Goodsell Museum

Goodsell Museum Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-3pm or by appointment
Admission is free. Headquarters of the Town of Webb
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Preview 3 of 3!We would be remiss if we did not recognize those that make this happen.... ITS YOU!!! Thank you for every...
07/09/2023

Preview 3 of 3!

We would be remiss if we did not recognize those that make this happen.... ITS YOU!!! Thank you for every donation and Thank you for every bid!

Remember this will be an on-line auction that will go live starting July 13 and all bidding will be done at www.adkauctions.com

Part 2 of 3 Auction Preview Photos!!We would like to take a moment to thank our new Auction Chairman John Munyan! Your h...
07/09/2023

Part 2 of 3 Auction Preview Photos!!

We would like to take a moment to thank our new Auction Chairman John Munyan! Your hard work did not go unnoticed and the Town of Webb Historical Board, Director, Staff & members appreciates it very much. To you and your volunteer group, a huge thank you for reorganizing the barn attic. This project has been in the planning stages for 7 years and is now complete! Thank you very much!!

Remember this will be an on-line auction that will go live starting July 13 and all bidding will be done at www.adkauctions.com

WE ARE READY FOR THE AUCTION! Are you.... Once again it will be on-line with the help of our great friends at Adirondack...
07/09/2023

WE ARE READY FOR THE AUCTION! Are you....

Once again it will be on-line with the help of our great friends at Adirondack Asset Auctions! All bidding will be done on their website: www.adkauctions.com.

Our Annual Benefit Auction for 2023 will open Thursday, July 13th.

These photos are part 1 of 3 of our preview for you. There will be more photos and more detailed descriptions when the auction goes "live"!

It was a week and half away from Halloween in 1934 when a gruesome discovery was made near Bald Mountain. Charles and Ed...
10/29/2022

It was a week and half away from Halloween in 1934 when a gruesome discovery was made near Bald Mountain. Charles and Edward Atkins of Auburn were hunting and stumbled upon a skeleton in the woods. They marked the location and went about their hunt. Later in the day the location was found by Guy Hamilton, an employee of Hollywood Hills Hotel, who was also out hunting. The skeleton was well dressed, in a fine blue serge suit, and an overcoat. A woven, embroidered handkerchief was found in the pocket. His hat was a No.7 and he wore low shoes with rubbers on his feet. His Bristol watch had stopped at 10:25. A tattered leather briefcase was found nearby that contained three empty flasks, a cigar holder, safety razor, shaving cream and brush, goggles, a bottle opener, drinking cup, comb, and flashlight bulbs. Hamilton reported his findings to Fire Tower Observer Harriet Rega, who in turn notified the State Police and Herkimer Coroner James Graves. The investigation began. The trail near where the body was discovered was not well marked, but was in consistent use and persons familiar with the area could not understand why it was not found sooner. If the victim was a stranger how did he find his way into the woods? The autopsy revealed that, the unknown man had died around March of that year. There were no indications of foul play or su***de. He had extensive and expensive dental work which at first was believed to be silver but turned out to be made of platinum. According to local dentist, Dr. G Bartle Mason “this was practically unheard of in this section and that it was chiefly in vogue in New York”. He valued the work at $150. This was the biggest clue at identifying the unknown man and dentist were consulted throughout New York and the surrounding areas in hopes that one would recognize the work. No one did. Inquiries were made from women whose husbands were missing from Syracuse, Buffalo, Shortsville and New Jersey City, these proved fruitless. At one point there was a theory that he may be a former resident of Canastota, Louis Lombard, but he was found living in New York City. A lead from the embroidered handkerchief that it maybe Albert Bokelmann was investigated but again it was determined not to be him. In December of 1934 Coroner Graves signed an order directing local undertaker Leon Eldridge to bury the unknown man. He was interred in Riverview Cemetery and his identity remains a mystery to this day.

Happy Halloween!!👻💀

We are very excited to anounce our Camp Waldheim Lunch & Tour. Please call Kate at 315-369-3838 to reserve your limited ...
08/19/2022

We are very excited to anounce our Camp Waldheim Lunch & Tour.

