Benjamin Van Buren's Bay
Charles G. Gosselink
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In 1885, John J. Wilson purchased the property south of Van Buren Bay that was to become the campus of the Silver Bay Association. He renovated and expanded the existing house there, the site of pioneer Jabez Pachin's cabin, and established a summer hotel, known first as the Wilson House at Brookdale Farm. Tradition holds that it was Wilson, inspired by the glory of the moonlight shimmering over the water below his hotel, who gave the place its name, Silver Bay.
Judge Wilson's Hazle Point Farm 1910|
At about the same time, Wilson also acquired property north of Van Buren Bay, where he had his own home and barn built on what he called Hazle Point Farm. As mentioned earlier, this land, which he had purchased from William Burgess, included almost all of Ellis Lot 96, with the exception of John Braisted's five acres and a narrow strip of land along the northern boundary of the lot. It may be that John Shattuck was the builder or at least worked on the construction of the house, just south of the present post office, which we know now as Scot's Bluff. In any case, he looked after the property for Wilson and lived there in the off-season for a few years. His oldest daughter Ethel Shattuck, Walter Watts' wife and Ethel Andrus' mother, was born in that house in the winter of 1889. Later Shattuck built his own house just up the road, opposite the present post office, where he and his wife took in boarders. Shattuck was also an accomplished photographer. There is a picture, perhaps his, taken in about 1910 of the relatively treeless hillside typical of that time. It shows Wilson's house and substantial barn in the center, with Walter Watts' house and barn up and to the left and John Shattuck's house to the right. The Shattuck house is now owned by Harold and Camilla Smith.
Judge Wilson, as he was known when he became justice of the peace in Hague, continued to live in that house even after he sold the hotel property to Silas Paine in 1899. The Wilsons, John and Annie, were originally from England. Before purchasing the Silver Bay property, they had summered at Sabbath Day Point and experienced tragedy when their young son died in a drowning accident. Sometime after he established his farm, Wilson invited his niece Bessie Pope to come from England to be their housekeeper. He tried to farm and live off the land but with indifferent success. He seems to be remembered more for his errors than his accomplishments. He once fell asleep while boiling maple sugar in his sugarhouse up above Captain Watts' place and lost it all. He may have invented the ice cube. He had metal boxes fabricated, the size of a standard ice block. His idea was to fill them with water and freeze them in the winter, saving the difficulty of cutting and hauling ice from the lake. The method did not work very well; perhaps the ice didn't pop out of the ice tray as easily as he hoped. But the boxes made nice planters and some could still be found in use a few years ago. Judge Wilson was also known for his annual children's party. We have pictures of the festivities at his house, the little girls all in white party dresses and the boys in white shirts and ties. What is most striking about the pictures is the beautiful view of the lake in the background, now hidden by the many trees that have been planted or allowed to grow.
Judge Wilson's Annual Children's Party 1915|
(Wilson standing second from the right.)
Over the years several more houses were added to this hillside community. In 1899, Judge Wilson sold one acre of land, just south of his house, "together with appurtenances" to George and Annie Fish. The appurtenances may have included the barn or house back in the woods behind what we now know as the Butcher cottage. That building is very old, showing up in photographs taken before 1904. Of course Fish himself may have built it. He certainly built the Butcher cottage, in about 1908, and lived there, year round or seasonally, until 1917. Dorothy Goodfellow remembered going to the Fish house in the summer to get ice for their ice cream freezer. Unfortunately, we do not know much more about George and Annie Fish. The house just north of Wilson's, which many still think of as the Badger cottage, was built for Bessie Pope sometime after 1912. Later, several members of the Watts family built their own homes on Watts Hill. Dorothy Goodfellow, the oldest daughter, lived high on the hill, above her parents' house. Henry, who followed his father's profession as a surveyor, built the house now owned by his daughter Jane and Gerry Crammond. Walter and Alice Watts lived in the house next door, now owned by Doug Sperling. Ethel Watts and her husband Bill Andrus moved into the house just a little ways down the hill, built originally as Captain Watts' office and workshop. Ed Watts owned a house on Route 9N. The Watts' second daughter Ruth and her husband Morris Auerbach inherited the old family homestead, recently purchased by Bruce and Sarah Tamlyn.
