Follensby Pond, also spelled Follansbee and Folingsby, is a private, 970-acre lake two miles west of Axton and three miles east of Tupper Lake. It can be reached by water via a one-mile paddle south from the Raquette River.
It was named for Moses Follensby, a mysterious hermit who left his name on three area ponds, but of whom there is little solid information. The other two water bodies are Follensby Clear Pond, eight miles to the north, and Follensby Junior Pond 18 miles to the north.
In 1858 it was the site of the famous Philosophers' Camp.
It is part of the 4,000-acre Follensby Preserve that was acquired by the Nature Conservancy in 2008.
Chateaugay Record And Franklin County Democrat, February 2, 1917
The Santa Clara Lumber company has shipped twenty car loads of hemlock bark in connection with its lumbering operations at Follansbee Pond, near Tupper Lake.
Tupper Lake Herald, June 6, 1919
WATER SUPPLY DAM BREAKS AWAY
White Birch Dam, on the J. E. Barbour Preserve at Follansbee Pond, broke loose Sunday morning, causing large damage. This dam was built in the summer of 1918 by Contractor B. A. Muncil, and formed a small lake for trout propagation and a water supply for the private camps of Mr. Barbour. Mr. Muncil has a force of men working at the dam which will be repaired soon as possible.
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, December 10, 1970
Tupper Lake - In The Old Days
(From the Files, Oct. 6. 1916)
"It is reported that J. E. Barbour will build a fine camp on Follansbee Pond, about six miles from here, on property which he recently purchased from Ferris J. Meigs. The plans call for a structure with 16 sleeping rooms, to cost about $36,000".
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, May 27, 1943
Tupper Lake - In The Old Days
(From the Files, June 2, 1923)
Malcolm Hain of Paterson, N.J., a guest at the J. E. Barbour camp on Follansbee Pond, landed a lake trout that spring which shattered all records, and is still "on the books" as the biggest laker ever caught in New York State. It weighed 31 pounds was 41 inches long and 26 inches in girth. He hooked the mammoth trout on an 8-ounce rod, and had a 45-minute battle on his hands Rollie Orton, caretaker, took it to Saranac Lake for mounting after which it joined the many fishing and hunting trophies at the Barbour estate.
Alfred L. Donaldson, A History of the Adirondacks, New York: The Century Co., 1921, v. 1, p. 177-8
The name which Mr. Stillman spells "Follansbee" is now written "Follensby" on the United States Survey maps, and appears as "Folingsby" in some of the early guide-books. How it should be spelled probably nobody knows. It seems a little strange, moreover, that Mr. Stillman records no surprise at finding his secluded and virtually unknown pond in possession of so unusual a name. As a matter of fact it was named after a primitive philosopher and hermit who lived on its shores long before the Cambridge set invaded them.
Follensby—to adopt the official spelling—was an Englishman who appeared mysteriously in the wilderness one day, and made it his home for the rest of his life. He settled on the lonely lake that henceforth bore his name. He avoided human contact as much as possible. If strangers chanced his way, he was polite and even reservedly hospitable, but he made no pretense of enjoying the visit. He died, and was buried somewhere in the woods; but neither when nor where appears to be known. After his death it is said that papers were found in his cabin which established his noble birth and sufficient antecedent wrong and sorrow to preserve the unities of the most respectable hermitage.
Be this as it may, such a person undoubtedly existed and left his unspellable name not only to one, but to three Adirondack lakes—Follensby Pond, Follensby Jr. Pond, and Follensby Clear Pond. The last two are said to have been his favorite resorts for hunting and fishing when he left his headquarters on the first. This lies north of Long Lake, and is reached from the westerly bend of the Raquette River. The Junior Pond lies in the St. Regis group of lakes, a little north by west of Paul Smith's. Follensby Clear lies due west of Upper Saranac Lake, and very near it. The name "Pond" for these waters is misleading, for they are all three fullgrown, picturesque lakes.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 9, 1993
Past adventures on Follensby Pond retold
The Follensby Pond located in the southwest corner of the Town of Harrietstown, between Raquette Falls and Tupper Lake, has been recently in the news, as an object of contention between those parties who want the state to purchase and those who say enough already. The property owner, Mr. J. S. McCormick of Manchester Depot, Vt., is apparently willing to sell but the state has made no move to purchase it. There is much more of interest to the story than this newsworthy situation.
