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January 1, 2022

Mystery on the Red Sandstone Trail

Blair Madore


On Sunday September 12th, I was hiking on the Red Sandstone Trail with two students Claudia Beltran and Paxton Smith, from the Clarkson Timber Bridge Team. We were looking at ways to rebuild an area of the trail that frequently washed out.

Along the way, we encountered what looked like an old grave stone. We were all quite amazed and surprised. At first, I thought it was made of stone but then realized it was carved into wood and was in remarkably good shape. It couldn’t possibly be a real grave marker that was over 60 years old, could it?

I’m the Trail Coordinator for the Red Sandstone Trail and I have walked this part of the trail at least 25 times in the last few years and this was the first time I noticed it. Surely someone put this up recently, maybe as a prank or for a scavenger hunt or other activity? As it turns out, my first thoughts could not have been more wrong. The stone read:

LENA
COOKLIN
JULY 1946
JULY 17, 1961

If this was real, I imagined that a young woman had drowned in the river. Wouldn’t that be such a tragic event it would appear in the local paper? A few hours scouring records for July 1961 led to nothing. I posted the picture on the ADK Laurentian Chapter’s Facebook page. Lots of people tried to help but no one could find any concrete information. There was no “Lena Cooklin” in any of the easily available databases. There were mentions of people named Cooklin living in the North Country (past and present) but that was as far as we got.

I emailed North Country Now to publish the picture and ask if anyone had information. The next morning, I began gettng emails and phone calls. The story emerged a bit at a time over the day and we had a nearly complete story by that night. Several people who walk the trail frequently told me that the marker has been there for many years—at least three; at least 10; one even said 20. If it was more than 20 years old, it predated the creation of the trail. Maybe it was real?

Several people thought it was a grave marker for a family pet. After all, we often don’t know the exact date of birth of our pets but, we do know when they pass. That would explain why we could not find any newspaper report of a young woman drowning or a name in a birth or death registry. Several people told me that Lena is a common dog name.

An avid outdoorswoman and ADK member, Eileen Visser, was one of the people who had seen this grave marker for many years. She and a friend, Judy Brassard, who was good at local genealogy, began a search and found records about the Cooklin family.

“A Clarence Cooklin family lived on the Back Hannawa Road during the 50’s and 60’s up to the 1970’s. Clarence was Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds for BOCES in Norwood. Upon retirement they moved to South Carolina where he is buried. He had a son, Earl who moved to Michigan by 1971 and a daughter Barbara who married and lives in Salem, South Carolina.”

Eileen also used public records to determine Clarence Cooklin and his family lived at 261 County Route 59 (the Back Hannawa Road). This property is west of the road and not adjacent to the river. How would a marker for a family member or pet end up close to the river?

Mimi Vandeusen, the Director of the Potsdam Public Museum confirmed some of the information from Eileen. In fact, Mimi knew that Barbara Cooklin Maxwell lived in South Carolina and still regularly participated in the Museum’s Facebook group. Mimi had seen the grave marker some years ago but had not been able to find any specific information at the time. Mimi offered to try contacting Barbara for further information.

That evening I was contacted by Mark Gerrish who owns the property between the Back Hannawa Road and the trail. The trail and the land between the trail and the water is owned by Brookfield Power Authority. Mark told me that he purchased the property in 1978 and not long after, Mr. Cooklin from across the street came over to visit him. Mr. Cooklin informed him that his dog was buried on Mark’s property down near the river.

At this point, the mystery was solved. We knew this was the gravesite of a family dog and the marker had been there for over 60 years! This was a very interesting piece of the history of the trail and clearly important to preserve out of respect for the Cooklins and for future generations of hikers to experience.

The next morning, Judy Brassard told me she spoke with Earl Cooklin. Earl was 15 in 1961 and grew up with Lena, their pet collie. Lena went missing on July 17, 1961 and Earl and a friend found her at the edge of the river there. Lena had already passed away. Earl found a sturdy piece of oak and carved the marker. He has never had another dog.

