Born: August 31, 1862

Died: May 9, 1956

Married: Catherine Van Druska, 1901

Children: William, Clarence, Archibald

W. Ellsworth Petty was a guide and caretaker, and the father of Clarence Petty.

In the 1880s he came to the Saranac Lakes region from Crown Point to work with his cousin Carlos Whitney as a guide at the Alfred White Camp on Deer Island, earning two dollars a day, good money at the time. On state land, on a knoll with a good spring overlooking Lower Saranac Lake, he built a three sided 12 by 20-foot camp with a canvas roof that he later enclosed and roofed in bark. He earned a living by as a guide and trapper. He met his wife at Bartlett's; she had come to work there at about age twenty (1896). They were married in 1901 and had two sons by 1905, when Clarence was born.

In 1908, the state required squatters to move off of state land, and the Pettys moved to a house near Bartlett's.

Source: Angus, Christopher, The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty, Syracuse University Press, 2002

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 10, 1956


Ellsworth Petty, father of William Petty, district forester of Saranac Inn, was found dead at 11:45 p.m. yesterday. He was 93 years old.

When Mr. Petty, who had been a caretaker on Upper Saranac for the last 56 years, did not return home from work at 6 o'clock last night, his sons, William and Clarence, went searching for him. His body was found in his boat on the east shore of Upper Saranac Lake. He had apparently suffered a heart attack.

Born at Crown Point on August 31, 1862 Mr. Petty came to the Adirondacks as a guide in 1895. After several years of guiding city campers on Upper Saranac Lake, he became a caretaker for the Alfred White camp on Deer Island. Mr. Petty continued in that job over the years although the camp was sold to Edmund Lyon, of Rochester, and has now passed into the hands of Mr. Lyon's grandchildren. Mr. Petty had guided for such notables as Senator Guggenheim and John D. Rockefeller.

His body is reposing at the Richer Funeral Home, Tupper Lake. Funeral services will be held there at 2:30 p.m. Saturday with Rev. Alvin B. Gurley of Saranac Lake, officiating. Burial will be in the Lake View Cemetery.

Mr. Petty is survived by his widow, Catherine W. Petty, of Corey's, and three sons, all of whom are associated with the New York State Conservation Department. William Petty of Saranac Inn, is district forester for this area; Clarence, of Parishville is district ranger for St. Lawrence County, and Archibald, of Oxford, is an aquatic biologist. There are also eight grandchildren.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 2, 1952

W. Ellsworh Petty Gets Big Surprise

It was a great day of "remember when's?" and lots of fun Sunday when W. Ellsworth Petty, of Coreys, was given a party to celebrate his 90 years of "young" age.

Hostesses were Judge and Mrs. John Van Voorhis, of Rochester, and the party was given at their camp on Deer Island, Upper Saranac, where Mr. Petty has been caretaker since 1896.

In addition to Mrs. Petty, guests included three sons, their wives and seven grandchildren. The sons are Chief District Forester William C. Petty, of the Saranac Lake Conservation Department; Clarence Petty, District Forester of Canton, and Archibald, Conservation Department, at Norwich.

Tupper Lake Free Press and Tupper Lake Herald, May 10, 1956

Body of W. E. Petty Found in Boat on Upper Saranac

93-Year-Old Caretaker is Stricken While Rowing Across Lake

The body of W. Ellsworth Petty, 93, one of the last of the old Adirondack guides, was found by a searching party about midnight last night In his boat, which had drifted ashore on the east shore of Upper Saranac Lake.

Still active as caretaker at Deer Island Camp despite his advanced age, Mr. Petty had set out to row across from the Island to Rustic Lodge landing at Indian Carry, Corey's, and apparently collapsed and died during the crossing.

When he failed to show up by evening his son, William Petty of Saranac Inn, district forester, instituted a search in which another son, Clarence Petty of Parishville, St. Lawrence district ranger, assisted. A high wind had been sweeping the area, adding to the difficulties of the search, and it was not until midnight that the boat was located where it had been blown in on the east shore of the lake.

The body was removed to the Richer Funeral Home here, pending funeral arrangements Born at Crown Point August 31, 1862. Mr. Petty came to the Adirondacks in the early 1890s, working as a guide as a young man, for the Rockefellers and Guggenheim, among others. For nearly 60 years he had been employed as caretaker at Deer Island Camp, for the Alfred White and Edmond Lyon families.

Surviving are his wife, the former Catherine Van Druska of New York city; three sons, William, Saranac Inn; Clarence, Parishville, and Archibald Petty, Oxford; and eight grandchildren.


See also "A Death on Upper Saranac: Clarence Petty looks back at the life of an old-time guide" by Christopher Angus in Adirondack Life, June 2001.