January 25, 1982
When any change is contemplated to a given piece of land, such as the erection of a government-funded building, I am asked to testify in writing as to whether the land has historical value.
There is an area that has such definite interest in the history of the Town of Indian Lake that attention must be called to any suggestion to change it. This area is, since hearings held in 1914, the property of the State of New York since the inhabitants were unable to produce sufficient evidence, such as deeds, of ownership. Its location is the mid-section of Lot 15 of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase and was known as "Little Canada." One of the first settlements in the Indian Lake area, it was inhabited principally by French Canadians, who came here originally for lumbering, then turned to farming. The records of the hearings as to ownership of this and other lands in Township 15 are on file in the office of the County Clerks of Hamilton and Essex Counties.
Township 15 was originally owned by the Finch Pruyn Company. It was sold to the Indian River Company which, prior to 1914, sold it to the State. People on the land were to be allowed to remain provided they proved private ownership. This caused the New York State hearings in 1914, held primarily at Indian Lake Village.
An interesting sidelight was provided in the hearing on Lots 22, 2?, 46, and 47, the suit against Sarah Farrell on June 13, 1914. Loucks, who introduced each case, stated:
"I would like to have the record show in some of these cases that Finch & Company and John McGinn and the Crandalls kept what they called the Township 15 book, in which they kept an account of land that had sold and amounts paid. That was kept in the offices at Glens Falls, and at the time of the death of George C. Finch, certain papers were removed from the vault, and so far as we can ascertain, that Township 15 book has never been seen since. We have made diligent search at the offices of Finch Pruyn, and the International Paper Company, and have interviewed Mr. Root, who kept the book, and other people who had a right to know, and made demand on Griffin & Ostrander to produce it. We have not been able anywhere to find it or get any trace of it. The book ought to contain a record of all these transactions. It is in the possession of somebody down there probably very close to the Indian River Company, and we have tried to impress on them that it is their business to produce it. I think that book would throw much light upon all these transactions. We also investigated Mr. McGinn's, looked through his books and papers, and we were unable to find anything there either. Jerry Finch claimed they took it away. He makes the assertion with some vigor."
Although many of the residents of Lot 15 were adjudged rightful owners of the property they occupied, the people of Little Canada, were, without exception, ousted from their lands. Principal land holders so affected were Mrs. Mary Savarie, widow of Gideon Savarie, in Lots 113, 114, 127 and 128; Abraham King in Lots 112 and 113; Augustin DuMars in Lot 112; and Mrs. William Starbuck, occupant of the original Eldridge property and of the house known as headquarters for the Finch, Pruyn lumbering operation in Lots 104 and 105. Eldridge once kept a store here.
A road following the outlet of John's Pond in Lot 102 and joined by a stream emanating from a location near Chimney Mountain, comprised the center of the community. The road has been kept open and bears State markers for the use of State residents and visitors for recreational purposes.
There were burials in this area, principally of children, who died in the dread diphtheria epidemic of 1897. We know the approximate burial places of three children of Joseph Abare and of two Porter children (across the stream from the former mill pond). But the Town has definitely located and maintained the graves of two children, placing crosses on their graves, with a fence surrounding these. This cemetery is located on State Surveyor D.C. Woods' map of June and July, 1903 as in Lot 114.
Their names and histories are well documented and tin-type pictures of the two deceased are available from a relative, Henry King. They are half-brother and sister:
Each was baptized in St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Minerva and the records are documented there:
"Peter Savary, baptized May 30, 1886, born May 1, 1886. Parents Gideon Savary and Olivia McQuin. Sponsors: Peter Savary and Anna Farrell"
"Roy (King), Eliza Amelia, baptized May 6, 1883, born April 13, 1883. Parents Abraham Roy and Olivine McQuin. Sponsors Celestine Savary and Ida Roy."
The circumstances of their death are given in the book, "Adirondack Folks" by Ted Aber, beginning on page 92:
"The small log house was in Little Canada, a satellite community of Indian Lake, located five miles from the Milo Washburn mill pond just over the then Hamilton County line. It had been settled by Frenchmen from Canada. The families of Dumars, DeMarsh, Starbuck, Abare, Gasper and Bram King, and the Savaries were among the settlers. At one time, it even sported a store run by "Old" Eldridge. Some years ago, Henry King found a board of paper and tin that denoted the store's location. Words on the sign showed that Eldridge had let someone have a barrel of flour.
