Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Early History Of Seventh Lake

1909 ffg raquette lake (2000x1551)Until Robert Maloney’s 1989 history, A Backward Look at 6th and 7th Lakes, local histories of the Fulton Chain region had mostly concentrated on the growth and development of the more populated First through Fourth Lakes of the chain.

Though my primary subject here is the popular hotel that existed on the north shore of Seventh Lake, I wanted to also supplement Mr. Maloney’s information with additional early history about Seventh Lake itself. 

While millions of acres of Adirondack lands were patented (Macomb Purchase, Totten & Crossfield Patent, Angerstein/John Brown Tract, etc. ) and sold for the speculative purposes of industry, settlement and/or transportation by 1800, it was not until 1820 that the Moose River Tract was surveyed and mapped by Samuel B. Richardson.  Another twenty years (1844) would pass before this Tract was patented to Marshall S. Shedd, Jr. and Farrand N. Benedict.

In 1846, Benedict submitted a report and maps to the New York legislature 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.  Two years later, the Sacketts Harbor and Saratoga Railroad was chartered and its directors accepted Benedict’s data for their planned route, part of which passed through the Eckford Chain, Raquette Lake and the Fulton Chain in the western Adirondacks.

To summarize subsequent history, the owners (Farrand Benedict, Marshall Shedd, Permelia Munn and her heirs) of Seventh Lake’s private lands, Moose River Tract, Township 3, from 1844 to 1889 were absentee landlords waiting for a return on their investment.  This could only come with the access that the building of the railroad originating in Saratoga would provide them.  Until this happened, logging and other development plans were stalled.  But that railroad would (initially) extend no farther than North Creek. Only loggers who developed skidding roads near rivers (declared by the State as “public highways for floating logs”) made headway into the north woods.

Fulton ChainThen Dr. Webb built his railroad through the Fulton Chain region, reaching Thendara (then named “Fulton Chain Station”) in July 1892, extending to the region northward in October that year.

Before the railroads, to reach Seventh Lake and points beyond, the hunters, trappers, sportsmen and their guides used the Chain’s lakes and, when necessary, the portages between the lakes as their highways during most of the 19th century.  Today, participants in the annual Adirondack Canoe Classic use this route.  Then, with the increase in travelers, women as well as men, hotels and hunting camps were built.  Along the Fulton Chain, these started with Arnolds in 1837, then the Forge House in 1871 and by 1874 Fourth Lake had Buell Camp (later Perrie’s Third Lake House and Barrett’s Bald Mountain House), Snyder’s Camp, Lewis H. Lawrence’s Camp and Jack Sheppard’s Camp. Others such as Alonzo Wood’s and Fred Hess’s soon followed in the early1880’s.

One of the first encroachments by the State on the upper chain lakes was its appropriating 1.8 acres from Munn’s lands to build a dam at the outlet of Sixth Lake, raising the levels of Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Lakes.  Travelers would comment on the flooding’s desolation for the next twenty years.  Soon after the dam’s construction, the popular sportsman Nessmuk wrote: “The shoreline of trees stood dead and dying, while the smell of decaying vegetable matter was sickening.”  As the building of John Brown’s dam in 1799 changed the nature of the first four lakes from river (Middle Branch Moose River) to a chain of lakes, this dam raised the level of Sixth through Eighth Lakes, extending that chain, now the Fulton Chain.

The author A. Judd Northrup stopped at Seventh Lake while touring with his son in 1877.  He found “two or three deserted bark camps…They were dirty and forlorn as a deserted camp had a right to be.  A stately grove of Norway pines stand on a clear sandy shore, on the East, backed by a thick forest growth.”

A few years later, in 1881, Nessmuk (George Washington Sears) reached Seventh Lake and reported only an “open, free-for-all camp…, there for many years, and many are the names and dates carved on the square logs of which the sides are built.” Perhaps this was the “cozy, log cabin on the upper north shore” of Seventh Lake built by Artemus M. Church.  Joseph Grady’s history also mentions Church building the “Manhattan Club” camp a few years later.

The Rome Daily Sentinel in 1886 reported that, except for one or two of the Fulton Chain’s camp owners, none of the owners “have any title whatever to the soil on which the buildings stand….the occupants select an eligible location, erect buildings, make improvements, ask no questions and pay no taxes.”  The writer notes that on Fourth Lake, Fred Hess’s Cedar Island camp, a New Haven, Connecticut owner’s camp on Dollar Island and Lawrence’s Camp were built without title to the land.  On Seventh Lake, Ed Arnold was erecting a frame camp on its shores.  But then new owners with a different business plan came on the scene.

1892 fulton chain club 1_0In March, 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 more than 6,000-acre Munn Tract, encompassing a rectangle including the head of Fourth Lake, Fifth, Sixth, two thirds of Seventh Lake and a portion of Limekiln Lake’s shores.  Papers 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 only James Galvin’s name and, after January 1890, his wife Jennie appear on the deeds for most present day Seventh Lake property owners

In May, 1889 the Munn estate sold their tract to the group, James Galvin as agent, for $10,000.  But the purchased tract did not include the entire Seventh Lake.  The Totten & Crossfield Purchase boundary partitions the eastern third of Seventh Lake, as well as the large island, and east of it was State land.  I mention this because camps built on State land when the Park was formed in 1892 had to be removed.

