In the late nineteenth century, Adirondack VIP tours were arranged to assess water damage from state-sponsored dams that kept lumber mills powered and barges floating up and down the Erie Canal. Judges like Truman Fuller exhorted the New York State Forest Commission to get an accurate upstate map completed, to head off all the lawsuits. [Read more…] about Adirondack History: New York State to the Rescue
An early 20th century Adirondack lawsuit pitted a small Big Moose Lake sportsman and landowner Aaron Lloyd against a team of powerful opponents, John Adams Dix and his Moose River Lumber Company with Dr. William Seward Webb and his Nehasane Park Association.
A second suit reversed the plaintiff and defendant, Webb vs. Lloyd, and appeared to be linked to the first complaint. Clearly this was a classic David versus Goliath clash. These cases would have been the fodder for conversations around the campfire in the Big Moose area for almost a decade.
On the surface, the complaints concerned the harvest of millions of board feet of virgin timber and flooding Big Moose Lake to get these logs to market, with Webb behind both actions. [Read more…] about Logging The Adirondacks: A Legal Logjam (1880-1900)
After achieving his railroad dream and completing his Nehasane wilderness refuge – reachable using his own luxury rail car – William Seward Webb found himself in a major conflict with the State of New York.
Inlet historian Charles Herr tells this part of the story expertly, in his history of the Fulton Chain. My map here highlights that land aquisition by the State in yellow, totaling 74,585 acres of Brown’s Tract and in the Totten & Crossfield Purchase. Webb retained ownership of lakes like Twitchell and Big Moose because he intended those for later cottage and hotel sales. [Read more…] about Central Adirondacks Lumbering Operations (1880-1900)
Hanging above a window in our Twitchell Lake cabin northeast of Big Moose, Herkimer County, in the Adirondacks is this five-foot-long saw with a handle at both ends, and a row of sharp knife-like teeth. I have never used it, but now know it is an antique crosscut saw for use by one or two persons. [Read more…] about William Seward Webb’s Railroad & Logging The Adirondacks
My uncle Frank Sherry taught my brother Tom and I orienteering, using a map and compass to navigate through the woods and find a remote pond or other location. We were teenagers and it was an exciting way to spend a Saturday.
On one of these adventures we were in search of Silver Dollar Pond to the east of Twitchell Lake in Northern Herkimer County,when we stumbled on our first lumber camp. The telltale signs were pieces of metal hanging from a tree and protruding from the ground, with old bottles half-buried in the forest floor. We made note of the location on our map, a half-mile from Twitchell, and returned to explore it. It wasn’t long before we located the camp dump, from which we dug up the items pictured here.
These and other objects triggered an active discussion on the date of this old camp, with an imaginative re-creation of what life might have been like for a lumberjacks living and working there. [Read more…] about An Adirondack Lumber Camp at Twitchell Lake, 1860-80
One of the most satisfying pastimes for me at our summer home on Twitchell Lake in Big Moose in the Adirondacks in Northern Herkimer County), was taking the camp guide boat out for a spin. That privilege was earned by passing the family test, a solo swim across the lake, about the distance of a football field.
Weighing just over 30 pounds, this unique 14-foot wooden craft sped through the water powered by two oars. A cabin shelf still displays several awards for winning the annual guide boat race. I fondly remember the one-mile hikes to neighboring Oswego Pond, trailing my older brother Burt carrying that guide boat on his shoulders using a hand-carved yoke, my father in the lead bearing the oars and fishing gear. [Read more…] about Logging the Adirondack Interior, Spurring Preservation (1840-60)
In the 1820s the State of New York encouraged Adirondack exploration and settlement, benefiting from the land sales and taxes (when they were paid). Lewis County newspapers were abuzz with praise for the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal, and in less than a year, the Black River Gazette launched a discussion on “improving” the Black River as a connection between the canal and the St. Lawrence River, anticipating the economic benefit Adirondack timber would bring when this opened a commercial route to the rest of the world:
“The quantity of lumber which might be drawn from those vast forests, now covering a soil which would anticipate the desires of a husbandman are beyond all calculation. For it is a fact admitted by all who have the least acquaintance with this section of country, that a greater quantity of wood, timber, lath, staves, boards, shingles, masts and spars might be drawn from this northern triangle, by means of a Canal, than any other district or county in the state.” [Read more…] about Up Every River: Logging The Adirondacks (1820-40)
In the nineteenth century Lewis County settlements east of the Black River were just getting established; most of these included at least one saw mill. By 1820 these settlements were beginning to push their way up the rivers into the Adirondacks, and new mills were being built along their courses. A Copenhagen, NY farmer on Tug Hill, viewing the Adirondack panorama spread out to his east, wrote the following in a Journal & Republican article titled “North Woods Wonder:”
“All the wilderness is strewn with lakes as if some great mirror had been shattered by an Almighty hand, and scattered through the forests for Nature to make her toilet by … And how the rivers meander the woods as the veins of a human hand. There are Beaver, Moose, and Indian, Bog, Grass and Racket… And how rough and shaggy the wilderness is with mountains … Let them pass unnamed.”
One of these “shattered” gems was Twitchell Lake. [Read more…] about Logging The Adirondacks From The West (1800-1820)
One of the best memories I carry from my vacations at our camp on Twitchell Lake in Herkimer County in the Adirondacks is the white pine that marks the western border of our lake-shore property. It’s massive base peaks with twin tops that tower above all the other trees on our shoreline. Peering up into its heights ignited my boyhood imagination, picturing myself atop the Crow’s Nest of some fast clipper ship, scouting for pirates.
There have been several hurricanes and microbursts that have wreaked havoc with the four plus miles of our lake’s shoreline, but my white pine stands firm still, its roots anchored deep in the ancient glacial fill. Even to this day, my brother Tom and I muse about an observation tower roped between those twin tops where we are poised, binoculars in hand, eye-to-eye with the bald eagles that visit the lake, and the loons that daily jet by. This giant stands well over 150 feet tall. [Read more…] about The Great North Woods Before Logging: Twitchell Lake’s Virgin Timber
As a boy growing up in the Battle Hill section of White Plains, NY, I remember my excitement at reading a brass memorial telling me “George Washington slept here.” White Plains was the site of a battle during the American Revolution.
Now as an adult I have had the thrill of learning that Verplanck Colvin surveyed Twitchell Lake and took measurements on the shore where my log cabin stands in Big Moose, NY. That realization launched me on a quest to find a benchmark placed by one of Colvin’s surveyors on an important boundary line nearby. [Read more…] about Deep In The Adirondack Woods, A Colvin Survey Benchmark Revealed