Goodsell Museum  
P. O. Box 513, Old Forge, NY 13420
 Phone/Fax: 315 369-3838
Museum Hours:  Tuesday through Saturday - 10am - 3pm  ~  or by appointment

100,000 Acres of Paradise

The Early History of the 

Adirondack League Club

 November 2014 thru October 2015

The Industrial Revolution brought a surge in personal wealth to many by mid-1800.  Fortunes were made from mining, manufacturing and railroads.  The rich had ample leisure time and sought enjoyment in the outdoors.  Vacation spots, which would offer peace and tranquility, were in great demand.  Families like Vanderbilt, Huntington and Webb purchased vast tracts of land in the Adirondacks as private preserves and built elaborate camps.

 In addition to these family estates, private jointly owned “Clubs” were established.  Money from memberships helped defray the cost of the acquisition of land, the construction and maintenance of lodges and the hiring of staff and guides.  Members were permitted to hunt and fish on all of the club property and to own individual lots for personal camps.

Gen. Sherman at a temporary camp

In 1857, the North Woods Walton Club was formed by Gen. Richard U. Sherman and his “Band of Brothers”.  They spent several weeks each year in the North Woods. The club never owned land but hunted and fished the Fulton Chain, Big Moose, and Raquette Lake areas staying in temporary rustic camps. 

 The group disbanded but Sherman continued fishing these lakes.  A guide introduced him to a group of lakes known as Bisby.  In 1878, Sherman and some of the former club members organized and incorporated as the Bisby Club.  They purchased and leased 9,000 acres of virgin forest with 11 lakes teeming with fish.  The Club built a lodge and purchased boats.

Letterhead in 1891

In 1885, Dut Barber’s father secured a 20 year lease on 19,000 acres of the Anson Blake Tract (Honnedaga Lake).  Dut built a hotel, Forest Lodge, which offered rooms, meals, boats and guides.  By 1888 he could house 100 people in the lodge and cottages around the lake.

Ole Snyder, who often vacationed at Forest Lodge, introduced Robert C. Alexander, Mills Barse, Henry Squire and Mark M. Pomeroy to the area in the late 1880’s  Concerned with the destruction of the forests and the yearly decrease of lake water, due to the construction of the Erie Canal, they felt the 100,000 acre Anson Blake Tract would be a fine hunting and fishing preserve.

Fishing on Jones (Honnedaga) Lake

After locating the heirs, a purchase price of $475,000 was reached (which included Forest Lodge).  In 1890, they incorporated as the Adirondack League Club (ALC) and deeded their interest in the tract to the Club.  They offered 500 membership shares for sale.

Between 1890 and 1894 the ALC purchased 20,000 additional acres and leased 71,000 acres.  In 1893, the Bisby Club and the ALC merged.


The Adirondack League Club’s main objectives were and still are to:

  • preserve the forests in a wild  condition;
  •  protect the game and fish;
  • promote their increase by importation, propagation, breeding or hatching;
  •  assist in strictly enforcing the game laws of the State, and
  • promote such legislation as will further protect the North Woods from destruction, and the fish and game therein from extermination”.
Lumber companies had a foothold in the area by the 1880s and were clear cutting the forests. The ALC enlisted Bernhard Fernow as “forestry advisor”. He recommended annual harvests to allow the forest to reproduce and provide habitat for game, while providing income to the Club.


A healthy forest would produce healthy animals and help sustain the animal population. Game restrictions and hunting rules were major elements in the ALC by-laws. 

An etching of jacking deer

By 1892, the ALC had issued a ban against deer jacking (hunting deer in the dark using lights) and, later, hounding.  Many years before the State banned these forms of hunting.

Deer hounding

The ALC put restrictions on the number of game and fish that could be taken.  Many streams were and are designated for fly fishing only.


Safeguarding the fish population was needed.  Hatcheries were built to strengthen and help manage the fish population and maintain the pristine waters.

ALC 10
Combs Fish Hatchery - 1895

Forest Lodge on Honnedaga Lake was headquarters and the first club lodge.  It was destroyed by fire in 1954 and was never rebuilt.

ALC 11
Forest Lodge - 1890

Built in 1879, Bisby Lodge was eventually torn down and a larger building constructed in 1901.  After a major fire, it was rebuilt in 1941.

ALC 13
Bisby Lodge & gardens in 1910

Mountain Lodge was built on Little Moose Lake in 1892. It was rebuilt in 1914 after a fire.  The lodge is now known as Little Moose Summer House.

ALC 13
Little Moose Lodge and Boat House

Today, the Adirondack League Club encompasses over 50,000 acres, making it the largest, privately held preserve in the Adirondack Park. Its commitment to preservation and conservation has served it well for 125 years.

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Information provided is from the best knows sources and is subject to change. These records are provided for not-for-profit research purposes only. Permission to copy any or all of this document must be obtained in writing by contacting

 the Town of Webb Historical Association, P. O. Box 513, Old Forge, NY 13420

Please contact the Historical Association’s Director at 315-369-3838 or by Email to share additional information that can be added to our files.

Last Updated:February 12, 2015