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A Place Called Arietta

Couple sings praises of Piseco, Arietta

July 27, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

When Cynthia Adcock purchased a historic postcard of Piseco Lake for 25-cents in 1993, she had no idea it would lead to a published book.

Cynthia married Frederick Adcock in 1993, who had been coming to Piseco Lake summers "since I was three months old."

"We honeymooned in the northeast and took the ferry from Vermont to Ticonderoga, spending our last two nights at the Ox Bow Inn," Frederick Adcock said. "In 1993 we bought our camp in Piseco Lake and one rainy day we were shopping in Wells and saw a historic postcard of Piseco and bought it."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen
Cynthia Adcock looks through historic postcards of Arietta while her husband, Frederick, points out a historic picture in their book about the area’s history at their camp in Piseco Thursday.

Cynthia Adcock kept collecting historic postcards of the area since then. Although she said the book, "Images of America: Piseco Lake and Arietta" took two years to put together and get published, she said she'd been collecting material for it for 15 years.

"I have [more than] 400 postcards of Piseco Lake and Arietta," Cynthia Adcock said.

The Adcocks are public school teachers in the Buffalo area, but spend their summers in Piseco. They are both members of the historic society there, Frederick as a trustee and Cynthia as treasurer. They first wrote "Piseco Lake: A Brief History," as a 12-page booklet to hand out to museum visitors. Much of that became the introduction to their book, already in its second printing.

Piseco Lake was named by surveyor Joshua Brown in the early 1800s for a St. Regis Native American who lived on the west shore of the lake, "Pezeeko," which, according to the book, comes from an old Native word "pisco," meaning fish.

"Arcadia Publishing printed a run of 1,200 books in the first printing," Frederick Adcock said. "Charlie Johns in Speculator sold out of their copies."

The Adcocks said they are especially gratified that natives of the area say they like the book. They said quite a few local people volunteered old pictures for inclusion in the book.

Town account clerk/typist Joyce Page said the Adcocks had found a picture of her grandmother with a deer and put it in the book.

"I'd never seen that picture before," she said. "I think people like how visual the book is."

The Adcocks said one reason the town populated slowly was because no railroad was ever extended to the area.

"Piseco was started in the 1830s, then emptied out in the 1840s," Frederick Adcock said.

Other than sportsmen and lumber camps, there was little industry to support the local population, he said.

"Winter has now become the best tourist time with snowmobiles," Adcock said. "There are weekends when you see 300 [snowmobile] trailers in the Ox Bow Inn parking lot."

Asked if she would consider another book, perhaps on Speculator, Cynthia Adcock laughed.

"That would take me another 20 years to collect enough postcards," she said. "It would be interesting though. Especially with all the old hotels in the area."

The Adcocks said the Riley House museum was the second oldest building in Piseco, circa 1850. The oldest is the Bonnie Brae in Higgins Bay, circa 1840.

They said the historical preservation of the Riley Tavern and homestead was due to the efforts of realtor Gladys "Molly" Rockwell, who had offered the property to the Adirondack Museum. When officials of that organizatio declined due to "financial restraints," Rockwell opened a "small museum in the tavern to exhibit local artifacts."

Rockwell died in 1985. The Piseco Historical Society was formed in 1986 and carried on her work.

The Riley House was used in the late 1800s as a dormitory for workers at the Silver Lake Tannery, the ruins of which "are concealed in the woods off Old Piseco Road and Wild Road," according to the society's brochure. The Old Riley Tavern on the museum property was "operated as the Rudeston Saloon by Hugh Riley during the bustling years of the tannery and logging industries."

Frederick Adcock said that between Piseco and the Lake Pleasant town line there were 12 taverns in those days.

"After the summer season we'll be putting a new foundation and repairing the porch on the tavern," Frederick Adcock said.

He said one reason he felt the book was selling well and accepted by local people in spite of the small population of the town, which numbers 293 year-round residents as of the 2000 census, was the amount of feeling visitors to the area had for it.

"I was amazed how many people from the Buffalo area had been to Piseco," Frederick Adcock said.

The feelings people have towards Piseco may well be best expressed by Marion Banker, an early 20th-century tourist: "My mother used to tell me that if I ever get to heaven...I wouldn't like it as well as Piseco."

For more information e-mail the Adcocks at, call 548-3215 or go to The book is available at local bookstores or through the publisher at the above Web site.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald. com.



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