Guides at the old Harrietstown Town Hall.  The Saranac Lake Opera House on the second floor was the site of some of their meetings.In his column, "Adirondack Gadabout," in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on March 19, 2011, guide Joe Hackett notes that "The original Adirondack Guides Association was established in 1891, and incorporated in Saranac Lake in 1897, with the stated purpose of 'securing to the public competent and reliable guides to assist in the enforcement of forest and game laws, and to maintain a uniform rate of guides' wages.' It was disbanded in 1952."

Plattsburgh Sentinel, July 17, 1891

The Adirondack Guides' Association.

SARANAC LAKE, N. Y., July 16, 1891. The Adirondack Guides' Association was organized here June 27th, 1891, with the following officers:

Honorary President—Verplanck Colvin, of Albany.

Honorary Trustees—Dr. Edward L. Trudeau, of Saranac Lake, Verplanck Colvin, of Albany, Frank L. Witherbee, of Port Henry, and Judge Henry E. Turner, of Lowville.

President—Fitz Green Hallock, of Saranac Lake.

Vice-President-F. D. Kilburn, of Malone. Secretary—John H. Miller, of Saranac Lake.

The Committee on Membership for the Saranac Lake vicinity is composed of the following thoroughly reliable and efficient guides—Lucius Evans, Thomas Healey, Benjamin Moody, Stephen Marlin, Edwin Sumner, Hiram Benham, Peter Solomon, Hosea Colbath, and Alonzo Dudley.

Its membership is contributed from the most desirable guides of the Adirondacks.

That the safety and comfort of the tourist and sportsman depends largely on his guide, is true; that the office is one of responsibility, there is no question; that the name is no longer an indication of fitness for the position should become thoroughly understood; and that there may be a means of distinguishing between those who are competent and reliable and others who claim the title without possessing the necessary qualifications, is the purpose of this association.

To contribute towards the promotion and facilitation of travel in the Adirondacks, to secure to the public proficient and desirable guides, thus assuring the welfare of tourists and sportsmen, to aid in the enforcement of the forest and game laws of the State, and to procure wise and practical legislation on all subjects affecting the interests of the Adirondack region, will be the endeavor of the Adirondack Guides' Association.


Essex County Republican, April 30, 1896

The Adirondack Guides.

A most representative Adirondack gathering was the third annual meeting of the Adirondack Guides' Association which took place at the opera house in Saranac Lake last week. Two hundred guides, representing all portions of the wilderness, were present, as were as many associate members and citizens friendly to the organization. The meeting was called to order by O. A. Covill, president of the association, and was addressed by J. C. Russell, president of Saranac Lake village; Hon. James H. Pierce, of Bloomingdale, and Rev. R. G. McCarthy, of Saranac Lake. Resolutions of  respect to the memory of the late secretary of the association. John H. Miller, were unanimously adopted : also resolutions endorsing and recommending the bill presented in the Senate by Mr. Malby, prohibiting "Jacking" and the use of salt licks in the hunting of deer. A petition to the legislature, signed by about 200 active and associate members. praying for the enactment of a law providing for the appointment of game protectors, to be selected from the membership of the Adirondack Guides Association was voted to be sent to the senator and representative in the Assembly, and that they be requested to use their utmost endeavors to push forward such a measure. Then followed the election of officers for the ensuing year.

Troy Daily Times, March 19, 1900

The Adirondack Guides' Exhibit.

The finest exhibition of the Adlrondacks that has ever been given outside of the Adirondacks themselves was displayed by the Adirondacks Guides' Association at the Sportsmen's Show at Madison Square Garden, New York, which closed Saturday night. The exhibit consists of two log cabins. The one on the east end is a three-gable cabin, with stone fireplace, with a glowing open fire at night. The Interior wall is covered with bear, moose, deer and fox skins, stuffed birds and trout. The size of the cabin is 10x12.

The next, 10x12 feet, is a bower of ever-green trees with rustic seats and a large display of pictures of hunting and fishing scenes In the Adirondacks. Next to the bower is a tent, 7x7, built of cedar logs and shingled with birch bark, with cooking kettles hanging over a log fire. Back of the fire is the old style tin oven with biscuit inside. Next to the still hunting shanty is a space 10x16, with an Adirondack boat. Next comes the Lake Placid camp, a log lean-to, 10x14, covered with deer heads and panthers and wild cats . The space occupied by the Adirondack Guides' Association is 71x10 feet. In the rear and over the cabins the wall is banked with balsam boughs. There is also the picture of the Algonquin Hotel. Deer heads and fox skins-completely cover the wall.

