The Fatal Shooting

Robert Vose, 16, and Irving Tier, 17, were classmates at the Silver Bay School, the private boys school that Silas and Mary Paine had established in 1918 in memory of their son, Harrington Spear Paine. In May of 1922, as the school year was coming to an end, Vose was interested in selling a revolver he owned to Tier, and was showing it to him in his room. He handed the gun to Tier and said, “Try it. It isn’t loaded.”

Taking the revolver, Tier asked Vose if he was sure the gun was empty. Vose reassured him it was; Tier pulled the trigger; the gun exploded and a bullet shot into Vose’s abdomen, piercing his intestines. The stricken boy was given hurried treatment at Silver Bay and rushed to the hospital in Ticonderoga.

Vose’s parents came from Boston, and it at first appeared that he was improving. Awake and alert, he told the story of how he came to be shot, took the blame and exonerated Tier. But two days into his recovery, he began to weaken, and soon died. His parents were at his bedside. After an autopsy, they returned to Boston on the train, with their son’s body.

“A cloud of gloom” descended over the school, Silver Bay and the surrounding community.

The local newspapers made no more mention of Irving Tier, but you can piece together his life from later accounts. An inheritance made working unnecessary. A family member noted that  Tier “tinkered” through life. He dabbled in photography and film-making. He collected guns, apparently the interest that brought the boys together that day in 1922, and one he did not abandon. He learned to fly. He owned a plane. In 1931, he married Nancy Hopkins, a pioneer in women’s aviation, whose accomplishments eclipsed his own. The couple had three children. For a time they kept a summer cottage at Silver Bay. Irving Tier died in 1978.

The Monster Kite of Spear Paine

Shortly after the 4th of July, 1895, young Harrington Spear Paine was preparing a colossal surprise for Silver Bay and Lake George: a kite fifteen feet tall, which he intended to fly, attach to a boat, and be pulled up or down the lake depending upon how the wind blew. A New York newspaper noted that Paine “expects to astonish the natives.”

His fascination with kites continued. In July of 1897, with two classmates from Princeton, he was experimenting at Silver Bay with tailless kites and also preparing to try “kite photography.”

The son of Silas and Mary Paine of Silver Bay, Spear Paine was enjoying the fruits of his father’s labors as a highly placed executive with Standard Oil. In the autumn, he would return to Princeton, where he dined with “The Navajos,” served as secretary and treasurer of the University Gun Club, was tapped for Cap & Gown as an upperclassman, and graduated in 1898. His classmates would later remember him for his “fine character, manliness, cheerfulness, generosity.”

Sagamore Regatta

Summering at Lake George in 1898, he competed in the Sagamore Regatta, taking first prize in the swimming race and Gentlemen’s Singles rowing, and second in the “Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Doubles.”

In the years that followed, Spear Paine remained active in Princeton alumni affairs, joined the University Club in New York City, the Amateur Billiards Club, and the Fox Hill Golf Club on Staten Island, and was “connected with Standard Oil.” He lived at New York’s Ansonia residential hotel, where the living quarters featured multiple bedrooms, parlors, libraries, formal dining rooms, high ceilings and bay windows with sweeping views north and south along Broadway. The hotel also had tearooms, restaurants, a grand ballroom, a Turkish bath and a lobby fountain with live seals.


At Silver Bay, Spear Paine enjoyed piloting his steam launch, the Oneita, and in all ways, it seems, he enjoyed the good life. However, it was a life cut short. In 1918, at the age of 42, he died suddenly at the Ansonia in New York City.

To honor Spear Paine’s memory, his parents established the Silver Bay School, a private boys school, with a gift of $100,000 in 1918. The school remained active until 1935 when the financial pressures of the Great Depression forced its closure.

But another legacy of Spear Paine lives on. When Mary Paine sold off the last of her Silver Bay property, she used the money to create the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation, which endows a Professorship in Religion at Princeton. (There had been at least one previous religious donation in Spear Paine’s name: In 1885, while living in Cleveland, Ohio, the nine-year-old lad donated $1 to support the Pacific voyages of the Morning Star missionary ship.)

