Academic journal article Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

Rounding Up the Memories: Personal Histories of the Dude Ranch Days in Warren County, New York

Academic journal article Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

Rounding Up the Memories: Personal Histories of the Dude Ranch Days in Warren County, New York

Article excerpt

Dedicated to Wild Bill Liebl (1932-2013)

"From this valley they say you are going I will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile, For they say you are taking the sunshine That has brightened our pathway awhile." [from the folk song, "Red River Valley"]

Happy Trails, Bill. Until we meet again.

I drove over the river and through the woods, in order to get on a horse and take a trail ride that took me over the river and through the woods. The trail in the woods is nestled within the Blue Line that separates the Adirondacks from the rest of the world. The Adirondacks provided a perfect backdrop for the trek. As a man helped me onto my steed, I noticed that he was dressed like a cowboy. He had the complete outfit--the hat, chaps, boots, and spurs. This all seemed to be somewhat out of place in upstate New York. I shelved the thought quickly as it occurred to me that it was prudent to focus on staying atop the horse.

When the ride was over, I got a chance to speak with the cowboy. The cowboy had an easy, friendly manner. He told me that he was not the only cowboy in the area, and that the ranch was one of many. He told me there had been many dude ranches over the years, and Warren County, where we were, was known at one time as the "Dude Ranch Capital of the East." I had been to the Lake George area many times over the past 20 years, and this was the first I had heard of this.

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Over the next year, I returned several times to the ranch. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the area and wanted to find out more about the cowboys. At the time I was nearing completion of a college degree and was obliged to research and write a paper for a capstone project. I chose the subject of the dude ranches of Warren County. I had gathered a bit of information, made a contact or two, and generally thought I was making good headway. I would soon come to realize, though, that the scope of the project was much more that I had envisioned. After finishing my paper and graduating, I continued doing research.

I contacted historical societies, libraries, and town clerks' offices to arrange interviews and visits. The manager of the Double H Hole in the Wall Camp in Lake Luzerne gave me a tour of the ranch. He was thoughtful enough to invite the local expert on the area's log cabins for my visit. Chris Boggia, the owner of the Circle B Ranch in Chestertown, gave me names of people that lived through the heyday of the dude ranches. Each person that I spoke with had a name of someone else who could help me. I was given access to personal photos, collections of brochures, and postcards, leading to scans of over 300 images. I was given locations of dude ranches, some still standing and some just footprints where they had once stood.

The first dude ranches were built in the late 1920s by a man named Earl Woodward. Mr. Woodward, a native of Ohio, moved to Warren County in the 1920s. He started a logging business and soon became interested in real estate. He bought a hunting lodge and called it "Earl Woodward's." The Adirondacks has a long history of summer boarding houses and hunting camps, and even though the US would soon be in the throes of a monumental economic depression, his lumbering and hunting lodge businesses thrived. A couple of years later, he sold the hunting lodge and bought property along Rte. 9N in Lake Luzerne. He renovated an existing farmhouse on the property into an Adirondack-style lodge. He subdivided the surrounding area, started building log cabins, and called it the Northwoods Lodge Inn. Horseback riding was added to the activities of hunting, fishing, and canoeing, and soon the lodge was renamed Northwoods Dude Ranch. Old logging trails were repurposed for trail riding. Some of the cabins Woodward built were set aside for the ranch, and others were sold. He found he had more demand for the sale of the cabins than he could build. …

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