The Story of Sabattis
In August of 1957, the Watchung Area Council Inc., Boy Scouts of America, purchased 1300 acres of land in the Central Adirondack Mountains. For several years the growing number of scouts in the Council had heralded a need for increased camping facilities. Camp Lion, which serves as a weekend and training camp, and Camp Watchung, which provides and introduction to outdoor life and instruction in the skills necessary to outdoor life, were being pushed to capacity, so a search was instituted for land that would provide wilderness camping. The search had continued for two years and had encompassed an ever widening circle around Plainfield when the Sabattis property was found. Scout Executive Russ Louver, Assistant Scout Executive Bob Allexsaht, and Camping Committee Chairman Salvadore Diana had set up certain requirements that the proposed purchase must meet; Sabattis fitted them perfectly. For approximately $80,000, Watchung Area Council became the very proud owners of roughly 1300 acres of Adirondack forest. The new land provides an ideal site for advanced and wilderness camping. It provides a place to ―rough it‖ wilderness style and to practice the self-sufficiency that every scout is taught. What’s more, there is boating, swimming, sailing and canoeing on the two-mile long, 200-acre lake named Bear Pond. There is hiking, wood’s lore, and wildlife study amid the natural scenic beauty of the Adirondack terrain. The camp opened to scouts in 1959 and each year has seen an increased use of the camp and its facilities. Word of the camp’s unique spirit has brought more and more boys each summer. They come as troops, supplying their own leadership and tentage, and selecting their own campsite. The camp commissary provides them with food supplies; the boys do their own cooking. The staff, led by a professionally trained director, services as merit badge counselors and assists with various activities. Transportation is available to numerous points of interest in the area – the Adirondack Museum, Saint Lawrence Seaway and the Mount Morris ski town. Or the boys may use the transportation to reach a point of embarkment for an extended canoe trip or a Mount Marcy climbing trip. Guides are available for a hike up Charley’s Mountain, on Sabattis property. While husbands and sons are with their troops or in training courses their families may use the family camping facilities available in Sabattis. Several training courses are given at Sabattis. The Woodsman’s Thong consists of a week of training in advanced camping skills and survival techniques including survival foods, shelters, fire building and travel. The Conservation Camp is a weeklong introduction to the May phases of conservation such as soil and water, game management, fire control and timber management. The Junior Leader Training Camp is a week of intensified training in the skills of leadership and scout craft necessary for effective boy leadership within the troop. Wood Badge is an eight-day training experience for adults. As a member of a patrol, this Wood Badge candidate lives Scouting, learning how the spirit of Scouting grows and how knowledge of scoutcraft helps achieve the purpose of the Scouting movement. The now famous Operation Zero is a weekend experience in arctic camping and is held every February for adult Scouters,
Explorers, and Senior Scouts. Igloos are built and slept in. The camp has much to offer today, and part of its value lies in the tradition behind it. Despite the wilderness of the Adirondack land, it has a long and colorful history. The area of land that includes Sabattis and Bear Pond was originally part of a land grant from King George III called the Totten-Crossfield Purchase of 1772 and consisting of 1,150,000 acres. It included most of Hamilton County, and parts of Herkimer, Essex and Warren. This grant was divided into 50 Townships of about 39 square miles each; or 25,000 acres. Sabattis was a part of Township 37. The name ―Sabattis‖ is also historical. It is a contraction of the French name ―Saint Jean Baptiste‖. Its most noted bearer was Mitchell Sabattis, an Abenaki Indian, lifelong resident of Long Lake and one of the most famous Adirondack guides. He is credited with the development of the famed Adirondack Guidebook and is one of the few people to have a railroad station named after him—the Sabattis Railroad Station in what used to be the town of Long Lake West. (The town burned completely in 1908 in the most destructive forest fire in New York State history. All that remains today is the rebuilt station and the old schoolhouse). Mitchell’s father was Capt. Peter Sabattis, a member of the Huron tribe and very proud of his heritage. Though he lived in a white man’s society, he retained his Indian way of life, roaming the woods with his daughter, Hannah, and sleeping wherever night found them. He