Derrick, called Blue Pond until 1904, is a deserted logging community at the end of Floodwood Road, about three miles west of Long Pond, and eight miles west of New York Route 30. John Hurd's Northern Adirondack Railroad had a station at Derrick. At its height, Derrick boasted two hotels, a sawmill, a shingle mill, a lath mill, and several churches and stores.
S. W. Derrick was general superintendent of the New York & Ottawa Railroad at the time of the name change.
In the late 1930s, some of the homes were put on flatcars and taken by rail to Tupper Lake where some are still standing. The only remaining building was a horse stable that was repurposed as a hunting camp.
Railroad service stopped in 1937 and the last passenger train left Derrick on May 6th, 1937. The rails were pulled up the same year.
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, March 12, 1970
Low Wages, No Taxes, Emerg'y Handcar Trips to Bring Doctor from Tupper Are Among "Long Ago" Memories of Derrick
The census takers who are preparing to count noses in Uncle Sam's 1970 tally won't be overworked in the Brandon, and Derrick area, those once-thriving little villages having disappeared from the Adirondack map many years ago . . . Following up on the notes on Brandon in our last issue, we pick up the story of Derrick, once-flourishing outpost of the Town of Altamont, 12 miles to the north of Tupper.
A hamlet sprang up there when John Hurd's track crews laid steel to the shore of Blue Pond in the late 1880s . . . From the old Free Press files we have culled notes that name Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Charron as the first to arrive and establish a home there, in the 1880s, and the last to leave . . .
Lumbering gave the community its start, but for a short time, the settlers had visions of a mining economy . . . Iron ore had been located in the vicinity, in such promising quantities that the 2,400-foot elevation south of the village was given the name it still bears, —Iron Mountain. Felix Trembley, son of a well-known miner, was credited with the discovery of iron. A company was formed and excavation was started, according to the old Free Press item, but the venture apparently fizzled before it really got organized . . .
Derrick really got its start about ten years after Hurd's railroad tapped that region. In 1896 Charles H. Turner of Potsdam and Malone arrived on the scene and began extensive logging operations. A sawmill, shingle mill, lath mill, churches, stores, hotels and homes were built. Louis Grenier, whose recollections of Derrick are incorporated in these articles, recalls that his family moved there in 1898 . . . Turner's mill operated two shifts a day then... "It wasn't all milk and honey for the working man". Mr. Grenier recalls . . . A mill hand drew $1.50 for an 11 hour day. The circular sawyer was paid $2.50 a day, and the real plutocrat of the crew was the filer, an expert brought in from Michigan, who was paid a princely (by the standards of the day) $7 . . . Back in 1904-05, Mr. Grenier recalls, he was himself drawing $1 a day as a scaler.
Turner's mill was turning out about 14 million feet of lumber a season . . . Although the New York & Ottawa Railroad ran right past the mill, Turner had planked a road four miles through the woods from Derrick to Floodwood . . . "I believe E. J. Snell had the contract for drawing the lumber to Floodwood", he notes. "They had 20 pairs of western horses . . . They were beautiful to look at. It seems strange to haul lumber that way, when the railroad ran right past the sawmill...
"I remember King Snell... He was only a kid then . . . Abe Laramee was foreman. There were no telephones, and he often sent me to Kildare with massages to the camp foreman.
"There's a big marsh at Derrick, about seven miles long, and during the winter they would draw pulpwood across it on roads iced with water sprinklers. They would haul 13 cords to a load, —enough to fill a box car . . . With the late Father Alfred Hervieux, afterward pastor at St. Alphonsus Church here, and the late Father Minnie. I often enjoyed strolls over that ieed road on nice- moonlight nights. . ."
For all the drawbacks of low pay and long working hours. "Derrick wasn't too bad a place to live", Mr. Grenier recalls. "We had no rent to pay. . . . No taxes . . No water rents or lights or telephone . . . We had good rail service, —four trains a day. One left Tupper northbound about six a.m. One came through from Ottawa at 11 a. m., and was often used by the Junction folks to go uptown and do an hour's shopping, before the return train, which passed through Derrick about 2 p. m. The last train, southbound for Tupper was at 9 p. m. It was convenient to come to Tupper Lake from Derrick to do your shopping".
