Adirondack Mountain Club Alfred Lee Donaldson.

A history of the Adirondacks, Volume 1 online

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the following year, when the Club had bought Lake Ampersand and
he went up to prepare a camp for their coming, Mr. Samuel O. Ward,
my Father's friend, took his son and me, school boys then, along with
him, and we stayed a fortnight, and I saw Mr. Stillman 's wonderful
prowess as a woodsman, and was delighted with his talk to Mr. Ward
on all possible subjects, and kept my ears open, if my mouth shut.

Sincerely yours,

Edwabd W. Emebsok.

The episode at Camp Maple was deemed so successful by
those who enjoyed it that, when they came together again at
Cambridge in the autunrn, they organized themselves into the
'^Adirondack Club'' and took in some new members. It
was decided to buy land and build a permanent club-house.
The choice of the site, with authority to purchase and pre-
pare it, was unanimously delegated to Stillman.

Winter had set in before he could start on his mission.
He headed for Martin's on Lower Saranac Lake, and
reached it in a raging storm and after exposure which re-
sulted in serious illness. On arriving he inamediately set to
work, with some old guides, to lay out the lines of the tract he
had in mind and wished to buy. This centered around Amper-
sand Pond and included 22,500 acres. It is known as the

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Ampersand Tract to-day and belongs to the Santa Clara
Lumber Co.

Ampersand Pond lies at an elevation of 1,875 feet, in a
cnp of land jnst back of the mountain whose name it shares.
It is about a mile long and crescent-shaped. It is still a
beautiful and secluded spot, lying far from the beaten track,
and seldom visited except by fishing parties who have se-
cured special permits from the owners. What it was in Still-
man 's day I will let him tell:

It was certainly the most beautiful rite I have ever seen in the
Adirondack country. Virgin forest, save where the trappers or hunt-
ers had cut wood for their camp-fires, the tall pines standing in their
ranks along the shores of a little lake that lay in the middle of the
estate, encircled by mountains, except on one side, where the lake
found its outlet and the mountains were clothed to their summits in
primeval woods. In a little valley where a crystal spring sent its
water down to the lake, and a grove of deciduous trees gave high and
airy shelter, I pitched the camp— 4 repetition slightly enlarged of
that on Follensbee Pond.

Stillman went to the Land Office in Albany, and bought the
Ampersand Tract for $600. The first gathering at the new
club site was successful, we are told, but no details are given.
The following year there was a decided falling off in attend-
ance and enthusiasm, largely due, no doubt, to Stillman 's ab-
sence, for he had gone abroad to live. Then the Civil War
broke out, and the club was neglected and forgotten. It
gradually faded into non-existence, and the land reverted
to the State for unpaid taxes. So ended the Adirondack Club.

I find that when the ** Philosophers* Camp*' is mentioned
people usually have Ampersand Pond in mind, and that the
fact and site of the earlier episode is known to very few.
Stillman had found the same oblivion years ago, for he writes:
'^like Troy, its site is unknown to all the subsequent genera-
tions of guides, and I doubt if in all the Adirondack country
there is a man, except my old guide, Steve Martin, who could
point out the place where it stood."

One of the last glimpses of the Adirondack Club is given us
by Dr. Henry Van Dyke in his artide on Ampersand After

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telling its story as outlined above, he gives this description of
the abandoned club-house :

Ten years ago [1875] when I spent three weeks at Ampersand, the
cabin was in ruins, tenanted only by an interesting family of what the
guides quaintly called ''quill pigs," and surrounded by an almost
inpenetrable growth of bushes and saplings, among which a brood of
partridges was hiding. The roof had fallen to the ground ; raspberry
bushes thrust themselves through the yawning crevices between the
logs; and in front of the sunken door-sill lay a rusty, broken iron
stove, like a dismantled altar on which the fire had gone out forever.

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FAME is often wUmsicaL She embalms the unexpected.
Mr. Murray was a successful preacher, lecturer, and
writer of stories, and yet his fame has crystallized around one
book of travel and the sobriquet it earned for him of ** Adiron-
dack'* Murray. This was his ** Adventures in the Wilder-
ness, or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks," published in 1869.

