Jack Clifford Camp, Upper Chateaugay Lake


The notorious camp of Prohibition time. The Jack Clifford and Evelyn Nesbit Thaw hideaway at Upper Chateaugay.

Her life story was presented in the movie, “Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.”

Four out of the five chimneys are the only reminder of the once large, elaborate building.

Chateaugay Record, March 14, 1984


Chateaugay Lake First Settled

Chateaugay Lake First Settled by Samuel C. Drew in Year 1816

Chateaugay Lake was first thrust on a waiting world through one William Bell, who came here around 1783. Bell sold 50 acres of land to Samuel C. Drew, of Gilmantown, N.H., who came here about 1816 and settled on the west shore of the Lower Lake. Although there were no regular settlers at that time there was a hunter’s shanty near the site of the present Banner House and Drew lived in the shanty while clearing the land and building on the west shore.

The first child born to parents of the Chateaugay Lake region was William Henry Drew born in 1819, and eventually known to all around here by the name of “Uncle Henry.”

Soon a large number of people followed the Drews from Gilmantown and took up land around the Lower Lake. Smith Bunker located on Bunker Hill about 1820 and gave it his name. Elias Beman, whose brother was a Revolutionary soldier in the army of General Washington, and Enoch Merrill settled on the east side of Bunker Hill and Paul, his brother, on the west side of the Lake.

Jonathan Bellows, from South Charleston, N. H., settled here about 1820 being a direct descendent of John Bellows who was registered on the good ship “Hopewell” from London in 1635.

At the close of the Pappineau Rebellion in 1837, a group of English officers summered with Mr. Bellows on the Lower Lake and this was probably the beginning of the “summer resort” phase of this region. Mr. Bellows had a hotel called the Lake House, which by that time had grown to substantial proportions. Among those who came here for recreation purposes were A. F. Tait and Chester Harding, the artists. Here Mr. Tait had a studio and painted such famous pictures, as “Arguing the Point” in which there is an excellent portrait of Jonathan Bellows. Many of these pictures were lithographed by Currier and Ives and now command large sums for their purchase. Among other famous guests were Dr. Bethums, a cousin of James Russell Lowell and Mr. Ashman, chairman of the convention, which nominated Abraham Lincoln.

In 1892 “The Lake House” was purchased by J. S. Kirby who changed the name to “Banner House.” Following his death the place was operated by F. W. Adams and is now under the management of Mrs. A. M. Chase.

The first saw mill was built by Gates Hoit in 1828 at the outlet of the lower lake near the present dam. The mill was soon purchased by John B. Jackson who later erected a larger mill on the west shore.

Probably no village of its size had as many names as the one we call The Forge near the outlet of the lower lake at the dam. It was first called “The Lake” then “Weeds,” next Popeville,” then “Moffits.” Now almost the whole village has disappeared and most of the land is used for farming. Nothing except a solitary chimney or pieces of wall remains to tell the story of a large and prosperous village that once bid fair of becoming a big industrial community.

We now come down to about 1874 when Pope, William & Co., built a Forge at what was then Moffits. The iron ore was brought down from Lyon Mountain mostly by barges and was of unusual quality. Most of it went into the manufacture of Bessmer Steel and was much sought after by steel manufacturers. In 1880 a new company was formed with a capital of $1,500,000. They enlarged the forge to sixteen fires making the largest “Catalan” forge in the whole world. This forge and its sixteen fires consumed annually 37,500 cords of wood, which made 1,500,000 bushels of charcoal to feed the hungry mouths of the forge fires. This forge operation lasted until 1893.

Among other places where ore was found was one above the hotel owned by Lewis Bellows. He and Edgar Keeler, of Chateaugay, operated a mine back of the hotel for a year and took out about a thousand tons of ore. The mine was finally abandoned owing to the large amount of sulfur found in the ore.

Another mine was located on land owned by Alanson Roberts. He built a separator on Thurber Brook where he separated some amount of ore. Later another separator was built near Lewis Bellows house but finally both were abandoned. The shaft of the old Bellows mine still exists and is a point of interest to its present day tourists.

Chateaugay Lake has always been a Mecca for those interested in fishing and hunting; the region abounded in speckled and rainbow trout as well as deer and bear. Among those who came to hunt or fish and built cottages on the Lakes were Geraldine Farrar, the singer, as well as Jack Clifford and Evelyn Nesbitt Thaw. Seth Thomas of clock fame built a beautiful cottage with a high tower containing a huge three-sided clock, which could be seen for miles around.

During the early days, long before the advent of automobiles, there was a stage route from Chateaugay to the Banner House landing. From here a small steamer-first the “Adirondack” and later the “Emma” made regular trips up through the Narrows and around the Upper Lake, stopping at every dock to deliver mail and supplies. The arrival of this little steamer was the high spot in the day’s activities at all the camps. Every man, woman and child felt a personal responsibility in meeting the boat and getting the latest news. The stage that came from Chateaugay was also an “institution” and most everyone in Northern New York knew Pratt Hill the driver and his four spanking horses that drew the Tally Ho stage.

Soon the coming of private launches in large numbers made the regular streamer trips unnecessary and it was abandoned. Most of the campers then kept boats or launches at the M. S. Bellows boat shop and from there went the rest of the way by water. One can imagine it was a welcome relief to get on the smooth pathway of the water after the bumping of the so-called roads of that day.

Soon roads began to improve and again a change in the matter of boats. Campers now took the new road up along the lakeshore and stopped near their camps. Campers now took the new road up along the lakeshore and stopped near their camps. This made the need for launches much less, and they soon dwindled in number. Now the automobile and the concrete highway tell their own tale and there is one launch on the lake where formerly there were dozens.

The charm of the lakes has remained regardless of change and its lovers grow more numerous every year. The fishing is better again, with the lessening of the scourge of perch and many a fine catch of trout are taken regularly from lake and stream. Cottages have so increased that there is almost no unoccupied space on the east side of the lower lake and shore front values climb higher and higher each year.