Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John Todd’s ‘Long Lake’ Recalls The 1840s

Long Lake Church in the WildernessThe Long Lake Historical Society has voted to acquire a first edition of John Todd’s book, Long Lake.

First printed in 1845, this small volume was written after Todd’s fourth trip to Long Lake. He first arrived in September, 1841 and found eight or ten families “scattered along towards the head of the lake. . . .They lived in their little log houses, and their little boats were their horses, and the lake their only path.”

By his fourth trip, Mr. Parker, the missionary sent by Todd’s children of the Sabbath School was established. Parker found Todd at his campsite in a bay on the west side of the lake four miles from the inlet. In the stern of his boat were several bibles and a flute, which pleased Rev. Todd so much that he reported it.

Eighteen families could now be counted in the town, the Champlain-Carthage Road had been approved by the State, but it was expected it would be two more years before it was completed. The post office was one hundred miles away, a physician and a saw mill could be found nearly 60 miles away. Harsh and long winters took its toll on the little town. Cattle starved to death and road work wasn’t possible thus depriving Long Lakers of dollars.

Despite these hardships, Todd believed Long Lake would become successful and thrive on agriculture and mining. He was scorned by others including  Joel T. Headley, who realized that farming on a large scale would not happen because of the poor quality of the soil and that new settlers would be diverted west where the ground was fertile. Others criticized Todd for the “wanton massacre of the deer, contrary to the suggestions of a manly nature, and in defiance of the laws for the preservation of game.”

John Todd Author of Long LakeTodd was born in 1800 in Vermont to Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Todd. His father died when Todd was ten years of age and his mother shortly afterward. He was sent to family in Connecticut and eventually graduated from Yale, served as a trustee of Williams College, received an honorary degree from Williams in 1845. He married Mary Skinner Brace in 1827 and they had nine children, six survived childhood. He served as pastor in Groton, Massachusetts (1826 – 1833), Edwards Church in Northampton, Massachusetts (1833 – 1837), First Congregational Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and finally to First Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1842 until he died in 1873. He wrote a total of 33 books and was a noted public speaker.

Todd was an extensive traveler in both the U. S. and Europe. He was invited by San Franciscans to start a church there and offered $10,000 to do so, a not inconsiderable sum, but he refused and returned to his church in Pittsfield. He was interested in education and was a trustee of several educational institutions including Williams College and Mount Holyoke Seminary

Rev. Todd was invited to deliver the dedicatory prayer at the completion of the Pacific Railroad, Golden Spike Ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869.

“Our father and God, and our fathers’ God, God of Creation and God of Providence, thou hast created the heavens and the earth, the valleys and the hills; Thou art also the God of mercies and blessings. We rejoice that thou hast created the human mind with its power of invention, its capacity of expansion, and its guardian of success. We have assembled here this day, upon the height of the continent, from varied sections of our country, to do homage to thy wonderful name, in that thou hast brought this mighty enterprise, combining the commerce of the east with the gold of the west to so glorious a completion. And now we ask thee that this great work, so auspiciously begun and so magnificently completed, may remain a monument to our faith and good works. We here consecrate this great highway for the good of thy people. O God, we implore thy blessings upon it and upon those that may direct its operations. O Father, God of our fathers, we desire to acknowledge thy handiwork in this great work, and ask thy blessing upon us here assembled, upon the rulers of our government and upon thy people everywhere; that peace may flow unto them as a gentle stream, and that this mighty enterprise may be unto us as the Atlantic of thy strength, and the Pacific of thy love. Through Jesus, the Redeemed, Amen.”

The recently acquired first edition of Long Lake joins two other artifacts in Long Lake; a Bible given to one of the early families on Todd’s first trip to Long Lake in 1841 which is in the Long Lake Archives and a silver pitcher given by the children of Todd’s First Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the 1860s which was recently discovered in the Long Lake Wesleyan Church.

The Long Lake Historical Society was formed in 2008. The Society collects books, papers, maps, diaries, photographs and ephemera pertaining to the Town of Long Lake and its residents both year-round and seasonal. Meetings are held monthly September through June and a summer program is offered in August. Membership is $25 per person.

Illustrations: Above, “The Church in the Wilderness”; and below, John Todd, both from John Todd: The Story of His Life Told Mainly by Himself (1876), edited by John E. Todd.

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Abbie Verner

Abbie Verner and her husband Bill raised their children in Long Lake until 1985 when Bill became Director of the Schenectady Museum and Planetarium and they moved to Schenectady. Abbie became Director of Prospect Research for Union College and later for the Albany Institute of History & Art.

The Verners returned to Long Lake in 2009. Abbie is President of the Long Historical Society and serves as an archivist for Long Lake’s historical collection.




2 Responses

  1. Charlie S says:

    What a world it must have been in the 1840’s….no noisy airplanes flying over,no monotonous automobiles wreaking havoc on the ears. Sure,it wasn’t all peaches and cream but if I could snap my fingers and live in whatever era I chose I have said often the 1840’s it would be.To think of all the woods that still existed back then! I would have traveled to Concord to spend a night or two with Thoreau at Walden Pond….for one.
    “Long Lake” is a nice piece of literature and I especially like when Todd mentions his walk through the woods and he comes out to one of the shores of Blue Mountain Lake. I forget his description of that scene (as I have not browsed that book for a tad) but I remember it struck a chord in me when I read it.
    There is so much charm in thinking about things that are no more,about all of the wildness that once was.That is why literature is so important….the preserved moments,they keep the spirit alive. At least in this here cowboy it does. I found an 1880’s Harpers (?) magazine in the recent past that has a biographical sketch of John Todd in it….only paid two dollars for it.I know a bargain when I see it. Thanks for sharing Abbie.

  2. Louisa Austin Wright says:

    We should have a few copies! After all, it’s a major reason why we are all here! My grandchildren would be 8 generation Long Lakers. Hoping there will be a way for them to survive here! My 4 Gr. Grandfather, William Austin and wife had the little cabin where Todd stayed. So interesting to read about what they had to go through to make it here. Wonder what they would think of our little town now.

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