Funny how things happen. On Dec. 1, in this space we told the story of the great fire in Tupper Lake in 1899 that wiped out most of the village. Now my friend Jerome "Champ" Branch has given me a copy of a detailed history of Tupper Lake village, 1902 to 1952, edited and probably mostly written, by Louis J. Simmons, village historian and long time editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press.
[About the fire] "A paralyzing disaster at the time, some Tupper businessmen at first considered abandoning the uptown site completely and rebuilding at Faust. That counsel of despair went unheeded after the first shock of the calamity. Two developments played important roles in the quick restoration of confidence the construction of an adequate water system and the organization of an efficient volunteer fire department."
I hope there are still a lot of copies of this book still around because it traces the history from 1776 "when Sir John Johnson, the son of Sir William Johnson, the King's Superintendent of Indian Affairs in North America, fleeing the aroused colonists of the Mohawk Valley at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War made an epic 19-day journey through the Adirondack Wilderness when he paddled down the Raquette River with his Indian and loyalist followers in May, 1776.
"It is extremely doubtful if he lingered to enjoy the beauty of Big Tupper Lake. Fear and hunger rode with him, but little is known of the hardships his band endured before it finally reached the safety of Montreal."
Now to 1950
"As the village population grew, a 12-inch pipe line was laid to bring water from Little Simond Pond, but by the mid-1940's it was apparent this supply would not be sufficient indefinitely. On August 7, 1950, an $118,000 bond issue was passed to make possible the construction of a supplementary water line from Big Tupper Lake. The new pumping and filtration plant at Moody houses three pumps with a total capacity of two million gallons a day. Water reaches the plant through a line extending 800 feet into the lake at a depth of 43 feet."
This extensive history traces the village's recovery from the fire through chapters entitled, Downtown Tupper Lake, Industrial Progress, The Oval Wood Dish Corporation, The Draper Corporation, The U.S. Bobbin and Shuttle Companythe Churches, the Synagogue, the Schools, the Fire and Police Departments, The American Legion Mountain Camp, Sunmount and the Mercy General Hospital, [where my aunt, Sister Mary Dorothy Riley was an RN.]
It is frustrating to try and tell what is in this book in such a limited space that we can even 'scratch the surface' is an exaggeration.
This is for my friend, Mayor Paul Maroun, who is in a tight race with our Mayor Clyde Rabideau over who gets the most ink in any given week.
Village and town officials
"Village Mayors 1902 to 1952 Charles H. Sisson, U.S. Scott, Evariste LeBoeuf, Daniel J. Hayes, Daniel C. Randall, B. B. Lantry, Joseph Gokey [who was Mayor twice, 1912-15 and 1918-19 and it was rumored, once said, 'New York City is never going to amount to anything, it's too far from Tupper Lake']; John B. Goff, Timothy E. Bruce, Patrick H. McCarthy, Elmer H. LeBoeuf, N. B. Sparks (pro tem), [probably the grandfather of my niece, Patty Sparks Littlefield], Paul E. Martin, Frank J. McCarthy, [also twice elected, 1933-35 and 1937-39]; Edmond H. Harvey, Dr. T. J. Collinson, William E. Byrne, Thomas K. Somers and E. Raymond Sutliffe."
"Town of Altamont Supervisors 1891 1948 Howard H. Hobson, Ernest T. Fletcher, Edwin H. Page, William E. LaFountain, Dr. Eugene M. Austen, [elected twice, 1901-09, 1911-14], William J. Dievendorf, Leon P. Demars, John H. Black, Paul E. Martin [who also was Mayor], and George H. DeLair."
"Tupper Lake's first newspaper was published seven years before the community was incorporated. The Tupper Lake Herald was founded by Allen I. Vosburgh in 1895. News and advertising material was gathered here and the paper was printed in Saranac Lake."
"On July 26, 1922, the United States Government acquired title to 139 acres of land, for a nominal fee, from the Township of Altamont, New York. Immediately ground was broken for the new Veterans Administration Hospital which now has a 534 bed capacity. The first veteran/patient with Tuberculosis was admitted on opening day, August 15, 1924."
"By the fall of 1891, under the constant prodding of Dr. Webb, crews were racing to finish the line before winter set in. Chief Engineer William Roberts had a crew of expert Negro trackmen working out of Tupper on the North end, while his son, Hirschel Roberts, had a gang of 60 St. Regis Indians driving the rails north from the Fulton Chain. Rivalry was intense, and the number of feet of track laid was posted in both camps daily. Hirschel Roberts came up with an idea which got steel laid in a hurry. Every morning a work train hauled a keg of beer to the end of the existing track, from which point it was toted out 'a good optimistic distance' on the raw, new roadbed. When the rails reached the keg, the crew could knock off and drink the beer.
"The rails were finally joined on the first through railroad to penetrate the Adirondacks from end to end on October 12, 1892, near Twitchell Creek. On October 24, 1892, the first train ran through Tupper on schedule, from New York to Montreal."