25Aug

Sacandaga Hunting 1877

Batchellerville resident Wellington E. Gordon recounts, with much detail, a 13 day foray in the foothills in 1887.

Among the members of this hunting party were: Charles Batcheller Wallingford, Vermont, F.F. Noyes Bellport, Long Island, George Robinson of Ilion NY, and from Athens NY W. M. Whitney and the Rev W.B. Hill. Also hunting guides Burr and Chet Sturges of Lake Pleasant.
This journal, in it’s entirety, captures the essence in which the spirit of men are tried and the true gifts of nature are appreciated.

June 30th 1887 Wednesday : I walked to the village this morning where it was agreed we’d meet preparatory to starting for the woods. We had made arrangements with Trum Lyon (owner of the Lyon House in Northville) to come get us from Batchellerville and take us to Lake Pleasant. We all gathered at the Whitneys .With luggage all packed, there wasn’t enough room for everyone to ride so Trum hired another wagon to carry Mr. Hill and myself to Northville where a change would be made for a larger wagon. Going up Sand Hill one of Trums horses balked and Trum got mad which caused the horse to thrash around and break a wiffle tree (A wiffle tree is made of wood and provides the two main points of contact between the horse and the wagon) . This delayed us for some time but we were able to borrow an old set from a farmer.

We resumed our journey to Northville and arrived about 10 AM. Meeting the incoming train (FJ&G) we met Mr. Noyes Brother-in-Law, George Robinson of Ilion NY, who was expected to join the party. After reloading our things into a larger wagon we started for Lake Pleasant with Walter Swears as the driver. We had not gone very far when it became evident that one of the wagon wheels was weak. We got out and with jack knives cut some sticks and bound them to the wheel with withes ( other flexible sticks) in such a way as to make it absolutely safe.

We intended to take a late dinner at Samp Hosleys (in Wells) and we did as it was nearly 4 PM when we arrived there, dinner was waiting it was dispatched quickly, and the journey to the Lake Pleasant resumed. Without any mishaps we arrived at about 8PM. Our guide Chet Sturges, was waiting to receive us and give any necessary assistance to provide for an early start the next morning.
July 1st Friday: And early breakfast at Lake Pleasant House is always I/2 hour to 1 hour later than later than ordered. That plus other little delays, it was 7:30 am before we started for camp. After consulting with the guides , Chet and Burr Sturges, we concluded to camp on Pillsbury Lake instead of Cedar Lake as planned. The are more convenient places to fish and game in abundance is to be found. Packing our things into Dave Sturges lumber wagon and putting on top of all, a wood shod sled with a wagon, we started for our 12 mile tramp through the woods.

The usual terminus of the wagon going is at a place called Sled Harbor. But our driver took us to Miami Stream; a creek that flows into Lewey Lake where we camped last year. We lunched and gave the team a rest before ascending the mountain. From the Miami to the top of the mountain where the descent to the Cedar and the Pillsbury commences, is three miles and the road in places is rough to the extreme. This road was originally cut through from Lake Pleasant to Ogdensburg four rods (a rod is 16 ½ feet) wide cleared in 1812 and was to be used if necessary by marching troops. It was known as the State Road and is marked with mile posts to Cedar. From there it had been allowed to grow up and no one but an experienced woodsman can trace it.

The Miami, where we lunched, is just 8 miles from Lake Pleasant. At the 8 mile post we descended to Pillsbury in a distance of 1 1/2 mile. Before we reached the lake it was necessary to descend a very steep rocky hill. Here the sled broke down and we were compelled to unload our things and mend it before proceeding further. We were delayed an hour and reached Pillsbury at about 5 PM.

We occupied a camp built by a Frenchman known as French Louie who lives 6 miles father near the head of West Canada Creek. He used this camp as sort of a halfway house on his trips to the lake for supplies. This camp is double having a fireplace in the center and would do very well as a winter protection, but as a summer camp to correspond with our ideas, it is a failure. It’s location is about fifty rods from the lake on low ground; the shade has been cut away near it, and no pains have been taken to keep the surrounding area clean. We were disappointed both in the appearance of the lake, the camp, and it’s surroundings. But like good campers we took the matter philosophically and after supper prepared by the guides and made palatable by the long tramp just taken we turned in for the night.

