The Search for William Wood’s Cabin

Courtesy of the Adirondack Museum

Courtesy of the Adirondack Museum

My last article identified the most likely location of the original cabin built by Matthew Beach and William Wood in the mid-1830s. Wood remained on Indian Point until 1859, but sometime between 1844 and 1846 he had a falling out with Beach and built a separate cabin (shown in this 1851 sketch from Jervis McEntee’s diary).

I began a new search to determine where Wood’s cabin had stood, using the 1851 sketch as a starting point. I feel confident in saying that the mountainscape in the background of the sketch is unmistakably Bluff Hill, which rises above the Bluff Point peninsula of Raquette Lake. So where would one see this particular view?

One might expect that each man’s cabin would have been located within their individual parcel when they obtained legal title to their lands in 1849. The image below shows that Beach was deeded 25 acres to the right of the yellow line, encompassing both tips of Indian Point. Wood was deeded 25 acres in a rectangular parcel between the red and yellow lines. My theory of the location of Beach’s cabin has it on Beach’s property, so Wood’s cabin should have been within his rectangular parcel.

Beach and Wood division

However, after carefully canoeing along the shores of the inner bay between the two tips of Indian Point and along the south shore of Indian Point, I can unequivocally state that the view captured in the McEntee sketch could not have been seen from within Wood’s 25 acre parcel. The only potential location would be at the very back of the inner bay but Needle Island obscures the view of Bluff Hill from that vantage point.

Why would Beach and Wood divide the end of Indian Point in a way that did not correspond to where the men’s cabins were located? The answer comes from looking at the Township 40 Map of 1900. Notice that most of the straight edges of the property parcels are all lines that run parallel to the diagonal boundaries of Township 40. In 1773, Ebenezer Jessup was charged with surveying the boundaries of the Totten & Crossfield Purchase and segmenting the area into townships. The reason why the township’s west and east boundaries run North 27 West rather than straight north-south has been lost to history. Nevertheless, it appears that in giving legal title to the men, Farrand Benedict and David Read chose an easier surveying technique to divide the land into equal 25 acre parcels, without regard to the location of the cabins.

jessup line

This realization opens up the possibility that Wood’s cabin actually existed on what was legally Beach’s land.   McEntee was not the only visitor who wrote about Wood’s cabin. In 1855, Henry Jarvis Raymond, the founder of The New York Times and NYS Lt. Governor, wrote of his visit to Indian Point.

[Wood] and Beach in course of time disagreed, for in any part of the earth, no matter how secluded, two persons are enough for a quarrel; and a clearing of ten acres, even in a wilderness a hundred miles through, affords ground enough for a local dissension. So finding they could no longer live together, they agreed to divide their fortunes and have nothing to do with each other. Wood moved into a hut, half logs and half bark, some fifty rods from Beach.

Fifty rods is 825 feet. From where I believe Beach’s cabin to have been, I ventured roughly that distance in each direction seeking to see if any point gave a view similar to the McEntee sketch. I found it at what our family calls Hawks’ Point (named for the family of Ken Hawks, current owners of Watch Point on North Bay, who camped here for many years). The view from here has a very close resemblance to the sketch.

Hawks point map view

Surely this was the location of Wood’s cabin.  I was convinced until I read the entirety of Jervis McEntee’s diary from his 1851 visit. McEntee said of Wood’s cabin, “The house is built of logs with a bark-covered porch in front, and standing on a gentle elevation about fifty yards from the lake.” A cabin 150 feet back from the lakeshore on Hawks’ Point would be in a marsh and no longer have a view of Bluff Hill.

McEntee also states that, “Wood was not at home but we saw him coming over the lake soon after we reached his house…he had just now returned from ‘Blue Mountain’.” This could be interpreted to mean that they were able to see Wood coming north across Beaver Bay up from the mouth of the Marion River. There is no such view from Hawk’s Point.

McEntee also commented that he had “stopped at Wood’s and got our clothes and some meal and potatoes. We heard three or four rifle shots in the direction of Beach’s, and rowing over there we found a skiff and a birch bark canoe and met Beach and an Indian at the landing.”

If Wood’s cabin had been on Hawks’ Point, Beach could have shouted over the water the short distance from his landing and would have not needed to fire gunshots in the air to get McEntee’s attention.

Levi Wells Prentice’s 1877 painting titled “Raquette Lake from Wood’s Clearing” alludes to another possible location for Wood’s cabin.   Prentice actually painted at least three versions from the same sketch. I believe the one shown below helps to identify where the sketch was drawn.

LWP Woods Clearing

I believe the sketch was drawn at a spot (marked with a white star below) on a small inner cove at the far east end of the southern tip of Indian Point while looking south. The peninsula on the left of the painting is Woods Point, where William Wood’s brother Josiah lived. Osprey Island appears to the right across a small channel from Woods Point. The far shoreline is not actually the southern shore of Raquette Lake but rather Long Point. The mountainscape in the background shows the Blue Ridge, Wakley, and Metcalf mountain ranges that lie south of Raquette Lake.

LWP sketched here

If one looks due east rather than south from here, you do see a view of Bluff Hill similar to the McEntee sketch. Sitting on the porch and looking south from here, you would see William Wood “coming over the lake” as he “returned from Blue Mountain”. The distance from Beach’s cabin and the fact that I believe Wood left a windbreak of trees to the north of his cabin (seen in McEntee’s sketch) would explain why Beach had to fire gunshots in the air to get McEntee’s attention. Finally, there are stone piles that appear to be corner foundation points found where I believe Wood’s cabin to have been.

Woods cabin v2My search would have ended here if not for two conflicting “facts”.

Warren Reynolds recalls his father showing him the remains of William Wood’s cabin when he was a small boy in the 1930s. Only a corner joint of rotting timbers remained. Warren’s father claimed that his friend Billy Wood, one of Wood’s descendants, originally showed him the site. These remains were not anywhere near the tip of the southern fork. Instead, this cabin had been located just to the west of the line dividing Beach and Wood’s properties on the southern fork but closer to the inner bay of Indian Point.

The second contradiction is Henry Jarvis Raymond’s 1855 comment that Wood’s cabin was “some fifty rods from Beach”.   The location near the tip of the southern fork is almost 100 rods away from Beach’s cabin.

