F.B. Cantwell on Moody Pond with Dog Team in 1913.
Courtesy of the Adirondack Experience
Born: December 1, 1882

Died: May 22, 1972

Married: Genevieve Godfrey Nugent

Children: Thomas B. Cantwell, William P. Cantwell

Francis B. Cantwell was an attorney who had an office in Saranac Lake that was established in 1912; he also had an office in Tupper Lake. His son, Thomas, joined him in the practice in 1946.

He bought the central house of the Old Military Estates at 90 Bloomingdale Avenue in 1920 and lived there through at least 1956.  His mother continued living there after he moved to 120 Forest Hill Avenue in 1957,

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 22, 1955



"When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him . . . Proverbs 16:7.

Back in the early years of this century the firm of Cantwell and Cantwell, Attorneys at Law, was located in Malone. The firm was composed of the late Thomas Cantwell, father of Francis B. Cantwell, of Saranac Lake, and the late John Cantwell," and it was with that firm that young Francis Cantwell began to practice law This firm then represented The Paul Smith's Co.; the Rutland Railroad Pine and Corbett, the Santa Clara Lumber Company etc., and they had much other business as well. And so it happened, either in 1910 or 1911, that the young lawyer Francis Cantwell was sent to Bloomingdale to represent the firm on a case that had been turned over to them.

It seems that sometime before this, Charles Sebra, who owned a farm below Franklin Falls, had bought one of the early International automobiles. The engine was under the seat, the tires were solid rubber, and the whole machine looked more like a buggy than a car. Sebra never had any driving lessons, and he had only the barest of instructions on how to run and care for it. The roads were very rough and rutty, and not conducive to good motoring. It is surprising that a "back woods farmer", such as Sebra, would have had the courage to buy something he knew so little about, and also to pay for $750 for it.

Mr. Sebra was certainly no mechanic. One day he went out to start the car. The last time he had used it he had left it on a rise of ground, near the house, headed down hill toward the river. He got out the crank and went to work. (Many of our young motorists wouldn't know what a car crank looked like. How times and things have changed!) The cranking seemed to be harder work than usual that day, and he couldn't understand it, for he had forgotten that he had left it in gear. But after awhile the motor started, and so did the car, and it took off down the hill and didn't stop until it had run into the river far enough so that the water drowned the motor. Due to the fact that the machine cranked at the side under the end of the seat Sebra was able to step back out of the way in time to keep from being run down. He managed to haul it out of the river with his team and he left it to dry out; and though he tried to several times he could never get it started again. He had never driven the car 20 miles and he decided he wouldn't make any more payments on it.

A Pittsburgh bank held the chattel mortgage on it and they repossessed the car and had it stored for a while in David Cohen's barn at Bloomingdale. The next step for the bank was to sell the car at public auction that they might get their pay for the mortgage which they held. The case was put into the hands of Cantwell and Cantwell, of Malone, and thus it was that young Francis Cantwell journeyed by train from Malone to Bloomingdale one day.

When the young lawyer was informed by the firm that this job was to be his he told his father that he felt the car would sell much better if it was put into running condition. (And having a liking for mechanics as well as the law, he was fairly aching to try his hand at that machine.) It appears that his father agreed with him for he arrived in Bloomingdale with a bag of tools and a pair of overalls. He ran up a charge account at Cohen's store against the car, for dry batteries, wire, gasoline, etc., and set to work. He soon had the free and willing assistance of Freeman Lyon, Louis Pelky, the late Arnie Cohen and others; and as for audience — it seemed as though half of Bloomingdale was standing around watching and offering advice. Everyone wanted to see the car run and many hoped for a ride in it.

They worked all day Friday trying to get the thing to run. They loosened and tightened wires, nuts and bolts. They cleaned spark plugs and did all the things to the "innards" of that car that amateur mechanics could be expected to do. Numerous times they dragged it up the hill to Norman's store, with a team, and coasted it down the hill to the brook, and finally, near sundown, they got it started, and so it was ready far the sale.

The auction had been set for Saturday morning and Mr. Cantwell was to act as auctioneer. Two or three officials of the bank were on hand for the sale, and it was the first time they had seen the car. There was a large crowd on hand when young Cantwell called for bids, but bidding was slow—and low. This was no doubt due in part to the fact that Sebra had given the car a bad reputation, for he had talked much; "The car wouldn't run; it was no good; it was hard to start; didn't travel well on the road", etc. And besides that, no one knew how to run it. So when the bidding was at a standstill and the price remained too low, Mr. Johnson, the bank's cashier, made a bid of $125 and the bank became the owner of the car. Mr. Johnson had it put on board a freight car on the old Delaware and Hudson Railroad and shipped to Plattsburgh where the bank later disposed of it — for more money, I suppose.

But anyhow, the citizens of Bloomingdale had two days of free entertainment and amusement, and the young lawyer could go home happy, having accomplished that where unto he was sent.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 22, 1972

Well-known Adirondacker dies

MALONE — Francis Barry Cantwell, attorney and sportsman, died today in Alice Hyde Hospital following a short illness. He was in his ninetieth year.

The lawyer, dean of both the Essex and Franklin County Bars, was admitted to the bar in 1908. He practiced in Malone with the law firm of Cantwell and Cantwell from 1908 to 1913, and then rode his horse to Saranac Lake to open his own law office where he practiced from 1913 to his retirement in 1962, following the death of his wife.

An ardent horseman, fisherman and hunter, he founded the Adirondack Fair Association and operated the St. Armand Racetrack. He was a director of the Saranac Lake National Bank, a justice of the peace, a captain of the Home Guard, member of the New York National Guard, Company K for seven years; the first scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America in Saranac Lake, a member of the Northern Constellation Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, the Eastern Star, the Saranac Lake Lodge of Elks, and a Sigma Phi and Phi Delta fraternities.