died at the reputed of age 111. His son Mitchell, was an influential citizen of Long Lake and married Betsey Joinburg, of Dutch descent. Eight of their numerous children lived. Mitchell overcame and addiction to drink by becoming one of the mainstays of the Methodist Church in Long Lake, where he occasionally preached. In 1865 he took it upon himself to raise $2,000 for a new church. Like his father, he was long lived. When he died, he was believed to be between the ages of 101 and 106. Alfred L. Donaldson gives a more complete account of his life in his book, A History of the Adirondacks. Long Lake West was part of Webb’s line, while two stations to the south was the private Ne-ha-sa-ne station. By agreement, passengers needed written permission to leave the train at this station. This was the only access to Ne-ha-sa-ne Park, at the time. While Bear Pond was in Webb’s possession, a watchman was station in a small cabin now obliterated by time to the west of the island. From this point, the lake was almost totally visible and intruders after the large trough fro which the pond was famous could be turned away. While Sward Webb was constructing the Mohawk and Malone Railroad in 1892, a young Blue Mountain lumberman named Patrick Moynehan was contracted to build a road between Long Lake and the Long Lake West railroad station. The construction camp that he built on Bear Pond will be mentioned later in this story. The road was an important like to the resort business in that area, though when the railroad first went into use, only horse-drawn vehicles were available to reach Long Lake from the station. It was a grueling 10-mile ride. Dr. John C. A. Gerster, an early and frequent visitor to Long Lake, writes that passengers would alight from the New York ―Sleeper‖, and drive to the
―Ten Mile House‖ where breakfast could be obtained from a couple living on the Whitney property. Long Lake might be reached by 10-11 a.m. if conditions were good. With the advent of cars, things were somewhat improved. Dr. Gerster had this to say of the drive, ―The dirt road was atrocious. A corduroy at the ―15 Mile Mark‖ had two logs missing. Here one would approach slowly, let the front wheels roll into the pit with great care, and stop, and then start slowly forward to come out of the pit into level road, repeating the same procedure with the rear wheels.‖
In 1895 William Seward Webb sold 5,568 acres of land that included what is now Sabattis to Charles R. Christie of Connecticut and Elizabeth Chapin of New Jersey. Elizabeth Chaplin later sold her share to Mr. Christie who bough the land primarily for its timber. He erected a house and small boat house on the present site of the Big House. Christie also operated a sawmill on Otter Pond. A road from Little Tupper Lake past Otter Pond to the Sabattis railroad station provided the necessary outlet for lumber. Then Christie sold the land, at $7.00/acre, to Mrs. Charles M. Daniels of Buffalo in 1912, it was with the understanding that he continue to operate the sawmill until April of 1914, when he removed his building and equipment. The diesel engine from this mill was later brought from Otter Pond to Bear Pond by Mr. Daniels. It was transported in the winter and placed on the ice some distance from the front of the boathouse. In spring, the ice melted, the diesel sank and provided an excellent anchor for the large swimming float. It was during the Daniels’ ownership that the buildings still present at Sabattis were erected, and that much of its history gains its present grandeur. Interest in the area shifted from the new railroad to the international world of sports and society that the railroad had introduced. Most of the following information was provided by Mr. Charles M. Daniels. The ―Big House‖ at Sabattis was designed by the architect, William Neil Smith of New York, to fit the point of land it was built on; the lake was an all-important factor in its creation. The many windows, each with its own storm window and screen, are placed to take advantage of the view and few of the windows have the same dimension or even pane size. The architecture of the house was Elizabethan and it was named ―Tarnedge‖ from the Scottish words meaning ―beside the lake‖. The house cost approximately $220,000 to build, a fraction of what it would cost at present. Nearly 70 workers began the construction of the Big house on May 1, 1912 and it was finished nine months later on February 1st. The house that Christie had built was moved to a spot between the Big House and the present boathouse, where it housed the first workmen. The barn and superintendent’s houses were quickly built to house about 40 carpenters and mechanics from New York. Directly across the lake, 20 workers from Utica were sheltered in Patrick Moynehan’s old road camp. The camp was demolished when construction was finished. These 20 men dug the cellars, built foundations, and formed the golf course. A representative of the architect hired; on hand at all times, to supervise the details of the construction. All the necessary lumber was brought by train from Albany and hauled from the station using wagons and three teams of horses. When
