“Re: valuable nut trees I have seen: A butternut tree 25 years old, 2 feet in diameter, 6 feet from the ground, yielding an immense crop of nuts every year for the three years that it was under my observation; the nuts are very large and grow in ‘clusters’ of ten or eight or seven as the clusters recede from the outside center-wise. This tree is at Silver Bay, Lake George, N.Y., and grows out of the veranda of the post office. There are numbers of butternuts around Silver Bay that grow in the cluster form of ten-to-the-cluster but none of the other trees have such large nuts.”
— G.H. Corsan in American Nut Journal, March 1915
James Adams, postmaster, with wife and daughters; butternut tree to the right.
George Corsan, who wrote of the butternut tree, taught horticulture at the University of Toronto but was better known as a swimming instructor, the vocation that called him to Silver Bay. He was especially famous for giving mass classes using the Corsan Method (which began with water wings) and turning his students into swimmers by the third lesson. He also gave demonstrations, showing off the Australian crawl, the Trudgen stroke, the English overarm, and various dives, rolls, tumbles, spins and sculls. For armchair swimmers, he wrote At Home in the Water (1914), published by the YMCA (with an introduction by George Fisher, for whom Fisher Gymnasium is named).
At Silver Bay, he spent three summers instructing others in how to teach swimming, diving and life-saving. Also, without a doubt, he spoke on the benefits of confining one’s diet to fruits, vegetables and nuts only, a lifelong passion. And he observed the butternut tree at the post office.
Later in life, Corsan had a farm in Islington, Canada, where he planted trees and eventually grew more than 400 varieties of nuts, and developed part of his land as a bird sanctuary. On a second farm in Kendall, Florida, he grew avocados, coconuts, bananas and macadamia nuts. He remained youthful and healthy into his eighties, until the moment he was run down by a car in Miami.
* * *
Photo of the Store, post office and butternut tree from the Detroit Publishing Company; Adams family by Jesse Sumner Wooley; swim class from At Home in the Water.