One Hundred Years Ago – August, 1914
Indian relics unearthed
It has been 157 years since Fort William Henry, the military fort that once dominated the southern end of Lake George, was burned by the French and it now lies in ruins. The only sound to be heard since than has been the wind blowing through the trees and far away, the sound of agony and death that took place on Sept 8, 1757, when French General Montcalm’s Indian followers, the Ottawa, Abenaki and Potawatomi, brutally massacred around 200 Colonial American soldiers, men, women and children near Bloody Pond, who were trying to flee the fort on the 15 mile trek to the safety of Fort Edward, can be heard no more.
This summer, in 1914, an out of state professor from Knox College in Galesburgh, Illinois, has undertaken an archaeological study on the adjacent hill next to the Fort George, near Fort William Henry, where a military site once stood, searching for Indian artifacts.
Professor Edward Clark, an expert in Indian lore, has discovered and collected Native American artifacts there that are thousands of years old. His finds have come from the lands of Benjamin C. Greene whose shorefront property is just northeast of Fort George. Tens of thousands of American, British, French and Indians camped on the land in early days during various military campaigns. Professor Clark believes that due to the sharp edged lithic (stone) flakes discovered at Snug Harbor and also the finished chert (flint) artifacts that were collected, that there was an arrow manufactory near the waterways’s southeast corner.
One hundred years after Professor Clark’s quest for Indian artifacts, today, in the summer of 2014, local archaeologist David Starbuck is conducting yet another one of his excavations in the Fort William Henry area as he has previously done four times, this year with a team of two dozen SUNY students in the area of the Battlefield Park. Fort George was constructed in 1759 and was the largest smallpox hospital in North America. While a bayonet, musket barrel and military compass has been discovered in past excavations, this year mostly pieces of 18th century wine bottles have been found.
The area’s multilayered history is complex and has seen a remarkable amount of action in the last thousand or more years starting with prehistoric Native American visitation. Many humans have lived, owned, worked, fought and died in this history layered area of land. It is believed that more than 1,000 stricken soldiers alone died at the smallpox hospital.
In the year 1911 there was a “boat works” at the head of the lake and Benjamin Charles Greene bought the land from them just east of today’s Million Dollar Beach. Greene later married Anna Moffitt and they ran a tourist camp on the property which they called Snug Harbor. This should not be confused with Snug Harbor Marina at the lake’s north end.
Green’s shorefront property was just a little northeast of Fort George. He supplied motor boats, row boats, canoes, boat and auto storage and supplies. His parcel had a market, picnic area, tents and cottages. The Snug Harbor Tea Room provided excellent meals, coffee and light lunches at reasonable prices. On March 9, 1921 he bought a victrola and Edison records from a music store in Glens Falls for the entertainment of his guests. The bungalows all contained ice boxes and the electricity had to be turned on when the guest arrived. The store burned in 1923.
I have a framed advertising poster, tattered with age, hanging over my desk saying, “Tourist Camp. Snug Harbor, Lake George. Located 2nd stop on Beach Road, east of D.& H. Depot. Bungalows and tents to rent. Bathing and boating. B.C. Greene, Mgr.” I also acquired a box filled with old papers containing documents, receipts, personal letters and correspondence pertaining to Greene’s operation that he had acquired over the many years he conducted his business at Snug Harbor. In the box is nearly a hundred letters from previous satisfied customers seeking new reservations. He made it a point to send out a Christmas card each year to each of his previous guests. Ben Greene was a remarkable, well liked, hardworking man.
After World War I finally ended in 1918, there were only three shabby buildings on Greene’s Snug Harbor land, but later that year, after successfully seeking a bank loan, in a press release typed by him, dated Aug. 11, 1919, he stated “The Kattskill House bungalows formerly located at Kattskill Bay on Lake George have been acquired by us and moved in their entirety to Snug Harbor. The bungalows are of a special high class construction and easily and comfortably furnished, making a valuable addition to the Snug Harbor accommodations and will enable us to more readily care for our increasing patronage.”
“We have become a popular resort due to our ideal location directly on the east of the D.& H. railroad depot and a half a mile from Lake George village. We have 15 acres of beautiful grounds, excellent bathing beach and a wonderful view of the lake and Prospect Mountain. Our beach, the finest on the lake, is a part of our resort and equipped with a diving raft, springboard and water toboggan.”
