August 7, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS, for The Leader Herald
The occasion of the first of our 11 grandchildren to get married took us to another Adirondack sojourn- the “Queen of American Lakes”- Lake George. Our granddaughter and her husband are great “out-of-doorers” so they chose to hold their wedding on the shores of Lake George’s Dunham’s Bay.
The Dunham’s Bay Resort is an ideal place for a family wedding with its mountains surrounding the lake. And the staff members are good at what they do, including expertise with an Adirondack campfire. The food becomes a major part of a marriage gathering and it was the best. Mix good food, good fun, and good families and you build good memories for a lifetime.
I had seen Dunham’s bay advertised in the old travel books as the Dunham’s Bay boat Company, INC., with outboard boat rentals, boat sales and service. The Resort on Dunham’s Bay today is open year-round and is well established on the “32 miles of crystal water amidst majestic mountains!”
Lake George has a long history in the Adirondacks. By 1800, so many hundred visitors arrived in the community for summer vacations that a log hospital, built for Washington’s army in 1776, was converted into one of the first three hotels to accommodate them. Steamboats on the lake started in 1825 and the train came in 1882. My interest in “Dunham’s Bay” led to a search for the name in the old publications. I pulled out an 1853 travel book to see if it was mentioned at the time.
The rare book, “A Complete History of Lake George: EMBRACING A GREAT VARIETY OF INFORMATION AND COUPLED WITH AN ESPECIAL REFERENCE TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE TRAVELLING COMMUINITY; intended as a DESCRIPTIVE GUIDE: together with a complete history and present appearance of Ticonderoga” by Henry Marvin. It was published in New York by Sibells and Maigne, 1853. (I love those long book titles!) On page 54, I found a reference to “Dunham’s Bay.” The “travelling author” found “on the east shore, one and a half miles further to the north, is Plum Point. Further to the east, and directly around this point is Dunham’s Bay, on and a half miles in length. In the center of the lake is Diamond Island, lying directly in front of Dunham’s Bay.”
Now that my research curiosity has been raised up, I have to take up the quest to find the origin of Dunham’s Bay. When was it first discovered and who was this “Dunham” that left his name on one of Lake George’s most picturesque locations? Was he related to other well-known Adirondack Dunhams? Was there a mail boat with a driver named “Dunham” or was he a settler that saw the opportunity for a boat dock? Maybe, just maybe, the answers will be found in some of those old publications; now, let’s see, where did I put them?
Magazines and other publications of the 1800’s enjoyed writing about the popular Lake George. It was a subject of interest to the general public in a day when the mountains were attracting tourists. Emersons Magazine wrote of Lake George in 1857; the Ladies Repository included it in 1863. Appletons Journal did Lake George in 1871, and Hapers New Monthly Magazine included Lake George in their articles more than once in the 1870’s. The Northern Tourist Magazine found Lake George in 1880. Since I started writing this Adirondack column in 1989, I have shared stories of Lake George more than 10 times; it is a subject that is shared with the early Native American history, the birth of our nation, and the opening up of New York’s Great Wilderness. Lake George continues to this day to attract residents and visitors to its mountains and waters. With its historical sites, boating opportunities, beaches and outdoor attractions it offers something to all.
And, it is a good place to get married!
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