There will be a Garden Party on Thursday, August, 18th from 4 to 7 pm, to benefit the Town of Webb Historical Association on the grounds of the Moose River House Bed and Breakfast overlooking the Moose River. The evening will be host by H. Stuart deCamp and Jimmy Ortiz.
The event will be dedicated to William Seward Webb – the namesake of the Town of Webb. Webb, along with his wife Lila Osgood Vanderbuilt, acquired over 200,000 acres of land in the Adirondacks, and owned a notable railroad. The Webbs established Nehasane Park, a 40,000 acre private preserve located west of Long Lake, and had Great Camp Forest Lodge built on Lake Lila (renamed by the Webb’s for Lila Webb). In addition to their Adirondack interests, the Webbs also owned several thousand acres along Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont. » Continue Reading.
While researching the Raquette Lake Railway, I found several historical traditions that were repeatedly used by authors in their works regarding the railroad’s origin. Below I examine these traditions and then provide my research on its origin from period correspondence and historical sources, including the rationale from the words of its builder, Collis P. Huntington. » Continue Reading.
Just when I think I have learned all of the origins and instigators for the building of the Raquette Lake Railroad during 1899, I find a new participant.
I have read of Collis Huntington’s impatience with the inefficiencies of the Fulton Chain steamers and stages from Old Forge’s transportation monopoly’s companies, his sitting on a keg of nails during a long wait. Also, that his wife refused to visit him at Pine Knot until this builder of the transcontinental railroad built a railroad to their camp. Dr. William Seward Webb did plan in 1892 on a road from Clearwater to Raquette Lake. Later, the Raquette Lake Railroad would use the two mile lumber railroad built in 1897-1898 by John Dix to Rondaxe Lake as the beginning of this road’s route.
In the Harold Hochschild private history Township 34 excerpt published by the Adirondack Museum, we learn that William West Durant determined that the Delaware & Hudson Company would not be extending his father’s line past North Creek. This meant that Dr. Webb’s line built in 1892 would be the only railroad available to connect Raquette and Blue Mountain Lakes to major population centers. Hochschild wrote that it was Durant who thought a railroad should be built connecting with the New York Central and that, lacking the funds to do so, Durant interested Collis Huntington in the project. » Continue Reading.
A quick look at an Old Forge town map reveals streets named Garmon, Crosby, Adams, Gilbert and Sheard. These are the oldest streets in town except for Main Street (Route 28), originally an extension of the Brown’s Tract Road.
The “main drag” was briefly named Harrison Avenue for former President Benjamin Harrison, the region’s most famous camper. But this name was dropped from the maps of the Adirondack Development Corporation in the first part of the 20th century.
Recently, the Goodsell Musuem has been permitted by the Town of Webb to reinstate “Harrison Avenue” with a sign at the corner of Gilbert and Route 28.
Except for Main Street, these streets were created by the Old Forge Company, often called the Old Forge Improvement Company. When its Directors established building lots through the woods of the Forge Tract, they assigned these names to the streets on the first village map filed in July 1896 with the Herkimer County Clerk. What follows is part of a history of the Old Forge Company from its inception to 1899. » Continue Reading.
One 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.
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.
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.
From 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.
The state’s ongoing purchase of some 65,000 acres from the Nature Conservancy brings to mind the largest land purchase for the Forest Preserve in history. In 1896, the needs of the Erie Canal resulted in the state’s purchase from Dr. William Seward Webb of 74,584 acres.
The story begins with the Black River, which starts primarily at North Lake reservoir and travels in a route that begins southwesterly then turns northwesterly around Forestport to ultimately end at Lake Ontario. At 115 miles, it is the longest river running completely within New York’s borders. Bodies of water adding to the Black River’s water volume include Otter and Woodhull Creeks, and the Independence, Moose and Beaver Rivers. In the 19th century, Watertown and other river towns grew from villages to industrial centers with factories and mills relying heavily on water power. » 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.
Through the end of October, the Goodsell Museum in Old Forge will continue its tribute to the region’s unusual means of receiving mail. The exhibit entitled, “Floating Letters, A Tribute to the Mailboats and Their Crews” will end October 31, 2011.
Director Gail Murray says, “We talked over different ideas and first thought of including all commerce but quickly realized the topic was too large. We focused on the mailboats to discover it is the 110 -year anniversary”
According to Murray there were mailboats on Twitchell Lake, Silver Lake and Rondaxe and boats still delivering mail on Big Moose Lake and Fulton Chain. Murray wanted the exhibit to tie in the tradition of the residents receiving mail by water with summer fun as children and grandchildren still anxiously wait for the mail to arrive by boat.
“The Fulton Chain mailboat is currently run by Old Forge Lake Cruises and holds about 20 people,” say Murray. “I believe it is one of the only mailboats that is allowed passengers. With delivering the mail the tour is able to get up close to the historic camps and homes from Old Forge to Fourth Lake. Our next exhibit will focus on early medicine in the area and will open right after Thanksgiving, ”
The mailboat exhibit celebrated the 110 -year anniversary of the Old Forge mail boat delivery system. Originally the only means to receive mail, the boat service began in 1901 due to the influence of President Benjamin Harrison and Dr. William Seward Webb. Harrison had purchased 10 acres of land from Webb and built Berkeley Lodge on Second Lake.
Using a boat to provide mail service is not unusual for the US Postal Service. In rural communities they continue to use anything from snowmobiles to mule train.
At the Goodsell Museum children are encouraged to mix and mingle throughout the various exhibits. On the ground floor there are glass cases of taxidermy animals but a pack basket set to the side is marked with a yellow circle, handprint and “OK.” Children know anything marked with that symbol is fair game. My children examine all the animal pelts gingerly and even try on a few fox collars. Upstairs they examine some medical equipment in a different “please touch box.”
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