Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inlet History: A Short Biography of Philo Clark Wood

5d Philo C. Wood 002In December 1899, owner Dwight B. Sperry had just completed his first season of operating his newly built Hotel Glennmore and determined to lease it.  He selected two men from Constableville, NY.

One was George B. Conant who would be the hotel proprietor.  Conant’s hotel manager would be his brother-in law, Philo Clark Wood.  For Philo, this began a career of almost fifty years of hotel management, town development and civil service to the Towns of Webb and Inlet.

Philo’s ancestors, originally from Chatham, Middlesex County, CT, moved to the Town of Turin in Lewis County, NY sometime after the 1810 Census.  Philo’s grandparents (Nathaniel and Electa Caswell Wood) and great-grandparents (Joel and Mercy Clark Wood) are buried in the Constableville Rural Cemetery (West Turin). 

Philo was born in the town of Turin on September 1, 1862, the son of John Caswell  and Evelina Clark Wood who had married on February 15, 1853.  The children of John and Evelina Wood were Newton, Philo and Emma. According to the 1870 census, Philo’s father operated a farm in Turin.

Philo’s father’s farm and other “branches of business” fell on hard times in the 1870s when the country’s economy suffered a “stringent money market and a great depression in the value of money”.  In March 1876, John Wood’s finances forced a loss of property in a Sheriff’s Sale.  Also, that year he contracted a disease that forced him to leave his family for two months and travel to Kansas for health reasons.  The disease resulted in his 1879 death, a year after the death of his son Newton who John had taken as an invalid to a “Pennsylvania water cure”.  In addition to leaving his wife Evelina and daughter Emma, John also left a “promising son”, Philo.  Philo and Emma then lived with their mother in West Turin according to the 1880 census.

Twenty-two year old Philo began his business career with another’s misfortune.  In January 1884, Elisha Williams’ West Turin general store suffered a fire severe enough for Williams to close shop and make an assignment to Philo Wood for selling the goods to satisfy creditors.  After some sales of the goods, at the end of March, Philo auctioned the remainder of the items.

On August 14, 1884, Philo who had “found life in the past very lonely” married Ella M. Plummer.  Ella was the daughter of George and Mary Shepard Plummer.  The newlyweds honeymooned in the Thousand Islands. Philo and Ella would have four children together: Charles N., Clark G., Florence and Frances.  Clark, born in 1888, died before reaching his second birthday.

In January 1885, Philo took over the store of R. R. Owens in Turin where the Wood family moved into a newly built house.  Two years later in March 1887, Philo, Ella and infant Charles moved to Constableville where Philo started a dry goods and grocery store in the Stephen T. Miller block at that village.  Unfortunately for Philo, Constableville suffered one its worst ever fires that year in July and Philo’s inventories were lost.  The following year, Philo and cousin Robert Cookman (Cookman’s mother was Philo’s Aunt Ruhamma, his father’s sister) joined other citizens in forming a village hose company.

The 1890s became a decade of family and business transitions for Philo, especially the year 1894.  1890 saw the death of his toddler son Clark, followed the next year with the birth of his daughter Florence.  His mother Evelina died on July 17, 1894.  Though some relief came temporarily with the birth of daughter Frances two days later on July 19, Philo would suffer the death of his wife Ella four months later on November 8 at Port Woodhull near Forestport, their residence at the time.  On September 27, 1893, his sister Emma married his future business partner George B. (Mac) Conant who was named after Civil War general George B. McClellan.  Emma and George would have two children: Gladys A. and Edmund R.  Philo’s mother would live with the Conants.

Philo, now a widower, evidently turned briefly from merchant to painter, the occupation listed on the 1892 New York census.  The next business opportunity for Philo had come in 1892 when he accepted a painting position at Port Woodhull, close to Forestport.  The contract was reportedly for a year.  However, this employment lasted a year longer and two months after Ella’s death, Philo moved back to Constableville in January 1895.  In 1895, Constableville’s hose company incorporated as a volunteer fire department; Philo was a trustee.  By 1896, Philo was hired as a clerk at Shaw & Ryan of Lyons Falls, the position given when he was approved for acceptance as a mason at Turin Lodge 184.  Philo’s residence was also listed as Lyons Falls.