Please call Kate at 315-369-3838 to reserve your limited spot!!

07/12/2022
WE ARE SO HAPPY & EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE - Stop in and see our new Adirondack Room and our feature exhibit for 2022 -  Cele...
07/01/2022

WE ARE SO HAPPY & EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE - Stop in and see our new Adirondack Room and our feature exhibit for 2022 - Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Thendara Golf Course!

05/26/2022

North Country at Work photo: Brown’s Tract Mill on fire. Smoke is billowing through the stacked lumber. Of the nine men pictured, all are unidentified except for Ferris Williams, on the far right, stooping over the hose cart, and Mr. Goodwill, standing on the lumber and looking at the fire. July 1916. Thendara, NY.

On May 10, 1922 fire destroyed the The The Old Forge Hardware block. Damages were estimated to be near $200,000 at the t...
05/10/2022

On May 10, 1922 fire destroyed the The The Old Forge Hardware block. Damages were estimated to be near $200,000 at the time. Besides the Hardware store, other businesses that were destroyed or suffered damage in this blaze included R. Villiere's Pool Hall (where the fire was thought to have started), The Old Forge Post Office, Peter Rivet's Dry Goods Store, J.B. Pelletier's Sporting Goods Store, The Masonic Temple and the apartment of Mr. & Mrs. Ed Borman.

At the height of the fire. according to several news accounts, "a shower of bullets flew from the hardware store exploding in all directions and breaking all the windows within a 500 foot radius of the store. Three barrels of turpentine and benzine stored in the cellar also exploded." It was reported that "the fire scene resembled a battlefield for a time". It was one of these stray bullets that struck Archie Gilbert in the knee, shattering it. Due to the heat of the fire, the safe of the Post Office actually warped but did not open!

A change in wind direction saved the rest of the town from burning

After the blaze Moses Cohen immediately started the reconstruction of his business. The Town allowed him to set up shop in the building that housed the fire department at the time (today's Wisk building) and the post office was temporarily housed in the plumbing company offices.

Newly uncovered information explains that is was not the only fire at the Old Forge Hardware Store and it was the quick thinking of store employee Lynn C Maxson who saved the store from destruction again, ONE YEAR LATER!

The War to End All Wars – a RemembranceBy Town of Webb Historian Peg MastersLess than a month after President Woodrow Wi...
04/06/2022

The War to End All Wars – a Remembrance
By Town of Webb Historian Peg Masters

Less than a month after President Woodrow Wilson declared war with Germany on April 6, 1917, several hundred citizens in the Town of Webb held a patriotic parade in Old Forge and gathered at the “busy corner” to raise an American flag up the newly constructed flagpole. According to an old newspaper clipping at the Town of Webb Historical Association, students from Old Forge, Fulton Chain, and Minnowbrook marched in the parade and music was provided by the Boonville Band. Dr. Robert S. Lindsay served as Master of Ceremonies and the patriotic addresses were applauded heartily by the spectators.

America had finally entered the Great War that had been raging in Europe since 1914. The declaration, compounded by the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, affected nearly every household across the country. More than 23 million men were drafted by the selective service law. The regular army grew exponentially from 127,000 soldiers in April of 1917 to nearly 4 million men in army uniforms on Armistice Day - November 11, 1918. Tens of thousands more participated in the Navy, Marine Corp and National Guard. The Great War claimed 67,813 American lives. Another 206,846 were listed as wounded or missing in action.

While dozens of native sons and woodsmen were called to serve from Webb, some did not wait to be drafted: Harold Bissell & John McEdward of Big Moose, William Brack, Robert N. Lindsay, Leon Goodbout, Frank Yule, Robert Goodsell, Walter Miller, William S. Ball, Phil Burdick, Clarence Perkins of Old Forge, Thomas Carral & Henry Brack of McKeever, Felix Spakowski of Woods Lake - all enlisted within the first months following the declaration of war.

Alexander Landry was drafted while working as a lumberman for Leon Kelly at Brandreth Lake. He died in France October 19, 1918 and is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery near Verdun. This cemetery, the largest American military cemetery in all of Europe, contains the burial markers for 14,246 World War I soldiers – nearly 5,000 more graves than in the World War II cemetery at Normandy.