one considers the winter conditions of the Adirondacks, one can see what a monumental task this rapid construction was. Chestnut shingles were used fro the new roof. Only once in 1932, have these shingles needed replacement, as far as we know. The work done by the Villnave Company of Tupper Lake, and a recent evaluation deemed them good for another ten years. The Villnave Company initially built the retaining wall around the Big House lake frontage as well as the wall lining the old entrance drive. The architect expressed the opinion that winter would soon freeze and break down the stone walls, but the contractor added plenty of salt to the mortar and the walls are, for the most part, still in good condition. Though the construction was rapid, the work was done carefully, the interior of the Big House commands admiration and merits close attention. The interior woodwork was done by the Batavia Woodworking Company for a contract price of $11,000. The detail of the columns in the living room and the beautifully carved banisters display a craftsmanship that is unknown today. The fireplaces and numerous windows took time and care to make and/or install. The excellence of their construction is evident even after many years of neglect. The present condition of the floors in the Big House attest their quality as well, and one can imagine their former beauty. Keep in mind that hundreds of feet have trodden – not always on delicately—upon them. They are still in admirable condition. The lake is visible from almost every room of the interior. The many window seats served a dual purpose—they provided a restful place to sit and enjoy the lake view and they also concealed the heating equipment. The Big House rapidly became a luxurious and livable home. Its furnishings were in keeping with its time. Fringed lampshades, carved furniture, and a great amount of ornate and precise detail in everything were the order of the day. Large, dark furniture, a heavy accent on oriental art objects and brightly patterned drapes completed the interior of ―Tarnedge‖. The walls of the entire first floor were painted white and laughingly dubbed by the architect ―an immaculate conception‖. As one enters the front door of the Big House, the living room lies directly ahead and up a short flight of stairs. To the immediate left are two small powder rooms and to the right a cloak-room. The size of the living room is impressive in its unfurnished state. Imagination must serve to distribute furniture and light a large, crackling fire place in order to picture the warmth it held at one time. The large room to the left of the living room was used as a game room and held a billard table. It later served as a lounge. Adjoining the game room is a large side porch. The room to the right of the living room was used as the dining room. At one time it held the mirror-lined trophy cabinets that are now in the small room adjoining the dining room, once the butler’s room. Beyond the dining room are the kitchens and pantry. There is also a large sun porch, reached through French doors in the living room. The porch is still furnished with wicker swings and furniture, as well as an enormous fireplace sofa—comfort at its best!! Note the unusual stained glass skylight.
The second floor bedrooms all overlooked the lake. The large blue room furthest to the left belonged to the Daniels’ two daughters. It is equipped with two walk-in closets and beautifully built-in bookcases. The second bedroom was used by the childrens’ governess and the third by the Daniels’ son. The fourth bedroom was the master bedroom. The master bedroom has its own fireplace, as do most of the rooms, and also a closet and a bath that combined, are as large as another guest room! The last two rooms on the second floor were used as guest rooms. At the end of the hall, a short flight of stairs lead the way to the servant’s rooms. ―There were eight servant’s rooms in the right wing‖, writes Mr. Daniels…That would be an extravagant fantasy in this day and age, wouldn’t it? But times have changed. With house parties of boys and girls and also of elders, sometimes totaling a dozen guests, this number of servants was necessary in an isolated spot like Sabattis,‖. The third floor of the Big House contains two more guest rooms—spacious and comfortable—and a large linen closet. The fourth floor is attic storage space with one rather unusual exception, a cedar room that is too big to term a closet. It was used for the storage of woolens. The service buildings on the hill were mentioned earlier. A