SARANAC LAKE - A generation of Tupper Lakers think of Carol Payment Poole as an English teacher, but over the last decade, she's taken on the new role of historian and author.
Poole gave a presentation on her book "Rising from the Swamp: The founding families of the Tupper Lake Junction" Tuesday night at the Saranac Lake Free Library.
While the talk was sparsely attended, she said many showed up for a similar presentation in Tupper Lake over the summer, around the time when the book was released.
The original Junction train depot in its heyday
(Photo from “Rising from the Swamp: The founding families of the Tupper Lake Junction”)
Poole started the presentation by naming nine Franklin County boom towns that have since disappeared. She said she decided to write the book because she sees the once-thriving Junction neighborhood of Tupper Lake going in the same direction as she drives through the area. She sees houses and buildings that were alive with activity when she was growing up there now shuttered or demolished.
"I thought, 'My God, this is going to be another boom town that disappears,'" Poole said. "Because it's disappearing. The Junction is disappearing."
She dedicated the book to "the townsfolk of The Junction and the greater Tupper Lake community who are striving to rejuvenate the economic base of the town."
Poole said Tuesday night that she didn't want to try to replace Louis Simmons' quintessential Tupper Lake history book, "Mostly Spruce and Hemlock," so she tried to complement it. "Mostly Spruce" focuses largely on the origins of Tupper Lake's institutions like its schools, businesses and government entities, and it also centers more on the upper village area.
That's why she chose to write about the families of the Junction, noting in the book that the "Junction has always had its own character." She chronicles the people there from the settlement of the neighborhood to about 1915.
Poole went through the origins of people settling in the Junction, also known as Faust, explaining that the name of the book came from the swamp that once covered the area as a result of the first Setting Pole Dam, built around 1870, which was blown up by "men from Moody." Poole was able to find records of one man being brought to court for the demolition, but nothing ever came of it, since no one would talk.
A smaller replacement dam let the land drain, and two railroads were built through the area in about 1890: one by John Hurd and one by Dr. W. Seward Webb. Webb put in a depot and railroad yard for engine maintenance next to where the two rail lines crossed.
Webb hired a surveyor named William N. Roberts from Cobleskill, a businessman who bought up the land around the Junction (plus some in Malone) when he heard of the plans to build the railroad through there. As a surveyor, Roberts laid out the area into a grid of roads.
But he died two years after his land grab, before he could make much money off of it, and his widow and sons sold off the land as quickly as they could, getting many of the properties off their hands for around $50, or $100 for big ones like the plot where Larkin's Junction Deli and Bakery sits now.
The first plot sold was to the railroad; then a meat plant that took advantage of proximity to the railroad; then several hotels were built. After that, houses and businesses sprung up all over.
Between 1900 and 1935, there were seven mills operating in Tupper Lake, with only one of them in the village and the rest in the Junction, Poole said.
"So with all these mills there, there was a tremendous amount of work," Poole said. "It was a busy, active, growing place for many years."
People moved to the Junction from all over: St. Regis Falls, Dannemora and Lyon Mountain, plus eastern Europe and the Middle East.
A number of people, and even houses and the Presbyterian church that still exists in the Junction, came to Tupper Lake from Brandon, one of those boom towns that has now disappeared. About 75 to 80 percent of the people from Brandon were French Canadian, Poole estimated.
"Sometimes you wonder how people understood one another, because there were so many languages," Poole said. "When you're building businesses and making money, you find a way."
She told the story of several of the more interesting people in those days of the Junction, including Thomas Murray, who ran a bustling boarding house and was one of the earliest people to live in the neighborhood; Nathan Cohn, a shopkeeper and big booster of the Junction who was known for running ads in the local paper that started with phrases like, "Hurray, for the Junction!"; and Peter Propp, a Lithuanian who ran a bottling business until Prohibition and who regularly pushed the concept of creating an Adirondack County consisting of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Long Lake and Piercefield.
She also told the story of William Sabin, which started when his father Erastus, better known as Rat, was murdered on his way to drop off a horse and buggy at the mill that was located where the Municipal Park is now. He was shot twice and beaten almost beyond recognition, and the mystery remains unsolved today.
Poole said she's had a lot of interest in the book, which she researched for about 10 years, from the many families mentioned in it, including from some of her former students.
There are a few stores in the area where customers can buy Poole's book - Poole said Maroun's little store in the Junction has sold the most so far - and people can also purchase it online at www.rising-from-the-swamp.com.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.