Randall Beach, an Albany attorney who grew up in Plattsburgh, has always been fascinated by W.H. H. Murray and the role that he played in opening the Adirondacks to tourism.
And with good reason. The New England cleric was a great-great grandfather on his father’s side.
With access to family papers, many of them never seen before, Beach is writing Murray’s biography. The last biography, published in 1905, was written by Harry Radford, better known for his efforts to re-introduce the moose and the beaver to the Adirondacks and for his death at the hands of his guides in Alaska.
Beach is also exploring the feasibility of bringing Murray’s Adirondack writings back into print.
But his more immediate goal is to re-introduce W.H.H. Murray to the Adirondacks through a new business venture, which he has just launched with his wife Sarah: Murray’s Fools Distilling Company, the first legal distillery in Clinton County since prohibition.
Murray’s Fools, of course, were the hapless dudes drawn to the Adirondacks in the 1860s by Murray’s most famous book, “Adventures in the Wilderness.”
But, says Beach, they didn’t remain fools for long. Many, like Murray himself, established camps on Adirondack lakes and became expert sportsmen, tireless hikers and the region’s first conservationists.
“Murray’s Fools Distilling Company seeks to create and provide fine spirits fashioned for those who, just as the original Murray’s Fools, have independent streaks, courage, adventurous souls and live for nature’s quiet moments,” says the Beaches marketing material.
Beach, a partner in the firm of Whiteman Osterman and Hannah, has not given up the law.
But he is clearly enjoying this sideline, as he refers to it, with his wife, at least in part because it enables them to spend more time in the North Country.
Their first product, a vodka, is named for an oyster bar Murray operated in Montreal: the Snowshoe Café. The Snowshoe is Clinton County’s first locally made vodka.
“My wife and I became interested in establishing a distillery in part because we appreciate really good whiskeys, so our long-range goal is make small batch ryes and handcrafted bourbons. In the short term, our focus will be on the craft vodka brand,” said Beach.
Their distillery is located in the Town of Altona, outside Plattsburgh. A grand opening is planned for later in the summer.
Photos from above: A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. Murray and Randall Beach, the great-great-grandson of W.H.H. Murray with his wife and business partner, Sarah Callan Beach. Courtesy of Adirondack Mirror Magazine.
A version of this story was first published in the Lake George Mirror.