Hepbron Hall, Part 2: Adele


Adele Hepbron was the daughter of George Hepbron and his wife, Ida, and came to Silver Bay for the first time in 1902. Not surprisingly, given her father’s lifetime involvement in basketball, she played in high school in East Orange, New Jersey, and possibly even at Silver Bay, where young YWCA women were already moving to the hoop.


But Adele went on to make her mark in a very different way. After graduating from high school in 1916, Adele went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study art, and then became an art teacher at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey, where she eventually served as Chairman of the Art Department. And in the summer, beginning in 1944, she would return to Silver Bay as a staff member to teach daily classes in watercolor painting.


Art class with Adele; they tipped the Adirondack chairs to use them as easels.

One of Adele’s pupils, Mary Lee Barker, writes:

“From age 13 until age 18, I was under her teaching every summer at Silver Bay. One of the most important things I remember her saying is ‘This is watercolor. So do not forget the water!’ And she told us to keep the color transparent.


Adele Hepbron with Mary Lee Barker, circa 1948

“She did not touch my work but encouraged me and taught by example. One time in returning to the art center, I was very critical of my mistakes which to me were blaring. She spoke firmly to me that something in me had done its best. No one saw the ‘mistakes’ and I was to accept what I had done as good for that day. This helped me greatly.


Mary Lee Barker painting at Slim Point

“She talked while she painted, searching for the value she wanted. Yes, she spoke about a dark here and would say ‘We need a dark here, it does not matter where you get it.’ She liked Payne’s Grey.

“Her subject matter was landscape and she was able to paint the many different kinds of trees at Silver Bay with great skill. She showed us how to mass the paint and then show the needles or leaves leaving no mistake as to what kind of tree this was. Adele encouraged me from the young age of 13 on and seemed to understand how compelling painting was to me.”


Mary Lee Barker with a finished piece

Another of Adele’s students, watercolor artist Paul McConaughy, writes:

“I met Adele in the summer of 1953, when I was an ‘Emp’ (summer employee) at the Silver Bay Association… where for a number of years Adele taught watercolor classes as her summer vacation activity. She is well-remembered for her sunny disposition, positive attitude and encouragement to her students, regardless of the various talent levels she encountered.

“She particularly encouraged a free and exuberant painting style… and, hence, encouraged beginning artists such as I was when I first met her, to experiment with color and technique. I also appreciated early-on her advice… that the viewers of our finished paintings were certainly not likely to observe whatever subject matter we were attempting to capture; hence, innovation in the content details was encouraged.

“Adele enjoyed a wide range of subjects and obviously took her paints and supplies along with her on outings because she had such a wide inventory of scenes and subject matter. She was especially known at Silver Bay for the white birches on the way to Slim Point — where she often held her classes — as well as for a great variety of the spectacular flowers that grew in such abundance there.

“She returned to Silver Bay for years after I had gone, and I understand she lived to be about 90. I’ve no doubt she continued being the same sunny, encouraging person I always knew her to be.”


Adele Hepbron, center, teaching at Silver Bay in August of 1982. From the collection of Mary Lee Barker.

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My thanks to Mary Lee Barker, who continues to paint today. You can see some of her paintings here.

My thanks to Paul and Wilda McConaughy. You can read more about Paul’s work at the website for Gray’s Watercolors, and even see three watercolors of Silver Bay.

Yearbook photo of Adele from The Syllabus, 1916, East Orange High School

Photo of women playing basketball in front of the Inn from The Silver Bay Association 1900-1935: A Pictorial History, Silver Bay Association, 1992

Watercolors “The Path” and “Oneida Bay” by Adele Hepbron from greeting cards published by the Silver Bay Association.

Hepbron Hall, Part 1: George

Hepbron Hall bids us remember two members of the Hepbron family at Silver Bay, a father and daughter, with two very different stories. First, the father:


George T. Hepbron (1863-1946)

George Hepbron was active in the YMCA for more than 50 years. As a member of the Physical Education Committee, he served on 42 national and local committees at the same time. But it was in the sport of basketball that he had his greatest impact.

Working with James Naismith, who invented basketball at the YMCA’s Springfield College in 1891, Hepbron became one of basketball’s first officials. In the sport’s early days, tackling and body blocking were common and many YMCAs sought to ban the sport as too violent. Hepbron struggled valiantly to see that the rules were enforced. Known for his quick whistle, Hepbron disqualified so many men at the first national basketball tournament (1893) that the final game had to be halted for a day until replacement players could be found.