The next day I received a phone call from Earl himself! He explained the situation further. That July 17th was a very hot day and they thought Lena had gone down to the river to cool off. Earl and Lena frequently hunted and fished in that area. When Earl and his friend went to look for her, they found her already dead. She was much too heavy to carry back up the steep bank so they buried her on the spot. Earl said he carved the grave marker from a piece of oak and applied at least 10 coats of varnish on it. No wonder it was so well preserved!

I told Earl that Eileen Visser volunteered to help create an interpretive sign to share this tale with hikers. We hope to install it on the trail near the grave marker for all to enjoy this touching story and piece of local history for many years to come.

News Archive

May 13, 2022: In Memorium Lois Wells

Mar 25, 2022: Fiftieth Anniversary Celebrations

Mar 15, 2022: 2022 Photo Contest Announced

Jan 24, 2022: Trailhead Stewardship Program

Jan 1, 2022: Mystery on the Red Sandstone Trail

Jan 1, 2022: Fiftieth Anniversary

Nov 28, 2021: 2021 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Oct 18, 2021: 2021 Chapter Elections

Oct 1, 2021: Trail Registers for the 21st Century

Oct 1, 2021: Laurentian Chapter to Celebrate 50 Years

Sep 9, 2021: 2021 Photo Contest Announced

Apr 1, 2021: Take A Hike!

Dec 10, 2020: 2020 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Oct 26, 2020: Members Choice - 2020 Photo Contest

Oct 15, 2020: 2020 Chapter Elections

Jul 3, 2020: Laurentians Receive Award

Apr 1, 2020: Third Annual Cycle Outing

Apr 1, 2020: Mud Season Hiking

Apr 1, 2020: 2020 Photo Contest Announced

Jan 1, 2020: Ski Trails Groomed and Waiting

Jan 1, 2020: Red Sandstone Trail Maintenance

Nov 16, 2019: 2019 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Oct 2, 2019: Annual Meeting

Oct 1, 2019: Trail Markers

Oct 1, 2019: Electronic Distribution of the North Wind

Jul 1, 2019: National Trails Day 2019

Apr 1, 2019: Red Sandstone Trail Volunteers Needed

Apr 1, 2019: Recreation Management Plans

Apr 1, 2019: Chapter Member Writes Trails Book

Apr 1, 2019: 2019 Photo Contest Announced

Jan 3, 2019: Invasive Forest Pest Meeting

Jan 1, 2019: Second ADK Cycle Outing

Jan 1, 2019: Outside The High Peaks Region

Dec 6, 2018: Fran Yardley To Speak

Nov 12, 2018: 2018 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Nov 6, 2018: Trail Maintenance Weekend 2018

Oct 1, 2018: First ADK Cycle Outing

Jul 1, 2018: SUNY Potsdam Educational Affiliate Program

Jun 22, 2018: 2018 Photo Contest Announced

Jun 18, 2018: September Acadia Outing

Apr 5, 2018: Military Exercises In Northern Adirondacks

Apr 1, 2018: Who Are Our Members

Apr 1, 2018: Happy Birthday Azure Mountain Fire Tower

Apr 1, 2018: Chapter Representation on Advisory Committees

Jan 5, 2018: E-Letter Editor Wanted

Jan 1, 2018: Paul Jamieson and the Jamieson Fund

Nov 19, 2017: 2017 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Nov 1, 2017: 2017 Trail Maintenance Weekend

Oct 1, 2017: Trailwork by ADK

Oct 1, 2017: Bylaws Review

Jul 1, 2017: North Country Cycling Guide

May 31, 2017: Marie Fernandez de Alaiza Completes 46

Apr 1, 2017: Great Lakes Water Levels

Mar 15, 2017: Extended New Brunswick Outing Proposed

Jan 1, 2017: Boreas Ponds

Jan 1, 2017: 2017 Photo Contest Announced

Dec 2, 2016: Camp Colby Scholarships Available

Nov 29, 2016: Winter 2017 Outdoors-Indoors Schedule Announced

Nov 21, 2016: Wilderness Thru-hiking to Wilderness Advocacy

Nov 16, 2016: 2016 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Oct 1, 2016: Membership Survey Preliminary Results