Today, Princeton’s Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion is Elaine Pagels, a teacher, scholar and author of several books, and most notably an authority on the Gnostic Gospels.

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Note: The kite stories come from “At Placid Lake George” in The (New York) Press, July 7, 1895 and “Lake George Has a Rescue,” July 11, 1897 in The New York Herald.

At Silver Bay

Mt Holyoke

“Silver Bay’s the place to go
To make the friendships rare,
Jolly times and laughter chimes
And girls from everywhere.
Glad, oh be glad, and sadly sail away,
Only don’t forget to sail
Back to Silver Bay.”

“The hammock on the back piazza bobbed volcanically as Helen popped up on one elbow to listen to the strains of ‘Sail, baby, sail,’ as they floated in from a distance. She followed the music to the end inserting the familiar Silver Bay words and then her mind went at a gallop ‘back to Silver Bay.’

“She thought of the place and its beauties, of the talks and the walks, the naps and uproarious times, but in every instance the element of personality seemed uppermost and the keynote of the experiences, as the song implied, was ‘friendship.’

“What a good time she had had with that new friend, the University-of-Maine girl! Helen had just returned from spending the day with her at a nearby summer resort. She had been so good to let Helen run on about her hobby of Extension Work and had seemed so interested. She had promised to visit Helen next summer, so the acquaintance had only just begun.

“Then there was the preparatory school girl who had so kindly cleared up the haze that had always been in Helen’s mind about the doings and workings of preparatory schools. She and Helen had gone together to hear Mr. Speer and she had been temperamentally fitted to glory equally in his stirring, manly call to the life of perseverance.

“Oh, then there were all the tennis friends, those who played and those who watched. It was worth going a long distance to meet such girls who took victory or defeat in such a charming fashion. The basketball girls were no less interesting. Such jolly, exciting times as those games were when Helen’s college team battled against some worthy rival. Then some thoughtful partisan or non-partisan endeared herself by bringing around lemons and ice water for the players.

“Helen recalled with glee that jolly Adelphi girl with whom she had ‘bantered’ on the piazza. The funny stories and the good-natured raillery had added much to the favorable impression that hotel piazza had left. It seemed rather lonesome now not to see and hear the girls.

“And then those secretaries! Helen felt a ‘thrill’ at remembering that she had even promenaded along the same piazza with some of those wonderful speakers who seemed to know girls so well and seemed also to have found the secret of living. Helen had mustered up courage to have a delightful little chat with two celebrities in spite of Margaret’s teasing about ‘tete-a-tete conferences.’ It wasn’t an ordeal at all!

“How much nearer the girls of her own college seemed after knowing them at Silver Bay. With one girl she found a bond of sympathy in the difficulties and the subsequent clearing up that came in the Bible Study Class. Another girl had kindly shared notes and ideas of a Mission Study Course which she was taking. The fervor of cheering on her college in the intercollegiate contests had counted. Then the desire that others at college might get the right idea of Silver Bay and that they might take the opportunity of going, furnished a thought that bound together those who were going back in the fall. And so it went–that inexplicable yet very real something that seemed to unite the Silver Bay girls.”

— “At Silver Bay” by Harriet L. Boutelle in The Mount Holyoke (1908); photo of the Mount Holyoke delegation of 1914.

“Mr. Speer” is most probably Robert E. Speer of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions; Harriet Lang Boutelle, the author of this piece, went on to serve as a missionary teacher in Canton, Kiukiang and Shanghai from 1915 to 1950. In 1918, she married George Carleton Lacy, a Methodist missionary, who in 1941 became the Bishop of the China Central Conference. Soon after, he was forced to flee from the invading Japanese. After the war, he was detained by the new Communist regime, and died of a heart ailment in 1951. Buried in the Foochow Mission Cemetery, his remains were exhumed by Communist zealots and paraded through the streets in 1956. Harriet survived him, and died in 1966.

Below, Harriet, George and their infant son, Creighton Boutelle “Corky” Lacy, are shown in the back row, to the right, at a 1920 Lacy family reunion in Shanghai; George’s father and three brothers were all missionaries in China.