Mother Johnson's, Seneca Ray Stoddard "Raquette Falls House," 1902?, William Henry Jackson Mother Johnson's was a hostelry on the Raquette Falls from 1858 to 1890 that was made famous by the books of Adirondack Murray and Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Lucy Johnson was a former lumber camp cook. With her husband, Philander, she settled at the falls, planning to make a living supplying the region's lumber camps. The flood of sportsman started by W.H.H. Murray's Adventures in the Wilderness provided a far better living. Mother Johnson died in 1875; Harney, a hired hand who had driven the oxen to haul boats across the carry for the Johnsons, snowshoed ten miles to the Hiawatha Lodge to arrange for her burial. Although a legend holds that she was buried at the foot of the falls, there is a stone for a Lucy Johnson in the Long Lake cemetery.

For the later history of the site, see Raquette Falls Lodge.

Source: Christopher Angus, The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty: Wilderness Guide, p.35

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 3, 1994

The history of Mother Johnson's on Raquette Falls

[John Duquette's article is mostly about the history of the Old Forge to Saranac Lake canoe route and the carry around Raquette Falls.  I have included the entire article there.]


...A lumber camp was operating here during the early 1860s and supplies had to come downstream from Long Lake or upstream from Tupper Lake. In order to facilitate transportation over the carry a rough tote road was carved out along the east side of the falls for wagon accommodation...

Undated Seneca Ray Stoddard sketch of Lucy Johnson.
Adirondack Experience
...Lucy Johnson, and her husband, Philander, decided to remain at the site of the former lumber camp after the owners moved on. Lucy had been the camp cook and, together with Philander, the pair converted one of the deserted buildings to a lodge. Her expertise in the kitchen combined with a benevolent personality soon brought such prestige to the place that it became well known as Mother Johnson's. And along came Adirondack Murray.

William Henry Harrison Murray was a loquacious minister from Boston and an avid outdoorsman who discovered his own Shangri-la in the remote 1864 Adirondacks. Summering here during several vacations led to the writing of a little book on the subject which drew hordes to the area. Published in 1869 the work bore the title of "Adventures in the Wilderness; or Camp Life in the Adirondacks" and the venture quickly became a success. To the author there was no commonplace experience, every outing had to be superlative, the largest trout, the most exciting hunt, and his guide the best in the woods.

Undated Seneca Ray Stoddard sketch of Mother Johnson on her porch.
Adirondack Experience
His unforgettable visit to Mother Johnson's bears this out. Lucy Johnson was a rotund, good-natured individual who delighted in serving her wayward guests, as Murray related: "We reached Mother Johnson's at 11:45 p.m, having eaten only a hasty lunch on the way. We aroused the venerable couple and at 1 a.m. sat down to a meal whose quantity and quality are worthy of tradition." Murray goes on to describe the situation as being one that most innkeepers would grumble about, given the late hour. "But not so with Mother Johnson. Bless her soul, how her fat good-natured face glowed with delight as she saw us empty those dishes!" Those dishes, of course, were laden with golden brown pancakes fresh from the griddle. Murray admonished his readers to never go by the place without tasting her pancakes and business boomed at the falls. Some seven years after his visit Lucy Johnson died during the winter of 1875 and was buried next to the lodge in a handmade casket. Plans were made to move her remains in the spring but were never carried out.

Another writer of note was George Washington Sears, better known as Nessmuk, as he turned out articles for Forest & Stream during the early 1880s. In August of 1883 he came to Raquette Falls and still referred to the place as Mother Johnsoa's although she had died eight years prior to his visit The tough carry did not present a big problem to Nessmuk since the "Sairy Gamp," his tiny Rushton canoe, weighed only 10 and a half pounds! ...

The Adirondacks Illustrated, Seneca Ray Stoddard, pp. 94-95

Mother Johnson's is on the Raquette, seven miles above Stony Creek. All admirers of the Rev.W. H. H. Murray, and readers of his romantic and perilous adventures in the Adirondacks, will remember his struggle with the pancakes, and Mother Johnson is the one who had the honor of providing them. We reached the house at noon, and the good-natured old lady got up a splendid dinner for us; venison that had (contrary to the usual dish set before us) a juiciness and actual taste to it. Then she had a fine fish on the table.

"What kind of a fish is that, Mrs. Johnson?" I inquired.

"Well," said she, "they don't have no name after the 15th of September. They are a good deal like trout, but it's against the law to catch trout after the fifteenth, you know."

Mother Johnson moved herewith her husband in 1870, and they pick up a good many dollars during the season from travelers, who seldom pass without getting at least one meal. Boats are dragged over the carry nearly two miles in extent, and a very rough road at that, on an ox sled, at a cost of $1.50. A few rods above the house is Raquette Falls, laying claim to the honor of being Mr. Murray's "Phantom Falls." The actual fall here is probably not over twelve or fifteen feet. Mother Johnson entertains a very exalted opinion of Mr. Murray, with good reason, too, as his Adirondack book first turned the tide of travel past her door, and was the means of converting her pancakes (we had some) into greenbacks; and although she may subscribe heartily to the belief that "man was created a little lower than the angels," it is no more than natural that she should make an exception in the case of the Nimrodish divine alluded to.