In 1896, Hepbron became the first secretary of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Basketball Committee, and in 1898, he was named as secretary of the YMCA Athletic League. From 1896 to 1915, he served as editor and rules interpreter of the men’s and women’s basketball guides. In 1904, he wrote the first book on basketball, published by A.G. Spaulding.


Working with the AAU, Hepbron sought to register every basketball team in the nation as a member. His stated goal was the salvation of amateurism, and he wrote in the AAU’s Basket-ball Guide that the failure of the registration drive would see the sport “degenerate into a game where men would be welcomed who play for money.”

Hepbron felt that amateur basketball must have control and structure, noting, “The practical way to accomplish this is to affiliate your team with this organization and play only such other teams as will do the same, leaving the irresponsible teams to play among themselves without any order or regulation.”

The crusade met with mixed results. The AAU’s only enforcement tool was suspension. So while working to bring teams in, the AAU at the same time suspended teams who violated the rules, usually the rule against playing a team that was not in the AAU. The ax fell often; eleven teams were suspended in one day in 1901. By 1905, one history notes, half the colleges in the northeastern U.S. had been ejected from the AAU for playing other teams ejected from the AAU.

While the absolute control of amateur basketball proved to be beyond his grasp — and men did eventually play the game for money, lots of money — George Hepbron had much to be proud of, especially his quick whistle that saved basketball from becoming indoor football on hardwood, and his years of teaching others to play and love the sport. Hepbron was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1960, as a referee.

At Silver Bay, when Dr. George Fisher led the Summer Training Institute of the YMCA, George Hepbron was on the staff to teach basketball. And by bringing his family to Silver Bay, he made a contribution of a completely different nature, introducing his daughter Adele to Silver Bay and generations of water color artists to an inspiring instructor.

Hepbron Hall

Hepbron Hall, July 2009

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“Basket Ball Teams Out” in The New York Times, December 28, 1901

“Commercializing Amateur Athletics” by Charles J.P. Lucas in The World Today, January 1906

“George T. Hepbron” in The New York Times, May 1, 1946

The Rise and Fall of American Sport (1994) by Ted Vincent

Munn Hall


John Pixley Munn, M.D. (1847-1931)

John P. Munn was far more interesting than his obituary would lead one to believe, and having delved into his life, I will never look at Munn Hall in the same way again.

The early outlines are simple: born in Gates, New York, attended the University of Rochester, graduated in 1870, attended Bellevue Medical College in New York City, got his M.D. in 1876. He entered private practice, and one year later was named assistant medical director of the American Life Insurance Company.

But Munn’s life took a turn when he was “discovered” by James Buell, president of New York’s Importers and Traders Bank, who owned a large amount of stock in the American Life Insurance Co. Munn, Buell had heard, was rejecting policy-seekers for reasons he would not disclose; Buell wanted to know why. Munn told him that he had found a way of diagnosing Bright’s Disease, of the kidneys, before it became symptomatic. Munn then tested Buell himself and revealed that he, too, had Bright’s Disease.

In short order, Munn became Buell’s personal physician. In 1881, Buell died of Bright’s Disease and his fortune was divided between his wife and niece, his only survivors. Dr. Munn married the niece, Martha Buell Plum, a short time after the funeral, but left the management of her Uncle James’ estate to her while he continued his medical research and practice.

Munn’s second millionaire patient was financier Russell Sage, vice president of James Buell’s bank. A shareholder in railroads and banks, Sage was known as the Prince of Puts & Calls, a stock trader who lived on the edge. After one particularly trying stock plunge, Munn led the overwrought financier into “exile” at Sage’s Long Island estate, where he attended him personally for months until Sage’s health returned. Munn was firm with his patients, told them the truth, and healed them, becoming, in many cases, the only man whose advice they would heed.


Russell Sage (1816-1906)

Overwork and disease were not the only hazards faced by Munn’s wealthy patients. In December of 1891, a man entered Russell Sage’s offices and tried to extort an immediate payment of $1,200,000; when he was denied, he threw a bomb to the floor, killing himself and injuring Sage, who summoned Munn first, the police second.


Jay Gould (1836-1892)

A close friend of Sage, financier Jay Gould, was perhaps the most reviled of the 19th century’s “robber barons.” In 1888, he too retained Munn as his physician. By the measure of any era, Gould was not a choirboy. He amassed a personal fortune at the expense of those he tricked, cheated and crushed. Manipulating the price of stock, cornering markets, insider trading, hiring thugs to break strikes, bribing officials – Gould used every tool at hand. By 1882, he had a controlling interest in 15% of the nation’s railroad tracks, as well as New York City’s elevated railway and the Western Union telegraph company.