Popular feeling had begun in the 1860s for protection of the Adirondack region, the sale of State lands for non-paypment of taxes stopped in 1883, a forest commission was formed in 1885 and the Adirondack State Park would be established in 1892.  The State began buying park acreage and prices were beginning to rise by 1889 with this new buyer in competition with private interests.  In order to acquire land before prices rose higher, Galvin’s group purchased the Munn tract.

The buyers then formed the Fulton Chain Club, a clone of the Adirondack League Club, and attempted to establish a preserve with similar rules.  However, this plan failed to attract members and agent James Galvin and his surveyors subdivided the lakes’ shorelines into camp lots to sell for camps.

Though several books covering recreational visits were written about the Adirondacks from the 1840s to the 1860s, not until Adirondack Murray’s narrative extolling the wonders of the region was published in 1869 did visitors of all classes come in great numbers to the region.  Initially, guides were overwhelmed by this volume as were the small number of dwellings available for temporary housing.  Dr. Webb’s railroad finished in 1892, then a connecting line from Thendara (called Fulton Chain) to the steamers at Old Forge dock completed in 1896 and a third line opening in 1900 connecting Clearwater (now Carter Station) to Raquette Lake via Eagle Bay created the access necessary for visitors to consider buying property for camps and in some cases opening hotels.

Guideboats were replaced by steamers in 1883 (the Hunter), the Fulton in 1887 and by others in the 1890s.  Steamers were replaced by the 1900 opening of the Raquette Lake Railroad.   Dr. Webb’s railroad access encouraged the towns and counties to build “highways”: the Sucker Brook Bay road to Eagle Bay which opened in Spring 1896; William West Durant built the Mohegan Road from J.P. Morgan’s Camp Uncas past Eighth Lake and Cascade Lakes to Big Moose Station, finished in December, 1896; and the Town of Webb finished their road from Old Forge to Eagle Bay by June 1899.

The transportation options now made it feasible for travelers to have camps of their own and stay for longer periods, though still mostly during the summer months.

I have mentioned some of the early camps on Seventh Lake which until the late 1890s were reachable only by foot, wagon and/or boat.  As early as 1887 and as late as 1903, the New York, Boston and Rochester members of the Manhattan Club continued annual trips to Seventh Lake.  It was the 1903 trip that may have been Fred Hess’s final guiding job before leaving Inlet permanently to reside in Maine.   The 1903 Manhattan Club had an all-star group of guides to serve them:  camp builder Artemus M. Church, Fred Hess, Everett Van Arnam, Raymond Norton and Eri Delmarsh.  Hess and Church had guided the1887 party.   Raymond was the son of the original owner of the Seventh Lake House, Duane Norton.  Eri later built Delmarsh Inn on Limekiln Lake.  According to Grady, the membership was limited to 8 men and was located on the “upper north shore” probably on State land.

In 1920, a Geneva Boy Scouts troop named their Seventh lake location “Camp Griffith” on the Manhattan Club site.  They camped on the “site of a cottage formerly owned by the Manhattan Club of New York City, and it is generally believed that this cottage was burned when the forests were taken over by the state.  The stone fire places, the only remnant of the cottage… ” were used for their bonfires.

In 1893, Friend Bristol of Remsen had begun construction of a hotel on Seventh Lake’s state land, “high on a bluff”.   He may not have completed the building by the time he died suddenly only two years later at his Remsen hotel.  As mentioned earlier, the State would not have permitted it on forest preserve land.

Mr. Maloney’s history mentions the names given to the Seventh Lake Island: “White” (for trapper Green White), “Indian Pines”, “Seventh Lake Island” and later “Goff Island”.  I have found another name: “Gloria Island”.   In April 1889, F.E. Brahmer, Brayton B. Miller and Albert C. Boshart, prominent Lowville businessmen, began construction of the Miller Camp on the “Gloria Island”.  The camp was completed the next year and their families continued to summer at the camp for the next ten years or so.

Examining an abstract for the Galvin lands, I could not find a sale of the island property to Miller or Boshart.  Furthermore, the 1889 Deed of Sale from the Munn Estate to the Galvin group mentioned no exclusions to the property sold other than the land taken for the Sixth Lake dam.  However, some accommodation must have occurred because the 1891-1892  Fulton Chain Club Prospectus identifies the Miller Camp on the tract and includes an illustration.

Boshart would marry Caroline Moshier, sister of William D. Moshier.  Often, John G. Moshier, their father, would join them at Miller’s island camp before he died in 1899. William Moshier, with brother Charles, would acquire Fred Hess’s Hess Inn in October 1896. A fire had occurred that summer and Moshier hired Boshart to make necessary repairs in the winter of 1896-1897.  In 1903, financial conditions resulted in Moshier losing the hotel, named The Arrowhead in July 1898 when Fred Hess built Hess Camp, and Boshart acquired it in 1904.  Boshart was the owner when Chester Gillette was captured in the Arrowhead lobby.  I did find where Brayton Miller had a new camp in 1899 and built a “modern” new camp during 1907 on the island.

P738 JG Moshier 6th Lake steamerFor the route from Fifth Lake to Raquette Lake, a steamer/stage line of relays became by 1899, the Sixth and Seventh Lake Transportation Company run by William D. Moshier. Disembarking, passengers and their cargo used the Eighth Lake and Raquette Lake Transportation Company operated by Charles Bennett for the rest of the trip.

As agent for his partners, James Galvin sold shore lots to many Seventh Lake pioneers whose names appear in the title abstracts of today’s camp owners.  I would like to mention a few:  Lewis H. Lawrence (1891-camp was already  built), Captain Elmer E. Sawyer, a 97th N.Y. regiment veteran and prominent camp builder on the lake, (1894);  N.S. Mead and Emory L. Mead (1895); D. D. Warne and F. L. Warne (1896), superintendents of the Fairfield Seminary and Military Academy that would close in 1901, purchased land to build a rustic camp and establish a tented summer school and military camp; Myron Sanford (1896); Henry, John and Charles Bowes (1897); Helen Bowden and Anna  Perry (1897); Chloe Kellogg (1897); Homer and Alice Traffarn (1897); again Henry, John and Charles Bowes (1899); a small island to Frank Riley Johnson, mason (1899); Georgianna Wood, wife of William T. Wood (1899); William Wheeler (1899); and in 1900, Dr. Richard Woodruff, Everett Barto and Lucian Rowe.

In February, 1898, Isaac C. Goff of Cleveland, Ohio, purchased from James and Jennie Galvin the westerly four acres of the island which would now be known as Goff Island.  A newspaper report mentioned that eleven remaining acres of the island were State land.  Goff hoped to be able to purchase an adjoining lot for a Dr. Kellogg.  The Galvin abstract does show a purchase by Chloe Kellogg in 1897, but not the Goff purchase which had not been recorded yet.  But it does include a purchase by Duane C. Norton in 1898.

Before a bridge was built at the inlet from Seventh to Sixth Lake, a steamer tour of Seventh Lake in 1899 was described in another report:  “[Seventh Lake] is reached from the head of Fourth Lake by a carry three- fourths of mile along the shore of Fifth Lake (which is not navigable) to the outlet of Sixth Lake, where a little steamer [probably the J.G. Moshier] is taken for Seventh Lake.  From Sixth Lake we pass through a narrow, winding channel into Seventh Lake.  Most of the camps are on the north shore of the lake.”

This 1899 traveler described a new hotel kept by Duane Norton with its trail up to a mountain peak, and then the Bowes-Meade camp, the abandoned Warne military camp and others until they’ve reached William T. Wood’s Woodholme cottage (which probably opened that year).  Beyond Woodholme were the Sherwood’s Ossahinta Lodge and the Traffarn’s White Birch Camp. Passed next was the island containing the camps belonging to Goff, Boshart and Miller.  On the south shore, the traveler viewed only three camps: Lawrence, Smith and Charles Stone of Syracuse.

Another account that year, perhaps ghost-written by Moshier’s transportation company due to its length and glowing descriptions, included viewing the Bowes, Perry, Saxon and C.M. Williams  camps, then the “snow-white” tents of the Fairfield camp, near that camp the Mead Brothers and Dr. Kellogg’s camps, next the Sherwood, Captain Sawyer and E.E. Mallard camps.  The above mentioned three (Goff, Boshart and Miller) island camps are again noted, then a paragraph describing Lawrence’s care of camps here and at Fourth Lake.

Photos from the Goodsell Collection, Fulton Chain Prospectus from the Adirondack Museum Library, Map from the 1909 Forest Fish and Game Commission Annual Report.

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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 . During 2023, Herr was appointed Inlet Town Historian.

2 Responses

  1. John Miller says:

    Enjoyed your article. My uncle, Arthur Lucas grew up on Seventh Lake from Approximatley 1911 through WWII. His father was a hunting guide and fur trapper and Arthur worked with him for many years. I believe he also worked as a grounds keeper for a Dr. From Rochester but I don’t have a name. Brought back stories of huge lake trout, bears, and trophy bucks. Thanks!

    • Richard Rayn says:

      My paternal grandfather, Dr. Clarence M. Ryan owned a camp on Seventh Lake (near Bottle Creek) which was named “Camp Traffarn”. I believe he had the camp as early as 1901. He was a dentist from Syracuse, and he and his wife Sarah had 4 children, all of whom enjoyed life at the camp and on 7th Lake. My father, Clarence Wilson Ryan, took his family (myself and 2 brothers) to the camp for summer vacations from the mid-1940’s to about 1950, when the camp was sold to Floyd Johnson of Rochester. I have a number of old photographs of the camp, taken and printed by my grandfather.

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