After Hudson River logging sharply declined by 1905, the Adirondack railroad line known as the Mohawk & Malone kept NYS lumber companies in business for at least another twelve years. A big part of this was due to logging north of Big Moose, shown on this New York Central & Hudson River railroad map, with eight station stops northward toward Tupper Lake (shown at left), three of them as junctions for logging railroads — Wood’s Lake, Brandreth, and Nehasane.
Beaver River Station was shifting from logging to tourism. Little Rapids was a flag stop, Keepawa unlisted in an 1895 train schedule. This article will describe the logging history of Wood’s Lake and Beaver River stations, beginning with a new lumbering operation just north of Big Moose.
The new Buck Pond flag stop was situated on the east side of the tracks less than a mile north of the Big Moose station, just beyond the sign marking this railroad’s highest elevation. This era from 1900 to 1920 saw this scenic pond become the site for a significant new logging operation and the trailhead for the settlement of Silver Lake by a Division Engineer on that line, James C. Irwin and his long time friend George T. Butler.
In an Irwin family genealogy, James C. Irwin was referred to as “a railroad man, long connected with the New York Central Lines and of later years especially with the Boston and Albany Railroad.” He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania as a civil engineer and went right into the railroad business. In 1892, Irwin accepted the task of overseeing completion of the Adirondack railroad on this northern stretch of that line, starting with oversight of the survey crew.
Bill Marleau’s Big Moose Station told this part of the story well: During the course of his work on the Mohawk & Malone, Jim Irwin became acquainted with and fell in love with the Twitchell Lake area, especially the land around Silver Lake and Razorback Pond. When William Seward Webb decided to sell his land in Township 8, Jim approached him about buying the land at Silver Lake. He felt that with the building of the railroad, Twitchell Lake would become popular and there would be too many camps.
Unable to finance this alone, he invited lawyer George T. Butler – the friend he had grown up with in Media, PA, and with whom he had hunted, fished, and canoed – to join him in the purchase. Webb sold them 338 acres which included Silver Lake and half of Razorback Pond on September 29, 1898. This picture shows the Lincoln-log style cabin Earl Covey and Tom Rose built for Irwin and Butler in 1900, no pit being available for his usual half-log style construction for cabins on nearby Twitchell Lake, one mile distant. There, two men sawed a log in two, one down in a pit.
This parcel was split into separate Butler and Irwin tracts in 1940, and a Butler cabin built in 1948 opposite the lake’s scenic island. George Butler’s daughter Mary and son-in-law Clifford Lewis III passed the cabin to Clifford Butler Lewis and Eleanor Reed Lewis, their children. Butler descendants now own the entire parcel with its two cabins, sharing history and ties with Twitchell Lake residents.
Sometime around 1900, J. C. Irwin bought three acres of land across from Big Moose Station, most of which he sold back to the railroad when they enlarged their wye — or engine turn-around track — in 1913. Expecting Big Moose and Twitchell Lakes to develop rapidly, Irwin chose to buy this remote Silver Lake Allotment bordering Buck Pond logging operations as a wilderness refuge for their two families.
It is interesting to note on this map the way he and family members reached their remote cabin on Silver Lake. Arriving at Big Moose Station from Albany, they changed into camping gear, loaded food and supplies into pack baskets, and walked up the tracks for this 3.5-mile hike. The Irwin trail turned north just past Buck Pond, following logging roads as far as Twitchell Creek. There they crossed in a first boat, then climbed uphill to Silver Lake for a second boat ride across to their log cabin.
This writer teamed up this past summer with George Butler’s grandson, Cliff Lewis, to retrace part of this old Buck Pond trail, from Snake Pond to Silver Lake. While no trail markers remain, we were able to follow the terrain. By 1903, family members took an easier route to their remote refuge – Earl Covey’s buckboard road to Twitchell Lake’s public landing and then a one-mile walk to Silver Lake.
The Buck Pond lumber roads Irwin followed were most likely laid out by former governor John Dix and his Moose River Lumber Company, under his eight-year cutting contract with Webb which began in 1895 and ran out in 1903. The Dix operation would have used the old 1879 corduroy tote-road along Twitchell Creek created for reaching its virgin spruce and white pine by one of two large Beaver Falls lumbering firms — Theodore Basselin or Norcross-Saunders. It is very possible the Irwin’s bumped into active logging by 1904, as the Buck Pond tract was included in the logging contract William Thistlethwaite extended to his Hinckley Fibre Company, along with all his lakefront lots on Township Eight of Brown’s Tract, purchased from Webb. These included 122 of the 171 lots around Twitchell Lake.
But these two or three successive logging campaigns were minor compared to the operation which kicked off in 1915, as lumberman and Thendara hotel-owner George Vincent became the Buck Pond foreman on International Paper Company’s Twitchell Creek operation headquartered at Wood’s Lake Station on the Mohawk & Malone.
This illustrates the major shift from lumber to paper and pulp, from 13-foot softwood logs to 4-foot hardwood butts, and from the harvest of huge virgin timber down to 8-inch diameter logs or less. From the nearby Big Moose Lake experience, it resembled the progression from the selective softwood logging of Theodore Page under the Webb Covenant (1903-1912) to Bissell & Yousey’s essential clear-cutting campaign (1914-1918). The photo at right captures one of the hazards of getting all these logs out to mill and market by train.