My research of our family’s property deed revealed a clue that might explain these contradictions. In 1854, Matthew Beach sold a 4.75-acre parcel to Albert and Gardner Eldred. The boundaries of this small parcel, in blue below, enclose the area where I believe William Wood had his first cabin. Either Beach forced Wood out of his cabin or perhaps by 1854 Wood had already begun to court Celia Ann Whitman, whom he married in 1858 after fathering their daughter Lydia in 1857. Did he choose to build a more suitable cabin to raise a family in, within the boundaries of his legal property?

Woods 2nd cabin

Based on Reynolds’ recollection and the supposition that Henry Jarvis Raymond visited this second cabin in 1855, I have marked an approximate location around fifty rods from Beach’s cabin. It is likely that Wood occupied this cabin from 1854 until 1859 when he moved to Elizabethtown. Today the sites have modern construction or disrupted landscapes that preclude a more in-depth ground search for evidence, but I feel confident in my conclusions.

 

The Search for Raquette Lake’s First Cabin

I know where Matthew Beach and William Wood built their original cabin (depicted in this 1840 sketch by John Hill) on Indian Point. Or at least I think I know, or perhaps I should say I have deduced a pretty darn good educated guess. I welcome other’s critiques of my assumptions.

1840 Mathew Beach Cabin sketch2

After discovering the location of the mysterious 1878 Thacher cabin, my obsession turned to searching for the first settlers’ home on our land. The above sketch offers little in the way of accurate perception of distances given that the opposite side of North Bay appears as close to Needle Island as the tip of Indian Point. And don’t get me started on the apparent thickness of Needle Island. Yet the drawing holds some surprisingly valuable clues.

One might even question if this could possibly be a view of Needle Island and Indian Point. Thankfully, there exists exactly one more piece of contemporary evidence on the cabin’s location. A portion of the 1860 map of the Headwaters of the Racket River by F.A. Merritt shows the cabin on the north fork of Indian Point. Here again, the proportions do not reflect reality and the exact location of the cabin cannot be determined from the map.

interpretation 1860 map final

Although the sizes of the islands appear gigantic, my interpretation is that the very tip of the north fork appeared to the mapmaker as two small islands (B & C). If surveyed in early spring with unusually high water, what is today swampland separating A from B and B from C, could have been an open channel of water. This would imply that the cabin was located within the broad area marked A.

Having consulted the two pieces of evidence that provide graphic clues to the cabin’s location, I turned to the pitifully few cabin descriptions written by Beach and Wood’s visitors.

During his 1851 visit, James McEntee wrote:

We heard three or four rifle shots in the direction of Beach’s, and rowing over there we found a skiff and a birch bark canoe and me Beach and an Indian at the landing. Beach told us that a party had arrived and probably the one Brainerd was expecting…I had quite a curiosity to see him, and walking up to Beach’s house we found the party there.

The words “walking up to Beach’s house” appear to correspond with the 1840 drawing’s perspective that the cabin was on a slight rise of land above the lakeshore. The description also implies that McEntee could not hear or see the party at the cabin from the shore.

C. W. Webber wrote of his 1849 visit: “Securing our boat, and taking out our equipment, we walked to the hut, but a few rods from the edge of the lake”.   A rod is 16.5 feet, but the meaning of “but a few” could be interpreted to mean as little as two to perhaps five rods. This would imply that the cabin could have been between 33 and 82 feet of the shore. Given McEntee’s words, I suspect the cabin was at the higher end of this range.

An enticing yet cryptic clue comes from David Read’s 1848 letter published in Joel Tyler Headley’s The Adirondack or Life in the Woods.

About five hundred yards from Beach’s hut, stands a lofty pine tree, on which a grey eagle has built its nest annually during the nine years he has lived on the shores of the Raquette….From his cabin door he can see them in sunshine and storm.

If only Read had described where this lofty pine tree itself was located.

These writings did not help to zero in on the cabin’s location, so modern science was needed to aid the search. Dr. Mike Kudish, professor emeritus of forestry science from Paul Smith’s College suggested that the cabin and cropland clearing would likely today be a stand of spruce and white pine, secondary species that would have naturally reforested the open clearing.

Using an aerial photo from the early spring and Google Earth, I determined the GPS coordinates of the corners of two search areas (orange and red) mostly devoid of deciduous trees. The yellow line is the western boundary of Matthew Beach’s property.

tree cover search areas

Of course an aerial photo does not reveal what the reality is on the ground. Walking the two search areas with professional GPS equipment, I mapped the areas in blue that are wetlands and the red and orange areas which were the only ground suitable for the cabin’s location.

gps and wetlands

I searched the ground of both sites extensively but found nothing that indicated the remains of a cabin. The cabin had been described by C. W. Webber in 1849 as “of such peculiar and original construction that few would imagine it, at first sight, a human habitation…scarcely anything more that a hunter’s bark shanty of large size…and the roof was formed of as many as three different thicknesses of spruce bark, beside there being a rough flooring to the ‘building’, if indeed, I may use this term.”

Lacking a foundation or even stone pilings at its corners, it is not surprising that all surface evidence of the cabin has rotted away in the intervening 135 years since it was last occupied.

With the help of the Adirondack Research Consortium, I contacted Dr. Christopher Wolff of the SUNY Plattsburgh Anthropology Department. Dr. Wolff and two graduate assistants spent two days digging ten shovel test pits in each of the search areas.

shovel test pits

Alas, we found no evidence of the cabin’s location. In fact we found no man-made artifacts whatsoever. We did however discover that there is a burn layer in the ground about 8 to 12 inches below the surface (the grey ash in the photo). Dr. Wolff said it either indicates slash and burn cultivation at the hands of Beach and Wood or Native Americans, or a forest fire long ago. The burn layer is present throughout the north fork of Indian Point and thus does not provide any clue to the cabin’s location.

burn layer

The Empire State Metal Detector Association based near Albany also aided the search.   Tim Myers and Peter Teal travelled up to Indian Point for two days of detecting.

metal detector

Once again the search proved elusive. No artifacts were found in the red search area and the further west orange search area revealed only the lead bullet shown below which was fired from a .32 Smith & Wesson Number 2 Army Revolver (manufactured between 1861-1874) and a piece of iron from a chain link. Both of which post date the time of Beach and Wood.

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Meyers and Teal were very surprised to find so little in an area occupied from 1837-1870; however, Meyers commented that they have done detecting at sites clearly marked as homesteads on old maps and come up similarly empty-handed. Both men believe that the orange search area is much more suitable for the cabin site, given that the red search area is bordered on two sides by wetlands and susceptible to flooding.

The mystery would have remained unsolved if not for the following letter, written by Ms. Howell to Amanda Benedict during the 1873 women’s botany expedition chronicled in Barbara McMartin’s book To the Lake of the Skies.