William E. Covey of Twitchell Lake left for the war in September 1917 with the first contingent of soldiers from Herkimer County. At Camp Devens, he was made a Corporal of Company B, 301st Supply Train, 76th Division, then sent overseas and stationed at St. Amand until after the armistice. While waiting to be shipped back home at Le Havre, he contracted the Spanish influenza and died of pneumonia along with thirty-four other men from his company. Sending their bodies home in those days was not an option and all were buried in the American military cemetery at Le Havre.

Photo of Robert Goodsell in France while in WWI

Our favorite Christmas story… our annual share. Merry Christmas from everyone at the Town of Webb Historical Association...
12/24/2021

Our favorite Christmas story… our annual share. Merry Christmas from everyone at the Town of Webb Historical Association!

Our friend, Louis Grumet, discusses his new book, "This Land is my Land" based on his accounts as the State's Chief Envo...
10/12/2021

Our friend, Louis Grumet, discusses his new book, "This Land is my Land" based on his accounts as the State's Chief Envoy during the Moss Lake take over by the Mohawk. It was a pleasure to help Lou with his book. We wish him much success! It is available at the Goodsell Museum for $19.99

The insurgency began under the cover of darkness.

"Old Forge Day" was celebrated at Yankee Stadium on September 9, 1962. About 100 spectators filled two of the Brussell f...
09/08/2021

"Old Forge Day" was celebrated at Yankee Stadium on September 9, 1962. About 100 spectators filled two of the Brussell family buses, and traveled to a double header game between the NY Yankees and their arch rivals, the Boston Red Sox. Between the two games Pitt Smith and Maurice Dennis were introduced to the fans and presented then Yankee Manager Ralph Houck with a special totem pole, made by Chief Dennis depicting the teams history. It was to be installed at "The House that Ruth Built" as a permanent memorial. The Yankees lost both games that day.

Town of Webb Historian, Peg Masters first wrote about this day in 2016 after finding a postcard of the totem pole on eBay. Her report ends with "What happened to the totem that was supposed to be placed on permanent exhibit at the stadium is still a mystery."

MYSTERY SOLVED! We found it!! It is at the Baseball Hall of Fame! At this time it is in storage and not on display. We are in contact with the Hall of Fame now and we hope to work together to get it on display in the future. For us just knowing that it survives and is safe is remarkable!

Hot off the Press! - Now Available!This Land is My Land by Louis Grumet & John H. Caher - An Insider's Account of the 19...
09/01/2021

Hot off the Press! - Now Available!

This Land is My Land by Louis Grumet & John H. Caher - An Insider's Account of the 1974 Mohawk Attempt to Reclaim New York State.

$19.99 plus tax and $4.95 shipping & handling. Please call the Historical Office at 315-369-3838 to order your copy today! Don't forget you get 10% off if you are a current member!

It was a privilege to help with this project and many thanks to our friend Charlie Talmadge and his technical abilities for restoring the cover photo that was located within our archives.

RIP Louie... You sure made Old Forge proud! We will hold your history and tell your stories forever
07/28/2021

RIP Louie... You sure made Old Forge proud! We will hold your history and tell your stories forever

Former Olympian and old forge native John Robert Ehrensbeck passed away last week at the of age 76. Known to most as "Louie", Ehrensbeck traveled to France in 1968 to compete in Nordic skiing and the biathlon at the winter games. Born in Utica in 1944, Ehrensbeck grew up embracing the snow that came...

You’re running out of time...Get your bids in now! Soft closing begins at 7:00 tomorrow night. Lots of spectacular items...
07/13/2021

You’re running out of time...Get your bids in now! Soft closing begins at 7:00 tomorrow night. Lots of spectacular items at awesome deals for a great cause!

