Altamont was formed from Waverly in 1890, and comprises three townships, or 76,168 assessed acres. In 1913 a
strip one mile wide by five miles long was added from St. Lawrence county in furtherance of a highway policy for
the construction of a road designed to give Tupper Lake an outlet to eastern and central New York points, but which
St. Lawrence was unwilling to aid in building. The strip in. question has no inhabitants.
The population of Altamont in 1892, at the first enumeration following its erection as a town, was 1,051, which
increased in eight years to 3,045, and in the next ensuing five years to 4,843; but, owing to the closing of some
of the manufacturing plants and to curtailment of operations by others, it decreased to 4,691 in 1910 and further
to 4,480 in 1915, of whom 703 were aliens. The aliens are becoming fewer, however, as over 200 of them filed applications
for naturalization during the summer of 1917. The population is now increasing, and it is expected that within
a short time the losses above noted will be fully recovered.
Altamont’s principal waters are a part of Big Tupper lake, Raquette pond, Big and Little Simons ponds, Lake Madeleine
in Litchfield Park (formerly called Jenkins pond), and Raquette river. The latter, having its source in Hamilton
county, flows half way across the, town from east to west into Big Tupper lake, near the foot of that water, and,
continuing as its outlet, courses north and thence west into St. Lawrence county. There is no other considerable
stream in the town, nor has any good water power ever been utilized there. Raquette pond is simply an expansion
of the river, caused by the reservoir dam, which was erected by Potsdam lumber interests in 1870. These interests
had experienced difficulty in making clean runs of their logs down the river, and had been inconvenienced also
by low water in operating their mills. They accordingly united in erecting the reservoir at a point known as Setting
Pole Rapids, three or four miles west of where Faust now is.
There was no mill in the vicinity, and all of the timbers that went into the structure had to be hand hewed. These
were mostly twelve by fourteen inches, and two hundred acres were stripped of all the trees that would square to
that size. Including the wings, the dam was 300 feet long, and had ten gates. Its height was ten feet above still
water, and 38,000 cubic feet of stone went into it. The result was the flooding of lands for a distance of nearly
thirty miles up the river and. the lake, varying in. width as the high land on either side met the bottoms. At
one point on the lake the width was about two miles. Of course all of the fine timber lining the shores was killed,
transforming a beautiful section into a dead forest indescribably desolate in appearance. The dam broke in May,
1871, and the flood was thirty-six hours in reaching Potsdam, where it wrought great havoc. The dam was repaired
in. 1872, but in anger because it was believed to injure the fishing, and. also because it was thought that with
a recession of the waters meadows could be established along the tract that had been flooded, men from the vicinity
of Moody cut away parts of the structure in 1885, and dynamite afterward lowered it still further. The land where
Faust is was at one time wholly under water by reason of the existence of the dam, as also was a considerable part
of the upper section of the village known as Tupper Lake. As the locality became more settled, a great deal of
the dead timber was cut by residents for fuel, and more of it by the lumber companies in order to improve navigation
for their steamboats and scows, so that now much of the former repellent aspect has disappeared. Owners of water
powers down the river now plan. to reconstruct the old dam, though not to its former height, so as to regulate
the river’s summer flow; and the town of Altamont has appropriated $3,500 for expenditure in connection with this
project for payment of flowage damages. The restoration of the dam is expected to cause a disappearance of sloughs
above it and by holding the water at nearly a uniform level greatly better sanitary conditions. Incidentally it
should be noted that as early as 1850 the State appropriated ten thousand dollars for the improvement of the upper
Raquette for the benefit of Potsdam lumbermen. A part of the fund went into the building of a small dam at Setting
In the southern section of Altamont especially, and to a less degree in the northern part, the surface is broken
by mountains and ridges, while in the central portion there is considerable marsh land. Before the reservoir was
built nearly the entire town had been covered with a magnificent forest of both hard and soft timber, and this
condition still prevails in many localities, most of the area still remaining a wilderness. It is, however, the
fact that the big mills have taken heavy tolls from the forests during the past quarter of a century, and that
fire has ravaged large areas. There is hardly a year without some destruction by fire, and sometimes the losses
so caused are stupendous. In the memorable dry summer of 1903 the tax alone simply for fighting such fires in Altamont
was $3,858.44, and individual concerns claimed to have themselves expended no less than $14,000 additional in protecting
their own tracts. What the actual property losses aggregated no one can say with anything like precision, but unquestionably
they were enormous. For illustration, a single owner claimed damages to the amount of one hundred thousand dollars,
though his recovery was for a much smaller sum.
The “great windfall of 1845” stretches across the central part of the north third of the town, and, until fire
followed, the devastation wrought by it visualized what must have been the most terrific storm that ever touched
Northern New York. It developed on the Grasse river in St. Lawrence county, and forked at about the Franklin county
line, one arm sweeping straight across township nineteen, and the other passing to the north of where Derrick now
is. Its path was from a half mile to a mile in width, and it is told that not a single tree was left standing in
its track. All were snapped off or uprooted, with a resultant tangle of trunks and limbs and tops that was impenetrable.
The hunters of the time had had trails across the tract, and, desiring to continue them, set fire to the slash.
Ten years or such a matter afterward, when Cyrus P. Whitney, the surveyor, first saw the locality, on a hunting
trip, these fires had made it as bare as a pasture; but it has since become pretty well covered by second-growth
The New York and Ottawa Railroad (originally the Northern Adirondack) enters the town near its northeastern corner,
and extends to the heart of Tupper Lake village, a distance of perhaps ten or twelve miles — giving the place a
direct outlet to Moira on the Rutland Railroad, and also a through line to the Canadian capital. It reached Tupper
Lake in 1889. The Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railway, built in 1892, traverses the central part of the town, its
mileage in. Altamont being about the same as that of the New York and Ottawa, which it crosses at that part of
the village called Faust, nearly two miles north from the terminus of the latter. Both lines are controlled by
the New York Central.
