Land policy in colonial times in what is now New York State favored nobility and prominent men with connections to the Crown. This involved several countries (The Netherlands, England, and France), several explorers, several early pioneers, and appointed officials who oversaw the disbursement of land by land grants or patents. [Read more…] about New York Land Grants: Some History Until The American Revolution
“Toponym” is the technical term for a place name, especially one derived from a topographical feature. I’m hooked on toponyms. My starting point is Twitchell Lake in Big Moose, located in the town Webb, Herkimer County, NY, in the Adirondacks where six generations of my family have vacationed in a cabin since the early 1900s.
Debate on our lake’s name has reached a crescendo as a history committee collects our stories for a Twitchell book. This article explores the fascinating connection between our lake’s name and the Twitchell family of Copenhagen, in Lewis County, NY. This map traces the 50-mile route from Copenhagen through Lewis County, across the Black River, and then up the Number Four Road into the Adirondack Mountains. Which leads to my question: How on earth did this dairy farming family get its name attached to this lake? [Read more…] about The Naming of Twitchell Lake in the Adirondacks
History often makes a muddle of people’s lives. One such example is Charles H. Smith (ca. 1832 – 1911) of Petries Corners in the town of Watson, Lewis County, NY. Charles was well known as an Adirondack guide in the Beaver River/Stillwater area of the Western Adirondacks.
He lived to a ripe old age as an elder statesman of the guiding fraternity. But confusing reports of his age, a story about guiding for royalty, and a common first and last name have obscured his actual accomplishments. [Read more…] about History Corrected: Adirondack Guide Charles H Smith & King Edward VII
The first of three major logging operations on Big Moose Lake in Herkimer County in the Adirondacks was headed by a veteran lumber company executive named Theodore Page. Page built palatial “Camp Veery” on Echo Island in West Bay, purchased from William Seward Webb in 1900. He arrived at Big Moose Lake from Oswego, NY, with many years of leadership in the lumber industry, importing timber from Canada for the Minetto Shade Cloth Company – one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of shade cloth, window shades, shade-rollers, and curtain fixtures. [Read more…] about Lumbering Operations at Big Moose Lake (1900-1920)
The spark that got me writing about Adirondack history was the personal question of how my family came into possession of a log cabin on Twitchell Lake in Big Moose, NY. Unraveling this mystery took a year’s research — searching newly discovered diaries and networking with genealogy contacts.
It turns out my connection began with a love story, which I told in the New York Almanack. That account included the accompanying photo of my grandparents’ wedding in Buffalo, NY, in 1908. This article will explore how the hamlet of Big Moose supported the growth of thriving summer communities on Twitchell and Big Moose Lakes, setting the stage for major logging operations on Big Moose Lake. Early in this era, 60 percent of Twitchell’s lakeshore was slated for major logging before going up for sale as summer lots. [Read more…] about Big Moose As A Lumber & Tourist Hub (1900-1920)
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
The adventure began with an exchange of letters in the spring of 1877 between a sportsman in Syracuse, NY, and Byron P. Graves of Boonville, a town on the western border of the Adirondacks. The purpose of this correspondence was to hire a guide and transportation for a two-week hunting and fishing trip into the Fulton Chain of Lakes for the man and his 11-year-old son Ned.
The sportsman was Ansel Judd Northrup, a 43-year-old attorney who would later write the book, Camps and Tramps in the Adirondacks (1882), where this story was first told. The final communication from Northrup, in the form of a telegraph, simply read, “Engage Brinckerhoff, will reach Boonville, morning train, July 5th.” [Read more…] about Through The Fulton Chain of Lakes in 1877
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)
Jack Sheppard came to the Fulton Chain region of the Western Adirondacks after roaming the West as a youth and then served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
These experiences equipped Sheppard with the knowledge, skills, and social network to become a successful guide and enabled him to shift his occupation from guide to innkeeper, to builder, to businessman. He never married or raised a family, but when he left the Adirondacks in 1892 he left behind a long list of devoted friends that reads like a virtual who’s who of Adirondack history. [Read more…] about Jack Sheppard: Civil War Vet, Panther Hunter, Adirondack Guide & Steamboat Operator