Philo Wood Moves To Fulton Chain

In April 1898, Philo Wood received a seasonal position at Charles Barrett’s Bald Mountain House on the Fulton Chain,  returning to Constableville in mid November.  Up to this time, Philo’s journeys into the North Woods were hunting with friends Stephen Earle and John Link in 1891 at Copper Lake and another trip with Link in 1892, both times returning with deer.  In an interview for the Adirondack Arrow published around 1943, Philo recalled this 1898 employment as his first in the Fulton Chain region.

I have given extensive detail to Philo’s pre-Inlet work career because he has been identified in two situations where I believe another Wood or guide is involved.  David Beetle wrote that Philo Wood was a desk clerk for Fred Hess at his Cedar Island camp.  But Hess sold this camp to John W. Porter back in 1890.  Also, William Dart’s daughter identified Philo as the friend in 1887 whose trap line crossed Dart’s, who tended to Dart’s lines and found Dart in his camp cold and hungry.

Philo’s 1943 interview mentions no hotel experience prior to the Bald Mountain House employment.  Also, fellow Constableville mason C. Arthur Riggs was Hess’s clerk at the new Hess Camp during 1899, a year I could not confirm employment for Philo.  I could find no evidence that Philo was ever a winter trapper or other than an autumn sportsman.  I believe that others were involved in these episodes.  When Dart recalled in 1928 his being afflicted with rheumatic fever in 1887, he did not name the “guide”.  I believe Philo would have considered these experiences memorable to relate in his 1943 review of his Fulton Chain career.

1910 Forge HouseAt the beginning of the 20th century, Philo began his long hotel career, partnering with brother-in-law George Conant, to operate the one year old Hotel Glennmore at Big Moose Lake.  Wood and Conant began this business partnership on January 1, 1900.  Next on Philo’s personal agenda became his marriage on January 16 to Mary Elizabeth Wellington of Martinsburgh.  Mary’s brother was the popular Fulton Chain steamboat “Fulton” captain Joseph Wellington.  Between 1903 and 1914, Philo’s marriage with Mary Elizabeth Wood produced three more children: Madeline, Marjorie and Philo, Jr.  A son Martimor died shortly after birth in 1900 to the newlyweds.

After three years of experience at the Hotel Glennmore, Philo signed a five year lease with the Old Forge Company to operate the famous Forge House of Old Forge.  His contract began on January 1, 1903.  Philo quickly became involved with the local community.  Continuing his Masonic activities, he was a founding member in 1904 of the North Woods Lodge No. 809 at Old Forge.  That year he also built a cottage neighboring the Forge House above the pond to provide another lodging choice for his clientele.  Two years later in early 1906, he contracted with Henry Covey for the purchase of Hess Camp at Inlet.  Though publicly reported, Philo’s purchase probably could not be made effective until 1908 when his contract terminated with the Old Forge Company.

Hess Camp 1907 063After selling his Hess Inn in October 1896 to the Moshier Brothers of Utica, Fred Hess reacquired an 18 acre lot from the widow of Henry Bostwick to whom Hess had sold the partition from his newly purchased 30 acre tract in 1890.  On the12 acres he retained, Fred had built his Fulton Chain Hotel, later renamed Hess Inn in early 1896.  During 1897-1898, Hess built the Hess Camp which opened during the summer of 1898.  When Hess Camp opened, William Moshier renamed Hess Inn to The Arrowhead.

Financially strapped in 1903, Hess sold Hess Camp to Henry Covey who made arrangements in early 1906 for its sale to Philo Wood shortly after the death of his Hess Camp proprietor C. E. Duquette in a gas explosion in October 1905.  Contractually obligated to the Old Forge Company for two more years, Philo leased Hess Camp to cousin Robert Cookman and his son Hart who operated Hess Camp as “Hess Inn and Cottage” during 1906 and 1907.  Philo Wood then moved to Hess Camp at the beginning of 1908; Harry and John Quinn replaced Philo at the Forge House and the Cookmans then operated the Clyde Hotel in Clyde, NY.

Wood Hotel 1910067Early in 1908, Philo made extensive renovations to what would now be called simply “The Wood”.  According to one account, Wood “has a force of carpenters, plumbers, painters and paper hangers putting the finishing touches to his hotel which has been greatly enlarged and improved.  This hotel when finished will have a capacity of 100.  Spacious verandas across the front of the house afford an unobstructed view of beautiful Fourth Lake…Indoor amusements include dancing, pool, billiards, etc.”

Wood Hotel Boat Landing064The following year, Wood added to the existing steamboat dock, “building a large stone-finished dock in front of the hotel”.  The one-gabled roof of Hess Camp of 1898 became the three-gabled roof of The Wood of 1908 identifiable on early postcards.  Philo also had an extensive dairy and vegetable garden for offering his customers fresh milk and vegetables.  As late as 1913, Philo continued to advertise The Wood as “formerly Hess Camp”.

