Silver Bay history — Edwin F. See
The congregation of Third Reformed Church of Albany was surprised when the Rev. Edwin F. See, the 25-year-old “boy preacher of Albany,” announced his resignation as pastor on March 14, 1886.
“His success in Albany has been of the most flattering nature,” The Argus, of Albany reported.
In the less than three years that See was pastor the church at the corner of South Ferry and Green streets added 107 members, nearly quadrupled its annual donations to reserve specific pews during services, and accumulated about $3,000 — the equivalent of about $90,800 in 2022 dollars — in a fund to construct a new chapel.
See was leaving to accept appointment as general secretary of the Brooklyn YMCA.
He explained to the congregation that for about a month he had sensed a new calling to build the bodies, minds and spirits of young men.
His YMCA work proved fruitful, and on Aug. 7, 1910, See Memorial was dedicated at Silver Bay Association, in recognition of See’s work with the YMCA and his promotion of Silver Bay Association.
“I believe that my circle of influence as secretary of the Brooklyn Association would be measurably wider than it would be as pastor of this or almost any parish to which I might be called in the future,” See said, when he resigned the Albany pastorate in 1886.
See had been active in the Albany and Schenectady YMCAs since he accepted the pastorate in June 1883, and he was involved in the statewide YMCA movement.
On Feb. 18, 1886, he spoke at the 28th annual state YMCA convention at Elmira on the topic “Our Aim, Our Needs and our Encouragements.”
See, when leaving Albany, said that he still would be preaching every Sunday evening, but to young men instead of a parish congregation.
“In leaving this pastorate, I do not feel that I am deserting the office of the ministry,” he said.
See was modeling his own that advice he offered in a sermon on July 26, 1885, when he preached at an Albany memorial service for former President Ulysses S. Grant, who had just died of throat cancer.
See said Grant was an example of one who found a purpose in life, and followed it dutifully.
“Young men, it is a lesson for you. Find out your sphere and stick to it,” he said. “If God calls you ought for a blacksmith, don’t, for heaven’s sake, try to preach. If your instincts are toward engineering, don’t try to be an architect.”
The sanctuary was “filled to the utmost capacity” for See’s farewell sermon in 1886.
It was not a typical a walk-down-memory-lane farewell sermon.
“A hush of unusual intentness prevailed, and every ear was strained to catch the sentences that would fall from the lips of the much-esteemed pastor,” The Argus reported. “Those who had expected a ‘farewell’ were disappointed, for the discourse was intentionally as far from that form of leave taking as possible.”
See selected as his text Judges 3:31 — a seldom-quoted passage about Shamgar, the son of Anath, slaying 600 Philistines with an ox goad to deliver Israel.
“The speaker dwelt on the agency of the despised and unlikely forces and inculcated lessons of effort and action, with the assurance that although seemingly unlikely of beneficient effect, many a deed hath been performed opportunely and with striking results,” The Argus reported. “The sermon was full of practical and cautionary truths, and left many a thought in the minds of the congregation that will be treasured as helpful souvenirs of the young pastor’s leave taking.”
See Memorial at Silver Bay has outlasted the lifespan of the man it honors more than twice over.
Edwin F. See, “one of the promoters of the Silver Bay enterprise,” was 46 when he died July 8, 1906 from Bright’s disease, thought at the time to have been brought on by overwork, just after he completed raising $1 million — the equivalent of $32.12 million in 2022 dollars — for the Brooklyn YMCA., where he had been general secretary for nearly 20 years.
YMCA associates around the country contributed funds to build See Memorial in 1909.
The Lake George Mirror called the corner stone laying ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 22 “one of those memorable days at Silver Bay.”
The building, behind the auditorium, originally housed administrative offices of the YMCA Institute.
“Owing to the very rapid growth of this institute it has been necessary to provide quarters separate from the hotel where those in charge can administer its affairs.”
L. L. Doggett, president of Silver Bay Institute, led the ceremony.
Speakers were George Foster Peabody of Lake George and New York City, Fred S. Goodwin of the YMCA International Council staff, and Judge Selden P. Spencer of St. Louis.
Those attending, including many area cottagers, sang “Jesus Calls Us Over the Tumult,” and “Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still.”
Work continued into the late fall.
“The See Memorial building is under cover and the windows and doors will be put in this week,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported on Nov. 4.
See Memorial was dedicated Aug. 7, 1910.
See, who grew up in Tarrytown, in Westchester County, N.Y., studied at Rutgers College and the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
See was a frequent speaker at New York City churches and at YMCA events, conferences and conventions around the nation.
“With such Bible class leaders as Mr. Edwin F. See … a successful conference cannot but result,” a Tennessee newspaper reported in 1892.
He led a course on effective teaching and personal work at the first YMCA conference at Silver Bay in 1902, and conducted Bible training classes at the second YMCA conference in 1903.
A text book, “Teaching of Bible Classes,” which he wrote, was still being used at YMCA conferences a decade after his death.
See was noted for opening his sermons and lectures with humor and stories, and then driving home his point once he had the congregation’s attention.
“Whatever else we may think about Christ, we cannot deny to him the claim of being the greatest religious teacher that ever lived,” See said in an Aug. 16, 1896 sermon at Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. “If our faith goes no further, we must at least acknowledge that he was a great religious genius; that he was a specialist in the department of religious affairs.”
His stature in the New York City area is evidenced by newspaper real estate ads listing See as among “many fastidious people” that owned homes in the Cedarcroft subdivision on Long Island.
See left behind a wife and one child.
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Sources: Ticonderoga Sentinel Nov. 4, 1909; June 16, 1910; Lake George Mirror Aug. 9, 21, 27, 1909; The Columbian, Bloomsburg, Pa., Aug. 6, 1903; The Argus of Albany, June 2, 1883; July 27, 1885; Feb. 1, March 15, May 3, 1886; July 20, 1906; The Maryville Times, Maryville, Tenn., May 11, 1892; New York Tribune July 19, 1906; The Sun, New York, May 7, 1905; Knowersville Enterprise April 23, 1887; The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Aug. 17, 1896.