Dr. Munn’s task with Gould was twofold. Outwardly, he was to keep him in good health, because when Gould sneezed, Wall Street caught a cold. In truth, Gould had tuberculosis; and was going to die from it. Munn’s real job was keep Gould looking healthy as long as possible and prevent anyone from finding out the financier’s secret, lest his enemies be emboldened and his fortune swept away.

history_of_jay_gouldCard from Duke Tobacco’s “Histories of Poor Boys Who Became Rich”

Munn accompanied Gould everywhere, attending him in his office, his homes on Fifth Avenue and on the Hudson River, on his yacht, in his private railcar on his tours of inspection, on trips to Saratoga. The two men got along. Gould genuinely liked Munn, and placed him on several boards of directors, by way of amplifying his fortunes.

So how, one might ask, did the millionaires’ physician come to have a building named after him at Silver Bay? It comes back to railroads.

One day in 1872, a train dispatcher at Cleveland’s Union Terminal saw a crowd gather around a man killed in an accident, then disperse upon learning the victim was “only a railroad man.” The dispatcher felt that railroad men deserved better. He met with others and the first Railroad YMCA was organized; a reading room was dedicated at the Union Depot on June 1, 1872.

Richard C. Morse, for whom Silver Bay’s Morse Hall is named, was then the general secretary of the Executive Committee of the YMCA; he devoted a layover in Cleveland to a visit of the YMCA reading room. Encouraged by what he saw, he returned to New York and asked Cornelius Vanderbilt to devote a room in the new Grand Central Station to YMCA work. Vanderbilt did so, and eventually paid for an entire YMCA building.

Soon, railroad YMCAs were organized in Chicago, Erie, Baltimore, Boston and Detroit. They provided practical things — clean beds, good meals, and hot showers — but also offered Bible studies, educational courses, sports and other activities.

At its peak, the Railroad YMCA had an annual budget of more than $1 million, of which 40% came from the railroad companies themselves. The companies’ support was not entirely free of self-interest. If train crews were not sleeping at a YMCA, they might be sleeping in saloons or brothels; it was much easier to locate a crew at the YMCA, and they were generally in better shape than those who had slept elsewhere.

Training for those who would lead the individual railroad YMCAs was conducted each summer at Silver Bay. A classroom, the Railroad Institute building, was erected specifically for that purpose in 1913-1914. And the chairman of the railroad department of the International Committee of the YMCA was Dr. John P. Munn.


The Railroad Institute building, later known as Munn Hall

Many benefited from Munn’s generosity with his time and money. He served as a trustee of the University of Rochester from 1886 until his death in 1931. He served New York University in a similar capacity, and donated $100,000 to the school. He also donated $3,000 to the Silver Bay library.

During Munn’s time with Russell Sage, his wife, Martha Munn, became good friends with Sage’s wife, Olivia. After Sage’s death, Olivia, his sole heir, set about giving away his fortune, estimated at $70,000,000, and counted on Martha Munn as one of her closest advisors. It is said that Russell Sage did not believe in education for women; his widow, who did, founded Russell Sage College for women in 1916.

Munn Hall

Munn Hall, July 2009

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“Jay Gould in Saratoga: And Dr. John P. Munn Looks After His Health” The New York Times, July 28, 1888

“Jay Gould at the Ball” The New York Times, July 28, 1888

“Russell Sage’s Illness” The New York Times, October 8, 1902

“The YMCA” Journal of the Switchmen’s Union. Switchmen’s Union of North America, 1906

“Dr. John P. Munn Dies at Age of 83” The New York Times, August 16, 1931

Life of Jay Gould: How He Made His Millions (1892) by Murat Halstead and Frank Beale, Jr.

Morse Hall


Morse Hall, originally built to host Silas Paine’s library and museum, today honors the memory of Richard Cary Morse, who served as General Secretary of the YMCA in charge of international operations from 1872 to 1915.

Morse came from a remarkable family. His grandfather, Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), was a minister and educator, active in missionary work to Native Americans, and the author of Geography Made Easy (1784), the first geography written in the United States. Richard’s father, Richard Cary Morse Sr. (1795-1868), was a minister and the founder of The New York Observer, a weekly newspaper. Richard’s uncle, Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872), had two careers, one as a famed painter and the second as the inventor of the telegraph.