The Town of Webb Historical Association is pleased to present our annual benefit auction happening now thru July 13th. T...
07/06/2021

The Town of Webb Historical Association is pleased to present our annual benefit auction happening now thru July 13th. There are lots of antiques, new items, big items, and small items. Something for everyone, even the bathroom sink!! For more photos, information and to bid on any of these spectacular items please visit www.adkauctions.com

ALL BIDDING TAKES PLACE WITH ADIRONDACK ASSET AUCTIONS!

We would like to take a moment to thank all that donated their precious things to us to help make this happen. All monies raised go to support the Goodsell Museum and TOWHA!

Thank you one and all!!!

After a couple technical difficulties we are happy to announce that our benefit auction is now live!! Please visit www.a...
07/03/2021

After a couple technical difficulties we are happy to announce that our benefit auction is now live!! Please visit www.adkauctions.com to view and bid on over 250 items! Lots of antiques, new items, big items, small items, something for everyone, even a bathroom sink!

Adirondack Asset Auctions is your local Auction Service specializing in Auctioning Full or Partial Estates, Business and Residential Real Estate, Business and Municipal Surplus Liquidation, Farm and Heavy Equipment, Machinery, Antiques, Collectibles and Much More, Onsite and Online.

Today we remember our local connection to the sinking of the Titanic, 109 years ago today...
04/15/2021

Today we remember our local connection to the sinking of the Titanic, 109 years ago today...

Women of Webb - Lottie Roderick Tuttle (1878-1936)Lottie Edith Roderick was born on August 19, 1878 in Fayette, Kennebec...
03/16/2021

Women of Webb - Lottie Roderick Tuttle (1878-1936)

Lottie Edith Roderick was born on August 19, 1878 in Fayette, Kennebec County, Maine. She was the daughter of John B. Roderick and Anna Edith Randall Roderick. The town of Fayette, Maine was about 16 miles west of the capital city of Augusta. There were less than 800 residents living in Fayette according to the 1880 Federal Census. The Dunn Edge Tool Company, a major business in town, manufactured axes, scythes, and other cutting implements. John B. Roderick was employed there as a scythe polisher.

John and Anna Roderick had three additional children that survived to adulthood; Maurice John (1875-1968), Frederick Albert (1877->1946) and Lulu Eva (1884-1974). John Roderick immigrated to Maine from Quebec Province as a young man. Although he was a skilled laborer, tool companies often shut down or were sold to new owners and the family moved several times to area towns where he could find employment. Lottie’s family never owned their own home while she was a child. Her mother Anna however felt strongly that her daughter should receive a good education.

Lottie attended neighborhood district schools and then received a classical education at Kents Hill College for Women. The campus was located 12 miles from Augusta and the curriculum placed a special emphasis on elocution and music in its female department. Here Lottie learned to play the pianoforte, an instrument she enjoyed playing for the rest of her life. Lottie went on to study at the School of Fine Arts in Boston. The school offered classes in drawing, oils and water colors along with sculpture, pottery, architecture, music and theater. The institute in the 1890s had a library, a gymnasium, a museum, and a music conservatory building on Franklin Square where the female students were housed.

It was here in Boston where Lottie Roderick met Orley Clayton Tuttle (1876-1943), an amateur competitive bicyclist, a traveling bicycle salesman, and a professional dance instructor. He was tall, blue-eyed, and athletic which Lottie greatly admired. After a brief courtship, Lottie gave up her dream to work in a theater in a vibrant metropolis and married Orley on August 4, 1900. They moved to a farm in Orley’s hometown of New London, a small rural community near Rome, New York.

While living on the farm in New London, Lottie gave birth to their two daughters, Fern in 1902 and Edith in 1903. Orley opened a ballroom dance studio and taught all the latest dances. In 1907, the Tuttles leased the United States Hotel in Taberg, New York for a year where they offered weekly dance parties. One night while a group of zealous patrons were celebrating in the barroom, several gunshots were fired that passed through the wall into a bedroom where Lottie had secured her two babies.