For 50 years he was either the marshal of Winter Carnival and other parades at Saranac Lake or the head of a mounted troop. He also organized the first dog sledding races between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid as a Winter Carnival event.

When challenged, he was always able to produce enough trout or game for a bar association dinner, which he did frequently.

Mr. Cantwell was born at Malone, the son of Thomas Cantwell, also a lawyer, and Rebecca Barry Cantwell, and was the grandson of William Cantwell, founder of the Franklin County Historical Society. He was educated at Franklin Academy in Malone, attended Union College for two years, transferred to Williams College, and was graduated in the Class of 1906. He received his bachelor of law degree at Albany Law School in 1908. He was married to the former Genevieve Godfrey Nugent of New York in 1914. She died in 1962.

He is survived by his two sons, Thomas B. Cantwell, a Saranac Lake lawyer, and William P. Cantwell, also a lawyer, of Denver, Colo., and 11 grandchildren. He is survived also by one sister, Miss Claribel Cantwell of Malone with whom he made his home in his retirement years.

A funeral service was held this afternoon at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Saranac Lake. Burial followed at Morningside Cemetery in Malone, in the family plot.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 13, 1956

Francis B. Cantwell Opens Tupper Office

Francis B. Cantwell, well-known Saranac Lake attorney, announces the opening of a branch law office in Tupper Lake effective next Wednesday and each Wednesday afternoon thereafter.

The new office will be located at 21 Cliff st.

Mr. Cantwell, who was born in Malone, located in Saranac Lake in 1913 in an office with H. Ray Williams, realtor, on the second floor of the Booth Pharmacy block on Broadway. In 1914 he was the first tenant in the original Pontiac Theater building, then occupying the office now, used by himself and oldest son, Thomas Barry Cantwell, who became associated with his father in 1946 after service in the U. S, Army.

Another son, William P. Cantwell is an attorney now located in Denver, Colo., with the law firm of Holland and Hart.

Lake Placid News, September 11, 1936

Francis Barry Cantwell Republican Candidate for District Attorney of Essex County

September 9th, 1936.


I am a candidate for the nomination for District Attorney of Essex County at the Republican Primary ELECTION to be held September 15th, 1936. Knowing it is impossible to personally contact and visit all Republican Voters in our County before that date, I ask you to allow me this way of making my introduction to you. I may have already seen you, or you may have done me the great favor of signing my petitions as an enrolled voter of the Republican Party. I succeeded in getting my designating petitions filed with plenty of support to enable me to have a place on the ballot you will use Tuesday.

Working alone, without benefit of an organization, I desire in this way to make your acquaintance and ask your support. Confident of my ability, experience and capacity to assume the duties of District Attorney of Essex County, let me tell you, not with any spirit of vanity but to let you know my qualifications, a few facts about myself.

Born in Malone, N. Y., I was educated in Franklin Academy, 1902; Williams College, B. A. 1906; Sigma Phi Society; Albany Law School, L.L.B. 1908; Phi Delta Phi Fraternity; practiced law in Malone from 1908 to 1913; opened office in Saranac Lake, N. Y., and have been diligently and steadily engaged in every form of legal activity for the past 23 years; was married and moved into Essex County, Town of St. Armand, N. Y., in 1915; acquired property known as Old Military Estates there in 1920; am a taxpayer, resident and Town Official of St. Armand.

I have always been a Republican and consistently since 1915 voted in Bloomingdale, N. Y. Mrs. Cantwell has been Essex County Chairman of the League of Women Voters.

Served on the St. Armand Town Board as Justice of the Peace with Sydney W. Barnard, our Supervisor; former director in the Saranac Lake National Bank; Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts; served 7 years in the New York National Guard; at present a director of Adirondack Fair Association; a patron in Brighton-Harrietstown Grange; Assistant Grand Lecturer O. E. S. Franklin District; member Northern Constellation Lodge F. & A, M., Malone, N. Y.; and Saranac Lake B. P. O. E. My father and grandfather were lawyers before me.

In seeking the nomination at the Primaries in Essex County I intend to make a clean, gentlemanly bid for the office. I have nothing detrimental to say about Thomas W. McDonald. He has always been my friend and his popularity and ability are well known in the County.

However, he has held the office of District Attorney consecutively for THREE terms, or NINE years, in all. I feel I am entitled to your consideration and the voters should decide on September 15th, 1936, if he is to be nominated for a FOURTH TERM. I claim, and many of you likewise believe, that three terms is sufficient for one man to hold any County office. My opponent has received great consideration from the citizens of Essex County who are always fair-minded. I have never held any County office.

In this contest I request your support and ask you to vote to nominate on PRIMARY DAY, SEPTEMBER 15th, 1936,


Republican Candidate for District Attorney.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, January 9, 1954

10 Years ago today

Quick thinking on the part of several local residents was responsible for the safe rescue of Jack Buckley, 15, of 58 Shepard avenue, who fractured his right leg while skiing on the Mt. Baker trail. With the young skier at the time of his accident was Robert Sherman, 15, of 18 Franklin avenue. Sherman came down the trail to the bottom and skied to the home of Eugene Knapp on East Pine street. He at once called Dr. LeRoy Wardner for help. Dr. Wardner notified police and Stewart Park, an expert skier, and with the ambulance, a toboggan, and splints the party set out for the mountain. Meanwhile, Francis Cantwell of Old Military Estates, who was out riding with his dog team, met a member of the police force who told him of the accident. Mr. Cantwell and his team sped over to the Baker trail and up the mountain. Mr. Cantwell placed Buckley on the sled and brought the lad a third of the way down where they met the rest of the rescue party. Dr. Wardner placed splits on the boy's broken leg and the party descended.