As Frank Tweedy approached the end of his four-year stint with forest surveyor Squire Snell on Verplanck Colvin’s Adirondack Survey, Southwest Division, he was no longer a tenderfoot, but a veteran surveyor and topographer, with many miles of survey work in the Beaver River basin and six expertly drawn maps to his credit.
His southern trek to finish the Totten and Crossfield Tract boundary line necessitated a new base camp well south of Beaver River. Twitchell Lake in Big Moose was the perfect location.
Establishing a Basecamp on Twitchell Lake
During Tweedy’s first 1876 Adirondack season, Colvin met him on the Carthage to Champlain Road just south of Beaver River “to inspect the work of the party now engaged in extending the survey of that stream… taking with me two guides and rations for one week.”
His guides Alvah Dunning and Mitchell Sebattis led him on a well-used trail from Seventh Lake to Big Moose and Twitchell Lakes, and then up to its intersection with that early cross-Adirondack road. On returning, Colvin overnighted in “Twitchell Lake Camp,” from which he surveyed Twitchell Lake on October 19th . This first shanty on Twitchell Lake was built by Hiram Burke in 1870 at the northwest end of the Lake, near the halfway point on the route from Beaver River to Seventh Lake.
Tweedy established his basecamp for the 1879 season in this shanty as he surveyed the Totten and Crossfield line passing just on the other side of “Twitchell Mountain,” less than a mile away. Station 224 on that line crossed the J. Lonis Trail connecting Twitchell with the old Chauncey Smith outpost at the fork of Beaver and its South Branch. Hermit Carl Hough now occupied that outpost, and Tweedy paid him for putting him and his crew up for a night or two. Tweedy’s 1879 field book also mentioned a supply depot belonging to Smith son-in-law James Lewis three-quarters of a mile up that trail – a log house where supplies were stored.
On July 29th Tweedy wrote: “Went down to our provision depot and brought up in packs, 250 lbs Including a barrel of crackers to the log house.” For the 1879 season, Twitchell Lake was Tweedy’s hub for mail, communication, and supplies of all kinds, even employing Lewis’ horse when it was not sick. The importance of Twitchell Lake for Tweedy in this phase of his work is clear — he referred to it 25 times.
The lake’s importance is further illustrated by the offset line Tweedy surveyed from the Totten and Crossfield line near East Pond to the northern shore of the lake, marking off nine stations with his chain, for a total of 3,745 feet (0.7 miles), the following note was added at the bottom of that table: “Station 9 is on the Totten & Crossfield Line 142 ft South of post marked 84000 ft [Sta. 340].” This was the only offset line in his last year of survey work, and it was accompanied by the sketch shown here of the bay where that offset line met the shore of Twitchell Lake.
The map included here labeling the northern part of the Lake “Lizard’s Bay” depicts an 87-foot baseline to a right triangle used to measure distance and bearing to three small peninsulas jutting out from two coves. This offset and sketch ensured that Colvin could include Twitchell Lake topography, where Tweedy headquartered, in his final Adirondack map.
Tweedy’s “mistake” on this sketch may point to an early naming of Twitchell Lake. The theory I offer must be proven but it is based on several Tweedy characteristics in his Adirondack survey work. His attention to detail is remarkable. He was a quick learner with enormous respect for the work of the old surveyors. When he discovered the corner of Townships 42 and 41 near East Pond, he was tickled that the cairn at that corner was erected 25 years earlier, almost to the day. He read that right out of Snell’s 1854 field book. And he may have been reading from Richards’ 1816 field book when he labeled this “Twitchell Mt.”
It is not too far-fetched to place Urial Twitchell – the original settler of this family in Copenhagen, NY – on Richard’s crew at the Corner of Townships 42 and 41. Richards surveyed many of the early roads in Lewis and Herkimer Counties and Twitchell was part of the crew that laid out a road through Copenhagen just before the War of 1812. The time frame fits and these two factors potentially create opportunity for a naming action that got transferred onto later maps. This is not a mistake on Tweedy’s part.
It is a curious fact that two 1880 field books (Vols. 162 & 250) are labeled “Tweedy” on their covers, because in his autobiography Tweedy stated he had already moved on to a Newport, RI, job. I think these are actually authored by Snell or another Assistant on the Colvin team, with a detailed listing of the benchmark’s between Beaver River and Twitchell Lake. Colvin’s instructions on corners had also specified the locations where these monuments were to be placed: “The Bench marks must be placed at the intersection of all Roads and Streams crossed and at the shores of all Lakes, and must not be over one half mile apart on the line…The Bench [mark] must be minutely described and its distance and bearing taken from three points.”
Two Colvin benchmarks were apparently placed on the Tweedy offset line, #13 on a stone 50 feet east of where that line met Twitchell’s lakeshore, and #12 on a rock near the summit of “Twitchell Mountain,” 25 feet from a trail. The sketch here shows where benchmark #13 was placed on the Twitchell shore. My search to date has not turned it up, with several stones on that north shore fitting the description covered by vegetation. The attribution of these two field books to Tweedy may be Colvin’s greatest tribute to his young protégé, for as far as Colvin was concerned, Tweedy’s accomplishments while at Twitchell Lake were enormous, and this was his project. There is another possibility because the survey line from Lowville to Lake Champlain became known as “Tweedy’s Line.”
Another curious question surrounds Tweedy’s encounter with guide Hiram Burke, whose shanty had become his base camp. Burke was another Chauncey Smith son-in-law who had adopted Twitchell as his lake for hosting fishing and hunting parties. Since Tweedy was using the Burke shanty for much of that season’s prime time – June through August – it is almost certain he had received Burke’s permission. Tweedy does not say so in his narrative, but it had to be awkward when Burke showed up on July 16th at his own shanty to arrest Tweedy’s guide: “About 7 am, H. Burke and the deputy sheriff from Lowville reached our camp to serve a summons on our guide for killing deer.”
According to a Lowville Times report, there were two infractions, the second one was “using a gill net for trout at Twitchel Lake.” Burke moonlighted with the Lewis County Sportsman’s Association, guiding the Lowville sheriff into this northern wilderness when complaints were filed. Best practices for hunting and fishing were in the formation stages, and this Association was the watchdog for abuses in the western Adirondacks. Despite this incident, Tweedy was the beneficiary of legendary catches of 2 to 3-pound native brook trout during his stay at Twitchell Lake.
Tweedy never wavered in his support for his guide Lewis Wormwood despite that summer’s brush with the law. Wormwood would have been summoned to the Lewis County Courthouse in Lowville and required to pay the fines for each infraction. Tweedy’s not that he “Remained at Stillwater. [to] Survey Jos Dunbars Land.” This was not part of his work for the Adirondack Survey.
It turns out that Joseph C. Dunbar purchased William Wardwell’s wilderness hotel on the west bank of Twitchell Creek at Stillwater on October 27, 1879, and he needed a survey for the purchase. That outpost was a key supply point and overnight stay on the Carthage Road between Number Four, Raquette Lake, and Lake Champlain. Dunbar was married to Lewis’ sister, Mary E. Wormwood. Tweedy completed that survey over the weekend as a favor for his guide. These actions probably made Tweedy popular with his men and elicited respect among the locals too.
Illustrations, from above: Postcard titled “The First Camp on Twitchell Lake,” depicting guide Hiram Burke’s shanty, 1870; Map of north end of Twitchell Lake from Tweedy’s Vol. 251 Field Book, 1879; and a sketch of B. M. #12 on north shore of Twitchell Lake from Vol. 250 Field Book, 1880.