Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Origins Of The Town of Inlet

scythe herrershoff manor_2On November 27, 1901, the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an act that created a new town from northern Morehouse, with the South Branch of the Moose River dividing the two towns.  Afterwards, Inlet held its first town meeting on January 14, 1902.  Presently (2009), the Adirondack Park Agency reports that Inlet consists of 42,446 acres of which just under 4,000 acres is not state land.

But this narrative is about the over 6,000 acres in the northerly Part of Township 3 of the Moose River Tract surrounding the “Head of Fourth Lake”, as Inlet was formerly known, and the connections among the speculators who owned it prior to Inlet’s creation.  This square tract covers the lands from Fourth Lake to Seventh Lakes down to Limekiln Lake at its southwest corner.

After the Revolutionary War, New York and other states were deeply in debt and in need of cash.  So, legislation was enacted in 1786 that called for the “speedy sale of unappropriated lands” such as the present Adirondack Park region, instructing the state’s Surveyor General to lay out tracts and townships and to give public notice that the available lands were for sale.  In some cases, major tracts such as the Macomb Purchase were sold with the requirement that purchasers complete these surveys at their expense.

While millions of acres were patented and sold for purposes of industry, settlement and/or transportation, it was not until 1820 that the Moose River Tract, totally state owned at the time, was surveyed and mapped by Samuel B. Richardson.  It would be another twenty years before the Tract would be patented to individuals such as Marshall S. Shedd, Jr. and Farrand N. Benedict.

Shedd’s father, Rev. Marshall S. Shedd, was born in Cambridge, MA in 1786, married Eliza Thayer, whose father Obadiah was also a minister, in April 1818.  The Shedds had six children, three of whom were sons Marshall, Jr. (1822), Henry (1824) and William (Greenough Thayer) G. T. Shedd (1820).  Two children died young and an invalid daughter Elizabeth would die in Willsborough in 1872, the same year Rev. Shedd died.

Rev. Shedd had graduated from Dartmouth in 1817, was a member of Rev. William Greenough’s Congregational Church in Newton, MA and became pastor of the First Congregational Church in Acton, MA in 1820 where his children were born.  Though successfully starting a temperance movement in Acton, parochial differences between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism resulted in a decision to resign and he moved to Willsborough (Willsboro), NY in 1831.  Eliza’s father also moved with the family.

Rev. Shedd was a founder of Willsborough’s First Congregational Church and preached for two years.  Eliza died in February 1833.  In 1835 Rev. Shedd married Mary Elizabeth R. R. Pemberton, a daughter of Boston teacher Ebenezer Pemberton, who moved with her husband to Willsborough, bringing her unmarried sister Johanna Pemberton and a brother, William Whitwell.  Ebenezer had been principal of the Phillips Academy that Rev. Shedd attended as a youth in Andover, MA.

At this time, Rev. Shedd temporarily moved to Burlington, VT to educate his sons.  Being teachers in their father’s school, it is probable that Mary and Johanna tutored young Henry and Marshall.  The older William attended the University of Vermont and graduated in 1839.  He majored in theology and philosophy, joined the faculty as a professor of English literature (1845-1852) and published several acclaimed books on Calvinist theology still referenced today.  When William graduated, Rev. Shedd returned with his extended family to Willsborough and remained a minister for the rest of his days.

Ministerial duties must not have interested his sons Henry and Marshall.  Either while living with their family in the “Italian Villa” still on the University campus or shortly afterwards, they met a well known professor of math and engineering named Farrand Northrop Benedict, probably the most intrepid scientific explorer of the Adirondacks until Verplank Colvin.

“Professor Benedict”, as he would be known for most of the 19th century, was born on March 11, 1803 in Parsippany, NJ where he would meet and later marry his wife, Susan Ogden, in 1832.  Benedict graduated from Hamilton College in 1823, practiced civil engineering in western New York, was principal in schools at Rochester and Virginia, and accepted a professorship of mathematics at the University of Vermont in 1833.  Soon after, the department of civil engineering was placed in his charge.  His father dead, Benedict also managed the education of his brothers Abner and Joel.

Urged by a prominent businessman’s (William Waddell) claim that no one had ever traveled the region from end to end, Benedict in 1835 began a period of twenty years where he would annually summer in the rivers, valleys and mountains of the Adirondacks learning of not only the scenery, but noting the mineral, water power and lumber assets of the region.  He also realized this potential would not be realized without commercial investment in transportation to harvest the natural wealth.

In 1837, Ebenezer Emmons climbed Mt. Marcy (newly named for the governor) and published its height as 5,487 feet using barometric means and was quickly questioned by Edwin Johnson, a noted engineer, who claimed a figure under 5,000 feet using triangulation methods.  Emmons called upon Benedict, labeled by some the “mathematician of his age” for an independent measurement.  Benedict traveled to Mt. Marcy twice in 1838 and calculated 5,344 feet, a figure confirmed by Verplank Colvin in 1874.

