Robert Schroeder of Debar Pond, NY

29/01/2012

Robert Schroeder of Debar Pond, NY

 Slide Show of Debar Pond – Schroeder Mansion and Today

  1. Background on Robert Schroeder of Debar Pond
  2. Listen to Pearl Learned (1895-1986) talk about Debar Pond
  3. Three Suicides – Utica Herald Dispatch July 26, 1912
  4. The Scandalous Husband of Elsa Schroeder
  5. From Seaver’s History of Franklin County 1915
  6. SCHROEDER OF DEBAR POND By Maitland C. De Sormo
  7. Christmas at the Schroeders – Malone Palladium Jan 7, 1892
  8. ADIRONDACK ROMANCE –  Published in the Chateaugay Record July-Sept 1915
  9. MEMORIES OF 50 YEARS IN THE NORTH COUNTRY  By F. L. Turner- Published in The Malone Farmer, July 1, 1931
  10. Hop Statistics for 1879, 1889, 1890

 

Slide Show of Debar Pond

Schroeder Mansion and Today


 2.  Background on Robert Schroeder of Debar Pond

           This Episode in History focuses on one of the most colourful individuals in the history of Franklin County.  It includes a range of sources, including the oral history recollections of Pearl Learned, who lived at the Schroeder Estate at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Also included are a number of newspaper articles that provide details of the life and times around the Schroeder family.   Thus we now have a fuller account of the tragic life of Robert Schroeder of Debar Pond.

 Robert Schroeder was originally from Germany and from a very wealthy family.   He came to the United State in  the 1870’s and became a very well known hops buyer in the state of New York.  During this period and until the late 19th Century New York State was a major producer of hops for beer making in Germany[i].  While it appears he lived mostly in New York City, he established the head office for his hops buying business in Utica, New York and from there was able to focus on the major hop growing counties in New York State that were in close proximity to that city, with the exception of Franklin County.  Franklin County was accessible to him by the Delaware and Hudson Railway, which ran from Utica to Montreal through Malone.  The attached statistics below from the Malone Palladium (1) newspaper show just how significant the state was as the major producer of hops.

 It was on one of Mr. Schroeder’s buying and fishing trips to Franklin County that he discovered the beauty of Debar Pond and area and made the fateful decision to get into the business of growing hops himself and building his own “dream estate”.   He purchased the land in the early 1880’s and began construction of the first of his two great homes soon afterwards[ii].

The story of Robert Schroeder is not unlike so many other men who attempt to create a personal paradise, only to fail and subsequently go broke.  On a personal level, the Schroeder story is made even more tragic by the suicides that ended three lives within the immediate family and drove another to require mental rehabilitation.  The ill-fated marriage of the Schroeder’s only child and daughter to a foreign “Barron” and the sensational newpaper stories about him, all contributed to the suicides.  Below are two newspaper articles that capture the nature of the  fake “Barron”.

The several articles below, each provides a slightly different angle on Robert Schroeder’s life in Duane.  Taken together, they describe in detail his estate and lifestyle and eventual failure in Duane, NY.  His world came crashing down when he filed a petition of Bankruptcy in Utica (New York Herald Nov15, 1902 for liabilities of $200,700). 

The oral history interview with Pearl Learned in 1970 provides the only first hand testimony to life at Debar Pond.  These articles have been annotated for dates and information to both correct mistaken information and to augment the record.

 For more on the hops growing industry in Franklin Countyclick here


[i] By the end of the 19th century, the production of hops had moved to the Pacific Northwest where the crop yields were higher and thus the cost of production was much lower.

[ii] In February of 1885 his first great home was destroyed by fire and he began construction of a much large home of stone with an equally large guest cottage on the property.


 4. Three Suicides – Utica Herald Dispatch July 26, 1912

 


 4. The Scandalous Husband of Elsa Schroeder

NEW YORK HERALD, SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 1911

 MR. VON ARKOVY WINS PRAISE FROM LONDON NEIGHBORS

He Is Favorably Spoken of by Residents of Eaton Place.