International Paper Company’s Logging: Logging Railroad Junction at Wood’s Lake Station
The International Paper Company was organized in 1898 following two financial panics which threatened the whole paper industry. So many pulp and paper companies were built nationwide that there was a glut in the market. Twenty paper mills in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Northern New York merged to form this innovative new company which soon manufactured three quarters of all newsprint produced in the US. International Paper’s Glens Falls plant featured the first scientific laboratory for the paper and pulp industry, yielding best practices for paper production, with “an innovative timber harvesting system that protected young trees.”
Daily production of pulp and paper in the Western Adirondacks increased from 70 tons in 1890 to 548 tons by 1910. World Watch has noted, “It takes about two to three-and-a-half tons of wood, or roughly 24 trees, to produce one ton of paper.” As a rule of thumb, a ton of paper yields 400 reams of paper, 500 pages per ream. From this yield of paper, doing the math, 1,200 books (of 300 pages) or 2,500 newspapers (of 40 pages) could be printed. Today, America is second only to China in use of paper and paperboard, consuming 64 million metric tons in 2020, one US ton equaling 0.91 metric ton. That consumption was a 32 percent decrease relative to 2000, given the shift to internet news and media.
Within ten years, International Paper owned substantial tracts of timberland in the Northeast and in the southern US, making this interesting observation regarding Adirondack paper production, versus that in the South: New York State mills shared the experience of most paper manufacturers in the Northeast. This was the discovery that slow growing spruce and some other species in the Northeast can produce high grade paper, while lower grade papers can be made more cheaply from the rapid growing species farther south. Among the high grade paper products produced in Northern New York mills are book and magazine papers, bond, ledger, offset, high grade tissue and a variety of high grade food containers.
In this 1900 to 1920 era, paper companies like Watertown’s St. Regis, Lyons Falls’ Gould Mill complex, and Beaver Falls’ J. P. Lewis Pulp & Paper, owned large tracts of timberland for harvesting pulpwood. The newly formed International Paper purchased 27,440-acre Township 6 of Brown’s Tract from the Adirondack Forest & Lumber Company in 1898, basing large logging operations at Carter and Wood’s Lake Stations. This map of Township 6 shows International Paper’s main delivery method, the Mohawk & Malone rail line running up its eastern borderline and through Big Moose — Carter Station on the south and Wood’s Lake Station to the north. The competition for Adirondack timberland in 1902 was intense — state land totals then at 36% and private preserves at 22% — leaving individual and company usage just 42%.
The Wood’s Lake flag stop became a popular destination for deer hunters going back to the early 1890’s, when a few families resided there. International Paper decided to harvest the Twitchell Creek watershed running north into Stillwater Reservoir, still rich in pulpwood. To do so, a logging railroad was built with three miles of track, the shortest one of all along the Mohawk & Malone, but complete with its own locomotive and 200 flat-bottomed gondola cars, pictured here — the latter refurbished to haul 4-foot pulpwood logs. Barbara McMartin unpacked the economic impact building a logging railroad usually had on a lumber or paper company:
“Shipping logs to mills by railroad became so expensive that clearcutting was necessary to make operations pay. When loggers employed railroads ‘everything of merchantable value is taken and all that is left is young growth, defectives, and a number of small and badly suppressed softwoods’.”
This International Paper operation was run under their Utica-based Champlain Realty Company, turning Wood’s Lake into a thriving logging town for the ten years from 1916 to 1926. For most of that time, the logging contract was in the hands of George Bushey, a renowned and respected “old school” lumberman from Tupper Lake who “worked hard, worked his men hard, and knew how to move wood under the adverse conditions imposed by Adirondack winters.” In 1905, as Bill Gove noted in Logging Railroads in the Adirondacks, Bushey “cut and river-drove forty-five thousand cords of pulpwood for the company.” Bushey was finishing a logging contract at Brandreth for the Mac-A-Mac Railroad, but ready to run a new operation three stations to the south.
Gove described some of the milestones for this burgeoning new lumber town: “Before long there were enough residents to warrant a post office, which opened on November 7, 1917. The postmarking stamp was received on January 28, 1918, and about $20 of cancellations were recorded monthly in that year. Postmaster Charles Fletcher would hang out the mail bag each day for the mail train, even if it was empty. Fletcher was also the clerk for the International Paper Company. School classes were held in a railroad car for the few permanent families in residence.”
The map included by Gove in Logging Railroads in the Adirondacks highlights the process involved in this extensive pulp and paper operation. Wood’s Lake Depot was located at its hub near the International Paper office, with multiple buildings nearby: A warehouse and freight storage building, an engine house with gasoline pump, carpenter and machine shops, barns to house skidding and hauling horses, pump house for a well-water system, and six company residences, all set along a half-mile sidetrack and the branch railroad junction.
Three “jackworks” were built on Twitchell Creek, its dams the red barriers across the creek, backing water up in ponds and releasing water as needed to drive logs downstream to “cutting up mills” at Number Twelve and Number One (highlighted in yellow on the map above). Here logs were sawed into 4-foot lengths for loading into the gondola freight cars.
