History of Santa Clara, New York
FROM: HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF FRANKLIN COUNTY
AND ITS SEVERAL TOWNS
BY: FREDERICK J. SEAVER
PUBLISHED BY J. B. LYON COMPANY, ALBANY, NY 1918
Santa Clara was erected from Brandon in 1888, the operations of John Hurd and business associates, of Patrick
A. Ducey and partners, of the Santa Clara Lumber Company and of Macfarlane & Ross within the limits of the
town having caused two small hamlets (Santa Clara and Brandon) to spring up, and also brought about the settlement
at Everton, which, with the people in scattered localities and at Saranac Inn, made a population of close upon
fifteen hundred, or twice that of all of the remaining portion of Brandon. Santa Clara originally included four
townships, to which a half township, also from Brandon, was added in 1896, making an assessed acreage of 116,617.
It is the second largest town in the county. The name was taken from the hamlet, which was a combination of the
given name of Mrs. John Hurd and the Spanish word expressing Mr. Hurd's veneration for her character.
At Saranac Inn, or Upper Saranac as it is sometimes called, there is no business except that of the State fish hatchery and that of the hotel, which was erected about 1859 or 1860 by James S. Hough, who sold in 1870 to 'Christopher F. Norton of Plattsburgh, during whose ownership it was managed by a Mr. Cox, a Mr. Van Norman and John Strong. Ed. Derby bought from Norton, and ran the house for a time, when it was sold to the Saranac Association in 1885, in. whose control it remained for thirty years.* It is one of the most attractively located resorts in the wilderness, on high land at the head of Upper Saranac lake, and, overlooking that water. There are sixteen fine cottages connected with the hotel, owned by the association, and a number more in the vicinity, on the shores of the lake, that are individually owned and occupied as summer camps. The hotel will accommodate about two hundred and fifty guests. It was preferred as a resort by Grover Cleveland to any other in the Adirondacks during his term as Governor and while he was President. It was also a favorite with Governor Hughes, though he was far from having been popular there.** Perhaps a hundred people comprise the hotel force or reside near the place. Fifty years ago, when the voters here numbered hardly more than half a dozen, their polling place was at Brandon Center, distant by highway something like seventy miles. It is unnecessary to add that they were not accustomed to exercise the elective franchise except in a Presidential year, and not all of them always even then. About thirty-five years ago the locality was made a separate polling place.
Twenty-odd years ago Brandon was a thriving little village, with a Catholic and a Protestant church, a pretentious hotel, a store or two, a large saw mill, and a considerable number of inexpensive dwelling houses, occupied for the most part by lumbermen and mill workers. Mr. Ducey, the head of the lumbering business, recognized from the first that the life of the place must end when he should finish cutting the merchantable timber from his tract of thirty thousand acres of forest, which was going into lumber at the rate of a hundred and twenty-five thousand feet per day. Therefore, though he sold village lots at from twentyfive dollars to one hundred dollars apiece to such as insisted upon buying, his advice always to poor men who sought to purchase was against such investment, because their holdings must become practically valueless after a few years. The immediate locality was a pine barrens which had been ravaged by fire, and the land was impossible for profitable agriculture; nor was there scenery or water to make it attractive as a pleasure resort. Mr. Ducey arrived here about 1881 from Muskegon, Mich., where he had made a fortune as a lumberman, and after leaving Brandon became interested in large enterprises in Mexico and on the Pacific coast. He was a hustling and capable business man, generous and whole-hearted, straightforward and honest, and a loyal friend. His operations at Brandon paid out handsomely, and when his supply of soft timber was exhausted he sold his lands to Paul Smith and William Rockefeller of Standard Oil fame. Mr. Ducey died in Michigan.