Richard Cary Morse (1841-1926)

Richard Jr., a handsome six-footer, went to Yale where he rowed for Yale’s crew team. He graduated in 1862, and did graduate work at Princeton and the Union Theological Seminary. In 1867, not sure what to do with himself next, he was persuaded by his family to join the staff of the New York Observer, as the religion editor.

One of Morse’s early assignments for the paper was to cover a New York convention of the YMCA, then in its infancy. The YMCA made a profound impression upon him and he in turn made an impression on the YMCA’s leader, Robert McBurney, who offered him a job, and a career. In 1869, Morse became the editor and publisher of the Association News. In 1872, he became the first General Secretary.

When the Silver Bay Association was formed, Morse was very supportive. He later wrote, “From its beginning, the undertaking enlisted my heartiest sympathy and at the outset I was able to lend a hand in securing what was needed to purchase the property of 1,500 acres, beautiful for situation on one of our most beautiful lakes.”

Morse’s YMCA work took him across the Atlantic 50 times, including relief work in France during World War I. He also found time to author three books and teach at Silver Bay’s “summer schools” for YMCA professionals.

He was much loved, and his generosity took many forms. In his papers is a letter from William A. Hunton, the son of the first African-American YMCA secretary, thanking Morse for the financial support that helped Hunton attend Harvard.

In 1915, when Morse resigned as the general secretary of the International Committee, he was offered a pension, but chose to continue in active service. At a conference that year, it was noted that Morse had not lost his edge. “While Mr. Morse is in his seventy-third year, the statement will go without challenge that he showed himself the most keen, alert, interested and interesting man on the Conference grounds or in the discussions of the Institutes at Black Mountain or Silver Bay.”

morse-3Richard Cary Morse at 73, at the YMCA Lake Geneva (Wisconsin) campgrounds; photo by George C. Blakslee

Morse Hall

Morse Hall, July 2009

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My Life with Young Men: Fifty Years in the Young Men’s Christian Association (1918) by Richard Cary Morse

“Died. Richard Cary (‘Uncle Richard’) Morse” in Time magazine, January 3, 1927

Note: The early photo of Morse Hall which leads this piece was taken by J.S. Wooley. Note the skylights which provided light for the library and museum, and Silas Paine’s home on the far right, today Paine Hall.

The Drowning of Bruno Hobbs


On July 22, 1909, Bruno Hobbs thought he would try paddling a canoe. He’d been going out in a rowboat all week, but saw a canoe belonging to another man attending the YMCA camp meeting, and it captured his imagination.

It was a breezy day, and the canoe’s owner warned him of the danger of capsizing. “I’m not afraid,” said Hobbs. “I can manage it, I guess.”

And so he set out, paddling the canoe straight out onto Lake George.

Bruno Hobbs was a confident man. Born in Colorado, he attended Kansas State University, worked as a lawyer, then left the practice of law to serve as chairman of the YMCA State Committee in Colorado. He led the effort to secure a conference center, today the YMCA of the Rockies’ Estes Park Center. In 1906, after serving as chairman of the Kansas State Committee, he became Field Secretary of the International YMCA and moved to New York City with his wife and child.

When the YMCA camp meetings began at Silver Bay, Hobbs attended every one. He loved to lead religious gatherings, and he loved the water. But for all his accomplishments, he had never learned to swim.

As he paddled out in the canoe, the wind stiffened. Hobbs turned the canoe about and began paddling in, waving to those on the shore to reassure them that all was well. At that moment, a gust of wind hit the canoe; it rocked one way, lurched another, and capsized, with Hobbs letting out a yell as it went over.

Half a dozen men jumped into boats and began rowing toward him. Hobbs went down twice before the boats could reach him, and then a third time, but he was caught by the collar of his shirt, pulled into a boat and rushed to the shore, unconscious.

“Heroic efforts” were made; a doctor was summoned; Hobbs was rolled over a barrel; every method of the day was employed, to no avail.

Writing of Hobb’s death, Richard C. Morse noted, “the Committee’s staff suffered one of the most disabling losses it ever sustained in the death by drowning at Silver Bay of Bruno Hobbs, who recently had begun a leadership of the Field Department full of the brightest promise.”

Hobbs was 45 years old. There is no memorial to him at Silver Bay, but at the Estes Park Center he is remembered by a building raised in his memory in 1911. The building was renamed the Walnut Room in the 1950s, and has served as an auditorium, gym, craft shop and art studio in its almost 100 years of use.