Two streams, originating up near 108 Mountain, cut down through the middle of Judge Wilson's property, providing water for the houses in the vicinity and splitting off a piece of land to the south abutting the boundary of Ellis Lot 97. Judge Wilson sold a portion of that land to Fayette Dunklee in 1915. Fayette Dunklee is well known to many Van Buren Bay residents as the master mason who built so many of the fireplaces, chimneys, stone pillars, and foundations of the older houses. He built his own house half way up the northern reach of Terrace Road. In fact his house seems to have been a constant work in progress as he renovated and added on to it as his needs and available materials allowed. He maintained a working farm there on the side of the hill, with a barn and cleared fields above and below the house, where he and his wife Annie raised strawberries, grapes, and vegetables for sale to summer cottagers. Dunklee was a fixture of the Silver Bay community. Besides the stonework which kept him busy in the building season, Fayette was also the indispensable winter caretaker for the Oneita Boat Club and many of the camps around the bay. He is also remembered as the man who discovered the hidden treasure, $80 in a bottle in the roots of an old chestnut tree, while excavating for the Fisher Gymnasium foundations. The Dunklees had two daughters, Gladys and Julia, and were close friends of the Walter Watts family across the ravine.
In his retirement years, Dunklee moved to Ticonderoga and rented out his Terrace Road house during the summer. Harrison and Eleanor Goddard bought the property in 1952. They were well acquainted with Van Buren Bay, having both worked at the Silver Bay Association and even honeymooned at the Braisted House hotel. They allowed the cleared fields to return to forest and dismantled the barn but otherwise tried to maintain the old house as they found it, perhaps out of respect to Fayette Dunklee. Their daughter Barbara Goddard Hilpp, also a former Silver Bay emp, owns the property now and the old house continues to receive the loving care of her daughter Liz and her husband Burns Hinck.
The lot just above the Dunklee house, at the top of Terrace Road before it turns south, has passed through several hands. Grace Bixby bought it originally from Judge Wilson in 1916 and the family had a small camp there for over twenty years. Then Raymond and Lillian Parshalls had it for thirty years. Gerald and Margaret Huenink purchased the property in 1966. He was a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church. They were active at Silver Bay and their daughters served as emps. Charlie and Michele Chase purchased the property in 1985. They renovated and enlarged the existing camp and are year-round residents now.
In 1915 Dr. Robert E. and Laura Hume acquired the lakefront property just north of Penfield Cottage, which had belonged to Judge Wilson. The Humes had solid Silver Bay credentials. Robert was a graduate student at Yale and Laura a nurse at Massachusetts General when they met at a college conference at Silver Bay in 1904. They were engaged on Sunrise Mountain and married in 1905. The couple went as missionaries to India, where Robert had been born of missionary parents, and stayed seven years, serving in various capacities in the Bombay area. Their sons Robert and Edward were born there. They returned in 1913 when Dr. Hume was offered a professorship in the History of Religion at Union Seminary. They came to Silver Bay in 1914 and 1915, renting cottages on Van Buren Bay. As noted earlier, their daughter Jane McCormick Mitchell was born in the Paine farm house in 1915.
In the winter of 1916, the Humes began construction of their own cottage. Louis Spelman supervised the work, and it is said that some of the materials used were leftover from the construction of Fisher Gymnasium. It is a house of many rooms and its wide porches take full advantage of the view of the lake. Dr. Hume wrote several of his books on the history of religion in his second floor study, and the cottage still contains brass lamps and other artifacts dating back to the family's time in India. Jane and Jim McCormick inherited the property, and Jane is now passing it on to her children, Robert, James, and Sally Pickert and their families. In 1950, Robert C. and Elizabeth Hume bought a plot of land just above the original house and built a small cottage there overlooking Shawanapek Beach. They spent summers there for years before health problems kept them away. Elizabeth has recently given that property to her grandchildren, Cheryl Corsi and Lisa Foy.