JOHN HURD AND HIS ENTERPRISES
John Hurd was a very different type. Possessed of large properties at Bridgeport, Conn., a fiouring mill at Indianapolis, Ind., and other business interests elsewhere, he became associated in. 1881 or 1882 with a Mr. Hotchkiss, also of Connecticut, and Peter Macfarlane, a thorough lumberman from Michigan, in investment in timber lands to an aggregate of nearly sixty square miles in the western part of Franklin county, and subsequently in mills and a railroad. After a few years his partners were bought out by him. But mills a dozen to twenty miles from a railroad could not be profitable, and so Mr. Hurd, always optimistic and too often venturesome, proceeded; first, to build a railroad in 1883 from Moira to St. Regis Falls, a distance of twelve miles, and then to extend it to Santa Clara and Brandon, and afterward to Tupper Lake - a total length of nearly seventy miles. The road was finished to Brandon in 1886, and to Tupper Lake in 1889. Tupper Lake was then almost uninhabited, and no other railway touched it or was near it. Nor did Mr. Hurd want connection there with any other line, as he figured that without it he would have a monopoly of the haul of the lumber product of the entire region. On the other hand, it was his intention to extend his own road eventually from Moira to the St. Lawrence, and he expected also that it would do a large and profitable passenger business because affording an easy route into and out of the Adirondacks. For a long time the burden was carried by Mr. Hurd individually, though at a terrible cost in worry, interest charges and sacrifice of properties which he had to pledge as security for debts and loans. At length, as relief seemed to be assured through a bond issue, which would have discharged all of his obligations and left him with a fortune of several hundred thousand dollars in cash, there was a failure by the merest margin to float the bonds, and personal judgments and mortgages having piled up in a very large aggregate, a receiver was appointed for the railroad, and Mr. Hurd was bankrupt. He died a few years later in Connecticut, his immense mills having fallen into other hands, and the railroad having been acquired by New York Central interests. It has been extended from Moira to the Dominion capital, with the St. Lawrence bridged near Cornwall, and is now operated as the New York and Ottawa.
But before disaster came Mr. Hurd had established large mills at St. Regis Falls, Santa Clara and Tupper Lake, and was also turning out great quantities of hemlock bark, cord wood for shipment to Montreal for fuel, and charcoal. He owned seventy-five thousand acres, almost all virgin forest, and it is readily seen that his scheme of working it must have stripped it practically bare if continued for a few years, which would have been incalculably unfortunate for the country, however it might have worked out for Mr. Hurd. himself.
At Santa Clara there were the railroad machine shops and two mills, one with a capacity of only about twelve
thousand feet per day, but the other turning out over a hundred thousand; and there was also a chair factory.
Upon his withdrawal from the Hurd enterprises Mr. Macfarlane, with others, acquired sixteen thousand acres of
tjmber lands in Santa Clara, Waverly and Duane, and built in 1886 a lumber railroad six miles in length from St.
Regis Falls to a point that they called Everton - the same where Mr. Sanford had a mill in 1831, and Sanford, Skinner
& Holmes one two or three years before the civil war, and a mile up the river from where Robert Douglass, from
Norfolk, built a large circular, clapboard and shingle mill and store in 1883. Mr. Douglass ran his mill only one
season, and sold to Macf arlane, Ross & Stearns. This firm built a combined water and steam mill on the Sanford
site, operated both it and the Douglass mill for two or three years, and then sold to Henry and David Patton of
Albany, who at once incorporated as the Everton Lumber Company, which failed a few years later. The tract had.
then been pretty well stripped of merchantable timber, and no further business was done at Everton. The mills and
houses have utterly disappeared, and even the streets are so grown up to briars and bushes as scarcely to be distinguishable.
The property is now owned by the Brooklyn Cooperage Company, and the railroad has been extended eight miles farther
east, over the lands of Reynolds Bros. in Brandon, from which the cooperage company has obtained large lots of
hard-wood timber for its mills at St. Regis Falls. But the hard wood there has now been mostly cut, and probably
within a year or two the railroad will become useless except for old iron.
FIRES AT SANTA CLARA
At Santa Clara during the Hurd activities a considerable population gathered, but the number is now greatly diminished. The Hurd mills at this place were taken over and operated by the Brooklyn Cooperage Company until November, 1903, when a fire destroyed a storage shed containing large quantities of staves and a number of houses, involving a loss estimated at fifty thousand dollars. The mills were thereupon dismantled, the machinery of one of them removed to Tupper Lake by the Santa Clara Lumber Company, and the other to St. Regis Falls. In 1915 another fire swept away the railway machine shops, and these will not be rebuilt. Still another fire in 1915 burned two hotels. There thus remain practically no industries for the employment of men, and the place is not likely to have any future importance or growth. There are still a couple of stores, two churches or chapels and one hotel at Santa Clara. The population of the entire town, which exceeded two thousand in 1890, had decreased to 675 in 1915.
NEW LUMBERING METHODS
Until Mr. Ducey, Mr. Macfarland and the others came from Michigan, lumbering operations throughout this section had been on only a modest scale. Old methods had been employed, and a mill with a capacity of three or four million feet of lumber annually was deemed large. When it was reported that these men were to build a railroad principally for hauling their lumber product, old lumbermen in this section treated the matter with scornful incredulity, believing that the business would not justify the expenditure. But the new corners brought western methods with them, built mills of a size and perfection of equipment that amazed resident operators, introduced the practice of sawing instead of chopping the standing timber, and drove business with an energy and scope that had never been dreamed of locally.