In 1910, Philo became a founding member of the Fulton Chain Yacht Club and was chosen its first director.  The association would stage annual boat races along the lakes.   Also that year, Inlet Town Supervisor Frank Tiffany and Town Clerk William Bill formed a hotel base ball league to play on property they owned at Fern Park.  The next year, Philo’s son Charles contracted with Tiffany and Bill to manage the concessions and maintain the baseball grounds for the coming season.  Charles also married Cecile James of Forestport, NY that year.

1910 fern park 664j_FernParkIn 1913, Philo again modified the architecture of The Wood.  During the summer, Philo built the casino building used today by The Woods Inn owners for a gift shop.  When completed in July 1913, the Troy Times gave a detailed description of the building that survives today:  “The building is three stories in height with the first floor divided.  The front is a souvenir stand and ice cream booth, while the rear is a garage.  The second floor is given over to an amusement hall, while the third floor will not finished this season, but may be arranged for chauffeur quarters.  Verandas on the first and second floors flank the front and west side of the building and form galleries for the tennis courts.”

Wood Hotel Casino 1913071Philo, needing more room for automobiles, reportedly was building an additional garage the following year.  While St. Anthony’s church was “rapidly nearing completion” that summer, masses were held on Sundays at Philo’s pavilion.  Also, in November 1913, Philo enclosed most of The Wood’s front porch facing Fourth Lake with glass windows.  This afforded his clientele the luxury of comfortable, sheltered dining during windy days and windows opening to fresh air open during warm, sunny days.

More importantly that year, The Wood was threatened by the September 23, 1913 fire that destroyed the neighboring Arrowhead Hotel owned by Charles O’Hara.  A bucket brigade that was formed by the employees of both hotels and its cottagers, with the fire at the Arrowhead permitted to burn itself out, helped to ensure The Wood and adjacent structures did not also suffer additional fire damage.

Camp Neodak was a hotel on the South Shore of Fourth Lake that was built around 1902 but by 1915 was the responsibility of The Home Savings Bank of Albany.  In June 1915, Philo acquired Camp Neodak and ran it in tandem with The Wood, conducting boat service between the two properties.  After operating both lodgings for about four years, Philo sold Camp Neodak to Royal Rogers in June 1919.  Two months later in August, it burned and Rogers rebuilt it as the New Neodak in 1920.  In 1920, Philo acquired the neighboring Highland Lodge from the Clark S. Bailey estate as a lodging annex to The Wood, no longer having Camp Neodak.  Today, the restored Highland Lodge is privately owned and available for summer rental.  In 1915, the year of Philo’s Camp Neodak purchase, Philo’s daughter Florence married Charles Emmett Roberts of Syracuse.

Tragedy struck Philo’s family and The Wood in June 1920 when Charles, his son and popular partner in The Wood’s operations, died when the car he was driving near White Lake struck a boulder after Charles avoided striking another car.  Charles’s death was a recent memory at Philo’s daughter Frances’ marriage to Dr. Miles Markham a month later.  Charles’ widow Cecile, who also had worked at The Wood, would die two years later at age 31 from a “complication of illnesses”.

While he owned The Arrowhead, Albert Boshart in 1906 subdivided the rear of his 12 acre tract into village lots.  When he sold the hotel property to Charles O’Hara in late 1907, he retained those lots along the Inlet-Sixth Lake highway and began selling them to early merchants of Inlet who opened The Inlet Supply, the Inlet Garage, Trottier’s, John Simon Kalil, the Parquet and other businesses.  Following Boshart’s town vision, in 1922 Philo subdivided the rear of his 18 acre lot along the same highway.  This began the development of the northern section of Inlet’s business district.  To picture this border between Boshart’s and Philo’s lands, the boundary would be an approximate line drawn from between today’s (2010) Inlet Wine Shop and Gaiety Theater Building directly to Fourth Lake. 1922 1921 wood subdivision_0

When Philo’s subdivision occurred, Harry Hall and Jesse Bowen had already begun Hall’s Grocery.  Bowen left the partnership after his wife died in October 1922.  Adjoining this store on Philo’s property was a new gift shop started by Daniel and Mary Decker (Mary’s Gift Shop) who received their lot from Philo in 1923.  Across the highway from Mary’s Gift Shop, Philo created nine similarly sized village lots heading up the hill toward Eagle Bay whose buyers soon added to the architectural history mostly visible in today’s Inlet.

