The Reluctance of Jabes Pond

Today, Jabes Pond is thought of as a hikers’ destination, a quiet spot to kayak, and an early source of drinking water for the Silver Bay Association. But its past is not without some drama.

Game Protector

On October 16, 1932, on a chilly autumn day, Game Protector Paul DuCuennois was patrolling Jabes Pond when his canoe sprang a leak. He rose and tried to walk to the other end of the craft, perhaps to raise the leaky spot above the water, but the boat capsized and he tumbled into the pond. Although the young man was a strong swimmer, he apparently could not fight the sudden shock of the cold and the weight of his soaked clothing.

DuCuennois was just 21 years old. On the job for less than a year, he had already received threats from hunters, who found him overly conscientious, and so there were rumors of foul play. But two witnesses – Charles Foote and Wilson Putnam – came forward and said they had seen him capsize, although they were too far away to come to his aid. An autopsy would help to establish what had happened, but for that the coroner needed the body, and Jabes Pond seemed reluctant to let it go.

The day after the drowning was reported, 50 searchers and 350 spectators (it was a Sunday) hiked up the muddy, two-mile trail. Men in two rowboats attempted to locate the body using grappling hooks. Next came dynamite; the “powder man” said that a body usually rises six to ten hours after underwater blasting; that didn’t work either.

Stephen LaFort of Schnectady donned diving apparatus but found only 12 inches of mud and swirling silt on the pond’s bottom. In the days that followed, seven more rowboats were carried up the mountain, as were two outboard motors. A raft for the diver and his crew was built from lumber and oil drums, and a generator was brought up to power an underwater search light. After two weeks, everything had failed, and the work crews, who by now had built a camp to live in, tried to drain Jabes Pond. But it was not a bathtub.

The sages on the shore said the body was probably trapped under a ledge, or that the cold water had prevented the body from rising. At last, on the twenty-seventh day, Charles Foote, using a homemade contrivance of fish hooks attached to a window sash weight, felt a snag.  He had created the device to cope with the narrow gorges and crevices that make up the bottom of Jabes Pond, and indeed he had found the body in 80 feet of water.

The remains of Paul DuCuennois were brought to the surface and carried down the two-mile trail to the Swain undertaking parlors in North Creek. An autopsy was performed, and three doctors found no evidence of foul play. The young Game Protector was laid to rest at last.

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