Gove defines a jackworks as “a powered chain conveyor used to convey logs out of the water onto a deck for loading onto sleds or railroad cars.” The saws and jackworks conveyor loading the logs were powered by steam engines, although several were run by a new technology just entering logging operations – gasoline motors. Bill Marleau described the International Paper operation in detail in Big Moose Station, explaining the jackworks function:
“On the upper part of Twitchell Creek, there were two dams and jack works at Landry’s Dam and Number Four jack works, about two miles apart … A man named Joseph Landry had a small shack on the end of the dam. When they were driving logs on the creek, he controlled the dam on orders over a single line magneto telephone that connected it to all the jackworks and lumber camps, with a big switchboard at Number 1 camp and at Woods station.”
Bushey hired experienced subcontractors who had headed up the Dix logging operation on Township 8 completed in 1903 – George Harvey, Maxine LeFeve, and Julius LaVigne. Their lumber camps on the map (in red) were among the fourteen which skidded 16-foot hemlock, spruce, and balsam logs down to Twitchell Creek with horses from all its tributaries. By 1918, Bushey was using the 10-ton Holt tractor pictured here for the long winter sled-hauls from these remote camps to the backed-up ponds on the creek, this load of five sleds holding 797 logs and scaled at 76 cords. Bushey was one of the first jobbers in the Adirondacks to adopt this new mechanized logging method. McMartin noted that after 1910 northern New York mills supplemented their shrinking spruce supply with other softwood, “adding balsam and hemlock to spruce to make pulp.”
The main seven-mile tote road for this International Paper operation ran from Big Moose Station to Number One camp at Wood’s Lake, branch tote roads like a fishbone spreading out to all the individual camps. The road from Big Moose to Stillwater, later to be surveyed and cut, followed most of this main tote road. Bushey housed 115 lumberjacks at the camp at Number One jackworks, with at least 500 more people manning the other camps, jackworks, and Wood’s Lake facilities. Sickness was one challenge the lumbering operation faced periodically.
In 1918, a Doctor Lindsay treated 26 men at Wood’s Lake and Carter Station, presumably for influenza. Fire patrolmen required by state conservation law patrolled the Wood’s Lake Railroad each April 1 through November 15, probably preventing forest fires in the 1920 and 1921 dry seasons. The steel fire tower on nearby Stillwater Mountain began its operation in 1919. When the persnickety Baldwin steam engine broke down, which happened frequently, it was sent north to Emporium Forestry Company’s shop in Conifer for repairs.
An additional railroad siding was added in 1918 at Buck Pond to load Harvey and LeFeve logs skidded and dumped in that pond for storage. Trains full of pulpwood were sent by rail to International Paper mills in Piercefield, Watertown, Hudson Falls, and Corinth for processing. In the peak periods, as many as twenty-four railroad cars were loaded daily with up to 300 cords of wood. Marleau’s Big Moose Station noted for 1923, “Twitchell Creek watershed had been cleaned of softwood timber, the cutting and hauling were over.” However, International Paper then contracted Bushey to extract pulpwood from two adjacent watersheds reachable by their railroad spur, Birch and Moose Creeks, extending the operation to 1926.
There were more than a few global challenges to the paper industry before conifer pulpwood ran out at International Paper’s Wood’s Lake site in 1926. The consolidation that saw the formation of International Paper in 1898 was a response to the newsprint glut and price drop of that earlier era. Following the peak harvest year of 1905, members of the American Pulp & Paper Association joined on the establishment of the Empire State Forest Products Association (ESFPA), this organization warning “that after 1914, Adirondack forests were being harvested at five times their rate of growth, a situation that did not bode well for the future of Adirondack logging.”
The Underwood-Simmons Act passed by the US Congress in 1913 abolished tariffs on foreign newsprint imports, enabling Canadian firms to turn out newsprint at a much cheaper rate than American paper companies. International Paper opened new operations near the spruce forests of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, adjusting to new market conditions. A full two-thirds of all US pulpwood turned into paper in 1917, was imported from Canada.
International Paper Company’s President, P. T. Dodge, testified before the Congressional House Ways and Means Committee in 1921, calling for tariffs on imported pulp and paper to protect and save the dwindling supply of American spruce, hemlock, and fir, with the following grim prediction:
“The greatest development of the newsprint industry from 1880 to the present day has made terrible inroads on the spruce forests in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and, on the basis of the consumption of about 1 ½ cords of wood in the manufacture of 1 ton of paper, and an average of 5 cords of pulpwood to the acre, it requires only elemental arithmetic to calculate the vast areas of forest that have passed through the printing presses of the land into oblivion in the past 37 years (Congressional Tariff Revision Hearings).”
Dodge’s yield estimate of 5 cords/acre is less than the 8 cord/acre forecast in the USDA Bureau of Forestry study done for NYS (“Working Plan for Townships 5, 6 & 41,” 1901). But even at the lower rate, Dodge concluded, the annual cutting of 3.2 million cords of timberland in the northeast would completely exhaust the conifer supply within 18 years. And such a declining supply of merchantable timber, McMartin added, “produced a plethora of new arguments, by both foresters and State officials, in favor of harvesting timber from State land,” Which of course would have translated into repeal of the state Constitution’s “forever wild” provision, a constant lobbying call by the ESFPA and its member companies which never came to be, though it would be qualified in this era.
