Saturday, February 3, 2018

Pop Bullock: Notable Beaver River Guide

pop bullockMonroe H. “Pop” Bullock was born in December 1846 high on the Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis County. He was the son of Hiram and Almeda Bullock who owned a farm just to the west of the village of Worth. Hiram was the son of Leonard Bullock, earliest settler of Worth, who moved to the area in 1802.

Hiram’s brother, Leonard Bullock, Jr. owned the farm next door. The crossroad between the two Bullock farms was known as Bullock’s Corners. By 1850 the family had moved into the village of Rodman where Hiram and Almeda operated a boardinghouse. This enterprise apparently did not work out well, for by 1860 the family had moved west and resumed farming, this time in Grundy County in northeastern Illinois.

During the Civil War young Monroe ran away to try to join the Union Army but his father pursued him and brought him back to the family farm. By 1867 Monroe, now 21 years old, and had returned to Worth and married a neighbor, Sarah L. Hitchcock. Their first child, Edwin M. Bullock, was born August 12, 1867. (A second child, Arthur, was born in 1869 but died the same year). By 1870 the Hiram Bullock family had also returned to New York to settle on a farm in the town of Butler in Wayne County. Monroe, Sarah and their son Eddie moved to Butler to assist with the farming. In May 1871 their third son, Berdett B. Bullock, was born. By 1875 Monroe, Sarah, Eddie and Bert had moved back to Sarah’s parent’s farm in Worth.

grassy point roadAround that time the lumber business was booming on the Tug Hill. In addition to work on his father-in-law’s farm, Monroe began to work at a lumber camp. One lucky day when driving a team with a heavy lumber wagon across a bridge, the load slipped dumping everything into the river. The horses were killed but a log lodged keeping the timber from hitting Monroe, who escaped serious injury. He also worked in a loggers’ hotel in the Worth area during the logging boom. One day a customer slid a loaded gun across a table for Monroe to examine. It accidentally discharged and Monroe ended up with eight pieces of buckshot in his hand and body.

Nonetheless, Monroe enjoyed life in the woods. During the late 1870s he worked as a backwoods guide and market hunter on the Tug Hill. He probably started guiding and hunting along the upper Beaver River around 1880. At that time there were three prospering sportsmen’s hotels in the area that regularly hired guides: Fenton’s at Number Four, Dunbar’s at Stillwater and LaMont’s at Smith’s Lake. When market hunting on Thanksgiving Day 1882, Monroe slipped and fell into the Beaver River at Little Rapids. His matches got wet so he could not build a fire. He knew help was nearby at Smith’s Lake, but his frozen clothing made walking nearly impossible. He sat down to rest propped against a tree and fell asleep. A short time later his gun slid off the tree trunk and fell on him. He woke up and managed to struggle to safety but suffered severe frostbite to his toes, some of which were later amputated. Although now unable to walk long distances, the next year he returned to guiding at Smith’s Lake but restricted himself to fishing and hunting from a boat. He and Sarah apparently continued to live on the family farm on the Tug Hill. Records show by this time he also owned a cheese factory in Worth.

He continued to work seasonally as a guide at Smith’s Lake for the next ten years. During this time he undoubtedly became well acquainted with William Morrison, a businessman from Lowville, who spent many summers at that lake camping and fishing with friends. By 1891 Morrison had purchased much of the land around Smith’s Lake, including LaMont’s Hotel. He began to organize a sportsmen’s club he called the Smith’s Lake Park Association. Morrison made improvements to the hotel including installing a telephone line and erecting a new two-story cabin for women campers. Before the club got properly underway, Dr. W. Seward Webb arrived and managed to purchase all the property in the area for his great camp Nehasane.

Undaunted, William Morrison and his wealthy friends purchased Dunbar’s Hotel at Stillwater in 1893 and founded the private Beaver River Club. Joe Dunbar wanted to retire from the hotel business so Morrison hired Monroe Bullock to manage the club. Monroe, Sarah and their son Bert moved to Stillwater, most likely living in the Beaver River Clubhouse. Bert, now 18 years old, worked as a guide for the club. Familiarly known as “Pop” at the ripe old age of 47, Bullock was also appointed the first postmaster of Beaver River. Because there were so few residents at the time, Pop could perform his postmaster’s duties during his frequent trips six miles east to the train station.

Thanks to the railroad the tide of sporting tourists continued to grow in the Beaver River country throughout the 1890s. The old sportsmen’s hotels had all closed and only one or two small ones had opened. In 1899 the owner of the Beaver River lumber mill, Firman Ouderkirk, built a large modern hotel adjacent to the train station. He named it the Norridgewock and hired young Bert Bullock to run it.

grassy point innIn 1901 Sarah Bullock died of Bright’s disease. Pop Bullock was apparently not able to manage the Beaver River Club without her help, so he resigned. With the assistance of Bert he built a small hotel, the Grassy Point Inn, along the bank of the Beaver River where a one-mile road led straight to the train station. He recruited a younger woman from Worth named Delia Weaver to serve as cook and housekeeper. The Bullock family was prospering enough at this time that they were also able to purchase the Norridgewock Hotel and the entire 384 acres of the Beaver River Block.

Things went very well for Pop and Bert Bullock until May 8, 1914 when the Norridgewock Hotel burned to the ground. Bert, his wife Julia and son Clyde decided they had had enough of backwoods living and moved to Thendara to open a garage and taxi service. Pop Bullock was so much a woodsman that he decided to stay in Beaver River. Even when the state evicted him from Grassy Point in 1916 he dismantled his hotel, hauled the parts to a lot he owned near the railroad station and resumed business. Pop and Delia continued to run the hotel, complete with store and post office, until 1923.

Now 77 years old Pop Bullock was battling Bright’s disease. He sold the hotel to a lumberman, George Vincent. Pop and Delia moved in with Bert’s family in Thendara. Monroe H. “Pop” Bullock died February 19, 1924. He is buried in the Worthville Cemetery, Worth, Jefferson County, NY along with his wife Sarah L. Hitchcock (1848-1901) and their infant son Arthur Bullock (1869-1869).

Photos from above: Pop Bullock (courtesy Don Thompson collection); Grassy Point Road; and Grassy Point Inn.

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Ed Pitts is a retired attorney and Administrative Law Judge who lives in Syracuse, NY. He is a past president of the Rap-Shaw Club, an Adirondack sportsman’s club founded in 1896, now located on an island in the Stillwater Reservoir. He has a life-long interest in local history especially of the Adirondacks and Central New York.




4 Responses

  1. Terry says:

    Very interesting, Mr. Pitts! Thank you for helping me to appreciate the history of the Tug Hill area of our state.

  2. Kathy says:

    Thanx,good read. Is Smith’s lake still named the same?

    • Ed Pitts says:

      Smith’s Lake is now named Lake Lila. The name was changed by W. Seward Webb in 1892. Lila was his wife’s nick name.

  3. James Fox Jim Fox says:

    Holy smokes, Worth and Smith’s Lake are a quite a stretch apart in the days by horse & wagon and rowboat or canoe. Back when the Beaver River was meandered 20+ mi. from Stillwater to Little Rapids and boulders up to Smith’s Lake. And people today whine about dirt roads and wilderness roads closed to motorized vehicles!

    Well done, Ed.

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