The accompanying sketch is a view from our camp [on Indian Point] which we were looking upon when at supper…The little boat near the island [Needle Island] which is one of our own is trying to approach the splendid buck, which is swimming with all its might toward the west and will evidently reach land before the boat overtakes it. Near the boat on the end of the island is the Eagle’s nest which for many years was the home of a family of Osprey.

Alone this text offers no meaningful insight, but it is the next paragraph of the letter that enlightens. Ms. Howell’s letter proceeds with a verbatim plagiarizing of two whole paragraphs of David Read’s 1848 letter in which he speaks of the “lofty pine tree” 500 yards from Beach’s hut. We do not know if Ms. Howell included these words in her original letter or if Benedict placed them there when transcribing all of the expedition letters. However, I think it is clear that the writer is implying that the Eagle’s nest on the west end of Needle Island in 1873 is one and the same as that seen by David Read in 1849.

This is very plausible as John Plumley and Amos Hough, as close as family to Matthew Beach, were among the guides with the women’s expedition camping on Indian Point. They would have known and could have told Ms. Howell and Amanda Benedict of the lofty pine and eagle’s nest’s history. It is also likely that Amanda Benedict would have read and indeed might have had with her on the trip her uncle Joel Tyler Headley’s book in which David Read’s letter was published.

A closer study of the 1840 sketch of Beach and Wood’s cabin reveals corroborating evidence of this theory.   If you look closely, the second pine tree in from the west end of Needle Island is topped with a horizontal surface rather than coming to a point. No other tree in the drawing has a similar top. Could the artist have been attempting to indicate an eagle’s nest?

eagles nest

A similarly close look at the drawing of the cabin clearly shows a hill rising behind and above the cabin with a few trees on it.

hill above hut

I believe this hill to be the small rise indicated by the arrow in the topographical map below.

hill topo o & r areas

Putting together all of these clues, I theorize that the cabin was located at least 500 yards away from the west end of Needle Island, that the island was visible from the vantage point of the cabin, and the area northwest of the cabin had a higher elevation.

Needle Island is not visible from within the red search area, blocked by the portion of Indian Point between it and the island. Also, the red search area is almost completely level with no hill near a cabin’s possible location.

Needle view

I am convinced that the original cabin must have existed in that portion of the orange search area south of the light blue sight line from Needle Island. I welcome any suggestions for how to search for definitive evidence in this area. However, even if I never find a holy grail of an artifact, I am content with my current conclusion, and my obsession has been sated.

 

 

“A Week in the Wilderness” by Henry Jarvis Raymond 1855

Harold Jarvis Raymond

Among the many who visited Matthew Beach and William Wood on Indian Point, Henry Jarvis Raymond is notable as the founder of The New York Times.  Raymond was also the elected Lt. Governor of New York State in the summer of 1855 when he travelled through the region.  He published four letters detailing his Week in the Wilderness.   I have republished here his second letter which describes his time at Raquette Lake and at the Iron Works in Adirondac (present day Tahawus).

WiW1

WIW2

WIW3

WIW4

WIW5

WIW6

WIW7

WIW8

WIW9

WIW10

WIW11

WIW12

WIW13

WIW14

WIW15

WIW16

WIW17

WIW18

 

 

He Who Would Give the Name ————– “Adirondacks” —————– Prof. Ebenezer Emmons

After much toil and labor in rowing, in consequence of a strong head wind, we reached the lake at its eastern extremity. This accomplished, our next business was to find the establishment of Beach and Wood situated on some point on the opposite shore. By fortunate conjecture, our guide struck upon the right course and soon landed on Indian Point at the residence of the above named gentlemen. Here we determined to remain till we had thoroughly explored the region.  1

Thus Prof. Ebenezer Emmons described his arrival on my family’s land in 1840, captured in this sketch of Beach and Woods’ cabin by John William Hill.

1849 Birch Pt sketch

Emmons was continuing his efforts, begun in 1837, as director of the Survey of the Second Geological District to study the mineralogy, geography and geology of 10,000 acres across northern New York State.  2

In his 1838 report Emmons wrote:

The cluster of mountains in the neighborhood of the Upper Hudson and Ausable river, I propose to call the Adirondack group, a name by which a well known tribe of Indians who once hunted here may be commemorated. 3

Emmons’ term for the high peaks region was adopted and expanded to describe all of the area now known as the Adirondacks.

However, Emmons’ impact on the region is not limited to its name. In the summer of 1837, he led the first recorded ascent of the tallest mountain in New York and named it Mt. Marcy, in recognition of Governor William Marcy who appointed him to lead the survey.  4

Ebenezer Emmons

Emmons was a true renaissance scholar who took a winding path through various disciplines before taking the helm of the survey. Born in 1799 in Middlefield, MA, his fascination with the natural world began early. According to an 1896 biography published in Popular Science Monthly,

The doors in his room were covered with bugs and butterflies pinned on when he was a small boy. His mother often used to say: ‘Eb, why do you always have your pockets filled with stones? I have to mend them every week.  5

Emmons enrolled at the age of fifteen to study botany at Williams College, graduating in 1818. He then attended Berkshire Medical College and became a practicing physician in Chester, MA. In 1824, he began his pursuit of geology at the Rensselear Institute (RPI), a member of the first graduating class of 1826. That year, he published his Manual of Mineralogy and Geology, which became the instructional text at RPI. He returned to Williams to chair the Natural History department, while spending part of each year teaching chemistry and obstetrics at the Albany Medical College.  6

While traveling with Williams College President Hopkins and Hopkins’ brother Emmons’ enthusiasm for discovery got the better of him according to the 1896 biography.

Emmons asked his friends to turn aside with him to visit a certain cave. They consented to the delay, although the brother was on his way to be married, and waited just within the entrance of the cavern while Emmons penetrated to its inmost depths. After a time they heard the excited cry, ‘I’ve got it! I’ve got it! And out rushed the geologist, bearing triumphantly a muddy fragment of rock.  7

Governor Marcy selected Emmons to lead the geologic survey because of his preeminence in the field best expressed a century later by Cecil J. Schneer.