Life was pleasant; in Derrick in the summer time, he recalls. . . "We had outdoor picnics on the lawn in front of the hotel". (Derrick boasted two hotels then, one run by Jim Hunt and another by Andrew Minnie). "The late Mrs. Louis LaBarge would make a ragout that was out of this world . . Everyone for miles around, when they heard that Mrs. LaBarge was preparing the meal, would come .. A very reasonable charge was made, and people were served on the lawn. They would come by train from Tupper, and have a wonderful time".
Derrick had one year-round resident physician in its better years. He was compensated by a fixed contribution from each workman, —a modest charge of something like 50 or $1 a week, as Mr. Grenier recalls. The doctor made no further charge for looking after Derrick residents, and was not above pulling an aching tooth on occasion, or doing whatever else the medical problem dictated. A Dr. Bigelow served the community for awhile. "He went away, and Dr. Fleming came, and remained until the lumbering was finished", Mr. Grenier recalls.
"When I lived at Derrick, before we had a resident physician, we would look to Tupper Lake for medical help. If the emergency developed after the night train had pulled out we would make the trip by handcar. It often happened in the winter time. I, myself, came in several times, with five other young men to help pump the handcar. Dr. Eugene M. Austin or Dr. Robert L. Morgan would put on their long fur coats, climb on the handcar and ride the 12 miles up the tracks to Derrick, perform their medical work, and then we would take them back" . . The two round trips added up to 48 miles of pumping a handcar, which would constitute a pretty fair day's work nowadays for most folks. "Bob Selfridge was section foreman then, and was always willing to lend the use of a handcar and help in such an emergency", Mr. Grenier adds.
It wasn't always a medical emergency which brought Derrick folks in to Tupper. Mr. Grenier recalls one red-hot local town election, when Derrick voters piled all they could get in a couple of sleighs, hitched up teams of horses and followed the rail line in to town to help decide the issue at the polls. Derrick was voting District No. 3 of the Town of Altamont1 then.
The lot of the working man could be hard back in the late '90s and early 1900s. Woods workers drew around $16 a month, and he recalled one year, back around 1903, when lumberjacks in the Derrick area worked all winter, literally, for their "keep". The jobber went broke, and he remembers seeing the men walking out of the woods, headed for Canada, without having been paid a cent for their winter's work.
"Hippies" were no problem in the Derrick of his boyhood years, Mr. Grenier commented. One of his early teachers, Mary McGarry, demonstrated how to cope with "demonstrations" when three husky boys in her class decided to take over and run the school. She picked up one and threw him bodily out he recalls, and the educational insurrection ended instantly. Mary McCoy, and a Miss Feinberg, whose family later was prominent at Lake Placid, were among the early teachers in his years at Derrick.
Mr. Grenier recalls the great forest fire of 1906 which scourged the Derrick area. Fire destroyed much of the woodland region east of the railroad tracks for a distance of eight miles. Another great fire swept the same area in 1912.
The beginning of the end for Derrick came when Charles H. Turner ended his operations there in 1910. Charles H. Whitney of Malone supervised logging operations in the Derrick area from 1912 to 1925, but the timber supply was running low. In 1913 Clayton H. Elliott of Potsdam and Tupper Lake, operated a hardwood mangle mill in Derrick, which was transferred in 1915 to Tupper. The Oval Wood Dish Co. built logging railroads in the Kildare-Derrick region and the little community got another brief lease on life. In 1923 and 1924 the Sisson and White interests of Potsdam worked the section and shipped out pulp to the St. Regis mills at Deferiet.
By then Derrick, as a village, was done. Blueberry pickers, trout fishermen and hunters constituted the bulk of the passenger traffic in and out of Derrick station until 1936, when the New York & Ottawa picked up its rails, making the demise of Derrick official —and final.