Tourism Replaced Logging at Beaver River Station
The Beaver River valley was one of the most storied parts of the Adirondacks. Its legendary hunting and fishing, the logging of its virgin timber, and its crossing by W. Seward Webb’s “Fairytale Railroad” in 1892, made its history a tale to be told. Ed Pitts finally accomplished that in 2022 with his well-written and thoroughly researched Beaver River Country.
Two stations on that railroad hugged the shoreline of Stillwater Reservoir, the body of water NYS created when it dammed the river in 1886, raising it five feet in 1893. The original reservoir was unable to provide consistent waterpower to industries on the Beaver and Black Rivers below. The next stop after Wood’s Lake, Beaver River Station (shown here), is about three hours north of Utica by the 1895 New York Central train schedule.
Pitts’ history of the Beaver River country is breathtaking, describing for the reader its pioneers, its popularity with sports tourists, its damming by the state, and then its takeover by Dr. Webb – with his railroad achievement and private Nehasane Park. This must-read for Adirondackers ends with the evolution of a unique private club still in existence today, located now on an island at the west end of 11-mile Stillwater Reservoir, on this map, Beaver River Station on the east end.
This damaged photo vividly captures the impact of logging on the region. R. T. Stratton took this panorama around 1897 to show the sprawling log yard surrounding Firman Ouderkirk’s lumber mill, a dozen or more lumberjacks posing around two horse-drawn sleds in this winter scene at Beaver River Station.
The mill located in the picture’s upper right-hand corner was mandated by Webb in his sale of 75,000 acres to NYS, settling his 1895 lawsuit over the state’s flooding his land. The deed for that sale incorporated three major logging contracts before the acreage became exclusively New York State’s. John Dix’s Moose River Lumber, the Moynehan Brothers, and Ouderkirk were to have their logs cut in the Ouderkirk mill and transported to market on Webb’s railroad.
That mill was busy while it lasted, Gove posting this note on its decline. “The contract for Webb’s softwood timber expired in 1902, causing the mill activity to take a large drop.” Freight trains full of logs continued to pass through Beaver River Station, north to Tupper Lake and south to McKeever, in between the daily north and southbound Montreal Express.
The next major logging operation locally out of Beaver River Station would not occur until the Black River Regulating District (BRRD) — created by the state in 1915 – hired firms in 1923 to clearcut and burn 4,000 acres in preparation for a final raising of Stillwater Reservoir in 1925.
While lumbering put the hamlet of Beaver River on the map, sports tourism kept it alive. Ouderkirk built this hamlet’s original Norridgewock Hotel in 1899, which Ed Pitts described as “a grand Victorian edifice with room for up to one hundred guests.” Noted Wood’s Lake logger George Vincent purchased Pop Bullock’s hotel next to the deport in 1923, losing his life when it burned to the ground a year later. Pitts described the camps and hotels that served hunters and fishermen in this 1900 to 1920 era, with moves to avoid flooding by dam, loss by hotel fires, changes in ownership, Webb’s eviction of squatters, and the state’s taking action to remove all trespassers from its Forest Preserve land:
“After years of benign neglect, the Conservation Commission finally decided to crack down on illegal occupation of state land throughout the Adirondacks. All squatters were served with formal eviction notices that they must immediately remove their possessions or have them destroyed. By the fall of 1917, all the sportsman’s camps on state land around the Beaver River were gone.”
William P. Goodelle – legal counsel for the New York Central and key contributor to the “forever wild” provision in the state Constitution — presided over the prestigious and exclusive Beaver River Club from 1895 to 1910, its clubhouse becoming an island in 1896, burning to the ground in 1908, and later flooded by the dam raising of 1925.
The Rap-Shaw Fishing & Hunting Club, founded in 1896, had its first permanent cabin on Beaver Dam Pond up the Red Horse Trail about three miles north of the reservoir, on a remote corner of Webb’s Nehasane Park. The choice of location followed a legendary catch of 163 brook trout weighing a total of 165 pounds by six of the founding members.
After Webb’s 1902 eviction notice, club guide and steward Jimmy Wilder headed up a move of the cabin to nearby Witchhobble Lake on Forest Preserve land, enlarging it into the spacious clubhouse shown here. Squatting was common practice for Adirondack guides until 1916, when the club received another eviction notice, this time from New York State. Nehasane granted the Rap-Shaw Club a very restrictive lease at this point, with Pitts describing this second major move back to Beaver Dam Pond:
Over the winter all the buildings were skidded about a mile east over frozen Witchhopple Lake [sic] and the surrounding marsh using rollers and teams of horses. They again enlarged the clubhouse by annexing a club member’s cabin and turning it into a comfortable living room with a fireplace. By the spring of 1917, the new camp was ready (Beaver River Country, p. 144).
Rap-Shaw’s last move to two islands next to the boat launch in the hamlet of Stillwater came in 1938, with the Club continuing to thrive and still in existence today as a family summer camp. Pitts described a tense annual meeting in 1920 in which a wealthy faction pushed for a stiff membership fee increase that would have changed the character of the club. This was voted down, with three members “who pledged to keep the club modest and affordable” elected to the board.