large vat on the second floor of the barn held water pumped from the lake to supply the buildings on the hill and also the Big House whenever the reservoir by the old main driveway went dry. A special line ran from a fresh water spring near the pond at the end of the golf course to the Big House Kitchen. In addition to the buildings on the hill, there was a greenhouse in back of the Dollhouse, and icehouse besides the Big House, and several other small service buildings. A log hunting lodge was built on Bettner Pond in 1928. Bettner Pond was later sold to Watson Webb by Mrs. Daniels for $50,000 along with 3,000 acres, to provide an automobile access to Ne-ha-sa-ne Park. The people for whom this mansion was built, and the owners of Sabattis Park as an estate, were Mr. Charles M. Daniels, his wife Florence Goodyear Daniels, (she was the daughter of F.H. Goodyear of Buffalo, President of the Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad and the Goodyear Lumber Company), and their three children. Mr. Daniels was a man of many interests and abilities. He was an Olympic swimmer and for eight years held the world’s records from 50-300 meters and the national records from 50 yards to a mile. He originated the present free-style crawl stroke and with it won 33 National Championships, four Olympic records, two British and two Canadian records. A member of the New York Athletic Club, his swimming career covered the years of 1904-1911 and his trophies filled the mirror-lined cabinets in the Big House. He was an ardent of successful hunter as well, as the heads mounted on the living room walls show. Much of his hunting was done in Africa. Note the unusual length of the rhinoceros horn. The mule deer head to the left of the fireplace on the porch was shot in Mexico by Mr. Daniels. It has 14 points and is believed to be one of the largest ever shot in North America. A smaller rack—11 points is in a Chicago museum.
Mr. Daniels also built model boats, and the upstairs of the boathouse served as a workshop for his models. A gasoline motor lathe caused the destruction by fire, of the first boathouse; it was replaced by the present boathouse about 1932. The porch of the boathouse was often used as sleeping quarters by the boys in the house parties. Daniels started the first silver fox ranch in the United States. It was small but became quite well known for the many blue ribbons and sweepstakes which its stock won. Mr. Daniels sold breeding stock in 34 states and size foreign countries. The last sale of any consequence was to the Soviet Union, but this sale was cancelled when the stock market crashed in 1929. In early years, a pair of foxes might sell for as much as $10,000 as there were very few in captivity. After the crash there was no longer any profit in raising foxes, though the ―Tarnedge Kennels‖ continued to operate for many years. While the children were young, the Daniels family remained at Sabattis from February 1st until October 31st. Mr. Daniels described pastimes of snowshoeing, skating, (on a small pond in the back of the greenouse), tobogganing, ice-fishing, etc. In the summer there was swimming, boating, fishing, golf, tennis, hiking, and more. For ten years or so, the Daniels’ kept dairy cows on the estate. For two or three years there were also saddle horses. Shortly after the completion of the Big House, Mr. Daniels and one carpenter built the ―Doll House‖, complete with living room, dining room, kitchen, bath and two bedrooms and a cellar with a furnace. It was used as a playhouse for the children and was built on a three-fourths scale. Sabattis was a handsome and well-know home; the children and numerous house guests spent many happy summers there. The gardens and lawns, tennis court and golf course were immaculately groomed. The grounds were maintained by four men – a gardener, a man for the grounds, a man for the golf course, and a watchman for the trails. The lawns, court and golf course were kept faultless with the use of hand powered equipment; the golf course was constructed with wheelbarrows and hand equipment alone. The sand for the golf course was brought from the bank of Little Tupper Lake. The golf course, though small, (nine holes and about 2,600 yards) has entertained some noted players. Alexa Sterling played there many times, as did Glenna Collett and Marion Hollins. These three women won a total of ten Women’s National Amateur Golf Championships among them. Of the tennis court, all that remains today are the net posts, some sagging back fencing and a marble bench. Many of the trees near the court and surrounding the Big House were ruined during the land grading that preceded the construction work. Transplants were brought down the lake by boat from the white pine stand at the head of the lake. This stand had been planted in 1913 when the trees were four years old. Five thousand Scotch pine trees were planted at the same time on top of Telegraph Hill (now Memorial Mountain) as they were hardy and supposed to withstand poor soil and wind. Five thousand white pines were planted around Charley Pond, but this property now