Going back in memory to boyhoods days in Brandon, Mr. Grenier recalls that a set of kilns for manufacture of charcoal were in operation near his home. "They used hardwood, cut in four-foot lengths. A lot of hard work went into the making of charcoal", he adds. "Most of the wood was cut with the axe . . . My. stepbrother and I would go and pick up chips around the kilns, for firewood . . .
"Brandon had four or five stores in its heyday. The postoffice was in a store operated by Mr. O'Donnell" . . . (William Rockefeller used his influence in the early 1900s to get that postoffice transferred from Brandon to Bay Pond, and thereby aggravated the hard feelings which boiled up between the Brandon people and the Rockefeller interests) . . . Some of the other names of early store owners in Brandon were later to become familiar in Tupper. They included Joe Lamay, who had a grocery store; Charles Dwight, who operated a large general store which supplied the lumber camp needs, and Jerry Sullivan, later a justice of the peace here for many years . . . "Mr. Forkey and Mr. Feinberg had a shingle mill at a spot known as Black Rapids, about halfway between Derrick and Brandon . . . Mr. Rockwood also had a shingle mill, up toward Spring Cove, west of the railroad station" . . .
Hounding and jacking were still legal in his boyhood days, and Mr. Grenier recalls those early hunts. "The dogs would drive the deer, which would head for the water, to swim to safety. Hunters would be stationed at the ponds, waiting for them, and the deer didn't have a chance".
Malone Palladium, August 4, 1892
There was a collision last Tuesday evening on the N. A. R. R. near Willis Pond, which is about ten miles south of Paul Smith's Station, between the up train and the locomotive, The Pioneer, used by JOHN HURD, the president, in his running back and forth on the road. Mr. HURD is not only president, but general manager, train dispatcher and pretty much everything else, and was returning from Tupper Lake to his home at Santa Clara. He thought he could make the siding at Blue Pond in time to let the up train by, but failed to do it. The Pioneer was terribly wrecked. Mr. HURD and the engineer jumped. We understand that the latter was not hurt, but Mr. HURD was badly lamed, bruised and cut up. Fortunately no bones were broken and he will doubtless be out again in a few days; but it was a close call.
Franklin Gazette, September 23, 1898
The Tupper Lake Herald states that Chas. H. Turner, of Malone, has his sawmill at Blue Pond on the N. Y. & O. railroad well started. It will be an immense building, equipped with all modern mill machinery. Mr. Turner owns a tract of virgin forest at that place sufficient to supply the big mill for several years. A post office has already been established there.
Adirondack News, December 3, 1898
Lawyer Munsell and another gentleman was in town Tuesday conferring with H. A. Cutting and the highway commissioners of this and the adjoining, interested towns, in relation to the application of Mr. Cutting for a highway from the vicinity of Blue Pond on the N. Y. & O. railroad, to a tract of land on the Parishvllle river near "Augerhole" Falls, so called, where Mr. Cutting desires to manufacture lumber.
Malone Palladium, December 8, 1898
C.H. Turner, the Malone lumberman, is building a large saw mill at Blue Pond. The dimensions of the building are 45x90 feet and three stories high, the cost being $12,000 or $15,000. The Capacity is 80,000 feet in 11 hours, and its equipment and machinery will be up-to-date in every particular.
Malone Palladium, December 8, 1898
Thomas Laduke, a Canadian, employed as a lumberman at Blue Pond by C. H. Turner of Malone, met with a serious accident a few days ago. While chopping, his axe slipped, striking his ankle with full force and nearly severing the foot. He was alone, and he remained in this critical condition for nearly two hours before discovered.
Plattsburgh Republican, February 18, 1899
James Lawless of Malone, aged 27, was drawing logs at Blue Pond for Young Bros', Feb. 8, when the binder of the load flew back, striking him on the back of the bead breaking his skull. He died the same night.