Judge J.J. Wilson lived until 1919, but he sold most of his remaining property in 1917 to Edwin Merton McBrier. McBrier was a vice-president of the Woolworth Company and in 1918 was elected a trustee of the new Silver Bay School. His story has a familiar ring. In the summer of 1917 the family rented a cottage at Silver Bay. "We liked the place very much, so I bought the Old Point property where the steamers on Lake George formerly docked." This would be Hazle Point, or Rowan Point now. In fact, McBrier owned almost all the land from the lake up to the northeastern slopes of Sunrise Mountain.
To continue McBrier's story, "In the winter of 1917-1918 we built a new home, with two large stone fireplaces, one at each end of the large living room. On the long veranda overlooking Lake George, we had a large round dining table capable of seating twelve people. The kitchen and dining room were in an additional wing, and over these rooms there were three servants' bedrooms, all equipped with bathrooms. There were four master bedrooms, all with private baths." In truth, there were five stone fireplaces in the house and many other artistic and practical features. McBrier installed a Delco lighting engine with storage batteries so that the whole house was lit by electricity. He also built a dam and covered holding tank higher up the mountain to provide water for the house and garden. They called their place The Brier Patch.
When he bought the property, McBrier acquired the Farm Cottage across the road, George Fish's house, where his year round caretaker and family lived. He also built a small stone house at the end of his driveway, called The Garden House, for his chauffeur and cook. Beyond that house he had an extensive flower and vegetable garden and on Shawanapek Bay below he put up a boathouse.
Edwin McBrier and his wife Carrie had two daughters, Geraldine Elizabeth and Kathryn Lois, for whom they named their speedboat "Elka". The girls were actively involved in the social life of Silver Bay, acting in the cottagers' play, hosting square dances in their big living room, and even serving as bridesmaids in their neighbor Charlotte Penfield's wedding. Geraldine herself was married in 1922 and her first daughter was born in The Brier Patch in 1923. But after Kathryn was married in 1924, the two daughters informed their parents that they would not be coming to Silver Bay anymore but going to their husbands' summer homes. After a last summer together at Silver Bay in 1925, the McBriers sold their home and property to Dr. Wilbert W. White.
Dr. White was president of the Biblical Seminary of New York. Earlier he and his wife Alice had served as missionaries in India and their daughter Helen was born there. He had long been associated with the missionary movement, the YMCA, and the Silver Bay Association. He was known to be an excellent biblical scholar and teacher. Whether he felt that the Association had become too liberal, as some have suggested, or whether he simply wanted a summer extension of his New York school, he saw in McBrier's property a wonderful opportunity. McBrier, who had known White and attended his weekly Bible classes at the Railway Club in New York, sold all of his property for less than half of what it had cost him to buy, build and equip the place. White established a retreat where students, ministers and others could come for recreation and serious study of the Bible. He renamed the large house Neiona Lodge, purchased additional land north of the property perhaps for future expansion, and called his conference center Columbiona-on-Lake George. The new endeavor was launched with great enthusiasm and support from the community. Dr. Hume and other neighbors served on the faculty. It may have seen initial success. But White suffered some financial setbacks in the 1930's, perhaps because of the Depression, and was forced to give up his dream.
In 1934 he sold some of his northern holdings to Charles and Miriam Parlin. He gave the Farm Cottage and the barn to George Ray in payment of an outstanding debt. "Daddy Ray" was a minister, originally from the South and then later in California. Of his large family, neighbors particularly remember Miss Eva and Miss Opal. Miss Opal Ray looked after Miss Eva, who suffered paralysis in one leg but still liked to work in the Silver Bay craft shop. The Ray family enjoyed the property for many years before selling it to Russell and Hazel Butcher in 1969. Russell had first come to the Silver Bay in 1929 to attend Boys' Camp and remembers traveling up the lake from the Village by boat. Later he returned with his family and they stayed on campus at Brookside for several summers before acquiring their cottage. Their daughters Rebecca Jones and Lois Butcher own the property now.
White sold what had been Bessie Pope's house to William Stewart, then owner of the Glen Cottage, who bought it for the use of his sister-in-law Edith Haig. Howard and Jacqui Badger, perhaps drawn to that little piece of England by the spirits of Wilson, Watts, and Pope acquired the property in the early 1960's. Both Howard and Jacqui were employed by the Silver Bay Association and continued to be very active in the community until recently when they returned to England to stay. They passed the house on to their friend Rose Anne Mastandrea and her family in 1996.
