Noah John Rondeau was born on July 6, 1883 and raised near Au Sable Forks, New York, but ran away from home as a teenager and leaving with an 8th grade education. He was, however, quite well read, and was known to keep journals filled with unique symbols and code. Rondeau also played the violin and was known to entertain welcomed visitors with his music. 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 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 spending his first winters alone in the remote area, 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).

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 died in a Lake Placid, NY hospital was buried in North Elba Cemetery, near Lake Placid, with a stone from his Cold River home marking his grave.


If you are interested in researching the archive, a scope of the collection can be found here, Noah John Rondeau Finding Aid.