July 2nd Saturday: Early this morning Noyes and Burr turned out in search of ‘beef’ but came home empty -handed, not to say heavy hearted. Whitney and Chet took a trip over to Whitney Lake, a small but beautiful sheet of water a mile from the lower end of Pillsbury. They caught a few nice trout and returning by a pond shot at a deer, but did not hit it. So they came home disappointed.

Hill and Robinson fished near the boat landing and caught quite a number of brook trout. I lay around camp during the forenoon and in the afternoon being more dissatisfied with our location Noyes and I went to the lower part of the lake to explore. The upper end of the lake is very shallow, making it difficult to navigate with a loaded boat. The lower end, however, is deeper and clear from lily pads and the western shore is quite abrupt. Noyes and I explored here for some distance and at last discovered water that seemed enough for camp use; and nearby, close upon a cliff of rocks. A beautiful spot for a camp. On our return to camp we reported our discovery and all decided that early Monday morning we should move to the spot. In the evening Noyes and Chet went out with the gun but returned empty handed.

July 3rd Sunday: In the forenoon we all lounged in the shade and listened to a reading from St. Mark by Rev. Hill. He explained and talked as he read, making it one of the most interesting readings I have ever heard. After dinner we lay in the shade and enjoyed ourselves as best as we could in such a place. Towards evening, Rev. Hill read from Chas Dudley stories of the Adirondacks putting us in good humor for supper and sleep.

July 4th Monday: As early as possible we all started for our new camping place and all assisted in building of the camp; the finest in all respects we ever had.

It is located about 50 feet above the lake and faces ledges about 40 feet high. About 6 rods in back of the camp is a stream which furnishes enough water for drink and keeping butter etc, but not enough for bathing purposes. From the camp we cut a winding path down to the lake where we bathed and landed our boats. At night we were quite tired and turned in early to a refreshing sleep upon fresh balsam boughs cut and laid by Chet and Burr.

July 5th Tuesday: George Brown of Northville and W. G. Snow of Montclair N.J. were expected at Lake Pleasant today to join our party as soon as they could get in, we sent Burr out to guide them in tomorrow.

Chet, Rev. Hill, and myself took a 4 mile tramp to a place called Mud Stream, where it was thought we could get a good catch of trout if no one had fished there lately. To get there we had to go up by and cross Whitney Lake and then follow along the ridge to the outlet of Pillsbury and Whitney which join their waters in one stream. Then a short distance across a little ridge to Mud Stream. This stream together with the one just mentioned, are the head waters of West Canada Creek.

Mud stream, where the trail strikes it, is about 2 feet deep and a rod wide. A few rods above are two deep places where trout usually lie. A rough fish pole and a line with a fresh worm on the hook stood by the side of the trail near the stream and told us this place had been fished this morning or late the night before. However with a little coaxing we caught 18 nice trout the largest weighing 1 pound.
Chet took us downstream a few rods to where it emptied into Mud Lake, and there on a sandy bar we saw what I never expect to see again. A place several rods square was literally covered with deer tracks of all sizes; from that of the smallest doe to that of the largest buck.

After taking the little lunch we had brought, we started for camp and arrived 2 hours later.
On our way back we ran upon Whitney seated by the trail, rifle in hand, watching and had given one shot but without effect. Not long after we reached camp we heard the report of a rifle and within an hour they came in for Chet to go and dress a deer which Whitney had shot.

It had rained a little so that the bushes were wet and the traveling disagreeable, but everyone was happy. Camp life with nothing to eat but trout comes to be monotonous.

