Benjamin Van Buren's Bay
Charles G. Gosselink
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Special places seem to be endowed with myth -- or is it that myths make some places special? This is the rock where the Pilgrims first stepped ashore. Johnnie Appleseed planted this tree. Here is the rune stone that proves that Vikings reached Minnesota in 1362. George Washington slept here. Our own enduring myth has to do with the escaped slave from Virginia, who found his way to the Adirondacks, who established a prosperous farm on the shores of Lake George, noted by Thomas Jefferson on his visit to the area in 1791, and who gave his name, Van Buren, to the bay which some know as Oneita.
But all myths have some basis in fact, so last year I set out to discover the truth of Benjamin Van Buren. My initial search was easy enough. Census, tax, and deed records contain a wealth of information, though sometimes the hard facts wreak havoc with our cherished stories. However, they do not answer all questions, and often they raise even more queries and invite the launching of new myths. I know more about Benjamin Van Buren now, but there are gaps in his story and there is yet more to learn. Incidentally, the black man whose farm so favorably impressed Thomas Jefferson lived on Black Point Road, on the eastern shore of the lake south of Ticonderoga.
Van Buren started my search and led me to those other pioneer settlers of his bay. The big migration took place in 1902, the year of the founding of the Silver Bay Association, not surprising since most of those summer settlers were closely involved with that effort. Those who followed were similarly drawn by the Silver Bay Association, though they often stayed after they fell in love with the beauty of the area and when Silas and Mary Paine made it attractive for them to buy and build here. Because this is the year of the Silver Bay Centenary, I have tried to identify and tell the story of those founders, though I have then followed the history of their property down to the present. To avoid making this account simply a record of names, credentials, and property transfers, I have included some of the anecdotes, traditions, and myths that have survived from earlier days. This account will be of little interest to people beyond our small hillside neighborhood, but these are the memories we hold dear, and I appreciate the generosity of those willing to share them. I have not included much information on the present owners of Van Buren Bay property. You know who you are. You can write your own stories and leave behind your own myths.