George E. Morgan was a lawyer in Manhattan for many years, and the owner of the Raquette Falls Lodge from 1918 until his death in 1944.
Au Sable Forks Record-Post, November 9, 1944
An Uneaten Meal
By BILLY BURGER
Mrs. Billy and I had said goodbye to the Bryans on the dock at Plumley Camp near the foot of Long Lake. They were very close friends of George Morgan at Raquette Falls and had been spending a few days with him. Now they were on their way to their home in New York, where Mr. Bryan is a shipbuilder and Mrs. Bryan a professor in Columbia University.
We went back to the kitchen for our lunch. Mrs. Selfridge gave us a box of cookies for her old "flame" and Mr. Selfridge gave us the mail for Mr. Greenwood at the Long Lake Club. We stepped in our canoe and pushed off for the eight mile run to Raquette Falls Carry, the mile walk across and the lunch with George we had been promising ourselves. It was a gorgeous mid-summer day, mild and sunny.
As we crossed the clearing to the Lodge, we noticed the flag wasn't up, which meant that George was alone. The front door has never had a lock on it, so we went in and started back through the dining room, but were brought up standing on the threshold. On the table was an unfinished meal; steak and all the trimmings. Three places had been set; evidently for dinner the night before. On the floor was a blanket with something under it. Our first thought was, has George had a party and is someone sleeping it off? Then we saw this note on a chair: "Thursday, 6:30 a. m. We have gone to Coreys to notify authorities. T. H. Rome." "Is it murder?" flashed through my mind. We went back into the kitchen. There were three empty soup plates and a pot of cold coffee on the stove.
While Mrs. Billy walked back to the porch, I hurried up to George's private cabin on the hill. No sign of him there. Back at the Lodge, I circled around the rooms a couple of times and then screwed up my courage to look under the blanket. Sure enough, there was George, stone dead.
Coreys is eight miles from the Lodge by canoe and road. Whoever Rome was, he and whoever was with him had left six hours before. Some one should be showing up soon. So we sat in the lean-to out front and watched the river below the falls. Finally it was nearly 2:30 and high time someone appeared. We should soon be starting the nine miles up river and lake to Plumley's to telephone the Bryans in New York and others, for who could tell what had happened to "Rome" on the way down. I wrote a note and left it with the other on the chair. As we came out of the Lodge and turned south up the carry, I said, "Let's take one more look?" When we did there was a boat being rowed up to the landing. I walked the two or three hundred yards so fast I got there before the boat and nearly passed out when I recognized the oarsman as Mr. Charles W. Bryan to whom we had said goodbye in the morning and whom we were going back to Plumley to phone to in New York. In the boat were the coroner from Tupper Lake and Ross Freeman of Coreys. Another boat quickly followed with the embalmer and Mrs. Bryan.
The story was soon told. Despite his near blindness and other infirmities, George Morgan had driven his own boat down the tricky 6 1/2 miles to Axton landing the day before, walked the mile and a half to the postoffice, phoned for a taxi to Tupper Lake ten miles away, spent the day there and returned, arriving at the Lodge with supplies in the late afternoon. As he was resting on the Lodge porch, a young couple, the Romes, whom he had never seen before, came by with their packs. Characteristically he invited them to have dinner with him and spend the night. I can imagine what he said. "I've just brought a fine steak in Tupper, let's eat it together." So it was a gay trio which got the meal. There was so much talk that it probably took a couple hours to cook the spaghetti and meat and make the coffee.
They set the table with the Lodge's fine dishes, lit the big lamp, for it was late, and served and ate the soup. After George had carved the steak and they had started to eat it, he said, "Excuse me," rose from the table, started for the living room, laid down, and was dead in five minutes. Of course, the Romes couldn't eat and I don't believe they slept for none of the beds had been used. At daybreak they started down the river for help.
The funeral and burial were next day, and of course we stayed. Since the men who came from Coreys seemed to be busy at other tasks and since Mr. Bryan, who it turned out was executor of George's estate, wanted to have the funeral promptly, he and I dug the grave the next morning out in front of George's cabin. While it was hard work, it was easy digging. For we didn't encounter a pebble as big as my little fingernail, or a root, just some hardpan toward the bottom. Beautiful close-packed Adirondack sand, probably left by some ancient glacier.
The big shipbuilder and little I must have presented quite a spectacle as we spelled each other every five or ten minutes, and how George would have chuckled if he could have seen us. Perhaps he did. Anyway, there his mortal remains repose and soon there will be a boulder and a tablet to mark the spot.
While the twenty friends of George's who gathered in the living room for the funeral were keenly sorry he had gone, we couldn't really mourn. For his death was a welcome release from serious physical infirmities, old age (he was 74), sorrow, loneliness and misfortune. We had been greatly concerned about his living there alone, especially in winter, and had tried to get him to leave, but he loved this beautiful and deep woods spot too much. The fine old skypilot friend of George's, Rev. Mr. Maddox, put it just right in his very brief remarks.