History of Brighton, New York


The town of Brighton comprises all of township eighteen of great tract one of Macomb's purchase and the south half of township fiiteen. It was set off from Duane in November, 1858, and takes its name from a town in England. Until about twenty years ago it was merely what the famous hotel and summer resort known as Paul Smiths made it. At the date of its erection it had about two hundred inhabitants, the number decreasing in 1865 to one hundred and sixty, and never exceeding five hundred until 1892, since when the population has remained almost stationary - never falling under seven hundred and never quite reaching eight hundred. The State enumeration of 1915 gives it as seven hundred and forty-one. The growth that the town has had in the last quarter of a century has come principally from the establishment of institutions and boarding houses for the accommodation of people afflicted with tuberculosis, and from the settlement made at Gabriels following the opening of the Dr. Webb railroad through the Adirondacks.

The earliest known settlers in Brighton were Moses Follensby, Samuel Johnson and Amos and Levi Rice. The date of Follensby's locating is unknown, but he disappeared in 1823, without having left any impress upon the town except the giving of his name to two or three of its waters. Johnson is understood to have settled in 1815 about two miles east of Paul Smiths, and the Rices about 1819 or 1820 - Levi near Paul Smiths, close to the site of St. John's Church in the Wilderness, where he is said to have built a primitive grist mill, and Amos farther north, at what is now known as MacCollom's. Peter Sabattis (St. Baptist), a St. Regis Indian, frequented the woods and waters of Brighton at an early time, and found rare good hunting and fishing. Oliver Keese and Thomas A. Tomlinson came into the town in 1851, and built and operated a sawmill three miles west of Paul Smiths, which was afterward run for a time by McLean, who had earlier been at Franklin Falls. James M. Warduer located about 1854 at Rainbow Lake, and kept a hotel of modest proportions for a generation or more. Later he rebuilt, after the burning of his original house, and the new hotel was much larger and better in all respects. Mr. wardner was for six years a school commissioner of the county. His hotel property was acquired after his death by the Independent Order of Foresters, and converted into the Rainbow Sanatorium for the care and treatment of members of the order suffering from tuberculosis. The institution was opened July 10, 1910, can accommodate fifty patients, and in 1915 had an average of about thirty-five. Dr. J. Seymour Emans, of New York, himself tuberculous, is the physician in charge.

Apollos A. Smith, familiarly known the world over as "Paul," came to Brighton in 1859 from the vicinity of Loon Lake, where he had located ten years earlier. He was born in Vermont August 20, 1825, and previous to removal to the Adirondacks had been a boatman on Lake Champlain. At Loon Lake he conducted a small hotel for a time, and then the house called Hunters' Home. In Brighton Mr. Smith bought fifty acres of land on what was then known as Follensby Pond, but now as the Lower St. Regis, for three hundred dollars, the grantor reserving the pine suitable for saw logs. He erected a primitive hotel building, and from time to time during the next twenty years added nearly a thousand acres to his original purchase at a cost of about five thousand five hundred dollars. In the meantime the original hotel building, which had been little more than a shack, had given place to a much larger and finer structure, with boat houses and other appurtenant buildings, the whole comprising the finest accommodations for sportsmen and pleasure seekers then known in all the Adirondack region. To these many other and large improvements have since been made. Many factors entered into this great development, not the least of which was Mr. Smith's personality. An attractive location, the fine fishing that the surrounding waters afforded, and a table and general appointments that equaled those of the best city hostelries all counted for success, of course, but without Paul himself the establishment could not have so prospered and so gained and held the affection of guests. Though he had lacked early advantages, Mr. Smith had a native ability, a readiness of wit and a shrewdness of judgment that even the wizards of industrial enterprises and the masters of "big business," as well as scholars and statesmen, who became his guests were quick to recognize as entitling him to a place among them, and disposed them to fellowship with him on the plane of equality - esteeming him not merely as their entertainer, but as their friend. Genial, an irrepressible joker whose quips and jests never stung, a raconteur whose reminiscences and anecdotes always interested and amused, Mr. Smith held his own easily in any circle, and was as popular as he was widely known. Nor was Mrs. Smith less contributory to the success of the resort. Her admirable qualities of womanhood, and genius as housewife and chatelainc, were invaluable in the establishment, and endeared her to all visitors.

