Almanack Contributor Charles Herr

Charles Herr

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 was the first president of the Inlet Historical Society and presents summer programs on Inlet history at the Town Hall in Arrowhead Park in Inlet, NY. His first book, The Fulton Chain-Early Settlement, Roads, Steamboats, Railroads and Hotels, will be available May 2017. More information is available at www.facebook.com/herrstory .


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Logging History: Lumber Scaling Rules and Tools

log-measurement-1900_0William Fox’s short “History of the Lumber Industry of New York State” in the Sixth Annual Report of the Forest, Fish and Game Commission (1901) includes a photograph (shown here) of a crew scaling and marking logs at a skid way.

Scaling is the term used for the measurement of logs to determine their usable wood content.  When developing tables for log measurements, certain assumptions were made concerning natural variations in diameters (log’s thickness inside the bark) and reductions for waste due to unseen defects, saw kerf (saw width) and slab loss at the mill.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charlie Herr: The Founding Of The Town of Webb

1895 County MapOn a recent election day, I was reminded of the Supreme Court’s historic decision that determined the 2000 Presidential election and of the importance of every vote cast.  I learned of another close election while researching the building of the Sucker Brook Bay Road (now Uncas Road).  I also discovered why the building of the segment from Eagle Bay to Old Forge took five years while Sucker Brook Bay Road was completed within two.

Examining this delay revealed that a court ultimately approved the handling of highway contracts.  I also learned that a judge determined who would be the first supervisor for the new Town of Webb and that the decision was based on improperly completed ballots. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Charlie Herr: A History of the Uncas Roads

1896 8th lake eugene scrafford camp 2_0 aIn the off year election of 1918, New York voters elected a new governor (Al Smith) who later became the first Roman Catholic and Irish-American to run for President.  In that same election, voters also approved a constitutional amendment to the “forever wild” Article VII (rewritten as Article XIV in 1938) permitting the construction of a state highway on forest preserve lands from Saranac Lake to Old Forge by way of Blue Mountain and Raquette Lakes.  Until this highway was built, the road from Inlet to the north ended at Seventh Lake.

When the segment from Seventh Lake to Raquette Lake was completed in 1929, it became the route of choice to Raquette Lake from Eagle Bay, replacing what today begins at that place as Uncas Road and ends as Browns Tract Road ending at Antlers Road at Raquette Lake.  Its name changes at Browns Tract Ponds. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Herreshoff Manor: Witness to Tragedy

P506 Herreshoff Manor 1892Photographs of the Herreshoff Manor that stood in today’s Thendara depict what could easily pass for a haunted house.  It seems that the building, which stood on an elevation of land not present today, overlooking then (1892) newly built Fulton Chain Station, would collapse with the next stiff breeze.

The story of this structure cannot be told without telling of the trials of its occupants:  Herreshoff, Foster, Waters, Grant, Arnold, Short and Sperry.  Tragedy would be the common thread among those connected with this building. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Old Forge Hardware History

P3415 Original Old Forge Hardware 173 (2)On May 10, 1922, the Old Forge Hardware store built by Moses Cohen burned to the ground.  Three days later the fire was still burning coal, unsold construction materials, and other debris and would continue to smolder for days to come.  But Moses Cohen continued to serve his customers, securing an office in the neighboring Givens Block and receiving permission from the Village of Old Forge to install his stock in the Fire Hall (today’s Nathan’s Bakery).  In 1923, his rebuilt store sold everything from “paints, bath tubs and up to the best in parlor suites.”  Today, the year 1922 is engraved under the Cohen name on the façade of the present store.

