Born: January 24, 1790
Tupper Lake Free Press & Herald, November 30, 1977
Lost Treasure Magazine Recalls Tales Of Tupper Area Hermit of Early 1800s
Probably the only things as durable as the Adirondack peaks are the tall tales told of the hermits who shantied in their shadows, eked out a lonely livelihood and died or moved on, leaving little but legend to mark their passing.
Most notable of the earliest Adirondack hermits in the Tupper region was Moses Follensby, who settled on the, pond which now bears his name, about four miles southeast of the site of this village. Very little is known about him other than that he turned up in the area about 1820, trapped and hunted over a wide area, and died in his lonely cabin some twenty years later.
No Adirondack guide worthy of his hire ever let a shortage of documented facts stand in the way of a good campfire tale, however, and Follensby was the key figure in some colorful yarns within a few years of his demise. A couple of reputable early Adirondack visitors picked up those guides' stories and wove them into books which are now collectors' items for the North Woods buffs.
Alfred B. Street, New York State historian, visited the area in the late 1850s with Harvey Moody, Saranac Lake pioneer, and several of his sons as guides, as well as his brother, Martin "Uncle Mart" Moody, who was later to build the first hostelry catering to the visiting sports at the foot of Big Tupper Lake. Street incorporated the Moodys' story about Follensby in his book "Woods and Waters," published in 1860, which made Follensby a British officer and government official, found in delirium in his cabin by passing trappers, who searched it after his death and uncovered a trove of jeweled weapons, British uniform coat, and letters which confirmed his lofty rank but threw no light on what drove him to spend his last years in the Adirondack wilds.
The Rev. Joel T. Headley, one of the earliest Adirondack travelers and historians, came up with a considerably different version of the life of the shadowy Follensby. In his book "Hours at Home," published in 1869, he recalled a journey which he had made through the Tupper-Long Lake region in the 1840s, during which he took shelter overnight in a cabin on Follensby Pond and was told by his guide that the last occupant of the bed in which he was lying was the skeleton of the elusive hermit, who had died there three years earlier. The guide's yarn also included the finding of a "trinket" in the hermit's cabin and some papers, which proved to be the medal of the French Legion of Honor and memoranda of the Napoleonic battles which convinced Headley that Follensby had been an officer under Bonaparte, who fled into exile after his defeat and sought solace in the wilderness.
The name Leon de Hautville, which appeared in the hermit's papers, and accompanying references, linked the hermit with Leon de Hautville, son of the Marquis de Hautville, who was gravely wounded at Waterloo and after months of convalescence, disappeared.
British officer, Napoleonic veteran or whatever, Follensby has turned up again, this time in the December issue of "Lost Treasure" magazine, where a feature by H. M. Darby covers the Alfred Street-British officer version and adds a touch or two. It quotes Thomas Penfield's "Directory of Buried or Sunken Treasures and Lost Mines of the United States to the effect that Follensby's hidden trove included gold and silver coins valued around $400,000 at the time the hermit stashed it, and adds "It would be worth many times that today."
Inasmuch as the guides who described the treasures found in Follensby's cabin made no mention of the $400,000, it might be worthwhile for the present owners of the old hermit's diggings to do a little prospecting.
Incidentally, the "Lost Treasure" feature adds a couple of new touches to the Follensbv lore. A "kicker" line on the title page states that "Mysterious Moses Follensby came to the Adirondacks to forget a woman, and amassed a fortune during his lonely life as a recluse" — which would have put him in a class by himself among the hermits who eked out a living in the wilderness era hereabouts . . . They collected considerably more in the way of fly bites than fortunes.
An artist's sketch of "Captain" Follensby, accompanying the article, shows him in a uniform, the belt buckle of which bears the "U.S. army insignia. With the British and French mlitary background, this would have made the Tupper area's first bona fide hermit a sort of military triple threat.