The guides represented at the show are Millard F. Hayes. Manager; Warren J. Slater, Secretary of the association; Charles E. Martin, J. Howard Slater, Walter Martin, Wesley Wood, Warren Bryant, Will Stearns, Levi Lauroy, Sam Savage, Halsey Sprague, Edmond Chace, Harvey Alford, James Stanton, David Mix, Lowell Brown, Gilbert Whitman, John Benham, Seth Pearce, Benjamin Moody, James Moody and Ross Hayes. Dr. Frank E. Kendall of Saranac Lake, honorary president, is also in attendance.

The Adirondack guides who attended the Sportsmen's Show were entertained Sunday at a dinner given in their honor by John H. H. Dressel, Secretary of the Sportsmen's Association. Willard F. Hayes, Manager of the Adirondack exhibit at the show, was given the seat of honor at Mr. Dressel's right, and Warren J. Slater, Secretary of the Guides' Association, was seated on his left . Speeches were made by Secretary Dressel and Business Manager Charles N. Shroeder and they were responded to by Messrs. Hayes and Slater. The wildcat which escaped from its cage on the opening day was captured by J. H. Slater of Saranac Lake, who received the reward of $10 offered.

Glens Falls NY Morning Star, February 9, 1907


Adirondack Guides Favor Different Open Time for Deer and Trout.

The Adirondack Guides' Association at their sixteenth annual meeting at Saranac Lake elected the following officers for the ensuing year: Honorary president, Dr. F. F. Kendall; president, George C. Garwood; first vice president, George E. Johnson; second vice president, E. J. Chase; third vice president, Lucien Trimm; secretary, Frank Vosburgh; treasurer, Gilbert Whitman. The association recommended the open season for lake trout and for deer be changed. The guides suggest April 15 to September 30 as the open season for trout, and they desire the deer season to begin two weeks earlier. The association will be represented at the annual Sportsman's show in Madison Square garden, and a committee was appointed, to have the exhibit in charge. Two typical hunters' cabins will be a feature of the exhibit.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 18, 1987

The famous Adirondack Guides' Association

Heyday of the guides


With the coming of the railroad to Saranac Lake in 1887 there also came, in great numbers, a new breed of sportsmen. That bone jarring stage coach ride, which once was braved by only the most avid hunter or fisherman, was no longer necessary in order for the sportsman to reach the very heart of the Adirondacks where, reportedly, the fish and game abounded. The advent of rail travel, with all of its comforts, served as a sort of sequel to "Murray's Rush" when the influx of sportsmen far outnumbered the available number of qualified guides. The inevitable result, in both cases, was that many unqualified persons pretended to the throne of the highly respected Adirondack guide.

Credibility problem

Their inept performance had an adverse effect not only on the credibility of the bona fide guides but also on the reputation of the region as a whole. It seems nothing is more detrimental to the prestige of a resort than the spreading of the word that certain patrons had been "taken." In order to protect their own integrity something practical had to be done to rescue the honor of their profession. The one obvious solution had to be some sort of united action whereby the real guides could establish their recognition.

On June 26th, 1891 Hiram Benham, a well-known Saranac Lake guide, initiated a meeting with many of his cohorts to be held at the Spaulding Hall at the corner of Main and River streets. A large turnout attended including Verplanck Colvin, Superintendent of the Topographical Survey of the Adirondacks, and J. Herbert Miller, Democratic party leader and town office holder. The meeting was chaired by Van Buren Miller, J. Herbert's father, who called upon Colvin to advise the group on the possibility of forming an association in order to protect their interests. Colvin emphatically told the gathering that it would certainly be to their advantage to organize and that it would also be beneficial to the entire Adirondack region. The sportsman and tourism in general could only profit by the formation of a reliable guide's association.

Among the local guides present at the meeting were Lute Evans, Steve Martin, Ed Sumner, Eugene Allen, George Fayette, Marshall Brown, Ben Moody, Hiram Benham, Walter Rice, Alonzo Dudley, John Slater, Sim Torrence, Tom Healy, and Peter Soloman. After some discussion it was unanimously decided to form the Adirondack Guides' Association and Verplanck Colvin was elected to be honorary president. Fitz Green Hallock was named president and J. Herbert Miller was chosen to be secretary.

A list of objectives included such important items as the promotion of tourism, protection of the forests, to help in the enforcement of game laws, and, most importantly, to provide competent guide service. A fixed rate of pay was set at $3 per day plus any expenses agreed to by the patron such as horse drawn boat carries, lodging, and hotel meals. As a solidly unified block the association could also seek favorable legislation toward the future of the Adirondack region.

Wise choice

The choosing of J. Herbert Miller to serve as secretary was a very wise move. He possessed all the political skills that could further the cause, having been town clerk, town supervisor, and had been named postmaster by Presdient Grover Cleveland. He sent out thousands of circulars and brochures describing the aims of the association and managed a very successful membership campaign. A great grandson of Capt. Pliny Miller, he was highly respected in the community and had gained the complete confidence of the native guides. A suitable badge was designed to furnish a means of identification and broadsides were posted listing the names of members by county of residence. In this latter category Franklin County led easily with the largest roster of members, perhaps because of the leadership established in Saranac Lake. In any event, the association was off and running.