William Henry Harrison Murray was bom on a farm —
known as the Murray Homestead — ^near Guilford, Conn., on
April 26, 1840. His people were simple farmer folk, and he
grew up amid rather strenuous outdoor activities. He was a
big, husky, brawny lad, and was soon able to earn a man's
wage. With the proceeds he paid for tuition at the Guilford
Institute. This seat of learning was four miles from his
home, and he covered the distance every day on foot He
was a good all-round student, but distinguished himself espe-
cially in oratory and debating. Finally he decided to work his
way through Yale, and started off for New Haven, nineteen
miles away, with $4.68 in his pocket, and two small carpet-bags
in his hands. At college he again won distinction as a speaker
and English scholar. He was graduated in 1862.

By this time he had settled on being a clergyman, and en-
tered the East Windsor Theological Seminary. He finished
his studies under the Rev. Edwin Hatfield of New York, act-
ing as his assistant. Later he filled the pulpit of the Congre-
gational churches in Washington, Greenwich, and Meriden,
Conn. He married a daughter of Sheldon Hall, a prosperous
farmer of Essex, Conn. Then came a call to the Park Street
Church of Boston. Here he won no small measure of success,
and established himself conspicuously in public favor as an
eloquent preacher and lecturer, and a man of magnetic per-

In 1880 he retired rather suddenly from the ministry, and


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went to Texas. Later he went to Canada, and then traveled
through Europe and Africa. In 1886 his wife obtained a di-
vorce on the ground of desertion. The same year he married
Miss Frances M. Bivers of Montreal, who was a Soman Cath-
olic. The last twelve years of his life were spent quietly at
the old homestead in Guilford. He died there on Mardi 3,
1904, in the same room in which he had been bom.

The divorced Mrs. Murray was a woman of unusual intel-
lectual endowment, and made for herself a distinguished
career. As soon as she found herself deserted, she entered
the New York Medical School. After finishing the course
there, she went abroad and studied in Vienna, graduating with
high honors in both surgery and medicine. Her diploma, en-
titling her to practise as a surgeon, was the first one ever
given to an American woman abroad. Returning home, she
opened an office in New Haven, and practised there success-
fully for many years.

The most notable event in Murray's career was his call to
the old and conservative Park Street Church of Boston; the
most notorious, his parting from it. The call came in 1868,
when he was only twenty-eight years old, and is proof of the
rapid and brilliant reputation he had made for himself as a
preacher. Nor did he disappoint his new congregation in that
respect. He filled the church to overflowing, and was soon
acknowledged, even in critical Boston, to be one of the most
eloquent and magnetic speakers of his day. What he lacked
was stability and poise, and exclusive devotion to his calling.
One of the attacks soon launched against him by the local
press bore the prophetic caption, **A Wasted Life.**

When it became evident that the ** Brimstone Comer,** as
the Park Street Church was often called, had hired more of
an orthodox sport than an orthodox pastor, trouble began to
brew. The papers of the day accused him not only of owning
race-horses but of betting heavily on them. He is said to have
bred Morgan horses at his Ouilford farm, and to have organ-
ized a company to sell an improved style of trotting-sulky.
He also established a paper called '^The Oolden Rule,*' but
it lacked subscribers — ^which has happened to the Golden Rule

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These divided activities oould liead but to one climax, of
coarse; but it is noteworthy that it was reached only at the
end of seven years. The man's unquestionable gifts and mag-
netism postponed a withdrawal that would have been de-
manded of a lesser personality much sooner. Even when he
retired from the Park Street Church he did not give up the
ministry. He founded the Music Hall Independent Congre-
gational Church, and drew a large following from among the
liberal-minded. In this unhampered pastorate he reached the
height of his fame as a platform speaker. fHnally, one day
in 1880, he suddenly left his flock and disappeared without
any sadness of f arewelL The press of the day laid this sud-
den change of climate to unsuccessful business ventures and
the pressure of creditors. He replied in an open letter that
he had always intended to retire from the ministry on reach-
ing forty, and that silent vanishing was the easiest way of
carrying out this resolve.

