Herr-Story by Charles Herr A look at local days gone by

The Herreshoff Manor: Witness to Tragedy; Part V

In 1875, “the Old Arnold Mansion” was already going to decay and “recording the autumn leaves of its experience. We rambled about the deserted rooms and thought of the many incidents connected with its history.

Antlers, hunting jackets and other paraphernalia of the chase lay scattered about in disorder, and judging from the large number of empty bottles and jugs, the crop of ‘rye’ seldom failed them.” (Utica Daily Observer)

In November 1880, George Washington Sears (Nessmuk) walked through the Manor.

He spent time “counting and inspecting the rooms, noting the broken furniture and discarded tin or iron ware and the moldy boxes, barrels, etc. that remain as they were left in the large and commodious cellar.”

Sears also viewed the old rusty scythe sketched by Thorpe twenty years earlier.

It was “hanging in what was once the drawing room, and in an upper room was a bunk, well filled with soft, dry grass.”

Nearby was a newly used smudge pail, earlier left by a hunter who camped overnight in the Manor.

Otis Arnold Jr. had married by 1881, but died in 1883 with payments on the Manor outstanding.

In 1887, the Lyon family reacquired the Manor after the estate foreclosed on the late Otis Jr. and his estate’s survivors, and the Manor property was purchased by Mrs. Julia deCamp, Lyon’s daughter, at a Sheriff’s sale.

In 1888, a traveler reported in the Boonville Herald that the “frame house, now old, stands near the center (of the clearing), but the doors are wide open, the windows broken in, and the partitions partially torn away”.

A witness to the Manor in 1891 had left Moose River on the Peg Leg Railroad and ridden on the steamer Fawn to Arnold Clearing.

He viewed the “old house rapidly falling into decay….The niggard soil has long been given up to the second growth and the pale green poplar and birch thinly veil what was once a garden or meadow….How many times we had come and gone along the road by that old home when it looked differently. Once it had been the abode of a large adventurous family who knew full well how to make a home in the wilderness. The weary hunter had found shelter there. Whether fresh from the outside world or returning from camp after weeks of exposure, he was always welcome. But now the place was deserted and the only signs of life were the blue jays screaming in the neighboring thickets.” (Boonville Herald)

The days of the Peg Leg Railroad ended in 1892 with the building of Dr. Webb’s Adirondack & St. Lawrence through the Adirondacks. But its cars over wooden rails were used to supply contractors with supplies as the new rails advanced.

Also the name Arnold Clearing would soon be replaced by the new Fulton Chain Station.

David Charbonneau supervised the Italian work force who lived in temporary camps at Arnold Clearing.

The camps would attract bear that some of the workers shot, incurring fines for shooting out of season.

A year later (1893), passengers on the new train line would first see the station, “but a few steps away on a slight rise of ground the house which was the home of Otis Arnold for so many decades, where two sons and ten daughters grew…without ever hearing the sound of a locomotive or knowing other method of travel other than on horse back or in a row boat”. Patrons in the new Cornelius (Connie) Mack’s Hotel (1894), with fall approaching, appreciated the furnace-heated rooms of his hostelry. The writer sat at his window where “the old Arnold place may be seen…The house was built by Charles F. Herreshoff some eighty years ago. It is now very dilapidated, having been unoccupied for some twenty years. A year later in July 1895, the Boonville Herald reported the historic Arnold House was then “nearly razed to the ground”.


The end of the Manor came when, during the first week of May 1896, it “was set on fire and burned to the ground by unknown persons.” Before the fire, “a few girders and about one-third of the original roof made up the old house that has been pointed out to thousands of travelers for years”. Grady informs us that Dana Fraula of Old Forge burned it as it was considered a menace to children playing near its walls.


When Grady and Arnold’s daughter Esther viewed the Thendara location in 1930, only the exposed cellar depression on the rise remained. Today, even the rise upon which the Manor stood has disappeared, replaced by a highway materials storage facility. But the memories of Herreshoff, Foster, Peter Waters, Charles Grant, Otis Arnold and Sanford Sperry remain.


Sources: “Trappers of New York” by Jeptha Simms; “A History of the Adirondacks” by Alfred Donaldson; “The Sapbush Run” by Thomas O’Donnell; “The Story of a Wilderness” by Joseph Grady; “Salt Pork and Poor Bread and Whiskey” edited by Henry A. L. Brown; “John Brown’s Tract: Lost Adirondack Empire” by Henry A. L. Brown and Richard Walton; “A Visit to John Brown’s Tract” by Thomas Thorpe; “John Brown’s Tract” by Charles Snyder; “The Adirondack or Life in the Woods” by Joel T. Headley; “Summerings in the Wilderness or Modern Babes in the Woods” by H. Perry Smith; “1889 Descriptive Guide to the Adirondacks” by Edwin Wallace; “Canoeing the Adirondacks With Nessmuk” edited by Dan Brenan; “The Chad Browne Memorial” compiled by a Descendant; “Gazetteer of the State of New York” by J. H. French; “Descendants of Joseph Minor” Thomas Minor Society; 10,000 Year Calendar website; Oneida County Cemeteries, Kathleen Last; FindaGrave data, Kathleen Last; Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries website; and the following newspapers from the Northern New York Library Network and Fultonhistory.com: Lowville Journal & Republican, Utica Daily Observer, The Roman Citizen, Boonville Herald, Lowville Northern Journal, Syracuse Sunday Herald, Syracuse Daily Standard, Waterville Times, Lewis County Democrat, Utica Weekly Herald, Mexico Independent, Utica Weekly Herald, Oswego Commercial Advertiser, Jefferson County Journal, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Oswego Palladium, Utica Observer Dispatch, Utica Daily Press, Lowville Democrat, Skaneateles Democrat, Governeur Free Press, and Watertown Times. Also P506 Herreshoff Manor photo from Town of Webb Historical Association.


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