Gabriels was originally a small hamlet called Brighton. It was the site of Gabriels Sanatorium, named for Henry Gabriels, who was the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg from May 5, 1892, until April 23, 1921, when he died at the age of 82.
For current photographs of some of the buildings in Gabriels, see New York Route 86.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 28, 2003
Names provide insight into the history of the area
By HOWARD RILEY
Special to the Enterprise
When the first settlers came through the area to settle what is now the village of Saranac Lake, they probably stopped in Gabriels and Lake Clear to ask directions of the Otises and the Donaldsons. George Carley said his family came over from Vermont in 1849, and the Donaldsons and Otises were living in the area then.
When I entered the first grade in Gabriels, Gertrude Otis Downs was my teacher. When the school district was organized in the town of Duane in 1836, John Otis was named tax collector. In beautiful handwriting in the school record book, which rests in safe keeping in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, are the words: "1836 — This District was first organized on November 19th, 1836, while in the Town of Duane and numbered 3 – Micah E. Flanders, James Kelley and Smith McColley were Trustees – J.M. Bissell was Clerk, and John Otis was Collector."
This quote from is the same record book: "School District Record, for School District No. 1st in The Town of Harrietstown in the County of Franklin, State of New York — 1845 Record Book. At an annual school meeting held in said District where Wm. Johnson, David Otis and Amos Dale were Trustees, on March the 3rd, 1845. Voted that we purchase a site for a school house on the west side of the road North of the nursery now on Nehemiah White's land opposite the burying ground, (signed) Joshua Otis, Moderator, John Otis, Clerk."
The town of Duane used to comprise all the area reaching to what is now Saranac Lake. William Constable, who owned about 2 million acres in Franklin County, first named the civil divisions after places in Ireland, such as Tipperary and Killarney. Lack of use, however, caused those names to disappear and to be replaced with numbers.
Constable's daughter Harriet married Major James Duane. The town of Duane was formed from the town of Malone in 1828; named, of course, for Constable's son-in-law, Duane was divided into the towns of Harrietstown, named for Major Duane's wife. Harrietstown was formed in 1840 and the town of Brighton in 1858. Captain Pliny Miller, who played a major role in the settlement of Saranac Lake, became the first supervisor of the town of Harrietstown.
The history of a community lies in the burying ground, as it was called back then, and Mr. White, who sold the property for the schoolhouse, had lost his wife Eunice, on May 15,1844, about a year before he sold the property for the school. The way the "site" is described, it seems that the school built back then, if the school trustees carried out their plan, must have been located where the house/church now stands across from the cemetery.
The cemetery reveals a James A. Willson, who died in 1898, had served in the Civil War from 1861-65 with the Co. G. 96th Regiment, New York infantry. But Daniel E. Bessy did not make it home from the Civil War. He was killed at age 21 at the Battle of Petersburg on Oct. 21, 1864 and had served with Co. F, Vt. Reg. V.S.V.
The Bedell family has been around these parts for along time. Harry Bedell, Ruth Fortune's grandfather, was the rural mail carrier when I was a kid. A George Bedell is buried here, born in 1855 and died in 1907. A map made in 1876 lists the families along this stretch of Route 86 from Donnelly's Corners and shows the house where I live in about the correct location. Here is a list of names as property owners on the left side of the highway heading toward Gabriels: A. Manning, S.H. (for schoolhouse), J.H. Farrington, J. Manning, A. LeBounty, E. Seymour, N.W. Green, R. Brink and S. Ormsby. The right side of the highway lists: I. Works, S.W. Torrence, L. Nokes, Cemetery, I. Fosburgh [Vosburgh?], G. Whitman, S.H. Austin, A.D. Baker, and at the intersection of the Split Rock Farm Road is J. Coolon.
The brook at the bottom of the Manning Mill as you come from town was then known as Fay Brook. On the map on Route 186 toward the airport, some property owners are listed as: Mrs. Fay, M. Gaskell, H. Coloon, J. Nokes. C. Bedell, J. Otis, E. C. Otis and an O. Tromblee. This exact area on the map is listed in big print as Dist No. 1, West Harrietstown.
I have pictures of the two houses taken in 1936 when we lived on what was known then as the Noyes farm (where the Shanty horse farm is today). There were big barns out back, now just empty fields. The houses were very large. There were eight of us, and we lived in only part of the house. The Murray family lived in the other house, which was separated from us by a driveway and lawns. Eunice Murray Tyler lives in Saranac Lake today. We all went to school here, along with Pat Hesseltine Finn and Ron Hesseltine. The Fitzgerald family owned the former John (Spud) Perla home and owned a farm across the road. That farm was managed by Mr. Hesseltine.
