Thursday, February 29, 2024

Rev. Robert Howard Wallace Jr., Fulton Chain Missionary

On August 24, 2023, I presented a program about Inlet’s 1901 Church of the Lakes at the church. Its video is on the Inlet Historical Society’s Facebook page. I included a photograph of its steeple bell inscribed with the motto “Come Let Us Worship” and the name of its first pastor, “Rev. R. Howard Wallace, Jr. “

During my research, I learned that Rev. Wallace directed the founding of other churches in the region, including the precursor to the present Niccolls Memorial Church in Old Forge. Contemporary newspapers reported his efforts and his impact on the communities he served during almost nine years in the area. I now wanted to learn about this little-known former pastor from a small parish in Orange County who came to the Fulton Chain at age 68 and founded religious organizations for two population centers in their infancy.

Early Life in Little Britain

Robert Howard Wallace, Jr. was born in Little Britain, a community in the town of New Windsor, Orange County NY on December 20, 1828. He was the son of Robert Howard and Nancy Suter Wallace. His father, while a pastor at Little Britain, received a Doctor of Divinity in 1834 from Union College (University), Schenectady. I will refer to him as Dr. Wallace to distinguish him from our like-named subject. Wallace married Cornelia Maria Van Santvoord in Little Britain on October 22, 1850 and they had two sons, Adrian Van Santvoord and another Robert Howard Wallace who he referred to as Howard.

Little Britain’s Presbyterian Associate Reformed Church was founded in 1765 and its first church building was erected that year. Years later, the church’s pastor was Rev. James Scrimgeour, installed in 1812. Wallace’s father arrived in Little Britain in September 1824 during a period when Rev. Scrimgeour was in failing health. The church had become little used for some time and suffered some dilapidation. When the pastor died in 1825, Dr. Robert Howard Wallace, born in 1796, had been his assistant. Consequently, he was installed as pastor on October 6, 1825. Dr. Wallace’s first actions were remodeling and enlarging the old structure and purchasing a parsonage. Through his efforts, the congregation increased. Wallace Jr. was born three years later, December 20, 1828.

Wallace’s early education was from his father who provided him with the necessary schooling for entry into Union College, and in 1850 he graduated with the highest-class honors. He also married Cornelia Van Santvoord that year. His vocation being gospel ministry, Wallace undertook theological studies at Newburgh’s seminary, graduating in 1853. His ordination occurred the next year, followed by two years’ service in East Springfield, Otsego County. Wallace, Cornelia and Howard, aged two years, appear on the 1855 Springfield census.

In 1856, Little Britain Church’s elders invited Wallace to provide pulpit when his father pastor Dr. Wallace became ill. That year, his second son Adrian Santvoord, was born and would follow Wallace into the religious vocation.

Pastorship, Little Britain Church

A year later, the elders recommended that he succeed his ailing father and they installed Wallace as pastor on December 30, 1857, his father becoming his assistant.  Dr. Wallace continued to serve the church until his death on February 9, 1868. He and three generations of his family are interred in the family lot at Little Britain Cemetery.

The Orange County history notes that during Wallace’s long pastorate, he received many invitations to manage churches or engage in pastoral work in other areas. But “a love for the place of his nativity, for the people and their descendants among whom his father labored” and for that to prosper encouraged him to use his “best” years for the benefit of his Little Britain congregation.

During the Civil War, the church granted Wallace a leave of absence and he served as Chaplain for the nine-month enlistee 168th N.Y. Volunteers from September 1862 to October 1863. The unit left New York February 1, 1863. As part of Busteed’s Brigade, its actions included skirmishes at Walkerton and Yorktown, Va. Mustered out at Newburgh, the unit had lost 38 personnel.

After the war, Wallace returned to his former position. Though residing in a small village, he kept abreast of the discoveries and improvements of the times as well as reading about other parts of the country by travel and studies. He educated Adrian and Howard, preparing them for advanced college studies. Adrian went into the ministry and Howard became an elder at the church.

By 1882, Wallace had served as pastor for twenty-five years, part as co-pastor with the ailing Dr. Wallace. But, as his granddaughter Margaret wrote, some kind of trouble was “brewing.” He and his father had led the church for almost sixty years. While the elders supported him, the congregation expressed dissatisfaction and a need for change. Wallace resigned his position on January 7, 1883.