If we were to limit our study to the selection of any single individual as principally responsible for transformation of American geology it would have to be Professor Ebenezer Emmons. Emmons’ work served as a model and a standard for the geologic-stratigraphic surveys for the rest of the United States.  8

While Emmons’ work left an imprint across the country, some of his impacts on the Adirondacks were short-lived. During the 1840 expedition, Emmons travelled through the Eckford Chain of Lakes, named for Henry Eckford who originally surveyed them in 1811. Emmons named the individual lakes for Eckford’s daughters: Lake Janet (Blue Mt. Lake), Lake Catherine (Eagle Lake) and Lake Marion (Utowana Lake). For a short time, Blue Mountain was called Mt. Emmons.  Today the Marion River is the only piece still carrying the name Emmons gave it.  9

LAKE JANET

The long-term impact of Emmons on the Adirondacks has more to do with the language and art work in his Survey reports. His writing romanticized an idyllic location that previously had been portrayed as cold, swampy and dreary. His reports were accompanied by some of the first drawings to show the public the majestic beauty of the Adirondack mountains, lakes and streams.

Emmons drawing 4

He gave an attractive description of Raquette Lake, which others ascribed to the region as a whole.

The view of the lake from [Indian Point] is also fine, and it is no exaggeration to represent it as equal to any in the northern highlands of New York. The waters are clear but generally ruffled with the breeze. It is well supplied with lake trout, which often weigh twenty pounds. The neighboring forests abound also in deer and other game. Hence it is finely fitted for the temporary residence of those who are troubled with ennui or who wish to escape for a time during the months of July and August from the cares of business or the heat and bustle of the city. To enable the traveler or invalid to make the most of the situation, a supply of light boats are always on hand for fishing and hunting, or for exploring the inlets and neighboring lakes which are connected with the Racket [sic].  10

Historian Philip Terrie places Emmons in the context of his times.

Emmons understood that America would follow western Europe down the path of industrialization, and he knew that the beauty and opportunities for spiritual renewal offered by the Adirondacks would be an invaluable treasure in a state where mills and smokestacks were even then beginning rapidly to replace forests and farms.  11

However, Emmons also promoted the economic exploitation of the natural resources within the Adirondacks. According to Terrie, Emmons had a vision of an “intensely populated and cultivated landscape” that embodied within one man the conflict between natural preservation and resource use, which still confounds us today. It is probable that the indomitable pioneer spirit of Matthew Beach and William Wood and early settlers of Long Lake and similar hamlets caused this vision to flourish as Emmons described.

We found that Indian Point was situated about midway in the lake between its southern and northern extremities and projecting far into it towards the northeast. It contains four or five hundred acres of excellent land, a warm, rich soil, as it appeared from the fine state of vegetables which were growing in the garden, and which were in an equal state of forwardness with the same vegetables growing on Lake Champlain.  12

Beach and Woods’s farm consisted of several acres of crops and hay pasture for up to ten cattle. But, theirs was a deceptively impressive subsistence farm. Though most Adirondack soils and the climate would not support expansive cultivation, their farm likely owed its success to two centuries of soil enrichment through burning and cultivating of root crops by Native Indians for their seasonal hunting parties.

Emmons’ experience on Indian Point affected his overall vision for the region. Fortunately for us, his connection to Indian Point did not alter the lake’s name. Had Emmons chosen to re-name the lake, we might know it today by the aboriginal name recorded in his report, Lake Fobullangamuck.

Adirondack Murray’s Guide Honest John

John Plumley Photo

Honest John Plumbley [sic], the prince of guides, patient as a hound, and as faithful, – a man who knows the wilderness as a farmer knows his fields, whose instinct is never at fault, whose temper is never ruffled, whose paddle is silent as falling snow, whose eye is true along the sights, whose pancakes are the wonder of the woods…

Reverend William H. H. Murray in Adventures in the Wilderness 1869.

Murray is widely credited with bringing the masses to the Adirondacks.   The historian Warder Cadbury said, “Murray quite literally popularized both wilderness and the Adirondacks.” “Murray’s Rush”, the onslaught of tourists who rushed to the mountains in response to his book, gave rise to the claim that the Adirondacks are the birthplace of the American vacation.

John Plumley* is the man who brought the Adirondacks to Murray, serving as his guide through his adventures.

Following the similar Adirondack migration of fellow Vermonters Matthew Beach and William Wood, Plumley’s father moved his family from Shrewsbury, Vermont, to Long Lake in the 1830s. John was younger than ten when he arrived and quickly befriended an older boy, Mitchell Sabattis. Like Sabattis, John became an active guide at the age of twenty-one.

Plumley was the first guide to introduce Beach’s Lake to Dr. Benjamin Brandreth. In 1851, Brandreth purchased 24,000 acres surrounding Beach’s Lake (now called Brandreth Lake) to form the first private preserve in the region. Plumley served several years as caretaker for Brandreth Park and constructed many of the cabins within the park. The last photo taken of Plumley in 1899 shows him seated at the feet of what was believed to be the last wolf killed in the Adirondacks.

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There are two strings that tie Plumley to the fifty acres of Beach and Wood. As a young man, Plumley married Zobeda Hough, the daughter of Amos Hough. In 1856, Matthew Beach deeded his 25 acres on Indian Point to Amos Hough on condition that Hough would care for Beach until his death. Although Hough sold the land the same year to a land speculator named Marshall Shedd, from 1856 to1859, Hough and Beach still lived in his cabin on Indian Point. However in the 1860 census, Beach is found living in the Long Lake home of John Plumley, who had assumed his father-in-law’s obligation. Plumley also purchased William Wood’s 25 acres on Indian Point, owning the land from 1859 to 1864.

Hough and Plumley’s intimate familiarity with Indian Point led to a most remarkable rendezvous that occurred on these shores in the summer of 1873. Using Adirondack Murray’s book as a guide, a group of 25 women traversed the Adirondacks from four directions to meet at Indian Point. They were a group of teachers and students from a women’s academy in New York City founded by Amanda Benedict, the wife of Farrand Benedict’s younger brother Joel.

While not the first group of women to explore the Adirondacks, this expedition was clearly the most ambitious. The 16 Adirondack guides employed by the expedition included several of the most prominent guides of Adirondack history: Mitchell Sabattis and his son Charlie, John Cheney, William Higby, James Sturgess, Alvah Dunning, and Plumley.

One group travelled from Lake Champlain along the Saranac River and Raquette River to Raquette Lake in the company of Amos Hough. Another entered the region from the west, following the Moose River into the Fulton Chain of Lakes where Plumley guided them through to Raquette. A third group followed a path similar to Sir John Johnson’s escape north from Lake Pleasant, approaching Raquette Lake from the south. The forth group departed Ticonderoga and followed the Schroon River, and then hiked west to meet the rest.

