4409′ | Height Order 21st
Hough, which edges out neighboring Macomb for the honor of second highest summit in the in the magnificent Dix Range, is another mountain with a fine story to tell.
One of the “little Dixes,” Hough is one of the original trailless group; accessed today by herd paths from Elk Lake, Dix, and the Bouquet River Valley. Sandwiched in the middle of the Range, you will likely reach the mountain by traversing from a neighboring peak, although there is a route you could follow directly to the summit up Lillian Brook (also a welcome bailout on a wintery day).
The view from this peak has changed remarkably since the Marshalls climbed it in 1921. Back then the view was marred by lumbering waste and scorched wilderness. Today, surrounded by the summits of the Dix range and looking out toward Marcy and the Great Range, Nippletop and Dial, Noonmark, Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge and south to the breathtaking Elk Lake region, the view is far more appealing. Grace’s friend Jim Poulette (#2729), in his climbing memoire Into the Adirondacks, described the view as hypnotic!
The region was the focus of intense lumbering in the late 19th Century and the area north of the summit, the rugged Bouquet River Valley was besieged by the wildfires that tore through the Adirondacks in the early 20th Century. Trails to the summits of Dix and Macomb date back to the late 1800s but the 3 more remote summits were devoid of trails and were unexplored until the early 20th Century.
Russ Carson assigned first ascent honors to the Marshalls and Herb Clark who climbed the Dix Range in an epic one-day tramp on June 13, 1921. It is a classic Adirondack tale of adventure. Bob, George and Herb left Elk Lake early and had to find their way through a maze of lumbering trails and the devastation caused by lumbering and forest fire. As Russ tells the story in Peaks and People, their course that day would ascend 7,800 feet, descend 8,400 feet, and cover more than 30 miles, 20 of that without trail. After climbing Macomb, they traversed South Dix to Grace Peak, descended into the scorched Bouquet River Valley, ascended Hough; a rigamarole of a random scoot if there ever was one! Descending Hough along a course best described as a 1,500-foot precipice they headed for the namesake of the range, stopping briefly there at 7:00 PM for lunch. Yes, lunch! They continued northward from Dix, destined for Keene Valley. Without headlamps, they navigated the rugged North Bouquet Valley by moonlight and continued into the col between Noonmark and Round, feeling their way along down the steep gullied path when the moon was swallowed up by the clouds. When they finally reached their destination in Keene Valley, Hale Cottage, Mrs. Hale kindly provided a warm supper, making a fine end to a long and arduous struggle and the three were lulled to sleep by the patter of a most pleasant rain. It’s the stuff of legends!
Despite his careful and diligent research, Carson’s crediting the Marshalls and Clark with the first ascent of Hough was likely erroneous, although Carson could not have known of the error at the time. Shortly after Peaks and People was published in 1928, a fella wrote Russ letting him know that he had mistakenly climbed South Dix some years before the Marshalls, confused by the maze of lumbering paths and intending to summit Dix, a claim George Marshall agreed was likely correct. Carson’s tapping the Marshalls for that first ascent was incorrect. Tracing history can be a bit like climbing a trailless peak; when forging a route you look for the best course and you never know what you may find around the next turn. So too with history you dig and research until you think you have the answer, but no research is ever absolute and exhaustive.
And it just so happened recently that we had one of those discoveries as we were writing this sketch. While at Cornell University examining a collection of photographs in the Rare and Manuscripts Collection, we came upon a group of photographs from 1919 taken by Robert S. Wickham, whose privately published and lesser-known Friendly Adirondack Peaks followed Bob Marshall’s High Peaks of the Adirondacks in 1924. The photos, carefully mounted in crumbling albums with handwritten descriptions, include a series of photographs of Dix and the surrounding area from “the ridge between Macomb and Dix.” The vantage point of that ridge is Hough, bringing first ascent credit into question. Were the Marshalls first? Was Wickham? Was it someone else perhaps?
Hough’s history is in these modest intrigues, all part of the cultural history that makes the Adirondacks truly unique. And apart from the intrigue of whose feet reached the summit first, the intrigue surrounding the naming of the mountain may be the most interesting and significant part of its history. The naming of the summit has taken a few twists and turns, much like the herdpaths climbers follow to its summit.