Gabriels was a busy village in the 1920s and 30s. Rafferty's store shown in the picture also housed a barber shop, Riley's Hotel arid Riley's General Store (no relation) were going strong, the post office was in the brick building at the left of the entrance to the "San," now the correctional facility. George Riley had a grocery store, which was later purchased by Glen Bacon, located where Ted Fountain is now. Earl Martin operated the garage now owned by John Hawkinson. The Stem family owned a dry goods store that was located in the big house a couple of doors up from the Grange, and across the street was a clothing, store owned by the Hyman family. My parents, Dennis and Elizabeth Keegan Riley were married in 1923 in the Catholic Church of the Assumption in Gabriels by Rev. Frank Cornish, who was my Dad's first cousin. My cousin, Francis Hogan, the Rainbow Lake postmaster, can remember Mr. Bacon coming through as a peddler from the Dickinson Center area before he bought the store. He said Mr. Hyman also peddled door-to-door, which was a common practice back then.
Gabriels was a great bootlegger's stop-over during Prohibition. My father used to tell about being hired with other young men to stand by late at night at certain times when the bootleggers would stop and unload the cases of booze, which the boys would then bury in the fields to be retrieved at a later date. Stories are told about the bootleggers' big heavy cars — Packards and LaSalles with Straight eight engines that went at great speeds and "held the road."
The Gabriels Junior High was a beautiful building, and Blanche Otis Titus, who is now 86, remembers well her graduation at age 14. She lives at the DeChantal in Saranac Lake, and we were recently trying to remember the date over the door at the school. We both think it was built in 1903. Her sister Myrtle married Cliff Reyell, and they owned the farm at the corner of Hobart Road (which used to be the Crossroads) and Route 86. Cliff was witty, and we worked together at times at the Tucker farm when everyone would pitch in during the potato harvest or at haying time. I was mowing (pronounced mauing) back hay at Cliff's barn one day, and Cliff was pitching the hay up to me. It had to be moved back and piled correctly around the loft. It is hot, dusty and strenuous work. I was a skinny teen-ager, and Cliff looked up at me and started grinning. I asked, "what's so funny?" He replied, "this is the first time I ever seen a bone sweat."
Jane Bunker Rivito's mother Francis (Peg) Bunker taught school at the Gabriels Junior High, as did Pearl LaValley, Bernie McGowan Wood, Linda Debly and Miss Mary Ann Gratto. The school was officially the Gabriels New York Junior High School. They published a yearbook named The Ranger and a program for the year that listed all the school holidays, including the state teachers conference at Potsdam. The school was closed for Election Day, and the longest vacation was at Easter and lasted from April 1 to 13.
The 1931 yearbook lists all the children in all grades. Here are the students in the fourth grade in 1931: Eleanor Leavitt, Jack Tyler, Muriel Stem, Stanley Tyler, Ruth Converse, Albert Premo, James Gill, Alfina Macy and James Rascoe. Ms. Leavitt, from the well known Leavitt farms, is now a resident of Saranac Village at Will Rogers. I had a visit with her just a couple of weeks ago;
There is an unusual story about Alfina Macy Murray, who remembers going to Rafferty's Store for penny candy and ice cream. Her son Willie Murray writes in a letter, "don't ask me where they got the pennies." There was a big family of Macys in Gabriels, where Alfina was born lived until she was age nine. She later married William Murray, and they moved into an apartment at 15 Dorsey Street in 1942. They raised a family of five children there. Mrs. Murray is now in her early 80s and is still living in the same apartment. More than 60 years in one place in Saranac Lake has to be some kind of record. Mr. Murray, along with Harry Schramm, ran the counter at the One-Minute Lunch, then located on Broadway about where the Charter One parking lot is today. A gang of us teen-agers used to go there all the time in the 1940s when we were in high school because those two men were like a comedy team.
There were eight students in that 1931 graduating class: Ruth Colby (readers will remember her as Ruth Ryan, who worked at Bernie Wilson's), Orla Converse, Venona Folsom, Francis Rork, Edward Perry, James Riley, Clifton Prue and Alice Thompson; and only six students in the 7th grade class: Harold Tebo, Junior Farrisee, Philip Macy, Harold Farrisee, Rita Martin and Agnes Connors.
Rural schools and thriving, independent villages such as Gabriels and Bloomingdale eventually melted into a type of suburbia as Mom and Pop retail stores were forced to give way to the impersonal chain stores that we have to deal with today.
Research for this story included help from Michele Tucker and Bob McKillip at the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, where I also got information from the John J. Duquette articles. Other research sources included James Rork, Marguerite Ellithorpe, Joe Pickreign and Mr. and Mrs. Francis Martin.