Not yet reassigned, Wallace and Cornelia moved to a small house nearby presently known as the “parsonage.” Adrian owned it at the time and expanded the house, adding improvements.

Other Fields

The “pastor without a church” was soon appointed as a missionary to the Dakota Territory. Part of what was called “Indian Territory,” the environment was expected to be “rough and primitive.”  Cornelia remained at Little Britain. During 1883-1885, Wallace helped found the First Presbyterian Church in Steele, Dakota Territory, becoming its first pastor.  Also during these two years, he established another church at Larimore, Dakota Territory.

Returning home to his native State, Wallace and Cornelia served churches in the Adirondacks: Lake George (1887-89), Mineville (1889-1893) and Malone (1893-1894). In 1894-1895, Wallace served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Mattituck, Suffolk County, NY.

The Fulton Chain: An Undeveloped Wilderness

In 1890, the primary owners of the lands that became Old Forge and Inlet were Julia Lyon deCamp, Alexander Crosby and Samuel Garmon (Forge Tract), the Adirondack Railway Company and the Fulton Chain Club. The deCamps and the Forge Tract’s owners actively managed their lands.

The Fulton Chain Club associates were absentee owners of lands held for decades by Talcottville’s Munn family and that later became the settled portion of Inlet. Another similar owner, the Adirondack Railway Company, held thousands of acres along a decades-owned right of way for a State-chartered line to be built from Saratoga Springs north to the Eckford Chain at Blue Mountain Lake, then westward along the borders of Raquette Lake and the Fulton Chain of Lakes, finally northwest to Sacketts Harbor.

In most instances, these passive landowners awaited improvements in transportation that would provide access to their lands for profiting from its natural resources and from land sales for new population centers. A railroad did provide this access, but not one from Saratoga Springs.

For decades, these latter two landowner groups permitted guides and hunters to trespass on their lands and build mostly temporary lodging camps. They attracted sports and authors to the region, entering from Boonville and later, Port Leyden, who provided eyewitness accounts of its natural wonders and their adventures to the outside world. With its lack of permanent population – except for the 1871 Forge House overlooking the waterfront, being little known – the Fulton Chain did not yet attract the attention of regional religious missions. This changed with the coming of a clergyman from St. Louis.

Religion Comes to the North Country

Benjamin Stickney was born in Newburyport, MA in1808. In 1815, his parents with their five children had moved to Boonville NY. Later as an adult, Benjamin recalled walking beside an oxcart that carried his family’s possessions. When his father became a housewright (carpenter), he and other family members remained and are buried in Boonville Cemetery. Instead, Benjamin returned to Massachusetts where he entered the hotel trade and was employed for ten years, learning hotel management at Boston’s Bromfield House. St. Louis attracted his attention, and he relocated there in 1836.

A year later, he married Sarah Ann Powers, who later died in 1844, shortly after giving birth to their fourth child, Amos. Two years after her death, Stickney married Lucy Churchill Hunter.

In 1841, Benjamin became a lessee of the newly built Planters House hotel. Its prominent guests included Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, and Ulysses Grant. He was one of the city’s leading citizens, serving later as director of the St. Louis Gas-Light Company, the Missouri Railroad, and the St. Louis National Bank.

When pressured by his various business activities, Stickney recalled fond memories of his youth spent with his father. While in Boonville, he accompanied his father on hunting trips in the Moose River Country, for years the lakes and mountain air remaining in his memory.

In 1846, he returned to the Fulton Chain for the first of twenty consecutive years, summering in open bark shanties. His business pressures gradually were relieved soon after arriving at the Hulbert House in Boonville. In 1866, he built the second camp on the Chain at a point on the north shore at the head of First Lake. Construction was done by Boonville guides Josiah Helmer, Clinton Grant, Chauncey Noble and John Brinckerhoff.

He hired guides for his guests from St. Louis and began climbing to the top of Bald Mountain. He repeated what became a twenty-five-year annual first night’s ritual: raising a new American flag, his all-male entourage singing the national anthem. Verplank Colvin temporarily used the Mount St. Louis moniker in his survey reports. In 1868, he brought along Dr. Samuel Jack Niccolls, a thirty-year old St. Louis clergyman, to his recently built camp.

