For many property owners in Inlet, the abstract of title invariably lists James and Jennie Galvin as early, if not the first, owners. But until I began researching this narrative, I believed, as have other Inlet landowners and early 20th century newspapers, that the Galvins were sole owners of the 6,000 acres surrounding the Head of Fourth Lake. I learned that Galvin was an agent for the Fulton Chain Club and it was through his efforts that the land was sold for hotels and camps, and ultimately to the first residents of Inlet.
James Galvin, the son of an Irish immigrant, was born in 1835 in Wilna, Jefferson County. His father Edward was a successful farmer and also managed a prosperous charcoal production trade. James was listed as a farmhand and a farmer on the 1850 and 1860 censuses, respectively, but from the age of fifteen, he dealt in horses and cattle and became successful in buying stock both in New York and Canada. He commanded large credit with banks in both regions.
In July 1875, James Galvin became the founding president for the Jefferson County Union Agricultural Society, which had as one its directors Theodore Basselin of Croghan. The society built a fairground which attracted popular county fairs held annually. Earlier in 1875, Galvin was unanimously elected Wilna’s town supervisor and would serve six years (1875-1880). The newspapers reported that he refused to spend any money on Election Day liquor, instead contributing money for the poor.
In 1876, Galvin contested Samuel Garmon of Watson for superintendent of the Black River Canal, a political appointment though holders of this position managed the canal conscientiously. Galvin served as Garmon’s deputy until the latter’s replacement in April 1877.
During the years 1879 to 1882, Watertown papers would report about Galvin’s trips to Canada for horses. They also noted Galvin’s sales of large horses, some 1,300 lbs., to Theodore Basselin for use in his lumber business.
By 1883, the Black River Canal superintendent position was divided into Sections, with James Galvin becoming Section 2 superintendent, managing the route from Boonville to Lyons Falls, including any Black River and Moose River improvements. He assigned Forge dam tending duties to James and Charles Barrett of the Forge House in 1885 and 1886. In July 1885, Galvin accompanied James Shanahan, superintendent of public works, to Stillwater to locate the Beaver River dam site. Two years later, Galvin managed repairs to the dam due to its keeper’s negligence.
Galvin’s reputation also was instrumental in August 1887 in his being named a founding director of the Carthage Savings Bank, where Ephraim Myers and Allen Kilby were also directors. These gentlemen would collaborate in another venture two years later.
During the 1880s, Samuel Garmon (who became State Warden in 1885), Theodore Basselin (who became one of the first Forest Commissioners in 1885) and Galvin were political allies. Papers would note that Galvin, an Irish Catholic, was a rarity of upstate political success. But in 1889, Lewis County democrats were successful in the removal of Galvin as canal superintendent though others felt, with Basselin and Garmon representing them in statewide prominent positions, Lewis County was sufficiently represented. Galvin’s support was high in Jefferson County. It was noted that that G. H. P. Gould’s ties to Governor Hill resulted in Galvin’s removal. Galvin had prohibited Gould from using the Moose River for floating logs, regardless of the “rights of boatmen or manufacturers”. Galvin served until April 13, 1889.
With the state planning to buy up Adirondack land for the new forest preserve and with the Forest Commission about to remove squatters on state lands, Basselin knew that land prices were certain to increase. Garmon was part owner of the nearby Forge Tract and must have been aware of the lands owned by the Munn Estate and may have informed Basselin about this undeveloped block of 6000 acres.
On March 13, 1889, an agreement was signed by James Galvin, Ephraim Myers, Allen Kilby, Charles Emery and Theodore Basselin for sharing equally in the purchase of the Munn Tract. The Lowville Journal Republican reported that “for the convenience of the parties in selling the land …the deed was taken in the name of Mr. Galvin only”. This is why James Galvin’s name and, after January 1890, his wife Jennie appear on the hundreds of deeds for Inlet property owners. In a transaction dated May 1, 1889, the Munn estate sold their tract to James Galvin for $10,000.
Basselin was an unusual choice for Forest Commissioner in 1885 as he was also a lumber baron. Charles Goodwin Emery made his fortune from a cigarette rice paper patent (his company was among the first to advertise with baseball cards) and he held substantial Thousand Islands real estate, building Calumet Castle in 1893-1894. Allen Kilby was a successful Carthage lawyer, served two years in the Assembly after which he continued practicing law. Ephraim Myers learned banking at an early age, gained presidency of the First National Bank of Carthage, was connected with the new Carthage Savings Bank in the same building and served twice as Carthage’s village president.
From the outset, the association had a rocky start. Included in the tract was lot 55 (80 acres) in Herkimer County on which wealthy oil magnate Charles Pratt had a “private lodge”. The lot was sold in 1856 for taxes, but no deed had been issued. On behalf of the association, Galvin sent Garmon to Albany to retrieve the deed, but Basselin had instructed Garmon to return the 80-acre deed to him which Garmon (Basselin was his Forest Commission boss) did. The members met with and tried to pay Garmon for his expenses, but he refused payment and would not provide the deed. The other members believed Basselin would procure the deed for himself and brought suit against him. The short story is that Basselin received the lot in February 1890. In September, Basselin left the association and in return received the 20 acres in lot 55 containing Pratt’s Camp. Basselin quickly sold the property to Charles Pratt which perfected Pratt’s title to the land.
In January 1890, James Galvin married Jennie Carroll whose name would join her husband’s on deeds for future tract sales. Theodore Basselin of Croghan was their best man.
Association sales began with Galvin selling 30 acres to Fred and Ellen Hess on October 28, 1890 for $3,100; Hess promptly sold 18 acres to Henry Bostwick of Connecticut the next day. On January 29, 1891, agent Galvin sold additional lands to Hess for $3,400. The October 1890 newspapers reported that Hess would build a hotel at the Head of Fourth Lake and on a 10-acre lot at Fourth Lake inlet, he would build a sawmill that began operations in June 1891.
