I have always felt a strong tie to The Tug that keeps calling me back. My Dad and Mom were both born there, operated a dairy farm for 50 years or so, and raised a large family. Eleven of us grew up there; working on the farm, rambling the forests, fields, and backroads; fishing, hunting, exploring, picking berries. Not a bad life.
Now that I am retired and have the time, I don’t get back much; it’s dangerous to be out there alone where the cell phone doesn’t work-a few trips in Summer and a couple of hunting trips with my bros in the Fall. I just spent a few days in Montague, doing some painting and fixin’ on the camp, and wandering around. I love to travel the old roads with my camera, remembering the farms and homes and stores and people that once were-all gone now. All those hardy immigrants who took their turn in trying to tame The Tug: Irish, Polish, Hungarians. Most of the farmland has gone back to forest, and it is hard to tell where the homes were unless you know what to look for. Most everyone had a few huge maple trees in the yard, and they are still there. There is probably the remains of a cellar nearby. Now there are more and more summer homes and hunting camps, with some great new neighbors, most of whom know little about the history of the region and people. People like Charlie Kempa, who was attacked by a lynx and killed it with his ax. Or Amby Williams, who almost hosted a Woodstock concert on the Tug. Or George “The Runner” Jacunski. And the snowmobilers and ATVers ride the roads at high speeds, unaware that here where a sports bar now sits was once a thriving village of over 300 people-even a broom factory- and former home of “Running George”. Just to the south was the beginning of the Glenfield & Western Railroad, over its icy tracks moved thousands of Tug Hill logs to the mills in the valley below. This little creek, nearly every little creek, powered a cheese factory or sawmill or both. And nearly every intersection boasted a church, schoolhouse, grange, or general store to serve the many farms. All gone now, but for some of the cemeteries. Nothing but memories. Here at Mud Creek we fished for trout. Near the former Pat Vaugh farm we chased a nice buck out for my dad on Thanksgiving morning. Here on Pitcher Road the whole family went picking huckleberries on summer sundays. There lived Mrs Nefsey, who had the only phone in the neighborhood, and gladly shared it, in exchange for some local gossip. It was a harder but friendlier time then. Memories.
For those who may be interested in history of Tug Hill, Harold E. Samson wrote 2 very good books. “Tug Hill Country” Tales from the Big Woods, and “The Other Side of the Hill”, which covered our east and north side. I believe both have been reprinted recently in paperback. I knew many of the people he tells about, and some of the stories were local legend. John Golden’s “Northern Drift” has some good stories on Tug Hill people, and Louis Mihalyi of Glenfield did a couple of “Nature, Nurture, and Nostalgia” books with the best from his Black River Journal in the Watertown Times. And last year, I found on ebay a copy of the “History of the Town of Harrisburg”. Great reading. Maybe someday I will do one. There aren’t a million stories out there, but quite a few. Some good ones.
For those not familiar with Montague, here is some interesting reading: