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Walter Channing Rice, 1852-1924

December 8, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

There are many stories about Walter C. Rice, Saranac Lake pioneer, who was the first to cast a vote for the incorporation of Saranac Lake village in 1892. He served on the Water and Sewer Commission and as tax collector.

He was a guide, the fire observer on Ampersand Mountain, built the Villa Dorsey as a boarding house that became the first cure cottage in Saranac Lake; he then built a pedestrian footbridge across the Saranac River from Main Street for easy access to the Villa. He married Laura Miller in 1885, a daughter of Van Buren Miller, one of the prominent citizens of that era.

A piece of his life's history is carried on Historic Saranac Lake's WIKI page, what better place could be found; the late Helen Tyler, Enterprise columnist and publisher of historic books wrote about Mr. Rice as did Phil Gallos; and at his passing the Malone Farmer carried a detailed obituary of his life.

Article Photos

Seaver Rice is shown with his father Walter C. Rice. The photo is dated 1912, when Walter was age 60. 
(Courtesy of the Adirondack Free Library #85.642)

Now we have discovered, in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free library, a story, not about Mr. Rice, but by Mr. Rice he had just published a poem in the Enterprise and he wrote, with tongue in cheek, "I was sure that my budding genius would soon expand into the full flower of fame" excerpts from that Enterprise story of April 1907.

"With that lofty impression in mind I met, soon after, a friend of mine and, of course, expected to have the glad hand of congratulations extended to me, but this is the 'lemon' he handed me.

'Say, Walt, for the love of suffering humanity, don't, I beg of you, write any more poetry; it is simply rotten.'

"I fairly staggered from this 'solar plexus' blow to my poetical ambitions, for I was 'down and out' to stay and I have staid out ever since; though Saranac Lake has lost a Tennyson-perhaps.

"But this shows how unappreciative some people are of true genius when, by kind and nourishing treatment, the flowers of genius would not 'blush unseen' or 'waste their sweetness on the desert air.'

"Another case in view is that of a young friend of mine who had a craze to do art in water colors. He came to our house one day and brought along some of his work. One art creation was an atrocity that he called 'an autumnal sunset on the Upper Saranac.' This he exulting called his masterpiece but it looked like tomcats having a fight in a dish of tomato sauce, but I did not tell him so, for I did not dare to. I did, however, say this to him, though I was sorry for it afterward; 'Yes, I think it might be very nice, only it is too bad it got spoiled; perhaps you can take a damp cloth and rub off some of the worst spots.'

"At that I noticed a look of contempt creep over his countenance and, in tones of withering scorn, he said, 'Well it is what one might expect of an ignoramus like you and I might have know better than to throw any pearls at a hog who has wallowed in the mire of ignorance all his days like you have.'

"Now wouldn't that freeze your cabbage plants? Of course, I was so over come with chagrin and confusion at the break that I had made that I could not frame any sort of a reply so I let the whole thing go by default and was mighty glad to escape. Still, I could not help but compare his case with mine though perhaps I had uninvitingly betrayed my non-appreciation of his talent by what I had intended for a jest; yet he did not get it 'rubbed into him' the way I had done to me."


Rice gets serious

(Here the real mountain man surfaces in his description of his journey with his friend, Rob, from the end of Averyville Road to Moose Pond.)

"The journey in was over hills and vales till we came to Chub River Falls, a beautiful little cascade of about eighty feet fall, (sic) with a deep pool of sparking clear water at the foot, just the place for trout to lurk. The shimmering sunlight gave rainbow hews to the spry from the falling water and the nearby mountains, clad with a dense forest to the tops, the ground carpeted with wild flowers like the trillium, adder tongue, oxalis and the little wind flower gave forth an incense that was Heaven-born. It might have been some beautiful environment like this that inspired Bryant to write his forest hymn."


Lake Placid to Newcomb

"Our walk to the pond was without further incident except that the trail followed the old 'tote road' that the early pioneers of North Elba made to haul their grain and hay to the old Adirondack Iron Works in Newcomb. Evidences of this road can now be seen by the venerable preservation of some of the bridges across the streams, although it was cut through wilderness in the early eighteen forties.

"We arrived at the pond and a solemn stillness pervaded the scene save the sweet voice of the hermit thrush, which some true lover of nature has called the Patti of the Adirondacks."



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