Lot 1 was purchased by Jacob Routstone who built the Routstone Building, home to various businesses and Town offices, became the Gaiety Theater in 1926, later housed Gilson’s Pharmacy and is today’s Tamarack Café and Gaiety Theater.  Lot 2 was purchased by Harry Thomson, owner of Old Forge’s Thomson Theater (today’s Strand), who built Inlet’s first theater and dance hall, The Pavilion.  In June 1926, Thomson sold The Pavilion, the mystery building on early Inlet postcards, to Routstone and a week later on July 2, The Pavilion burned, prompting Routstone’s accelerated completion of The Gaiety Theater behind the Routstone Building.  Routstone then sold Lot 2 to Ellwood Searle who soon built a garage.

Lot 3 was acquired by Harry Berkowitz of Old Forge who opened The Inlet Toggery clothing store.  The building today (2010) is the American Legion Building.  Lot 4 was sold to George and Ella Plummer of Constableville; George was a brother of Philo’s first wife.  Philo sold Lot 5 to son-in-law C. Emmett and his daughter Florence Roberts.  Emmett later became Inlet Town Clerk from 1932-1941.  Lot 8 was sold to Vernon Wilkins in 1932 and Lot 9 was sold to Dr. Robert Ash in 1924.

In 1924, Philo’s daughter Madeline married Harry Hall, the neighboring Inlet grocer.  But the marriage was short-lived as Madeline died of pneumonia at age 27 in 1931.

With the village of Inlet now offering amusements, restaurants and souvenir opportunities for the motoring public, Philo with the owners of Mary’s Gift Shop and Inlet Supply formed the Inlet Chamber of Commerce in 1926 and printed tourist booklets as advertisements for the village.  When Hamilton County ran its first ever county fair in the summer of 1927, Philo displayed animals from the The Wood’s “exceptionally fine dairy” at Fern Park exhibits.

Some early postcards have pictures of a dog at The Wood.  This may have been Philo’s dog whose barking during a fire in 1928 awakened Mrs. Paul Collier and her household.  The Collier camp was destroyed but no lives were lost.  In 1930, Philo sold property to the Town near the navigation dock for the building of a toboggan slide and erection of equipment for winter sports.

In an attempt to attract additional funding for his hotel activities, Philo formed the Fourth Lake Hotel Co., Inc. in 1929 as a corporate entity operating The Wood and as an attempt to attract $125,000 bond funding.  Not finding any later reporting on this corporation, I believe this effort on the eve of the Great Depression may not have been successful.  To supply his hotel with farm products, Philo had continued to operate a farm in Constableville to augment the hotel dairy, which had four cows in 1931, and supply additional fresh produce.  An article that year located Philo’s garden as being across the street from the Wilkins Lot 8 property.

In 1933, Daniel Decker acquired two strips of land from Mrs. Jennie Galvin and Wellington Kenwell and transferred them to Philo Wood, retaining that portion occupying the Mary’s Gift Shop properties received from Philo in 1923, 1931 and 1933.  These strips of land have a history dating back to Hess Camp.

When George Delmarsh succeeded Charles O’Hara in June 1900 as Inlet postmaster, the Inlet hamlet and Town did not exist.  O’Hara had operated the Inlet election district’s Post Office from his Inlet Inn channel property adjacent to Moshier’s Arrowhead property.  Fred Hess then provided Delmarsh a post office location at a double cottage, built during 1899, to which his proprietor Wellington Kenwell added a general store in June 1901.  Harold Ross of Ilion sold his early Fulton Chain postcards from this store. To provide access through the Hess Camp property for teams, footmen and the public from the Hess Camp dock to the post office/store building and then to the “highway” from Eagle Bay to Sixth Lake, Fred Hess sold two strips of land in September 1901 to James Galvin and Wellington Kenwell.  One was five feet wide from the hotel’s navigation dock to the post office/store building and the other was sixteen feet wide for teams, the public and footmen and went from the building to the highway.

It was at the post office building at Hess Camp where on July 12, 1906, after Grace Brown’s drowning at Big Moose Lake, that Chester Gillette asked postmaster Delmarsh how to get his Eagle Bay mail forwarded to The Arrowhead.  Following Delmarsh’s instructions, Gillette bought a postcard, wrote on it the mail forwarding request and delivered it to the Eagle Bay postmaster.  Delmarsh later identified the defendant and the “postal card” at Gillette’s trial in November that year.

