Avery’s Hotel once a Fulton County ‘go to’

Probably the earliest remaining photograph of Avery’s Hotel, reproduced from an 1890’s era glass negative formerly in my collection, recently donated to Town of Arietta Historian Mr. Brian Rudes. (Photo courtesy of Peter Betz)

Although this column seldom features locations beyond Fulton or Montgomery counties, if one mentions Avery’s Hotel in Arietta, Hamilton County, to older Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton County residents, it will no doubt elicit memories of fine dining, plus good hunting and fishing or all three, and those who remember may even have stories to relate about their pleasant experiences there. This is not to confuse Avery’s Hotel with the nearby Arietta Inn, although such confusion has often occurred, even in local newspaper social announcements.

How do such popular rural venues come about?

When he died in 1915, the Sept. 21 Canajoharie Courier announced, “Willard Augustus Avery was a fixture in the north woods for the last thirty years. Hunters from all sections knew him and liked him. He purchased eighty acres from Truman Whitman of Gloversville and paid but $100.00 for it in the section of Arietta now known as Avery’s Camp. A few friends hunting in the woods stopped in on Gus. They saw the possibilities of forming a camp and Gus was interested. He built on to his original little log home and made a big camp of his original holdings. As a guide, there were few better men in the north country.”

Shortly after ‘Gus’ Avery passed away, the Nov. 30, 1915 Morning Herald reported Lyman Avery’s acquisition of his late father’s property and enterprises. “Lyman Avery, a well-known Adirondack guide and camp operator, has purchased the Gus Avery Camp at Arietta from Mrs. Avery who did not feel able to continue the camp.”

Lyman Avery was a very enterprising man. During his long life, he served as Arietta Supervisor, Hamilton County treasurer, still guided and hunted when he found time, conducted extensive logging operations and owned his own sawmill. Nor did he allow misfortune to deter him.

On April 24, 1926, for example, the Herald published the bad news: “Avery’s Hotel at Arietta is Razed by Fire.”

The sub-head announced, “Famous Northern Hunting and Fishing Lodge Burns to Ground.” Caretaker Meyers, it explained, had been away and returned to find the building engulfed in flames. There was of course no fire-fighting equipment available. The Herald also reminded readers of something they already knew, that It was “famous for the dinners served there.”

Lyman Avery soon rebuilt. The new two and a half story building was 100 by 30 feet, probably constructed with lumber from his own mill, and in May 1931 he acquired another hotel in nearby Wells, the Hosley House, changing the name to the Wells Hotel.

The Amsterdam Recorder reported, “Mrs. Mina Zeizer, who conducted the hotel in Arietta for a number of years, will be in charge. Mina was Lyman’s sister, so management remained in the family.

Being successful also made him enemies.

In 1932, Avery was accused to serving under-sized, untagged trout, and the Morning Herald, aware of the hotel’s popularity, kept local readers aware of the alleged fishy doings.

When the case went to trial Oct. 17, 1933, it reported, “Delmer Speenburgh and his wife Jessie, listed as New York State ‘special investigators’ testified “they were guests at the Avery Inn on two occasions, June 20 and 24, that they were served trout for dinner and the fish were not properly tagged as required by the Conservation Law. Mrs. Speenburgh testified that her husband measured the trout with a six-inch rule and that they lacked one quarter inch of being the lawful size.”

Although it wasn’t stated, we may assume that in order to continue hiding their status as inspectors, the Speenburghs ate the evidence.

Testifying next was Chief Game Protector Morgan Leland, who stated that he’d visited Avery’s on June 29, went to the cooler and seized 12 brook trout which were not tagged. But under cross examination, Leland admitted he couldn’t determine just who caught, owned, or placed the fish in the cooler.

Lyman Avery then took the stand.

He testified calmly that he wasn’t on the premises that day, that regular guests often placed their catches in the cooler, and incidentally, the cooler wasn’t even attached to the hotel building. He also remarked that some guests were amateur fishermen from cities and didn’t necessarily know all the fishing regulations, and that trout served in his establishment were always purchased from licensed fish hatcheries. He produced invoices from three hatcheries from which he’d purchased trout that June and further testified he hadn’t placed the untagged trout in the cooler, didn’t know who had, didn’t offer them for sale, and had never served illegally-caught fish to anyone. Reinforcing Avery’s testimony was Hope Falls Fish Hatchery proprietor Robert Grosso, one of Avery’s suppliers, who used the invoices to prove that the trout served to the Speenburghs had definitely originated at one of the hatcheries.

Clearly the case wasn’t going swimmingly for the state: the following day the jury ruled Avery innocent, thereby declaring the state’s case all wet. Shortly afterward, Lyman Avery had the last laugh and he got it in print when the October 26th Herald reported, “Members of the jury which returned a “no cause for action” verdict in favor of Lyman Avery were given a dinner by Lyman last night. We wonder if he served ’em trout.” We may assume the nosey Speenburghs weren’t invited, but if they had been, they would most likely have been served nothing but crow.

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