The frightful night provided the catalyst the Tuttles needed to sell off the contents of the hotel in August 1908. That summer the family spent a short vacation in the Adirondacks and Orley purchased a choice hotel property at the foot of Fourth Lake on the Fulton Chain for $1,000. With the help of a carpenter from Herkimer, a substantial boarding house with a capacity for 30 guests was built and named Bay View Camp. In deference to Lottie’s wishes, there was no barroom in the establishment. The camp opened for year-round guests on June 1, 1910. Lottie had just given birth to their third child on March 18th, a son they named Orley Elton Tuttle.

Lottie whole-heartedly embraced her new life on the boat-access only lakefront with thousands of acres of wilderness at her back door. She learned to swing a hammer, chop firewood, shovel snow off their roof and on the lake for ice skating, paddle a canoe, cast a fishing line, shoot a rifle, and prepare fish and game for the table. By 1912, she had earned the respect of fellow woodsmen and Lottie applied for and was granted an Adirondack guide’s license. This was reportedly the first guide’s license issued by New York State to a woman according to several Adirondack historians and authors.

Access to Bay View Camp for nearly a decade was only by boat or by snowshoes or skis once the lake was frozen. This did not deter the Tuttles from sending their two daughters by canoe or snowshoes to the one-room Minnowbrook schoolhouse across the lake. There were only about a dozen students at the school and the teacher, Miss Mary Dullea, boarded with the Tuttles at Bay View. The commute was quite challenging as winter temperatures often fell to 30 or 40 degrees below zero. On those long cold nights, Lottie read stories to her children or played favorite songs on her piano. During the tourist season, she led family musicales in the parlor with Fern playing the violin and Orley playing his coronet.

By 1916, Orley and Lottie had expanded their hostelry to accommodate 60 guests. A brochure that year noted a separate cottage had been added to the resort but all guests took their meals in the main camp dining room that was lined with scores of animal heads “to the delight of the sportsman’s eye.” Orley was a self-taught taxidermist and had recently killed several bears just outside their front door. Lottie spent a great deal of time preserving meats, vegetables and berries, and baking bread, doughnuts, cakes and fudge to provide their hungry patrons with sumptuous meals. Various members of the family often joined their guests on hikes up Bald Mountain, canoe trips along the lakes, or playing croquet or tennis on their new cement court.

In 1918, life took a dramatic turn when Orley came up with a design for a fishing lure made with deer hair that looked like an insect. When Lottie first saw the critter, she called it a devil bug. Fishing clients liked them and within a short period of time, Orley and Lottie became co-partners in a business that manufactured a variety of fishing lures that ultimately were sold nation-wide. That fall the family decided to take a 3-room apartment on the top floor of a building in Old Forge and set up a shop to manufacture the “Devil Bugs” on a larger scale.

The business provided Lottie the creative conduit she had trained for in college. She did the finishing work on the lures by painting the eyes and mounting them on hand-painted display cards. She wrote letters to potential clients, sent out invoices, designed all the marketing brochures, produced advertisements for sporting magazines, and helped train and supervise the employees that were hired.

In addition to her roles as a licensed Adirondack guide, co-owner of a tourist lodge and fishing lure business and a devoted wife and mother of three children, Lottie Tuttle earned additional income for the family by selling custom art work to summer visitors along the lakes. She loved to paint landscapes and wildlife although two portraits have been discovered. One painting of George Washington hangs on the wall in the Masonic Community Center at Old Forge. Another portrait of her daughter Fern next to two horses and a dog is stored in the archives at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain. Lottie often donated one of her paintings to help with local fundraising efforts especially for the Masonic Lodge or Niccolls Memorial Church in Old Forge.
Lottie Tuttle thoroughly enjoyed all types of sporting activities and took great pride in the athletic accomplishments of her children. Fern was a champion in a canoe tilting contest at one Fourth of July celebration. Edie twice swam the first four lakes of the Fulton Chain, a distance of over 12 miles. Elton excelled at gymnastics, tennis, diving, and swimming. Tragically around 1925 while in her late forties, Lottie’s health began to fail.

For several years, Lottie Tuttle made annual trips to Detroit where she was treated by Dr. William Frederick Koch (1885-1967), a self-claimed cancer specialist. Koch was a homeopathic doctor and pharmaceutical entrepreneur who charged up to $300 for his highly controversial treatments. He marketed glyoxylide, a drug that analysis later showed was essentially distilled water. By the 1940s, Koch was considered a charlatan after he was brought to trial by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and he left the States to open a practice in South America to avoid further alleged persecution.

