Silver Bay in 1909 — Governor’s Day

A political career fits with the Young Men’s Christian Association mission of public service, said New York Gov. Charles Evans Hughes, speaking Aug. 27, 1909 at Silver Bay Association.

“Never mind if you are called a politician. The word itself is not dishonorable,” he said. “Go into it for what you can put into it, not for what you can get out of it.”

About 2,000 people, including about 500 conference delegates and about 1,500 local summer residents, attended Hughes’ speech, “The Century of Opportunities,” in the newly reconstructed auditorium on “Governor’s Day” of a Y.M.C.A. layman’s conference.

“The Y.M.C.A. produces men who will not expect to get something out of their business or political activity, but to put something into it, and, in short, to be of some use in the world,” he said. “To be an American citizen with honest purpose and resolve is to have the richest privilege in each.”

Hughes, born at Glens Falls, was familiar with Lake George, having vacationed there many times as a child and adult.

“I feel as if I were in connection with a great dynamo and was being charged,” he said. “I know almost every bit of this charming valley, full of recollections and happy days and recollections of my youth.”

Hughes, who had pushed through state legislation to shut down racetrack gambling, received a triumphant welcome.

“When the governor stepped ashore shortly after noon … accompanied by an escort of prominent Young Men’s Christian Association Workers, he found the walks leading to Silver Bay Association lined on either side by hundreds of young men standing at attention. The welcoming hosts fell in line behind them singing ‘Onward Christian Solders,’” The New York Times reported.

Delegates also heralded the governor in five parody songs, with original lyrics set to traditional tunes.

“Governor’s Day at Silver Bay, the Railroad boys all say; is the biggest, grandest day that ever came this way; and we greet you, Governor Hughes, our best respects we pay; ’cause you’re the kind of man we stand for,” they sang, to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia,” an American Civil War song.

“Hooray, Hooray — gambling you drove away; hooray, hooray, the gamblers must obey; and we know your principle must triumph some glad day; count on the Y.M.C.A.”

Hughes responded to the tribute: “I wish I were a singer, and I’d sing of you. But I couldn’t get tunes enough to show you how much I think of this vigorous young manhood and of the promise it affords.”

The weather, too, seemingly saluted Hughes.

“A brisk breeze out of the north, a brilliant sun, a clarified atmosphere, with range on range of distant mountains plainly discernible, Governor’s Day at Silver Bay was one of those altogether delightful days for which Lake George is justly famed,” the Lake George Mirror reported.

Earlier in the day, Hughes met at Lake George village with New Jersey Gov. John Franklin Fort and Massachusetts Gov. Eben S. Draper, who were vacationing together in the Adirondacks.

The following members of a Y.M.C.A. reception committee greeted Hughes at Lake George: E. P. Bailey of Chicago, E.B. Sturges of Scranton, Charles F. Kilborne, C. T. Hicks. R.C. Morse and Fred B. Smith of New York City, John B. Sherman of Washington, D.C., and Rev. Clarence Barbour of Rochester.

Hughes traveled to Silver Bay on George Foster Peabody’s steam yacht Pocahontas, leaving Lake George Village at 10 a.m. and arriving at Silver Bay at noon.

“All along the route the party was greeted by salutes from passing steamers and launches, and flag dips and gun salutes from hotels and cottages.”

Hughes reminisced about his college days, when he had attended a Delta Upsilon fraternity camp two summers on an island off Bolton Landing.

As the boat entered Paradise Bay, Hughes turned to George Treadwell, the governor’s military adviser, and remarked, “This is about the nearest to paradise well will ever go.”

Helen Hughes Memorial Chapel at Silver Bay was constructed in memory of Helen Hughes, daughter of Charles Evans Hughes.

Sources: Lake George Mirror Aug. 13, Sept. 3, 1909; Ticonderoga Sentinel Sept. 2, 1909; New York Times Aug. 28, 1909

Click here to read the most recent previous Silver Bay history post.

Click here to read a previous post about Charles Evans Hughes and Silver Bay.

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY