Jessie Elliott was a unique figure in the history of the Beaver River country in the west central Adirondacks. Visitors to the tiny settlement of Beaver River are still told she went to prison for her role in the bootlegging that was rampant in the lumberjack days of the early 1920s. She is listed among the “lawless ladies” in Niki Kourofsky’s recent book, Adirondack Outlaws. Pat Thompson’s memoir about life in Beaver River claims Jessie rode her steed through the settlement with her long hair flowing and a pistol in a holster on her belt. More fantastic stories about Jessie can be found in Bill Donnelly’s Short History of Beaver River where she is described, among other things, as a good-looking Calamity Jane, a bootlegger, and a prostitute. The truth underlying the legends reveals a much more complex and interesting wilderness woman. Continue reading
Settlement came slowly to the upper Beaver River valley in the west central Adirondacks. John Brown Francis, governor of Rhode Island and grandson of John Brown, the original titleholder, built the first road from Lowville to Number Four in 1822 with the hope of starting a village there. To spur settlement he gave 100 acres each to the first ten families willing to clear the land and establish farms. A number of pioneers moved in, the first of which was a man named Orrin Fenton who arrived in 1826. By 1835 there were about 75 residents. Gradually all attempts at farming failed. By 1864 the settlement of Number Four was nearly deserted. Continue reading
Two books published this year have significantly expanded our understanding of Adirondack architecture. People familiar with the Adirondacks know that twig furniture and palatial robber baron wilderness compounds are the exception, not the rule, for the Adirondack built environment. Unfortunately, until this year there have been no real resources that document the diversity of what really exists along the roadsides and in the settlements of the region. Now, at last, two truly amazing new books have arrived to fill the void. Both books belong in the bookcase of anyone who wants to know more about the Adirondacks.
Destined to become the reference book most often used to jog the memory is A Guide to Architecture in the Adirondacks by Prof. Richard Longstreth ($34.95, 427 pages). Published by Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) and produced by Adirondack Life this book covers the most significant buildings and structures throughout the region. Longstreth is a well-known architectural historian who teaches at George Washington University. He has deep first hand knowledge of the subject having been an inquiring seasonal resident of the Adirondacks since 1978. Continue reading
From its founding in 1893, and over the next 30 years, the Beaver River Club was the destination of many of the visitors to the Stillwater area.
It was the summer retreat of wealthy and influential families from Syracuse, Utica and to a lesser extent from throughout New York State. The decision to enlarge the Stillwater Dam and create today’s Stillwater Reservoir utterly destroyed this glittering outpost in the wild. Here is its story. Continue reading