Lottie Tuttle courageously fought her disease for nearly a decade until her death in July 1936 at her home in Old Forge, New York. She was just a month shy of her 58th birthday. Obituary notices were published throughout the State with headlines such as, “Veteran Woman Guide Succumbs” and “Woodswoman of Adirondack Dies.”

A year later in August 1937, O. Elton Tuttle died at age 27 following a long illness. He was survived by his young wife Pauline N. Scarlott who he married on August 1, 1933 in Readfield, Maine. Daughter Fern lived in Miami with her husband Reginald H. Coe and gave birth in 1928 to the Tuttle’s only grandchild, Richard S. Coe. She died at the age of 83 in Florida in 1985. Without Lottie’s guiding hand, Bay View Camp did not survive the economic downturn during the Depression years of the 1930s and was eventually sold and torn down.

During a hunting trip in November 1943, Orley C. Tuttle was the victim of a tragic hunting accident. He was buried alongside his wife Lottie in Riverview Cemetery in Old Forge. Edith (Edie) Tuttle married her long-time suitor Clarence J. Morcy, a successful realtor, conservationist, and civic leader in Utica, New York. Together they continued to manufacture Tuttle’s Devil Bugs until the business was sold in 1970 to a Saginaw, Michigan firm. Edie Morcy had a passion for fishing like her parents and also became a licensed Adirondack guide. She died at the age of 101 in September, 2004 and was buried with Clarence in the Tuttle cemetery plot at Old Forge.

Born during what was called the Victorian era, Lottie Roderick took a road less travelled by women and chose to develop her natural intellect and artistic abilities by obtaining an advanced educational degree. When her husband proposed that they invest everything they owned in a resort camp for sportsmen, she mastered woodcraft skills on a par with seasoned Adirondack guides. In her own subtle, quiet yet feminine way, Lottie showed her contemporaries that women could be athletic and successful in business without disregarding her role as a loving wife and mother. Lottie Roderick Tuttle earned the recognition she has receive since her death as one of the few notable women who stand out in the male dominated oral and written history of the Adirondacks.

Author: Peg Nash Masters, Town of Webb Historian

In honor of National Funeral Director's & Undertaker's Day, it is a good time to talk about our funeral home. Special sh...
03/12/2021

In honor of National Funeral Director's & Undertaker's Day, it is a good time to talk about our funeral home. Special shout out to our funeral directors, who do not usually get the recognition they deserve. It is them that are there for us at the some of the hardest times of our lives.

Alice and Leon Eldridge came to Old Forge in 1918 and became the first undertakers in the area. Their business, Eldridge Funeral Parlor and Furniture Store was located on Main Street in the Covey Building (was where Souvenir Village is today). By 1921 they had moved their business to Crosby Blvd. In 1926 Alice purchased several lots on Fern Ave and had a Sears kit home built that held their residence and funeral parlor. In the 1930's they added ambulance service to their advertisements, which they operated until the Fire Department took over in the 1940's. According to Alice's 1969 obituary, in 1947 the business incorporated with the William E Autenrith Funeral Directors of Newport and began operating under the name Eldridge-Autenrith Funeral Home. This partner ship remained until 1978 when Thomas Groves became Manager and moved his family to the same Fern Street location and the name was changed to the Eldridge-Groves Funeral Home. In the early 1990's it was merged under the Dimbleby's name.

If anyone knows where they operated on Crosby please reach out. The only way we know this is from a early newspaper ad.

Photo credits go to Town of Webb Historical Association, Laura Cooper, and the Town of Webb Assessor.

