Adirondack Enterprise, March 25, 1909


Another Interesting Chapter In Saranac Lake's Early History


Mrs. McClelland Writes of Some of the Famous Men and Women Who Enjoyed the Delights of the Adirondacks

When the Region Was Far More of a Wilderness Than It Is Now Is— Pioneers of Saranac Lake

Editor, Adirondack Enterprise:

While reading in "The Enterprise" of the wonderful growth of Saranac Lake since 1880, it almost seemed like a fairy tale. But there was something back of 1880 that gets small recognition, although to some that date may seem almost like the beginning of things. It was not so. In the Enterprise of March 11, 1909, the number of houses in Saranac Lake in 1880 was given as twelve. There is a mistake somewhere. There were fifty or more at that time. It is a little difficult, it is true, I to be exact as to the number without having some data to work from. The growth of the village has been so rapid in recent years that it is easy perhaps to imagine a less number than there really was at a given time.

Going back to 1856 the writer can speak with more confidence. At that time the following families had homes within the present bounds of the village:

Alanson Neal, Milote Baker, Ensine Miller, Hilyer Miller, Jacob Moody, Smith Moody, Daniel Moody, Curtis Moody, Captain Miller, James Daley, James McClelland, Henry Douglas, W. F. Martin, Isaac Brown. Mr. Chase, Theodore Clemens, Harvey Moody, Moses Goodrich, Rodney Maloney, Newell Reynolds, Alvah Ring, Mr. Averill and Homer Miller.

There were no tenement houses; no "congested districts." To be sure many of the houses were built of logs, as befits the pioneer settlers in the wilderness, as do sod houses the dwellers on the prairie.

Brave, hardy and independent were the early settlers of this region, and they prepared the way for the present Saranac Lake. Jacob Moody and Captain Miller were the first settlers, and they raised large families, and their descendants are still with us. In 1856 there were two schools, in one of which there were 19 pupils, making 31 in all. A few years later these school districts were united and the White School House built and a flourishing school kept up. This union of schools was some years before 1880, and the nucleus so formed has grown into our present school of 1,000 pupils, or thereabouts.

As long ago as 1885, when Miss Murray of London, Eng., and Gov. Horatio Seymour, of New York, with another lady and gentleman made a tour of the Adirondacks, as seekers after recreation and health this has been a favorite stopping place. Each year the number of tourists was greater. Many people famous in their country's history, or in their home state, delighted to spend a few days, or a few weeks in the little hamlet of Saranac Lake.


More beautiful scenery could scarcely be found than that which greeted the tired literary or busi­ness man. Many of the indescrib­able charms of river and mountains have been lost in the changes made necessary by the building up of the village, and by fires which have had no respect for beauty or utility. Alfred B. Street when writing his "Woods and Waters," fittingly de­scribed a stretch of the lovely Sara­nac River between the present Charles Manning place and Baker's. The bank between the dugway and the river had not then been stripped of trees and the glimpses through them of the river flowing undisturbed and deeper then than now, made a picture seldom equaled. His description of "The Saranac Night­ingale's Song," was life-like.

J. T. Headly also gathered the material for his book on the Adi­rondacks, largely while spending the summer, or much of it, at Saranac Lake. At Baker's, Johns Hopkins, of Hopkins University, after coming from Westport on a buckboard over the roads rougher then than now, felt he was well repaid for the trip through mud and over mountain, by the views which he admired after reaching Saranac Lake.

Prof. Agassiz and his daughters, Julia Ward Howe; Dr. Howe and daughter, James RusseII Lowell, Samuel G. Ward, Judge Hoar, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Gray, J. W. Stillman and others as noted, were pleased with the quiet beauty of the mountains, towering high, and clothed with green from base to summit. W.H.H. Murray made the name of "Martin's" famous. Marion Harland (Mrs. Terhune) came with impaired health, and while recuperating laid the plan of her best stories in this vicinity. Susan B. Anthony came to rest from her labors.

In the days now spoken of eminent clergymen from New York and other cities would sometimes consent to preach in hotel parlors. Notice would be given through the neighborhood, and the parlors would be filled by the "natives" who thus enjoyed hearing many eloquent speakers, whom otherwise they could never hope to hear.

Henry M. Pease spoke of his work at Five Points Mission, then in its early struggles; Henry N. Cobb and many others were among them. Theodore L. Cuyler was one who was an especial favorite with his hearers. And when there was not an instrument of music in nearly every home as now, the guides and their families were often invited to Martin's by some one who liked to give as well as receive pleasure. Chief among these young men, Harry Brown retains his place in the memory of those who enjoyed his songs and the good times his hearers had. But if living he is no longer Young Harry Brown.

These happenings are mentioned to show the relations that then existed between the residents and the tourists, or at least, very many of them. Baker's first, then soon after, Martin's Hotel was opened to them, and their houses were full during the season, and they took the principal part of this class of travelers. It is needless to say that suites of rooms were not then in vogue in the Adirondacks.

While the tourists named were, the most of them, visitors later than 1854 or 1855, yet they were all long before 1880. Only a name here and there is the long list recurs to memory, yet they show that Saranac Lake has had an existence for some time.

We had no cement sidewalks, no paved streets, no sewers or electric lights, no water systems except Nature's own, which was sufficient in quantity if a little inconvenient. Brave, hardy, and independent, the people of Saranac Lake surely were, and happy and healthy too. If doctors were hard to be gotten, they were seldom needed. We are not of those who think the old must necessarily be better than the new order of things, but wish to show that to the earlier settlers of the place belongs the credit of prepar- [copy illegible] respected and trusted by their employers, many of whom were warm, true friends, as well as employers, "blazed the trail" for the different conditions of today, which they appreciate, such as remain and are proud of, and do their share still as of old, but have a warm place in their heart for the days of land syne.


Saranac Lake, N.Y., March 19, 1909