KNOWN BY ATTACHES OF AUSTRIAN EMBASSY

Freed or Larceny Charge in the Jefferson Market Court, is Sued by Girl

GOT JEWELRY, SHE SAYS

Hugo Hunfalvy, Hungarian Lawyer, Tells of Accused Man’s Escapades in Austria and London.

Herald Bureau, No. 130 FLeet Street LONDON. Friday.

 J. Richard von Arkovy the Hungarian officer who according to the Daily Mail, married an American girl named Miss Schroeder about a year ago, is spoken of highly by his one-time neighbors in West Eaton place, in London. He also is well known by the attaches of the Austrian Embassy, it was stated there this afternoon.

 MR. VON ARKOVY IS SUED BY GIRL

 Even though the charge of grand larceny against Richard von Arkovy, who said that he was a Hungarian Baron when arrested in the Hotel Plaza Wednesday night was dismissed by Magistrate Corrigan in the Jefferson Market Court yesterday morning, the publicity which the case received attracted many Hungarians who know the defendant. He left the court room stripped of his title of nobility by the statements of his fellow countrymen.  He did not wear his monocle yesterday.

 The question of his deportation which was urged on William Williams, Commissioner of Immigration, Thursday by several prominent Hungarians on the allegations that he is an undesirable alien, is being considered by the Board of Inquiry. Many stories have been told the authorities about Mr. von Arkovy.

 Dr. Arthur Kosma, of No. 81 Seventh Street, says that there Is sufficient ground for deportation on his own admission that he served a term in jail in Hungary for duelling. The charge of carrying concealed weapons against Mr. von Arkovy will probably come up in the Court of General Sessions, Monday.

 Maurice Meyer. counsel for Miss Jeanne Cheron, (the woman who says that Mr. von Arkovy borrowed jewellery from her to the amount of $1,600, pawned It and sold the tickets, has served the accused man with a summons in a civil suit for $1,000. He will have to answer this in the City Court within week.

 The most remarkable story about the young Hungarian was one told by Hugo Hunfalvy a Hungarian lawyer, of No. 309 Broadway who says that he knew the family in Budapest and is familiar with Richard Hon Arkovy’s career. Mr. Hunfalvy says the young man left his own country about six years ago after a quarrel in one of the leading clubs in Budapest, went to London, became engaged to t he daughter of one of the wealthiest and best known families in England, and then, by his conduct caused the engagement to be cancelled.

 “The man then came t o this country,” said Mr. Hunfalvy, “worked as an interpreter for a life insurance company, as an agent for a bottle company and as a clerk for a company having a chain of cigar stores. He was in straitened circumstances in the summer of 1908 and says he tried to commit suicide. However on being removed to Bellevue Hospital apparently in an unconscious condition, he quickly revived when a friend whispered “thirty-three black in his ear.  Soon afterwards he married-Miss Schroeder.”

 Julio S. Jarrin tried to withdraw his charge of grand larceny against, the man yesterday in court, but Magistrate Corrigan would not permit it.

 “How much have you been given to drop the case?” asked Magistrate Corrigan.  “Absolutely not a cent”

“Didn’t you come here a few days ago and tell me that man was a crook and a swindler?” “I apologise” answered Mr. Jarrin. “He said that I would be afraid to come into court. See. I come’ here unarmed, not even a stick have I.  Am I not a brave man?”

He denied dining with Mr. von Arkovy on Thursday night when Magistrate Corrigan asked him about it.  M. B. Clarke, Mr. Arkovy’s counsel, objected to the question, but was overruled.

Bela Binging, who was present in court on Thursday with a summons for Mr. von Arkovy, was missing yesterday. The report was that the money had been refunded. It is said that Mr. von Arkovy received the power of attorney from his wife when she became of age on February 15, and that $70.000 cash inherited by her is in his name.

Robert Schroeder, the accused man’s father-in-law, is living alone in his home, at No. 46 West Sixty-ninth street, with a single servant, and on the house is a sign, “To let” 


New York Herald March 15, 1911 page 9

 “Barron” Flees our Pigs and Graft -Mr. von Arkovy Departs Hence, Never More to Sully Himself by Another Visit Here

 America will have to struggle along in the future without Richard von Arkovy. The Young Hungarian who got into trouble, two weeks ago while staying at the Hotel Plaza departed yesterday on the Kronprinz Wilhelm, of the German Lloyd line, scattering broadcast the doleful intelligence that he would never return.