Woman of Webb - Amy Barber Arnold (1808-1868) Amy Barber, the daughter of John Calvin Barber and Elizabeth Doud Barber, ...
03/09/2021

Woman of Webb - Amy Barber Arnold (1808-1868)

Amy Barber, the daughter of John Calvin Barber and Elizabeth Doud Barber, was born in Massachusetts on June 22, 1808. Shortly after her birth, John Calvin and Elizabeth brought Amy and three older siblings, Calvin, Luther, and Eunice to Montgomery County, New York. Another daughter Freelove Barber was born there in 1810 followed by four more children during the next decade; Julia Ann, John C. Jr., Phebe, and Nathaniel B. Barber. The John C. Barber family was listed in the 1820 Federal Census for Newport, Herkimer County but moved to a farm near Whitestown in Oneida County by 1823 according to family historians.
Although Amy obtained a rudimentary common school education, she spent most of her time learning domestic skills to prepare for her role as a wife and mother. In 1827, she married twenty-three year old Otis Nathaniel Arnold who was born in Dudley, Massachusetts and worked on a neighbor’s farm near the Barber family. For several years Otis and Amy scraped out a living on a small farm in the Town of Boonville in Northern Oneida County. Here Amy gave birth to seven children in rapid succession; an infant that died in 1828, then Edwin, Almira Eliza, Harriet Almeda, Amy Diantha, Eunice, and Ophelia who arrived in 1836.
Otis struggled to make their farm productive. On a trip into Brown’s Tract, a vast wilderness region northeast of Boonville in Northern Herkimer County, he discovered an abandoned dwelling that was built in 1814 by Charles Frederick Herreshoff during a failed attempt to mine iron ore in Tract. The dwelling, called the Manor House, an old forge and mill, and several barns at the foot of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, were owned by descendants of the original land speculator, John Brown of Providence, Rhode Island. Without benefit of a deed, Otis decided in 1837 to move his family deep into the North Woods beyond the reach of landlords and tax collectors.
The laborious journey, driving a few head of livestock along the rugged, twenty-five mile trail into the Tract covered by dense forests, streams and bogs, and huge boulders, took the Arnold family three days. Amy set up housekeeping in the spacious, hillside Manor House while Otis planted a few crops in the cleared fields that lay below along the Moose River. In exchange for more space for her growing family, Amy had forsaken the convenience of village shops, schools for her children, church services and socials, and most importantly, the companionship of her sister Julia Ann who also lived in Boonville since her marriage in December 1829 to Ephraim Bullock.
Amy Barber-Arnold gave birth to another daughter Joanna in July 1839 and twin daughters Dolly and Julia in April of 1841. Three more children were born over the next five years in Brown’s Tract, all without benefit of a doctor: Esther in November 1842, Otis Jr. in June 1845, and Elizabeth in May 1847.
The Moose River region and Fulton Chain of eight lakes connected by portages drew a seasonal sortie of hunters, trappers and fishermen. Brown’s Tract sojourners, astonished to find a family with twelve children living deep in the remote wilderness, began knocking on the Arnold’s door seeking food and shelter. Otis started providing pack horses for the trek into the Tract, boats for the fishermen, and guiding services for the sportsmen.
Amy Arnold served up loaves of bread and stacks of pancakes with fresh churned butter and homemade jams, platters of venison, game birds, and pan-fried trout for their guests. When her husband was off hunting, trapping, or guiding for days, she supervised the planting and harvesting of farm crops and the care of the livestock. Guests were never turned away, and she often had to rise in the middle of the night to prepare a meal for a weary traveler.
News of Arnold’s place in Brown’s Tract spread and the hostelry at “Arnold’s Clearing” was subsequently noted as a traveler’s destination in several Adirondack guidebooks, newspaper articles, periodicals, and on 19th Century maps of Northern New York State. In 1849, an author Joel T. Headley wrote:
“The agricultural part is performed mostly by the females who plow, sow, rake, bind, &c equal to any farmer. Two of the girls threshed alone with common flails five hundred bushels of oats in one winter while their father and brother were away trapping for marten. These girls ride horses with a wildness and recklessness that makes one tremble for their safety.”
