Before the automobile, the railroads and the steamers, those who traveled from “the Forge” to Big Moose Lake disembarked on the north shore of Fourth Lake at a location known as “Big Moose Landing”. Another landing to the west was used that took the traveler past First (called Landon, then Rondaxe) and Second (called Foster, then Dart’s) Lakes to the Third (called Sherman, then Big Moose) Lake, north branch, Moose River. Guides with their sportsmen would usually head for Elba Island and bear north towards the shore where a landing developed that led to a trail through the woods. This trail was called the “Carry Trail”.
After unloading at Big Moose Landing, you would carry your belongings up a hill and quickly come to what Edwin Wallace called “a lovely little pond” which we today call Surprise Pond. Continuing another three-quarters of a mile past today’s Route 28 and the bed of the Raquette Lake Railway (now the hike/bike trail) you come to Bubb Lake.Traveling around the southern part of Bubb Lake you then turn to the north and travel over the stream between Bubb and its neighboring Sis Lake. According to Wallace, “Arnold used to send his son Otis, whom he designated “Bub”, to this lakelet and a daughter, whom he called “Sis”, to the neighboring pond to watch for deer; hence their names.”
A mile carry to the north of Bubb Lake was Moss Lake (once called Morse) and another one and a quarter mile carry around the east side of Moss Lake took the traveler to Second Lake, north branch Moose River, or Dart’s. Then a stream was taken one mile to the north followed by a final carry of one and a half mile to Big Moose Lake. These distances are from Wallace’s 1894 guide. To reduce the distance by foot, guideboats and skiffs were left at the shores of Bubb and Moss Lakes.
This is the route Roy Higby described as taken by his father, Jim Higby, in the 1870s to reach Big Moose Lake. As the Forge House and the Fulton Chain region grew more popular, the use of this route grew as did the need for accommodations.
William Dart first arrived in the region in 1871 with a group of boys to earn money from trapping. According to obituaries, he decided to stay and Dart built his first camp in 1879. In the winter of 1887-88 he built a “double-deck” camp, financially assisted by his friend Alexander B. Lamberton. At the time, Lamberton owned the Forge House and Forge Tract.
Though reported to have been built for clients from Boston, it may have been for a bride, the former Mary V. Kronmiller of White Lake Corners. The Boonville Herald reported in July 1888 that the newlyweds intended to live at Second Lake, north branch, “where they will keep open house”. Celebrating their silver anniversary in 1913, Mary described the two and half day trip, traveling in a rowboat: they “rowed across one lake, carried the boat and packs to the next, rowed some more, camped in the open at night and then repeated the performance until they reached home.”
The Boonville Herald reported in 1887 that Emil Murer, born in Alsace-Lorraine, France, was the new owner of the Arnold Camp on the south shore of Fourth Lake. Near the location of the later Cohasset Hotel, Joseph Grady tells us that guide Jack Sheppard built the first camp on the location in 1874. After Sheppard moved to Big Moose Lake in Fall 1877, Ed Arnold catered to travelers and friends at the camp until moving to Seventh Lake. Emil Murer, with his wife Mary Geiskopp Murer, had either bought or leased the Arnold Camp.
Probably observing the busy traffic of weary boaters at Big Moose Landing, Murer saw an opportunity for both profit and service. In the spring of 1891, Emil Murer hired experienced camp builders to construct a hotel at Big Moose Landing. Chris Goodsell, Sam Dunakin and Josiah Helmer built Murer’s main camp (24 x 40 ft.); a barn (13 x 25 ft) was planned. Murer added cottages later that summer. Murer’s services prompted the Boonville Herald to pronounce it a “fine camp” and that it “will supply a long felt need to those who travel the north branch trail.”
The following year, a sad task was performed by Emil Murer on the “Carry Trail”. Clarence Covey, 16 year old son of Henry Covey, drowned while bathing with his brother Earl at Big Moose Lake in August 1892. Emil Murer and Emmett Marks accompanied Mr. Covey over the trail with the body and helped transport it to Watson for internment. Murer made improvements to his camp in 1897, adding hardwood floors and new ceilings. In 1899, Murer’s Camp attractions included a “private fish pond” where guests could “enjoy good fishing at any time.” This is Surprise Pond.
