Author: Geraldine Collins

Publisher: North Country Books, 1977; second edition, The Chauncy Press, 1986

What it covers:


Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 27, 1977

Autograph party for author| book tells tales of Brighton


GABRIELS — Be sure to go to the Brighton Town Hall sometime between 1 and 5 p.m. tomorrow to meet Geraldine Collins, the author of “The. Brighton Story.” She also will be autographing books.

The Brighton Story, a complete and detailed picture of Brighton's beginnings to date, was released for sale just last week. It is surely an essential part of the library for those who are Adirondack history buffs as well as a fascinating genealogy for the Brighton resident.

Mrs. Collins became interested in the history of this area when she came here in 1946 to set up a library for Paul Smiths College. Now after 30 years of catching stories, interviewing families, searching through old records and graveyards, Mrs. Collins has distilled her collected dates, facts, personalities and stories into a clear and detailed picture of what the hamlets and people of Gabriels, Paul Smiths and Rainbow Lake were like from their beginnings.

Bustling Town

At one time Gabriels was a bustling little town. It had a very busy train station, (up to six arrivals a day), a 3-story, 65-room hotel named the Riley Hotel, a clothing store run by the David Stern family and across from that a large clothing and dry goods store owned by Jacob Hyman. This later became the Legion Hall and the site of many dances and social gatherings.

The Gabriels Sanatorium cared for 2,442 patients between 1895 and 1918, and offered much employment to the area. The Right Rev. Henry Gabriels, the Bishop of Ogdensburg helped the Sisters of Mercy set up the sanatorium in the mid-1890's and the hamlet nearby which had formerly been called Brighton adopted the name of Gabriels.

Across the street from the Riley Hotel which stood on the corner of Main Street and the Rainbow Lake Road in Gabriels was a garage owned by several young men of the time, Russ Studders, Leland Chase, Halsey Brulliea, Irving Davis, and Clarence Newell. They did auto repair work by day and operated a very quiet industry at night. They redesigned autos with heavy-duty shocks for the transport of liquor as it came down from Canada headed for points farther south. Meanwhile state troopers steamed and puffed and drank black coffee across the street at the Riley Hotel. And it seemed the three Gabriels saloons were always well stocked.

Many of the houses, churches and old school houses we see along Easy Street and the Rainbow Lake Road today date back to our early history when B.A. Muncil owned a large mill in Gabriels and was building many of the homes and fine big camps along the lake fronts. While the large hotels and lodges catered to the wealthy, several smaller cottages and homes took in guests also. The house now owned by Barbara and Harold Martin, once known as the Bon Air Cottage back in 1916, offered a $2.00 room or $9.00 for a week's stay, and could take up to 10 guests.

Grand entrance

The tales of our own folk are intricately tangled with the legends of the more famous who came through. Paul Smiths hired an ex- pert driver for his stagecoaches, George Menserve, who had been a capable driver during the Civil War. Apparently this gentleman had a flair for the dramatic. When he drove a loaded coach to Paul Smith's Hotel, he would pace the 6-horse team evenly until some miles out when he would don his white gloves and whip his team into a frantic burst of speed for a glorious arrival. Later his show became more elaborate. When bringing guests from Pittsburgh to the hotel, be would stop at Loon Lake to hitch up a fresh team of 6 perfectly matched white horses especially purchased for this grand entry. Grover Cleveland was so impressed with this driver and his style that he hired him away from the hotel business.

Familiar names

You will find many current residents whose names bear those of original settlers and guides who worked for the famous big hotels, Paul Smiths and Wardner's Rainbow Inn to mention two. Many of our current families are decendents of these well known guides: James Cross, Lorenzo Chase, Moses Sawyer, William H. Titus. Sylvester Newell, Henry Martin, Erwin Jaquis, Henry Hobart and Orman Doty, and many of them guided for such visitors as Calvin Coolidge, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, President Harrison, P.T. Barnum and Henry Firestone.

A reference work as well as a collection of fun old time tales, the reader can quickly get dates of school teachers they may have had, dates and facts on all the churches, lists of Town Supervisors and terms, cemetery plots, Service rolls of Honor for both World Wars, as well as a fantastic dinner menu from Paul Smiths Hotel on Christmas Eve 1887. Of course the influence and impact of the Smith and Wardner families on the town is well documented. Best of all are the tales near the back of the book told by some of our older residents of events from their childhood or stories their fathers' told.

It is a great treasure for all of us in Brighton and anyone interested in the history of the Adirondacks since our area housed, guided and thus built much of the folklore of the lakes and mountains.

The “Brighton Story” will be sold in stores in Saranac Lake and here in Brighton by the author. The Red Mill Restaurant will also have some copies for sale.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 9, 1986

Brighton Story re-issue contains wealth of tales


Geraldine Collins' chronicle, The Brighton Story, Being the History of Paul Smiths, Gabriels and Rainbow Lake, originally published without an index in 1977, has been out of print and in demand for some time. Recently this has been remedied by the publication of a second edition which includes an index. (Chauncy Press, 204 pp., $12.95).

A longtime resident of Brighton who was formerly editor of the Franklin Historical Review, town historian and librarian at Paul Smith's College, Ms. Collins had access to a rich variety of materials and the ability to organize them. It is refreshingly easy to locate answers to research questions in her book.

Her chapter headings, "Earliest Settlers," "Government," "Transportation" or "Mail Service," for instance, reflect her primary purpose to record local History. Do not assume, however, that this is dry reading. Sandwiched between facts and statistics are many colorful detail.

She tells us that the oldest Post Office in Brighton was at Paul Smith's Hotel with Paul himself as Postmaster from 1881 until his death in 1912. He used to brag that he "could change his politics as fast as there was a change in the presidency for he always survived a political change."

Another anecdote illustrates his often high-handed ways. Two opposing groups, one Smith's, were expected. at a caucus in 1888 to nominate a ticket for the coming town election. The Smith group decided to convene ahead of the others, nominate their ticket and adjourn. This they did with Paul acting as chairman and, in the process, nominating himself for assessor. He concluded the meeting by saying, "I am not used to public speaking, but, boys, this is a damned good ticket and I don't sees why it can't be elected. Let's adjourn before the other crew gets here.

As in many small communities, the telephone service was a source of frustration since it was often hard to understand what was being said. One Rainbow Laker was trying to talk to his wife during a thunderstorm. When a particularly loud clap came, "Yep, that's Jane all right," he said, convinced at last that he had the proper connection.

Other chapters contain a wealth of biographical and anecdotal material about the settlers of Brighton — the Wardners, Dotys, McColloms, Ben Muncil and, dominating them all, Appollos "Paul" Smith.

In her introduction, Ms. Collins warns the reader that this is not a "complete history of the Town." There is no account, for example, of Camp Topridge. However, the abundance of carefully researched and documented information with numerous old photographs in illustration makes The Brighton Story a resource for genealogists and local history buffs. Moreover, as the newest development in Brighton's history, the Visitors' Interpretive Center, unfolds, this book will provide valuable background information for its staff as well as pleasurable reading for the visitors.