Thus Paul Smiths gained a world-wide fame, and gave an enjoyment to its guests that convinced them that there was no other place like it, and brought them back summer after summer to delight in its homelike atmosphere, and to build up among themselves friendships that endured. From the mere fifty acres of shore front and encompassing forest with which the resort started, it has grown to be a private park of thirty thousand acres, and a hotel with annex, casino, cottages, workshops, etc., that can accommodate five hundred guests, with side lines which include a sawmill turning out fifty thousand feet of lumber daily; an electric railway seven miles in length of standard guage and equipment, connecting with the New York Central at Lake Clear; and a power development plant at Franklin Falls and Union Falls generating five thousand horse power, whose transmission lines furnish light and power to Ausable Forks, Bloomingdale, Saranac Lake and adjacent country. Paul Smiths, Gabriels, Lake Clear and the St. Regis and Osgood chain of lakes, including the William Rockefeller property, with extensions planned to reach Lyon Mountain, Port Henry, Tupper Lake and the Adirondack Iron Works in Essex county. In the summer season the business employs a hundred women and a hundred and fifty men. The establishment has a store stocked to meet all of the requirements or fancies of any camp or guest; a local telephone system of a hundred instruments with long-distance connections; a telegraph line; general work shops; golf grounds and club house; boat houses filled with skiffs, sail boats, and steam and electric launches; billiard parlors; bowling alleys.; and a garage for the accommodation of motorists among the guests, and containing hotel cars for hire. Besides the fourteen cottages which are a part of the hotel system, there are about seventy-five camps in the immediate vicinity privately owned by men of wealth, and which represent an outlay of from twenty-five thousand dollars to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars each, and the best of which command ten thousand dollars a season when rented. Many of these are as luxuriously and completely appointed as any city home - electrically lighted, with modern plumbing, long-distance telephones, and private macadam roads leading to the public highways. Among the camp owners here have been: Whitelaw Reid, H. McK. Twombley, Dr. E. L. Trudeau, George H. Earle, Jr., William W. McAlpin, An son Phelps Stokes, Robert Garrett, George Fales Baker, Robert Hoe, and others of similar eminence. These and others, campers or inmates of the hotel itself, make a congenial company, and not infrequently during the season unite in giving entertainments or in holding fairs, the proceeds of which are generally applied to some worthy local institution or enterprise. Net receipts at these affairs not uncommonly reach two or three thousand dollars, and St. John's Church in the Wilderness, nearby, and. the Trudeau Sanatorium at Saranac Lake have in particular benefited from them.

The Paul Smith Hotel and affied undertakings have been owned and managed since the death of the elder Mr. Smith, which occurred in 1912, by his sons, Phelps and Paul.

Sanatorium Gabriels, named in honor of the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Ogdensburg, dates from 1895, though not dedicated and opened until July, 1897, and the story of its founding and development is exceedingly interesting, and amazing as well. Sister Mary of Perpetual Help Kieran, of the order of Sisters of Mercy, who became a postulant at Malone when a convent school was conductea on the corner of Main and Fort Covington streets forty odd years ago, and upon the failure of that project located for a time at Hogansburgh, was the originator of the institution. Only a woman of remarkable personality, imtiring energy, supreme faith and determined persistence could have carried the enterprIse through. She entered upon it with but the beggarly sum of fifteen dollars at her command, and yet in the course of a few years a site had been acquired, a number of buildings erected, an administrative force of nurses and physicians assembled, and more than a hundred tuberculous patients per annum were being cared for. Surely here was a marvelous work, and, while the world speaks of it as Sister Mary's, she herself always said simply, "God did it." Sister Mary died at the institution in July, 1914, admired and respected wherever known, and deeply loved by those with whom she had ever been closely associated.

The oniy building to be had when Sister Mary entered upon the work was a cheap log cabin, and about the only accessories a donkey and cart that a friend contributed. Sister Mary and her single co-worker occupied the cabin until something better could be had. Dr. W. Seward Webb and Paul Smith each gave fifty acres of land for a site, and a third fifty was bought. In addition, there are several hundred acres adjacent owned by the State, which serve to protect the sanatorium. against undesirable encroachments, and in effect enlarge its grounds to that extent. Men of wealth in New York and elsewhere, who are summer residents in the vicinity, and women of the Catholic faith possessed of ample fortunes, gave generously to the enterprise, so that, joined to the earnest co-operation of Bishop Gabriels, funds were realized for the erection of buildings. The site chosen for these was am elevation, now called Sunrise Mount, in conspicuous view from the railroad, and on which a dozen or more structures have been reared at a cost of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The institution carries a debt of something like seventy-five thousand. dollars. The largest of the group of buildings is "Restawhile," and above the entrance to it stands out the invitation: "Come apart to the wilderness, and. rest awhile." There are also the administration building, groups of cottages, a chapel, laundry, etc.- a dozen or more structures in all. The institution has its own electric light plant and system of water supply, operates a farm of two hundred acres, and issues quarterly a magazine entitled Forest Leaves, which is a most creditable publication both as to appearance and literary merit. Though under the management of a distinctively Catholic order, the sanatorium is nonsectarian so far as relates to the admission and care of patients, who pay if able to do so, but are not denied reception and equal attention when room is available even if without means. The management prides itself that the very best professional skill obtainable composes the staff of physicians, nurses, and attendants generally, and that a gratifying and encouraging percentage of patients released show entire recovery or marked. improvement. H. J. Blankemeyer is the resident physician, and F. G. Mahoney assistant. The advisory medical committee includes a number of the most eminent physicians resident in New York city, with others of like rank practising elsewhere. A general advisory committee is composed of a number of men of high standing both in business and in a public way.

