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Lake George past

June 5, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , The Leader Herald

I have a wonderful old book. It is titled "A Complete History of Lake George: Embracing a great variety of information and complete with an especial reference to meet the wants of the travelling community intended as a desciptive guide; Together with a complete history and present appearence of Ticonderoga," by Henry Marvin, New York: Sibells and Maigne, Printers, 1853. All that within 102 pages!

The book is more than 150 years old. I hold it in my hand with a sense of reverence that it has produced and survived over the years. Its faded brown leathery cover has protected it well against water, sun and the ravages of time. The author speaks for all of us would-be historians/writers: "Our knowledge of the past is necessarily derived from the information of others; and while I have been benefited by their researches, I deem it but an act of courtesy to acknowledge the obligations which I have invariably done." However, he did add his sincere thanks to Moses Harris, Esq., "Patriarch of the Lake," to whose knowledge and experience for 60 years past, "I am in the main indebted, for much of the material of this little volume." It delights me when we can record those stories from those who lived in the Adirondack days of the past.

The "Complete History of Lake George" is a small book, 4 by 6 inches, with 102 pages, yet, it covers a lot of history of 150 years ago. The 12 chapters begin with an introduction to Glens Falls, including the falls, the Bloody Pond story including the 1755 Battle of Lake George, and the last chapter takes us to the stories of Fort Ticonderoga in the 1770s.

The importance of the original plank roads (see one of my recent columns on the wooden roads of yesteryears) was again raised up by Henry Marvin. His first paragraph in the book begins with "Shall I begin at Moreau Station, the depot, where, from the RR cars, in flaming capital letters meets the eye, PLANK ROAD TO LAKE GEORGE! " He goes on to explain, "the old stage coach still maintains its primitive simplicity, and in this age of steam, and 'fast contrivances,' is it not a pleasant change from the dirt and noise of RR cars, to the easy rolling of the swinging coaches?"

The coaches at the station were there to take passengers to the two hotels in Lake George-The United States and The Lake House. Previous to the building of the plank road, according to Marvin, it had been a daylong, tiresome journey to the lake.

"Now we travel over a good plank road, which extends as far as Chester [town], and through a wild and almost unbroken region of country, which from its variety and picturesqueness of scenery, greatly relieves the tediousness of travel." (Makes you want to be on that stagecoach.) Marvin went on to predict that the days of the plank roads were numbered and the "iron horse" (trains) would soon "make our stage rout among the things that were."

Marvin's little descriptive book takes the reader to the hotels, to Warren County, the battles, Lake George and the steamboats, the islands and the mountains, and to a parting word: "Good Natured Readers: I must bid you an affectionate farewell. The best wish that I can offer you at parting is health, happiness, and prosperity, with the hope of another reunion." What more could we want?



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