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Sabattis’ name lives on

June 17, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

When I submitted my latest Image of America book, "Adirondack People and Places," to the Arcadia Publishing Company, one of the editors became somewhat surprised when I stated that many of the place names in the Adirondacks came from the Native Americans, also known as Indians. Indian Carry, an Adirondack portage, actually carries the name "Indian." I had included the Sabattis Post Office in more than one of the books since it had burned down between publications, and, therefore, the "strange" name "Sabattis" became a subject of discussion with the out-of-state editors.

The Indian name, Sabattis, is not one known to many, but it is well-known on the Adirondack Trail Byway. Mitchell Sabattis was a Native American and one of the first of the Adirondack settlers. He was well enough known to have his "pre-obituary" printed by the Gloversville Daily Leader in September 1900. It was in the same paper announcing the coming election of President McKinley, who was shot in 1901. The announcement of his impending death was somewhat premature; he lived to be more than 100 years before he passed away.

The pre-death notice, under a sub-headline, PASSING AWAY, gave Sabattis some attention: "An old Adirondack Indian Guide who named lakes and mountains." Today, besides the now-burned post office, we find the contribution of "Sabattis" in the names of Sabattis Road, the Sabattis settlement near Indian Lake on the old rail line, Mount Sabattis, and the Sabattis Boy Scout Camp. The "Hamilton County History" lists 15 residents with the name "Sabattis."

At the time of the obituary, Sabattis had suffered a second stroke of paralysis, having suffered his first stroke in 1886. At that time, Sabattis, probably the last of the full-blooded Abenaki St. Francis Tribe member in the country, kept on guiding. He roamed the Adirondacks "when panthers and moose were quite plentiful and when wolves ran wild in packs." Sabattis lived with his son, Harry, at the foot of Mount Sabattis.

Mitchell's father, Captain Peter Sabattis, came to the Adirondacks sometime around 1800 and eventually settled near Long Lake. He lived to be 111 and had been sought out by some of the Adirondack writers. We know that he and his wife had four children, three sons and a daughter, who liked to roam the woods with her aging father, "who never slept in a white man's bed."

It is difficult to locate the first Adirondack guide boat, but some say Mitchell developed the boat, a cross between his canoe and a row boat, so that he could transport clients and equipment. He had a widespread reputation as a good Adirondack guide and he had a famous dog that could tree panthers. Mitchell also was a deeply religious man and became well-known for raising $2,000 to build the Long Lake Methodist Church, where he played the violin, sang and preached.

Mitchell had lengthy Indian names for places such as Long Lake, Forked Lake, Blue Mountain, Big Tupper Lake, Little Tupper, and Mt. Marcy. Today, Mitchell Sabattis lives on in the Adirondacks in name and in the Native American nomenclature. He was an expert on the Abenaki language; it is unfortunate that he did not leave us with a lengthy Abenaki dictionary, providing a bridge to the pre-English Adirondacks.

 
 

 

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