ALMOST DESERTED HAMLETS
At Brandon as well as at Everton business enterprises and residential occupation are wholly of the past, and the former village has only a single small family as inhabitants. The mill, the hotel, the stores, the dwelling houses, and even the church edifices that comprised the now deserted hamlet have all been torn down or burned with the exception of a single residence. Most of the demolition was at Mr. Rockefeller's expense, though the Catholic church building went to Santa Clara for the lumber that it contained, while the Protestant church was moved to Faust and is now the Presbyterian church at that place.
THE ROCKEFELLER PRIVATE PARK
William Rockefeller began buying lands extensively in the town of Santa Clara in 1896, made a private park of
them, and built a summer home at Bay Pond, three miles south of Brandon. He soon sold to his son, William G. Mr.
Rockefeller's first investment there was in the holdings of Patrick A. Ducey, amounting to about twenty-seven thousand
acres, for which he paid fifty thousand dollars, and he has since made additional purchases until now he owns about
seventy-two square miles, which include many streams and ponds, with game so well protected that deer may be seen
at almost any time on any part of the tract, and trout fishing at many points continues excellent. Improvements
have been made from time to time at Bay Pond, where Mr. Rockefeller has his residence, though spending comparatively
little time there himself. Members of his family, however, occupy the house through most of each summer season.
The building (not as costly nor as large as many others of a similar character in the Adirondacks) is of wood,
contains sixteen rooms, and the interior finish is in the natural woods of the locality. In addition, there are
a house for the family attendants, another of fifty rooms for the male employees, the railway station, and a number
of barns, garages and other outbuildings, all of which are electrically lighted. The amount of Mr. Rockefeller's
outlay here is not known, but, reckoning the price paid for lands, the cost of buildings and the expenditure in
constructing and improving roads, beautifying the grounds, etc., must aggregate several hundred thousand dollars.
The Roman Catholic church at Brandon was incorporated in 1887, mainly through the activities of Rev. F. J. Ouellette
of St. Regis Falls, and was known as the "Church of St. John the Evangelist, Buck Mountain." Because
the parish had been divided, and the church building gone into disuse during the rectorship of Father J. E. Berard,
the site was sold to Mr. Rockefeller in 1910 for forty dollars and obligation to fence the cemetery. The building
was torn down for the lumber in it. The Protestant church at the same place was doubtless one of the Adirondack
missions, as it does not appear ever to have been incorporated. The date of the removal of the building to Faust
There is also an Episcopal mission at Santa Clara, attended of late by Rev. E. E. Hutchinson, of Brushton, but
formerly by Rev. H. A. Barrett, of Malone. The building was erected during Mr. Hurd's activities, and largely through
VACATION HOME FOR WORKING GIRLS
As fine a benevolence as Stony Wold in Franklin, and organized upon much the same lines, is the Vacation Home for Working Girls at Santa Clara, established cud maintained by the Working Girls' Vacation Society, the principal office of which is in New York city, and which has similar rest resorts at seven other places. The society is 'the outgrowth of the practical sympathy and generous contributions in time and money of women of high social standing and of wealth, 'and is wholly supported by voluntary contributions, lit was incorporated in 1885, is unsectarian in its work, and, as donations have permitted, has extended its field of operations year by year. The home at Santa Clara was opened in 1895, and was made possible by the gift of two buildings there by the late George E. Dodge, of New York, and Mrs. Dodge has since bequeathed ten thousand dollars to the endowment fund of this branch of the society's work. The donations to the Santa Clara institution in 1915 amounted to over five thousand dollars, and girls who enjoyed the benefits of the home during that season contributed $480.50, or about one-twentieth of the cost of running the place. Such contributions, while not exacted, are not discouraged, as it is felt by the management that if the girls wish to pay and can afford to do so, they appreciate more the privilege enjoyed, besides helping to extend the benefits to others. "Hillcrest" was open for twenty weeks in 1915, and "Uplands" for thirteen weeks fifty-eight girls having been eared for at the former, and sixty-five at the latter, for periods varying from four to twelve weeks each, "with great gain in weight and health." Almost all of them were from New York city, and none was admitted until after a medical examination had been had. Tuberculous patients are taken, but only those having the disease in its incipient stage. Of the whole number cared for, one hundred and one had been inmates in previous years, and twenty-two were there for the first time. The two houses have a capacity of fifty-eight inmates, and the number present at any one time averages about forty. The entire cost of maintaining the home here during the season of 1915 was about nine thousand dollars, of which $1,086.90 was for railroad tickets, and $4,163.18 for fuel, ice, medical supplies and provisions. The explanation of the item of railroad fares is that even the transportation cost of