When the Hess Camp was acquired by Henry Covey in 1903 and later by Philo in 1908, these land strips remained exceptions to the property transferred.  When a new post office building was built by Fred Parquet next to his The Parquet shortly after 1906, the year he moved to Inlet, public access for the post office at Hess Camp was no longer needed.  Beginning in 1907, fellow Castorland native Miss Rose Schantz, accompanied to Inlet by her aunt and Fred’s mother Mrs. Rose Parquet, was hired as an Inlet postmistress, assistant to first Delmarsh, then Parquet.  Parquet replaced Delmarsh as Inlet’s postmaster in 1909 and the post office remained in that location until the current post office building was erected in 1926.  As the automobile replaced the steamboats, wagons and Raquette Lake Railway as necessary travel means, teamsters and footmen no longer required a right of way route through The Wood’s property.  Consequently, the1933 transaction returned the public route properties to Philo and Daniel Decker.

Around the time of his 1943 Adirondack Arrow interview, Philo began to scale back his operations and auctioned his considerable livestock (20 dairy cows, 3 heifers, 1 bull, 3 horses and 3 colts) and machinery on his Constableville farm.  Shortly afterwards, placing The Wood’s interests in the hands of son-in-law Dr. Miles Markham, Philo retired and The Wood was sold to William J. Dunay in October 1946.  The account described the new owner as a disabled war veteran required to wear a brace after sustaining a back fracture from an army plane crash during the recent war.

A year after the hotel’s sale, Philo lost his wife Mary Elizabeth on October 17, 1947.  Two years later, Emma Conant, his sister and the widow of his Hotel Glennmore partner of 1900, died on October 27, 1949.  Of Philo’s remaining children, Marjorie died in 1976, Frances in 1956 and Philo Jr. in 1996.  I could not determine when Florence Wood Roberts died.

Philo was honored one more time in July 1949 when the 86 year old founder of the Fulton Chain Yacht Club was named the honorary “commodore” of the Central Adirondacks Association annual week long carnival which included a boat flotilla parade on the Fulton Chain.  Retired from the hotel business for four years, a chairman of the Inlet Board of Assessors and associate member of Inlet’s fire department, Philo Clark Wood died on March 24, 1950 after a long illness.  A fitting epithet for Philo, buried with generations of family members in Constableville’s Rural Cemetery, was a proverb he recalled during his Adirondack Arrow interview regarding his Fulton Chain region life: “all of which I saw and part of which I was.”

5g DSC04021The Wood was operated for years by Dunay and his family until his death in 1989.  It was acquired from the Dunay Estate in 2003 by its present owners, Jay Latterman and Joedda McClain.  Through their efforts, much expense and assisted by local volunteers, the hotel was restored and reopened as The Woods Inn and the Laughing Loons Tavern in May 2004. The hotel continues to serve its clientele in the tradition carried on by Philo during the first decades of the 20th century.

I would like to especially thank Terri Busch, great granddaughter of Philo Wood, for her assistance regarding Wood family information for this article.  Also, the newspaper websites of www.fultonhistory.com and the Northern New York Library Network were the primary sources for Philo’s family and work career.  The Adirondack Arrow interview article is from the Goodsell Museum’s files.  The Philo Wood photograph is from the Area Heritage photo collection of the Town of Inlet.

Photographs: Philo Wood (Town of Inlet); Forge House (James Bayne Co.); Hess Camp, The Wood, Wood Casino, Wood Boat Dock Philo Wood Subdivision Map (Author Collection); Fern Park Ballfield (Town of Webb Historical Association); The Woods Inn (author photo).


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Since the early 1980s when Charles Herr purchased a camp in Inlet he has been interested in the history of the Fulton Chain region of the Adirondacks. He has been contributing history articles about the times and people of the Fulton Chain, covering transportation, steamboats, hotels and most importantly, the people to the Weekly Adirondack of Old Forge since November 2006. His ambition is to uncover local and regional Fulton Chain history about people and events prior to 1930 and little covered in the histories of the region. He is the president of the Inlet Historical Society and presents summer programs on Inlet history at the Town Hall in Arrowhead Park in Inlet, NY. His book, The Fulton Chain-Early Settlement, Roads, Steamboats, Railroads and Hotels, was published in May 2017. More information is available at www.facebook.com/herrstory . During 2023, Herr was appointed Inlet Town Historian.

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