The dining room of the institution was furnished by former Governor Flower; one patient's room by ex-Governor Morton; a second. by the Benjamin Harrison family, called the B. H. McKee room; a third by Paul Smith and a fourth by contributors residing in Malone. The buildings throughout are finished in hard wood, and many of the sleeping rooms have fire-places. The system of ventilation, plumbing and drainage is scientifically planned, and executed in a thorough and workmanlike manner. Neither care nor expense has been spared for these particulars.

Services in the chapel are held regularly by priests who are patients or by the resident priest at Lake Clear.

The sanatorium's capacity is about fifty, but as those treated are continually going and coming nearer three times that number are cared for in the course of a year.

The hamlet of Gabriels sprang up with the building of the Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railway in 1892. There is nothing in the location except the railroad (not even good farming land) to attract settlement or to serve as a basis for business. Yet from a scrub barrens twenty-odd years ago it has grown to a place of perhaps two hundred inhabitants, and consists of the Sanatorium Gabriels, two stores, one small hotel (the Robear House), a blacksmith shop, a garage, and, unfortunately, three saloons. Until the Paul Smith Electric Railroad was built, with Lake Clear Junction as its eastern terminus, Gabriels was the point of arrival and departure of nearly all visitors to Paul Smiths.

Considering the paucity of its population and the small aggregate value of its taxable property, Brighton has always exhibited a good deal of public spirit and enterprise. Forty years ago it had won the distinction of having the best roads and the neatest school houses in the county, and it was the first of our towiis to bond itself for building a macadam highway. It has a neat and sufficient town house on the road leading from Paul Smiths to Gabriels and Rainbow. Its good farming lands are extremely limited in area, to which handicap is to be added the prevalence of late and early frosts, so that agriculture offers only indifferent opportunity, though the raising of vegetables and the production of milk for the Paul Smith Hotel are prosecuted to some extent. The occupation of a large percentage of the male inhabitants is guiding, and many of these guides have located in close vicinity to Paul Smiths, making the settlement here greater than at any other point in the town except Gabriels. The cottages of the guides axe generally neat and comfortable, and each has its well kept garden. One of these localities goes by the name of "Easy street," which is perhaps a misnomer, because while the business of modern guiding is not as strenuous as the service formerly required by sportsmen, and the pay is excellent, the season is short, with the consequence that the surplus of wages over the cost of living in summer is usually found to be only sufficient to carry a guide and his family through the winter, thus leaving no balance, or only a small one, for the year as a whole.

The writer's first experience in Adirondack hunting and fishing was in Brighton in 1863. Game laws were then practically a dead letter, and deer hunting in August, openly with dogs, was indulged in as a matter of course. But this kind of hunting interested me far less than pigeon shooting. The numbers of pigeoffs in Brighton in 1863 were so great that the flocks almost darkened the sky, and when at rest, usually on a dead pine, they so covered its branches that nothing of the tree itself except the trunk could be distinguished. Their favorite feeding grounds were the blueberry patches and the grain fields of the few lands under cultivation in the vicinity. 1 recall that near the hotel of Mr. Wardner there was a field of buckwheat, and. that one morning the ground was literally black with the birds feasting on the grain. Mr. Wardner crept near to it with a single-barrel shotgun, and, firing into the flock, killed twenty-seven birds at a single shot; and on the shore of Rainbow it was no trick at all for me at one discharge of my gun to drop four or five out of a tree or as the pigeons rose in flight. S. H. Hammond, an Albany editor, made a trip of several weeks' duration through the wilderness in 1853 from Chazy Lake to Chateaugay Lake, Meacham, St. Regis Lake, the Saranacs and Tupper Lake, and in a published account of his experiences told of having visited a pigeonroost near the latter water: "We were startled in the gray twilight of the morning by a distant roaring; not like a waterfall, or far-off thunder, but partaking of both. * * * As the light grew more distinct we saw vast flocks of wild pigeons, winging their way in different directions across the lake, but all appearing to have a common starting point in the forest, a mile or more down the lake. 'I understand it all now,' said my guide; 'there's a pigeon roost down there.' * * * We had no difficulty in finding it, for the thundering sound of those vast flocks, as they started from their perches, led us on. About a mile from the lake we came to the outer edge of the roost. Hundreds of thousands of pigeons had flown away that morning, and yet there were hundreds of thousands, and perhaps many millions, old and young, there yet. It covered acres and. acres - I have no idea how many, for I did not go round it. The trees were not of large growth, being mostly of spruce and stunted birch, hemlock and elm, but every one was loaded with nests. In every crotch, on every branch that would support one, was a nestful of all sizes, from the little downy thing just escaped. from the shell to the full-grown one just ready to fly away. * * * The great limbs of the trees outside of the brooding place were broken and hanging down, being unable to sustain the weight of the thousands that perched upon them." Mr. Hammond tells, further, of hawks and carrion birds and. foxes lurking about the roost, apparently gorged with food that they had raped from it. To-day not a single bird of the species is known to be in existence.