The expedition’s final destination was Blue Mountain Lake, or as the women called it the “Lake of the Skies” (also the title of Barbara McMartin’s wonderful book detailing the expedition). All four groups rendezvoused at Raquette Lake’s South Inlet Falls on June 11th, then spent four days camped near the site of Beach’s cabin on Indian Point prior to continuing to Blue Mountain Lake on June 15th.

A number of places could have served for their base camp, perhaps Big Island or Woods Point, which both lie between South Inlet and the mouth of the Marion River that leads to Blue Mountain Lake. Indian Point was out of their way and double the distance from South Inlet. Hough and Plumley must have proposed the use of their former property for the base camp.

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When John Plumley died in 1900, the Rev. William H. H. Murray wrote in the journal Woods and Waters:

He taught me a faultless knowledge of the woods, the name and nature of plant and herb and tree, the languages of the night, and the occultism of silent places and soundless shores…He had a most gentle and mannerly reticence and that sweetest of all habits in man or woman – the habit of silence. He could look and see, listen and hear, and say nothing… His knowledge of woodcraft was intuitive. He knew the points of the compass sensationally. He was an atom whose nature mysteriously held it in reciprocal connection with the magnetic currents of the world. In the densest woods, on the darkest nights, he was never bewildered, never at fault… He was the only guide I ever knew…that could not in any circumstance lose himself or his way.

They tell me he is dead. It is a foolish fashion of speech and not true. Not until the woods are destroyed to the last tree, the mountains crumbled to their bases, the lakes and streams dried up to their beds, and the woods and wood life are forgotten, will the saying become fact. For John Plumbley [sic] was so much of the woods, the mountains and the streams that he personified them. He was a type that is deathless. Memory, affection, imagination, literature – until these die, the great guide of the woods will live with ever enlarging life as the years are added to the years, and the lovers of nature and sport multiply.

And so here I do my part to breathe life into the memory of Honest John Plumley.

 

* John’s last name appears with and without the “b” in various written histories. However, the legal deeds to his property on Indian Point spell his name without the “b” and thus I have adopted that standard.

Matthew Beach and William Wood

Yonder comes the boat of Woods and Beach, the two solitary dwellers of this region. It is rather a singular coincidence that the only two inhabitants of this wilderness should be named Woods and Beach. I should not wonder if the next comers should be called ‘Hemlock’ and ‘Pine’.

Joel Tyler Headley, The Adirondack or Life in the Woods 1

Beach and Wood’s presence on Indian Point literally put Raquette Lake on the map.  A fact revealed by one of the earliest depictions of Raquette Lake in J. H. Young’s 1845 map of New York State.   The map shows an almost wholly inaccurate depiction of an un-named Raquette Lake, to the southwest of Long Lake. However, it contains a nearly accurate rendering of Indian Point prominently jutting out from the west side of the lake.

1845 Map and Insert

Indian Point was the focal point of the first map of Raquette Lake because Beach and Wood were the center of hospitality for the earliest adventurers travelling through the region. Professor Ebenezer Emmons in 1840, John Todd in 1843, Joel Tyler Headley in 1844-1846.  The tales told by these writers and the early surveys drawn by them undoubtedly contributed to this depiction of Indian Point on the 1845 map. Our knowledge of Beach and Wood come from the writings of these and later prestigious visitors.

Pioneering Settlers

Matthew Beach was the elder of the pair, nearing sixty and almost two decades senior to William Wood when they settled on Indian Point. Both men were Vermonters who appear not to have sought out the Adirondacks as much as fled civilization in the early 1830’s. Headley noted that:

One of them was once a wealthy manufacturer; but overtaken by successive misfortunes, he at length fled to the wilderness, where he has ever since lived. There is also a rumor, of some love adventure—of blasted affections followed by morbid melancholy—being the cause of this strange self-exile. 2

They originally made their livelihood in the region as trappers, according to Henry Jarvis Raymond. Raymond [founder of The New York Times newspaper and Lt. Governor of New York at the time] visited with them in 1855, remarking “They became so fond of the country and the life that they finally settled there, –clearing their land gradually, never troubling about securing their title *, living together in a bark shanty, which with progress of the age grew into a log hut, and obtaining their living mainly by hunting and fishing.” 3  Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 7.32.48 AM

 

I have yet to find any photographs of Beach and Wood. However, a vivid picture of each is drawn from the writings of their visitors.

C.W. Webber’s describes Beach in The Spirit of the Times in 1849 as:

The old white haired veteran, yet stalwart and hearty, whose step is still elastic, and eye—eagle-like—bright as ever—coarsely dressed, with a true hunter like air…appeared, indeed, no ordinary woodsman…I found Beach quite intelligent, he has picked up much information in one spot or another, and, no doubt, no small amount from Naturalists who, having occasion to visit that country for the sake of geological exploration…have made his hut their quarters. 4

 

William James Stillman, describing an 1855 visit in The Crayon said Beach:

is a man of very interesting character, the noblest example of the backwoodsman I have ever seen, simple and pure in feeling as a child. He was a volunteer at the [War of 1812] Battle of Plattsburg, the bloody character of which contrasted strangely with his quiet and gentle deportment. 5

In 1868, B. F. De Costa wrote in a history of Beach:

Matthew Beach, though possessing little book-learning, had nevertheless, acquired a valuable kind of culture. He was a shrewd observer of character, and seldom erred in his judgment of men. He studied closely the habits of animals of the forest, and was a careful student of nature. 6

References to William Wood in the region, place him living with two other bachelors in a house at Herreshoff settlement to the west of Old Forge in 1832. Wood was a witness to the 1833 infamous murder of an Indian named Drid by Nat Foster (a story for another time). 7  At this early date, Wood was a whole man, given that court testimony during Nat Foster’s trial make no reference to the unusual physique and manner of mobility noted in later histories of the man.

In 1849, David Read (co-owner with Farrand Benedict of Township 40) wrote in a letter to Joel Tyler Headley: 8

David Read W Wood description

 

Raymond remarked about Wood that, “He wears immense shoes—more like boats than brogans—and with these, stumps through the woods at a marvelous pace.” A letter to The Spirit of the Times describing a Constable family trip through Raquette Lake in 1843 said Wood was, “frequently carrying 70 lbs. on his back, and in winter had rather the advantage of him, as with a thick covering of moose hide, his knees answered the purpose of snow-shoes.” 9

The year of Wood’s accident is a mystery. The historian Edith Pilcher claims the accident occurred when Wood fell into the Independence River while returning to his home near Old Forge. Pilcher attributes his survival to being found half-frozen by the very same Nat Foster, whose life Wood had perhaps spared with his evasive testimony during Foster’s murder trial. Local Indian friends of Wood are said to have amputated his legs and nursed him back to health. 10  Given he was whole at the time of the Nat Foster-Drid incident, Wood’s misfortune must have occurred after 1833. The absence of Beach’s character in these stories leads me to conclude that this tragedy befell Wood prior to their joint residence on Indian Point.