belongs to Robert Lehman of New York City. Next to the small Doll House one can see the remains of a walled sunken garden with a small pool. Every spring an abundance of flowers, narcissus, lilac, foxglove, blue lupine, daffodil, iris, daisy and forget-me-not appear there and on the lawns. It is hard to visualize the beauty of this home in its prime. Those who remember it at its peak can find no adequate contrast to describe it loveliness and grandeur. An aura of past magnificence still clings to the Big House and is emphasized by the hundreds of acres of wild and beautiful forest surrounding and isolating this magnificence. The old entrance road is rarely used now, though the stone pillars at the entrance still bear the name ―Sabattis Park‖. The drive meanders down the hill, bordered by a stone wall, past the old reservoir to the Dollhouse and on to the Big House. In 1945, Mrs. Daniels sold 3,162 acres of the original tract to Mrs. Ottilie Gobel Moore. The sale included all the land surrounding Bear Pond. Mrs. Moore, and Englishwoman, used the Big House as a home for refugee children for a short time. The forests again rang with increased sound – the boisterous voices of children. Mrs. Moore sold the land in 1949 to the Norton Lumber Company (Ross L. Coleman, President) of Saratoga, NY. Coleman had many plans for the Park, none of which succeeded very fully. He operated the Park as a hotel, but these were lean years for the hotel business in the Adirondacks. The butler’s room in the Big House was made into a bar and the rooms in the boathouse were quipped with a pool table, etc. At one point, a few of the largest pines on the Big House lawn were felled and sold by Coleman to pay taxes on the land. It is believed that he had plans to use the barn as a hostel, and converted the upper rooms into dormitories for this purpose. Coleman acquired saddle horses next and advertised Sabattis as a Dude Ranch. This was apparently unsuccessful also, for in 1952 he began selling pieces of the land. He sold a major portion of the original tract to Robert Lechman of New York City. This had included East Charley’s Pond and the land north to the railroad and is still owned by Lehman. East Charley’s Pond may be seen from the top of Charley’s Mountain, on Sabattis property. In 1952 Coleman sold one small piece of land to Mrs. Ida Ohlsen of Chicago, and the following year sold her the remainder of the land surrounding Bear Pond – the same land now owned by the Watchung Area Council. Whether Mrs. Ohlsen ever spend any time at Sabattis is obscure. It is known that Bruce Parker, a water skiing champion, took an option on the property in 1953 while Mrs. Ohlsen owned it. He intended turning the estate into ―Ski Town‖, a resort that would feature water-skiing and other recreations for the vacationer and sports lover. His plans for the development of the property were numerous, but the option for the unknown reason was not renewed. The following year, 1954, Mrs. Ohlsen sold precisely the same land back to Coleman, now President of the presumably new ―Sabattis Park Corporation‖.
In 1955, Coleman began selling sites on Bear Pond for use as individual summer camps. Several cottages sprang up along the edge of the lake. These pieces of land were sold to Watchung Area Council, Boy Scouts of America when the Council purchased the rest of the land from Coleman in 1957. The stipulation of the sale was that the Council should have clear title for all lake front property. The land reverted to its wild state in keeping with the wilderness purposes of the camp and reasons for its purchase. And so we return to the beginning of this narrative, when the land came into the possession of the Watchung Area Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America. We have made an effort to relate that history we know as valid. There is always more to the story --- old tales emerge from the past constantly, and new chapters are enacted every year. # # # # #
Thanks to the many people who helped with the gathering and preparation of information for this story – and especially to: Charles M. Daniels Dr. John C. A. Gerster Russell Lauver Norman Convery Ernie Schmidt And my husband Bob Wood. Reference books used: Donoldson, Alfred L. A. History of the Adriondacks Vo. II. Watkins Glen, NY The Century Company 1921 Hochschild, Harold K. Life and Leisure in the Adirondack Backwoods & Adirondack Railroads Real & Phantom. Blue Mountain, NY Adirondack Museum: 1961 White, William Chapman, Adirondack Country Des Hoines: Duell, Sloan & Pearce: 1954 Harold Hochschild Harry Freeman Ken Cole Jim Kellers Sandra Schmidt