Headley went on to write that the Arnold daughters rode “with their hair streaming in the wind, and dresses flying about their white limbs and bare feet, careering across the plains, they look wild and spirited enough for Amazons . . . Yet they are modest and retiring in their manners, and mild and timid as fawns among strangers. The mother, however, is the queen of all woodmen’s wives but you must see her and hear her talk to appreciate her character.”
Otis and Amy Arnold and eight of their children were still the only residents living in Brown’s Tract, Northern Herkimer County according to the 1850 State Census. Although Otis and Amy could read and write, the decision was made to board several of their daughters outside of the Tract to further their education. The eldest daughter Almira married a widowed farmer Moses Lyman Baldwin in 1849 and moved to Marcy, near Utica, NY. Her 16-year-old sister Amy went along to attend school. To raise twelve children to adulthood in the mid-1800s as Amy Arnold did was extraordinary. Of the four children her daughter Almira Baldwin gave birth to between 1853-1859, only one child survived.
Four more daughters married during the 1850s and left the Tract. Otis was able to raise a large quantity of oats yearly which he drew on sleighs to market in Boonville during the winter. Severe winter storms and temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees kept the family housebound for months at a time without mail or newspapers from the world beyond the Tract. Spring through autumn brought scores of guests to the Manor House including the first female visitors. In September 1855, Governor Horatio Seymour arrived with his niece and the Honorable Amelia Murray, a maid of honor to Queen Victoria. The event so startled the six Arnold daughters still at home that it rendered them speechless.
Thomas B. Thorpe, after an 1858 visit to Arnold’s Clearing, wrote in Harpers New Monthly Magazine:
“The mother was justly proud of the twelve children she had reared in her solitary home. Not a physician had ever crossed her threshold and yet they were pictures of health . . . All this was the result of a mother's care. Truly Mrs. Arnold is a model of her sex.”
By 1860, the census taker recorded eleven residents in Brown’s Tract: eight members of the Arnold family plus three bachelor hunters who had taken up residence along the lakes. One of the bachelors, Sam Dunakin, left in the spring of 1861 to enlist as a sharpshooter in the Union Army. The Arnold boys, Edwin and Otis Jr., remained in Brown’s Tract to help their aging parents support the family. Amy Arnold suffered the tragic news in April of 1863 that her daughter Almira Baldwin had died in Iowa at the age of thirty-two not long after she had given birth to two more children.
Traveling into the Tract was still a grueling journey in the 1860s over the primitive Brown’s Tract road from the westward towns of Boonville or Port Leyden. Buckboards and pack horses were available only during the warm months but most travelers found it safer to dismount and traverse the trail on foot. Amy Arnold longed to see her grandchildren but only one married daughter, Ophelia, lived within twenty-miles at Raquette Lake with her husband Alonzo Wood and baby boy Alfred.
Three decades at her outpost in Brown’s Tract tending to the needs of twelve children and providing hospitality to hundreds of wilderness travelers took its toll on Amy Arnold’s health. In early April of 1868, Otis Jr. hastened out on the twenty-five mile trek to Boonville to fetch a doctor for his mother who was feeling “very low.” The last few weeks of her life were spent among her loved ones at her Manor House in Arnold’s Clearing where she died on June 22, 1868. Amy’s body was carried out of the Tract to Boonville, Oneida County, NY for burial in the local cemetery.
Three of Amy Arnold’s children continued the Arnold tradition of providing hospitality to wilderness travelers in Brown’s Tract. Otis Arnold Jr. formally leased the Manor House for several years but died of consumption in 1883 in Brown’s Tract. Until his death in 1906, Edwin Arnold took in lodgers at his small camps on Fourth Lake and Seventh Lake and guided sportsmen. Ophelia Arnold-Wood, known fondly as “Grandma Wood,” and her husband Alonzo successfully operated Wood’s Camp on the North Shore of Fourth Lake for three decades.
The origin of tourism, the life-blood of the economy for the Old Forge-Fulton Chain of Lakes region today, is rooted in the hard labors and legacy of this historic family led by its matriarch Amy Barber-Arnold. As author Joseph Grady wrote in 1938, “They deserve to be remembered, above all, as a sturdy family of Adirondack pioneers who kept the fires of the Fulton Chain burning—when no one else would.”

Author: Peg Nash Masters, Town of Webb Historian

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