In 1938, White sold almost all of his remaining property to Margaret Boyd Rowan, keeping only Judge Wilson's original house near Watts Hill and a cottage and cabin down on the shore of Shawanapek Bay, on land which he had had purchased in about 1915 before he bought the McBrier estate. He died in 1944 leaving that property to his daughter Helen White. She sold the Shawanapek cottage and cabin to Peter and Virginia Mitchell in1953, retaining a narrow right of way to the lake. In 1973, the Mitchells were able to purchase the old Wilson house and right of way, as well. The Mitchells favored the lakefront cottage, which they named Hilander, eventually winterizing it and making it an all season house. In keeping with the thistle and shamrock theme, they called the upper house Scot's Bluff. In later years, after the death of his wife Virginia, Peter Mitchell married his close neighbor across the bay Jane McCormick, whose husband Jim had also passed away some years before. When Peter died, his children inherited the property. Peter and Nydia Mitchell are year round residents now and other members of the family share the property in the summer. In 1999, they razed the cabin and built a second house on the lakeshore lot, appropriately named Scottage, and sold Scot's Bluff to Alfred and Annelies Walton, the present owners.
The property on the point beyond the Mitchells' has a long history. Judge Wilson originally sold that land to Myrtel Yernel in 1904. She may be the one who built the modest house there with its small detached grotto, embellished with Adirondack twig work, overlooking Shawanapek Bay. She sold it to B. Carter Milliken in 1908, and he sold it in 1918 to Carrie St. John Ringe. We do not know much about "the widow Ringe" except that she later married Edmund Wylie, father of the author Philip Wylie. Edmund and his first wife Edna had lived the cottage just north of Rowan Point, formerly part of the Black Elephant Camp, owned later by the Wallace Hamilton family and now by Robert and Natalie Oshins. The Wylie family took an active part in community events; Philip and his brothers show up often in the old pictures of hikes, picnics, and fishing trips. After his wife died, Edmund Wylie married Carrie Ringe and moved to her house, which then became known as the Wylie Cottage. Carrie Wylie' son Fred sold the house to Alexander and Flossy Millar Hehmeyer in 1958. Willis and Fern Coe owned the property for a few years before selling it to Walter and Colletta Sperling in 1976. It is now shared by the Sperling family.
 Charles C. King, Andia-Ta-Roc-Te, p. 41.
 This may have been the site of John Braisted's original house.
 Charles C. King, Andia-Ta-Roc-Te, p. 41.
 Thanks to Ethel Andrus for these stories.
 Dorothy W. Goodfellow, Growing Up Wild, 1977, p. 4.
 Some of the mountains in the area are still named for the Ellis Patent lot numbers.
 Louis Spelman, Silver Bay As I Knew It, 1976, p. 19. Charlie King says it was $110, Andia-Ta-Roc-Te, p. 57.
 Jane McCormick Mitchell, unpublished recollections, 1987, SBA Archives.
 Edwin Merton McBrier, "Autobiography," written in 1953, courtesy of Edwin McBrier Williams.
 Fayette Dunklee was responsible for the stone work, the fireplaces, mantels, and pillars on the porch.
 Did Edwin McBrier move Silas Paine's boathouse to Shawanapek Beach? See note 68.
 Long time Silver Bay member Adele Hepbron knew the McBrier girls well and remembered how as teenagers they would clear the living room, role up the rugs, and invite their friends in to dance.
 The Parlins, Cratteys, Arms, and other "northern cottagers" are an important part of Silver Bay history but will not be included in this Van Buren Bay story.
 In fact she died on duty in the craft shop and is buried at Valley View.
 As usual, the property was held and sold in the name of his wife, Alice Brevort White.
 See page 77.
 Edna Wiley died at Silver Bay. The story is told that Edmund Wylie summoned his grown sons to Silver Bay and had them help him bury their mother in the woods above his house. When the town authorities heard of this, they required him to rebury her body elsewhere. However, her grave site is still there, marked by a brass plaque on a boulder with the inscription: "Friend, you are welcome to this sanctuary where rests the form of our loved one. You will not mar the trees, they are her monument."