To begin with the name "Follensby" itself assumes the role of a mystifying piece of nomenclature. Various spellings that have surfaced over the years produce a quandary that bewilders the imagination. The question remains as to which version is the right one. As early as 1829 a map by David H. Burr offers the most unusual spelling with the label of Pollengby Pond. To both William J. Stillman and Ralph Waldo Emerson it was Follansbee Pond when they camped there in 1858. Stillman used the wording in his "Autobiography of a Journalist" published in 1901 and Emerson, in part, from his epic poem wrote:
"On through the Upper Saranac, and up
Pere Raquette stream, to a small tortuous pass
Winding through grassy shallows in and out.
Two creeping miles of rushes, pads and sponge,
To Follansbee Water and the Lake of Loons."
Early Adirondack guidebooks such as Wallace's Guide used the spelling of Folingsby. But of greater importance than the spelling bee there remains the number of ponds that were so designated. It was a common practice among our early settlers to name a pond for its shape, color, clarity, bordering flora, incident, or to honor an individual. Locally we have, to mention only a few in these categories, such well known ponds as Long, Horseshoe, Green, Black, Clear, Little Clear, Pine, Tamarack, Turtle, Bear, and finally Moody or Colby. It is, however, rather unusual to name more than one pond for the same individual.
Accepting the popular spelling in use on today's area maps we find not one but three Follensby Ponds in our vicinity. In addition to the one first mentioned in this article, where the famous Philosophers' Camp met in 1858, we also have a Follensby Clear Pond and a Follensby Jr. Pond. Follensby Clear is located just west of Upper Saranac Lake and has been long noted for its lake trout fishing. Follensby Jr. is situated within the Ross Park between Paul Smiths and Bay Pond. There is no doubt but that all three were named for the same person. The Junior appendage does not refer to a son of Follensby Sr. but rather it only alludes to the fact that it is the smallest of the three ponds.
The most intriguing and mysterious aspect of the Follensby name is connected to the man for whom the ponds were so designated. His story (or stories) have excited great curiosity among writers of local history. In Wallace's Guide to the Adirondacks for 1894 we find this mention among his descriptive tour routes:
"To visit Folingsby's Pond, we leave the Raquette, and ascend Folingsby's Brook, crooked and shallow for one and a half mile southerly. This charming lakelet was named for a strange recluse of high degree (Capt. Folingsby) who for some unknown reason, left his native land (England) in 1820, and sought the seclusion of the Adirondack Forest. Here, on the shore of this lonely water, amid these wild solitudes, he built a crude log cabin in which he lived for many years entirely secluded from his fellow-men, being almost as dead to the world; and here he finally died. On the following day two hunters happened to call at his cabin and upon exploring the place, they discovered, secreted, a strong wooden chest. In this were found a bundle of papers, an elegant cabinet with costly contents, a magnificent court-dress, a sword of Damascus steel with richly jeweled handle, in a golden scabbard, and, blazing with scarlet and gold-lace, the complete uniform of a British officer of exalted rank. From several of his letters, it was conjectured that he was of noble birth, and had met with some terrible misfortune in his earlier years — the lady of his love may have been false to him, or the wife of his bosom may have fled with his friend. The location of his grave is no longer known."
This account may well have been gleaned from an earlier book published in 1860, "Woods and Waters" by Alfred B. Street, the State Librarian. Street and a party of friends called themselves, the Saranac Club and starting from Baker's in Saranac Lake set out on a hunting and fishing vacation with local guides Mart, Cort, and Harvey Moody. They went by wagon to Lower Saranac Lake where they embarked in guideboats to cruise the popular route through the Saranac Lakes to the Raquette River. While camping on Folingsby Pond the subject of the pond's namesake quite naturally came up in fireside conversation. Later Street claimed to have learned much about the solitary recluse especially from an unnamed individual who maintained that he was present at Folingsby's death. If true, it was a remarkable story.
