The Warren County Historical Society Logo newly adopted January 2015. Copyright 2015 Warren County Historical Society, Queensbury, NY. Design by www.orangeolive.com
Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
May 1, 2015
Who was Mike Cronin?
To fully appreciate Mike Cronin and his part in local and national history, we need to look at Theodore Roosevelt and his ascendency to President of the United States. First we will re-run a column that Joan Aldous wrote in 2008. It appeared in The Post Star on February 8, 2008.
Joan Aldous’ Nov 24, 2008 article as printed in the “Post Star.” (Click above for very large image.)
Theodore Roosevelt had a great love for the Adirondack region. It is quite understandable, given his interest in conservation. Theodore Roosevelt’s fascination with hunting and fishing and the great outdoors brought him to the Adirondacks and specifically to Warren County several times in his pre-presidency years. There are photographs of Roosevelt visiting the Brant Lake Club, and there are many documented trips to the region. While the Roosevelt family was vacationing at Tahawus, N.Y., President McKinley was shot in Buffalo. Somewhere between Tahawus and Aiden Lair Lodge in Minerva, New York, Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.
The story begins in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901 at the Pam American Exposition. President William McKinley was shot by Leon Czolgosz. At the time, Vice President Roosevelt was visiting in Vermont, a guest of the Vermont Fish and Game Club on Isle LaMotte in Lake Champlain. When he was notified of the tragic situation in Buffalo by Vermont Governor Fisk, Theodore immediately went to Buffalo, arriving the next day, Saturday, September 7, 1901. Once he was assured by surgeon, Dr. Charles Burney that the President was out of danger, Mr. Roosevelt left by train on Tuesday, September 10 to join his family who were vacationing in the Adirondacks.
The Vice President arrived at the North Creek station (the end of the line for the railroad) on September 11, 1901, unattended, unannounced, and arriving without fanfare. His private secretary, William Loeb, had remained in Albany so as to be in direct communication with Buffalo.
After arriving at the North Creek station following his visit to McKinley’s bedside, Roosevelt rode in a buckboard driven by Frank Kelly, who operated a local livery stable, to the Tahawus Club. They stopped at Aiden Lair for lunch and the opportunity to rest and feed the horses.
Aiden Lair was familiar to Roosevelt after many visits there. Proprietor Mike Cronin sat and visited with the Vice-President. After lunch, Roosevelt met with about twenty staff and guests. According to Mrs. Cronin’s account, the Vice-President, “…in a most gracious, smiling manner he cordially shook hands with each and chatted enthusiastically concerning his journey through the scenic mountains.” (Murphy, page 9)
The Roosevelt family was vacationing near Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, the source of the Hudson River near Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York State. They were guests at the Tahawus Club, thirty-five miles north of North Creek, New York. It was two days later when Roosevelt received news of President McKinley’s failing health. Shortly before midnight Theodore began the long, arduous journey in a series of wagon and carriage rides from the Tahawus Club to the railroad station at North Creek.
One of the local people who played a key role in the Roosevelt story was Mike Cronin. Mike was born in Glens Falls on January 6, 1861. The son of James and Catherine Donovan Cronin, he attended Fort Edward Collegiate Institute. For a while, he studied law with Judge Enoch Rosencrans, but health issues forced him to move to the north woods.
Mike moved to Long Lake to assist Edmund Butler, the operator of the Sagamore Hotel. Edmund’s daughter, Lilian, became Mike’s wife, and they purchased Aiden Lair, a log structure located between Newcomb and Minerva. Later they built a new building on higher ground which was one of the ‘finest buildings in the vicinity.’
(Murphy, page 3)
Mike Cronin was the third driver of a relay team to transport Roosevelt from the Tahawus Club to the North Creek railroad station. At the time in spite of the muddy roads, the rain and the dark, Cronin set a speed record for covering the sixteen miles that was never broken.
Back at the Tahawus Club, the entire Roosevelt family hiked to Camp Colden and camped overnight. The following morning, because it had been raining and the weather was poor, Mrs. Roosevelt and the children returned to Tahawus while Theodore and others continued to hike Mount Marcy.
While Roosevelt was on Mount Marcy, his secretary, William Loeb had come to North Creek with a special train to carry the Vice-President back to Buffalo. It has become evident that President McKinley had a very slim chance of surviving. McKinley’s Cabinet members decided to summon the Vice President. Loeb telephoned Michael Breen at the Tahawus Lower Club House where the telephone line ended.
The message sent was: “The President appears to be dying and members of the Cabinet in Buffalo think you should lose no time coming.”
Michael Breen then sent the message with David Hunter by wagon to the superintendent of the Tahawus Club. He, in turn, chose Adirondack guide, Harrison Hall, to deliver it up the Marcy trail to the Vice President.
