View of Upper Chateaugay Lake from Owlyout Hotel, Merrill

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Chateaugay Lake from Merrill House, Merrill, N.Y.

Sept., 1906
Merrill, NY

Hello, guess that you will think that I have forgotten you. Have been having a lovely time, will be home Sunday and work Monday. If I get more, will write. A.G.B.

Sargeant’s Greek Ampitheater, Merrill, NY

The code for this slideshow has changed and no longer works in WordPress; however, the pictures can be viewed here.

Slideshow: The Old Guide’s Home at Upper Chateaugay Lake

A series of photographs taken inside the home of Adirondack Guide and author Charles E. Merrill while working on the new edition of The Old Guide’s Story. Peggy Roulston met my mother and I and was gracious enough to feed us soup as well as give us the proverbial grand tour! Thanks Peggy, you’re the best!

Among the photos are included photographs of the first U.S. Post Office in Merrill; this piece is a large wooden bureau to the left of the stairs, photographs, and deer head mounted on the wall. The horses were owned by Mr. Merrill and were the ones to make the daily trip up to Lyon Mountain and back down again.

All of the various stuffed animals were created by Merrill; I have often wondered about what appears to be a red heron.

Except for a small upstairs apartment, the remainder of the house has been kept in its original condition, with everything there owned by Charles E. Merrill when he passed away in the 1930s.

Here is a slightly different look into the life of this fascinating and kind man.

The Old Guide’s Story, Chapter 20

Pioneers Turn Home Into ‘Pill Factory,’ –Remedies Help To Meet Expenses

In the nineteenth chapter Mr. Merrill told of the rescue of Darius by a searching party headed by his father, who found him unconscious and with toes frozen, lying beside a log near Little Trout River, after he had wandered three days in the woods.

CHAPTER 20.

Luckily for Darius, he came from the good old stock of hard working, robust and strong constituted frontiersmen, and inherited from both sides their virility and good health, otherwise he might have suffered more severely from his enforced exposure in the forest. As it was he recovered rapidly and declared he was able to return to Malone school the last week in January, knowing he would need the three remaining months before spring to enable him to pass the examination for a first grade certificate for teaching.

Accordingly about January 25th, grandfather hitched up the team to the pung, and drove Darius back to Malone. And there we will leave him for the present and follow grandfather and Wes through their struggles to keep the wolf from the door and also to retain their usual number of animals on the farm.

This winter was long to be remembered throughout the little settlement as a period of “hard times.” In fact it was almost a famine brought about in part by the reckless building of the summer before and by a spirit of jealousy which had led the farmers each to see if he could not exceed his neighbor furnishing his new house, or buying some fancy breed of animals. Some, if not all, ran in-to debt because their credit was good. A poor hay crop also increased their difficulties and all these causes combined to give them a tight pinch to survive the long, hard winter.

Darius had been intentionally kept ignorant of the general situation, as grandfather was glad to make sacrifices in order to keep him in school. And so he and Wes had to resort to heretofore unheard of schemes to keep the larder replenished. One or two of these little schemes grandfather had learned while in New Hampshire.

On account of so much heavily-timbered land–all forest everywhere–there was no market for wood. So when the settlers were clearing their land, the logs were skidded into great heaps and burned. The ashes were then gathered and through some formula, which I have been unable to find out, they made many little pack-ages of something they called “salts” which found a ready market in a drug store in Chateaugay four corners.

Grandfather and Wes made several bushels of the salts that winter, squeezing the finished product into little cakes about two inches square. They were placed near the stove all around the floor to dry. Drying would harden them sufficiently to handle without breaking. For these cakes they would get a penny each.

And now grandfather brought into practical use one of the things he had learned while in the medical school in Manchester–that of making cathartic purgative pills. His recipe for making them was: Four parts pulverized aloes, two parts pulverized rhubarb, one part pulverized cayenne pepper, well mixed and wet with spirits of wine.

He and Wesley made many little boxes of these pills. A dozen pills wrapped up in paper constituted a box for which the druggist in Chateaugay would pay him five cents.