 “Nevermore shall I set foot on these shores” he declared as he reclined up a lounge in his stateroom and puffed a cigarette.  America is a country of pigs and graft.  It is no place for a gentleman.”   “but your wife is an American” he was  reminded.

“Pretty girl” he exclaimed. “But she cannot help it, and she is getting over the travesty.  She went to London three weeks ago, and is waiting for me.  We shall live abroad and forget there is such a place as the United States.   “I showed some of your smart citizens a thing or two last week.  I played the wheel and won $17,000.  I have a system which will break any bank.  I play one number and double on each play.  It’s simple isn’t it, if you have the money.  I remember once losing $37,000 at a few sittings, and that is nothing.

 “My arrest in this city was a piece of work.  I am afraid of no one.  I will have fought duels and gambled with thousands am not afraid of a petty grudge.”

Mr. von Arkovy said that he was call “Barron” by some of his friends, but continued he had no right to the title.  He was arrested on March 1 last on the charge of … S. Jarron, one time attaché to the Austrian Consulate, that he had stolen platinum crucibles.  The charge was dismissed in a police court.  His wife is the daughter of Robert Schroeder of No. 46 West sixty-ninth Street.


 4. Listen to Pearl Learned Speak  1895-1986

about the Schroeder Mansion and Living there in at the end of the 19th Century when

her father worked for Robert Schroeder

 Click on Audio link to listen to interview:

Audio

[audio:http://www.reynoldstonnewyork.org/wp-content/FCRTR-096-1-A2.mp3]

Talking about Living at Debar Pond from Transcript:

 Mr. McGowan: What was the house in Debar Pond like?  How many rooms?

Pearl Learned: Oh, that was that big, big house.

Mr. McGowan: Schroeder’s?

Pearl Learned: Schroeder’s big house and we lived in what would be the servant’s parts, you know, and there was a big stone wall in between and I don’t know how many rooms we had in there.  We didn’t use only a few of them. 

Mr. McGowan: That was when your father was working for Schroeder?

Pearl Learned: Yes, he was working for Schroeder at that time.

Mr. McGowan: Was your mother working for him in any way?

Pearl Learned: No.  Only when he’d come up, my mother used to get the meals for him, that’s all.  He didn’t live there steady.  He’d just come up once in a while.  Of course, years before that when we lived in Duane Center he had big hop yards.  It was over there right there beyond that section of Mountain View, where there are trees, where the Earle’s used to live further on.  He had big hop yards in there and he had hops yards over in Debar pond.  Of course, then they lived there right at Debar Pond. We didn’t live there then.

Mr. McGowan: Could you describe more the inside of Schroeder’s house?

Pearl Learned: It was a mansion, if you know what I mean.  Our part was just common.  There was big rooms, no carpets on the floor though.

Mr. McGowan: Hardwood on the floor or was it softwood?

Pearl Learned: That I couldn’t remember.

Mr. McGowan: But it was wood?

Pearl Learned: Oh, yes.  It was wood.  Painted and papered.  We had electric lights and running water there and all that, but the big part was really like a mansion. 

Mr. McGowan: You were in there several times?

Pearl Learned: Oh, we used to, when they didn’t live there, when Schroeder didn’t live there, we used to go into the other part whenever we wanted to.

Mr. McGowan: So, describe that as much as you can remember.

Pearl Learned: Oh, well there was big glass doors that went right to the ceilings, of course there were high ceilings, and they were all stained-glass, these particular front doors, and it had ‘R S’ at the top–Robert Schroeder.  And there was a big dining room and there was a room that had part glass ceiling, because there was no outside windows to it.  And, oh, they had a breakfast room, and there was a big tank where they used to keep fish, small fish, running water there, and then there was big halls and living rooms with a grand piano.  There was some furniture there, it was partly furnished then when we lived there.  Then at one end there was a big conservatory with a fountain in the middle of it, glass all around.  Down cellar they had a wine cellar and a furnace, everything. It was really a mansion.  Of course, he had the money to do it.  Play rooms, I don’t know how many bedrooms that were in there.


