Almanack Contributor Tom Thacher

Tom Thacher

Tom is the great great grandson of the very first “summer folk” on Blue Mountain Lake. The Thacher family built the first private summer home on Thacher Island in 1867.

Tom has spent every summer of his life on Indian Point of Raquette Lake on lands purchased by his family in 1876. In researching the origins of his family’s century old, one-room cabin, Tom is discovering over 200 years of Adirondack History seen through the lens of one plot of land.

Extended versions of this article and other stories and photos can be found at Fifty Acres of Beach and Wood which chronicles tales of iconic characters of Adirondack history whose footprints have graced the shores of Indian Point.

Tom is currently fundraising to publish a book of his research. The proceeds from the book will support the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts. You can make a contribution to the book fund here:

Searching For An 1878 Cabin On Raquette Lake

William H Hill Parcel arialThrough my research on the mysterious Thacher Cabin, I learned that numerous newspaper articles and books referenced the cabin’s existence, none however, clarified where the cabin was located. Maps of Raquette Lake have given no indication of the location, and no photos or drawings of the cabin have been found.

I chose to begin my search by focusing on the one visitor to the cabin for whom historical records might exist.   In Aber and King’s History of Hamilton County, it is written that the Henry Gabriels, later the Bishop of Ogdensburg, performed Catholic Mass at the Thacher Camp, July 11th to the 14th, 1878. In the hope that this early mass in the Adirondacks might be of historical significance, I contacted the archivist of the Diocese of Ogdensburg looking for any original documents or photos of Gabriels’ visit. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Roots Of A Classic Adirondack Guide Joke

GHT portraitDid you hear the one about the guide who took his wealthy client out trolling for lake trout? His customer paid more attention to his bottle of whiskey than his fishing line, finishing off the quart while sharing not a drop with the guide. Looking at his empty bottle, the gentleman remarked to his guide, “I am sorry not to have offered you any, but I never let my guide drink on a trip.” To which the guide retorted, “You are quite right sir; one drunk in a boat is enough.”

It is rare that one can trace a joke back to its origins, but in this case, my family is the butt of the joke. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Forked Laked: The Capture And Death of Charles Parker

GHTLetterOur family has two large metal boxes filled with George Hornell Thacher’s handwritten letters.   We are fortunate to have three letters written from the Thacher “Camp” on Indian Point on Raquette Lake.

George Hornell Thacher’s correspondence to his son George Jr. dated August 7, 1881 is a unique piece of history.  He references a tragic affair which became the talk of the major NY newspapers

Camp, Aug. 7th, 1881
Dear George,

My health is about as usual. Nothing new here of importance except the recapture of Parker yesterday, the desperado, the man who outraged a lady on the carry between Forked and Long Lakes.  He was arrested at Lowville while fleeing to Canada and taken back to Long Lake where he got away from the constable.  Yesterday the same officer overhauled him on Forked Lake near the outlet, shot and broke his arm and recaptured him.  The lady was a sister of the wife of U.S. Senator Platt of Connecticut.  Parker was a newcomer here and took up the business of guiding.  He was guiding her to Long Lake and perpetrated the deed near Butter Milk Falls.

Father

P.S. Parker was shot through the arm and breast.  The Doctor says he will die probably before night.  The way of the transgressor is hard. 10 A.M.

The Troy Press said, “Probably no event occurring in the Adirondack region has caused as much comment and excitement as the crime that is attributed to Charles Parker.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Raquette Lake: Why ‘Indian’ Point?

Stoddard from CragsWriting  in The Adirondack; or Life in the Woods (1849) Joel Tyler Headley remarked that Indian Point on Raquette Lake was so-named “because there was once an Indian settlement upon it”.  But until recently, the idea of large, permanent Native American settlements within the Adirondacks has been discounted by scholars. Ongoing research however, suggests that may not be the case.

On thing we do know for sure is that Adirondack interior was a seasonal hunting ground for the Iroquoian and Algonquin-speaking communities and there is considerable evidence that the Raquette Lake area was used extensively by the Mohawk.  » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Raquette Lake in 1878

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 7.01.30 AMThe mysterious original cabin of the Thachers on Indian Point received numerous mentions in the newspapers of the day.  However, the earliest evidence of its existence comes from a single sentence in the text of Aber & King’s The History of Hamilton County.

Bishop Gabriels, then a priest, celebrated Mass at the Thatcher Camp on July 11, 12, 13, and 14, 1878.

It refers to Rev. Henry Gabriels who at the time was President of the St. Joseph Seminary in Troy, NY and who later became the Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, which encompasses all of the Adirondacks.   Can we simply assume that the original cabin was built in 1878, or might it have existed prior to this first reference?  After all, the family purchased the land in 1876. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Raquette Lake’s First Settlers:
Matthew Beach and William Wood

1849-Birch-Pt-sketch“Yonder comes the boat of Woods and Beach, the two solitary dwellers of this region. It is rather a singular coincidence that the only two inhabitants of this wilderness should be named Woods and Beach. I should not wonder if the next comers should be called ‘Hemlock’ and ‘Pine’.” 

