A Brief History of Trout Lake

By John Graham, Knollwood Camp

About 1813, Esek Earle, upon returning to his son's farm just north of Edwards, exclaimed "I have found a place where we can kill all the deer we need." The place he had found was Trout Lake. He is credited as the first white man to discover this body of water.

About twenty years later, a man named John Gardner leased a large tract of land at the foot of the lake and began lumbering operations. The building of lumber roads gave access to the lake, attracting pleasure seekers. In l882 John Gardner's son Asa opened a hotel near the north end of the bay. During the next decade, hotel managers sponsored motor launch races in the summer and trotting races on the ice in the winter. A dance pavilion and a steamboat added to the popularity of the location and cottages and hunting lodges sprang up along the shores of the bay.

By the 1920s, some thirty cottages were owned around the bay by prominent families from Edwards, Hermon and Gouverneur. The local economies were booming, supported by zinc mines in Edwards and the talc industry headquartered in Gouverneur. By the 1930s, professional people and teachers from as far away as Syracuse and New York City spent their summers at Trout Lake. Their cottages were lighted by kerosene and each camp had an outhouse tucked back in the woods. A single lane dirt road connected the lake to Edwards with "turnouts" for passing every few hundred yards.

During this period, one of the few people who lived year-round at the lake was Pliny Gardner, the great grandson of John Gardner.

Following World War II, cottage building began to spread along the shores of the "Big Lake." By the end of the twentieth century, there were over two hundred cottages using nearly every available lot. The only undeveloped land remaining is a large tract owned by the state along the eastern shore of the lake. Cottage owners from as far away as Texas still make their annual vacation pilgrimage to this idyllic spot in the foothills of the Adirondacks.

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