In August 1891, the association determined to establish a private preserve named “The Fulton Chain Club”. Fred Hess would be its superintendent and build lodges for members on Fourth, Seventh and Limekiln Lakes. The prospectus (written by Myers) announced that Fred Hess’s new hotel soon to be completed would be the terminus for those taking the steamers from Old Forge after departing from Dr. Webb’s new railroad. Membership was limited to 120 members who would pay $500, providing them a lot for a camp, use of the lodges and a revenue share of the timber harvested by Hess.
Though similar in policy to the neighboring Adirondack League Club, it failed to attract members. By August 1892, James Galvin began subdividing the shore lots on the tract’s lakes and advertised one-acre lots on Fourth Lake for $200, promoting the region as a health resort.
The extension of Dr. Webb’s railroad to Fulton Chain (Thendara) in July 1892 brought an increase of travelers through the tract and the need for accommodating them. Charles Bennett of the Antlers (Raquette Lake) began a stage and steamer line from Fourth Lake to Brown’s Tract Inlet and purchased the right of way from Galvin through the tract’s lands for carries between the lakes. He was reported to have also purchased lots on Sixth Lake. Fred Hess’s hotel opened in 1893 on Fourth Lake’s shore at the inlet. On June 12, 1893, Galvin sold land for $2500 to Ella Holliday, Emeline Crawford and James Niles who would soon build Rocky Point Inn.
Sales were delayed during June 1894 when James Galvin became critically ill and was temporarily comatose. He shortly recovered and returned to the tract in August bringing wife Jennie for her first trip. Shortly afterward, Galvin finalized a series of sales such as with David Frank Sperry for land on the channel that Charles O’Hara later obtained to build the Inlet Inn. Other sales were to Dwight Sperry, Elmer Sawyer and Stephen W. Burdick. In 1895, Galvin sold land to Fred Kirch who opened a tourist camp on Fourth Lake and to Archie Delmarsh. During the years 1895 to 1899, lots were sold to Homer Traffarn, Frank Tiffany, Wellington Kenwell and Fred Woolsleger and other Inlet and Seventh Lake pioneers.
According to Fred Hess’s 1896 deposition in favor of the Fulton Chain Railroad, the Club still planned to build a lodge at Limekiln Lake. Also that year, Ephraim Myers started a transportation company to compete with Bennett’s line. Myers also obtained Hess’s sawmill, now the Fulton Chain Lumber Company, for his son Henry to run, though a Peter Rohr probably did most of the work. In May 1898, Galvin sold land to Duane Norton who built the Seventh Lake House. But 1898 would present new problems for the association and for Ephraim Myers.
In January 1898, Carthage’s First National Bank’s bank examiners found a $20,000 defalcation by President Myers. For public relations and friendship reasons, the directors, one who was Kilby, signed a note to repay the money based on their shares in the bank. Myers would repay them from the proceeds of a mortgage he executed on all his properties. On April 26, Myers absconded with $6700 from the bank and never returned. Later it was found he adjusted the books so embezzlements would be hidden until depositors claimed funds. A year later, son Henry absconded with Fulton Chain Lumber Company books, leaving Peter Rohr with mill operations he soon wanted to sell. Directors Kilby, Spencer and the others faced severe criticism for their earlier $20,000 note and not immediately replacing Myers. The First National Bank would cease to exist and lawsuits to recover losses continued for four years.
After almost ten years of selling the tract’s lands in small lots, Galvin concentrated on selling large blocks of timber land for its lumber. In a letter dated August 31, 1899 to Allen Kilby, Galvin stated that Rohr was ready to sell the mill, but also that he was trying to interest a Mr. Munson in 5,500 acres, the “balance of our tract”. This did not occur but he did accomplish two major sales: Hinckley Fiber Company, 2911 acres for $26,201 on December 31, 1900 and Finch Pryn, 1200 acres for $11,504 on February 3, 1910.
In December 1901, papers reported that Galvin purchased Myers’ interest in the remaining unsold lands of the tract. I could not find any mention of who belonged to the association other than Kilby and Galvin at this point.
The town of Inlet held its first meeting on January 14, 1902 and lots would continue to be sold such as for the Inlet School and to Jennie Galvin who would contribute the land for St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Newspapers would continue to report the Galvins’ vacationing in Inlet over the years. In Carthage, the Galvins moved from their long time home on Alexandria Street to State Street, across from St. James Church which his father Edward had helped found and which the Galvins prominently supported.
Four months after celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary with Jennie and noting many years of summering at the Arrowhead Hotel, James Galvin died on April 8, 1911. The couple had no children. Allen Kilby, perhaps the remaining partner with Mrs. Galvin, died in April 1922.
In 1932, the Utica Daily Press reported that Mrs. Jennie Galvin returned to Inlet for her 38th annual vacation. The paper noted her recalling that “the first jaunt (1894 above) was a two-day affair and required a night’s stopover in Remsen. Now she makes the trip in two hours”. The Watertown Daily Times would annually announce her birthday until her death at age 94 on March 10, 1947. Among her many bequests was $20,000 for side altars, a pulpit and a communion rail at St. James Church across the street. She also directed that a plaque be placed on the main altar: “Donated by Jennie Carroll Galvin in memory of James Galvin, Edward Villars, Carrie Carroll Villars, Thomas Carroll and Mary Murphy Carroll.”
Attending Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in Inlet, if I sit in the correct pew, I can glance at the names on the stained glass window to my left: James and Jennie Galvin.
Illustrations: Prospectus of the Fulton Chain Club, courtesy the Adirondack Museum Library.