The Carry Trail’s reason for being was lost when Dr. William Seward Webb’s railroad was completed in October 1892 and established a Big Moose Station. A road built from the west shore of Big Moose Lake to the station also enabled guests to reach Dart’s hotel by a wagon road.
The Carry Trail has “forever wild” significance. As a provision in his Beaver River land sale agreement with the state in January 1896, Dr. Webb required that “all trails and ways of communication of whatsoever kind or nature, whether by land or water, across and over the lands of Township 8…shall forever remain open and free to the people of the state of New York”. Norman VanValkenburgh claimed that this was the first time that the state acquired trails or even the rights to trails in the Adirondack Park.
In February 1897, Dr. Webb’s Nehasane manager, Edward Burns, built a highway from Big Moose to Eagle Bay. Two years later, the highway from Old Forge to Eagle Bay was completed. By 1899, the Carry Trail had become a choice excursion route for Fourth Lake visitors.
The Carry Trail was close to disruption in November 1898 when, in a letter to Burns by George Clinton Ward concerning the route of the planned Raquette Lake Railway, Ward compared the costs of two routes. One route would have had the railroad crossing at Bubb Lake, then intersecting the new highway at Eagle Creek but “would do very little business on Fulton Chain”. Consequently, Ward recommended the more costly “Carry Pond Route” because the line would reach Fourth Lake farther west, “passing close to all the camps on the North Shore, and near enough to Third Lake to accommodate these people.”
By 1900, the Murers desired to live in Boonville and annually advertised “Murer’s Camp” for lease or sale “with good bar and pool table.” At the end of 1904, Murer sold Murer’s Camp to Fred Becker.
Fred and Ida Becker had married in Altamont, NY and briefly lived on a ranch near Denver, CO. During the years 1903 and 1904, the Beckers leased “Camp Onondaga”, located at the foot of Onondaga Mountain to the west of Murer’s Camp, from the Midler Estate.
Camp Onondaga was built and opened in 1896 for “guests and invalids” by Byron and Anna Steggall Midler. Byron Midler operated a successful grocery wholesale market in Syracuse. In 1899, the Midlers added an additional large cottage expected to be finished for the summer. Byron Midler died at Syracuse in July 1901. In April 1905, Anna Midler died at the hotel.
Melzer D. Aldrich operated Camp Onondaga in 1905. Aldrich also advertised his own cottage, “6 rooms all furnished” in 1904 and 1905. In 1906, Aldrich opened his “newly built and furnished” Camp Monroe. Today, Camp Monroe is Brynilsen’s Viking Village.
Anna’s son, James Abraham Garfield Midlar, then took over Camp Onondaga, later marrying Iva Lee Martin in September 1916. Shortly after giving birth to a second son in July 1924, Iva suffered the loss of her husband in October by suicide in Syracuse. Suffering “a long illness”, James shot himself “after kissing his wife and starting for a walk.” (Utica Observer Dispatch)
Iva continued to operate Camp Onondaga as Mrs. James A. G. Midlar until marrying Levi R. Deis in 1927. Afterward, the hotel’s owner was listed as Mrs. James A. G. Midlar Deis and its name changed to Onondaga Hotel. Mrs. Deis sold the hotel in 1936 to James, William, John and Mildred Foley who changed its name to Foley’s Northwoods (North Woods) Inn. According to Mildred’s obituary, the hotel was sold in 1977 and became known as North Woods Inn. Presently (2009) it is the North Woods Inn and Resort.
As mentioned, Fred Becker operated Camp Onondaga in 1903 and 1904, leaving to run the new Beckers’ Camp. It was near the end of their management at Camp Onondaga that the Beckers in September 1904 suffered the loss of their 3 year old son Milton to drowning while playing with his 6 year old brother.