Later in 1874, Stickney bought the camp’s tract land from the Lymon Lyon estate, the delay not his fault as he could very well have afforded a larger lot.

Around 1876, Stickney suggested to his regular guests that they “bring the ladies.” Their objecting that the wilderness was no place for their wives, he built a second log camp nearby for them. When Niccolls brought his wife Margaret, most of the complainers never came again.

Born in Westmoreland County, PA in 1838, Niccolls was ordained in 1860, and in 1861 began his service as a Union Army chaplain (126th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry) which lasted four years. Initially returning to his home parish, he was called to serve as pastor (1865) at the Second Presbyterian Church of St. Louis where Stickney was a member. Despite their age difference (30 years), the two became, in author Joseph Grady’s words, “inseparable cronies in both St. Louis and in the summer at Stickney’s camp at First Lake”.

Niccolls customarily conducted Sunday services in front of the Stickney Camp for the guests and area guides. Later, neighbors from the growing number of campers along the Chain attended these services at his camp. When Stickney’s wife Lucy later joined her husband, she played at services with a small portable organ brought at her first visit.

Soon services became a regular event and attracted a growing audience that required raising a large tent when weather warranted. The steamers Hunter and Fulton made special trips picking up passengers from remote camps between Old Forge and the head of Fourth Lake. At times, the congregation’s size approached that of a typical church’s attendance.

At Stickney’s death in 1876, his heirs deeded the camp and land to Niccolls which in time became known as “Niccolls Point.” Niccolls was the celebrant at his friend’s St. Louis funeral, well attended by local and national figures. For the next forty years, Niccolls continued to provide Sunday services at the Point or at the growing number of neighboring resort hotels until religious groups formally organized as church congregations.

Old Forge

In 1888, Samuel Garmon and Dr. Alexander Crosby purchased the 1358-acre Forge Tract from Eunice Lamberton. Her husband Alexander had treated the lands as a preserve, including large scale stocking of fish, since 1876. Except for its Forge House, the land was undeveloped. The new owners quickly renovated and enlarged the former board and batten hotel and offered lots for prospective homebuyers.

But by 1895, they had sold only 30 lots. Two developments generated the beginning of Old Forge, the village.

First, by June 1891, Dr. William Seward Webb acquired almost 120,000 acres. This included 77,000 acres in Hamilton and Herkimer Counties purchased from Ravaud K. Hawley, President of Robert Cromley’s Adirondack Timber and Mineral Company. Cromley acquired these lands from William West Durant who was disposing the Adirondack Railway Company’s railroad and lands. Dr. Webb directed the building of the Adirondack & St. Lawrence Railroad through the Adirondack Wilderness in 1892, opening in October that year. He established a local station named “Fulton Chain,” today’s Thendara. The long-awaited convenient access to the North Woods had arrived. The Town of Webb is named for him.

The second event was the founding of the Old Forge Company. Victor Adams persuaded fellow Little Falls business leaders to invest in the development of the Forge Tract. The group negotiated a purchase in October 1895 of 50% interest of Garmon and Crosby’s holdings. They then formed the Old Forge Company five months later. The Company filed a map of plotted village lots with street names that exist today. While this was happening, Dr. Webb’s surveyors laid out hundreds of shoreline camp lots from Second to Fourth Lakes over the former acreage of the Adirondack Railway Company he purchased for his railroad and timber interests.

As author Joseph Grady concluded, “The annually increasing flow of visitors to Old Forge and the steady growth of the community emphasized the need for a permanently established local church organization.”

Rev. Wallace Arrives in Old Forge

The Utica Presbytery serves churches of the Presbyterian faith in central New York. At its annual meeting in September 1893 at Whitesboro, NY, Rev. Dr. Taylor of Rome reported that the organization maintained 12 missions, mostly bordering the new Adirondack Park. The group agreed to establish a mission at the Old Forge settlement.

