An 1891 negative opinion of Doctor Webb’s Railroad

Part two

Some five years ago a wooden railway (first Fulton Chain Rail-way] was built, beginning at Moose River tannery so-called, which is situated thirteen miles from Boonville (a village on the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg railroad).

A good road and daily stages make connection at Moose River [Settlement] with this little railway.

The [wooden] rails were laid nearly to the line of Township 7, when the owners, to save their park from railroad encroachment, conceived the plan of improving [with dams and lock dams] Moose River (the outlet of the Fulton Chain), to enable them to run a little flat-bottomed steamer [the Fawn], which, connecting with the cars [at Minnehaha], accommodates the travelers in search of pleasure, sport and health.

On this tract are twenty small lakes, which, with this beautiful stream [Moose River], make a park of unrivalled beauty.

In opening this little river for navigation (if it may be called), great care was taken not to raise the water above a line where it would injure the trees or obscure the original outlines of the stream.

This was done by [H. Dwight Grant’s] several low dams and a lock, thus affording the necessary water for the little boat.

While it might be confessed that she bumps her nose sometimes in making the many sharp turns, the time thus occupied is all too short for the lover of the beautiful, who bends his head at one moment to avoid the drooping foliage and turns it the next to catch a glimpse of a startled deer.

Down in the clear water can be seen the speckled trout, and the young partridges scurry through the sedge grass at the water’s edge at the warning sound of the little paddle wheels.

Finally the old ‘Arnold clearing’ [across from Thendara depot] is reached, for forty years the only house in this region, and built by the father of the present owners [see comments following the letter] to serve as headquarters for the few guides and sportsmen that in those days visited this retired spot [replaced by Forge House].

Half an hour later the unique little boat is left with regret as ‘Old Forge’ is reached, at the foot of the Fulton Chain.

Through this charming region comes Dr. Webb’s shrieking locomotive.

Partridges, deer and trout disappear; even the stream itself is filled in, as the surveyors propose to use its bed for the railroad a portion of the distance.

Without thinking of the damage which Dr. Webb’s railroad will inflict upon the forest who can estimate the loss and suffering it will bring to the owners of this spot, and the many visitors who have passed their happiest summer days and to whom every tree is as dear as a personal friend.”

[End of letter]

The wooden railroad would assist in the transport of supplies for construction of Dr. Webb’s railroad; operations ceased in 1892 when Dr. Webb’s line made its existence obsolete.

The Fawn operated for a few years longer for picnic rides until rotting at moorings at the Thendara lock and dam.

The letter states that the house at Arnold Clearing was “built by the father of the present owners.”

I am not clear of the meaning as there are two father and son possibilities.

The house was known first as Herreshoff Manor, after its original builder Charles Frederick Herreshoff, who married John Brown’s daughter, and tried to establish a settlement and iron industry around 1817.

He failed and committed suicide in 1819.

Later, Caleb Lyon, acting as agent of Township 7 for John Brown Francis leased the Manor in 1832 to Nat Foster.

Nat Foster left the region around 1834 after shooting Drid Waters in 1833.

In 1837, Otis Arnold arrived and moved his family into the building that would for years be called Arnolds.

Otis expanded the building and started providing services as its reputation as a stopover for travelers became famous.

Caleb’s son Lyman Lyon had purchased Township 7 from the Brown family in 1850.

He may also have purchased in a tax sale around 1856 after its reverting to the state for delinquent Brown family taxes.

Lyman sold the land to the Otis Arnold around 1866 who kept Arnolds open for sportsmen and travelers.

Otis Arnold drowned himself in Nick’s Lake in 1868 after killing a friend over a dog thought stolen and his son Ed tried managing the place.

Lyman died in 1869 and his daughter Julia L. deCamp reacquired it in 1887 at a sheriff’s sale when the Arnolds foreclosed on their mortgage.

When Arnolds burned in May 1896, the papers said only one third of its roof, a portion of the floor and a few girders remained.


Note: Sources for this article were issues of the Lowville Journal & Republican, Franklin Gazette and Elizabethtown Post available from the website for the Northern New York Library Network, “The Privately Owned Adirondacks” by Barbara McMartin, “John Brown’s Tract: Lost Adirondack Empire” by Henry A. L. Brown & Richard Walton, “The Fairy Tale Railroad” by Henry Harter and “The Story of a Wilderness” by Joseph Grady.

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