Pitts also detailed a first for the club and for conservation, when a member distributed twenty cans of fingerling trout from the state fish hatchery in Old Forge by seaplane to ponds in the vicinity of the clubhouse. This photo is a lantern slide of the NYS Fulton Chain Fish Hatchery at Old Forge, a worker looking at multiple bins of brook trout fingerlings. Ed Pitts served as president of this unique 126-year-old club from 2011 to 2016.
The Little Rapids Flag Stop & “The Moynehan Siding”
Little Rapids got its name from one of two rapids on the Beaver River between where the reservoir is now and the old Albany Lake, “Long Rapids” and “Little Rapids.” Guide Chauncey Smith built his “woods shanty” in 1859, near “Little Rapids” at what was called “Sand Spring,” a stopover for sportsmen along the road built to connect Carthage with Lake Champlain in the 1840s.
Ed Pitts explained the genesis of this station and surrounding parcel on the rail line, located as it was to the west of Webb’s 40,000-acre Nehasane Park completed in 1893, posted and off limits to sportsmen without special permission, which few sought or received:
The flag stop at Little Rapids was created in 1896 exclusively for the use of Dr. Edward Trudeau who purchased 1,100 acres in that area from Dr. Webb. It was not open to the public … until 1914 when Trudeau sold out to the Mac-A-Mac Lumber Co. It was next acquired in 1919 by John MacDonald, one of the owners of Mac-A-Mac who privately held it until 1926. Frank Farmer, a guide for MacDonald, acquired the property in 1926 and ran a hunting and fishing camp there for a while thereafter.
The turn of the century saw the Little Rapids flag stop grow into a thriving logging operation run by the Moynehan Brothers Lumber Company headquartered in Utica, NY. Shortly after the railroad was built, Patrick and Dennis laid rail for what became an official New York Central freight stop called “the Moynehan Siding.” It was a full mile in length, beginning a half mile south of Little Rapids, crossing the Beaver River, and ending close to where the next station would be built in 1895, Brandreth. The Potters described Patrick Moynehan, pictured here, as follows:
“Patrick Moynehan, lumber contractor, entrepreneur, and businessman, was widely known in the Adirondacks in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His cuts of pulpwood and pine between 1897 and 1910 were the first logging operations on Brandreth Park.”
The Moynehans were the go-to loggers for the two private preserves along this stretch of the railroad line, Webb’s Nehasane Park on Township 38 of the Totten & Crossfield Purchase, and its Township 39 neighbor to the southeast, Brandreth Park. That activity began with the one-year contract Webb included in his 75,000-acre sale to NYS (1896 to 1897), which mandated use of the Ouderkirk mill at Beaver River Station. But Moynehan cuts expanded to Brandreth Park in 1897, 1898, and then in a larger six-year campaign from 1904 to 1910. The next article will describe the logging operations on these two preserves, accessed by railroad spurs from the Brandreth and Nehasane Stations.
A serendipitous discovery opened a fascinating window into Moynehan’s 1897 logging operations. Active New York Almanack reader Richard Gates offered this writer several bundles of company records. Richard worked for International Paper Company as a bridge-builder and grader for logging haul-roads from 1975 to 1981, in locations across northern NY – Watson, Big Moose, Brandreth, Sabattis, Tupper Lake, Moira, Onchiota, and Ticonderoga.
In Sabattis, he rescued a large collection of receipts and “monthly time books” for Moynehan logging operations from a wooden box headed for the trash. This collage of 1897 vintage receipts highlights 29 company’s which kept the Moynehan lumber camps in business – twelve in Utica, four in Tupper Lake, two in Troy and Herkimer, and one each from Potsdam, Johnstown, Albany, Mohawk, Watertown, Saranac Lake, Constableville, Syracuse, and Boston. The Adirondacks were circled by firms that supplied all logging essentials by rail transportation.
Lumberjacks consumed enormous quantities of food, with 9 of these companies providing barrels of “Chicago dressed beef, mutton & hogs,” bushels of flour, tubs of butter, cheese, fruits, and numerous other groceries. Clothing like boots, rubbers, shoes, gloves, mittens, caps, overalls, and underwear came from 8 of these firms. Four jobbers supplied medicine, drugs, first aid supplies, and luxury items like tea, coffee, liquor, and Havana cigars.
One company provided record-keeping, letter-writing, and stationary items. Staying warm in the winter was vital, four hardware companies listed for items like shelter, stoves, and “celebrated Lackawana coal.” Three companies catered to the many horses on site, with large orders of hay and oats, and an occasional delivery of saddles, harnesses, and horse clothing.