The exact year of Beach and Wood’s arrival on Indian Point is also unknown, but it appears to have been between 1835 and 1839. The 1843 Constable family trip described in The Spirit of the Times mentions the “two old hunters who had lived here about eight years” –meaning 1835. Joel Tyler Headley wrote extensively of his 1846 visit with Beach and Wood stating “the two hunters that occupy [two huts] the only inhabitants that are or have been on the shore for the last nine years.” This would correspond to 1837. Stillman in 1855 states that “Mr. Beach has lived here seventeen years”, fixing 1838 as the date. At the second-ever town meeting of Long Lake in 1839, William Wood was elected Assessor and Matthew Beach was elected Commissioner of Common Schools. 11   It is likely that the two were then living together on Indian Point. Therefore, I believe Wood’s accident occurred sometime between 1833 and 1838.

A Hut in the Woods

In 1840, Prof. Ebenezer Emmons and J. W. Hill stayed with Beach and Wood in their hut while surveying the Raquette Lake region for the Survey of the Second Geological District of New York State. 12  During this survey, Hill drew a sketch of their hut that was later published in Headley’s book.

1849 Birch Pt sketch

Various visitors described the hut shown here in their Adirondack writings. In 1843, John Todd wrote in Simple Sketches, “They have built the hunter’s lodge of bark, and adorned it with the antlers of many an old stag, and many a trophy of the art and skill of man over the instincts of the forest.”

Webber said the hut was “of such peculiar and original construction that few would imagine it, at first sight, a human habitation.” Webber provides this description of the hut’s interior:

Webber hut interior

Stillman later noted by 1855 “The rude cabin which he [Beach] first built has grown gradually into a comfortable house.”

Hunters and Trappers

As one of today’s summer folk, it is hard for me to imagine the almost solitary year-round life of Beach and Wood on Indian Point. Their existence depended upon the land as revealed by Webber’s description of “a shed, connected with the hut, presented within a goodly array of deer skins, barrels of salted ‘lakers’, and strings of the same kind of fish, smoked; while lying around on different sides, were traps of all sizes, from such as were capable of holding a bear, to mink traps.”

Contemporary newspaper articles write of Beach and Wood hunting wolves, deer and moose. In The Mammals of the Adirondack Region, a story appears told by John Constable of Wood “trapping a very large beaver in the fall of 1837, in a pond northwest of Indian Point on the Raquette. Wood carried his boat to the pond and paddled twice around it, searching carefully for signs, without going ashore. At last he discovered fur upon the root of an old birch that projected into the water. Here he placed the trap, attached to a float, and on the second day found the beaver in it.” 13   This was noted, at the time, to be one of the few remaining beavers in the Central Adirondacks.

In 1861, William Wood played a part in killing off the last (at the time) family of moose in the State of New York. In July of that year, a sow moose was killed at the South Inlet of Raquette Lake and the artist A. F. Tait wounded a bull calf moose while jacking deer at night on the Marion River.   This wounded moose eluded Tait in the darkness but was later killed in August by Wood. That fall, the last of this moose family was felled along the Marion River near Raquette Lake by a shot from a Long Lake guide named Palmer. 14

Headley described their long, harsh winters:

When the snow is five feet deep on the level, and the ice three and four feet thick on the lake, and not the sign of a human footstep any where to be seen, the smoke of their cabin rises in the frosty air like a column in the desert—enhancing instead of relieving the solitude. The pitch pine supplies the place of candles, and the deep red light from their humble window, at night, must present a singular contrast with the rude waste of snow, and the leafless forest around them.

Their leisure hours they spend in preparing the furs they have taken, and in tanning the deer skins, of which they make mittens…When a quantity of these mittens are made up, Beach straps on his snow shoes, and with his trusty rifle in his hand, carries them out to the settlements.

Adirondack Farmers

Reading of these exploits brings back childhood memories of watching Grizzly Adams on TV, but they did not subsist on hunting, fishing, and trapping alone. What truly astounds me is that they cleared a ten-acre farm on Indian Point.

Webber described their farm in 1849:

I observed quite a respectable garden on the west side of the hut, in which were some 18 or 20 currant bushes, laden with their ripened fruit, interspersed with red raspberry bushes and wild cherry trees—besides cabbages and potatoes in a flourishing condition. On the other side of the hut, towards the lake, was a little patch containing pea vines, then in blossom.

A. P. Edward’s 1852 survey report to the NY State Assembly said they “have a large patch of potatoes, and have cut hay sufficient to winter from 8 to 10 head of cattle, and that too unaided by the plow.” 15

Stillman in 1855:

found a comfortable house, with cattle grazing around, and an enclosure in which a few flowers and some vegetables were growing. There were tomatoes not yet ripe, beets, cabbage, and in the field outside, a scattered growth of turnips of immense size. I pulled up one, a flat, white turnip of the common kind, which measured 24 ½ inches round, and weighed five pounds. The luxuriance of the soil seemed wonderful—the ‘herd’s grass’ stood, on the shore of the lake where the clearing was old, six feet high.

Parting of the Ways

Although they both shared Indian Point, they did not always live together according to Raymond.

He [Wood] and Beach in course of time disagreed, for in any part of the earth, no matter how secluded, two persons are enough for a quarrel; and a clearing of ten acres, even in a wilderness a hundred miles through, affords ground enough for a local dissention. So finding they could no longer live together, they agreed to divide their fortunes and have nothing to do with each other.

Just when this disagreement and separation took place is a puzzle. I suspect that the separation occurred between 1844 and 1846. We know that John Todd found them living together in 1843. Headley’s writings from 1844-1846 are contradictory; one letter speaks of two huts while another describes a winter scene shared together in one cabin. David Read’s letter of 1849 clearly uses the plural “dwellings” and C. W. Webber’s 1849 visit makes no mention of Wood and finds Beach living with a man of 38 who Webber describes as a “rather tall and thin figure”, most undoubtedly not Wood.

The best description of William Wood’s separate cabin comes from the diary of James McEntee, who visited in 1851.