5. About Robert Schroeder  – From Seaver’s History of 

Franklin County 1915

p. 307

Apart from the Duane enterprises, the town had no industrial history of moment until about 1883, when Robert Schroeder of New York, who bought hops in Franklin County for a number of years’, determined to become a grower himself on an extensive* scale, and purchased more than two thousand one hundred acres of farm and forest lands on the plateau which comprises substantially all of the arable land in the town, paying fancy prices for most of it as measured by the valuations which had theretofore been prevalent, or by those which now obtain. He erected large and expensive hop houses; set out several hundred acres to hops; bought barn fertilizer in New York city, freighted it to Malone, and then hauled it fifteen to eighteen miles by team to the yards. Everything was done with a lavish disregard for expense, and there were no profits. The yield per acre was light, the price of hops fell to a point below the cost even of economical production, and after a time yard after yard was abandoned until none remained in  cultivation. Of his forest land Mr. Schroeder made a private park, and built a fine cottage on the shore of a handsome sheet of water known as Debar pond. He was then a bachelor, and with a gentleman employee and friend as companion spent a good deal of his time in the summer months at this point. Male guests from New York city were present frequently, and upon such occasions the fun was reported to have been fast and “loud.” These affairs were expensive, too, for items of- wine and broken china, and the upkeep of the cottage could hardly have been less than that of the farms. The cottage was once burned, but was rebuilt even finer than before. Mt. Schroeder at length failed, and the entire property was sold at a great shrinkage in price as compared with cost. Mr. Schroeder returned to New York city to reside, and committed suicide there a few years ago.


 6. SCHROEDER OF DEBAR POND

By Maitland C. De Sormo

From Franklin Historical Review Vol 4, 1967

[with footnotes and annotations by W. Langlois 2012]

The history of the Adirondacks has been neon-lighted by a considerable number of dynamic and obsessed men whose grandiose schemes invariably fell just short of becoming great successes. These colorful people whom we less imaginative individuals call crackpots and characters seem to have been driven by an overwhelming desire to build for themselves small-scale empires in various ports of the unaccommodating wilderness. Without exception, their visions wore based on reasonably sound plans and their projects could quite conceivably have become financially profitable in other less formid­able localities. Usually their tragic failures were traceable not only to their lack of judgment and/or business sense but also to the obstacles inherent in the region itself — the short and unpredictable growing season, the destructive power of the spring floods, the distances from population centers and, in many instances, to the very topography of the country itself. Then too, as in the case of William Gilliland, the expedients of war hastened the process. A further and even more credible explanation would be that in this great expanse: of forest and mountains apparently only giant-sized enter­prises would do. Whatever the reason or combination of reasons each vision and each visionary seemed to flourish for a brief time and then, in the vernacular of the section, hit the skids toward ultimate disaster for the central figure, his family, and his creation.

Some of these legend-evoking men were Herreshoff of Brown’s Tract, Henderson of Tahawus, the Duane’s in Franklin County, the French emigres in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties and Gilliland on Lake Champlain. Whether they sought to make a fortune in iron, as was the case of Henderson, Herreshoff and Duane; or to found settlements which would eventually pay off by sale of lands, as was true of the French colonizers and Gilliland — all were plagued by bad luck of various types.

But these men did not have a monopoly on misfortune. Right up there in the foreground should be placed another man whose failure was even more costly and king-sized. Robert Schroeder was the red-bearded, pleasure-loving son of a wealthy German brewer. In the early 1880’s he arrived in the northern Adirondacks on a hop-buying mission for his father. He was attract­ed to that region by the quality of its hops, which consistently brought the highest market prices. Business brought him often to the area and on one of these trips Patrick Clarke of Malone, one of Schroeder’s local associates, suggested that the two of them go to Debar Pond for a day’s trout fishing. At that time Jim Bean, who ran a small hotel at Duane, owned a shanty and some fifty acres of land bordering that beautiful little lake in the shadows of Debar, Baldface and Loon Lake mountains. Bean had acquired the property from the family of guides named Debar. John Debar, a Canadian trapper, had discovered the picturesque, remote pond, which is a mile long and a half mile wide, on a hunting expedition in 1817. His son, Lyman, and his grandson George were rated as two of the best guides in Franklin County.