Chet (one of the guides) gave us an excellent supper from the tenderloin. Just at dusk we were all gladly surprised to see George Brown come rushing up the path followed by A.J. Green of Montclair NJ. They reported that Snow and A.A. Webster of Brooklyn were at the head of the lake waiting for the guide to return for them. They were determined to come through in a day so left Northville early in the morning, taking breakfast at Samp Hosleys (in Wells) and dinner at Dave Sturges. Burr had not yet arrived so they got Jimmy, Burr’s boy, to lead them in. At Mill Brook about 2 miles from the lake, they met Burr. He went on to the lake to buy some coffee and other supplies and returned the next day. The boys were all pretty tired and a few stories were told before dropping off to sleep.

July 6th Wednesday: Rev. Hill and Green went up to the head of the lake to fish a spring hole. Noyes, Snow Whitney, and Batcheller went over to Whitney Lake and fished from the rocks for trout. Greene and Rev. Hill caught but a few, and those small, but the other party caught the finest stringer of trout I have ever seen. There were but 10 of them the three largest weighted 5 ½ pounds. The rest of our party now numbering 10 stayed around camp and fished at times in the lake catching a few fine trout. During the evening games were played and stories with side splitting effects. Webster in particular is a capital storyteller.

Sleep came late but was very refreshing. I forgot to say that towards evening Chet and I went up to what is called Big Bay to watch for deer. None appeared, however, they would undoubtedly have been safe as I had a rifle with me and had never taken a shot at a deer in all my life.

July 7th Thursday: Allured by the success of the party Webster, Greene, Brown, and Rev Hill took Burr and fished there nearly all day. They were not as successful as the other party, and came back to camp slightly depressed. Greene never got a bite and but the others got one of two fair size trout each.
In the afternoon guided by Chet; Snow, Batcheller, Noyes, Robinson and I went over to Cedar Lake about a mile away. On our way we met Rev. Reeve a Presbyterian minister from Johnstown. We had met previously at Dave Sturges place and he had come into Cedar the same day we had come in with John Sturges. Rev. Reeve was coming over to make a visit but as we were more than half-way to Cedar he went back with us and took us in his camp in a boat and another owned by the guides. The trail from our camp is easily followed. A little more than halfway over it crosses what seems to have been at one time a shallow lake which now is dry and filled up. The end of the trail strikes a little bay on the side of what is known as Middle Lake. From here we rowed down the narrows and through them into the lower largest lake. The scenery around these lakes is the most beautiful of any I have ever seen in the north woods. Mountains surround them on all sides and deep bays that make an irregular but very picturesque outline. The shores rocky but few lily pads grow between them. Several small islands add to the otherwise exquisite beauty of these watery gems.

Rev. Reeves camp is on the west shore of the lower lake back about 6 rods from the shore. It is not pleasantly located, being on low ground and shut out from a view of the lake by a small ridge of spruce. Most excellent springs of water are near it, however, it is but a few steps from the ridge and it is an excellent lounging place with a commanding view of the entire lake and lofty mountains to the north. We did not visit the upper lake but obtained a glance of it up through a pass that leads to it and saw in the distance it’s most prominent feature, a high steep mountain peak known as The Cobble.
The trail from the Cedar to Mud Stream where we fished on Tuesday runs along the base of this mountain. Rev. Reeve and his guide accompanied us home and took supper with us. After supper they smoked and told stories until dusk then left for their camp.

As our meat was nearly gone Noyes and Jimmy went out in the evening and got another deer. Batcheller, Webster, and Chet had been up to the Big Bay in the afternoon with no better success than I’d had the day before. This is the anniversary of my wedding. How I’d like to be at home for a few hours or have them here to see and enjoy the beautiful scenery I have seen this day.

July 8th Friday: Whitney and Rev. Hill went with Jimmy (Sturges) to fish a spring hole about a half a mile below Sampson Lake. Brown and Batcheller accompanied them as far as the lake and fished there until they returned. Sampson is a small lake lying about a half mile south of Whitney and is considered a good lake for trout. Whitney and Rev Hill had no luck but Brown and Batcheller caught a string of fine trout- three of them weighing four pounds.