He was next heard of in Texas, where he had gone into the
lumber business. This venture proved a failure, and one day
he left there as unostentatiously as he had left Boston. He
then appeared in Montreal, where he opened a restaurant
during one of the midwinter carnivals. It was largely pa-
tronized by visiting Bostonians, who were curious to see the
erstwhile pastor in his new role. They found him perfectly
at home in it. Bobed in white — ^the becoming garb of his new
ministry — smiling and genial as ever, he served the dough-
nut and the mince-pie as delectably as he had ever served
religious pabulum. The restaurant seemed to lead him back
into the lime-light again, and he soon went on the lecturing
platform and met with notable success. Later he traveled
abroad, and then returned to spend his last years at Guilford.
There he devoted his time to the breeding of horses and the
education of his daughters* The former occupation does not
appear to have been profitable, for he died a poor man. The
latter was much more successful, and he devoted himself to
it most worthily and happily.

One of the first troubles thai beset his Boston pastorate
grew out of the publication of his famous Adirondack book.
The work was widely read and loudly abused. Its author was

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branded as a colosBal but picturesque liar. Then an even
more serious charge followed. He was accused of hastening
the death of many a consumptive. The book naturally told
of the health-restoring qualities of the Adirondacks, and spe-
cifically of one invalid who, in an advanced stage of tuber-
culosiSy had been carried into the woods, and after six months
had improved sufficiently to walk out of them — that is, to walk
where before he had been carried. To-day such a story is so
common that it would attract no attention, but then it was
unusual, of course. Murray emphasizes that very point, how-
ever. He says : - This, I am aware, is an extreme case, and,
as such, may seem exaggerated; but it is nof

Some readers may remember how crowds of poor consump-
tives spent their last cent and wasted their last breath a few
years ago to get a bottle of doubtful dope known as the
Friedmann Cure. There are always a surprising number of
these invalids who, like frogs, will jump at any red flannel of
hope. After Murray's book came out, many of this class
jumped at the unwarranted conclusion that he had said the
Adirondacks would infallibly restore health in any stage of
tuberculosis. Consequently, without any investigation or
reasonable preparation, they started for the wilderness, and
some of them died there. These deaths — ^most unjustly, it
seems to me — ^were laid at Murray's door. His Park Street
congregation naturally began to squirm at the wide-spread
denunciation heaped upon their pastor, and the situation was
not improved when horse-racing was added to the list of his

He first visited the woods in 1864. During the autumn and
winter of 1867 he wrote some Adirondack experiences for the
- Meriden Literary Recorder." These attracted attention
and created a demand which led to their amplification in book
form in 1869. -Adventures in the Wilderness" had a truly
phenomenal success for a book of its kind. It displaced the
popular novel of the day. Everybody seemed to be reading it,
and a great many people were simultaneously seized with the
desire to visit the region it described. The book was pub-
lished in April — some say on the first — ^and by June there was
an influx of tourists such as the Adirondacks had never seen

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before. The result was known as the '^Mnrray Bush,'* and
those who participated in it were called ^^ Murray's Fools/'
The book was undoubtedly responsible for the rush, but as to
the fools, it is permissible to ask, ^'Why drag in Murray f
Whatever else he may have done, he had not misrepresented
the limited accommodations of the region; yet his ''fools''
appear to have been disgruntled at not finding Saratoga hotels
on the carries and ocean steamers on the lakes.

They came in such numbers as to cause a demand for beds
and board, and boats and guides, far exceeding the supply.
The result was an excessive rise in price for all these com-
modities. Many of the guides received five dollars a day dur-
ing this golden harvest Beds were at a premium. The fol-
lowing story is typical of the many that grew out of the
unusual conditions.

A New Yorker arrived late one night at an overcrowded
hostelry. He found people lying in the parlors and on the
piazzas. He was told there was only one place in the house
where he could sleep— on an old pool-table. As it was either
that or nothing, he accepted, merely remarking, ''This is
hard I" He awoke early the next morning, sore in mind and
body, and bent on returning to civilization at the first oppor-
tunity. He sought the landlord, and met him emerging from
a bam.

"How much do I owe youf " asked the guest.

"Lemme see," reflected the landlord "What room was
you int"

"Boom I" ejaculated the other in disgust And then, with
expletives, he explained where he had spent the night and
how he had retired supperless.

"Five dollars," was the laconic verdict.

"Five dollars!" came the dull echo of indignant surprise.