“The bungalows are comfortably furnished to accommodate from two to five persons, either housekeeping or not as desired and rent by the day, week, month or season, rates averaging from $15 to $25 per week. Camp sites are to rent and the auto tourist is accommodated.”
Over the years, due to much effort and attention to details, he eventually acquired 24 cottages. Some of them were equipped with wood stoves which had to be constantly replenished when the need arose. He rented sheets for $1.50 a week and blankets for 75 cents each when he absolutely had to but his guests were always asked to bring their own because of his laundry problems.
In one letter dated May 24, 1932 from a prospective guest, the lady wrote that two couples would require one cottage but as only one couple was married, Greene could be assured that this couple would chaperone the other two and no impropriety would take place.
Edward G. Steadman of New York wrote in 1933 that he had been desperately seeking his favorite topcoat and remembered that he had left it in one of Green’s bungalows. He requested that it would be “kindly” returned to him by parcel post.
Mr. Gardiner H. Hall, owner of a factory in South Willington, Conn., which manufactured cotton sewing threads, wrote, “I appreciate the treatment you gave me these last four years and I have no fault to find. I will never hesitate to recommend your camp if the occasion arises. Thanking you for all past favors.”
Greene charged just a little bit more for cabins that had inside flush toilets as compared to those which had an outhouse. He stocked large amounts of ice cream in five gallon cans from the famous old Hall Ice Cream Company at 4 Maple Street, Glens Falls. On June 30, 1926 he ordered 200 fancy cigars from George F. Reintjes of New York for $13.15 to sell to his guests. On Sept. 16, 1922 he paid the Lake George Printing Company $5.75 for his advertising in their Adirondack Guide. This company also published the Lake George Mirror, a newspaper which is still being published to this day. Snug Harbor did well during the great depression of the 1930’s and as business flourished in the 1940’s, the prices began to creep a little upward.
Fort William Henry was excavated by Stanley Gifford and later rebuilt in the mid-1950s as a tourist attraction. Around that time more than a dozen mostly complete skeletons of British soldiers were unearthed and put on display for public viewing. As these skeletons were loaned out and seemingly have lost their way over the years, the fort is still striving to have them returned.
A new generation
In 1933, Benjamin and Anna Greene had a son, Robert Charles Greene, who grew up on the historic Snug Harbor property which so very many Indians had visited in years gone by. “Bob” told me that one day in his youth, he found a carved stone implement on the property, obviously created by the Indians and not being able to figure out what it could have been used for, he took it to the Fort William Henry Hotel to be analyzed and he left it in their care. He says that he has often wondered if it is still there, possibly in a storeroom.
Although Benjamin and Anna Greene worked hard in the summer months, they retired to their winter home in Florida after each summer season was over. They eventually, over 1949 to 1951, sold their Lake George property to the state and around 1962 the state built the Million Dollar Beach for $935,000 and named it as such.
The Greene’s bought a house and a hundred acre mountain in Warrensburg in 1962 which today is located just north of the town industrial park. Benjamin Greene was in his 80’s when he died around 1964 and he and his wife are buried in Florida. Their son, Bob Greene, built a beautiful new house in Warrensburg next to his parent’s home and after it burned many years ago and his first and second wife died, he lives today on the property in the house that his parents once occupied.
The bullfrog farm
This story would not be complete without mentioning Benjamin Greene’s ambition to get into a lucrative new business after he had sold his popular Lake George summer camp.
Frog legs, a once popular delicacy, was a common item on the menu of well to do people in years gone by and they sold for a high price in luxury food stores and expensive restaurants. The frogs garnered a good price as they had to be hunted down with difficulty in swamps.
Several entrepreneurs experimented with bullfrog farming and had little luck in their venture. Greene thought that it could be done successfully but suffered nothing but bad luck in his venture. Water temperatures, disease, food, predators and slow growth were all problems. It took three long years for a bullfrog to mature. The main problem was that these huge bullfrogs, the American species being as large as 8 inches across, were cannibalistic and would eat each other if they were put in an enclosure together.
After many hardships and failures, Ben Greene realized that he was not destined to be a Florida bullfrog farmer.
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-2210