A year after the fire, as the construction of the present store was almost complete, the Utica Daily Press interviewed Moses Cohen in an article titled “Moses Cohen’s Story of Struggle to Top”. I thought Moses Cohen’s recalling his beginnings in Old Forge a worthy chapter to the town’s early history and how one man overcame ethnic prejudice with sound business practices. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Short History Of The Second Fulton Chain Railroad

PC1367 OmnibusOne afternoon in early July 1905, four girls aged about seven years old were playing on the railroad tracks in the newly incorporated Old Forge village.  They were the Levene girls and fellow classmates Hilda Abbey and Erma Garratt.  The village school had dismissed the students for the day.  The schoolhouse had been built ten years earlier.

While the girls were playing, a train was backing up to its depot at the Forge dock and the engineer did not see the children.  The children may not have heard the train since it was propelled by an oil burning engine and was probably coasting.  People on the scene claimed that the children would surely have been killed had the train’s brakeman on the last car had not seen them and given signals to stop at once.  The alert engineer was able to stop the cars two feet from the startled children on the tracks, the tracks of the 2 and a 1/4-mile Fulton Chain Railway. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Peg Leg Line: The First Fulton Chain Railroad

P3935-Peg-Leg-Railroad-Leaving-Moose-River-Settlement-enlargedEarly Brown’s Tract settlers Albert Jones and his son Eri had gotten into trouble with the law in 1877 for mistreating Eri’s wife, leaving her in a critical condition to be cared for by a neighbor.  Around the same time, like many early Brown’s Tract pioneers, they were squatters south of Thendara on the Moose River middle branch called Stillwater.

Albert had become sick and weak, presumably from a hard life as a businessman, lumber mill owner, rancher and breaker of horses for their Spanish owners in Mexico.  He claimed that if he was going to die, he wanted to die in the woods.  Temporarily, Adirondack weather was the cure and Albert and Eri set up Jones’s Camp as a boarding camp with boats for campers. It was a stopover twelve miles from the Forge along the Brown’s Tract Road. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Life and Times of the Raquette Lake Railway

1900 raquett lake railway schedule_0After the Raquette Lake Railway opened to the public on July 1, 1900, life on the Fulton Chain changed forever.  For its prime mover, Collis P. Huntington, life ended at Camp Pine Knot in August.  Huntington’s death left W. W. Durant without favorable money sources and his Blue Mountain and Raquette Lake Steamboat Company, as well as the newly built Marion River Carry Railroad and its terminal properties, were sold to Patrick Moynehan in May, 1901, then sold to the Webb interests in 1902.

I would like to tell the Railway’s story by telling the story of its stations.  When introducing the station’s name, I insert  its mile marker in parenthesis ( ) according to Michael Kudish’s Where Did the Tracks Go in the Central Adirondacks?. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Charlie Herr: Building the Raquette Lake Railway

1909RR-Station-DockRPPC-LDriving to Old Forge, I pass the old Eagle Bay station, recalling that I had a tasty barbecue sub sandwich there in the early 1980s.  I continue, watching the hikers and bikers on the level path to my right, also watching for deer.  Passing North Woods Inn, I see a sign referring to a train wreck and, just around Daikers, the path to my right disappears into the woods.

I once biked into the woods there and found a historical marker that told of the Raquette Lake Railway.  I decided to learn more about this railroad that, along with Dr. Webb’s line, provided both the rich and the poor access into the Adirondacks.  Its story starts with the Adirondack railroads that preceded it. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Fulton Chain Fish Hatchery: A Short History

scan0002According to Frank Graham, Jr., the first conservation agency established by New York was the Fisheries Commission.  It was established in 1868 to examine Adirondack water sources used by downstate cities and to study the impact of forest destruction by timber cutting neighboring these waters and on the fish they contained.

By the 1880s, the agency established hatcheries in various areas of the state to bolster fish populations in those water bodies and their tributaries suffering from nearby industrial operations such as mills on the Black River.  Since fishing pools in the Adirondacks were being rapidly depleted by the growing popularity of the region, the agency determined to establish fisheries in that region.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Horace and Nellie: An Adirondack Murder

scan0001(1)Over a hundred years ago, Lowville and Watertown papers held readers’ attention with headlines such as “A Woman Murdered”, “Struck in the Head”, “Murderer Caught”, and “Fulton Chain Murder”. The murderer escaped from the scene, was caught by authorities and later jailed at Auburn State Prison.  No, this murder did not occur at Big Moose Lake and the evidence did not point to Chester Gillette. And while this murder caused much excitement and newsprint, a movie never resulted.