such of the patients as are unable to pay themselves is met by the society up to the amount of ten dollars each. A staff of six persons is in attendance at Santa Clara through the season, and consists of the following: Dr. Anna K. Davenport, resident physician; Miss M. Ribble, assistant; Miss M. E. Walsh, nurse; Mrs. M. A. Bingham, matron or house mother; Miss Nellie Holmes Bingham, assistant; and Miss Jean Hamilton, domestic science teacher and instructor in the study of birds and wild flowers. Mrs. Bingham has been in charge at Santa Clara for fifteen years. The society has an endowment of about seventy thousand dollars, of which about forty thousand dollars was received in bequests and contributions during the year 1915. The part of this fund applicable particularly to Santa Clara's needs is about twenty thousand dollars. One hundred dollars makes a contributor a patron, twenty-five dollars a life member, and one dollar a member for one year. There are one hundred and twenty-two patrons, more than three times as many who are life members, and about two hundred yearly members, payments by many of whom are more than one dollar each. Mrs. William Herbert of New York is the president of the society, and Mrs. Thomas Denny one of the board of managers. The Santa Clara committee includes Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Gifford Pinchot, Mrs. Walter Webb, Mrs. Lucius Wilmerding and Mrs. J. Sergeant Cram. Gifts to the work here need not be in money, and household goods and provisions would undoubtedly be gratefully received and advantageously used. The institution is unquestionably doing a grand work, and deserves support. To take more than a hundred poor girls, some of them sick and all of them worn almost to the breaking point, out of the heat, impure air and the grind of department stores, factories and sweat shops and offices and give them opportunity to revel for at least a month in outdoor life in the cool of the mountains, where invigorating atmosphere, kind care and good food are afforded, is surely a fine philanthropy, and should appeal strongly to all who are better circumstanced.
FACTS AND CONJECTURES ABOUT MILITARY OCCUPANCY
Referring to the prevalent local belief, noted on a preceding page, that there was military occupancy at two
points in the town long ago. that belief rests upon the fact that traces of such occupancy have been found in the
vicinity of Oneita (formerly Waite's) and also at the Jennings clearing, which lies six or seven miles to the east
and south of the hamlet of Santa Clara. At Oneita in particular, when Arthur Phelps was proprietor, he ploughed
up at different times parts of gun barrels, a bayonet or two, canteens, and also canister shot. This point is on
the Port Kent and Hopkinton turnpike, which had not been built at the time of the war of 1812; and the only plausible
explanation of the existence of military relics there is that troops traversing the Northwest Bay road, which in
this vicinity is three or four miles to the south, were quartered there simply because it is a good natural camping
ground. The Jennings place is on the Northwest Bay road, which was cut through the forest as early as 1810, and
which local tradition holds was built in part, or at least improved, by soldier labor. It is known positive]y that
troops were moved in 1813 from Plattsburgh to Sacket Harbor, hut the records of the war department at Washington
fail to show by what route they proceeded. However, it does not seem at all improbable that it may have been by
this highway, as it is known that there was constant apprehension that if the old military road from Plattsburgh
to and through Ellenburgh and Chateaugay were followed there would be danger of attack by the enemy from Canada,
for at some points this road ran near the border. Hopkinton is the western terminus of the Northwest Bay road,
and official and other records establish the fact that that hamlet was rather a center of activity in the war of
1812. Three regiments were there (one of them commanded by Zebulon Pike, for whom Pike's Peak in Colorado was named)
in. March, 1813, on their way from Plattsburgh to Sacket Harbor, and in November, 1814, four hundred dragoons passed
through the place from French Mills, while during the winter of 1913-14 as many as a hundred sleighs arrived there
in a single day, all loaded with military stores, bound for French Mills. With such activity at Hopkinton, the
local tradition that bodies of troops wintered a few miles to the east, at Oneita, at the Jennings clearing, and
at Sand Hill in the town of Waverly is not incredible, especially when we have tangible evidence of such occupancy
in the discovery of arms, etc., at Oneita, and in the presence of ancient graves in the Jennings clearing. "Old
Bill" Edwards, a former well known guide, used to tell that such occupancy 'was unquestionably a fact, and
that at Sand Hill measles prevailed among the troops in a virulent form, resulting in a number of deaths. One story
runs that the beginning of the graveyard at Santa Clara was with the interment of soldiers so dying, but is to
be discredited, as a more trustworthy account makes Mrs. John Hurd, the first person buried there.
FATAL FIRES AND MURDERS
Santa Clara has not been without its tragedies. In. 1887 Ohas. LaRocque, Zip Murray and Chas. LaFleur, all of
Moira, reported one day at Everton for work in the mill. They were assigned to quarters in a boarding house, which
burned the night of their arrival, and all three perished in the flames.
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