Another recipe which they used to good advantage that winter was or cough pills: One part maple sugar, one part fir balsam, one part ginger, one part salt, mix thoroughly, then roll and press firmly into pill size of green pea. Dose one to three, every six hours until relieved.

While grandfather was making these pills Wesley would be gathering balsam from the gum blisters which project from the bark of balsam trees. To gather this liquid gum they used a tin can which was fastened to the end of a ten-foot pole, the can had been shaped like a huge spoon with the pointed end ground sharp. This sharp end was thrust under the lower end of the gum blister, which allowed the gum to run into the cup. The cup, which held about one-half gill, would be poured, when filled, into a large bottle which he carried for this purpose. It took Wes about e week or ten days to gather a bottle full of gum. This balsam was very valuable, the druggist paid them one dollar an ounce for it.

Along about New Year’s they had butchered a pig. The entrails grandfather had taken down near the river bank for fox bait, around which he had set six traps.

Twice a week he would go down near enough to see the traps, which were carefully covered with light snow. The foxes were eating the bait but were very careful to step over each trap as they came to it.

At last, however, when the bail was nearly all devoured, two or three foxes came one night and started fighting over the remaining morsels, and consequently one of them got caught in the traps.

During January and February 1 grandfather managed to fool three more foxes into his traps. These skins he sold for seventy-five cents each. (Quite a difference from the after-the-war prices of 1923 and 1924, when they were worth from eighteen to twenty-five dollars each).

In the meantime grandmother and Abbie were not idle. Both were knitting industriously stockings and mittens from the wool sheared from Wesley’s Southdowns.

Grandfather’s little apple tree nursery also added its contribution to the general fund and every Monday morning would find grand-father packing his big box with the various articles of home manufacture, and hitching old Dan to the pung, he would start peddling through the farming district east and north as far as Chateaugay, and sometimes clear to Champlain.

Returning by way of Chateaugay he would purchase the few necessities which grandmother had written on the memorandum. This trip would usually take two or three days, and great was the rejoicing when grandfather returned home with the needed supplies.

And so the winter passed and with April came the delightful, though hard work of making maple sugar.

Darius had completely regained his usual good health and was now eager to return to the farm for the spring work, but his school would not end till June 1st and then the spring work would be half done. However, he managed to get home two or three week-ends to help in the sugaring, as that was a pleasure he could not deny himself and also a help that Wes appreciated.

Another thing Darius could not resist was the smell of spring in the woods. The fresh warm south winds coming down the lake, still covered with ice, wafted an odor to his nostrils that no sportsman could resist. And best of all was the fishing trip with his father up to the mouth of the Thurber brook where they only had to, cut some holes through the ice and drop in their hooks, well baited with fresh worms, to pull out the speckled pounders and then, last but not least, eating them from grandmother’s. What a feast that always was! Even Wes, enjoyed that part of it.

Darius had made many friends that winter. Members of the singing school class and the church choir received him in, their homes as one of their own family. He told Bill Wheeler of his hunt up the Little Trout River, but made light of it, as he felt somewhat ashamed to think that he got lost. Bill, however, thought it was a great feast, and wished he could have been with him.

Finally when the school came around and Darius was gathering up his books and extra clothes, Bill appeared at his room and they had a parting visit, Darius repeating his invitation to Bill to come to his home and Bill repeating his acceptance. And so the two friends parted.

Next morning bright and early, carrying his satchel over his shoulder by a stick thrust through the handle, Darius started on the long walk home. When about half way he met his father coming after him, with the light wagon and team. He had the big box filled with young seedling apple trees well packed in moist earth to keep them from wilting.

“Mighty! Mighty! Dide, why didn’t ye wait awhile till I delivered these trees? Now set right dawn here on that rock while I go on to Farmer Foote with these trees. It’s only about a mile further and won’t take me more’n an’ hour.”

Darius, being pretty tired carrying his heavy satchel, readily consented, and sitting down, watched the blue birds building a nest in. a nearby stump. Already in imagination he could see the woods down in the pasture where they drove the sheep to be sheared, and the river, the big hole under the rock, where he had surprised Wes by capturing the big trout, the lake, the mill. He could feel that unseen magnet tugging and drawing him ever toward the mountains, the fascinating wildness of the hills and valleys.