Adirondack News, June 10, 1899
The stations along the N. Y. & O. railroad have been visited by thieves in several instances during the past week. Blue Pond was the first to be broken into, then Brandon. Nothing of much value was secured excepting a suit of clothing belonging to Agent Young at Brandon. On Tuesday night the station at Dickinson Center was entered, nothing of consequence was stolen. It is evidently the work of tramps who are looking for board and lodging at the county's expense. Three of the gentry were seen here going toward Dickinson Tuesday afternoon. If the county would supply these fellows with a sledge hammer and a pile of stone or a woodpile and a buck-saw, we would not long be troubled with their presence.
—Later. Since writing the above two of the burglars were captured between Dickinson and Moira by detectives who were ostensibly acting as brakemen or the afternoon train Wednesday. They were brought back to Dickinson and taken before Justice Tuttle. They admitted breaking into the Dickinson station and some of the plunder that had been taken from the different stations was recovered. They were held for the action of the grand jury and were taken to the county jail at Malone by officer J. W. Sabin, Thursday. It is believed they are the parties who have been burglarizing different station houses on the A. & St. L., the detectives having traced them from that road to the N. Y. & O. The third man of the party has not yet been captured, it being claimed by the others that he left them Wednesday morning. He is known to be an old “state prison bird” and is probably the leader of the gang.
Adirondack News, September 9, 1899
We understand that Dr. M. E. Fleming is contemplating removing to Blue Pond. The doctor has met with good success here for several years past and has many friends who will regret to learn of his determination to locate elsewhere.
Adirondack News, January 20, 1900
Jan. 4--Seeing no notes in your columns, would say,[sic] this thriving little hamlet is alive. Some of our lumbermen have commenced hauling in their stock of logs, shingles stuff and pulp, which begins to look like business. The mill is undergoing a thorough repair, under the management of Andy LaRoeque. Uncle Hod is out every day with his blue suit laying out work for the boys and soon the new shingle and lath mill will begin to loom up. He has all the men he can keep to work. Bump’s store is selling the necessaries of life to the people. Charley Strock has a very nice store and a fine boy to trade with. Wm. Forkey runs the meat market. Calvin Prarie, the bookkeeper, has drugs and other articles for sale and what he lacks the doctor can give you, so it is very healthy. For hotels we are well fixed. Mr. Brown, of the Derrick House, runs an up-to-date house and, oh yes, the Blue Pond House,now run by Hial[?] Cook, of your city, is doing it up in fine shape. If you have any doubt just come up some day and you will find W.W.C. right there to take care of you and your wife and all the children. Good board and bed for $1.00 a day, and by the week, $3.50. Miss Jarvis, the dining room girl, is always in her place to attend to the wants of the table. Mr. North is seen occasionally to take the train going down. We don’t say a word but we all love music. Well, this is a cold morning so I guess I will close, --AMOS.
Adirondack News, January 20, 1900
Charles Newell has taken the J b of taking down the refute burner at Everton and moving and re-erecting it at Blue Pond. The Job Is quite an extensive one, the consideration for the work is reported to be $1,800. Mr. Newell will commence the work right away.
Adirondack News, March 24, 1900
Arthur Christian, son of Frank Christian, about 18 years of age died on Friday of last week. His funeral was held from his home last Monday. Arthur was a promising young man and had been employed at Blue Pond during the early part of the winter, and while so engaged received a blow in the side, from a stick of timber, which evidently caused his death; as he began to decline in health immediately after the accident, and so continued until the end. His parents and several brothers survive him.
Adirondack News, May 12, 1900
W. F. Mould is making preparations for the erection of a store building at Blue Pond, and will maintain a branch store In that village, commencing as soon as the building is ready for occupancy. This will not necessitate any material change in his merchantile [sic] business in this village.
Malone Farmer, June 20, 1900
Daniel A. Ensign was tried for illegally trafficking in liquors at Blue Pond. His defense was that he was acting as agent for a Kentucky firm and simply solicited orders for liquors to be delivered in unbroken sealed packages under the inter- state commerce law: but it was shown on the trial that in this instance the liquor came addressed to himself and two others, and that he cause the package to be delivered to and paid for by another party. The jury found him guilty and he was fined $200 or stand committed till paid, not exceeding 40 days.