A few years later in February 1896, the Presbytery met in the chapel at Utica’s Westminster church and heard reports from Old Forge’s resident student missionary Z.W. Commerford. Commerford had conducted services there regularly with success since September. A Rev. Dr. Crocker reported that a school house costing $3000 was built the prior year, was attended by 60 children and services were being held there on Sundays. Crocker claimed that McKeever had a dozen families, Old Forge had twenty, and he claimed that at the head of Fourth Lake were 150 people who spent winters in the woods. Old Forge, he asserted, was the natural outlet, sure to grow and a church should be built there. The Presbytery Home Mission Committee now needed a pastor.

In early May, Rev. Wallace, at age 68, was appointed pastor to the region, labelled the “Southern Adirondack Mission.” Most of the following comes from his Life Sketches.

Though he was fully aware of the tasks ahead for him, while planning his course of action, after he arrived, “I frequently wandered with delight through its (the woods) silent arches, listening to the voices of the Wood, gathering its beautiful mosses, and studying the manifold lessons.”

He arrived in Old Forge on May 16, 1896 and was welcomed by Alexander “Comrade” Sam Briggs, the popular Forge House proprietor. Wallace held his first service in the upper room of the one-year-old school building; Rev. Hugh Byrnes conducted Catholic services in the lower level. This practice continued until churches were built for the two faiths.

Wallace found a scattered population without benefits either of church or, until recently, school. The scripture was seldom heard and the sabbath little noted, except at Dr. Niccolls’ camp services, whom he soon met. Wallace found thirteen residents locally who were members of churches elsewhere, representing three protestant denominations. This group currently met informally, held the sabbath by temporary arrangement, hoping, if possible, they could form a religious organization under the care of the Utica Presbytery.

Soon after his arrival, Wallace traveled throughout his prospective parish. He found two active saw mills within the surrounding hamlet and a comparable situation at McKeever. At the Fulton Chain Station were only a few people. Old Forge was a little village with three manufacturing businesses (hotel, sawmill, boatbuilding) and three miles to the south was the Adirondack League Club private preserve.

On the lakes were independent steamers soon to be acquired by the Crosby Transportation Company, which he quickly used for his work. He found Dr. Niccolls and Samuel Dodd at their First Lake camps; Benjamin Harrison at Second Lake’s Berkeley Lodge; Charles Barrett’s Bald Mountain House at Third Lake; and on Fourth Lake, numerous large, private camps as well as Rocky Point Inn, Eagle Bay Hotel and Hess Inn, later renamed The Arrowhead. He conducted services at these locations regardless of the congregation size. A few years later, he noted, almost two hundred cottages and boarding houses were erected on the Chain.

Wallace estimated that his parish from McKeever north to Beaver River and east to the end of the Fulton Chain encompassed a triangle with three thirty-mile sides.

Recognizing the immediate need for a center of work, and of the faithful’s interest, he communicated to the Old Forge Company directors, through Victor Adams, the need for a desirable church lot. Its President, Samuel Garmon, resisted and little progress was made. At a second meeting in the fall that included all the trustees, he explained the benefits of a local church, the immediacy of early construction, as well as the need for a manse (pastor office/residence).

They now agreed to donate lots 4 and 5 designated on the village plot; the deed was signed without delay. Wallace reported his success at the end of September that year to the Utica Presbytery and placed the executed deeds in their hands, with plans for construction to begin that summer.

During the 1896-1897 winter, Wallace worked on the funding for the building. He met with the Presbytery in February where representatives agreed to seek pledges of $1200 from the dozen or so member churches, Wallace claiming the building could be worth $2500 at completion. Augustus D. Shepherd Jr, an architect and Adirondack League Club member, donated $200.

On June 28, 1897, fifteen interested Old Forge and Thendara residents met at the schoolhouse and established the Old Forge Presbyterian Church. To assist the group, Wallace, Rev. H.H. Allen of the Presbytery’s Home Mission Committee, and Rev. I.I. Terry of Utica attended.

Construction quickly began in July 1897. When the structure could be enclosed, Wallace, Jennie Parsons and Nettie Harvey arranged a Fair for its benefit, which provided $600. Much of the timber for the building came from Western Pennsylvania, delivered from C.C. Kellogg and Sons of Utica, and considered to be better material and at lower cost than local sawmills.