Thrilled by his own imagination he again inwardly renewed his resolve to some time own a goodly share of the beautiful forest surrounding the Upper Chateaugay Lake.

Copyright 1930.
By Charles E. Merrill.

In the next chapter Mr. Merrill tells how the settlers built stone “fences,” describes the spring work on the farm and tells of Darius’ return to the sawmill where he continued his studies in spare time.

The Old Guide’s Story, Chapter 19

Searchers Discover Darius Unconscious and Freezing–Exposure Causes Illness

In the eighteenth chapter Mr. Merrill told how Darius, lost in the woods, followed Little Trout River for several miles in the hope of reaching civilization, how he killed a deer on the way, how he heard a distant call which he answered with a musket shot, and how at last, completely exhausted by his three days’ tramping, he fell unconscious to the ground beside a log.

CHAPTER 19

Grandmother had sat up all night Saturday. When, early Sunday morning Darius had not returned, grandfather and some of the neighbors set out in search. The party included Uncle Bill Weed, Uncle Enoch Merrill, Erastus Meade and many other neighbors, some on horseback and some on snow shoes, started for Little Trout River in search of Darius, who they feared was lost in the woods.

The heavy snow storm which started the day before and continued all night, had completely covered all tracks so that there were no clue as to what direction the boy had taken, and the forest being so wide, the chances looped slim for finding him.

Setting out in couples, they zigzagged along both sides of the Little Trout River, taking a southerly course. When night came, the parties returning from the search had found no trace of the missing boy. Grandfather sent word by Uncle Bill Weed to grandmother that he would not be home that night, that he would stay with Mr. Drown, a farmer who lived near the river. He figured he would be on the ground earlier in the morning by saving that five mile trip.

The next morning the search party arrived early with many additional neighbors to assist. In fact the whole settlement turned out. There was a regular organized hunt. The men spread out about 100 feet apart with instructions to keep within shouting distance of each other. They determined to search the Little Trout River Valley to its source.

Progress was very slow, owing to nearly two feet of snow. By noon they had made only about six miles when they gathered on the bank of the brook to eat their lunch and discuss the possibilities of finding the boy alive.

“Don’t see any better plan than to keep right on, do you, neighbor Weed?” said grandfather.

“Think you’re right, Paul,” Mr. Weed answered. “Eventually Darius will strike some little spring or valley leading to the Little Trout River which he will have sense to follow and if he doesn’t tire out, freeze or starve to death, I reckon we’ll find him before night.”

Thus encouraged the party wasted no time in setting out again. Assuming their previous positions for the search, the men continued shouting to each other in hope that the boy might be within hearing.

Forging steadily ahead, without thinking where they would spend the night, by sundown they had made about ten miles in all. Already darkness was creeping along the valley. Grandfather called a halt for consultation. They decided to give a rousing halloo before making camp, in the hope that if the boy was within earshot he would signal to them in some way.

As the echoes of the shout died away, a rifle shot was heard. Now they felt so good they all shouted again.

“That’s Dide!” said grandfather. “Hurrah, boys! He’s not a quarter of a mile from here, living and safe!”

Pell mell, they started, trying to see who could get there first. Shouting as they ran and getting no response, they felt concerned and wondered if it might be a hunter, whose shot they had heard. But still hoping it was Darius they plunged on.

Grandfather, in the lead, stopped suddenly at sight of a familiar-looking pack basket. Lying, stretched beside the basket was Darius, face downward.

“Dide! Dide!” grandfather shouted. “Here he is, boys!”

Pulling the basket from his shoulders, he turned the boy over, quickly slipping his hand under his coat. He felt his heart beating faintly. At this moment the party had arrived. Two of them set about gathering wood for a fire, while others pulled off the boy’s wet and frozen clothing and rubbed him vigorously.

Setting some stakes over the fire they hung his clothes on them to dry, while four of them sitting down, took him across their knees to do the rubbing.

Discovering that all of his toes were frozen they rubbed them with snow to take out the frost. Luckily, he had been there but a few minutes before their arrival, and so, within an hour, he was telling them his story. While two of the men were making a litter of two strong poles about 10 feet long with three crosspiece tied with rawhide to connect them, and little poles strung lengthwise about four feet apart, others started up the stream to dress the buck.