"The dreaded and little understood black diphtheria visited Indian Lake in the 1890's and Little Canada was not spared. A small log house in Little Canada bore a distinctly somber note one night. Its inhabitants wore tired, drawn faces. The limited conversation was in whispers. In separate rooms lay Peter Savarie and Lizzie King, aged about 15. They were gravely ill.
"As moments passed, young Lizzie King closed her eyes forever. Young Peter Savarie must not be told. Shortly, without warning, he began to sing hymns. Pausing a moment, he would say, 'Yes, Lizzie, I'm coming.' Within the hour, the young man had also succumbed to the illness. They were laid to rest in a little cemetery of the small community. Their father, Bram King, had a brother and a sister, who also died of diphtheria and were buried nearby. Bram himself was stricken, but went to Canada and was cured; he never returned...
"Little Canada became extinct around 1915, the State acquiring most of the land. But Henry King often walked to the scenes of his boyhood, now overgrown with brush and trees. On one occasion, Henry and Earl King were in Little Canada night-hunting. Nearing the silent graves of Lizzie King and Peter Savarie, the two young people who had died there of diphtheria, the men heard a rumbling, moaning sound. As they continued onward, a vibration could be felt at their feet. They began a quick retreat. Then the noise and vibration withdrew up the road. Henry late erected a snow fence around the grave and has kept it intact ever since.
"Henry has clear tintype photographs of Lizzie and Pete. The pictures hung on the wall when the house burned down, the photographs remaining intact and undamaged."
The town and county historian, in conjunction with legal assistance is now preparing to acquire and see to the upkeep of all such cemeteries in the county and is currently prepared to place a marker, with the names of the interred, at the entrance to this particular grave site.
This is being done under the provisions of Section 291 of New York State Laws Relating to Cemeteries:
"291. Burial grounds. 1. The title of every lot or piece of land which shall have been used by the inhabitants of any town in this State as a cemetery or burial ground for the space of fourteen years shall be deemed to be vested in such town, and shall be subject in the same manner as other corporate property of towns, to the government and direction of the town board. In any town the town board may adopt regulations for the proper care of any such cemetery and burial ground and regulating the burial of the dead therein. It shall be the duty of the town board to remove the grass and weeds from any such a cemetery or burial ground at a cost not to exceed five hundred dollars..."
The implication is clear and contained in many existing deeds that access to such cemeteries must be assured. The present road is passable for four-wheel-drive vehicles but improvement has already been agreed upon by the Town of Indian Lake.
Someone has made the suggestion that the road might be closed to vehicles at the county line between Hamilton and Essex County. A part of Little Canada crosses a corner of the Town of Johnsburgh, or perhaps put more clearly, the corner of the Town of Johnsburgh intrudes into Little Canada. The suggestion of a demarcation here is neither feasible nor historically appropriate:
There are other historical reasons for maintaining this relatively short vehicular road to John's Pond.
The original road to Indian Lake from North Creek cane from Thirteenth Lake in Warren County and joined the present Little Canada road. The original Indian settler of Indian Lake, Sabael Benedict, was last seen when he set out over this route from Thirteenth Lake one night in 1855. He was reputedly 105 years of age. Someone wrote a poem accusing "Sav'ree" of his murder. Whether true or not (the subject is receiving further study), his death presumably occurred near the Savarie house farther up the road toward John's Pond (see D.C. Wood's map).
Still another historical fact, although requiring more research, is the naming of John's Pond, and John Mack Bay on Indian Lake. A nationwide Place-Name Survey is now being conducted under the ægis of the Federal Defense Department. The Hamilton County and Indian Lake Town historian has been named to find the origin of all names in Hamilton County. It was known that about the time of the Civil War, a man remembered as John MacKenzie came from Canada, and lived in the area, giving his name to these locations. I would regard the first as fact, but would feel that the name, MacKenzie, is perhaps not correct. More probably, that name was an Anglicized version of a French name.
It is our contention that New York State's rich history should remain available to the public. With further study, the county and town historian, will petition the State to allow markers to be placed at the more important house sites in the Little Canada area. We believe that this relatively small area, known for its exceptional beauty, should be made accessible to all who may care to visit.
Ted Aber, Historian
Hamilton County and
Town of Indian Lake