Saturday, April 2, 2016

F. C. Moore’s Big Moose Lake Retreat

big moose campIn the late 19th century, the Adirondacks became a prime summer destination for sportsmen and their families who enjoyed the region’s hunting, fishing, and fresh air. By the 1880s, wealthy businessmen were building permanent camps on even the remotest lakes, including Big Moose, near Old Forge. Sometime after 1880, local guides Jack Sheppard and Richard C. Crego built a summer camp on South Bay of Big Moose Lake for F. C. Moore of New York City.

Francis Cruger Moore was born in Houston, TX in 1842. After the Civil War, he headed north to New York City, where through hard work, he became president (1889-1903) of the Continental Insurance Company.

Moore, his step-son Henry Evans, and their wives summered at Big Moose regularly. To reach the camp, Moore and his guests had to travel north to Boonville, NY, and then survive a tortuous 43-mile journey on primitive roads, a rickety wooden-railed railroad (The Peg Leg Railroad), a riverboat, and finally a guide boat across several lakes. Moore invested heavily in the main camp which stood near the present Manse of the Big Moose Community Chapel. By 1889, a second camp was built nearby for the Evanses.

In October 1892, the Boonville Herald reported that “F. C. Moore of New York recently returned from a sojourn at Big Moose lake. He had plenty of venison, obtained without the use of dogs.” The mention of dogs refers to the controversial practice, since outlawed in New York, of hunting deer with dogs.

The camp buildings were probably of log construction. An 1889 letter reveals the Evans camp had red doors, red windows, and yellow floors. The interior of the main Moore camp included a wood stove and a sink in the kitchen; the water closet was outside. Furnishings included Shaker rockers and an arm chair. Oil reflector lamps were mounted on the walls. Outside there was moss landscaping. The guides were instructed to build a “moss bed” and “take out the stumps that are not moss covered & leave those that are.” The camps also had an ice house, filled by guides in March, and a garden. On the lake was a dock, a float, and a boat called the Cora, presumably named for Mrs. Moore (Cora W. Taylor Evans Moore, 1841-1912).

Moore and Evans never gained title to the land where they built the camps, and by the late 1890s railroad magnate William Seward Webb had acquired most of the land surrounding Big Moose. The land where the buildings stood was purchased from Webb in 1899 by Edward O. Stanley and others, who renamed the camp Fern Spring. The Moore name, however, lingered on. In 1906, Marjorie Carey of East Orange, N.J., testified at the famous murder trial of Chester Gillette that she was staying at “the Fern Spring or Moore camp” on Big Moose Lake and heard what might have been Grace Brown’s death cry. The original camp buildings were demolished around 1938 to make way for the Chapel Manse.

F. C. Moore later built a summer home in Atlantic Highlands on the New Jersey coast. Moore also wrote several books on fire insurance and is best remembered as chairman of the committee that published (in 1893) the Universal Mercantile Schedule for uniform rating of risks. F. C. Moore died in Lakewood, NJ in 1912 and was buried in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His wife Cora died six months later.

Photo: Site of the F. C. Moore Camp, Big Moose Lake, 2011. Photo by Roy Crego.

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Roy Crego is a descendant of Adirondack guide Richard C. Crego (1853-1925) and a member of the Town of Webb Historical Association.




3 Responses

  1. Frank Carey says:

    Thanks for posting your Fern Spring Camp story. Edward O. Stanley was my great grandfather and his daughter Marjorie and her husband Paul C. Carey were my grandparents. I have Marjorie’s photo albums from the years 1904 to about 1928 and they contain many pictures of the Fern Spring Camp buildings. My father summered at Fern Spring camp from 1908 until about 1931. He and I wrote the story of this camp for the book “Big Moose Lake, The Story of the Lake, the Land, and the People” published in 2004. If you ever wish to expand your story of Fern Spring Camp I could contribute many pictures and anecdotes.
    Frank Carey
    Melbourne, Florida

  2. Roy Crego says:

    Frank, thanks for your offer. I am not sure what I will write next but will keep your photo collection in mind. If you are interested in the original letter from F.C. Moore to Richard Crego, a transcript is posted at: http://www.cregofamily.com/45201/45222.html

    Roy

  3. Roy Crego says:

    Frank, thanks for your offer. I’m not sure what I will write next, but will keep your photo collection in mind. If you are interested in the original letter from F.C. Moore to Richard Crego, a transcript is posted at: http://www.cregofamily.com/45201/45222.html