Oct 1, 2016: John Omohundro Passes The Torch

Sep 8, 2016: 2017 Extended Outings Proposed

Apr 1, 2016: Solarize

Mar 29, 2016: 2016 Photo Contest Announced

Mar 17, 2016: Teen Trail Project Scholarships Available

Jan 6, 2016: Perry Yaw Commemorative Quilt

Dec 2, 2015: Trail Work Day Attracts Huge Turnout

Dec 2, 2015: Outdoors-Indoors Schedule Announced

Dec 1, 2015: 2015 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Sep 17, 2015: RRAC Explained

Sep 17, 2015: Oswegatchie Blueway Open Houses Scheduled

Jul 1, 2015: Perry H Yaw Jr

Jul 1, 2015: Ididaride Annual Biking Event

May 5, 2015: SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Mountain-A-Thon Training Exercise

Apr 1, 2015: Spring

Apr 1, 2015: Educational Affiliate Program Expands

Jan 1, 2015: Call for Distinguished Volunteer Nominations

Jan 1, 2015: 2015 Photo Contest Opens

Nov 27, 2014: 2014 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Nov 27, 2014: 2014 Photo Contest Winners Announced - Copy

Nov 17, 2014: St Lawrence Flatlands UMP Hearing

Oct 1, 2014: Chapter Offers Outing Leadership Training Course

Jul 1, 2014: Jean Hardy, 1926-2014

Jul 1, 2014: ADK and Trails

Apr 14, 2014: 2014 Member Nature Poetry

Apr 4, 2014: Stone Valley Management Plan Finalized

Apr 1, 2014: Educational Affiliate Program Gathers Momentum

Mar 24, 2014: North Country National Scenic Trail

Dec 30, 2013: Stone Valley Management Plan Review

Dec 6, 2013: 2014 Photo Contest Opens

Nov 12, 2013: 2013 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Oct 1, 2013: Spring Outing Retrospective

Sep 6, 2013: Finch Pruyn-Essex Chain Action Alert

Aug 22, 2013: Ragnar Relay Race

Jul 1, 2013: New Trails for Stone Valley

Jun 27, 2013: North Country Trails Membership

Jun 19, 2013: Spring Outing A Great Success

Apr 2, 2013: Laurentian Loon Shirts

Apr 1, 2013: Brian Baston, 46r

Dec 21, 2012: New Chapter Officers Elected

Dec 6, 2012: 2013 Photo Contest Opens

Nov 27, 2012: 2012 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Jul 17, 2012: Raquette River Documentary

Apr 1, 2012: Acadia Trip Sept 2012

Jan 21, 2012: Stone Valley Trail Maintenance A Mammoth Undertaking

Jan 1, 2012: 2012 Photo Contest Announced

Nov 19, 2011: Peter Blood and Toni Towle Finish the 46

Nov 19, 2011: Moose Talk At Fall Potluck (1)

Nov 16, 2011: 2011 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Nov 9, 2011: Sherman Craig Nominated To APA