On September 21, 1899, at about 10 in the evening, Horace Norton struck Nellie Widrick, supposedly his wife, with an axe on the Moose River Lock and Dam building’s porch and subsequently fled from the scene.  What follows is their story. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Benjamin Harrison’s 1895 Fulton Chain Vacation

P10 Gen Harrison and party at Old Forge dock175 (2)The widower ex-President Benjamin Harrison and part of his extended family came to the Fulton Chain in the summer of 1895.  By the following summer, his summer home Berkeley Lodge would be built on a peninsula between First and Second Lakes for him and for a new wife.  Our story starts with the election of 1888.

At the age of 55, Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd President in the first election where the electoral college vote went contrary to the popular vote.  Besides his wife, Caroline Scott Harrison, the White House family included son Russell Lord, his wife Mary and their daughter Marthena; daughter Mary Scott and husband J. Robert McKee and son Ben (“Baby McKee”); and Caroline’s 90 year old recently widowed father Rev. John Scott.  Later in the term, it included niece Caroline’s widowed 30 year old niece, Mrs. Mary Scott Lord Dimmick.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fulton Chain Steamers 101: The Fulton Navigation Years

PC500 Steamers Train at Forge House  165In a letter dated April 19, 1901, Dr. William Seward Webb informed J. Pierpont Morgan in New York City that, on behalf of the Raquette Lake Railway directors, he was accepting the option from the Old Forge Company to purchase the two mile Fulton Chain Railroad and the docks and  boats of the Crosby Transportation Company.

Dr. Webb informed Morgan that the purchase price was $45,000, but additional amounts necessary for repairing the railroad lines and upgrading the docks brought the total costs to $56,000.  Dr. Webb also asked Morgan and the other partners copied in the letter to send him their share of the purchase price.  The other paying partners were Collis P. Huntington, William C. Whitney and Harry Payne Whitney. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fulton Chain Steamers 101: Crosby Transportation Period

Old Forge Station 1050From 1892 to 1895, steamboat managers tried to outdo each other to attract passengers arriving on Dr. Webb’s railroad.  But these efforts suffered from the growing pains of an embryonic village and bad business practices from Fulton Chain to the Old Forge dock.

As the Utica Sunday Tribune reported, “At the depot everyday are ‘pullers in’ and ‘runners’ for the several boats which run to the head of the lakes.  As soon as a traveler alights from the train he is importuned to take this or that boat.  Then, if he consents to go on a certain boat, perhaps the ‘runner’ for the other boat will get the check for his baggage, and passenger and baggage will go up the lakes on separate boats.  The baggage man had no badge and the men who operate two of the boats go daily down to Remsen to ‘drum up’ business on the way between that station and Fulton Chain.”  It was hoped that Dr. Webb’s agent H. D. Carter would take steps to “obliterate the nuisances which are hampering this resort”. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fulton Chain Steamers 101: Beginnings 1876-1895

Steamer Clearwater Fulton ChainMuch has been written of the steamers that operated on the Fulton Chain from Old Forge to the “head” of Fourth Lake. Regional histories describe the first steamboats introduced as well as those of the Fulton Navigation Company’s service at the beginning of the 20th century.  After examining the newspapers covering early happenings in the region, I learned more about early public passenger and freight steamers.

Having covered the pickle boats and mail boats in other articles, they will not be included here.  This work will be confined to only the steamers catering to passenger and cargo transport on the lower Chain lakes.  I am going to divide this discussion into three parts: Beginnings, the Crosby Transportation Company years and the Fulton Navigation Company years.  This narrative covers the first period. » Continue Reading.