Until two or three years before Altamont was erected as a town it was all uninhabited except for a section in the
neighborhood of the village and at a point on Big Tupper lake that is called Moody. A half a century ago, in a
presidential year, a few among the voters here would travel to the polls at Dickinson Center in order to exercise
the elective franchise — sometimes going by way of Potsdam and Moira, and at others through the woods on foot along
a “tote” road that was little better than a trail. Now, though Altamont has three convenient polling places, it
is perhaps doubtful if a larger percentage of its seven or eight hundred electors take the trouble to cast their
ballots than was the case with the little handful when it was necessary to journey a hundred-odd miles if they
went via Potsdam, or thirty-five or forty miles if they tramped through the woods. Still, it is the fact that Altamont
is one of the liveliest towns in the county politically, and its party’ leaders are always zealous and awake.
Still another illustration of the former inaccessibility of the place is that when Mr. Whitney was school commissioner
he visited the district but once in six years, and then walked to it through the forest. When Mr. Dewey of Moira
was commissioner, some years later, and visited the Tupper Lake school, he made the trip via Saranac Lake. Even
as late as 1884 the entire assessed valuation of resident property in the school district, which comprised the
entire town, was barely five thousand dollars, while now the school houses are estimated to be worth sixty thousand
dollars — the high school building at Tupper Lake, with its furnishings, having alone cost forty thousand dollars.
A man named Michael Cole is said to have been the first settler something like seventy years ago, and ____ Epps
probably the second. The latter remained for only about two years, Simeon J. Moody buying his betterments, and
continuing to occupy the place until his death, two or three years ago. Other early corners were Ziba Brigham and
Reuben R. Stetson with their families, and Theodorus Westcott and William McLaughlin. The latter came to he foreman
for the Pomeroys, who owned lands in the vicinity which they were about to lumber, and whose operations made the
Tupper Lake village clearing. Mr. McLaughlin was for many years the only resident within what are now the village
limits, a large part of which he owned at one time, and where he died in 1905. George McBride came about 1860,
locating about two miles up the river, near the iron bridge, and was a combination of farmer, guide, fisherman
and trapper; and in 1865 Martin M. Moody built the hotel at the point on Big Tupper lake now known as Moody, which
he managed until he sold to Pliny Robbins about 1888, when he moved up the lake about a half a mile and built the
Waukesha, owned later by Jabez P. Alexander. “Mart’s” fund of stories was inexhaustible, and made him one of the
best known characters of ‘the wilderness. Fact or even probability entered into few of them, and the more grotesquely
imaginative or wildly extravagant he could make them the more characteristic they were. A single one may be quoted:
Seeking to impress a visitor with the intensity of the cold which was sometimes experienced, he told of having
started one morning for the barn with a pail of boiling water, which froze almost as soon as the door closed behind
him. Re-entering the house, he discovered that the water had congealed so quickly that the ice was actually hot!
Other familiar names in the region forty. or fifty years ago are Sam. Moriarty, Nelson LaFountain, William E. LaFountain,
William Johnson, “Mother” Johnson, “Priest” ____ Clark, and Donald G. McDonald, though “Mother” Johnson was at
the falls, perhaps thirty miles distant. Mr. Clark was a local preacher, but of what denomination or whether an
ordained minister I do not know. He held religious services in his own house and at the homes of others until the
first school house was built, after which the latter served for a meeting house. McDonald is remembered as a vocalist
and exhorter. William E. LaFountain came in 1876, and married a daughter of Mr. McLaughlin. He was a school teacher
and surveyor until his removal a few years ago to Cass Lake, Minn., where he is engaged in the mercantile business.
He was one of the early supervisors of Altamont. Perez M. Freeman settled at Moody about 1878.
Theodorus Westcott and Sarah Cole, daughter of the first settler, were the first couple married in the locality,
about 1850. The story runs that a surveyor or timber cruiser, who was a justice of the peace from Potsdam or Canton,
chanced to visit the place, whereupon it was determined to take advantage of his presence to have the ceremony
performed. In order to avoid any question of jurisdiction, the party repaired to a small island ‘two miles from
the Cole homestead, in Grindstone Bay, and in St. Lawrence county, where the twain were made one. The island has
been known ever since as “ Sally’s Rock.” Mr. Westcott died in 1853, and William McLaughlin married his widow in
“Peter’s Rock,” better known and more talked about in the old days, was named for Captain Peter Sabattis (the surname
a corruption of St. Baptist). The legend is that Captain Peter once jumped from the rock to the shore, a distance
of sixteen feet. Sabattis was an Indian hunter and trapper, is said to have served as a soldier in the war of the
revolution, and is reputed to have lived to the age of one hundred and eight years.
It was the advent of the Northern Adirondack Railroad that brought real life to the region. Until that event the
only activities were small farming, hunting, trapping and guiding, the entertainment of the rarely occasional sportsman
who penetrated here even as early as 1855 or 1860, and logging operations early by the Pomeroys and by others in
the few years immediately antecedent to the railroad. These latter reflected the reaching out by mill owners down
the river for a larger supply and a better stand of timber than was left along the lower stretches of the stream,
and John Snell, the father of our present Congressman. was the principal contractor and jobber along these lines.
The railroad extension from Brandon or Bay Pond was distinctively a lumber project, undertaken by John Hurd, of
Santa Clara, to create new business for the road and also to open a new field for his side enterprises, but who
in. developing the western part of our county involved himself in ruin. Tupper Lake in particular owes its very
existence to Mr. Hurd, and is the best monument to his persistence and his faith in the future of the region.
At once upon the completion of the railroad to Tupper Lake, settlers began to arrive in considerable numbers, and
founded industries, established stores and opened hotels. The growth was marvelously rapid for a wilderness town,
but raw and rough at first. The railroad and the lumber interests imported labor, and the varieties were many,
without all being attractive. A single early lot included city toughs, Italians and negroes, who were scrapping
even before they bad finished ‘their breakfast. Such structures as were erected for the shelter of workers, bosses
and mechanics were of the flimsiest and roughest kind, and most of the goods that the stores handled were coarse
and cheap, while prices were all that “the traffic would hear.” One concern had as stock practically nothing except
goods not sa1able in an establishment owned by one of the firm in an older community, and included in the lot were
hundreds of pairs of heavy pegged boots that had been taken in trade through many years from country makers, and
which the merchant would have been glad to close out at the home store at fifty cents per pair. Here, however,
there was a hot scramble for them at from four to six dollars per pair. And pretty much everything else was of
a similar grade, and sold in. proportion. Whiskey brought twenty-five cents a glass, and beer half a dollar a bottle.
A store trade of thousands of dollars a day when camp orders came in to he filled was not uncommon.
Howard H. Hobson came from Vermont, and Moses Potvin erected the first sawmill for him. He remained for only a
short time — selling his plant to the A. Sherman Lumber Co. of Potsdam. At this date Potsdam and Norwood establishments
had found that to get logs from a point so remote as Tupper Lake was unwarrantably expensive. The “hanging up”
of a drive meant, first, that two years’ cuts were on the hands of owners at the same time, thus tying up a large
capital; and, second, that a considerable part of a drive was apt never to reach its destination, because of logs
lodging along the river banks, or becoming so water soaked that they would not float. Facilities for transportation
of lumber having been provided, it seemed to be the better business course to locate the mills close to the source
of timber supply. The Hobson mill went up in. smoke after a time, but was rebuilt by the Shermans or Sissons, or
both, who continued to operate it until 1915, when the structure, but not the machinery, and the surrounding lands
were sold to the Oval Wood Dish Company of Traverse City, Mich. The old mill will be demolished, and one of concrete
with modern and special equipment will supplant it. The machinery for this plant is to be brought from Michigan,
which the company is abandoning because it has exhausted the timber on its holdings there. The company has bought
lands outright or the hardwood stumpage on a good deal more than one hundred thousand acres in Altamont and vicinity,
which it is claimed will keep it going for half a century; and it will drive the work of building its plant energetically.
It began manufacturing in the autumn of 1917, but other mills are yet to be equipped. Its plans call for the erection
of eight or ten immense structures along ‘the highway leading from Tupper Lake Junction to Tupper Lake proper,
which will help ‘toward closing the vacant territory between the two points, and perhaps eventually, as operatives
fix their homes near the mills, fill completely the gap now not built up there. All of the buildings are to be
of concrete, and all are to be heated from a central plant. Electricity is to be generated with waste from the
mill as a fuel, and it is estimated that besides having an abundance of power for itself the company will have
a considerable surplus to sell to other interests, which it is hoped may be attracted to the locality by the inducement
of cheap power. Moreover, the municipally owned electric light works do not pay the cost of operation and upkeep,
and the company has contracted with the village to supply current for the latter’s plant, which makes the distribution
to consumers. One of the Oval Dish Company’s buildings will be exclusively for the use of operatives for recreation
purposes, and will contain a gymnasium, a hall for games and entertainments, and a kitchen. Here the management
expects to serve free coffee to such of the employees as may lunch there. Another structure, for a warehouse, is
to be two hundred and forty by four hundred feet on the ground, with two railroad tracks running into it. The roof
area of the entire group of buildings will measure about seven acres. Of course the management is not itself giving
out figures of the probable amount of its investment, but the talk among outsiders is that it can not fail to reach
at least a half a million dollars. Opinions differ widely as to the number of people that these works will add
to the population, ranging from five hundred to four thousand — the lower figures being based upon the assumption
that a good deal of the help will be recruited from among those who are already residents, and the latter upon
belief that the entire force will come from outside, and that other industries will develop in connection. The
management states that three hundred and fifty men and about three hundred women and girls will be employed. In
a way, the corporate title of the concern is a bit misleading, as its principal output will be hard wood lumber,
probably six or seven million feet per year, and its other products will consist exclusively of clothespins and
‘the thin oval dishes used so commonly by butchers and grocers, to be made from those parts of the logs which otherwise
would be waste. Chopping bowls and other wooden ware, contrary to what many have understood, are not to be made.
Railroad spurs are to be built very soon, running four miles east and an equal distance west from the New York
and Ottawa at Derrick, and another line will be run later from Tupper Lake toward Axton and Wawbeek in order to
tap the company’s timber tract in that direction. The enterprise stands for the largest single industry that Franklin
county has ever had the good fortune to have located within its borders, and it has every indication of having
ample capital back of it and of being under a management that is to be considerate of its employees and helpful
in many respects to the community at large.
The second mill at Tupper Lake, a wonder in its day, was built by John Hurd in 1890, and the expenditure which
it necessitated, piled upon his other undertakings and obligations, made a load heavier than he could continue
to carry. As a consequence, the mill went into the possession of the Shepard-Morse concern of Boston for a year
or two, and then to the Export Lumber Company of New York. Next. Patrick A. Ducey ran it for a year, and C. L.
& D. J. Becker and W. W. Wheeler also operated it, after which the Norwood Manufacturing Company had it until
1913, when that company was merged into the Santa Clara Lumber Company. The latter has remodeled the mill, and
added to it — one of its adjuncts being a large pulp and planing mill. The saw mill is the largest in the State.
It cuts only soft timber, its annual product running up to ten million feet. Besides making lumber and pulp, the
company turns out and sells large quantities of chips, ready for conversion into pulp by the chemical process,
and cuts and ships hemlock bark by the thousands of cords to tanneries. It has another mill, near Faust, which
it operated until it acquired the Hurd property, but which is now idle, though not dismantled. While no one assumes
to know such to be the expectation of the Santa Clara management, outside opinion is that both local and general
market conditions will have to become exceptional, not to say anything about the available timber supply, to start
the property into activity again — at least under its present ownership.
In 1898 the Legislature authorized Cornell University to establish a school of forestry, and to acquire thirty
thousand acres of timber lands in the Adirondacks for practical experiment and operation. The State paid for the
lands, which were in the town of Harrietstown, just east of Altamont. The forester in charge of the school planned
to cut all hard wood on the tract down to fourteen inches at the butt, and all soft timber down to eight inches,
upon the theory that light and air would thus reach the trees left standing, the growth of which would then be
more rapid. It was a part of the scheme also to fill in vacant places with young pine. The procedure would to day
be accounted good forestry provided that the territory so treated could he assured immunity from fire ravages.
When about six thousand acres had been cut over as thus indicated, a wind upturned or snapped off nearly all of
the trees that had not been felled, whereupon the school cleared the lands so that they were practically bare,
and then undertook to reforest with seedlings. About two thousand four hundred acres were in fact so dealt with,
and then fire swept in upon the tract, destroying many of the young plants. The practice as outlined was characterized
at the time as vandalism, and action by the courts was invoked successfully to suppress the operations, and to
recover the lands from the school for the State. Of course the school had to have a purchaser for its cut timber,
and found one in the Brooklyn Cooperage Company, which had theretofore operated at Santa Clara and St. Regis Falls,
but in 1900 built works at Tupper Lake, and constructed a lumber railroad seven miles in length from the latter
place over toward Wawbeek in the town of Harrietstown for hauling logs from the school lands to its mill. Its contract
was to pay five dollars per thousand feet for logs delivered at the railroad, which price barely covered the cost
to the school of cutting and hauling, so that funds for replanting were insufficient. Operations ceased in 1904,
when the courts prohibited further cutting and returned the tract to the State, whereupon the railroad was abandoned,
and the rails sold for old iron.
Besides its mill at Tupper Lake for making barrel staves and headings, the cooperage company installed and until
1915 operated a chemical works for the manufacture of charcoal, wood alcohol and acetate of lime from the waste
at the stave mill. These works use hard wood only, and are at present operated by the Tupper Lake Chemical Company
under lease from the cooperage concern. It buys the waste from the latter, and gives employment to from fifty to
seventy-five men. The cooperage company’s mill and logging camp hands number one hundred and fifty or more.
C. H. Elliott, formerly at Derrick, has an establishment at Faust for making mangle rolls for laundries. He
obtains his material from the Brooklyn Cooperage Company, and does a considerable business.
There is also a railroad machine shop for repair work at Faust or Tupper Lake Junction, and the fact that this
point is a division terminal makes it headquarters for a number of railroad operatives, contributing to its prosperity
In 1896 Charles H. Turner, now of Malone, bought a large tract of timbered land in the northern part of Altamont,
and the next summer built a sawmill at the place now called Derrick. His lumbering was on an extensive scale, the
mill running both day and night for several years. Something like a hundred families comprised the then population,
and the place, if of the mushroom order, partook also of a “boom” character for a time. The mill has been idle
now for about ten years, but still stands, partly decayed, with all of the machinery in it as last used. Most of
the inhabitants removed perforce with the discontinuance of operations by Mr. Turner, though twenty to thirty families
continued to make the place their home — occupying Mr. Turner’s houses without payment of rent, and also having
their gardens, pasturage, fuel, etc., free of cost. The stumpage remaining on the tract has been sold to the Oval
Wood Dish Company.
After the sawmill ceased to be operated C. H. Elliott, now at Faust, conducted a plant at Derrick for two years
for the manufacture of wood mangle rolls, turning out a product of three carloads a week all of which was shipped
abroad. The A. Sherman Lumber Company has recently maintained logging camps in the vicinity. When the Oval Wood
Dish Company gets into full swing with its plant at Tupper Lake and with its logging camps, Derrick is expected
to recover some of its former life and activity.
Moody is the only point in Altamont other than Derrick, Tupper Lake and Tupper Lake Junction that even approaches
the character of a hamlet. It lies near the foot of Big Tupper Lake, on the Raquette river, three miles up from
Tupper Lake vifiage, is accessible by small steamers that ply the river and lake, and comprises a settlement of
a dozen or fifteen families, a school, a church, a number of summer camps, and two hotels. One of the latter was
an early sportsmen’s resort, and, as previously noted, Mart Moody, its proprietor, had an unique reputation as
a raconteur of fanciful imaginary experiences with game, capable of qualifying under competitive tests with any
of the older guides as a picturesque and entertaining liar. The church here, if not built by Colonel William H.
Barbour of New York city, famed as the thread manufacturer and as an apostle of the benefits of the policy of a
protective tariff, is at least supported by him. lie has a summer camp on the western shore of the lake, in St.
Lawrence county.* The church has a regular pastor, but has no denominational affiliations or connections — notwithstanding
which, however, it must not be classed with the church officer who, as told by Booker Washington, when seeking
to quiet the emotional manifestations of a negro auntie during a service, retorted to her explanation or excuse
that she was “under the power,” “Madame, this is no place to get religion.” The key to the life at Moody is of
course its location as a good sporting center and the business and employment based upon its neighboring summer
camps of wealthy visitors.
Altamont includes a number of summer camps and private parks owned by wealthy nonresidents, among which are those
of H. M. Levy, the Kildare Club, J. V. Sheppey, Martin Sheppey, Wm. L. Ketcham, William A. Read, Charles Wheeler,
B. L. Amerman and Edward H. Litchfield. The Kildare Club is composed of eminent and wealthy Jews, has a fine club
house and owns seventeen or eighteen thousand acres of forest in the western part of the town.
The Litchfield park, established in 1893, lies in the southwest corner of Franklin county, and comprised originally
nine thousand acres laid out in rectangular form — to which six thousand acres, including Mount Morris, have since
been added. It contains three lakes and two ponds. Mr. Litchfield, the owner, formerly a lawyer, but now retired
from active pursuits, has been devoted all of his life to nature and the wilderness. His Adirondack attachment
dates from 1866, when he began camping out and hunting in the region — continuing the practice for about ten years,
when with the disappearance of the wolves and catamounts the woods here seemed to him no longer really wild, and
he transferred his activities as a sportsman to the Rocky Mountains, though he had visited Europe even earlier
for shooting. In subsequent years he has hunted in Asia and Africa, where he secured many trophies, as the contents
of the great hail of the chateau in Litchfield park bear abundant witness. In establishing his park Mr. Litchfield
intended to breed wild game under natural conditions, and, after erecting a wire fence eight feet high to inclose
the entire tract, stocked it with large numbers of moose, elk, deer, wild bear, beaver, hares, etc., besides pheasants,
black-game, capercailzie and other varieties of birds. But unfortunately breaks in the fence caused by falling
trees, the severity of the climate and depredations by poachers combined to defeat his plan in considerable degree,
and now the moose have entirely disappeared, and the elk and deer largely so. The beaver remain, however, and are
doing well. Mr. Litchfield’s efforts in this regard deserve commendation, and should be employed by park owners
generally in the hope of better success, now that the game laws are more thoroughly enforced and a more salutary
sentiment prevails against poaching. The general practice in the past has been simply to kill, and those who frequent
the wilds and love them owe it to the future to do something toward repairing the depletion that destructive energies
have wrought. Alluring in itself, the great wilderness has added charm where wild life is abundant.
Besides the features already noted, the work by Mr. Litchfield includes the construction of roads and the erection
of buildings on a scale that has not been duplicated, so far as I know, on any property in the Adirondacks. In.
addition to having built a road to his park gates from Moody (now taken over as a public highway), and joining
with his neighbor, Wm. A. Read, in tying the latter’s park with his own by a drive three miles in length, he has
constructed over fifteen miles of drives through his own grounds. His residential property consists of a chateau,
finished in 1903, and built of stone, steel and concrete, on the shore of Lake Madeleine (formerly known as Jenkins
Pond, but renamed for Mrs. Litchfield). This water is irregular in shape, and its winding shores and islands, all
densely wooded and unscarred by fire, make it one of the handsomest lakes in the Adirondacks. The floors of the
chateau are of tile and marble, and the entire structure, including the roof, is as nearly fireproof as it was
practicable to make it.. Wherever wood trim had to be used it is merely a sheathing over steel beams or massive
masonry, the least thickness of wall being three feet, and the greatest nearly six feet. The finish is in mahogany
except in two or three rooms, and the furniture the same, much of it being inlaid or beautifully carved. The living
rooms are many, and both in winter and summer are occupied frequently by guests. The chateau is of the French medieval
type of architecture, and is as imposing as an old-world castle. It has two great towers, each three stories in
height, and the land front is 146 feet long, with an arcade extending along about one-half of the building, which
is two stories in height. On the lake side there are three terraces stepping down to the water edge. Besides the
living rooms, there are a library two stories high in one of the towers, containing 4,000 volumes of English, French
and Italian literature; a great hall 30 feet wide by 30 feet high and 65 feet long, hung along the walls with the
heads of 160 wild animals, all of them sporting trophies of Mr. Litchfield or his son, from all quarters of the
world. They include lions, rhinoceros, a giraffe, and, indeed, almost every species of game or predacious animal
except leopards, tigers, elephants and buffalo. A number of grizzly bear skins serve as rugs. Two suits of ancient
armor stand at the entrance. At one end of this Hall is a great fireplace with an antique black-marble mantel of
the time of Henry II fifteen feet high with a six-feet opening, which was brought from France, and over which is
superb filigree work in gilt. There are in other rooms a large number of antique fireplaces, all brought from old
chateaux or castles in England or France, and the collection of which extended over a period of several years preceding
the erection of the building. All of the corridors are decorated with deer or stag horns, mostly foreign. There
is also an art gallery containing many fine paintings, some of which are by old masters. The chateau is lighted
throughout by electricity and heated by steam, and has every convenience to make it not merely a comfortable but
a luxurious home, either for summer or winter occupancy. There are a boathouse, garage and stable, each of stone,
corresponding in type of architecture to that of the chateau. Three quarries were developed within the park in
order to obtain the necessary varieties and colorings of stone to give harmonious and impressive effect to the
Tupper Lake village is divided into two parts, viz., Tupper Lake and Faust, which is the post-office designation,
or Tupper Lake Junction in the railroad nomenclature. The corporation’s boundaries extend more than two miles from
north to south, and, of course, include a good deal of vacant land between the two sections of the village. Though
the census of 1915 shows a population of 3,910 in the village, a critical examination of the enumerators’ original
returns discloses that one of them includes as residents within the corporation several hundred persons whose homes
are in fact outside of the village boundaries. Thus the figures overstate the actual population by nearly a half.
It is estimated that perhaps a third of the village inhabitants are at the point called Faust, and the remainder
in the section known as Tupper Lake. The altitude here is 1,540 feet above sea level, but, as is the habit in most
Adirondack villages, the residents are wont to call it more. The village derived its name from the lake, which
is three miles distant, and which was named in compliment to ____ Tupper, the surveyor, who, with Mr. Mitchell,
established the outlines of the Macomb purchase a little earlier than 1800, and who almost perished Of starvation
in making his exit from the wilderness.
Tupper Lake is distinctively a business and manufacturing point, and has expended little or no effort to attract
visitors or residents in search of health, though its natural advantages as a sanatorium would appear not to differ
appreciably from those of Saranac Lake. But sentiment is rather averse to investing the place with the character
of a center for tuberculous people, though in 1910 Rebecca LaFountain, Lena S: McLane and Dr. Chas. Ryttenberg
incorporated the Tupper Lake Sanatorium, capitalized at $25,000, erected a building for the care of patients, and
for a time had a business that indicated that with due effort and attention an institution of considerable proportions
might have been developed. Two physicians were employed, but upon the death of one of them and the removal of the
other from the town the enterprise was abandoned.
As indicated earlier in this chapter, the settlement of Tupper Lake upon the extension of the railroad there in
1889 and in the years immediately following consisted in larger part of rude and ignorant classes; common laborers
who were attracted by assurance of steady employment at good wages, and an attendant sprinkling of men who saw
in the then prevailing conditions opportunity for profitable merchandising and other commercial undertakings. The
buildings originally erected corresponded with the general character of the population, and the place was a typical
frontier hamlet, little restrained by law and caring less for the comforts, luxuries and refinements of maturer
communities — all of which has changed vastly within fifteen or eighteen years. Still, the people are more mixed
than in any other village in the county, and include many differing elements and many racial extractions — the
native American, the Irish and the French predominating, with perhaps a five per cent, representation of Jews.
The real modernization of Tupper Lake began with, or, rather, followed closely, the great fire of July 30, 1899,
when property estimated to have a value of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars or more was destroyed, and practically
the entire business section of the upper village left in ruins. One hundred and sixty-nine buildings, two-thirds
of which were dwellings, were wiped out; and so severe was the loss that momentarily there was talk of abandoning
the site utterly, and concentrating all that it had been at Faust. But that counsel of paralysis and. despair commanded
no serious consideration after recovery from the first shock of the calamity, and almost at once a spirit of pluck
and enterprise asserted itself, which in due course made the place far more substantial, more attractive and larger
and thriftier than could have been thought possible in its younger life winning for it on the part of its people
the proud characterization of the “Tiptop town of the Adirondacks,” which signifies their confident belief that
it is destined to become the most prosperous and the most populous municipality in Franklin county. While some
of the conditions may be taken as warranting that expectation, those who hold it and hope to see it realized must
yet not overlook the fact that disappointment is certain to be experienced if those who are exploiting the natural
resources of the region continue to disregard the necessity for reforestation. Unless this policy be instituted
and practiced, the place can not fail eventually to go to decay and practical abandonment.
The installation of a gravity water-works system was undertaken in 1899 as an individual enterprise, a company
for the work having been incorporated by home business men, who afterward sold to the late Colonel Barbour. The
source of supply is a spring pond up on the hills three or four miles distant, at an elevation of over two hundred
feet — thus affording a pressure adequate for fire protection. Its present capital is $50,000, and of an authorized
issue of $150,000 trust mortgage bonds $87,500 are outstanding. The mains of the system radiate through all parts
pf the upper village, as well as through the sheets of Faust, and leave no occasion for maintaining fire apparatus
other than hose and carts. The fire department, therefore, consists of three hose companies of thirty members each,
and local opinion deems these organizations admirable and efficient.
A municipal electric, lighting plant, with steam power, was built in 1903 at a cost of $16,500, to which extensions
and further equipment have added about $9,000. It gives a twenty-four hours’ service at rates which are claimed
to be as low as those of any other place in the State, and considerably lower than most. (They are less than two-thirds
of those prevalent in Malone.) All payments for the retirement of bonds and for interest charges have been made
thus far from the proceeds of a direct village tax instead of from earnings, but, on the other hand, there has
been no tax for street lighting. When the plant was run with waste from the mills for fuel it is said that the
revenue was sufficient to cover current expenses, but when coal had to be used almost exclusively there was an
annual deficit. The annual cost of operation and upkeep is about $14,500.
The village employs one uniformed paid policeman, and spends altogether for police service about $3,000 a year.
Other village expenses include about $6,000 for street work and an equal amount for bond and interest payments.
The total expenses run to about $35,500 per annum.
Always excepting William McLaughlin’s residence, at which he was long accustomed to entertain the sportsmen who
occasionally found their way in early times to the locality, the first hotel at Tupper Lake, in 1890, was the Altamont,
built by J. H. and Thomas L. Weir, unless possibly John Hurd’s American House, with Nelson Parks as manager, may
have preceded it, and unless also the boarding house of Joseph Demars, erected in 1889 near the Hurd mill, be classed
as an inn. The latter was in fact the first place opened in the locality for the accommodation of the public, though
mostly it served workmen employed on the railroad, in the lumber camps and in the mills. Kenneth Kinnear also had
an early hotel. Since these pioneer days hotels, so-called, have multiplied surprisingly, and the liquor tax records
of the county treasurer make their number in 1917 no less than eighteen, though not more than three or four of
them do a genuinely commercial business. The others are in fact boarding houses, claiming to be hotels only in
order that. they may as such exercise the privilege of selling liquor. There were in 1917 eleven other places in
the town — saloons, stores, etc. which held liquor tax receipts, making the whole number one to every one hundred
and thirty-odd of the population.
The village has three school houses, one of which is in the section called Faust. The high school building cost,.
including furnishings, not far from $40,000, and six teachers are employed in it. Work of an academic grade is
done here. In the entire town, which is all combined in a single school district, there are seven public school
buildings, with twenty-nine teachers.
Tupper Lake has also a parochial school, supported by the Church of St. Alphonsus, at which between four hundred
and five hundred pupils are enrolled. The teachers in it number nine, and are Sisters of the order of the Holy
Ghost, exiled a few years ago from France. The building is a substantial two-story brick structure, adjacent to
the church, and was erected in 1903 under the pastorate of Rev. Father Constantineau.
The banking. facilities have been adequate and satisfactory for over ten years past, but prior to the organization
of the present institution gave trouble and caused hardship. The firm of A. C. Wilcox & Co., private bankers
of New York city, had one of their numerous branch offices at Tupper Lake when they suspended in May, 1905. They
were under no governmental supervision, and had no reliability or responsibility beyond that afforded by their
personal resources which proved not to be large. The amount of deposits held by this branch when the break came
was about twelve thousand dollars, a considerable proportion of which represented the savings of poor and hardworking
men and women, and in some cases the little all of depositors who were carrying their small accumulations in the
branch for safe keeping until they should be large enough to make a payment on a home. Six months later men of
the village who commanded public confidence took steps to organize a real bank, paid. in $25,000 of actual money
as capital, obtained a charter under the national banking act, and in June, 1906, opened for business an institution
which has been of substantial benefit and helpfulness to the business interests of the town and of profit to the
stockholders. rfte first board of directors was composed of the following: Ira B. Hosley, Dr. J. A. Thissell, James
L. Jacobs, Wm. J. Dievendorf, P. H. McCarthy, U. S. Scott, Barnett Propp, B. Seigel and Henry H. Day. The bank
began business with Mr. Scott as president and Frank P. Barry of Malone as cashier — the latter giving place after
a few months to Charles E. Knox, who has held the position continuously to the present time, and to whose services
the bank is indebted in no small measure for its pronounced success. Mr. Jacobs is the present president, and until
his entrance into the army Clarence S. Potvin was the assistant cashier. The capital has not been increased, but
a surplus of nearly $25,000 has been built up, deposits have grown to a total of nearly a half million, and total
assets exceed $600,000. In 1913 one of the handsomest small banking houses in Northern New York was erected at
a central point, and is carried in resources at a value of $18,174. New names in the directorate, due to the death
or retirement for other causes of Messrs. Hosley, Dievendorf, Scott, Thissell, Propp and Day are Albert S. Hosley,
Mr. Knox, D. J. Hayes, R. J. Hosley, L. C. Maid, Ralph Hastings, J. Howard Brown and Leon P. Demars.
The Church of St. Aiphonsus (Roman Catholic), incorporated in 1890, was the first to be formed in Altamont. The
parish originally included Faust. Rev. D. J. Halde was the first pastor, himself building a log cabin for a parsonage,
but occupied that relation for only a short time, as he died from exposure and arduous work. He was succeeded by
Rev. Michael W. Holland, who served for ten years, and under whose ministration the church edifice was erected
in 1891. It was enlarged in 1903, and is capacious and attractive. It represents a cost of about thirty-five thousand
dollars. The society is by far the strongest and largest religious body in Altamont, and counts nearly five hundred
families in its membership.
In 1904 Rev. Father Constantineau, the then rector, ceded the territory known as Faust in favor of a new and separate
parish, and Rev. Father Alexander A. Klauder founded under such cession the Church of the Holy Name, drew the plans
and began the erection of a church edifice, which was seven years in reaching completion, and, including the furnishings,
stands for an expenditure of about thirty thousand dollars. Before the building of the church was undertaken services
were held in Firemen’s Hall. The society has a membership of two hundred families. Father Klauder remained pastor
for five years, when differences between him and some of the members led to his displacement. It is not my province
to enter at all into the particulars or even to touch upon the merits of this local quarrel, or the breach to which
it led between Father Klauder and the higher dignitaries of the Church, and it must suffice to state that the feeling
became exceedingly bitter, that Father Klauder was forcibly prevented by his former parishioners from even entering
the church to attend a service conducted by his successor, that during his absence his household effects were thrown
from the rectory into the sheet, and that subsequently the trouble broadened and was intensified by other factors
until Father Klaunder was committed to a hospital as insane, and has since been. unfrocked. In turn he has sued
the bishop and vicar-general for personal damages, and in a publication issued by him at irregular intervals the
bitterest of attacks are directed against these dignitaries and a number of priests in the diocese. Father Kiander
has had no ministerial assignment for several years past, and now resides in Malone.
Services in accordance with the ritual of the Protestant Episcopal Church as first held at Tupper Lake consisted
of lay readings by John Hurd in a room over the office of the Northern Adirondack Railroad. Mr. Hurd ran Sunday
excursion trains from Santa Clara to Tupper Lake during this formative period. A few years later a missionary was
stationed at Tupper Lake for a time. The church edifice was erected in 1899 through the efforts of Rev. John N.
Marvin, diocesan missionary, and cost about a thousand dollars. The society has thirtyfive members. A few years
ago a fine rectory was given by a gentleman as a memorial to his son, who had died at Tupper Lake.