Malone Farmer, November 27, 1901
Derrick is to have a new Catholic church for the hard-working people of the place having already raised a goodly sum toward the desired enterprise. The site chosen for the church is directly opposite the Derrick House.
Malone Farmer, November 27, 1901
George Bordo, a lad 15 years old, employed in Turner's mill at Derrick, was the victim of a painful accident on Mon day of last week. It was his duty to take waste from the trimmer, when by some means he slipped and his right hand went under the knife, completely severing it at he wrist. The flow of blood was stopped and the boy taken on the train to St. Regis Falls for medical treatment.
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, October 14, 1937
RECALL DAYS WHEN DERRICK WAS BUSTLING TOWN OF 2,800, WITH ROSY MINING, TIMBER PROSPECTS
CENSUS TAKER'S JOB EASY IN GHOST TOWN OF TODAY--TIMBER, IRON, EVEN
RAILROAD, GONE, LEAVING DERRICK ONLY A MEMORY OF THE OLD TIMERS’
If census takers in 1930 did not overlook or entirely ignore the forgotten village of Derrick, twelve miles north of Tupper Lake, on the now abandoned New York and Ottawa railroad, their report would have read: Derrick, Franklin county, N. Y., population, two. Two or three decades ago this report would have established the population at approximately 2,800.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Charron were the first to arrive at the little hamlet in the 80s, and the last to leave. They came to Derrick, or Blue Pond country, when John Hurd was establishing a railroad through the section to ship timber to outside manufacturers. Before the railroad to Tupper Lake, Derrick was destined to be a mining center. Felix Trembley, son of a well-known miner, found a rich vein of Iron and immediately the village became a bee-hive of activity and speculation. A company was formed and excavation started. So certain were the miners that they had struck a rich lode that they named the large-mountain Iron Mountain.
In 1898 Charles H. Turner of Potsdam and Malone arrived in Derrick and began lumber operations. A small village sprang up. A sawmill, shingle mill, lath mill and smaller structures were erected. Then followed the construction of churches, stores, hotels and homes.
Fire of 1906
It was in 1906 that the first severe catastrophe swept the little hamlet Fire destroyed the entire section east of the railroad tracks for a distance' of eight miles, devouring a large amount of valuable timber. An old-fashioned sprinkler, the type used to form ice on the log runs, was the only article to escape destruction.
Mr. Turner closed the operations in 1910 and then followed another brief period during which iron mining reopened. Mike LaPorte, a familiar figure at Derrick during those days, and Art LaPorte of Tupper Lake took out several samples of ore but the drive was short-lived.
In 1912 a second fire swept over the same section covered by the1908 blaze, destroying a large amount of young timber.
Charles H. Whitney of Malone supervised logging operations at Derrick from 1912 to 1928 but the returns were only fair and the timber supply slowly diminished.
In 1913 Clayton H. Elliott of Potsdam and Tupper Lake opened a hardwood mangle mill which was in operation until 1915 when activities were transferred to Tupper Lake. At one time a baking powder concern operated a plant in the Adirondack village but this industry too was of brief existence.
The Oval Wood Dish company of Tupper Lake started another lumber boom at Derrick in 1917and the little community was buzzing with activity for about three years. A 19-mile railroad was built and logging operations flourished for many months but finally died out.
From 1923 to 1924 the Sisson and White interests of Potsdam worked the section and shipped large amounts of pulp to the St. Regis mill at Deferiet. In 1925 the territory was taken over by the Northeastern Power company, later by the Niagara Hudson, and the area was used for a reservoir for the Racket river.
The ring of axes is heard no more at Derrick. All that remains of the big sawmills are crumbling buildings and an old refuse burner. Derrick is the forgotten village of the Adirondacks.
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, October 8, 2003
TRANSITIONS, Notes on a Proud Past with Attention to Future Annals
Bill Frenette, town historian
…About this time, Charles Turner of Potsdam-Malone arrived in Derrick and began lumber operations. The small village grew rapidly. A sawmill, shingle mill, lath mill and smaller structures were erected. Then followed the construction of churches, stores, hotels and homes. The U.S. Census of June, 1905 reported 514 people living in Derrick that year. Such progress was not to last. Misfortune in the form of two severe forest fires; one in 1903 and another in 1908 devoured large amounts of valuable timber and only rains which ended a 49 day drought saved the village. Mr. Turner closed his operations in 1910 and then followed another brief period in which iron mining re-opened.
