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.
My 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.
Driving 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.
Great Camp Sagamore will host two guided snowshoe hikes of the grounds February 15 and 16 as part of Raquette Lake’s Annual Winter Carnival. This is a rare opportunity for visitors to see the National Historic Landmark in the winter, a season when the former Vanderbilt family owners traditionally visited.
The free, guided hikes depart from the camp’s barn parking lot at 10 a.m. both days and conclude two hours later with hot cider in the Reading Room of the Conference Building. Guides will lead groups through the camp grounds to see building exteriors, then trek to different portions of the newly designated Great Camps Historic District that includes Sagamore. » Continue Reading.
In 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.
What follows is an open letter issued today to Adirondack Almanack readers.
Dear Adirondack Almanack Readers:
Voters reaffirmed that the Adirondack Park belongs to all New Yorkers. Proposition 4 (Township 40) was approved by a wide margin. Voters also approved Proposition 5 that expands the Jay Mountain Wilderness as part of a land swap with the NYCO mineral company. The approval of this constitutional amendment expands access to all sides of the Jay Mountain Wilderness and adds important new resources to the Forest Preserve.
Election results show that New Yorkers care deeply about the Adirondack Park. Clearly the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, and the New York League of Conservation Voters’ collaboration with local governments, unions, and property owners can produce victories and results that benefit the Forest Preserve and communities. » Continue Reading.
Perhaps I first heard of the Township 40 disputed land titles during the Adirondack Park Centennial year, 1992. It was probably that fall during a Raquette Lake cruise on the WW Durant with Capt. Dean Pohl. I recalled the issues when canoeing on the lake later that decade. My friend Dan and I paddled Raquette Lake, took the Marion River Carry en route through the Eckford Chain of Lakes. I was back paddling on Raquette Lake through some high winds and waves when our mentor Paul Schaefer died in July, 1996.
I felt terribly that I was not with Paul when he died, but consoled myself with the knowledge that he would have certainly approved of where I was at the time he died, paddling into the teeth of the wind to reach a quiet bay on this great Adirondack lake. Paul was fond of showing us an early 20th century map of Township 40 to make the point that before becoming the famous first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot had (in about 1900) proposed lumbering thousands of acres east and south of Raquette Lake, a threat which had energized the organization of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the citizen and advocacy organization Paul served for 50 years and which I had the privilege of working for. » 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.
Personally, I prefer to celebrate Halloween passing out the candy while wearing a tiara and a pair of wings without getting any quizzical looks from the neighbors. The other members of my family prefer to look to the pagan holiday as a test of bravery. Haunted houses, corn maze Fright Nights or Zombie Runs aren’t the only means to look fear in eye.
For some Halloween-themed ideas around the Adirondacks try An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe stories at Pendragon Theatre on October 30 at 7 pm and November 1 at 9 pm. Costumes are encouraged for readings of selected works of Poe’s short stories including a Tell-Tale Heart.
This time of the year marks a period of change. With the falling leaves, the coming of cold temperatures and their accompanying snowfall, the change is literally in the air. Along with these natural changes, comes the possibility of political change as well, brought about on the high-holy day of any democracy, voting day. In New York State, voting day often includes a number of propositions to amend the state constitution, two of which just happen to involve the Adirondack Park this time around.
Politics often lacking any semblance of imagination, the two propositions are simply names Proposal #4 and #5. Both of these proposals involve land exchanges in the Adirondacks, although under vastly different circumstances. » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 New York State voters will have an opportunity to vote on several state-wide propositions. Proposition #4 (Prop 4), is one of two Constitutional Amendments affecting the Adirondacks. It’s the result of long-standing title disputes between the State of New York and property owners on Raquette Lake in the old Township 40 of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase.
A positive vote will correct an injustice that has been perpetuated for over 100 years.
I write as an interested party, but I’m not directly involved in any aspect of the controversy that gives rise to Prop 4. I don’t own property on or near Raquette Lake. I’m not one of the contested property holders. But, for nearly 35 years I have paddled the waters of this lake starting with a group of high school students, canoeing, camping, and learning about the outdoors. I’ve paddled the lake with my wife, with friends, and with clients as an Adirondack guide. In 2005, I paddled Raquette Lake recreating the 1883 paddle of George Washington Sears (a.k.a. Nessmuk) and many times since as a trail steward for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. » 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.
A historic carry trail between Utowana Lake and the Marion River likely will be added to the Forest Preserve if the public approves an amendment to the state constitution to resolve a longstanding dispute over the ownership of more than two hundred parcels on Raquette Lake.
Under this scenario, the state would give up title to the disputed lands in exchange for the 295-acre Marion River parcel, which the Open Space Institute purchased this year for $2 million from Dean Pohl, who operates a cruise boat on Raquette Lake.
The deal is not set in stone. If the amendment passes in November, the state legislature will have to determine that the swap would provide a net benefit to the Forest Preserve. » 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.
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