Grace Methodist Episcopal Church of Altamont was incorporated January 20, 1896, though divine worship by members
of this denomination had been maintained from 1891. A church building was erected a little later, and was destroyed
in the big fire in 1899. It was replaced almost at once at a cost of about five thousand dollars, the new structure
being of brick and architecturally attractive. The church has seventyfive members.
The Presbyterian Church of Tupper Lake, N. Y., had its beginning in the summer of 1900, when services were held
in the school house at Faust by a Mr. Ferguson, then, by Rev. Joseph McNeil of Piercefield, and next by John Nevin,
a Princeton theological student. The church building is the same that was formerly at Brandon, and was brought
from there to Faust in 1901 and re-erected at a cost of about four hundred dollars. It was not until December 10,
1905, that incorporation was effected, the Adirondack Mission contributing meantime to the support of the undertaking.
Rev. Aaron W. Maddox, since famed as the lumberjack missionary, served the society as stated supply from November,
1901, to April, 1911, and then as pastor for two years and a half.
The only synagogue in the county is at Tupper Lake. It was built in 1906 by Congregation Anshey Beth Joseph, and
was afterward conveyed to Congregation Beth Joseph. Prior to the date stated services according to the Jewish ritual
had been held at private residences. The Congregation Beth Joseph is served by B. Brennglass, rabbi, who acts also
as teacher of the school which the organization supports, and whose sessions are held in the basement of the synagogue.
There are twenty-eight families and a few single men attached to Congregation Beth Joseph.
A Roman Catholic church or mission was formed at Derrick about 1900, and was served for six or seven years regularly
by Zeno De Carey, Joseph Hervieux and J. E. Berard; but with the suspension of the Turner lumbering operations
the population became so scant that discontinuance of regular services followed, and there has since been no resident
rector. Father Berard, now at Lake Clear, continues to visit the place once in a month or two, however.
Altamout Lodge No. 609, I. O. O. F., was organized September 9, 1891, and has thirty-seven members.
St. John Baptist Society, formed in 1893, is a strong and flourishing organization, owns its own lodge room, and
has about one hmidred and fifty members.
Mt. Arab Lodge No. 847, F. and A. M., was organized June 1, 1904, and has one hundred and six members. it owns
its lodge room.
On Sunday evening, February 24, 1889, four men were playing cards at the house of William McLaughlin in Tupper
Lake, when one of them, Ziba Westcott, son of one of the earliest settlers and stepson of McLaughlin, accused one
of the others — John Smith, son-in-law of McLaughlin — of having cheated. Westcott was slight, sightless in one
eye, and Smith a physical giant with muscles like tempered steel, the most powerful man in the locality, and said
to have been of vicious disposition. There had been previous bad blood between the two, and Smith was said to have
threatened to “get” Westcott. Instantly following the accusation, Smith struck Westcott a smashing blow over the
eye, cutting a gash from which the blood flowed into the good eve, blinding him completely. Westcott drew a knife,
and in the striking and parry ing which followed Smith’s throat was cut to the windpipe, and he expired within
a few minutes. Westcott was indicted for manslaughter in the first degree. His defense was that, having been blinded
by blood, he used the knife only to stand Smith off, and did not even know that he had cut him until after the
affair was over, and he was told of its fatal issue. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Westcott became
insane about fifteen years later, and is now an inmate of the State hospital at Point Airy.
Erastus L. Sabin, familiarly known as “Rat" — a former resident of St. Regis Falls, but at the time a liveryman
at Tupper Lake — was found dead back of the Hurd sawmill in the morning of September 28, 1898, shot through the
head and through the breast, and with the head badly battered and crushed. Before the district attorney and the
sheriff could reach Tupper Lake, the case had been bungled by local inquiry, and notwithstanding expert detective
service was employed no sufficient grounds could he established to justify an arrest. The story as told at the
time was that a stranger had called at the livery during the evening of September 27th and arranged for the delivery
of a rig to him at a later hour at the place where Sabin’s body was found; but that representation was not credited
by the district attorney or by the sheriff, who were convinced in their own minds of quite other conditions and
circumstances. General belief was that there was a woman in the case, and that it was her paramour who, finding
Sabin with the woman, committed the murder. But whoever the murderer may have been, he escaped detection, and the
mystery of the crime was never solved.
March 21, 1913, Joseph MeWade, a New York Central special officer or detective and also a special deputy sheriff,
saw two men riding “blind” under the baggage car as a train was pulling out of Faust. Upon his indicating that
he had seen them the men jumped from the car and started to run in opposite directions. McWade shot one of them
(Arthur Lerrin) fatally, and wounded the other. He was indicted for manslaughter in the first degree — the charge
being that without design to kill he had nevertheless unjustifiably and inexcusably caused death. The jury returned
a verdict of guilty of manslaughter in the second degree, with recommendation to the court for clemency. McWade
was fined five hundred dollars.
At Faust on January 2, 1915, John Morrison shot Ezra Alpert in the breast, inflicting a wound which resulted in
death the same day. Alpert was an employee in the hotel where Morrison, a meat cutter, was boarding, and had refused
to sell liquor to. the latter, who was already under the influence of drink. In the frenzy of intoxication Morrison
went to his room for his gun, and committed the crime. The men had been ordinarily on quite friendly terms. Morrison
was found guilty of murder in the second degree, and was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment at Dannemora.
Other tragedies in Altamont include the burning of the boarding house of Julius King on Christmas morning, 1902,
when one of the boarders and Mrs. McGovern (King’s daughter) and her four children perished in the flames, and
also the burning of Antoine Caron's house in 1906. Two children were burned to death in the latter fire.