Construction was directed by Wallace and performed by Elmer J. Adams, a Master Mechanic from Lyons Falls. The bell, manufactured by the Meneely Bell Co. of Troy, was inscribed: Presented by the Sunday School of First Pres. Church, Utica N.Y., and the entreaty: Enter into His Gates With Praise. The church was dedicated November 30, 1897. Wallace’s son, Rev. Adrian V. Wallace of Thompsonville, CN, delivered the dedicatory sermon.

Final building amounts were $3052.43 received, $2618.04 expended, and unpaid pledges $600 guaranteed. In recognition of the importance of the new church to the development of the region, the Crosby Transportation Company provided Wallace with an annual pass for use of their railroad and steamers. The first elders were Dana Fraula and Frank B. Peck. Miss Clara A. Brown was the first music director. Various evangelical denominations accepted the invitation to take part in church maintenance. Fred H. Brown was the church’s initial janitor.

The manse was completed the following year, fully furnished and without debt. Wallace noted his funding efforts for this second building while at the same time performing his “preacher and pastor” service. Among those who assisted were Dr. Niccolls and former President Harrison.

Three years later on the evening of October 22, 1900, a large number of friends embarked from the Forge House to the manse and surprised Wallace and Cornelia to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. Besides heartfelt exchanges, the attendees left a gift of $5 and $10 pieces (gold coins) as remembrances.

By 1916, the church, built during a time when Old Forge’s population was small, was proving unable to manage the growing congregation of residents and visitors after years of expanding growth. After periodic attempts at planning expansion, the trustees agreed to buy a lot on Crosby Boulevard and sell the present church and manse. The buildings remain today. The new church, begun in 1917, was dedicated in 1919, named in honor of Dr. Niccolls who died in 1915. The original bell rests on the Niccolls Memorial Church grounds.


When acquiring the Munn family’s lands in 1889, the Fulton Chain Club planned to establish a private preserve like the Adirondack League Club. This strategy was dropped by 1894 and they laid out camp lots on the shores of Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Limekiln Lakes. Larger major tracts were purchased by owners of Pratt Camp, Hess Camp, Arrowhead Hotel Inn, Rocky Point Inn, Camp Neodak, Camp Mohawk and Seventh Lake House. By 1900, only a few camp lots had been sold, but the opening of the Raquette Lake Railroad that year with its nearby Eagle Bay Station attracted a new wave of hotel patrons and prospective residents.

Rev. Wallace Arrives in Inlet

Though successful with the new Old Forge church, Wallace, now 71, continued to conduct summer Sunday school at McKeever, and numerous services at the hotels and cottages along the Fulton Chain as far as Seventh Lake and north to Beaver River.

In September 1899, at the Presbytery’s West Camden meeting, Wallace proposed erecting a chapel at the Head of Fourth Lake. He demonstrated that the now larger number of hotels and boarding houses on Fourth Lake, as well as new homes of permanent residents, a cluster of homes at Fifth Lake and seasonals on Seventh Lake warranted a central location for worship at that location. The Presbytery formed a committee to examine the expediency of the proposal and visit the area.

A year later the same month, the Presbytery met at Old Forge where the delegates were invited to examine the proposed site for the new chapel. Superintendent C.H. Rivenburgh of the Crosby Transportation Company provided the steamer excursion without charge to the delegation. After landing at The Arrowhead hotel, the group proceeded to the site for the chapel. It was described as 400 yards from the lakefront and in the direction of Fifth Lake, centrally located for the inhabitants of Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Lakes.

Wallace informed them that the chapel site was selected, the deed for the lot secured, the construction contract let, and some of the building materials purchased. The transportation company volunteered to carry these materials from Old Forge to the head of Fourth Lake. The contract called for completion of the chapel by December 30 that year. The report was accepted.

William D. Moshier, The Arrowhead owner, had earlier donated the land to the Utica Presbytery on August 29, 1900, with the condition that the land be used solely for religious purposes and that if at least ten services were not held annually, the land would revert to him and his heirs.

Elmer J. Adams again had the contract for building the church.

