CHATEAUGAY — Adirondack Almanack writer Gary Peacock’s kayak slides through the chilled waters of the Raquette River.
His mind is wandering. Away from the whispery splashes kicked up by his paddle.
“Anything I can do to learn more about the Adirondacks — the history of the Adirondacks, especially … it gives me a whole lot more enjoyment when I go out and kayak and camp,” Peacock said.
Peacock knows he’s gaining toward the old Philosophers Camp. Grounds that used to breed ideas of poetic and scientific genius in 1858. Emerson. Lowell. Agassiz.
Peacock drinks in the scenery the Adirondacks have to offer him. Peacock says while its beauty guides him through his daydreams, he often wonders of the undiscovered secrets the Adirondacks hold.
This was his mindset while researching the long-running murder mystery of Franklin County. The 1903 unsolved murder of a man, in Waverly. It resulted in a story published Oct. 29 in the Almanack.
Orrando Dexter, a wealthy lawyer who moved to the area in the late 1800s, was gunned down in the afternoon on Sept. 19. His assailant’s identity is unknown.
A curiosity in what Franklin County’s wilderness has to offer has been with Peacock since youth. Peacock was raised in Chateaugay. His father enjoyed camping and a young Gary would take rides with him through the Adirondacks in their travel trailer.
“I got hooked on the Adirondacks at a pretty young age,” Peacock said.
This interest in the wilderness eventually helped guide him to enroll in Plattsburgh State University. He had retired from his Plattsburgh record store after 25 years and earned a degree in Adirondack History. Peacock scoured the special collections at his campus’ main library. He was looking for anything concerning Adirondack life. Soon, through an independent study program, Peacock would learn of Orrando Dexter’s time in Franklin County.
“It was when I was studying the Adirondack history, that I kind of came across this story and a bunch of other stories that I pursued,” Peacock said.
Dexter, who had bought almost 10,000 acres surrounding East Branch Pond, hadn’t been on good terms with his surrounding neighbors, up to the day he was shot. Picked off while riding into Santa Clara to collect his mail.
The most interesting thing he found about this case, Peacock said, was “the back and forth warfare” Dexter had with local lumber baron, Joe Alfred, leading up to Dexter’s death. Alfred would break open nearby dams and flood Dexter’s property. Dexter would retaliate by obstructing lumber transport routes in the area.
“One guy would poke the other one in the eye and the other one would hit him (back),” Peacock said.
Prior to Dexter buying his property, Alfred and other nearby residents were using the area as a shortcut — as well as a hunting, trapping or logging zone. To deter this from happening, once he bought the land, Dexter began posting signs and fencing around his property.
“That’s what pissed everybody off, locally,” Peacock said.
“Everybody hated this guy. Without exception. And he hated everybody in the North Country.”
Like this historical piece on the murder at Dexter Lake, Peacock is currently in the process of writing a series for the Adirondack Almanack which he plans to end at around 15 articles.
“Each one is about a particular place, but also a lot of human interest about that particular place,” Peacock said.
You can read Peacock’s story here: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2020/10/dexter-murder.html