The first name for this bump was offered by Verplank Colvin, who called the peak “Cone” on various unpublished sketches and maps, drawing upon its distinct cone-like shape. But Colvin’s appellation never took root and the summit went without a formal name until various ideas circulated in the late 1920’s and 1930s, more than fifty years later.
When the Marshalls and Clark climbed it in 1921 and published High Peaks of the Adirondacks they identified the mountain by its location within the range . . . “Middle Dix.” They did the same for “South Dix” and what is now Grace Peak which they called “East Dix.” A few years later Russ Carson published Peaks and People of the Adirondacks and in the section devoted to “Middle Dix” proposed that the mountain honor the Marshalls, a suggestion Bob and George opposed. Nevertheless, the name Marshall became common usage among the then small community climbing the high peaks in the 30’s, dominated by the intrepid 46rs of Troy, who considered Peaks and People a climbing bible. The name Marshall was so commonly accepted that it even appeared on some early Conservation Department maps. But an officially sanctioned name it lacked, as did several other summits, and the Troy 46rs decided to do something to remedy that.
In about 1940 Grace lead the 46rs of Troy in a petition to confirm some of the summit names that had not been given government approval, including Carson’s suggestion of Marshall for the middle Dix. But unknown to Grace and her Troy climbing friends, and the public generally for that matter, the State Conservation Department had quietly and unceremoniously slipped a petition before the State and Federal Boards of Geographic Names to honor Dr. Franklin B. Hough, naming the peak for him in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the forming of the NY State Forest Preserve, an effort in which Hough played a major part. Voila it had clandestinely become Hough in 1937 and no one knew, forcing Grace and the Troy petitioners to amend their petition, switching their proposal for a Mount Marshall from the middle Dix summit to the southernmost peak in the MacIntye Range. History is uncovered much like a herdpath and history often evolve much the same way. When you encounter an obstruction you go around it and find another way to your goal!
There was some grumbling about naming a mountain after Hough. He was not a climber. But as an historic figure in New York, Hough was certainly on par with the other men whose names had been memorialized in the high peaks before 1937, and unlike many of the men who were memorialized in the high peaks, Hough at least had a connection to the region. The lush wild forest we enjoy when visiting the high peaks today we owe in a very real sense to Hough’s forest advocacy. And apart from his impressive curriculum vitae and role in the creation of the State Forest Preserve, he was a native of the region, born just outside the bootprint of the Forest Preserve he helped create, a distinction he shares with only three other persons whose names are affixed to the high summits today: Esther (Esther McComb, believed to be folk tale rather than a real person), Grace Peak (Grace Hudowalski – a native of Ticonderoga, Minerva and Schroon Lake) and possibly Armstrong (honoring Thomas Armstrong – an early AuSable Lakes property owner from Plattsburgh).
Despite the initial rumblings, any disagreement with the Conservation Department’s secretive action in naming a mountain without public input evaporated after Grace penned a biography of Hough published in the 1942 ADK High Spots Yearbook. Armed with first and secondhand knowledge of much of the naming affair, Grace told the story of the name change and endorsed the decision to honor Dr. Hough for his many and varied accomplishments and contributions.
A Major Peak Gets A New Name
The high, slender pinnacle to the south of Dix Mountain has a new name—Hough Peak!
To most of us this comes as a surprise for we have been calling this mountain “Marshall”—after Bob and George who first ascended it—for years. The name “Middle Dix” was also applied to the peak.
Culminating the 50 Years of Conservation Celebration in New York State in 1935, the Conservation Department petitioned the State Board of Geographic Names that this mountain be named “Hough” to honor Dr. Franklin B. Hough (pronounced Huff), rightly called “the Father of American Forestry.”
While it is unfortunate that this particular mountain was chosen to bear Dr. Hough’s name, there is no doubt but that he was a great man in many fields of endeavor, and especially was he outstanding in forest preservation. Surely his tireless efforts and notable results entitle him to a forest monument!