Mike LaPorte, a familar figure in Derrick in those years, and Art LaPorte of this community took out samples of ore, but to paraphrase Northrup “all to no purpose, the region continued to sternly resist all attacks on its treasures."
In 1913 Charles Elliot started a mangle roller mill that shipped up to 3 carloads of hardwood rolls a week to markets abroad. [In this case a mangle may refer to an ironing machine where fabric is run between rollers, especially used for flat pieces such as sheets or tablecloths.] Elliot only ran that mill for two years before he moved it to Tupper. In 1917 the Oval Wood Dish Company started another lumber boom at Derrick. A 19 mile railroad was built and logging operations nourished, but died out after three years time. In 1937, railroad service between Moira and Tupper was ended and Derrick began a steady decline with many of its families moving to this community. Today only one original building, a NY and Ottawa Railroad section house, remains and Derrick became close to being one of the Adirondack's forgotten villages.
In 1980, however, a group known as the Township 19 Hunting Club leased property that included Derrick. Note: (The observations which follow are ones noted as I intermittently followed over the last two years the route of John Hurd's NY and Ottawa Railroad from Moira, near the Canadian border to Tupper Lake - a vital part of our local history.) The club has a spacious clubhouse, neat and clean with a well appointed interior which includes a large fire place and a gallery of related photographs and comfortable sealing arrangements sits on a height of ground overlooking Blue Pond, the centerpiece of the club's property. It’s a communal place designed for members to meet and converse and to avail themselves on weekends during the hunting season the offerings of the current chef de saison. Two roads intersect here. One from Floodwood was the original stage coach road that brought guests from the station directly to the famous Saranac Inn, guest capacity 121 (In the 1940's Fridays, H;30 a.m. to 3.30.p.m. at when I caddied at that exciting place, it had grown to an 800 guest capacity). The other road comes in from Tupper and follows exactly the former railroad grade. Both roads have gate attendants.
Small hunting camps are located randomly within the club's boundaries and some can be found along the ponds, such as the Twin Willis Ponds, Mud Pond and Blue Pond, to name several. The club is managed by its members under enlightened guidelines. The surroundings are inviting and well maintained. Rules in place for deer hunting are based on Quality Deer Management techniques. The dues structure is modest (under $400 annually) and the club has a long waiting list for membership openings. Nearby is Spring Pond Bog, the second largest open expanse of peatland (sphagnum) in New York. (The land where my grandmother was raised in Ireland was rich in similar peatland and her family supported their farm by harvesting, drying and selling peat for fuel. It remains a valuable commodity there and in Scotland). Efforts to harvest Spring Bog peatland for fuel and gardening purposes were sidetracked when the Adirondack Nature Conservancy purchased the site to “protect it in its natural undisturbed condition for all to enjoy and study."
Gone today in Derrick is the high pitched whine of the busy sawmills, some of which produced (in a 16 hr. day) as much as 110,000 board feet daily. Gone also is the rumbling clickety clack, clickety clack of four trains daily that coursed thru the hamlet. (Early fare 5 cents a mile). Derrick is now a place of quiet, of recreation, a place to unwind and disconnect and where - mirabile dictu - the natural beauty has remained. Blue Pond still reflects the color of the stately pines along its shorelines that together with the unique mineral content of its water produces the impossible cerulean blue that gave it its name. The sunsets over the great bog are as spectacular as Louis Grenier, late of Tupper Laker, who as a childhood resident of Derrick from 1899 to 1912 remembered them when at age 90 in an oral interview he said, "Derrick has the most beautiful sunsets that I ever saw in my life!”
See also: An Adirondack Ghost Town, Derrick, New York
1. Altamont was renamed "Tupper Lake" in 2004.