Benedict’s travels through the Adirondacks convinced him it was possible to build railroads and canal links southwesterly east to west in the river valleys through the region.  Until they were built, he determined that he could obtain the cheapest price for the thousands of available acres of state lands along this route.  According to Adirondack historian Barbara McMartin, in 1842 Benedict and David Read had already traveled through the Fulton Chain and the Moose River (then Indian) Plains.

In 1844, Benedict interested young Marshall Shedd, Jr. of Willsborough, and brother Henry in the opportunities the land provided.  In a transaction dated August 6, 1844, Benedict and Marshall obtained a patent from the state for thousands of acres of forest land and lakes, including the 6,000 acres of what later would become Inlet. That year, Benedict also purchased the triangular portion of Township 8, John Brown’s Tract, in today’s Town of Inlet which includes Cascade Lake.  McMartin claimed that Benedict would have at least partial title to at least 152,000 acres.

In 1846, Benedict submitted a report and maps to the legislature (Senate Document 73, 1846) demonstrating that a combination 190-mile plank road, railroad, steamer and canal project could connect Port Kent on Lake Champlain to Boonville on the Black River Canal.  This report, which would be referenced for over thirty years, would be the basis for early railroad planning in the region.  Six prominent upstate legislators had commissioned the report and some of these were directors in the approved “Northern Slack-water and Railway Company (Ch. 311, 1946).  One of the directors was Gerritt Smith who would offer land in North Elba to former slaves.

Two years later (1848), the railroad baton was passed as the Sacketts Harbor and Saratoga Railroad was chartered and its directors accepted Benedict’s data for their route through the Eckford Chain, Raquette Lake and Fulton Chain in the western Adirondacks.  Also in 1848, Benedict with David Read purchased Township 40 (Totten & Crossfield Purchase) from the state  which includes Raquette Lake.  Read later sold his interest to Benedict.  Lack of surveys of this acreage later resulted in the uncertain title issues of that region for property owners today.

In 1855, Benedict provided survey data to groups looking for additional supplies of water for the Erie and Black River Canals.  Benedict recommended dams for storage reservoirs at Old Forge and Sixth Lake that were not built until 1880.  In 1860, Benedict’s 1846 study was listed as a source for a successor to the Sacketts Harbor and Saratoga R. R., the Adirondac Estate and Railroad Co., which planned to use Benedict’s “proposed system of inland navigation”.

Three years later, this company dissolved and its lands and rights were obtained by the Adirondack Company, builder of the railroad to North Creek.  The Utica Morning Herald in 1865 referred to Benedict as that company’s “engineer”.  At this time, Utica was seeking railroad extensions of the Black River R. R. to the Fulton Chain to obtain cheap fuel for the city and lumber for construction and railroads.

Benedict advised this “Wilderness Project” leader, Rutger B. Miller, in December 1865 that the Adirondack Company railroad from Saratoga was complete for 14 miles and another 25 miles would be finished in a month.  He urged the group to complete their railroad and join the success of the Adirondack Co.’s railroad heading north from Saratoga.  He would report their plans to his board for possible coordination.  His brothers Abner and Joel Benedict became stockholders for the “Lake and River Improvement and Railroad and Land Company of the New York Wilderness” (Ch. 683, 1865).  This legislation authorized railroad connections with the Adirondack Company R. R. and the Utica and Black River R. R.

Benedict, having moved to Parsippany, NJ in 1855 due to his wife’s poor health, would return to the Adirondacks one more time in 1874 for a new survey.  The state selected Benedict over local applicants not only for his “known ability to grapple with the important questions involved”, but also for his personal study of the region “instrumentally” for over a period of forty years.  The new study was to determine how the waters of the Adirondacks could be dammed and “improved” to provide water flow for the canals of the state.  Benedict was among the first to advocate clear cutting lands to be flowed when dams were constructed.

Warder Cadbury informs us that Benedict also was the impetus for the earliest books on the region.  Rev. John Todd, commencement speaker at the University in 1841, had Benedict bring him along on his next trip to the Adirondacks.  Todd would write Long Lake in 1844.  Benedict encouraged cousin Joel T. Headley, suffering a physical breakdown, to seek health in the Adirondacks.  Headley would write about his adventures in The Adirondack, or Life in the Woods in 1849.  Farrand Northrup Benedict died in 1880.

