Sunday, June 8, 2014

Raquette Lake in 1878

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 7.01.30 AMThe mysterious original cabin of the Thachers on Indian Point received numerous mentions in the newspapers of the day.  However, the earliest evidence of its existence comes from a single sentence in the text of Aber & King’s The History of Hamilton County.

Bishop Gabriels, then a priest, celebrated Mass at the Thatcher Camp on July 11, 12, 13, and 14, 1878.

It refers to Rev. Henry Gabriels who at the time was President of the St. Joseph Seminary in Troy, NY and who later became the Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, which encompasses all of the Adirondacks.   Can we simply assume that the original cabin was built in 1878, or might it have existed prior to this first reference?  After all, the family purchased the land in 1876.

Two pieces of history steer me to conclude that 1878 does indeed mark the construction of the original cabin.  Starting in 1867, the G.W. and C. B. Colton & Co. publishing company produced a series titled Map of The New York Wilderness and The Adirondacks, compiled by the cartographer W.W. Ely.  The original map was updated almost annually from 1867 to 1890.  If one assumes that every updated map reflects changes that were first observed through surveys in the year prior to publication, these maps provide a vivid, visual historical timeline.

I was amazed to discover in the fine details that in the version of the map published in 1879, the name Thatcher appears written across the whole of Indian Point.  The name appears on all subsequent map editions but on none prior to 1879.

But if the original cabin was built in 1878, the question remains why, with a beautiful lodge on Thacher Island on Blue Mountain Lake, did George Hornell Thacher choose to move further west and establish a new outpost on the shores of Indian Point on Raquette Lake?  An understanding of the changes occurring at Blue Mountain Lake at the time provides a clue.

GHT first came to the Adirondacks in 1862 and established his summer home on Thacher Island in 1867.  This was a time when travel to the Adirondacks was an adventurous expedition for wealthy “sports” and their guides.  In the early years at Blue Mountain Lake, GHT’s peace and serenity among the pines would have only been disturbed by small groups of hunting and fishing parties frequenting the camps established by Chauncey Hathorne at Potter’s Landing and Mitchell Sabattis on Crane Point.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 7.00.10 AMThings began to change in 1874 when Tyler M. Merwin built the first of several cottages above the lake on the hillside where the Adirondack Museum stands today.

The Blue Mountain House originally only accommodated between twelve and twenty people, but by 1880 Merwin added buildings which increased this number to 100.

In 1875 John G. Holland built the first proper hotel, the Blue Mountain Lake House.  A primitive log structure of two and a half floors, it accommodated up to 60 guests.  Within six months of the hotel opening, the Thachers purchased the land on Raquette Lake.  In 1878 an addition to the hotel allowed for a total of 200 guests.

In the same year, James Ordway built the Ordway House to house thirty guests, seen here in a painting by Levi Wells Prentice.   The structure on the island at the right of the painting is our family’s lodge on Thacher Island.  In 1879 on the same site, the first class Prospect House Hotel was built to serve over 300 guests.

By 1878, the quiet calm of a summer season at Blue Mountain Lake had become a much different experience.  I believe GHT’s sentiment may have agreed with the writer of this poem found in an 1896 edition of Recreation magazine:

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 7.03.26 AM

So in 1876, as Blue Mountain Lake began a building boom, George Hornell Thacher looked to Raquette Lake in search of a quiet, isolated place more in keeping with the rugged character of the Adirondack guides whom he held in high esteem.

 

 

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Tom Thacher

Tom is the great great grandson of the very first “summer folk” on Blue Mountain Lake. The Thacher family built the first private summer home on Thacher Island in 1867.

Tom has spent every summer of his life on Indian Point of Raquette Lake on lands purchased by his family in 1876. In researching the origins of his family’s century old, one-room cabin, Tom is discovering over 200 years of Adirondack History seen through the lens of one plot of land.

Extended versions of this article and other stories and photos can be found at Fifty Acres of Beach and Wood which chronicles tales of iconic characters of Adirondack history whose footprints have graced the shores of Indian Point.

Tom is currently fundraising to publish a book of his research. The proceeds from the book will support the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts. You can make a contribution to the book fund here:



3 Responses

  1. Charlie S says:

    Weekly Saratogian Thursday July 10, 1879 “A large trout”

    Supt. C.E. Durkee of the Adirondack Company’s railroad yesterday received from W.W. Durant of North Creek a salmon trout that weighed 27 1/2 lbs. It was caught in Raquette lake the previous day by Alvah Dunning, an old guide, who was almost four hours in landing the fish, such was its strength and resisting powers. He caught it in the north bay, near Thacher’s Camp, at the above lake.
    Dunning also inveigled on his seductive line and brought to shore another trout that tipped the scales at 19 lbs. Both were magnificent specimens. The 27 1/2 – pounder is said to be the largest fish of the kind ever caught in that section.

  2. Tom Thacher Tom Thacher says:

    Hi Charlie S.

    Thank you so much for this piece of information. It provides one more piece of the puzzle.

    Tom

  3. Charlie S says:

    Hi Tom….. Thank you for your contributions.In my walks at Albany Rural Cemetery I always pass by the row of mausoleums where John Boyd Thacher is interred. That Alvah…he sure knew how to land a big fish,even if it took him hours.

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