"Sure thing," said mine genial host. "Dollar an hour is
the regular charge for the pool-table after midnight"

Besides a crop of such stories, which had more or less foun-
dation in fact, the Murray fad gave rise to a literature of
ridicule and satire. No less a magazine than "Harper's"
accepted such contributions as being timely and of popular
appeal. In the number for August, 1870, there was a sketch

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of this kind written by Charles Hallocky but unsigned, enti-
tled: *'The Raqnette Clnb/' This club, modeled on the Pick-
wickian, is roused by Murray's book and starts for the Adiron-
dacks. The following quotation gives a good picture of the
craze which it satirizes :

How many meetmgs were held to arrange for the day of departure,
the record says not ; neither is it clear as to the amount of time and
enei^iy expended in studying up '^ Murray" and gathering informa-
tion from maps and experts, and in collecting the utensils and equip-
ments requisite for roughing it in the bush. Certain it is that, about
the Ist of July, 1869, the Club might have been easily recognized
among the motley throng that crowded the Saratoga train bound
north. It was obvious to the most casual observer that they were
sportsmen en route for the Adirondacks. Each member was attired
in the most approved style of the craft — ^huge felt hats, capacious
boots, velveteen jackets slashed with multitudinous pockets, guns
and rods of assorted sizes and patterns strapped together, knapsacks,
and woolen and rubber blankets. When they conversed it was in the
style of old campaigners. They talked knowingly of the '' Wilder-
ness," black flies, wild cats, and five pound trout; frequently con-
sulted maps, '* Murray," and the * 'Railroad Guide." Occasionally
they paused to mark the effect upon their fellow-passengers, and if
they happened to catch a small boy listening with some show of at-
tention, their faces shone with an effulgence of rapture.

A newsboy appeared and offered *' Murray" for sale. The Club
was bewildered at first — then indignant ''Pooh, pooh I We have
seen that book — ^no use for it whatever. By the way, son, do you sell
many of them t"

The juvenile pointed up and down the double range of seats^ and
behold I all the passengers were studying ''Murray." The Club
had n't observed it before I

Presently the train rumbled up to the Whitehall Junction, and
the conductor piped out: "Change cars for Rutland; passengers for
Lake Champlain keep their seats !" All kept their seats.

"I wonder where all these people are going t" asked Tipstaff.

They reached the steamer at Whitehall, and lol the crowd came
streaming down the pier and crushed into the gangway. The Club
was aghast with wonder. Presently it clambered up to the prome-
nade deck for safety and a better view. Immediately a small boy came
up and proffered "Murray"; other small boys were observed to way-
lay the procession below and tender copies of "Murray." The pro-
cession was continuous. It was a moving phantasm of sea-side hats.

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water-proofs, blanket-shawls, fish-poles^ old felts, mackintoshes, reti-
cules, trout-rods, fish-baskets, carpet-bags, guns, valises, rubber boots,
umbrellas, lap-rugs, hunting-dogs, guide-books, and maps. There were
old women, misses, youngsters, spinsters, invalids, studenta, sports,
artists, and jolly good fellows. Behind followed innumerable vans,
crates, and barrows of miscellaneous baggage. Two packages of
"Murray" and one case of ''Hamlin's Magic Oil'* brought up the
rear. .

And what was there in Murray's book to account for its
remarkable popularity! We turn its pages to-day vainly
seeking an answer. For thirty years previous to its publica-
tion an occasional enthusiast had written of the Adirondacks,
and during this period some ten books of travel and adventure
had appeared. All were by well-known authors whose other
writings were widely read. All told of the beauties and
health-giving qualities of the region, of its wealth of fish and
game, and of its possibilities for adventure ; yet none of them
attracted any attention compared with Murray's book.

He is more specific than the others in matters of detail. He
gives the cost of a trip to the woods, tells just what to take in
clothes and provisions, where to buy tackle, how to select
guides, and where to go. His first fifty pages are devoted en-
tirely to these matters, and they contain excellent information
and advice, free from all misstatement and exaggeration. In-
deed, they abound in conservative warnings. He tells those
who expect to find city comforts, or see droves of deer, or
catch trout averaging from three to four pounds, to go else-
where. If it was this part of his book that sent people
helter-skelter to the woods, the author is not to blame for the
disappointments they found there.