The rest of our party, except myself, took Burr and went over to fish Whitney Lake and returned with a fine show of trout. Eight of the largest weighed just over 13 pounds. All the party was in the beast of spirits and jokes played lively around. Several of the party made a drawing of the largest trout on white birch bark to carry home with them as a souvenir. Chet and I remained around camp all day.
July 9th Saturday: Noyes, Snow and I went over to Whitney and fished for trout from a raft which they had built the day before , but caught only three , the largest weighing a pound. A shower threatening drove us to camp. Rev. Hill and Batcheller had followed the outlet of Pillsbury down to where the outlet of Whitney joins it and up that to the lake. They were on the shore when we landed our raft, getting ready to cook some of the small trout they caught in spite of the threatening shower. They were determined to remain and fish in the lake.

We arrived at camp just as the shower came on and were followed in a few minutes by Webster and Greene, who with Burr, had been over to the Cedars to Call upon Rev. Reeve and being invited, had taken dinner with him. Whitney Brown and Robinson remained around camp. As our meat was getting low Chet and I went out in the evening and in forty five minutes were paddling back with a yearling buck in the boat. Returning to camp we saw another and I fired at it but did not hit it. A few moments later we heard the deer back in the bushes giving the peculiar snort that accompanies their fright.

July 10th Sunday: Webster and Greene desiring to get home tomorrow night took Jimmy and started for Lake Pleasant intending to take the morning stage from there to Northville the following day. It rained some during the night and was raining when they started, so they must have had a very disagreeable walk. Rev. Hill gave a reading from Romans this morning. It was very interesting but not as good as the one given last Sunday from Mark. As the weather was somewhat Lowery we spent the day quietly in camp. We retired early to be ready for the tramp out of the woods tomorrow- our day for breaking camp.

July 11th Monday: It rained nearly all night. Burr was desirous of carrying home some meat with him so hunted part of the night staying at French Louie’s camp after he had finished. He shot at a deer but did not get it. He came down to our camp early and reported that the team for which we had sent by Jimmy to carry out our things had not come. We ate an early breakfast and packing our things sent the guides off with Rev. Hill Brown, Batcheller, Snow, and Robinson and some baggage; telling the boys to start for Lake Pleasant and we would follow with the guides on their next trip. We got to French Louie’s camp about 8:45 AM and in a short time started for the lake leaving the guides to fix their boats and left our baggage at French Louies camp to be picked up by the wagon if it should come.

The weather is still threatening and though it did not rain I put on my rubber coat and boots and took the lead with Whitney and Noyes following. We had before us 12 ½ miles of hard walking so I started at a slow pace. We met the wagon about a mile toward camp from the Miami Stream. We took a little rest at that stream and again at Wilcox Clearing where we found some strawberries to refresh us. We arrived at Dave Sturges at 2:25 PM. Tired and hungry and found the rest of the party preceded us only long enough to get dinner. I spent the afternoon resting. I bought a pound of spruce gum and 9 ½ pounds of maple sugar at the “corner grocery”. We stayed up until 9:00 PM waiting for Dave to come with our baggage, then concluded that he might have met with a misfortune, such as breaking down. We retired for the night, being told by the woman of the house to go into any room we could find that suited us.

July 12th Tuesday: Trum Lyon had sent a team for us from Northville and we were determined to start early and take breakfast at Samp Hosley’s in Wells. Our baggage came during the night and shortly after 5 AM we were on our way to Samp’s. We arrived about 7:30 AM to find a good breakfast waiting for us. At noon we reached Northville and took dinner at Winnies Hotel where Whitney had left his trunk when he came into the woods. Robinson left the party here and took the train for home. The rest of the party took a long rest in Northville.

Those including myself who set out from Batchellerville reached home about 5PM. Tired indeed but agreed this had been one of our most pleasant camping excursions.
July 8th Friday: Whitney and Rev. Hill went with Jimmy (Sturges) to fish a spring hole about a half a mile below Sampson Lake. Brown and Batcheller accompanied them as far as the lake and fished there until they returned. Sampson is a small lake lying about a half mile south of Whitney and is considered a good lake for trout. Whitney and Rev Hill had no luck but Brown and Batcheller caught a string of fine trout- three of them weighing four pounds.