We found his home a very comfortable one, and though rude, exhibited the unmistakable traces of neatness and industry. The house is built of logs with a bark-covered porch in front, and standing on a gentle elevation about fifty yards from the lake. 16

McEntee sketched the hut in his diary:

Wood's Cabin 1851 Jervis McIntee

Courtesy of the Adirondack Museum.

 

As the years progressed, Beach aged gracefully, yet nonetheless came to require assistance. Raymond remarked that, “Beach has grown old—being about seventy, but he is still hale and hearty, he cannot shoot quite so far as he could once, he says, with the same certainty of hitting his game.” Beach invited Amos Hough of Long Lake to live with him and tend to his farm. (It is likely that Hough was the man that Webber found living with Beach in 1849.) 17

In 1856, Beach deeded his 25 acres to Amos Hough on condition that the latter take care of Beach until his death. 18   By 1860, Beach was living in the home of John Plumley in the Village of Long Lake. Plumley was Hough’s son-in-law, having married Hough’s eldest daughter Zobeda. He took on the family obligation and cared for Beach until his death in 1862. 19

John Plumley, who later became “Honest John” –the Adirondack Guide made famous by Reverend William H. H. Murray in his book Adventures in the Wilderness, not only played a part in Beach’s life. He also purchased William Wood’s 25 acres on Indian Point when Wood left Raquette for Elizabethtown in 1859. 20  Wood had found love with Celia Ann Whitman (almost a quarter century younger than Wood). Their daughter Lydia was born in 1857 on Raquette Lake. They wed in 1858 and settled in Elizabethtown or Westport where another daughter was born in 1860. William Wood died in 1868. 21

Why Indian Point?

6 Indian Point red yellow and cabin

Matthew Beach and William Wood settled on the lands to the east of the red line. John Boyd Thacher purchased the portion to the east of the yellow line. The small red dot is the location of the little red cabin built in 1910.

Echoing across time, this question can be asked three ways.  Who were the Indians of its namesake?  Why did Matthew Beach and William Wood choose it for their home? Why was John Boyd Thacher enticed to buy these acres?

According to local lore, Indian Point was the site of an Indian settlement.  The earliest such reference was made by Joel Tyler Headley in The Adirondack: or Life in the Woods, published in 1849.

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Most research does not support the idea of large, permanent  Native American settlements within the Adirondacks.   However, evidence points to the Adirondacks being used as a seasonal hunting ground for the Iroquois, Huron and Algonquin Indians.  Four clues point to the area of Raquette Lake being under the control of the Mohawk Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy or Ho-dé-no-sau-nee (People of the Long House).  This map of the Six Nations of the Iroquois shows the Mohawks’ territory beginning to the west of Raquette Lake and expanding east to Lake Champlain. (Enlarge the map by clicking on it and read the text to the right of the compass rose)

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Guy Johnson’s 1771 Map of the Country of the VI Nations. New York State Museum.

Another clue is that the lands which would become the Totten & Crossfield Purchase (which includes Raquette Lake) were originally purchased by the British Crown from the Mohawk Nation in 1771.   The British had purchased the lands from the Mohawks for 1,000 pounds and sold it to Totten & Crossfield for 40,000 pounds in the same year.  (And you thought flipping real estate was a modern invention!)   Although this land sale took place, the Mohawk Nation later continued to claim the lands and use them until a peace treaty between the newly formed United States and the Iroquois was signed in 1794. 2

In Adirondack Pilgrimage, Paul Jamieson makes the argument that the Albany Road (sometimes referred to as the Old Military Road) constructed for the War of 1812 actually followed the path of an Iroquois trail which dates back to the 1600s.  Jamieson mines the first person writing of a Jesuit Priest named Joseph Poncet who was captured by Mohawks in 1653.  Poncet’s description combined with Jamieson’s research and that of Stephen B. Sulavik in Adirondack: Of Indians and Mountains 1535-1838 yields my approximation of the heavily travelled Mohawk trail which passed just to the west of Raquette Lake, traveling from the Mohawk River Valley to Canada.   The foot path led through the forest to the Oswegatchie River by which the Indians canoed to the St. Lawrence River.

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Beyond the evidence of this Mohawk trail passing close to Raquette Lake, the only other history which directly connects the Mohawk Indians with the lake is the escape of the Tory Sir John Johnson from Johnstown to Montreal in 1776.   His Mohawk guides brought him through the woods to the shores of Raquette Lake and then by canoe north to Canada, a tale which will be retold in a future chapter.

This scant evidence implies that the Mohawks were well acquainted with Raquette Lake for over a century.  But did they have an encampment on Indian Point?  There are no contemporary written histories which specifically speak of the use of Indian Point by the Mohawks.  My conjecture is based on descriptions of how large hunting parties of Mohawks would travel from their year-round villages along the Mohawk River to encampments in the Adirondacks from November to late January.

Father Isaac Jogues is another French Jesuit priest who was captured by the Mohawks in 1642, and his writings describe a hunting expedition departing from the Mohawk village of Ossernenon along the Mohawk River:

If we can assume that such a winter hunting camp existed on Indian Point, why did the Mohawks choose this location along the almost one hundred mile shoreline of Raquette Lake?  I believe it is the geography and topography which influenced their choice.

According to Lewis Morgan in the League of the Ho-De-Nau-Sau-Ne or Iroquois, “For three quarters of a century, from the year 1625 to the year 1700, the Iroquois were involved in almost uninterrupted warfare [with other Indian nations]…from about the year 1640 to the year 1700, a constant warfare was maintained between the Iroquois and the French.”  The 18th century brought ever greater conflict between the Mohawks and Europeans over control of Adirondack territory for the lucrative beaver fur trade. 3

In this context, the Mohawks would have benefited from siting their winter hunting camp in a location on Raquette Lake which could be defended and from which they could observe any approaching enemies.  Indian Point possesses a unique geological feature called the Crags, a series of three rock outcroppings at the top of the ridge line on the peninsula.  At an elevation of 2000 feet, even today one can see all the way to South Inlet, and anyone approaching from the Marion River or Brown’s Tract Inlet would be seen at least an hour before they could land on the shores of Indian Point.  To the northwest, one can see Sucker Brook Bay.

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USGS Raquette Lake Quadrangle Map

While today the tree cover does not provide a view to the northeast, images from the 1800s indicate that the Crags were almost clear of trees and it is highly likely that a lookout stationed there in the 1600s and 1700s would have also been able to see anyone rounding Bluff Point to the northeast of Indian Point.

Drawing from Craggs

Looking South from the Crags – a wood cut printed in Wallace’s Descriptive Guide to the Adirondacks. 1872.

