It seemed a simple thing, finding some graves and the so-called Brodie mansion in the village of Edwards in upstate New York near Adirondack Park. After all, Edwards is a small place, very small. Census-takers in 2010 counted less than 500 people living there.
But it wasn’t simple.
Alexander Oswald Brodie attended West Point shortly after the Civil War and came west as a soldier to Arizona, first as an Indian fighter, then as chief engineer of a big dam that failed there in 1890 and finally as a Territorial governor, 1902-1905. He was born at Edwards in 1849, and his family is buried there. Brodie himself died in 1918 and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Brodie had friends in high places. Friends like Teddy Roosevelt. The two fought together in the Spanish-American War as officers in the Rough Riders. It was Roosevelt, as President, who appointed Brodie governor.
My main objective was to find the original Brodie house. I had only a hand-drawn map by John Clark, the owner of the White Pillars B&B near Canton where Nebra and I had stayed the previous night. Pushed for time, I was unable to get a clear picture from deed books at the St. Lawrence County Courthouse in Canton. The map, drawn in black ink, showed the Brodie place west of town just past a cellphone tower with “a big pine tree in front.” Clark had also done research on Brodie and written about him.
I read elsewhere the graves were in Riverside Cemetery and the house was a half-mile west of the few stores that line Main Street.
Coming into Edwards from Canton via Trout Lake, we pulled to the curb downtown, and I walked across the lightly traveled street to confer with some locals. A young woman told me there were two cemeteries in town. One in that direction, and one in the other. Returning to the Hyundai Accent, I happened to see a street sign. “Church St.” it said. I knew Church as the street that ran by the cemetery I sought.
Riverside Cemetery rests about 50 yards from where we had stopped. It is small and wooded, with a swing-gate and metal fence around it. The Oswegatchie River sweeps by just downhill on the southwest. I knew in general the Brodie graves were in the middle somewhere. How hard could that be to find prominent members of the community?
Bright shafts of sunlight sneaked in through breaks in the trees, and we stepped across soggy ground, walking down one row, then turning back and walking another. Nebra walked the part by the river, and I started on the street side.
Some graves were very old, the markings worn away and mossy after almost two centuries of harsh Northlands weather. But there were also new graves, which I paid little attention too initially. After an hour, I was ready to give up. I thought we had covered it all.
On the way toward the gate, I happened to pass a tall monument, about 12 feet high. It had a new look to it. Perhaps that’s why I missed it before. Out of the corner of an eye, I caught the family name across the bottom. “Brodie” it read.
How often have I had that happen? At the last moment, the very thing I was looking for appears out of nowhere. It was like the gods are teasing me.
Anyway I was very happy. I shot numerous photos from this angle and that one while Nebra copied down information on the monument. Joseph Brodie and his wife, Margaret, were buried there as were Alexander’s two sisters, Harriet and Elizabeth, and a brother, Robert. Their deaths occurred between 1874 and 1921.
And surprise of surprises, Alex’s 2-year-old son, also Alexander Oswald Brodie, is there too. “The son of A.O. and M. C. H. Brodie.” The child died in 1894 as I believe his mother did. Somewhere in the West, I recall. Washington or Oregon. Brodie later remarried but had no more children, as far as I know.
The Brodie monument was obviously a newer one. Someone had come in and redone it, perhaps in the last 50 years, maybe less.
Finding the house was easier. We returned to Main Street and drove west around the curve, passed a high cellphone tower and came to a two-story, wood-frame house painted white. A huge pine tree stood in front. We drove by twice before stopping and taking a photo from the road.
I’m still not 100 percent certain this is the Brodie “mansion.” I will have to do more research.
As we drove east into Adirondack Park on Highway 3, I felt buoyant. Between the experience in Edwards and some leads picked up in Canton, I felt I was progressing toward a short and accurate bio of the former governor, information I can take home to Phoenix in 12 days.
Now, I thought, the work is over. The real vacation can begin.