Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks — place of respite
Gov. Charles Evans Hughes had more than an academic knowledge of the special character of the Adirondacks.
It was a place where he camped, hiked, vacationed and golfed — often with newspaper reporters keeping close watch.
Hughes, governor from 1907 to October 1910, wrote in his “Autobiographical Notes” about climbing Mount Marcy with his son.
“There was an interesting incident. While on top of the mountain a party of young people joined us. One of the young ladies brought me a lot of huckleberries and I gave the party some tea and a beef steak that we did not need,” Hughes wrote. “The next fall (1908) at the great campaign meeting at Madison Square Garden as I was taken through the crowd to the speakers’ stand, a young woman thrust out her hand and gave me a card which I read as I was waiting for the audience to quiet down and give me a chance to speak. The card said: ‘Good luck! We ate your steak and drank your health in the tea.”
After serving as governor, Hughes, a Glens Falls native, was a U.S. Supreme Court justice until June 1916, when he resigned from the court to accept the Republican nomination for president, narrowly losing to incumbent Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Hughes later was U.S. secretary of state and Chief Justice of the United States.
Throughout his career, he often reminisced about spending two or three weeks each summer in 1879 and 1880 at a Delta Upsilon fraternity camp on a Lake George island off Bolton Landing.
“In the evening we would sing our college songs and the patrons of the near-by inns formed an appreciative audience as they clustered about our island in their boats,” Hughes wrote in his “Autobiographical Notes.”
In 1888, Hughes vacationed with his wife at Lake George on their honeymoon.
Just after his 1906 election victory, Hughes met for several days with state Republican leaders at Kamp Killkare near Raquette Lake in Hamilton County, the Adirondack great camp of Timothy Woodruff.
“Not long after his arrival Mr. Hughes appeared for a walk over the wooded country, and, with Senator Alfred R. Page, disappeared in the dense forest, bound for Crow’s Nest, one of the highest points in the Adirondacks,” The New York Times reported. “After this tramp of about two miles Mt. Hughes returned with a good appetite for luncheon,”
In the Adirondacks, Hughes found summer respite from the day-to-day grind of the state Capitol.
In August 1907, Hughes and his son camped for two weeks at a state fish hatchery camp about a half-mile from the Saranac Inn in Franklin County.
Hughes brought along several books to read, including “Back Home” by Eugene Woods, “The Voyages of Champlain,” and a few novels by James Fenimore Cooper and others.
“Already an enthusiast on the subject of forest preservation and reforestations, Gov. Hughes has, in two weeks, realized, more than ever before, the necessity of enlarging the state’s forest preserves and parks in the Adirondacks by the purchase of additional wooded land,” The New York Times reported.
In the summers of 1908 and 1909, Hughes and his entire family vacationed at Lady Tree Lodge at Saranac Inn.
The governor hired Jim Patterson, a seasoned Adirondack guide, to lead hiking and fishing expeditions that were interspersed between dealing with state government business.
The cottage, now owned by Chris Cohan and Rita Wong, was named to the state and national Registers of Historic Places this year.
Hughes continued to visit the Adirondacks often after leaving state government.
When he ran for president in 1916, so many Adirondack newspapers touted local connections with Hughes, that The Elizabethtown Post pointed out that Wilson too, had once “passed through” the Adirondacks.
“Yea, verily, Woodrow Wilson recreated in the Adirondacks, made many friends while so doing and is doubtless today serving his country in a broader, better way than he would have been able to do had he not received the invigoration incident to the depths of our Adirondack forests,” the Elizabethtown newspaper editorialized.
Wilson and his wife had rented a cottage at St. Huberts in Essex County for a summer when Wilson was president of Princeton University.
Sources: “The Autobiographical Notes of Charles Evans Hughes,” 1973, Harvard University Press; “Hughes Enjoys Camp Life,” Nov. 9, 1906, The New York Times; “Hughes Camping on Presidential Ground,” Aug. 11, 1907, The New York Times; “In Camp With Governor Hughes, Aug. 9. 1908, The New York Times; The Elizabethtown Post, June 15, 1916.
Maury Thompson is collaborating with Snarky Aardvark films of Queensbury, N.Y. to produce a full-length documentary about Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks. Thompson lives in Glens Falls, N.Y., the birthplace of Charles Evans Hughes.