“The author has been an assiduous but superficial student of the literature. He has read extensively rather than intensively. The resulting work is that of an enthusiastic amateur, who handles in a jaunty manner the most difficult historical manuscripts, as if every word was to be accepted with utmost faith. The very style in which the book is written throws discredit on the scholarship. The language and phrase are stilted, and too much fine writing shows an undue desire for popularity.”*
I could not find a better description of my book. Written in 1903, this critique of my Great-Great Uncle John Boyd Thacher’s book on Christopher Columbus speaks to my attempt at being a writer. Wherever possible I have chosen to close my mouth and let the voices of the past speak through reprints of earlier writers.
In 1867, JBT purchased an island on Blue Mountain Lake for the use of his father George Hornell Thacher. Three years later, Rev. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness brought throngs of tourists to the North Country. To provide his father with a quieter, more remote retreat, JBT purchased the tips of Indian Point on Raquette Lake in 1876.
Our family still enjoys every summer on Birch Point, the northern fork of Indian Point. What began as a search to discover the history of our family’s little red, one-room cabin grew into years of research and discovery.
Discover with me the story of Matthew Beach and William Wood, the first permanent white settlers of Raquette Lake. Search for the remains of their original cabins on Indian Point. Learn the part they played in the early extinction of the beaver and the moose in the Adirondacks.
A lover of Adirondack history will recognize the names of Sir John Johnson, Professor Ebenezer Emmons, Joel Tyler Headley, Mitchell Sabattis, Alvah Dunning, John Plumley and Rev. Murray, Verplanck Colvin, Nessmuk, Arthur Tait and Levi Wells Prentice. Few would suspect the intricate weave of life’s thread that ties all these icons to Indian Point.
I seek to capture both fact and fiction and the attention of my readers as I chronicle the amazing Adirondack heritage that flows through these fifty acres of Beach and Wood.
Adirondack histories are full of embellishments and half-truths. The local Raquette Lake author Ruth Timm famously claimed William Wood was present at the death of his friend Chief Uncas, the fictional character of The Last of the Mohicans. Ned Buntline lived at Indian Point according to Thomas Morris Longstreth in The Adirondacks. Neither of these is factually accurate.
I could follow the footsteps of these writers and exaggerate the history of my family:
“John Boyd Thacher was instrumental in writing and passing the Forest Preserve Act of 1885 which was the first step in creating the Adirondack Park.” **
I will not spin a yarn with this chronicle. I do use the conceit of historical fiction to make reasonable allusions to unknown but probable fact. The difference is that I will not leave the reader guessing. For the studious among you, the footnotes reveal the truth.
** Although John Boyd Thacher was a NY State Senator in 1885 and did vote to pass the Forest Preserve Act, he was just one of 35 senators who unanimously passed the law. He was not a member of the Agriculture Standing Committee that drafted the law.
NOTES: * The Independent. Vol 55 May-Aug. 1903 pg. 1460
This is interesting stuff. I look forward to the next installment.
I enjoyed reading this, keep up the great writing. Thanks for doing it, very interesting!
Tom, I am excited about your project. Our family has been on Woods Point (Sunset Camp) since the early 50’s and I am always looking for more stories on the history of Raquette Lake and the surrounding area. I’ve read Headley’s, Stoddard’s, & Donaldson’s accounts of the area and find that they somewhat differ. I always appreciate a fresh perspective on the past. Looking forward to your future posts.
You may be interested to know that I too am in the process of writing a book about the early settlers at Raquette and Long Lake. It will cover the stories of many of the first settlers, up through the Bennett brothers. In the process of researching, I have interviewed decedents and have a great deal of information about Sunset including many items I purchased from their estate.
If you have any particular questions, Tom has my e-mail address and can pass it along to you.