Later than December, July 1,1901, Adams completed construction and Wallace performed its first services on July 7. The chapel was finished with Georgia Pine, the pews were the same material, the First Presbyterian Church of Utica donated an organ and the Presbytery Board of Publication provided hymnals. The Meneely Bell Co. of Troy made the bell that still rests in its steeple. The bell is inscribed: 1901 Chapel of the Lakes, Old Forge Mission, R. Howard Wallace, Pas. Come Let Us Worship.”

Mrs. Angeline Bailey offered three stained glass windows, one inscribed with her recently deceased daughter Irene’s name, for the front of the church, named “Chapel of the Lakes.” Installation of these windows, manufactured by C.P. Davis’s Sons of Utica, occurred in September 1902.

With great ceremony and attendance, the chapel was dedicated on September 8, 1901, two days after the shooting of President McKinley in Buffalo. Regional newspapers provided extensive coverage of the dedication. The Fulton Navigation Company’s steamer Nehasane provided transportation for attendees from Old Forge and various other points on the first four lakes. Old Forge’s choir came, and Miss Leulla Abbott was the organist. Senior officials of the Presbytery attended the service. Dr. Niccolls provided the dedicatory sermon.

Rev. Ralph Brokaw’s financial report showed that the total cost was $1325 and its furnishings $545. Rev. Wallace’s initial one year enlistment would now be in its sixth year.

Not mentioned in published accounts reporting on the dedication, but some time afterwards, N. Hudson Moore reported the church had been built “with patient fidelity and assistance from other and richer parishes.” Though many churches held services on behalf of the wounded President, he reported none more solemn than the chapel’s “with the row of grave, impressive Indians standing about the walls.” This attracted my attention. And Wallace provided confirmation.

After the opening of the Chapel, unfamiliar with the small Inlet population, Wallace worried about caring for the building, his residing miles away in the Old Forge manse. Not until 1914 would this church have a manse, built on an adjacent lot donated by Albert Boshart.

In Wallace’s words, always feeling the “presence of the Lord’s hand,” a local Abenaki Louis Tahamont offered his services. The only personal quote found in the Life Sketches is Tahamont’s response when Wallace informed him there may be no pay, “I am a poor man, and can do little for the Lord, but if He will allow me to take care of His house, I will be glad to do it for His sake.”  Here is the little I could learn of the Tahamont family.

The Abenaki family of Louis and Josephine Tahamont came to Inlet at the turn of the century from Wilna, NY. They lived with their children at a log cabin on the Arrowhead property, he making baskets and she tending house while babysitting children of Inlet families. Their daughters Louise (14) and Mary (10) are at the local school according to the 1905 census. Louise and Mary have the surname Thompson on a Souvenir 1906 Inlet Public School roster. An O’Hara family photograph shows them in a 1901 gathering in front of their camp with Inlet parents and children.

Tahamont had a land use contract with the Fulton Chain Club for two lots near Rocky Point that later were owned by Caroline Masta. Louis lived with the Masta family in New Hampshire in 1910. A 1913 undated article mentioned Louis being the church janitor as well as an area guide. Albert C. Boshart, former owner of The Arrowhead, named his camp on today’s Birches property Tahamont Lodge, summering there for thirty years.

In March 1902, the Old Forge Mission granted Wallace a month’s leave for a much-needed vacation. Wallace and Cornelia visited the warmer climates of Charleston SC, Savannah GA and Apalachicola FL. Before heading south, they first visited their sons in Thompsonville and Ridgefield CN. Shortly after returning, he received a telegram on July 12, informing him of Howard’s wife Annie’s death. He left immediately to arrange her interment in the Little Britain family lot.

The year 1903 was the final year of his pastorship of the Old Forge Mission. But it was not without event. On the afternoon of May 9, two trains of the Mohawk and Malone Railroad collided head-on at a curve 1000 feet south of the Nelson Siding between McKeever and Minnehaha. Wallace was one of the victims. The impact was jarring, several persons killed, and a substantial number injured. Wallace had no broken bones, but at the time of his Life Sketches composition in 1907, he still had not fully recovered from the effects of the severe shock. He wrote that the scene “presented a vivid picture of forces misdirected.”

