The celebration of Hamilton County's Bicentennial is happening this year, and we have been doing a little delving into our history! While 1816 marks the inception of the county, Wells and Lake Pleasant are actually the only two current towns that also existed then. Hope was formed in 1818, then Morehouse in 1835, closely followed by Arrietta in 1836 and Long lake in 1837, Indian Lake came along in 1858, Benson in 1860, and finally Inlet in 1902 when it broke away from Morehouse.
Hamilton is a county rich with history. There are many amazing places to visit and so much to learn. I can't even begin to cover everything, but I can highlight some of the history you can see with your own eyes!
Within the town of Lake Pleasant is Speculator, the only incorporated village within the county. Here you'll find the local historical museum, if you stop by, you might get the chance to speak to Anne Weaver, the Lake Pleasant historican, or Bev Hoffman the Speculator Historian.
One of the more popular sites to visit in this area is the grave of the well-known hermit French Louie. Originally hailing from Ottawa, Canada, Louis Seymour made his way to the United States after he ran away from home to join the circus. Following where the work would take him, Louie ended up in Indian Lake looking for logging work and eventually finding it in Lewey Lake. Here, Louie built his first camp and lived by trapping and selling his furs. He moved a few times to further distance himself from people, but was always self-sufficient. Later on he ended up in Cedar Lakes, but would visit Speculator twice a year to sell his furs.
He was widely known by the children of the town and would alert them of his presence by making animal cries and howls. He would gift the children with candy and coins. In 1915, Louie fell ill with kidney disease. He died on February 28th. No one knew exactly how old he was, but he was believed to be 85. The school closed for the funeral and the burial was paid for by the towns of Arrietta and Lake Pleasant. He was buried in the Speculator Cemetary in an unmarked grave. In 1945, a stone was placed on the grave. People who visit will leave liquor bottles as a tribute to his well-known habit, as well as coins like the ones he used to give to the local children.
The small town of Morehouse is located in the south-western corner of the Adirondacks. It is home to the smallest post office in New York and the second smallest in the entire country. It is also home to a small museum, housed in an old church.
One of the more popular sites in Morehouse is the The Mayflower. Built to be a replica of the Mayflower ship, this building has a long history. Built in the 1920s, The Mayflower was run as a restaurant, bar, gift shop, and ice cream shop! It has since been bought by a family that has turned it into their residence. While it is now private, this interestingly shaped building is easily visible from Route 8.
Long Lake has many historical sites, including a few Great Camps built in the Gilded Age. Long Lake faced many challenges during its creating, one of the biggest being transportation as it was located a good distance from the nearest doctor or store. A lot of travel was done by boat, but roadways and bridges needed to be expanded. In 1871, a floating bridge was built which was then replaced by an iron bridge in 1901. Next to the bridge, the Kelloggs Lake House was built to accommodate the increasing number of visitors to the area. Unfortunately, the Kelloggs house burnt down in 1901. In 1904, it was rebuilt and reopened as the Adirondack Hotel which is still there today, operated as a hotel and restaurant.
Indian Lake, located more centrally in the Adirondacks, is home to a museum which showcases their rich Native American History. Located not too far up the road in Blue Mountain Lake is the Adirondack Museum.
I spoke with Wayne Blanchard, the Indian Lake Historian, about an interesting site I had heard about. He gave me some background information on a couple of graves located near John's Pond in Little Canada. They belong to half-siblings Eliza King and Perer Savarie. At only 14 and 11 years old, the children became ill with black diphtheria. Eliza was the first to pass, and their parents decided to keep the news from Peter that she had died. Peter began inexplicably singing hymns and within hours of his sister, he passed as well. The graves are now maked by two wooden crosses as well as metal plaques.
Inlet is full of historical buildings from The Woods Inn built in 1894 (originally Hess Camp) to the Parquet House. As with a large portion of the Adirondacks, Inlet grew thanks to tourism, and became home to many hotels — including the popular Arrowhead Hotel. Although it burned down in 1913, the location is now home to Arrowhead Park and hosts the town offices, a public beach, and events such as Arts in the Park and the Summer Concert series.
The Arrowhead Hotel gained noteriety after the arrest of Chester Gillette. In 1906, Gillette brought is pregnant girlfriend to Big Moose Lake where he clubbed her with a tennis racquet and left her to drown. He then checked himself into the Arrowhead Hotel where he was later arrested for her murder. This story became the basis for the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, which was eventually turned into a film.
Hamilton County kicked off their bicentennial celebration on April 12th with bells on (literally!), but there are plenty of events that you can catch the traveling exhibit making an appearance at! Check out all of these great sites and more!
This week in related ADK discoveries: