After 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.
According 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.
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.
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.
Much 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.
In January 2010, the Weekly Adirondack reported that the St. Regis Mohawk nation agreed to be a “consulting party” for the East Side Pumping Station project, a station to be built along the Moose River behind the American Legion building in Old Forge. The tribe was contacted because a member was buried in the proximity, on the opposite side of the river, about one hundred eighty years earlier. That person, Peter Waters (a.k.a. Drid), was shot fatally by Nathaniel Foster, Jr. on September 17, 1833 at a location known alternately as Murderer’s Point or Indian Point, where the channel from Old Forge meets First Lake.
Less than twenty years (1850) afterwards, the events preceding the shooting and its aftermath were described in great detail, including trial testimony, by Jeptha Simms in Trappers of New York, which remains the primary source for that part of John Brown’s Tract history today. While the events surrounding the shooting have become a part of history and folklore, influenced by changing attitudes about Foster and toward Native Americans, another parallel story can be told about the graves of these two men. The remains of the two men who were opposing forces when alive, shared unsettled treatment after their burial. » Continue Reading.
In 2008, an exhibit at the Goodsell Museum in Old Forge honored the train stations used by the railroads of the West Central Adirondacks. The first railroad in the region, nicknamed the “Peg Leg Railroad” or “Wooden Railroad”, did not quite extend to the Forge Tract as planned. But a more “green” option, in both literal and modern metaphorical terms, provided the additional distance not permitted to this railroad. The vehicle of the landowner’s choice was a steamer that, in the event of a boiler fire, would have sufficient water available to quench the fire.
Julia deCamp’s father Lyman R. Lyon originally owned all of Township 8, John Brown’s Tract, a replica map of which you can buy at the Goodsell Museum. Lyon conveyed a two-thirds portion that eventually was acquired by the Sacketts Harbor Railroad Company and subsequently mortgaged in the 1850s. A few corporate owners and receiverships later, this portion was acquired by Thomas C. Durant for his Adirondack Company that built the railroad from Saratoga Springs to North Creek. » Continue Reading.
Sources can be scarce when tracking down information for a region where precious few histories have been written. We are fortunate that the few we have are wonderful works, even though too many need reprinting. Such a work is David Beetle’s Up Old Forge Way. Originally published in 1948, this book provided readers with a humorous, introductory history of Fulton Chain lakes, hamlets and people. His sources were books, newspaper accounts and people’s recall of events in some cases fifty years after they occurred.
From Beetle’s book, we read that John Dix, a former governor, needed to float his company’s piled logs from the north branch of the Moose River (Township 8) through deCamp lands (Townships 1 & 7) to the company’s McKeever mill. Beetle wrote that Dix did not want to pay deCamps’ tolls for this river use, so Dix took them to court and repeatedly lost. Consequently, he needed to build a logging railroad from Clearwater to Rondaxe Lake. Dix got attorney Charles Snyder to get “Railroader” Thomas C. Durant to buy the right of way from deCamp with Dix’s money. W. S. deCamp would later wonder how Dix received this right of way in 1897.
Let’s correct two errors. Two later books also include this story and mention that this John Dix was governor before and after this episode. John Adams Dix was governor 1873-1874, died in 1879, and John Alden Dix, the one above, was governor 1911-1912. Also, Thomas C. Durant, William West’s father, had died in 1885, dead for twelve years by the time of the event described. What follows is what I have learned about the events, the people involved and the transaction itself. » Continue Reading.
The books of Henry Harter and Harold Hochschild discuss the building of the short-lived Raquette Lake Railway, its millionaire owners and probable origins. These include Mrs. Huntington threatening not to visit Collis Huntington’s Pine Knot Camp if she had to continue using the Fulton Chain steamers, riding on buckboard and boat carries beyond Fourth Lake.
Maybe Mr. Huntington, not finding an empty seat, got the idea after sitting on a keg of nails on one steamer ride. No doubt tycoons as Durant, Morgan, Vanderbilt and Whitney envied Dr. Webb’s ability to ride a private train to his Nehasane Preserve from New York. » Continue Reading.