Joel Tyler Headley, The Adirondack or Life in the Woods

Indian Point was the focal point of Raquette Lake because Beach and Wood were the center of hospitality for the earliest adventurers in the region: Ebenezer Emmons in 1840, Jon Todd in 1843, Joel Tyler Headley in 1844-1846.  Our knowledge of Beach and Wood comes from the writings of these and later visitors. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Nessmuk Visits Indian Point, Raquette Lake

Nessmuk photoWhenever and wherever the original Thacher cabin was built on Indian Point is my research holy grail.  Delving into the details of the few literary mentions of the cabin might yield clues.

The famous wilderness writer George Washington Sears, pen name Nessmuk, wrote of meeting my great great grandfather George Hornell Thacher at his cabin on Indian Point.

“There are enthusiastic anglers, however, whose specialty is trolling for lake trout. A gentleman by the name of Thatcher (sic), who has a fine residence on Raquette Lake – which he calls a camp – makes this his leading sport, and keeps a log of his fishing, putting nothing on record of less than ten pounds weight.”

This visit by Nessmuk was published in his 1884 book titled Woodcraft; however, it makes no mention of when the encounter actually occurred.  » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Cabin on Raquette Lake’s Indian Point: A New Mystery

SONY DSCMy cousin Stephen FitzPatrick’s curiosity was peeked by my writings.  A piece of the puzzle had always been in his hands but he did not know it.  Prompted by my last article, Stephen searched through boxes of his mother’s memorabilia and found the photo at left.

It’s dated 1910, the year of construction according to our family’s oral history.  Could this be the first photo of the little red cabin?  Our previous research had narrowed the window in time to between 1905 and 1918.  This would appear to squeeze the date of construction to a mere five year period between 1905 and 1910. It was time to see what evidence I could find of the Thachers on Indian Point between the pages of books, newspaper articles and letters. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dating The Cabin on Raquette Lake’s Indian Point

red cabin_croppedAfter my father’s sister Ellen married Michael FitzPatrick, both our families enjoyed summers together sharing the cabin on Raquette Lake’s Indian Point and two nearby lean-tos. That was until 1981, when our family built a new place on the north shore of the peninsula.  Each summer, a growing brood of FitzPatrick cousins continues to inhabit the little, red one-room cabin at the point’s tip.

As a child I would fall asleep in the lean-to that sits just to the right of this cabin, being driven to sleep by the flames dancing in the stone fireplace and the hypnotic pulsing of the green and red lights which adorned the channel buoys in the Needles.  » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Farrand Benedict’s Trans-Adirondack Water Route

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 5.44.44 AMOn Route 28 between Indian Lake and Blue Mountain Lake there is a sign about a half mile south of  the junction with Route 28N in Blue Mountain Lake that marks the divide between the St. Lawrence River and Hudson River watersheds.  The waters of Blue Mountain Lake flow through the Eckford Chain into Raquette Lake, north through Long Lake and the Raquette River eventually reaching the St. Lawrence Seaway.  The waters of Durant Lake, only a half-mile from Blue, eventually flow into the Hudson River.

If Farrand Benedict had been successful with his grand plans for the Adirondacks from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario, the waters of Blue, Raquette and Long lakes would today also flow to the Hudson River.  » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Floatplane Adventure:
Buster Bird And Raquette Lake History

Buster Bird in 1997. Courtesy of Carol Bird Mitchell“Thunk-Ping” “Thunk-Ping” echoed through the woods as the head of the sledge came down upon the maul.  Rhythmically the forged steel struck the maul, driving the blade into the round section of the old oak deadfall’s trunk.  My hands tried valiantly to not retreat, but hold fast to the maul handle as my father sent the sledge’s head crashing down.

Each summer we would split a deadfall and stack the wood in our shed for future fires in the Vermont Castings stove.  Beautiful sunlight barely broke through the thick canopy of white pine and spruce as we sweated within a few hundred feet of our cabin.   The sledge hit the maul over and over, sounding like the chimes of a slow clock that strikes its bell every ten seconds. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting to Blue Mountain Lake in the 19th Century

1922 Marion River RRMy trip to the Adirondacks from our home in Western Massachusetts ends when I see the water of Raquette Lake’s South Bay – a three-and-a-half hour drive.  OK, my wife insists the trip is not over until we unload the car, pack the boat, traverse the lake, unload the boat and schlep everything into the cabin.  A five-hour ordeal in her mind, but serenity fills me the minute I see the water.

Be it three-and-a-half hours or five, our trip is nothing compared to the arduous travels my great-great-grandfather took to reach these shores. He had been among the very first to summer on Blue Mountain Lake, building the first private summer home on Thacher Island in 1867.

In 1862, George Hornell Thacher first traveled to the region guided by Mitchell Sabattis.  At that time, the railroad to North Creek and the stage road from North Creek to Blue Mountain Lake did not exist.  Access to Blue Mountain Lake was only from the north, down from Long Lake.  The trip from Albany took three or four days. » Continue Reading.



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