The Keese Mills Road neighborhood in Paul Smiths is strung along about 4 miles from its corner with state Route 30. Houses are sometimes separated by long stretches of forest. Many were built back when the Paul Smith's Hotel was the biggest show in town. In 1945, when Paul Smith's College opened, people associated with the college settled into the Keese Mills community.
One of the PSC professors to move to Keese Mills Road in 1954 was young forestry professor, Gould Hoyt, with his wife Ruth. After leaving home in Connecticut, he started at the SUNY?College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, then joined the Army Signal Corps for a three-year military stint in Europe during World War II.
While there, his job was to set up line-of-sight radio relays, 50-foot towers, over all geographical terrains so soldiers in the field could have clear radio communications during combat.
Gould Hoyt and Lydia Wright pose with Paul Smith's College draft horses Heidi and Tinsel.
(Photo courtesy of Lydia Wright)
"Having that job in the Army Signal Corps during the war was great for furthering my education "In order to set up the towers on the mountaintops, we had to cut trees to establish clear line-of-sight for the relays, all which was right up my alley after what I'd already learned in ESF," Hoyt said.
When he was finished with his tour of duty, he returned to Syracuse to complete his forestry degree. While there, he served as a proctor for an off-campus house full of male students. Around the corner was a similar house, full of female students, who had a nice young woman named Ruth as their proctor.
"The boys used to cut behind the dean's house, kitty corner, to see the girls. ... Finally one of the guys says to me, 'Why don't you come over and see the house mother? She's pretty nice.' So I went over, and that's what started it all," Hoyt said.
He and Ruth dated, eventually married and adopted two children. Gould and Ruth have been married for more than 60 years and still live in the home they bought in Paul Smiths back in 1954.
Paul Smiths becomes home
After being hired to teach at the new college in Paul Smiths, the Hoyt family first lived on campus next to Lower St. Regis Lake. Over the years, Gould taught Introduction to Forestry, Silviculture, and Dendrology, among other courses. He truly enjoyed the hands-on component of a real forestry education. He became the advisor to the Forestry Club and the coach of the woodsmen's teams, which won many championships in collegiate competitions over the decades he was there. He also was the emcee for "timber sports" at woodsmens competitions all over the Northeast for more than 50 years.
In September 1954, the couple bought a house about 2 miles down Keese Mills Road, from a woman named Nellie Newell. It was then one of only two houses on the road with central heat. Nellie Newell had purchased the house from Paul Smith himself years earlier. When the Hoyts moved in, they found it furnished with Nellie's furniture and tools. Gould tells the story of what it was like on the road in Nellie Newell's days:
"Did you ever hear of the Cohen brothers? They had a store in Bloomingdale that sold all sorts of things, and they also peddled the goods on foot. They used to travel door to door wearing big packs on their backs, getting to the isolated people in the area. Well, they called the Keese's Mills Road 'Smokestack Alley.' Do you know why? Because of all the wood smoke and coal smoke that came from the chimneys ... In cold weather all that smoke would just hang down low over the road hence, smokestack alley!"
The young Gould Hoyt was a busy man, teaching at the college and working as the trustee for the Keese Mills School, less than a half- mile from his house. The small school had one teacher at first, growing to two during his tenure. The school was consolidated with the Saranac Lake Central School in 1968. The building has since been converted to a home.
Building toward the future
Gould was instrumental in building the Lusk Hall education building next to the road's Presbyterian Church with help from students from the college and local church members. He also was the brawn and energy behind building the PSC Forestry Club Cabin with the help of its Forestry Club students, alumni and other faculty. That project took 10 years and dozens of students, most who were only at PSC for two years. Many did not get to see the final product until invited back for the first Forestry Club Spaghetti Dinner in 1973.
Once the Hoyts' two children were grown, Gould and Ruth became involved with local history. Their efforts were pivotal in the restoration of the old hotel's 1869 Concord stage coach. The coach is used today for special occasions like Winter Carnival, in which it is pulled by the college draft horses. Both Hoyts were also key figures in saving artifacts found from the old Paul Smith's Hotel.
Gould has been a loyal tender to those college draft horses while living on Keese Mills Road.
"Long ago I was teaching Intro to forestry, and we were in the woods working with the trees we'd cut down into 4-foot lengths," Hoyt said. "It seemed like a waste of good wood, so I got some students to try to carry the lengths out of the woods by hand, and found it impossible to do. I'd been around horses before, so we thought we'd give horses a chance to help us get some of that wood out and the rest is history."
Gould became the primary caretaker after the college acquired its first draft horse in 1962. Two more horses were added in 1973. Hoyt instructed forestry students in the effective, hands-on use of horses in logging operations.
Care of the horses has since been passed along to younger faculty. One assistant, PSC alum Lydia Wright, is also a Keese Mills Road neighbor.
"I bought a charming old house on the Keese's Mills Road and moved back to Paul Smiths in January 2001," Wright said. "One evening around 10 p.m. as I sat at my kitchen table doing homework, there was a knock at my door and in stepped Professor Hoyt, just as I had remembered him from over 30 years earlier, dressed in red and black checked wool and smelling of horses, snow swirling around him as he entered. In his usual booming voice he said, 'I heard you were back.' I invited him in for tea and that began our Tuesday evening ritual of 'Tea and Stories with Gould.' It was the most wonderful welcome to the Keese's Mills Road neighborhood and made me feel as though I was truly 'home.'
"Gould is the keeper of the history of our road. He'll begin a visit with, 'Let me tell you a story,' and signal the end of his visit with, 'Let me tell you one more story before I go.' He never calls the road Keese Mill Road, but prefers its historic name, the Keese's Mills Road. If you question it, he will promptly tell you the story of the Keese Brothers who owned two mills on the road."
Always a teacher
In 1977, Gould took a sabbatical leave from his work at PSC. He and Ruth took a 12,800-mile road trip across the country in a camper, visiting as many of his former students as he could, all of whom had transferred to four-year colleges. He discovered the many successes of those students. He said, "When PSC forestry students graduate, time and again they have been shown to have more education and are better prepared for the industry than many four year school graduates. And yes, that makes me proud."
He retired from PSC in 1983, although he is still a familiar sight on campus and at the horse barn where still stops by regularly to check on "his" horses. He keeps a garden among the employee gardens near the college soccer field, an area which has been officially designated "Gould's Garden" in his honor. His students from years past still call him, and sometimes current professors at the college ask him to come in for guest lectures.
Gould is 89 years old and still wears the suspenders and wool pants of a true forester. He has stories to tell about where buildings, prohibition dumps, golf courses and silviculture plots used to be, and what has happened to change the scenery over the decades under his watch. The history of Keese Mills Road and Paul Smith's College over the past 60 years comes alive with every story he tells. It always starts with: "Let me take you back a few years ... " and if you're lucky, you'll let him do just that.