Before the automobile, the railroads and the steamers, those who traveled from “the Forge” to Big Moose Lake disembarked on the north shore of Fourth Lake at a location known as “Big Moose Landing”. Another landing to the west was used that took the traveler past First (called Landon, then Rondaxe) and Second (called Foster, then Dart’s) Lakes to the Third (called Sherman, then Big Moose) Lake, north branch, Moose River. Guides with their sportsmen would usually head for Elba Island and bear north towards the shore where a landing developed that led to a trail through the woods. This trail was called the “Carry Trail”.
After unloading at Big Moose Landing, you would carry your belongings up a hill and quickly come to what Edwin Wallace called “a lovely little pond” which we today call Surprise Pond. Continuing another three-quarters of a mile past today’s Route 28 and the bed of the Raquette Lake Railway (now the hike/bike trail) you come to Bubb Lake. » Continue Reading.
Now that attorney John Caffry has successfully defended the public’s right to paddle a remote waterway near the Whitney Wilderness—at least for the time being—he hopes the case will have broader benefits for canoeists and kayakers.
“It’s a good victory for the rights of the public and the rights of paddlers that the judge upheld the right to use this waterway,” Caffry said. “Hopefully it will discourage other property owners from trying to close off streams through their property that are navigable, so people don’t have to go court.”
The Glens Falls lawyer represented Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown, who paddled the disputed waterway in May 2009 while traveling between tracts of the state-owned Whitney Wilderness. Brown later wrote an article for the Explorer about the trip and the issue of navigation rights. » Continue Reading.
Linda Cohen and Peg Masters, both descendants of 19th-century pioneer settlers of the Old Forge region, have written Old Forge and The Fulton Chain of Lakes (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99) the latest Adirondack edition in the Images of America series. Together they compiled over 200 images from around the area, many seldom seen.
Old Forge is nestled at the foot of the Middle Branch of the Moose River, more commonly known as the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Year-round accommodations at the Forge House in 1871 and dependable rail service in 1892 led to permanent settlement of the hamlet. Within a decade, Old Forge emerged as the residential and commercial hub of the Central Adirondacks and a popular destination and gathering place for guides, sportsmen, and wilderness tourists. For the sightseer who strolls around Old Forge today or enjoys a cruise up the eight lakes in the Fulton Chain, the landscape is dotted with scores of century-old dwellings, Victorian cottages, rustic camps, and even a few grand old hotels.
Linda Cohen has been an active member of the local historical association and a board member since 2004. Peg Masters has served as the town historian for the past 10 years and conducts historic walking tours every summer.
Today’s paddlers on the South Branch of the Moose or West Branch of the Sacandaga Rivers, or hikers, loon watchers and snowmobilers along numerous winding forest trails in the Moose River Plains or Ferris Lake Wild Forests would be fifty feet underwater if the mid-20th century dam proponents, and their state sponsors had held sway.
Citizens who valued these Adirondack valleys for their wildlife and wildness opposed them. One of those organizations was Friends of the Forest Preserve, founded in 1945 by Paul Schaefer. I write this on September 13, his birthday. This history of the founding of the organization is contained in Schaefer’s book, Defending the Wilderness: The Adirondack Writings of Paul Schaefer (1989, Syracuse University Press). » Continue Reading.
The New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have extended the public comment period for the comprehensive, integrated management actions proposed for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
The agencies recently held three public hearings on these actions and determined, based on public input, that additional time is warranted for public comment. The public comment period is now extended to September 17, 2010. » Continue Reading.
A summer day. The road to the Moose River Plains from Limekiln Lake is free of traffic this morning, the sun’s rays have not yet turned the evening dew to dust. As I drive down the shaded road I think about the work of local people from Inlet who dug and placed sand on these roads to give the heavy logging trucks enough traction on the steep sections.
Dick Payne, former Inlet Police Chief, left me memorable impressions of working the Plains in the “old days.” Since 1964 when the Gould Paper Company sold this land to the people of the State, the land is Forest Preserve. As the cicadas begin to whine from the trees, I try to remember another group who hiked in via the Red River valley to discover what was at risk from the Higley and Panther Mountain Dams on the South Branch of the Moose River. » Continue Reading.
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