The only hotel in Brighton conducted especially for sportsmen and. pleasure seekers other than Wardner's and. Paul Smiths is known as "MacCollom's," situate near Lake Meacham, and about thirty miles south of Malone. It was originally a small log structure, built by Amos Rice, and then owned and managed by the sturdy Scotchman from whom it took its name. In MacCollom's day it catered only to those who sought good deer hunting and were willing to accept rude accommodations. Game in the vicinity was abundant, and "Mac's" interest for the success of his guests and his skill as a woodsman were so marked that fine sport was always enjoyed. Clarence McArthur succeeded MacCollom, and greatly enlarged and improved the house. But upon his death it was found to be heavily incumbered, and. was sold under mortgage foreclosure. Malone creditors were the purchasers, and these subsequently sold to Colonel William C. Skinner, of Hartford, who is the present owner, but who has nothing to do with the management of the hotel. In recent years it has come to entertain a different class of guests - vacafionists and idlers rather than hunters. It is a favorite resort for Malone people, especially for motoring parties who go there for a Sunday dinner.

Brighton's first church is the Church of St. John in the Wilderness, near Paul Smiths, and was the outgrowth of services by Episcopalian clergymen stopping at the hotel, held in the hotel parlor from time to time prior to 1876. In August of that year Bishop Doane visited the place, and officiated at services in the hotel. A lot had already been given for a church by Mr. Smith and Mrs. S. C. Faitoute of New Jersey, and some pledges of funds obtained for building a "log chapel," which was dedicated in August, 1877, though not listed as a mission in the records of the diocese until 1878. The late Dr. E. L. Trudeau had supervision of the erection of the chapel. and except such amounts as were contributed by guests at Paul Smiths the funds were raised by Mrs. Julia A. Livingstone of New York. The chapel originally had a seating capacity of two hundred, which was increased by seventyfive in 1893 through the erection of a iransept. The church is free from debt. Services are held in it regularly throughout the summer, but not in winter.

The Adirondack Mission of the Presbytery of Champlain was created in 1889, when and a part of the time since it has included Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Piercefield, Moody, Paul Smiths, MacCollom's, Harrietstown, Lake Clear, Island Chapel in Upper Saranac Lake, Corey's, Chuldwold, Guide Board in. Waverly, and Santa Clara. A number of the places named have now become independent churches. A church building was erected at Keeses Mill, three miles from Paul Smiths, about 1900, when Rev. Wm. B. Lusk officiated as pastor there until 1906. From that time until 1909 there appears to have been no regular resident pastor, but in the latter year Rev. T. Bertram Anderson became superintendent of the entire mission and pastor of the church at Keeses Mill, which relation he still holds. His territory as superintendent of the mission covers four hundred square miles and embraces nine preaching stations, at all of which except MacCollom's and Santa Clara churches have been built. Divinity students officiate at the various missions throughout the summer season. The cost of maintaining the mission is about three thousand dollars a year, a goodly part of which is subscribed by visitors to the region.

A Methodist Episcopal church on the road. between Paul Smiths and Gabriels was erected about 1893, the money therefor having been raised by Mrs. Smith, though herself a Presbyterian. Services are conducted every other Sunday by the clergyman resident at Bloomingdale, who officiates at Rainbow also once a fortnight.

The Church of Angel Gabriel at Paul Smiths was organized in 1894 by Rev. Ferdinand J. Lussier, who was at the time rector of the church at Brandon. It is located about a quarter of a mile from Paul Smiths, and the edifice must have been erected soon after the mission was established, as the church was blessed in 1896 under Rev. Michael Holland, who, located at Tupper Lake, was then serving the mission. It. has since been attended by the priests at Tupper Lake, Brandon, Derrick and Lake Clear Junction.

In addition, there is a Catholic chapel connected with the Sanatorium Gabriels.

Nonresident lands are all wilderness, and necessitate no town expense except when forest fires occur. The possession of such tracts by a town tends to lighten the tax burdens of residents, and in the hope of gaining such advantage Brighton attempted in 1877 to have a township and a half taken from Brandon and added to itself, but the board of supervisors refused to approve.

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