Interestingly, the bundles of receipts Richard sent me to scan were all addressed to the Moynehan Bros. at several locations, half of them sent to Beaver River, 35 percent to Little Rapids, and 11 percent addressed to “the RR Moynehan Siding” at Little Rapids. The remaining deliveries specified McKeever and Fulton Chain. Many of the items in these orders spoke to the rigor, challenge, and dangers of lumbering:
*3 boxes of Kendall’s Blister (for a horse’s stiff joints)
*100 doses of Glauber Salts (a laxative)
*1 gallon Neat’s Oil (for conditioning leather and relieving dry skin)
*1000 dynamite caps and 200 fuses (for blasting logjams)
*1 blacksmith calfskin apron
*1/2 dozen Hood’s Sarsaparilla (marketed to treat heart ailments, rheumatism, and edema)
*1 pint Carter’s ink (largest manufactured indelible ink in this era)
*4 dozens fly paper (for pest control)
*7 pigs shipped from Park Hotel in Piercefield (near Tupper Lake)
*6 dozen Indian tan buckskin gloves
*2 cases Warner’s yeast (cures inflammation of the bladder, kidney, urinary tract)
*Saleratus (the older term for baking soda)
*Camphor Gum (relieves pain, itching, and chapped lips)
*3 dozen D.B. Mann double-bitted axes with extra helves (handles)
*17 barrels of new potatoes
*48 bars of soap
*4 sets of crotch, hip, and back straps (for the horses)
*Java and Mocha (world’s oldest coffee blend)
The Adirondack lumberjack was a rare breed of men working under very challenging conditions!
Logging Lawsuits Along the Beaver River
After 1892, the Mohawk & Malone re-oriented central Adirondack lumbering in a new direction, south-to-north. Mills in the town of Beaver Falls continue to receive timber driven about 24 miles westward on Beaver River, downstream from the Stillwater Dam. In this picture, Basselin log drivers pause for lunch in Belfort, about four miles upstream from Beaver Falls, peaveys for hooking and rolling logs in hand.
Three companies dominated east-to-west log drives to Beaver Falls during a fifty-year period – J. M. Prince & Co. (1855-1868), Norcross-Saunders (1868-1880), and Theodore Basselin’s Beaver River Lumber Co. (1880-1905). Gould Paper Co., St. Regis Paper Co., and J. P. Lewis Pulp & Paper continued log driving on the Beaver River during the 1900 to 1920 era. Two major conflicts – one a lawsuit, the other a New York State hearing by the Conservation Commission – pull the curtain back on Beaver River logging operations in this era.
During the log driving season of 1906, a John Lehman ran the log boom located about 650 feet upriver from the Beaver River dam at Croghan. Beaver Falls, one of the major logging centers in Lewis County, was located about three miles downstream from Croghan. Lehman had over 300,000 feet of logs belonging to the J. P. Lewis Pulp & Paper company inside his boom to sort and move through the sluice gate, with over three million feet more on the way.
At the same time, two more paper firms were running logs on the river – Mr. Basselin with 9.5 million feet of logs chiseled with his logging mark on both ends and the Carthage Lumber Co. with four million feet of their logs in Beaver River. A serious conflict arose because Lehman closed his boom, blocked the river, and refused to allow these two companies to move their logs downstream for processing into paper pulp. The picture here of logs banked on the St. Croix River in the state of Washington captured the situation. Lewis logs filled a closed boom stretched from shore to shore, blocking any movement downstream.
Basselin and Carthage lawyers obtained a temporary injunction in the Lowville County Court ordering the defendant (Lehman) to open a passage in his boom. Lehman’s lawyers promptly appealed that action to the Appellate Division’s Supreme Court in Rochester, where the plaintiffs (Basselin-Carthage) argued the following:
“The complainants, all of whom are engaged in the lumber business and conduct saw mills on said river near the town of Croghan in Lewis County, alleged that the Beaver river is a public highway and that as such, there should be nothing to prevent them from floating logs thereon during the open season … It was also stated in the complaint that the failure of the plaintiffs to be able to bring the logs to their mills would bring upon them great financial loss.”
Lehman’s rationale for blocking the river was never explained, but the higher court ordered him to immediately set up an opening in his boom of at least 20-foot width. Basselin and Carthage logs could have laid in the Beaver River for up to a year, with other smaller logging firms in the same predicament.
The Lowville Journal & Republican reported that the state Conservation Commission was called in to the same Lowville Court House in 1918 for a hearing on “prohibition of the use of dynamite in the floating of logs on Beaver river.” The petitioner requesting the meeting, L. B. Parker, was a resident of Number Four, NY. He complained that trout “smelt and chubs” were floating on the surface of the water after each discharge to expedite the passage of pulp through Beaver Lake, a part of Beaver River located in the hamlet of Number Four. He contended that drives could be handled without the use of explosives, except for breaking up logjams. The reporter covering the story listed ex-Senator George Cobb with many lumber company presidents in attendance in the courtroom. And that was not all:
“[There] were many jobbers and expert lumbermen and river drivers. In fact the session looked like a papermaker’s convention with a meeting of the amalgamated order of lumbermen on the side (“Dynamite on Beaver River,” February 28, 1918).”
Senator Cobb argued that stunned trout do not float, they sink, and thus Parker had no real evidence of damage to fish from their logging operations. Besides, neither Cobb nor his peers had ever witnessed a trout killed by their explosions, which were necessary to break up ice and get logs to the mill in one season. A heated argument followed on the question of whether trout sink or float after being killed.
The matter was then addressed to James C. Dunbar, “the ‘grand old man’ of Stillwater, who knows as much about trout as any man in this neck of the woods.” Dunbar had put up sportsmen in his Stillwater hotel near to Twitchell Creek from 1878 to 1893. Dunbar’s response – “sometimes they sink and sometimes they float” – deepened the dispute.
