Mount Morris — first Tupper Lake hotel

In June, 1952, the Watertown Times carried a story about the original register for Mount Morris Hotel with the first entry on June 17, 1870.

The book was owned by Percy H. Alexander of Tupper Lake; its 340 pages covered 15 years of that long-ago era.

The Times had this to say:

“Every page is filled with the names and addresses of the hardy sportsmen who began filtering into the North Woods in increasing numbers shortly after the Civil War. Many of them were men of wealth and power in the America of the 1870s and 1880s including two presidents of the United States, Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland. Gov. Horatio Seymour, Verplanck Colvin, who was then just beginning his monumental survey of the Adirondacks and most of the noted Adirondack historians, among them Alfred B. Street and S.R. Stoddard, were glad to sign the book after a hard day’s rowing down the lakes and rivers, the only highway through the region then.”

Mart Moody was credited with bringing the first guiding parties to the area in the 1850s. The big rush of the sportsmen to the Adirondacks was brought about in big part by a book “Adventures in the Wilderness” by the Rev. W.H.H. “Adirondack” Murray, which was published in 1869 with tales of hunting and fishing in the Adirondacks.

The travelers back then could take a stagecoach to Saranac Lake, but after that it was all boats and waterways to reach the Mount Morris Hotel, “the remotest outpost of civilization.”

The Mount Morris House was located on a site later occupied by the Prince Albert Hotel, still open in 1956 and listed in the Tupper Lake phone directory – 636-J1. That hotel was then owned by Larry Rafferty, a friend of the Riley family who had previously owned Rafferty’s store and gas station in Gabriels. I believe that, years later, my niece, Lisa Littlefield Gillis, owned a big home on that site.

Excerpts from the Times story:

“The hotel register carried the names of visitors from throughout eastern America and many foreign countries. Looking at old photos of bewhiskered and solemn gentlemen of the 1870s – we get the impression today that they were a pretty dour lot. But there was this teasing entry one visitor noted that he was bound for Bog River Falls and wrote ‘if any pretty girls inquire for my dear self, tell them I’ll be at Billy Graves for two weeks.’ Graves Lodge was situated then on the present site of the American Legion Mountain camp.

“Under the date of August 28, 1879 was this entry – ‘Hon. W. L. Ward, ex-governor of Connecticut, and Rev. C. K. Peyton of Rochester shot four bucks and six does during a ten-day camp at Hitchins Pond. The Rev’d gentleman narrowly escaped from the claws of a panther, while his honorable friend was rescued from the jaws of a huge black bear. They enjoyed themselves immensely.’

“There were an amazing number of deer killed by small parties and it is evident that only a fraction of the choicest cuts of venison was taken and the rest was left to rot. A Baltimore party guided by Fred Reynolds of Saranac Lake reported ‘bound down-river; killed four deer at Floodwood Pond and one on the way down, at Fish Creek; shot one panther while jacking deer. The other, a female, got away, although hit. We could hear her yell for quite a while up on the mountain.’

“The parties registering at the hotel would enter the names of their guides as well as their own and the old book carries the names of practically all the best of their day. Among them we find Fayette and Lon Moody, Hosea Colbath, John Slater, Edson Flagg, C.D. Hickok, P.A. Robbins, M.E. Sawyer, Daniel and Aleric Moody, William Nye, David Phillips, Lute Evans, George Wake, Warren J. Slater, A.D. McKenzie, Cort Moody, James Cross, George Martin, Jason Vosburgh, George Sweeney, Robert Nichols, Frank Emerson, Fayette St. Germain, Mitchell Sabattis, Calvin Brown, James Patterson, John Solomon and scores of others.”