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“Bruno Hobbs Drowns in Lake George” in The New York Times, July 23, 1909

My Life with Young Men: Fifty Years in the Young Men’s Christian Association (1918) by Richard Cary Morse

Estes Park Center — YMCA of the Rockies

Fisher Gymnasium


Fisher Gymnasium on Dedication Day

Fisher Gymnasium was built 1916-1917, and named for Dr. George J. Fisher, M.D., a leader in the YMCA, the Boy Scouts of America, and the United States Volleyball Association.


Beginning in 1904, Fisher was the YMCA’s international secretary for physical education and the Dean of the Summer Training Institute of the YMCA, a month-long conference at Silver Bay where young men came to learn about coaching and teaching baseball, basketball, gymnastics and other sports from the games’ leading authorities.

In 1919, Fisher moved to the Boy Scouts of America, which had held its first “encampment” at Silver Bay in 1910. Fisher served first as deputy Chief Scout Executive (1919-1943) and then as National Scout Commissioner (1943-1960).

Always concerned about the physical and moral health of young men, Fisher wrote the introduction for From Youth into Manhood (1909) by Winfield Scott Hall. When the first Boy Scout Handbook for Boys was published in 1912, Fisher was the author of the chapter on “Health and Endurance.”

Of great benefit to fitness, in Fisher’s opinion, was volleyball. Like basketball, volleyball was born in a YMCA. William Morgan (1870-1942) invented the game in 1895 at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where he was Director of Physical Education. Morgan had studied under James Naismith (1861-1939) who invented basketball in 1891 at nearby Springfield College, a training school for YMCA professionals. Morgan sought to create a game similar to Naismith’s basketball but suitable — active but with less contact — for older men; the result was volleyball.

While serving as Secretary of the YMCA War Work Office, George Fisher introduced volleyball in military training camps, both in the United States and abroad, helping its spread across the world. Fisher edited the Volleyball Guide from 1917 to 1947, and was the founder and first president (1928-1952) of the United States Volleyball Association.

George Fisher died in 1960; he was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1991.

* * *

Fisher Gymnasium also calls to mind a Silver Bay legend: Fayette Dunklee, a master mason who built many of the fireplaces and foundations of houses on the Association grounds. While excavating for the foundation of the gymnasium in 1916, Dunklee discovered, in the roots of an old chestnut tree, a bottle containing $80, a stroke of good fortune that encourages everyone who has ever handled a spade or a trowel.

Dr. Woozle

I had my heart lifted, broken, and lifted up again today, in the space of five minutes. It took me back to a Silver Bay morning in my room – back when Laurie, Abbie and I were up on the third floor of the Inn – and one of the young women from Housekeeping leaned out of our window and called out to another EMP on the lawn below.

“Leroy!” she shouted. “Leroy!”

And Leroy Hyson squinted up into the morning sky and said, “Who’s that?” She shouted back her name, and he replied, “I thought you were an angel, calling from up in the clouds.” She laughed, and turning from the window, said, “He always makes me happy.”

Leroy, a.k.a. Dr. Woozle, made me happy, too. We all looked forward to him in the EMP Show, and loved just having him around. He was a real part of what made Silver Bay special to us.

So today when I rediscovered Leroy on the Web, my heart leapt. He sings for children. He has a CD. I couldn’t hit the “Buy” button fast enough.

And then I read a note he’d posted: “My name is Leroy Hyson. I am a father of two, an elementary school teacher and a children’s entertainer. I recently lost my wife Tammy to a long battle against breast cancer.”

And my heart broke for this young man (who will always be young for me) and his children. I am so tired of piling up proof that life is unfair. But Leroy wouldn’t let me stay down. I followed a link to another website where he’d left this note:

“I believe Tammy would want you to know that she is all right. She is in the presence of God and taking in everything that Heaven has to offer. I believe she is organizing pre-teen and adolescent programs for the youth spirits that have joined her in heaven. She’ll have them getting into groups discussing the joys and pains of living on earth. I can see Tammy reaching out to the older spirits to get their input on how things have changed over the years. And finally, after her work is done, she will be dancing, singing, shouting, praising and worshiping our Lord.”

Leroy. He was an inspiration then; he is an inspiration now. God bless him.

Rediscover Leroy and buy his CD at www.hysonproductions.com


Leroy was so cool he had his own postcard, by Dean Color, Glens Falls, N.Y.