by Charles Herr
The archived pages of the Lowville Journal Republican sometimes include reports of the sudden, unexpected death of a guide, resident or traveler in the Adirondacks, in early days known as the North Woods.
This article intends to continue the story of the deceased, to bring them to our consciousness for a brief moment of meditation for maybe a last time for some, and present them in honor of families who probably have never forgotten.
Again, the dates refer to the published date, not the date of death.
Aug. 27, 1885. A New Jersey man, Norman Thomas and probably suffering from consumption, decided from desperation to try the widely advertised “wilderness cure” and went into the North Woods.
After several weeks at Fenton’s No. 4, he died.
His remains were handled by the Haberer Brothers of Lowville and returned to his home town, New Brunswick, N.J.
No. 4 received its name from being Township Number 4 of the 8 subdivisions made by John Brown after he acquired 210,000 acres in a Livingston mortgage foreclosure sale on December 29, 1798.
“No. 4” to this day trumps the name John Brown gave it, “Unanimity.”
Fenton’s Hotel was a famous stopping place for travelers to Stillwater and Beaver River from Boonville.
The No. 4 settlement was founded by Orrin Fenton around 1840 and, by 1885, his son Charles was proprietor of Fenton’s hotel.
Charles died in 1905, collapsing during a descent with his wife on Whiteface Mt. after a picnic lunch.
The Haberer Brothers were a popular furniture company in Lowville that also handled caskets.
One of the brothers, John, became president of the Old Forge Company around 1901, later dying prematurely in 1908.
July 30, 1885. James Cummings, a guide of the “North Woods”, had just finished building a cottage on Jock’s Lake for a Dr. Harter of Herkimer.
Cummings, age 66, was well known to the hunters and fisherman of the region and had charge of the new camp for the remainder of the season.
Walking down to the shore one evening, Cummings found his boat unfastened and drifting some distance from shore.
He determined to swim to it, reached within six feet of the boat and, according to witnesses, weakened and drowned.
He was considered a little eccentric but always friendly to those he helped fish and hunt.
Feb. 13, 1902. John King, age 72, was a Saranac Lake guide who was caretaker for the preserve of the Lowville’s Mayor Seth Low, Augustus Low.
This preserve was at Horseshoe Pond not far from Tupper Lake.
Not having been seen since Jan. 7th, Low’s foreman sent men to his camp to investigate.
King was found dead in his cabin, partially undressed, with cuts and bruises about his body apparently from a knife.
They also found his empty pocket book.
They determined he had been dead for a week or two and had apparently been murdered.
Sept., 1904. Among the hunting deaths on this news page was the story of two brother guides, Philip and Harry Campbell, out hunting near the head of Independence River, a few miles from the Clearwater (Carter) Station, with their client Mr. Ormabee of Syracuse.
Mr. Ormabee spent much time at camp in the area with his son.
The group of four went deer hunting and about four miles west of the Clearwater Settlement, Harry saw a movement in the brushwood and instinctly fired.
Unfortunately, the movement was his brother Philip.
The bullet entered his face and exited the back of the head. Death was instantaneous.
Naturally frantic, Harry had to leave the body and returned to Clearwater settlement where a coroner was summoned.
Oct., 1913. Frank Holmes, a Boonville native, worked mostly at Little Moose Lake as a guide. On this occasion, Holmes was to accompany a young woman who cancelled because of rain.
Hearing this, Eugene DeBronkhart, who had a camp on that lake’s East Bay, hired Holmes to take him deer hunting.
Holmes met DeBronkhart on the front porch of the camp, where DeBronkhart had just finished loading his gun.
Unfortunately, it slipped from half-cocked to full-cocked and discharged, striking Holmes in the kidney area.
The camp was five miles from Old Forge and Dr. Nelson had to drive 3 miles by car and then row the last 2 on Little Moose Lake. He determined the wound was fatal. Rev. Fitzgerald later arrived and gave last rites.
To be continued…