Although Schroeder was not considered much of a hunter or fisherman, he apparently felt strongly the wild fascination of the place and promptly bought it. This was the start of his empire which eventually covered 2100acres, over 300 of which were planted in hops. At the time this qualified him as the owner of the biggest hop plantation in the world, a green pole and vine jungle where ere could easily get lost. Much of this land was sold to him by the shrewd local owners, many of them former Vermonters, at greatly inflated prices and was anything but productive. In fact it required enor­mous helpings of barn fertilizer, which was shipped up from Now York and hauled the eighteen miles from Malone. When the Adirondack Division of the New York Central established a station at Mountain View, Schroeder had a road built to that place and thereby shortened the mule team trips considerably. Why the fertilizer was not bought locally at a fraction of the cost is a question that many people have often asked. At any rate a small fortune was spent on this single item, because the thin soil of that plateau required constant enrichment.

At the top of a knoll some forty or fifty yards from the shore of the pond, the men who thought that money was made to be spent as freely as possible built his first palatial home. Although he called it a cottage, it was anything but that. One night two years after its completion it burned to the ground [Feb. 1885]1[i]. Before the ashes had time to cool, the owner gave orders for an even bigger mansion to replace it. This time, however, Schroeder decided to take every possible precaution to prevent a recurrence of the previous disaster. Fire of course was a constant menace to wooden buildings.

The next structure consisted of two sections — one of frame construc­tion to house his numerous guests, the other of stone which was to be his own quarters. Separating the two there was a huge firewall of masonry 30 foot high, 10 feet thick at the base and 3 feet through at the top. A corridor with an iron door at the end provided a passageway from the kitchen and ser­vant’s quarters. This castle contained more than sixty rooms and solid mahogany staircases, hardwood floors, a paneled dining room, ballroom, library, palm room, billiard room, and conservatory. The entrance hall alone cost nearly $4,000 and featured four large stained-glass windows. These were imported from Germany. Most of the furniture was shipped over from Holland.

When his second baronial residence was ready for occupancy, the lord of Debar brought his bride, the daughter of the owner of the Ullman breweries, to this feudal domain in the mountains. From that time on their life was a series of expensive parties although the guests were invariably of her hus­band’s selection. Her fortune, as well as his, was spent recklessly to indulge his insatiable mania for luxurious living. His stable of thorough­breds seemed to occupy much of his attention and interest, and he would while away the hours watching them from his seat in a carriage located in the center of his private half-mile racetrack. A supply of champagne was always in a tub of ice at his foot. When Schroeder’s gout got so bad that he had difficulty getting around, he had his men anchor a captain’s chair to a stoneboat, on which he sat, while a horse hauled him on inspection trips around his property.

Schroeder was a very impulsive and impatient man who was always in a hurry. Even during his hop-buying days, he would always arrive in a cloud of dust. That tempo of living never slackened. He was also unstable and unpre­dictable. When his two homes were being built, he made frequent last-minute spot decisions and ordered the workmen to make numerous changes in the building plans. Everything had to be done on the double. It is said that he often became annoyed when the mail coach was late and would send a messenger galloping down the road in order to get it sooner. On one occa­sion he bought a pair of horses in Utica and drove them over the rough roads to Duane in a record-setting two days’ journey. On another trip from Lake Placid to Debar he and a companion got into an argument over which one of two horses had more endurance. By the time they reached the castle they had found out and the weaker horse was of little use thereafter.