Seneca Photo from Craggs

Photo from the Crags by Seneca Ray Stoddard. circa 1880.

While the Crags may have led the Mohawks to choose Indian Point, where along the shores of the peninsula was the hunting camp?  As the camp would have been used mostly from November to late January, I suspect a location sheltered from the worst of the cold winds blowing across Beaver Bay or North Bay.   Either of the two protective coves would have served well, the cove near Hen and Chickens Islands or the little bay between the two points on the eastern tip.

An understanding of the size and description of a hunting camp helps to create a theory as to where on the peninsula it was located.  Father Jogues’ description implies that a family clan headed by a Chief would likely all relocate to the winter hunting grounds.  The villages in the Mohawk River Valley  would each have several Long Houses.  Each Long House would be the home of a family clan.   The length of the Long House and the number of fire pits within the Long House would relate to the number of families.  An account of Dutch explorers encountering a Mohawk village in 1644 described one Long House of eighty paces in length being home to a Chief, 40 men and 17 women. 4

The Mohawks’ method of hunting deer illustrates the need for a very large hunting party.  Father Jogues experienced the hunt firsthand, “They beat up the stags and the elks from their coverts, and drove them headlong toward the fences that strecthed between the trees and into the narrowing alleys of the traps, were they could easily be slaughtered.  They tracked the animals over the rise and fall of the mountains, and had the zest of dropping them with musket or arrow or javelin.”

Morgan in League of the Ho-De-Nau-Sau-Ne or Iroquois, provides an even more detailed description of the hunting method:

The construction of a V-shaped fence that stretched two to three miles on a side would have required significant manpower.  If the Indian “settlement” on Indian Point was a winter hunting camp, it likely was the temporary home to at least fifty or more people.

A young Mohawk woman named Kateri Tekawitha described one style of temporary shelter used in a winter hunting camp in the late 1600s.

This depiction has been faithfully recreated by Barry Keegan, an expert in primitive Native American structures, in his construction of a traditional wigwam on the shores of Prospect Point on Blue Mountain Lake.

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A traditional wigwam hunting-lodge constructed at Prospect Point on Blue Mountain Lake by Barry Keegan. Photo by Jerry Krasnick.

According to Keegan,  “South of the Adirondacks, wigwams were usually dome shaped and often sided with elm bark; north of our region they tended to be conical, like squat-shaped tepees with birch bark as the siding of choice. The Adirondacks are right on the border between those two types and probably both were in use here, at the very least as seasonal hunting camps.” 5

Father Jogues’s writings appear to describe the second style, “There the [women], under the direction of the men, threw up the three slanting poles of the hunting-huts and tied them at the top and sewed the bark and skins firmly about the triangular frame.”

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A conical teepee style hunting lodge from creaturehomes.blogspot.com

The “hunting-lodges of bark and close-woven boughs” referred to by Kateri or the bark tee pee style described by Jogues appear to have housed a small family of five to ten people.   To accommodate upwards of fifty to one hundred people, the winter hunting camp on Indian Point would have required up to ten lodges.  The annual construction of these lodges for over a century would have established significant forest clearings on Indian Point.

My theory that the hunting camp was on the shores of the little bay nestled within the eastern tips of Indian Point is tied to the reason I believe Matthew Beach and William Wood chose to settle at that spot.  My theory echoes one regarding land use in the Adirondacks first promoted in the late 1800s in an article in the New York Times.

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“The North Woods of Old” The New York Times. May 11, 1890.

The site of the Mohawk hunting camp would not have been open land by the 1840s. The majority of the Mohawk Nation relocated to the St. Lawrence River Valley on both sides of the New York/Canadian border after the Peace Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794 between the Iroquois Confederacy of the Six Nations and the new government of the United States. 6   Although Mohawks continued to come down from Canada into the Adirondacks for hunting in the early 1800s, it is likely that secondary forest regeneration began to take hold of the area of the hunting camp on Indian Point.

Beach and Wood were not simply hunters and trappers.  They also cleared ten acres of cropland to grow potatoes and vegetables.  When they first travelled the shores of Raquette Lake in search of where to stake their claim, Beach was nearly sixty years old and Wood was in his early forties.  I am sure they had a strength and vigor beyond what this author is capable of at 46, and they were accustomed to hard physical work.  Nonetheless, knowing that they intended to clear the land for farming, an area previously cleared by over a century of indigenous use yielding a young secondary forest would have been easier for Beach and Wood to clear with fire and axe than the surrounding primary forest of large diameter trees with deep rooted trunks.

young secondary forest

Young secondary forest

Old growth primary forest

Old growth primary forest

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Beach and Wood chose the twin tips of Indian Point because of the land use potential derived from the remains of the Mohawk hunting camp.  Conversely, the purchase of this land by John Boyd Thacher is puzzling in that it appears that he never really used the land.  It was his father George Hornell Thacher who built and frequented the mysterious original cabin, and yet the title to the land was always only in JBT’s name.  Could it be that JBT was motivated to buy the lands for their historical value?

JBT was an industrialist and politician but also an historian and scholar.  He was a renowned authority on Christopher Columbus and a collector of over 5,000 books and manuscripts from the 15th century, which his widow donated to the Library of Congress.  Among his varied interests, he showed a keen appreciation for the Iroquois Confederacy.  His collection included the original 1630 signed contract between the Iroquois and the Dutch for the sale of the land upon which the city of Albany was built.   At Albany’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1886, then Mayor JBT gave an eloquent speech welcoming a delegation from the Caughnawaga tribe and honoring the Iroquois Confederacy as the blueprint for our democratic form of government. 8

In 1893, he purchased four historically important Iroquois wampum belts. 9   The Hiawatha Wampum Belt was created in the 1500s to commemorate the union of the Five Nations of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas into the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee or Iroquois Confederacy.  To the Iroquois, this wampum belt is equivalent to the original copy of the Constitution of the United States.

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Hiawatha Wampum Belt

The George Washington Wampum Belt commemorates the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794 which brought peace between the newly formed United State of America and the Iroquois Confederacy.

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George Washington Wampum Belt

The other two wampum belts commemorated the first encounter between the Iroquois and European explorers in the 1500s and their encounter with Samuel Champlain in 1609.

Given John Boyd Thacher’s clear respect and appreciation for the culture of the Iroquois Confederacy in his later years, I do not think it unlikely that as a young man of thirty he would be attracted by the folklore of an “Indian settlement” that once graced the tips of Indian Point.