We now return to 1844.  Three years after the joint purchase with Marshall Shedd, Jr., Benedict began a period of selling his lands to his family, Shedd, to Constable, Wood and Beach on Raquette Lake, and large portions to the Sackett’s Harbor and Saratoga R. R. and its successor, the Lake Ontario and Hudson River R. R.  In 1847, Benedict conveyed his title to the 6,000 plus acres at the Head of Fourth Lake, and other lands to Marshall Shedd.  In this transaction, dated June 10, 1847, Shedd provided Benedict with a mortgage note for $6,000.  Marshall and his brother Henry turned to lumbering.

In 1848, the Shedd brothers built a “gang-mill” utilizing 32 saws on the Moose River a mile from its junction with the Black River.  In 1855, the Shedds were sued for damages by Lyman R. Lyon, then owner of John Brown’s Tract.  Apparently they hired Ed Arnold to drive logs in 1848 cut from the Inlet area.  Evidently, Arnold and his coworker named Sutton cut a section from the Forge log dam on Lyon’s lands and drove 300 logs down the Moose River to Shedds’ Mills.

The Shedds lived in Leyden where Henry would become Greig’s town supervisor (1857-1859).  In the 1850s, Henry became joint owner of the lands his brother received from Benedict.  They also sold hundreds of acres to the Sacketts Harbor and Saratoga R.R.  Failing financially, the Shedds obtained funds from their stepmother’s sister living in Willsborough, Johanna Pemberton, who obtained a $7,000 mortgage in 1857. Marshall never married, but Henry married Helen Marion Munn in 1853.  She was the daughter of Otis and Permelia Jennings Munn.

Permelia J. Munn foreclosed on the Shedds in 1862 on the mortgage to Benedict.  That year, she also foreclosed on a mortgage given to the Shedds in 1855 for all of the 6000 acres.  A foreclosure sale awarded to Mrs. Munn complete title to the acreage in 1866.  By that time Mrs. Munn had also obtained the mill and sold it to new operators.  In 1874, it was purchased by G. H. P. Gould and the Lyon sisters and, under Gould’s later ownership known as “Gouldtown”.

Henry’s wife and a child, also named Helen, both died in 1863.  He soon left Greig and worked for the post office in New York City for 30 years and returned to Willsboro in 1893, where he died in 1906. Marshall turned to farming in Willsboro and died in 1879. Sagamore Lake’s former name was Shedd Lake, renamed shortly after Alfred Vanderbilt purchased Camp Sagamore in 1901.

Who was Permelia J. Munn and how did the wife of a carpenter and farmer obtain the wealth to invest in forest lands?

Permelia Jennings was the second wife of Otis Munn, who she married in Gill, MA on April 15, 1815.  The Munns moved first to Rochester, then to Carthage Landing and left that location for Greig where Otis became a carpenter and farmer.  They later moved to Leyden in 1839 and concentrated on farming.  At Greig, Otis was appointed commissioner of highways for twenty years, notable for his building the first bridge over the Black River at Lyons Falls.  Otis Munn died August 31, 1880.

Permelia Munn had a brother, Chester Jennings, who came to New York City as a young stage driver and obtained work at the City Hotel as a servant.  A hard worker, he advanced to become a co-proprietor of the hotel and became famous and wealthy.  The City Hotel suffered in the Panic of 1837 and Jennings recovered with the assistance of John Jacob Astor.  Chester Jennings died at the Astor House on January 20, 1854 leaving Mrs. Otis Munn of Leyden an estate valued in 1845 at $150,000.  His sister would invest the monies to provide a legacy for her children and grandchildren.

Permelia J. Munn is pictured in Conway’s “Port Leyden: The Iron City” and mentioned briefly as the purchaser of a portion of Kelsey’s Mills in 1858, which became Port Leyden, and subsequently the land was subdivided for village lots.  With her daughter and granddaughter dying in short order in 1863, and son-in-law Henry Shedd leaving for new employment opportunities, Permelia obtained their mill, and shortly afterwards the 6,000 acres at the Head of Fourth Lake  in a referee’s deed on May 23 1866.  Permelia J. Munn died in Talcottville on May 5, 1876 leaving the lands to be held in trust to her three children, Chester Jennings Munn, Thaddeus E. Munn and Margaret J. Northrup.

In 1880, in order to create reservoirs, as Benedict recommended in 1855, to supply the Black River Canal and Forestport feeder, the state built the Sixth Lake dam and appropriated 1.8 acres and the right to control Moose River water levels.  The Munn estate claimed loss of land and flood damages and were awarded $400 dollars in 1885.

The executors of Permelia J. Munn’s estate held the lands until May 1, 1889 when the 6,000 acres were sold for $10,000 to an agent for a group of investors who wanted to start a sportsmen’s club.  The agent’s name was James Galvin.  No longer would the land be held for lumber and railroads.

Map  from “A Visit to John Brown’s Tract”, Thomas B. Thorpe, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, July, 1859.

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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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