever he found the time to work on it.
Printed on Forest Stewardship Council certified 30% post-consumer
recycled paper as part of the Green Press
A. L. Byron-Curtiss was in many ways an Everyman,
displaying good traits and bad. Perhaps more than in most of us, though, those traits
stood out like the contrasting colors on an Adirondack autumn hillside. Authors William J.
O'Hern and Roy Reehil tell the sometimes rollicking, sometimes poignant life story of this
man of the cloth who loved the backwoods of the Black River headwaters and came to know
them as well as anyone.
--Neal Burdick, Adirondack editor and writer