Noah John Rondeau
He was born on July 6, 1883 and raised near Au Sable Forks, New York, but ran away from home as a teenager and only obtained an eighth-grade education. He was, however, quite well read, with a strong interest in astronomy. Before distancing himself too far from civilization, he lived in Corey's, New York, on the Raquette River in the western Adirondacks, where for fifteen years he worked as a handyman, caretaker, and guide. He gained some of his knowledge of the woods from Dan Emmett, an Abenaki Indian from Canada. He also made occasional brief visits to jail for game law violations.
Rondeau frequently hunted and trapped in the Cold River area, about 17 miles from Corey’s, and in 1929, at age 46, he began living alone year-round in the remote area, saying he was "not well satisfied with the world and its trends," and calling himself the "Mayor of Cold River City (Population 1)."
He kept extensive journals over a period of several decades, many of which were written in letter-substitution ciphers of his own invention. The ciphers progressed through at least three major revisions in the late thirties and early forties and in its final form resisted all efforts to be deciphered until 1992 (Life With Noah, p. 91).
Although he was considered an Adirondack hermit, he normally accepted visitors to his hermitage and even performed for them on his violin.
During World War II, in his sixties, Rondeau was apparently suspected of being a draft dodger, as he submitted a letter dated 4/8/43 to the Ausable Forks Record-Post:
- I never went to Cold River to dodge anything, unless it was from 1930 to 1940 when it might be said I dodged the American labor failure at which time I could not get enough in civilization to get along even as well as I could at Cold River under hard circumstances in the back woods. Since I'm not evading I did not make my first appearance at Cold River on the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed. What I'm doing toward the war effort looks like nothing, but that's all I can do and I'm doing it and it is this -- I'm self sustained.
In 1947, Rondeau was flown to the National Sportsmen's Show in New York City by helicopter, starting a series of appearances at similar shows throughout the country.
In 1950, the New York State Conservation Department closed the Cold River area to the public after a “big blow” leveled the forest, forcing Rondeau from his home at age 67. He then lived around Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Wilmington, New York. Besides the sportsmen's shows, he worked for a time at Frontiertown and at the North Pole in Wilmington as a substitute Santa Claus, but he didn’t return to a hermit's life and eventually went on welfare. He was buried in North Elba Cemetery, near Lake Placid, with a stone from his Cold River home marking his grave.
- Noah John Rondeau, Mayor: Cold River City (Population 1)
- Noah John Rondeau, Adirondack Hermit
- Adirondack Museum: Adirondack Lives
- NCPR: Remembering Noah John Rondeau, the Hermit of Cold River
- William J. O'Hern: Life With Noah, North Country Books, 1997.
- New York Times, "Following a Hermit's Footsteps", October 7, 2005
- William J. O'Hern: Noah John Rondeau's Adirondack Wilderness Days: A Year with the Hermit of Cold River Flow, The Forager Press, LLC, 2009.