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Happy birthday, Saranac Lake

March 17, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The Village of Saranac Lake was incorporated by a special election held May 3, 1892 - 120 years ago. The 1992 Centennial Committee published a unique booklet full of stories and pictures on that 100th Anniversary; it was also in 1892 that the Adirondack Park was created. I had the distinct privilege (as a member of that committee) of presenting a copy of our publication to Governor Mario Cuomo at a Park celebration at the Blue Mountain Museum.

David S. MacDowell, who did a wonderful job as Community Development Officer was the driving force behind that publication. Later, he would have been hired as village manager but he would not apply for the position.

Mark Kurtz did an incredible job, as usual, of shooting the centerfold picture for that publicationentitled the "Village's Centennial Citizens' Portrait". About 700 or so Saranac Lake residents lined up in front of the ice palace that cold day, 20 years ago, Sunday, February 2, 1992 and Mark must have stood on top of Mt. Baker to get them all in but he did and what a shot.

Article Photos

Every person in that photo is named in the book, taking up four - 8 x 11 pages starting alphabetically with Marianne Acquavella and ending with Ian Zerrahn.

John Duquette supplied the old photos and probably wrote most of the stories for the publication. So in the vein of preserving local history in these columns as a quick reference to past events here are some excerpts from that publication.

"To Jacob Smith Moody belongs the honor of becoming our first settler. He came from Keene in 1819 and built a log cabin in the Highland Park (later Park Avenue) area with his wife and four children. Five more children would be born in Saranac Lake. In this latter group was a son, Cortez, who became the first child to be born in the area."

Those sons went on to become expert woodsmen and popular guides.


"Capt. Pliny Miller was born in Sand Lake and later moved to Wilmington from where he served in the War of 1812. After Moody he was the first to arrive on the scene in search of a suitable site to erect a sawmill. Together with Alric Bushnell he purchased 300 acres of land adjacent to the river but soon bought out Bushnell's share ... by 1827 he had built a dam and sawmill at the site of the present (just vacated) village office. When Harrietstown was established in 1841 Pliny Miller was elected to be the first supervisor."


"The third settler to arrive, William F. Martin, came from Bangor, near Malone in 1849 bringing with him the very first team of permanent horses to take their rightful place in village history. He purchased property on Lower SaranacLake, and erected one of the first hotels built in the Adirondacks. He christened his new place 'Saranac Lake House' but it became much better known as simply 'Martin's.'

"His son Allen Martin was an early builder of Adirondack guideboats and, together with Fred Rice, built the first steam boat to ply Adirondack waters. The 'Water Lily' made her maiden voyage cruise on July 4th, 1878, with John Phillip Sousa's Band on board for a musical trip around Lower Saranac Lake."


"In the summer of 1858 a very prestigious group of intellectuals arrived at Martin's from Boston to commence a camping vacation.

"The party of ten included William J. Stillman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, John Holmes, Louis Agassiz, Estes Howe, Horatio Woodman, Ebenezer Rockwell Hoar, Jeffries Wyman and Amos Binney. The famous party set out from Martin's in a flotilla of guideboats to reach Follensby Pond, where their vacation site became known as the Philosophers' Camp."


"The fourth pioneer to arrive was Col. Milote Baker who came from Keeseville in 1852 to build his hotel beside the river, where the present stone residence is next to the Pine Street Bridge. In 1854 the first post office was established in his store across the road from the hotel and of course the colonel was appointed to be the postmaster. On the evening of Sept. 12, 1855, Lady Amelia Murray, maid of honor to Queen Victoria, came to Baker's with Governor Seymour to spend the night prior to the start of their much publicized tour of the Adirondacks. Mart Moody was chosen to guide the party.

"Baker was a staunch Democrat and quite vociferous in his opinion of Republicans so that when Buchanan was defeated by Lincoln in 1861, Baker lost his post office to William F. Martin."


Thanks to Mr. MacDowell for creating this piece of history with his other committee members: Mayor William Madden, III, Peter Lesser, Charles Allen, Edna Finn, John Duquette, John Penney, Barbara Parnass, Jeanne DeMattos, David Kirstein, Thomas Hyde, David Petty, Janet Decker, Louise Bellaire, Marilyn Clement and Kathleen Morgan Fobare.

The Village Trustees were George "Bob" Rice, Raymond A. Scollin, Reginald Perras and Dennis Dwyer. Richard V. "Dick" DePuy was Village Manager.

I expect to again quote quite liberally from this publication on the 150th birthday of Saranac Lake.



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