The second part of the book diflfers radically from the first.
It contains those sporting adventures which people eagerly
devoured, and then as eagerly abused the writer for produc-
ing. The firBt story tells of the famous trout fight in Name-
less Creek, and we hear the classic phrase ^^Give 'em the
butt!" falling from the lips of John Plumbley, the guide,
whom Murray thus apostrophizes :

Honest John Plumbley, the Prince of guides, patient as a hound,
and as faithful — a man who knows the wilderness as a farmer knows

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his fields, whose instinet is never at fault, whose temper is never ruffled,
whose paddle is as silent as falling snow, whose eye is true along
the sights, whose pancakes are the wonder of the woods — ^honest, pa-
tient, and modest John Plumbley, may he live long beyond the limit
so few of us attain, and depart at last full of peace, as he will full
of honors, God bless him I

John was very proud of having been Murray's guide, and
of having been immortalized in his book. He spoke of him as
a good sport and a fine gentleman, but when questioned about
the veracity of some of the adventures, he would only chuckle
and say : * * Ask Mr. Murray. ' '

The one at Nameless Creek was unusual, but not impossible.
Few anglers but have had some similar experience at one time
or another, but few who could tell it as Murray managed to
do. His struggle with three trout, simultaneously hooked,
becomes a hand-to-hand fight with titanc and demoniac forces.
We begin to fear for the lives of the two men in the boat.
The suspense as to their getting the fish, becomes dread lest
the fish get them. All this, however, only means that Murray
knew how to tell a good fish-story. It Las been most delight-
fully satirized by Charles Dudley Warner, in a clever little
sketch called **A Fight with a Trout.*'

Murray's most notorious tale is probably the one called
'^Phantom Falls." It is a ghost-story pure and simple. The
wraith of an Indian maid in her canoe visits the spot where
she once waited in vain for the coming of her murdered lover.
*' Honest John'* tells the story over the camp fire, and says
he has seen the apparition. Then Murray looks up and sees
it too. Both jump up and give chase to the phantom, and
their boat is carried safely over falls that no boat could shoot
successfully. It is all obviously a fantasy, a fable, a mjrth;
and yet the wildest part of it — the shooting of Phantom Falls,
as Murray elusively calls them — ^was taken literally and has
not ceased to be his great offense against veracity. And this
despite the fact that he begins his story by advising the reader
'^to believe no more of it than you see fit," and ends it in this

''Just one word, Mr. Murray, before you stop. Did you really see
a ghost, and is there any such place as Phantom Falls t" To which

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qaery of yours, gentle reader, pausing only one moment to answer,
before I quarter this Christmas orange, I respond, ''Ask John."

Snrely it is unfair that the author of a ghost-story sand-
wiched between such warnings, should have to suffer for the
alleged distortion of facts. Yet this is exactly what hap-
pened. Some one, from a certain similarity in the descrip*
tion, identified Phantom Falls with the Buttermilk Falls on
the Raquette Biver, although neither Murray nor John
Plumbley ever admitted the identity. The pubUc was satis-
fied with the suggestion, however, and still goes to look at
them and shake its head over the possibility of shooting them
in a boat. That the two men enjoyed keeping up the joke is
shown by their antiphonal ^^Ask John*' — ^^^Ask Murray.**

The third story that caught the popular fancy and sowed
the whirlwind of derision is called, ^^Jack-Shooting in a Foggy
Night.'* It is, perhaps, the best thing in the book. It still
brings the laugh — ^and that is saying a good deal for a hunting-
story fifty years old. The basic situation is humorous, and
it is worked up with just the right blend of the possible and
improbable. Murray and his guide — ^this time Steve Martin
— go ^^ jacking," that is, carrying a light fastened on the head,
which attracts the deer. One is shot and drops, but on being
approached, jumps up and tries to escape. Murray holds on
to him till exhaustion forces him to let go. Then, at the criti-
cal moment, Steve springs to the rescue and grabs the escap-
ing deer by the tail— which, mind you, is about as long and
tenable as a stick of half -used shaving soap. The efforts of
Steve to hold on, and the efforts of the deer to sever the undo-
sirable connection are exceedingly funny. Finally the fran-
tic animal leaps into the water, and Steve jumps on his head

Online LibraryAdirondack Mountain Club Alfred Lee DonaldsonA history of the Adirondacks, Volume 1 → online text (page 18 of 35)