Oct 16, 2011: Mt Arab Vandalised

Oct 1, 2011: GPS Group Forming

Jul 23, 2011: Allegany State Park Action Alert

Jul 2, 2011: Stone Valley Trail Report

Jul 2, 2011: Red Sandstone Trail Report

Jul 2, 2011: Friends of Higley Flow Capital Campaign

Jul 1, 2011: JBL Seeks All-Season Hosts

Apr 29, 2011: JBL Seeks Volunteer Hosts

Apr 1, 2011: Outings Announced

Feb 25, 2011: 2011 Fall Outing

Feb 4, 2011: Tug Hill Winter Outing

Dec 9, 2010: 2010 Photo Contest Winners Announced

Nov 21, 2010: Omohundro Whalen Distinguished Volunteers

Sep 22, 2010: Nominees Announced

Sep 22, 2010: Fall Potluck to Feature Permaculture Talk

Sep 22, 2010: Bylaw Changes Proposed

Sep 15, 2010: Dogs on Chapter Trips

Aug 16, 2010: Raquette River Information Center Opens

Jul 27, 2010: Raquette River Information Center To Open

Jun 2, 2010: Sacred Tools Exhibit

May 26, 2010: Plants of St Lawrence County

Apr 13, 2010: Chapter Basket Donations Needed

Mar 23, 2010: Second Annual Photo Contest Announced

Mar 22, 2010: Laurentians Invited To Colorado

Mar 21, 2010: Spring Potluck To Feature Northern Canoe Route

Jan 1, 2010: Calling Kids For Camp Colby

Nov 8, 2009: 2009 Photo Contest Results

Oct 1, 2009: Brian Mann To Address Annual Meeting

Oct 1, 2009: Archivist Needed

Jul 1, 2009: Raquette River Awareness Week

May 23, 2009: Tom Wheeler Elected 46ers President

Apr 30, 2009: Cutters Receive Award

Mar 31, 2009: Spring Potluck

Mar 30, 2009: Photo Contest

Mar 29, 2009: Hospitality Coordinator Needed

Mar 21, 2009: Gloria Daly Completes Winter 46

Mar 16, 2009: Lyle Montgomery Completes Winter 46

Dec 23, 2008: Chapter to Sponsor Campers at Camp Colby

Nov 2, 2008: Anna Gerhard-Arnold Recognized

Oct 1, 2008: Roy Horst to Speak at Fall Potluck

Sep 13, 2008: Tom Wheeler Receives Award

Aug 3, 2008: SLC EMC hosts NYS Conference on Environment

Jun 10, 2008: Lows Lake Floatplanes Action Alert

Mar 22, 2008: Winter On The Red Sandstone Trail

Mar 15, 2008: Nancy LaBaff Completes Winter 46

Mar 1, 2008: Environmental Protection Fund Being Raided

Feb 15, 2008: Red Sandstone Trailworker Tshirt

Nov 28, 2007: Hearings on National Scenic Trail

Nov 26, 2007: Laurentian Chapter To Sponsor Campers

Nov 11, 2007: Annual Meeting Highlights

Sep 27, 2007: Clarence and Paul

Sep 26, 2007: Neil Woodworth To Visit

Sep 25, 2007: Red Sandstone Trail Report

Jul 1, 2007: Legislature Passes EPF Enhancement Act

Mar 22, 2007: Call for Adirondack Stories

Mar 17, 2007: Mud Season Potluck Features Stuart Mesinger

Jan 25, 2007: Chapter Endorses Grace Peak Proposal

Jan 15, 2007: Public Comment Requested

Jan 1, 2007: Paddle The Rideau

Jan 1, 2007: Calling Kids For Camp Colby

Nov 28, 2006: Dick Mooers Named Distinguished Volunteer

Oct 2, 2006: Laurentian Chapter Hosts 2006 Fall Outing

Sep 1, 2006: Update on SLC ATV Trail Plan

Aug 30, 2006: Teens Complete Stone Valley Trail Work

Aug 28, 2006: Stone Valley - A Community Resource

Aug 28, 2006: Keeping Stone Valley Trails Open

Aug 25, 2006: White Hill Draft UMP Released

Aug 25, 2006: ATV Plan Comment Period

Jul 1, 2006: Raquette Boreal Forest Plan Moves Forward

Jun 6, 2006: Piercefield Dam Whitewater Release

Apr 21, 2006: Natural History Museum Seeks Volunteers

Apr 2, 2006: Peter OShea Addresses ADK

Mar 29, 2006: Laurentian Chapter To Host Fall Outing

Feb 28, 2006: High School Trails Program Seeks Participants

Jan 4, 2006: Chapter at Remington Gala

Dec 16, 2005: Camp Colby Youth Summer Camp

Dec 1, 2005: Paddlers Rights

Nov 12, 2005: Higley Flow Leanto Dedicated

Nov 6, 2005: Sandy Hildreth and Eileen Wheeler Honored

Oct 16, 2005: Stone Valley Trail Maintenance

Oct 4, 2005: Laurentian Chapter Hosts 2006 Fall Outing

Oct 3, 2005: Annual Meeting November 6

Oct 2, 2005: Friends of Mt Arab Seeks Volunteers

Sep 12, 2005: Proposed Bylaws

Aug 25, 2005: Musings On The Word Laurentian

Aug 25, 2005: Higley Flow Leanto

Aug 25, 2005: An Adirondack Diet

Aug 20, 2005: Bear Canisters

Aug 15, 2005: Firetowers

Aug 10, 2005: Executive Director Visits

Aug 5, 2005: National Trails Day

Aug 1, 2005: New Publicity Coordinator