The rest of our party, except myself, took Burr and went over to fish Whitney Lake and returned with a fine show of trout. Eight of the largest weighed just over 13 pounds. All the party was in the beast of spirits and jokes played lively around. Several of the party made a drawing of the largest trout on white birch bark to carry home with them as a souvenir. Chet and I remained around camp all day.
July 9th Saturday: Noyes, Snow and I went over to Whitney and fished for trout from a raft which they had built the day before , but caught only three , the largest weighing a pound. A shower threatening drove us to camp. Rev. Hill and Batcheller had followed the outlet of Pillsbury down to where the outlet of Whitney joins it and up that to the lake. They were on the shore when we landed our raft, getting ready to cook some of the small trout they caught in spite of the threatening shower. They were determined to remain and fish in the lake.

We arrived at camp just as the shower came on and were followed in a few minutes by Webster and Greene, who with Burr, had been over to the Cedars to Call upon Rev. Reeve and being invited, had taken dinner with him. Whitney Brown and Robinson remained around camp. As our meat was getting low Chet and I went out in the evening and in forty five minutes were paddling back with a yearling buck in the boat. Returning to camp we saw another and I fired at it but did not hit it. A few moments later we heard the deer back in the bushes giving the peculiar snort that accompanies their fright.

July 10th Sunday: Webster and Greene desiring to get home tomorrow night took Jimmy and started for Lake Pleasant intending to take the morning stage from there to Northville the following day. It rained some during the night and was raining when they started, so they must have had a very disagreeable walk. Rev. Hill gave a reading from Romans this morning. It was very interesting but not as good as the one given last Sunday from Mark. As the weather was somewhat Lowery we spent the day quietly in camp. We retired early to be ready for the tramp out of the woods tomorrow- our day for breaking camp.

July 11th Monday: It rained nearly all night. Burr was desirous of carrying home some meat with him so hunted part of the night staying at French Louie’s camp after he had finished. He shot at a deer but did not get it. He came down to our camp early and reported that the team for which we had sent by Jimmy to carry out our things had not come. We ate an early breakfast and packing our things sent the guides off with Rev. Hill Brown, Batcheller, Snow, and Robinson and some baggage; telling the boys to start for Lake Pleasant and we would follow with the guides on their next trip. We got to French Louie’s camp about 8:45 AM and in a short time started for the lake leaving the guides to fix their boats and left our baggage at French Louies camp to be picked up by the wagon if it should come.

The weather is still threatening and though it did not rain I put on my rubber coat and boots and took the lead with Whitney and Noyes following. We had before us 12 ½ miles of hard walking so I started at a slow pace. We met the wagon about a mile toward camp from the Miami Stream. We took a little rest at that stream and again at Wilcox Clearing where we found some strawberries to refresh us. We arrived at Dave Sturges at 2:25 PM. Tired and hungry and found the rest of the party preceded us only long enough to get dinner. I spent the afternoon resting. I bought a pound of spruce gum and 9 ½ pounds of maple sugar at the “corner grocery”. We stayed up until 9:00 PM waiting for Dave to come with our baggage, then concluded that he might have met with a misfortune, such as breaking down. We retired for the night, being told by the woman of the house to go into any room we could find that suited us.

July 12th Tuesday: Trum Lyon had sent a team for us from Northville and we were determined to start early and take breakfast at Samp Hosley’s in Wells. Our baggage came during the night and shortly after 5 AM we were on our way to Samp’s. We arrived about 7:30 AM to find a good breakfast waiting for us. At noon we reached Northville and took dinner at Winnies Hotel where Whitney had left his trunk when he came into the woods. Robinson left the party here and took the train for home. The rest of the party took a long rest in Northville.
Those including myself who set out from Batchellerville reached home about 5PM. Tired indeed but agreed this had been one of our most pleasant camping excursions.

by Lorraine Frasier

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