In 1837 when William C. Redfield and Ebenezer Emmons were making plans for their historic ascent on August 5 of the High Peak of Essex, a fifteen year old country boy was wandering around the woods in Lewis County collecting different kinds of pebbles and wondering what had worn out the great valleys. Little did he or any other person realize that from his observations that day, would grow the life passion that consumed him even beyond his fondest hope to become a great doctor.
Franklin B. Hough was born on July 22, 1822, in Martinsburg, Lewis County, New York. He was the son of Dr. Horatio G. Hough, the first physician to settle in the country.
Hough was a brilliant boy. When he was only seven, his father went to New Haven to spend several weeks in a futile attempt to regain his health. Young Franklin was with him and while there became familiar with the “American Journal of Arts and Sciences,” a quarterly publication to which his father subscribed and for which he had written articles. To quote from Hough’s notes: “I diligently read most of these numbers and although there was much I did not understand . . .” At any rate they sent him scurrying to find college catalogues, early leading him to seek for higher education.
In 1840 Franklin B. Hough entered Union College [Schenectady, NY] with advanced standing. The five subjects that he took employed so much of his time that he did not have all the time he wished to collect flowers and stones; however, the following year, he had managed to arrange his studies so well that much of his time was spent rambling around the countryside.
For the most part Hough was a solitary in college. He had no comrades and no social life. He himself wrote in crypt autobiographical notes: “(I have) none of the ‘Alma Mater’ feeling. Paid for what I got . . . School day habits—no time to scuffle and play. Would be half way home before rest had started. It has been my habit for life if I had anything to do—do it, and then something else. I had the reputation of being lazy.”
While Hough might be classed as unsocial, he was certainly not lazy. He collected a herbarium of some four or five thousand specimens, made exhaustive journeys to collect minerals . . .Years later, as a result, his efforts were rewarded with the naming of a certain mineral “houghite”.
Hough graduated from Union in 1843, according to Pearson’s Diary, “as rough and uncouth a boy as ever shows himself inside college walls.” The criticism of him, though harsh, did in no way explain the inner workings of the youth who was just twenty-one. Life for him was just beginning and his associates knew nothing of the dreams and visions that filled him.
Before going on to further training he taught school for a year and then became principal of Gustavus Academy in Ohio. For the three year period between 1943-46 his diaries give evidence of his ambition and unfathomable tirelessness. His interests were varied ranging from making electrical apparatus, computing a lunar eclipse, taking plaster casts of fossils, starting composing a chart of poisons and their remedies, to voting the Whig ticket for the first time.
In 1846, with the decision to become a physician, he entered Western Reserve Medical College, and two years later, after receiving his M.D. degree, he returned to New York State to practice medicine in Somerville [St. Lawrence County]. He had a dream to finish his medical degree in Paris, but before this could materialize he became so interested in other fields that medicine became a minor pursuit, although he never wholly lost his identity with the profession.
With his life in Somerville. Hough became engrossed in historical research, spending much time visiting ore beds, Indian ruins, and checking on history and family life in and around Lewis County. His diaries for these years show vivid word pictures of the colorful life he led, the vast amount of reading and writing he did, and the healing of the sick in his community.
His statistical bent of mind led him to be chosen as director of the New York State census in 1854. Of this Edna L. Jacobson, Head of the Manuscript and History Section in the New York State Library, writes in her article, “Franklin B. Hough, Pioneer in Scientific Forestry in America” in New York State Historical Association, Vol XXXII, 1934 (New York History, Vol XV, 1934), that for the first time this census was modeled after the Federal census to include agriculture and industrial statistics. This and similar labors in connection with the census may seem far afield from the subject of forestry but his own testimony says they were a direct cause toward the development of his major interest in the last fifteen years of his life. “In comparing and tabulating upon graphic charts the statistics of distribution and amount of lumber product as shown in the census of 1855 and 1865, I had noticed a great falling off in some regions indicating an exhausting of supplies, and an increase in others showing that new fields had been opened. It did not take much reasoning to reach the inquiry” How long will these other supplies last, and what next?”