1905 was the first year of operation for “Becker’s Camp”, alternately called Becker’s Camp and Cottages, Becker’s Hotel and later Beckers’ Resort. According to Clara O’Brien, the Beckers sold the hotel property in 1934 to son-in-law Leo Westfall and daughter Freda. Freda had been born at the hotel. The Westfalls sold Beckers’ Resort in 1971. In 1976 it was acquired by Richard and Joanne Sims who renamed it Holiday Shores Estates, a name reportedly suggested to Sims by Mr. Westfall.
The property was subsequently subdivided for vacation homes, contemplating an 11 acre “common area” including most of Surprise Pond. O’Brien’s history describes how Melvin Brush had raised the banks of the outlet from Surprise Pond and built a dock so he could launch his “U-Go-I-Go” boat on Fourth Lake.
During the 20th century, roads through the Fulton Chain and from Eagle Bay to Big Moose Lake were improved due to the increase in short stay tourists and the growth of automobile travel. After the Raquette Lake Railway rails were removed in 1935, its roadbed became a bridle and hike path. The Carry Trail regained new popularity when the Town of Webb opened the route as a bridle path. In July 1939, Town employees widened the foot trail and cleared fallen timber for safe riding. Stables for tourists had been established at Eagle Bay and at the Mohawk Hotel.
Travel on the Carry Trail past Bubb, Sis and Moss Lakes was unexpectedly halted on May 13 1974.when a group of 50 Native Americans occupied the 612 acre tract surrounding Moss Lake, naming it Ganienkeh (“Land of the Flint”). The group of Mohawks, believed to be no more than 50 to 100 at any one time, claimed the land around the Carry Trail theirs as part of 9 million acres in New York and Vermont under a 1794 treaty. The group blocked the trails and tensions grew alarmingly when shots were fired between tribal members and whites. In October 1974, an Inlet resident and, in a separate incident, a child were wounded by gunfire.
Negotiations coordinated by Mario Cuomo resulted in the ultimate departure of the Native Americans by July 1978. The state provided them land in Schuyler Falls, Clinton County. Officials entering the Moss Lake property were disturbed by the ruined buildings and debris remaining. But the agreement called for the Native Americans to take down not only the buildings they constructed, but also those existing at the time of takeover “as part of the state’s original plan to turn the Adirondack area back into a wilderness” (The Auburn Citizen).
Moss Lake had been reportedly purchased by C. S. Longstaff, proprietress of the Mohawk Hotel in 1919 from New York clubmen (Paul Sheldon and Wallace Lyons) who hoped to use it for their “Moss Lake Fishing and Hunting Club”. Mrs. Longstaff’s son, Dr. George H. Longstaff, determined to open a girls’ camp and did so in 1922. The Moss Lake Camp had many years of success. In 1969, Dr. Longstaff leased it to Robert and Jane Rider.
During Assembly hearings in April 1974, it was learned that the Riders had negotiated a sale with the Nature Conservancy two months before completing their purchase of the property from Longstaff. The Nature Conservancy sold the Moss Lake property to the State in August 1973. The hearings concerned the state’s cost compared to what the Riders received from the Nature Conservancy. Dr. Longstaff was upset because his intention in selling the camp to the Riders was that the property would continue to be run as a camp. The tribe takeover occurred a month after the hearings.
After July 1978, the Carry Trail was again open to the public according to Dr. Webb’s wishes of a century earlier. Today, the Carry Trail is a popular hiking route whether entered from the Moss Lake circuit trail or from Route 28 off the road bed of the former Raquette Lake Railway. Traveling from Route 28 provides the hiker the best example of how travelers to Big Moose Lake and Dart’s Lake reached those locations more than a century ago. The route from the Fourth Lake shore to Route 28 is presently on private property, but you might be able to view Surprise Pond from the highway when the leaves are not in bloom.
Map above: Dotted lines show the route to Big Moose Lake (1909 Forest, Fish and Game Commission map) from Fourth Lake near Skensowane Station. Below, the Higby camp at Big Moose.