A compromise was finally reached when “the paper men” agreed to a new general policy of sawing a channel in the ice for moving logs through Beaver Lake and limiting dynamite usage to breaking up logjams downstream. This picture of the 1903 state’s concrete dam at Stillwater is located about 5.5 miles upstream from Beaver Lake. Interestingly, the contract for its construction was awarded two Town of Webb officials – Sheriff Strobel and Supervisor (Dennis) Moynehan for $75,045.
”Forever Wild” In Jeopardy Throughout This Era
Challenges to the “forever wild” provision of the state Constitution intensified throughout this era up and down the Mohawk & Malone rail line through the Central Adirondacks. Paper & pulp operations like International Paper Company at Wood’s Lake Station were struggling with macro market forces that pushed them toward clearcutting just to meet the bottom line.
Adding the substantial cost of building a railroad spur to get to existing and new stands of timber compounded that pressure. This 42% of the Park that companies owned with individuals, of course, was their land to manage as they saw fit. McMartin included this 42% with NYS’s 36% and the 22% owned by Private Preserves in her “Adirondack Park & Land Ownership in 1902” illustration.
For the state’s part, the federal “Working Plans” drafted in 1901 and 1902 for nearby Townships 40 and 41 of the Totten & Crossfield Purchase were based on another theory, that the state Forest Preserve needed to be managed by principles of scientific forestry, which called for the removal of aging timber to foster long-term forest health and growth. Lumbering firms that had joined to form the ESFPA lobbied for a “forever wild” amendment allowing them access to the state’s 36% of that Adirondack pie.
The greatest push to compromise “forever wild” in this era came from state water storage interests. The lightning rod for this conflict was probably the one person who helped craft that constitutional provision, president of the Beaver River Club William Goodelle. After “the amendment to the constitution which would permit scientific forestry and water storage reservoirs in the Adirondacks” was voted down by the 1906 Legislature, it would be brought up for vote again and again.
Goodelle had a New York Times article published which claimed that state Water Commissioner James P. Lewis – president of his Beaver Falls Pulp & Paper Company – was pushing that law because he would personally profit from its enactment. Lewis’ lengthy response in a Watertown Daily Times “Letter to the Editor,” reveals just how personal this battle had become, as this logging president pushed back on Goodelle.
Mr. Lewis resented being put in the same group as Basselin, who earlier was charged with using his office as Forest Commissioner to further his Beaver River Lumber Company interests. Goodelle should not blame his industry for damming the Beaver River. Without the state’s repair of a break in the old Stillwater dam of 1894 and its improvement with concrete in 1903, Goodelle’s Beaver River Club would be surrounded by swampland. There were multiple interests represented at Stillwater Reservoir, not just those of the logging company or private preserve. What about the people of the state of New York?
They were allowed to hunt and fish on lumber company land, but not on that of Goodelle’s Club: There is no denying the fact that the Beaver River Club tried to make arrangements with Mrs. Fisher who owns a large tract of land around the reservoir, and with the International Paper Co., to post all their land and thereby prevent anyone except the members of the club from hunting and fishing thereon. It would seem, Mr. Editor, that the time is coming when the common people should have a few rights in the great Adirondack wilderness which the State is so proud to own.
NYS did finally pass “the Burd Amendment” in 1913, allowing three percent of Forest Preserve land to be used for water storage. The follow-up Machold Storage Law of 1915 created the Black River Regulating District. BRRD soon gained preliminary approval to construct twelve new dams on state land. All but three of these sites were discarded because they had already become popular resort areas. In the end, Stillwater was chosen to provide water needed downstream for transportation and industry.
Ed Pitts’ account of the damming of Beaver River – renamed “Beaver River Flow” and then Stillwater Reservoir, from the first wood-earth dam of 1886 to its final 1925 concrete replacement — is thorough, readable, and well documented. In four stages the level of the river was raised from an initial 9.5 feet increase to the total current 33.5-foot rise, with the following result:
On February 11, 1925, the gates closed at the new Stillwater dam and the water rose, creating a reservoir eleven miles long and one mile wide at the widest point and consisting of 6,700 lake acres. The new reservoir impounded about thirty-five billion gallons of water at capacity. McMartin’s pie graph for Adirondack land ownership in 1902 shows private preserves and parks in possession of the remaining 22%.
After leaving Beaver River Station on the Mohawk & Malone rail line and heading north toward Tupper Lake, a passenger soon reaches two of these private preserves — the Brandreth and Nehasane Park Stations. The next article will explore logging and conservation efforts along the branch railroads built to reach virgin timber in these preserves. The triumph of “forever wild” over scientific forestry, will be explained in some depth.
