Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
June 1, 2016
The ‘Huddle’ in the Town of Bolton
In our continuing series looking at the hamlets of Warren County, we present this column on ‘The Huddle.’ We thank William Preston Gates for allowing us to use photographs and written material from his books.
The first families began moving into the Bolton area between 1786 and 1790. Although the southern area of Lake George was already populated with soldiers, there were only a few narrow trails north into the Bolton area. These intrepid pioneers brought all their worldly goods with them and faced hostile Indians, bears, panthers, wolves, and rattlesnakes. What what was to become the Town of Bolton was already a center of activity with two mills, a store, as well as a sawmill on Trout Lake Brook. This small nucleus of industry was located along Lake Road, what would become Route 9N. Originally part of the Town of Thurman, the Town of Bolton was formed on March 25, 1799.
John Thurman, already established as a business man and farmer in Johnsburg, west of Bolton, branched out to the area by purchasing several patents, including lots near Trout Lake. He built the first sawmill in Bolton. According to William Preston Gates, the foundation for that mill is still visible today near the headwaters of Huddle Brook.
Thurman also built a farm at the corner of Trout Lake and Potter Hill Roads. From there he raised livestock, grew grain and other necessary food, and oversaw his mills. It was on this farm that Thurman eventually lost his life when he was gored to death by a bull.
The area was ideal for this industrial growth as it was difficult to haul raw materials to hilltop mills. In 1830, a forge was built. It wasn’t long before a trip hammer, foundry, iron works, tannery, ashery, carding mill, gristmill, and a broom stick factory were all found in or near The Huddle.
By 1845, the first hamlet in the Town of Bolton was formed. While called simply Bolton, it was actually in ‘The Huddle.’ It took its name from the fact that the mills, homes, and other buildings in this busy spot were all ‘huddled’ together. Many other mills were built and operated on the brooks coming off the hills, and Thomas Wright built the only forge in Bolton in The Huddle in 1830.
The first post office in Bolton was established in 1816 and was located in The Huddle. It was in the store operated by Samuel Brown, and he was the first postmaster. It was the main post office in the Town of Bolton for many years. It wasn’t until 1882 that the first post office in Bolton Landing was opened, further to the north. That was also when the name Bolton Landing was used, to separate it from Bolton.
One of the post offices in The Huddle.
The Huddle, south of Bolton Landing which has a founding date of 1882. It is home to the Bolton Rural Cemetery, which is still an active cemetery today. The oldest grave in the cemetery is dated 1808.
The first Huddle school was on the east side of Route 9N, south of the cemetery, was built in 1852; it was replaced by a stone school building in 1887 across Route 9N from the cemetery.
The Huddle’s stone school, now a gift shop.
The first general store in The Huddle dates from about 1863. It was operated by Myron O. Brown when Jonathan Streeter Gates bought it in 1874. He operated it as Gates Store, later as Gates, Tanner & Co., then, after buying out the Tanner partner, Gates Bro’s & Company. The store had a large community room on the second floor for meetings, movies, dramatics, and other entertainment. The store building stands today and is the Coldwell Banker Realty building.
The Gates family operated a store in The Huddle.
Other buildings in the area of The Huddle over the years have included small gas stations, The Huddle Store – which was a small grocery and Esso gas station, an auto repair shop operated by Bill Taylor, and egg business operated by Dr. Beckers, a fishing and rowboat store operated by Angus Taunton, and there were cottages to rent, operated by the Martin Sheridan family, the Aldrich family, as well as some operated by Thomas Riche.
There have been some restaurants – The Char Steer, now a new business called Baer Necessities, the Tomahawk Inn, and Pumpernickel’s (which still operates). A series of gift shops and a Girl Scout Camp called Camp Wah-ta-wah also operated in the area of The Huddle.
People of The Huddle
Some interesting people have called The Huddle their home. In 1917, a Dr. William Gerard Beckers bought a large parcel of land from Jonathan Streeter Gates and others that bordered on Huddle Bay. He built a home there which he called Villa Marie Antoinette, named after his first wife. He had a stone wall constructed along Route 9N and a Gate House for the property, both of which stand today.
Villa Marie Antoinette was demolished in 1953.
The main gate and gate house at Villa Marie Antoinette.
Dr. Beckers was born in Germany and was a highly educated chemist. On July 1, 1933, The Huddle and Bolton post office there had a name change to Beckersville. This was the result of Dr. Beckers lobbying efforts. The name change was not liked by the residents, and in less than a year, on March 1, 1934, the post office name was changed back to Bolton.
Villa Marie Antoinette was sold in 1943. Between 1948 and 1953, it was a restaurant called “Melody Manor,” for the pipe organ it held. In 1953 a developer bought the mansion and it was demolished. Today, the wall and Gate House of the Villa Marie Antoinette remain as a reminder of Dr. Beckers. [There are some wonderful photographs of the property in Bill Gate’s book, Millionaires’ Row on Lake George, NY (2008)].
The Huddle was home to Colonel Ervin J. Smith. He was an assistant manager in the Burns International Detective Agency. In that position, he was in command of the bodyguards for Theodore Roosevelt during his last campaign. In 1919, he started his own group, the Ervin J. Smith National Detective Agency. In that position, Smith served as a personal bodyguard to Franklin Roosevelt in his early years as president.
Today in The Huddle
Today, the little businesses – grocery stores and gas stations, are gone. The mills, foundry, tannery, and other industry are also gone. The old stone school building is a gift shop; a few motels and restaurants still exist. Much of the property in The Huddle now holds private homes.
Businesses from the past.
Prominent in The Huddle today is the 1830 Gates Homestead, now in the fifth generation of ownership by the Gates family. The house originally stood across the road but was moved when Dr. Beckers purchased the land for his Villa Antoinette. A fascinating story of the home with many photographs can be found in The 1830 Gates Homestead (2012) by William Preston Gates.
The Gates Homestead in The Huddle – Town of Bolton
All by William Preston Gates
Old Bolton on Lake George (2006)
The 1830 Gates Homestead (2012)
The Scrapbook of Jonathan Streeter Gates (1999)
This Rewind column was prepared by Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society. William Preston Gates furnished photographs and other material.