While he admitted that he knew little of the subject of forestry when he started to talk and write about it, his work in various fields of science together with a “biographical mind” equipped him in a rare degree to grapple the new problem of how to conserve the timber supply in his own state and throughout the country. He had pondered the influences of meteorological science upon vegetable and animal life. He had observed the effect of the drying up of swamps on the mortality rate among the St. Regis Indians. In studying history of his own and neighboring counties, he had noted the activities of lumbermen and sawmill operators, of mining and tanning companies, and the effect of settlement. He had witnessed the process by which supposedly worthless denuded lands reverted to the state through the failure of owners to pay taxes, to be sold to railroad companies for 5 [cents] an acre. A lover of the woods, he had roamed them from childhood, and had a full appreciation of their value in developing and preserving healthy bodies and tranquil minds. He saw in a science of forestry an application of principles of various branches of science.
Franklin Hough’s full attention was drawn to the idea of forest preservation in 1872 when, as a memorial of the citizens of New York State, Thomas G. Alvord introduced an act in the Assembly which resulted in the formation of a State Park Commission. Russel M. L. Carson in his second installment on “The Adirondack Forest Preserve” printed in High Spots (periodic newsletter of Adirondack Mountain Club), January 1935, gives a very comprehensive picture of conditions and explains the content of the act.
Together with Verplanck Colvin who was shortly to be appointed superintendent of the new Topographical Survey of the Adirondack Wilderness of New York, and five other men, Franklin B. Hough was put on the Commission. The report which these men made suggested that the Adirondacks be preserved and gave as their reasons: 1) it was a measure of political economy since the forests are a source of wealth to the State, and 2) for social and moral reasons; the State should retain title of these lands because of danger of fire (barkless timber left to rot having served the tanner’s purpose); conservation of water supply for Erie Canal and various manufactories; danger of floods; health – moderating temperature and preventing choleric conditions; and recreational purposes.
Previously Colvin had introduced the word “Park” as the name for his work. With the statement that our forests were being denuded and flood conditions might result, the idea of a park created a false impression, and people felt that the creation of this “Adirondack Park” meant a playground for the rich or people of leisure. Unfortunately the matter was defeated, but the seed had been sown, and Colvin went about his survey, and Hough went off to Washington to accept the post of Forest Agent in the Department of Agriculture.
Hough made exhaustive surveys of forest conditions in the States and on the continent. He was a prolific writer of some 78 publications including government reports and bulletins of history, meteorology, climatology, education, law and civil records, as well as editing colonial documents and a magazine. While his reports were full of every detail, only sections of them were ever printed due to lack of appropriation in the Government. Through his work in forest preservation he was considered a “denudatic,” and his efforts were more appreciated by foreign countries who were far ahead of America in ideals and methods of forest preservation, than by most persons in the States.
Nevertheless Hough’s last service was to his native New York State. In the winter of 1884-85 he was called from Washington to frame a bill for the preservation of the Adirondacks. On May 15, 1885, the Forest Commission Act, creating Adirondack and Catskill preserves, came into being. However, while working on this bill, Dr. Hough contracted pneumonia, the first serious illness of his life, and less than a month after the bill had passed, he died.
Franklin Hough had done his work well. His keen statistical mind, his interest in botany and minerals, his medical profession, had worked together with his love for the out-of-doors toward making him the “Father of American Forestry.” Likewise his indefatigable efforts had made him a pioneer for public consciousness for the perpetuation of our forest lands. While his work was for the most part educational, it was well founded and carefully executed.Grace L. Hudowalski
Look to the Mountain
When you next stand on Giant-of-the-Valley, look to the south of high Dix and notice the sharp pointed cone to the left. Or, when you have pushed your way to the top of trailless McComb, just to the north, so close that you can almost touch it, drink in the symmetrical beauty of the mountain that comes to the shoulder of high Dix; or, from Tahawas lofty summit—if you are fortunate enough to be out of the clouds—look past the horn on Dix and view the summit to the southwest.
To the west its scooped-out rocks form a basin that acts as a shield from storms and winds. To north and south a series of ledges—steep, rocky and covered with “cripplebrush” and loose stones form circular sides to the basin. To the east a luxuriant forest marches triumphant from base to crest.
This mountain, that stands untrailed, four thousand four hundred and four feet above sea level is “Hough Peak.”