No one seemed to know when the strange foreigner came to the Adirondacks but Street stated that "forty years ago" he was living in a log cabin at Folingsby Pond. This would place that time in the 1820s. An Indian trapper was the first to report seeing Folingsby fishing in his boat out on the pond. His cabin was strongly built with a massive door usually locked with an intricate device. A visitor would be allowed in only to take shelter from stormy weather but when inside was treated with polite hospitality. He was also seen hunting, trapping, and fishing at the other two ponds that bear his name but always maintaining the utmost secrecy while avoiding human contact
The story of the hermit's death, as related to Street, begins with the arrival of two men from AuSable who were trapping for fisher in the vicinity of Folingsby Pond. Nearing the log cabin the men heard a loud voice raving incoherently and decided to investigate. No answer was given to their poundings on the door so with great effort they forced the door. Inside they found Folingsby on a bed of bear skins delirious with fever. His wild screams frightened the pair who could do little but try to restrain his occasional fits while attempting to make some sense for the disjointed mutterings emanating from the bunk. He seemed to be addressing Lords and generals and a woman named Georgiana. From tender terms he would suddenly revert to curses and accusations of infidelity. At other times he would be shouting military orders to an imagined troop formation in battle whirling his hand above his head as if waving a sword. His bearing during these times denoted a bold majesty suggestive of a high ranking office. Blood was mentioned quite frequently, could it refer to battle wounds or was he fleeing from a murder committed by his own hand? Perhaps that was the reason for his seeking such a remote sanctuary.
In between his incoherent rantings he would sometimes mention a chest and would point a bony finger toward his fireplace. The ghastly watch continued through the night until just before dawn when the old man breathed his last The two men wrapped him in his bearskin's and buried him near the cabin. Deciding to search the place they found guns, ram rods, a few cooking utensils, and some rustic homemade furnishings. Remembering the gestures toward the fireplace they removed the large hearthstone and in a crypt underneath was a strong wooden chest. When opened the chest revealed a remarkable collection of artifacts. A beautiful sword in a golden scabbard contained many gems in the hilt, a brace of pistols with rich stocks inlaid with pearls and a coat of arms, a splendid scarlet uniform coat with golden epaulets, and a fancy chapeau also laced with gold. At the bottom of the chest was a bundle of letters addressed to "Hubert." Those signed by Georgiana were expressions of love and mentions of his father, the Earl. Another told of how Hubert had saved his friend's life in a certain battle and of an approaching promotion for his distinguished gallantry in service. All of the contents reflected on a high station in the life of the lonely recluse but did not explicitly define the reason for his solitary confinement to the wilderness. It must remain a mystery.
The two men from AuSable carried the chest in their boat and upon reaching Lower Saranac Lake spent the night in a hunter's shanty. In the morning the hunter was gone and so was the chest. Street deduced that the paper from the letters was torn into wadding for the hunter's guns and the valuable items were sold or traded for "rifles, powder, ball, traps, and other necessaries of wilderness life." The author then closes the chapter with a final note of mourning and a warning that: "A haunted place is Folingsby Pond, and many the daring hunter or trapper who, laughing at every other peril, trembles as night environs him in its dreaded precincts."
If the letters could have included Hubert's last name, we would have discovered the proper spelling, or would we? Consider all of the lengths that the man went to in order to insure his secretive isolation. Would any individual so resolute in remaining strictly anonymous use his real name? Obviously he offered the name of Folingsby verbally to those few visitors who were able to enjoy his brief moments of hospitality or the name in any form could never have survived to the present time. The three ponds bearing his name attest to this fact.
If Folingsby or Follensby was an assumed name, does the specter of deceit threaten our Adirondack heritage? If so, we should join a holy crusade persuading the U.S.G.S. to change all of their map designations to die more accurate: (1) Alias Pond, (2) Alias Clear Pond, and (3) Alias Jr. Pond. On the other hand, maybe we should go along with Follensby.
External links: The Nature Conservancy: Follensby Pond