Bringing the deer down they joined the party and within another hour they were on their way back to the highway with Darius on the litter and several men dragging the buck.

It was 1 o’clock when grandmother, weak and worn-out from her worry, saw the searching party coming up the road. They were coming slowly. That made her think they were carrying Darius. But what if he were not alive? The terrible thought came to her mind. Calmly she waited in the doorway.

Grandfather seeing her standing in the door shouted:

“All’s right, Hannah, we’ve got him, safe and sound. All’s well for a Merry Christmas!”

Darius insisted on dividing up the venison with the neighbors. The next morning he showed a fever and was unable to get out of bed. He developed lung fever (now called pneumonia) and for three weeks he had a fight for life. But grandmother, being a competent nurse and loving mother, he was restored to his usual good health and within a month was back in school again, telling his school-mates his experiences which he never hoped to have to repeat.

In the next chapter Mr. Merrill tells about the hard winter when the settlers had to exercise their ingenuity to earn even a few cents to buy the necessities of life. He tells how his grandfather made medicinal pills, trapped foxes, fished through the ice and peddled nursery stock through the settlements to support his family.

Copyright 1930.
By Charles E. Merrill.

The "Original" Old Guide’s Story, by Charles E. Merrill


Mr. and Mrs. Harry Matteson of Malone have kindly made available their collection of newspaper clippings consisting of the text, in serial form as it was originally published by the Malone Evening Telegram in the early 1930s. However, of the 102 original chapters (edited down to 43 in the version published by Fay Welch), there are some missing chapters, including the first 18, as well as a few later on.

Because I’m under some time restraints and eventually need to return their property, I’m going to begin with chapter 19 and work my way through. As time and money permit, I’ll have to somehow obtain the missing material and transcribe it, although due to the as yet undetermined quality of the medium I’ll be working from (probably microfilm or microfiche), this process will most likely be problematic as well as time-consuming.

This page will serve as the “contents” with links to the individual chapters.

Here is seen Guide Merrill fishing at Owlyout Rapids near the spot where his father, Darius, died. his father ruptured a blood vessel while lifting a horse from the mire, and died before help could be brought.

“In the first chapter of his reminiscences, Mr. Merrill told how, in 1820, his grandfather, with other families, migrated from New Hampshire into New York State and settled near Chateaugay Lake. A picturesque picture he drew of the journey, “Grandfather Paul leading with old Bright and buck yoked to the heavy wagon, Hannah perched in the back end, with baby Cyrus almost lost to view among the household goods.” It was in the new home that Darius, father of the author, was born.”

Malone Evening Telegram, 26 August, 1930


Chapter 19–Searchers Discover Darius Unconscious and Freezing–Exposure Causes Illness
Chapter 20–Pioneers Turn Home Into ‘Pill Factory,’–Remedies Help To Meet Expenses

Chapter 21–Old Guide Tells How Fields Were Cleared and Stone ‘Fences’ Were Built
Chapter 22–Young Giants Delight in Showing Their Strength at Barn Raising and Bee
Chapter 23–Darius Starts Teaching School, But Rowdy Gang Causes Him Some Worry

Lyon Mountain from Merrill House (Young Road), Chateaugay Lake


Am unsure of the date, but suspect it’s ca. 1905 or so. A portion of the boathouse now owned by Tanager Lodge is at far right.

Bathing Beach at Merrill House, Chateaugay Lake, 1940s

Deer Spring Lodge, Merrill

When this camp was built on the west side of Upper Chateaugay Lake in the 1860s, it was known as “Gunn’s Retreat”. It became known as “Deer Spring Lodge” around 1900, then in the 1920s it belonged to Cash Bellows (Cash, along with his cousin Millard Bellows, were associated with boat building at Chateaugay Lake from the 1890s to about the 1930s). The building was torn down in the 1970s.

Information compiled from a photograph of “Gunn’s Retreat”, owned by Russ Sawyer and displayed in the Hollywood Inn, Merrill, on State Route 374.