Edward I. Pitts’ new book The History of the Rap-Shaw Club: 1896 until 1958 tells the story of the early days of the Rap-Shaw Club, one of region’s surviving nineteenth century Adirondack outdoors clubs.
Founded in 1896, Rap-Shaw has continuously existed in the Beaver River country of the west central Adirondacks for what is believed to be longer than any other institution in that region. It has had rustic camps at Witchhopple Lake, Beaver Dam Pond, and since 1940 on Williams Island in the Stillwater Reservoir. It has outlived all the earliest settlements of the area, outlived Webb’s great camp Nehasane, and the passenger railroad that originally brought its members to the wilderness. Pitts offers an epic tale of adventure, wilderness recreation and the work required to build and maintain a voluntary organization during changing times.
The book explains how the club was founded and provides biographical sketches of the founders. It explains how the club overcame repeated threats to its existence due to two evictions, dissension in the ranks, and a devastating fire that destroyed the clubhouse. It tells the stories of the first fishing trip in 1896, two lost fishermen in 1909, and a dramatic rescue after a serious hunting accident in 1925.
It explains how the club was among the earliest to use an airplane for fish stocking. In the course of telling these stories, Pitts describes all of the club campsites in some detail. The book shows why the club moved to an island in Stillwater Reservoir and links the current club buildings to the vanished Beaver River Club. The book concludes by examining how the club transformed itself from a male only hunting and fishing camp to the family summer camp it is today.
Edward Pitts is a retired attorney and Administrative Law Judge who lives in Syracuse. He was president of the board of directors of the Rap-Shaw Club, Inc. from 2011 until 2016. He has been the Club historian since 2016.
He has a life-long interest in local history especially of the Adirondacks and Central New York. His articles on Adirondack history have appeared in Adirondack Almanack, The New York History Blog, Adirondac magazine and Adirondack Life.
The History of the Rap-Shaw Club: 1896 until 1958 can be purchased from the author for $25 including tax and shipping by sending an inquiry by email to Rap.firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available at the Goodsell Museum, 2993 Main St., Old Forge, and at the Stillwater Shop at the Stillwater Reservoir.
A version of this article first appeared on the Adirondack Almanack.