Illustrations, from above: Northern section showing lumber company railroads branching off New York Central, from Bill Gove’s Logging Railroads in the Adirondacks, p. 62; Irwin Camp on Silver Lake completed on July 1, 1900 by Tom Rose & Earl Covey, page 43 in Bill Marleau’s Big Moose Station; Irwin family hike from Big Moose Station to Silver Lake cabin on 1892 map by D. C. Wood of Township 8 in Brown’s Tract; Pencil sketch by Noel Sherry of Engine off the Tracks in Big Moose from Marleau’s Big Moose Station, p. 258 (ca. 1898); Map of Township 6 of Brown’s Tract from 1939 Adirondack Land Map #3, NYS Conservation Department; Baldwin 2-6-2 steam engine & flat-bottom gondola freight car models, HO scale model train illustrations; Wood’s Lake Logging Railroad highlighted by Noel Sherry from Bill Gove’s Logging Railroads, p. 81; Pencil sketch of LaVignes’s Lumber Camp on Twitchell Creek, p. 78 in Marleau’s Big Moose Station (ca 1923); Bushey & Crew Hauling Five Sleds of Spruce at Wood’s Lake, p. 86 in Gove’s Logging Railroads in the Adirondacks (March 1921); Beaver River Station, Courtesy of Adirondack Experience (ca 1910-1915); Satellite Image of Stillwater Reservoir from Topozone.com; Ouderkirk Mill & Log Yard at Beaver River Station, Photo by R.T. Stratton — Damage corrected by Noel Sherry, Courtesy of Adirondack Experience, (1897); Rap-Shaw Club Camp on Witchhobble Lake, Photo by Henry Beach, Courtesy of Adirondack Experience ( ca 1908); Interior of Fulton Chain Fish Hatchery at Old Forge, Courtesy of the New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045_AO381; Patrick Moynehan, Courtesy of the Chapman Historical Museum, Glens Falls, NY; Collage of Moynehan Logging Purchases (1897); Log Driving on Beaver River, Basselin Crew in Belfort, NY, Stillwater Photo Collection — Nate Vary (ca 1910); Logs Banked inside Boom on Side of St. Croix River, Washington County Historical Society Photo (19 th Century); and State Dam at Stillwater Reservoir, Photo by Henry Beach, Courtesy of Adirondack Experience (ca 1902).
Sources: Ralph Hosmer & Martha Irwin Fielder, Genealogy of that Branch of the Irwin Family in New York Founded in the Hudson River Valley by William Irwin, 1700-1787 (Ithaca, NY, 1938); Bill Marleau, Big Moose Station (1986); “Map of Big Moose Station” by H.C. Wheeler (February 1913); Barbara McMartin, Great Forest of the Adirondacks (1994); “A Short History of the International Paper Company” in Forest History Today at https://foresthistory.org/ (1998); “The International Paper Company” in “Lumber Camp News” published by Northeast Logging Association in Old Forge, NY (January, 1950); “Pulp Facts: Paper, Pollution & the Press,” by Miranda Spencer on Fair.org https://fair.org/extra/pulp-facts/ (July 1, 2000); “Paper Making in Northern New York” in “The Northeastern Logger” published by Northeast Logging Association in Old Forge, NY (May, 1956); Perkins Coville, “Nine Silvicultural Problems in the Management of Forests of the Adirondack Hardwood Type,” Cornell University (1920); “Consumption of Paper & Paperboard in the U.S. 2000-2020” by Ian Tiseo in Statista.com @ https://www.statista.com/statistics/252710/total-us-consumption-of-paper-and-board-since-2001/ (September 19, 2022); Edward I. Pitts, Beaver River Country: An Adirondack History (Syracuse University Press, 2022); Orlando B. Potter III & Donald Brandreth Potter, Brandreth: A Band of Cousins Preserves the Oldest Adirondack Family Enclave (Bennington, VT, 2011); William Gove, Logging Railroads in the Adirondacks (2006); President P. T. Dodge of International Paper Company’s Testimony at Hearings on General Tariff Revision before the House Ways & Means Committee of the US Congress (1921); “Forest Working Plan for Township 41,” in 8 th & 9 th Reports of the Forest, Fish and Game Commission of the State of New York (Albany, NY, 1903); Henry Harter, Fairytale Railroad: History of the Mohawk & Malone From the Mohawk, through the Adirondacks to the St. Lawrence (North Country Books, 1990); and Edward I. Pitts, Beaver River Country: An Adirondack History (Syracuse University Press (2022).
Big Burly says
Thank you Noel. Another long and fascinating stroll in the central DAKs. I learn a lot with every chapter.
Jim Fox says
Again you have created an interesting, thorough and varied document, Noel. I appreciated the interconnection between logging, paper making and businesses that contributed to the communities near and outside the Adirondacks. Nice going!
NOEL A SHERRY says
Thanks, Jim. As I stated a Richard Gates sent me a huge packet of receipts and day books for the Moynehan logging operation, which I scanned and sent back. Now he is going to send me the whole collection, which I will pass on to the Goodhale Museum in Old Forge. Great window into that operation which went on N of Stillwater along the M&M RR. Next summer that line will be open from Utica and Thendara up to Tupper Lake.
NOEL A SHERRY says
Big Burly, great, my next one will deal with Nehasane & Brandreth, with more technical data on the forestry that went on there, as the former was selected as an experimental site by Gifford Pinchot of the USDA’s Forestry Department. I have a lot yet to write on it.
What a fantastic historical essay. You’re expertise in Adirondack history is quite impressive.
I am a archaeology Ph D. student at Syracuse University and I find your work incredibly interesting.
I am currently working on a project attempting to document and investigate historic logging camps in the Adirondack landscape and would love a chance to discuss logging history with you.
Please let me know how we could get in contact- for now I’ll leave my personal email in the comments.
Thank you for your time and consideration,