Rewind: June 1, 2023
Yes! The Mohican House is Bolton
by Dave Waite
In 1799, Warren County took part of the town of Thurman bordering the western shore of Lake George and created a new town that they named Bolton. At that time, the town was so small that it did not even have a lodging house, so instead, every house had an open door, and intoxicating refreshments were always near at hand. Roger Edgecomb, saw an opportunity in this growing need for drink and lodging, and by 1802 had turned his frame-built home into the town’s first tavern. In Bolton’s 1800 Census, Roger & his wife are listed with six children, three of them boys under the age of ten. In 1801, the then fifty-six-year-old Edgecomb represented Bolton on a committee to promote Stephen Van Rensselaer for Governor. Earlier he had served as a private in the Revolutionary War in the 4th Regiment of the Continental Army in Connecticut.
Yale College President Timothy Dwight IV was one of the first visitors to Bolton to stay in Edgecomb’s tavern when he traveled by boat into the area while deer hunting in October of 1802. Four years after Dwight’s death in 1817, his travelogue was published as Travels in New England and New York. Here he described a tall, well-built man who guided his group to shore by candlelight when they arrived in Bolton well after dark. This man then invited them to lodge at his recently completed framed house. Dwight later recalled how this man and his family treated him with hospitality usually reserved only for friends.
By 1807, Myrtle Hitchcock had taken over the tavern, as the Edgecomb family had moved to Homer in central New York, where Roger engaged in the production of lime. Along with running the tavern, Hitchcock is credited with building the first store in Bolton, which he placed on the edge of Mohican Point with a small dock to allow access by boat. It was said that the store had a trap door that led to a cellar well stocked with goods smuggled from Canada. In 1823, after operating the tavern for 16 years, Hitchcock sold out to Thomas Archibald, who was at that time the Warren County Clerk, a position he would hold for forty years. As the tavern was set on land that was part of the Jeremiah Van Rensselaer estate, Archibald was also able to purchase the land from the executors at the same time.
The property was owned by Thomas Archibald for only a brief time, as a year after taking possession he sold out to his brother-in-law Truman Lyman. With this change, the tavern became known as Lyman’s Tavern. In 1844 Truman was appointed the Bolton Postmaster, a position he led until 1850 when William Stewart took his place.
The tavern stayed in the Lyman family until it was sold in 1851 to Daniel Gale, who immediately brought his father Gilbert B. Gale in as the landlord. It was during the Gale years that this simple country tavern was renamed the Mohican House and began its transition to an important landmark in Bolton.
Gilbert Bradner Gale was born in the Orange County community of Goshen in 1797, one of three children of Benjamin Gale and his wife, Mary Bradner. It was likely that Gilbert had a challenging childhood as around the time of his birth his father died while away at sea.
By 1850 Gilbert and his family were living on a farm in Elizabeth, New Jersey. His twenty-eight-year-old son Daniel was already at Lake George working as a painter and living with innkeeper John F. Sherrill. A year later Gilbert Gale was in Bolton taking on the role of landlord at his son’s tavern, and at the same time also being appointed the Bolton Postmaster.
While Gilbert Gale was managing the day-to-day operation of the tavern, his sons were at his side making improvements to draw in more business from the increasing number of travelers coming to the Lake George region. Soon news of these improvements and praise for their game dinners were carried by summer guests back to their homes in New York and Philadelphia. At the suggestion of Gilbert’s sons Egbert and Gabriel, the name of the hotel was changed to the Mohican House, with a figure of a Native American warrior placed on a flagstaff at the entrance. An outline of this image would be used on house stationery for the life of the hotel.
When Harper’s New Monthly Magazine published an article about Lake George in July of 1853, Bolton and the Mohican House were both mentioned. The writer of this article, T. Addison Richards, noted that across all of Lake George, Bolton was “preeminent in its array of natural beauty.” He continued with this theme by painting a picture with words describing the rich scenes that one encountered by simply stepping outdoors or putting an oar onto the water. For the tavern, his view was to the point:
Yes! The Mohican House is Bolton and Bolton is the Mohican House
While this may seem like an overstatement, even those living in Bolton during those early years seemed to agree. As if to emphasize this, the primitive mishmash of huts on the lakeshore which then made up the community was known commonly known as the “Huddle.”
Gilbert Gale was the landlord at the Mohican House until 1856 when he moved to the south end of the lake in Caldwell and returned to farming. He stayed in the Lake George area for only a short time more, as by the end of the decade he had returned to New Jersey. It was during these years that Daniel Gale and others built the Fort William Henry Hotel at the south end of the lake. When this hotel was completed in 1855, Daniel Gale was made manager. Within five years Daniel Gale had become a rich man, with his personal value and real estate valued at over a quarter million dollars in the 1860 census.
With his father no longer managing the Mohican House, Daniel Gale leased the hotel to Captain Hiram S. Wilson, who ultimately purchased the hotel and property in partnership with Myron O. Brown in 1862. After only two years, ownership changed again, this time the property going to William H. Barker of Tivoli, Dutchess County. The next ten years saw numerous changes in the management of the hotel until in 1875 Myron O. Brown again became proprietor.
When Brown’s lease ended in 1879, Barker took over management, though keeping Brown on to oversee the day-to-day operation. One improvement made by Myron Brown was his successful bid to have a post office opened in the area. The post office was named Bolton Landing, a title that has stayed with the community to the present day.
It was during the time of Brown’s overseeing the hotel that Philadelphia lawyer and travel writer Jeremiah Bonsall toured Lake George and made a visit to the Mohican House. In his Northern Tourist, an Illustrated Book of Summer Travel, published in 1879, he commended the location where the hotel stood as one of “calm, peaceful, quiet and beauty of natural surroundings.”
He went on to describe his impressions as he first stepped off the excursion steamboat Lillie M. Price at Mohican Point:
“At the dock, we met several Philadelphia friends rather unexpectedly, and with whom we gradually wend our way along a clean well-swept gravel path, leading through a velvety shaded lawn to the Mohican House.”
Bonsall went on to note that the two-story hotel, which accommodated only seventy guests, was always full and several lodging houses in the village were available for the overflow.
William Barker passed away in 1881, and as he had secretly sold the property to W. Rodman Winslow in 1866. Winslow’s wife stepped in to take over the hotel, while again keeping Myron Brown on at the front desk. The Winslow family operated the hotel until September of 1893 when Frank Clark, a long-time employee, leased the property from the family.
Clark managed the hotel until his lease expired in 1898. By this time, the aged landmark had outlived its usefulness and the Winslow family allowed the property to go into foreclosure.
Taken over by the Glens Falls Insurance Company, the hotel and its 150 acres along the western shore of the lake were quickly sold to W. K. Bixby of St. Louis, Missouri. After two years of summer residence, Bixby realized that the old hotel was beyond hope of restoration and had it taken down and replaced by the colonial-style mansion that still stands on the site today.