All of the early writers praised the Adirondack guide and related that the success of any stay in the wilderness was entirely dependent on the skill of the guide. In their 1893 report, the Forest Commission agrees with the authors in this quote:

"Those who can afford it will find that employing a competent guide is a judicious expenditure. He earns his money. If a tourist needs his services, he provides a boat and guides the way; pulls at the oars, through sun and rain, for twenty, or thirty miles a day; takes the boat out of the water at various places, and putting it on his head, carries it over the portages, some of which are four miles long." The report goes on to say that a good guide knows the best campsites, how to build a bark shanty for shelter complete with balsam bough beds. He knows where to put out the hounds (legal at that time) and where to place the watchers. He must dress out the deer and carry it to camp, prepare and cook the venison and provide wood for the campfire. For the fisherman he must know where the trout reside in the springholes, direct the cast of the fly, and then clean and cook the fish. The Adirondack guide could fill the bill under all conditions and some were so proficient that their customers would engage their services a year in advance so as to insure a successful vacation.

Sumner named

J. Herbert Miller died in 1896 and the position of secretary for the association was filled by Ed Sumner (Sumner Lane was named for him). Once again the choice was excellent because Sumner was not only an experienced guide in his own right but also had been Miller's assistant in administrative matters. He represented the Adirondack Guides' Association at the Sportsmen's Exposition held in Madison Square Garden in New York City where he was able to present an Adirondack Exhibit which attracted much attention. He gave freely of his own time in various efforts to expand the influence of the association and to attract many new members. Ed Sumner's personality was largely responsible for maintaining harmony between the regional branches of the association, a considerable task, indeed, when he had to deal with so many rugged individuals. It was now apparent that the Adirondack guide had achieved his rightful place of respect in the annals of local history.

Caretakers evolve

It was only a matter of time, and certainly a foregone conclusion, that eventually some of the more wealthy patrons would consider buying some property and build their own private camps on desirable lake fronts. They could bring their families and entertain guests during the summer months and have the luxury of a comfortable hunting lodge in the fall. No more sleeping in bark shanties. Together with the main camp there would be a guide house, an ice house, and a boat house and suddenly a new occupation was born. It was a natural and simple transition to switch positions from that of guide to that of caretaker. The owner's favorite guide was, of course, hired to be a permanent overseer of the property, take the children boating or fishing in warm weather, and hunt with his boss in season. In many cases the caretaker was treated like a member of the family and the steady employment greatly enhanced his future. During the depression years being a caretaker was considered to be one of the best forms of employment in the region and quite frequently the camp owner would see that his caretaker's children were sent to college.

Of course, the ranks of the Adirondack, guide have thinned considerably since the association was formed back in 1891. The aforementioned Forest Commission Report of 1893 lists 16 pages of guides grouped according to their home grounds such as Meacham, St. Regis, Lower Saranac, Upper Saranac, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, Rainbow, Bloomingdale, Raquette or Long Lake. Of the 43 areas named, the combination of the two Saranacs led the field with a total of 74 guides. Some of the best known men in this listing were: Tom Peacock, Hose Colbath, Elmer Dockum, Calvin Brown, Doug Kingman. Arlo Flagg, Anson Parson, Cleve Moody, Ransom Manning, Ed Cagle, on the Lower Lake; with Chas. McCaffrey, George Otis, Peter O'Malley, John Derby, Henry Kempton, Justin Farrington, David Kronk, and Joe Otis among those on the Upper Lake.

Long Lake ran a close second to the Saranacs by listing a total of 66 guides. A partial naming from this group would include such favorites as: "Capt." Parker, Charley Cole, James Bissell, John Helms, Henry Austin, Howard Hanmer, Bill Cullen, Otis Betts, and C. H. Palmer.

Today there are some specialists for rock climbing and white water rafting but the romance associated with backwoods guides seems to be missing. No longer does the sportsman camp out in the wilderness with his favorite guide for a month or two. Gone is that close association between guide and patron such as was once enjoyed by "Adirondack" Murray and "Honest John" Plumbley. The Adirondack Guides' Association has vanished.

Of course, there are still some competent guides available, but their role differs considerably from that of the guide of a century ago. In the 1800's the guide and his party lived off the land for the full duration of the season while today's guide is frequently hired by the day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1858 poetry, sums up the esteem in which the Adirondack guide was held by reminding his fellow philosophers that they should bow to the stalwart guides for "They are the doctors of the wilderness, and we the low-prized laymen."

"Sound, ruddy men, frolic and innocent,
In winter, lumberers; in summer guides;
Their sinewy arms pull at the oar untired
Three times ten thousand strokes, from morn to eve,"