Roosevelt’s party had stopped for lunch at Lake Tear-of-the-Cloud when Harrison Hall reached them and handed Roosevelt the message on a piece of paper.
Later Roosevelt said, “When I saw the runner I instinctively knew he had bad news – the worst news in the world.” (Murphy, page 19) There are different reports of how the Vice President reacted at receiving the news.
The group had a twelve mile hike back to the club. They did it in about 3¼ hours. Preparations were made for the family to leave the next day, but Roosevelt received two more notifications, the second at 10 pm. He decided to leave at once.
David Hunter took the Vice President on the first leg of his journey. They left the Tahawus Club at 10:30 pm. They rode the ten miles over rough and muddy roads. The second relay of the trip was driven by Orrin Kellogg after Roosevelt used the phone and had some coffee. It was on this phone call to William Loeb that confirmed the President was dying.
It was nine rough miles to Aiden Lair Lodge. It was still raining and the road was in terrible condition. William Loeb had called Mike Cronin from North Creek and informed him that President McKinley had died at 2:15 am. A group of people had gathered, hoping to catch a glimpse of the new President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. After Mike had received the news, he asked people not to say anything to Roosevelt, who was expected at any moment.
Aiden Lair after 1910; a recent image.
At last, about 3 am, Orrin Kellogg pulled his horses up to Aiden Lair Lodge. Roosevelt stepped out of the wagon and only necessary words were spoken as he climbed into Mike Cronin’s carriage. Thus they began their sixteen miles of dark, muddy, winding road to North Creek. The going was rough and dangerous, but the President encouraged Cronin to push on, hurry up, and to go faster.
Mike Cronin, Surrey and his horse after the Roosevelt Ride.
Cronin said they made the last sixteen miles in one hour and forty-one minutes. It beat the best time for that sixteen miles by a quarter hour, and that time had been accomplished by Mike in the daylight.
About two miles from North Creek, Cronin stopped the wagon at Roosevelt’s request. Theodore got out of the carriage, walked around, straightened his tie, and smoothed out his suit, not knowing what dignitaries he might be meeting at the station.
They made the last dash to the station. Roosevelt jumped out of the wagon and greeted William Loeb. It was then that Roosevelt learned of McKinley’s death. Loeb handed him a telegram.
T. R. Marker between at Aiden Lair, between Newcomb & Minerva, NY
Why didn’t Mike Cronin tell Teddy Roosevelt that McKinley had died? In his own words he said, “I did not want to add to his anxiety.” (Murphy, page 26)
When Roosevelt arrived at the North Creek station, the train was ready to go. Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo and took the oath of office that made him the twenty-sixth President of the United States.
Theodore Roosevelt never had the opportunity to visit the area again.
Mike Cronin’s story doesn’t end there.
Jonathan Streeter Gates kept a scrapbook with newspaper articles from 1899 to 1917 which William Preston Gates published in 1999. From that scrapbook (page 12), the Warrensburg News reports in 1903 that Mike Cronin visited with Roosevelt on a trip to Washington. Cronin was actually on a visit to New York City to attend a Sportsman show at Madison Square Garden. The paper reports that while in NYC, Mike “took a run over to Washington to see the Chief Executive.” While there, Mike had the opportunity to have a two-hour conversation with President Roosevelt, while “Big guns waited.”
In a newspaper article from “News” dated October 17, 1907, we learn that soon after the fast ride, one of the horses dies, and later, its mate succumbed from over-exertion.
The same article that reported on the death of the horses makes mention of the fact that Mike Cronin’s mind has ‘…been giving away for four years, and at present he is in a state of melancholia.’ (Gates, page 45)
Another article from the Gates scrapbook seven years later dated April 20, 1914 (page 178) announces, “MICHAEL CRONIN ADJUDGED INSANE.” It goes on to say that the former Glens Falls resident, made famous by the trip with Colonel Roosevelt after President McKinley was shot, had been treated in Saratoga in the Saratoga Cure and Infirmary. It goes on to say that he was taken to the St. Lawrence Insane Asylum in Ogdensburg.
A clipping from News (page 181) two months later, dated June 11, 1914, announces Mike Cronin’s death; he was 50 years old. The article continues with information that Aiden Lair Lodge, where Cronin engaged in the hotel business, “was recently destroyed by fire.” He was survived by a widow, one son, Arthur, and eight daughters.
From newspaper clippings and reports, Michael Cronin was quite a local celebrity for many years following the famous ride with Theodore Roosevelt.
Murphy, Eloise Cronin (1977). Theodore Roosevelt’s Night Ride to the Presidency. Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, NY.
Gates, William Preston (1999). Turn of the Century Scrapbook of Jonathan Streeter Gates. Gates Publishing Company, Glens Falls and Bolton, NY.
Article prepared by Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society.
© May 1 2015, Warren County Historical Society.