Wallace spoke of this period in his Life Sketches about the success of the mission at the McKeever mill hamlet and the rapid development of Fulton Chain (Thendara today} after the erection of a sawmill. The Cleveland, Kennedy, Pullman and deCamp families established Sunday School there. Maurice Callahan’s Fulton Navigation Company, which replaced the Crosby Transportation Company, continued the former company’s courtesy passes for Wallace’s needs on their railroad (two-mile Thendara run to Old Forge dock) and steamer lines. Commodore J. Gilbert Hoffman “always brought sunshine with his presence.” Wallace hoped that the Presbytery would soon supply a launch to alleviate this need.

In September, after eight years of missionary duties, Wallace declined an appointment for another year and resigned his position January 1, 1904, staying until a temporary successor began work. In April, Rev. George Van Dyke replaced him.

At the March 27 celebration of his service, he gave special thanks to the population, his physician, his janitors, proprietors of hotels, and especially the steamer lines and crews. The congregations at Old Forge and Fulton Chain gifted him an illustrated Bible and a gold headed staff inscribed “R. Howard Wallace-from Friends, Old Forge, N.Y. 1904. He was also given a gold pen to entice him to stay connected with friends.

For Cornelia, the hosts provided him eyeglasses for her as a token of their esteem and to express their sympathy in her “present illness.”

Though the church in Inlet and that at Old Forge were founded under the auspices of the Utica Presbytery, Adirondack churches of this period were often the only church in their region. Wallace and the Presbytery invited other Protestant faiths to use these churches for their services. When the June 1897 meeting formed The Old Forge Presbyterian Church, Wallace and the members from its inception cordially invited all evangelical denominations to take part in its maintenance.

Final Years

Wallace kept a meticulous journal of his pastoral duties for the Old Forge Mission term. Traveling by foot, train, wagon and on the water, he recorded writing 3,060 letters, made 5,681 personal family calls, conducted 1,613 services at all kinds of settings and traveled over the large wilderness 24,637 miles, “nearly equivalent to a journey around the world.”

In 1907, Wallace revisited Utica on his way to winter in Mattituck, Long Island. He informed his friends that he had been writing a review of his life as missionary, pastor, educator and Civil War soldier. His friends were pleased to see him, noting “time has dealt with him gently.” He revisited several former New York posts during this project. The report regretted that Wallace planned to circulate his writings only privately. Wallace’s granddaughter Margaret S. Wallace, son Adrian’s daughter, preserved the handwritten Life Sketches and Adrian’s similarly prepared autobiography for the Newburgh Free Academy Library. They were later typed.

After the winter, a Mattituck reporter in February 1908 noted the health benefits supporting long life in Suffolk. For example, octogenarians riding bicycles, skipping around like boys on frosty mornings and others defying their years remaining active. Daily, Wallace was “taking his long five miles, with stately tread.”

Cornelia Van Santvoord Wallace died at the home of their son Adrian in Elmsford, Westchester County NY on December 20, 1911. Wallace died at the home of the other son, Howard, in Pleasantville, Atlantic City, NJ on April 28, 1917. The Wallace lot in Little Britain Cemetery is the resting place for all the immediate family members.

Having learned the above, my hope is that Rev. Robert Howard Wallace, Jr. has his place in the beginnings of Old Forge and Inlet history.


Among my sources are Joseph Grady’s “The Story of a Wilderness,” Newspaper articles from, Rev. John Scott’s 1915 history of the Associate Reformed Church of Little Britain, and other sources. Considerable information is also from a copy of Rev. Wallace’s 1907 autobiographical “Life Sketches, With Notions of Men and Things Through a Period of Seventy-Eight Years” (pp. 284-324), courtesy of Anne Roch, historian Goshen Public Library. This handwritten autobiography was typed and preserved by Wallace’s granddaughter, Margaret S. Wallace, a New Windsor historian, and its Free Academy librarian. Ms. Wallace also wrote several historical vignettes about Little Britain and its people. Thanks to Jennifer McIrvin for the photo of the Wallace family monument and Lisa Lewis of the Niccolls Memorial Church for the church bell and other church history..

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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.

3 Responses

  1. Kim Pope says:

    excellent article!!!! Thank you for such insightful and detailed investigative journalism.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this article.

  2. Gary N. Lee says:

    Thanks Charlie, great story and lots of history retold!.

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