Silver Bay 1910


Silver Bay, the Auditorium and the Inn, circa 1910. To the left of the main steps, I can make out the BR and WN of a Brown University banner going up, as well as other unidentifiable banners on the Inn itself. Jesse Sumner Wooley may have taken this as a university youth gathering was preparing for a group photo, or dispersing afterwards.

Black Wolf


The gentleman in the white shirt and bow tie is Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), who founded the Woodcraft Indians in 1902, and in 1910 was instrumental in founding the Boy Scouts of America with Dan Beard and Lord Baden-Powell. Here we see him in the Woodcraft camp at the first Boy Scout gathering in America, held at Silver Bay in August of 1910. Seton was the first Chief Scout, and liked to be called Black Wolf. He was an important influence in scouting, emphasizing the lore of the native American and the importance of the animals of the forest. He eventually clashed with other scout leaders, who objected to his British citizenship (he was born in Scotland, raised in Canada), his wife’s activities on behalf of women’s suffrage, and his lack of enthusiasm for their more militaristic vision of Scouting. By 1915, he was gone from Scouting, but he continued to write books about nature, woodcraft and animals for the rest of his life.

The Ice Gorge

I recently read of an ice gorge near Silver Bay, mentioned twice in writings about the early 1900s, and I am wondering if anyone knows how to get there. Here are the two citations:

“It was not until the fall of 1902, that I was aware that it (Braun’s Holly Fern) grew near the shores of Lake George. One evening while calling at the home of Prof. J.F. Kemp, of Columbia University, who had been doing field work in geology during the summer in the vicinity of Silver Bay, Prof. Kemp laid out on the floor a magnificent complete pressed specimen with fronds two feet long, which he had collected on the talus in the Ice Gorge north west of Silver Bay at an altitude of about 1500 feet. This fine specimen is preserved in my herbarium. Prof. Kemp said the fern was not common in this cool ravine where ice may be obtained from beneath the rocks until late in the summer.”

— From “Braun’s Holly Fern” by Stewart H. Burnham in American Fern Journal: A Quarterly Devoted to Ferns (American Fern Society), v.4 no. 1, January-April 1914

“The lake, of course, was the first attraction, for fishing, swimming, and boating. Rowboats and canoes were standard equipment. For longer trips, many families had what seem to us now to be elegant wooden motorboats. Old photographs attest to the picnics at Odell, Vicars, and Paradise Bay and camping on the islands. There were hikes to Jabes Pond and the Ice Gorge, camping trips to Pharaoh (walking all the way from Graphite Mountain), and blueberry picking on Tongue Mountain.”

From Benjamin Van Buren’s Bay (2002) by Charles G. Gosselink

Anyone know any more about the ice gorge?

The Dark Side of Silas Paine

silas-paine-playSilas Paine is venerated as a founder of the Silver Bay Association, the man who sold Silver Bay to the SBA for half its value, as the author of Stories of the Great Hymns of the Church (1925), as the donor of 5,000 volumes of hymns and liturgies to the Hartford Theological Seminary Library, as the donor of $100,000 to found the Silver Bay School for Boys, and as the host of many religious conferences.

On the occasion of one of those conferences, “Young People and Missions,” held at Silver Bay in July of 1902 and attended by delegates from 18 denominations and 21 states, Paine noted the appropriate nature of the gathering place by saying the first white man to walk its shores was a missionary, consequently the site was holy ground. He quoted the words of Champlain after looking at the missionary and the savages to whom he had come, “It is of greater importance to save a soul than to found an empire.”

It is said that when Silas Paine left home at the age of 12, his mother gave him a piece of paper on which she had written, “Thou, God, seest me,” and that this paper remained in his possession up to the time of his death.

Silas Paine did, however, have a dark side. Paine made his considerable fortune in oil, and much of his fortune with Standard Oil, the trust that held a near monopoly over the U.S. oil industry from 1870 to 1911. Through elimination of competitors, mergers, and control of rail shipping, it controlled the refining of more than 90% of the oil produced in the U.S. In 1892, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the trust dissolved, but it continued to operate from headquarters in New York and later New Jersey.

In 1879, Paine went to Cleveland, Ohio, to work for John D. Rockefeller. Cleveland was the oil capital of the world with 88 refineries.


Standard Oil Refinery No. 1

In 1884, Paine moved to New York City and became head of Standard Oil’s lubricating oil and candle department. He also served on the board of the Waters-Pierce Oil Company of Missouri, holding one of three seats (of five) reserved for Standard Oil executives who controlled the company as a way of circumventing antitrust court decisions in Texas.

Before the U.S. courts broke up the Standard Oil trust in 1911, other states tried, in vain, to deal with the company’s monopoly. One such action in 1906 caused Paine and other executives to take sudden vacations:

“As soon as it was ascertained that the Supreme Court of Missouri had determined to summon Standard Oil officials to testify in regard to certain charges there was a hasty flight of the multimillionaires. Among the men wanted who suddenly exiled themselves from their places of business to evade summons servers are the following as reported by the New York American: John D. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, H.M. Flagler, James R. Taylor, Robert H. McNoll, Charles R. Nichols, Richard P. Tinsley, Walter Jennings, C.M. Pratt, Silas H. Paine, W.C. Teagle, Wesley Tilford, H.M. Tilford, W.E. Bemis, Charles T. White, George B. Wilson, M.H. Van Beuren, H.R. Payne, W.P. Cowan and H. Clay Pierce.”

It is perhaps ironic but not surprising that Silas Paine sought green shores, blue waters, clear skies, and a retirement spent in philanthropy after his working life was done.


Standard Oil on the shores of Lake Erie, 1910

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Sources: The Assembly Herald published by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. General Assembly, February 1903; “The Standard Oil Company at the Bar” in The Arena magazine (1906) edited by Benjamin Orange Flower; “Obituary,” The Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association, v. 20, 1922