Another example of his tendency to do things speedily as well as when and how he wanted them done took the following form. In an effort to make his woodland estate more self-supporting, one spring he bought a hundred young pigs. By early autumn they had grown to be sizeable porkers, so Schroeder summoned some men from Malone to do the butchering. They advised him to wait until colder weather and pointed out that the meat would spoil if they carried out his orders. But, acting against their better judgment and experience, Schroeder ordered some of his farmhands to do the job. They did — and several weeks later consigned several tons of putrefying pork to a large hole hurriedly dug in a field nearby.

However, a different sidelight on Schroeder was indicated in the fol­lowing item: “He was a generous contributor to the building fund which made possible the erection of the little Methodist Church at Duane.

Costly errors in judgment, combined with the enormous expenses of maintaining such a large establishment, soon began to take their toll. He employed thirty or forty families, mostly Germans from New York, to staff the place besides hiring hundreds of hop-pickers during the harvest. Naturally these payrolls had to be met. His Entertainment bills were also staggering. His hops, which had brought a dollar a pound during peak years, were sold some years as low as eighteen or twenty cents per pound. Then, to compound Schroeder’s financial difficulties, his father died and his two more practical brothers saw to it that the spendthrift never again could tap that heretofore seemingly unlimited source of ready money. His wife’s fortune had also been depleted to the point where she decided to salvage something from the impending ruin. At her insistence Schroeder gave her a $50,000 mortgage on the property before his departure for Germany in an effort to recoup both his health and his fortune. While he was away she apparently exchanged the mortgage for some Brooklyn real estate. The Debar property was soon liquidated at a great loss to its owner and his creditors took over. Schroeder never again went back to Duane and Debar.

When he returned to this country his wife and he lived in a small flat in Brooklyn. Both of them had to accustom themselves to a for lower standard of living. Then, too, the impact of their misfortune began to tell on each of them. Virtual poverty plus intense concern about the health of her daughter Elsa, whose two successive marriages to fortune hunters had been a source of much anxiety to her seem to have led Mrs. Schroeder to make her fatal decision to take her own life [1] by gas asphyxia­tion [1912][ii]. About a year later [July 1913][iii] her husband also became a suicide in the same manner.

The daughter was confined briefly in a mental institution. When she was discharged she went to live with a Tucker family in Watertown. As for­mer employees of her father they took a sincere interest in her and she lived with them for the rest of her days.

Tenantless for decades the mansion and the surrounding property were eventually sold to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Wheeler of Palm Beach, Florida. In 1940 the old structure was torn down and in its place arose a seventeen-room residence made of cedar logs.

In early August of this year the property again had a new owner, Farwell T. Perry of New York. The sound of his seaplane symbolizes yet another era in that section of the mountains.

The place has always held a strong fascination for me. Not only because Schroeder had lived there, but because I did too — for a month. It came about in this way. During the summer of 1924 most of the football squad from Franklin Academy, in nearby Malone, were quartered in the Castle. Horace Reynolds, the captain of the team, finagled it so that we were hired by his father, whose firm owned 12,000 acres of timberland in the area. He and his associates, Burton [Berton] Reynolds, Howard Taylor and Clarence Briggs, had decided to branch out into what seemed to be one of the most profitable business deals of that era — raising silver foxes {Comments about the Silver Fox Farmfrom Beatrice Reynolds Beaman, daughter of Berton Reynolds[2]}. [Land Records Search by Robert H. McGowan[3]

They decided to build a large fox ranch and hired us football players to dig ditches for the erec­tion of the numerous fences which had to be put up to prevent the cantankerous, costly pelt-bearers from chewing each other to pieces. We wielded picks and shovels during the day and then practiced football late each afternoon.

At that time the Castle foundations had started to show signs of dilapidation. In the large combination entrance hall and conservatory, the fountain statuary was green with corrosion. Like most of the other fellows I had satisfied my curiosity about the spooky place by taking a long tour of exploration the very first day there, so the novelty of the place soon wore off. Besides, after the combined exertions of the day, we were usually too bushed to think of anything except sleep. No ghosts of the Schroeder’s ever disturbed our dreams.

Although fifty years have drifted by since he lived there, there are still many people in that area who have vivid memories of the days when ill-fated Robert Schroeder was lord of Debar. They can readily recall his restless nature and the tragic ending for him, his wife and his dream of a hop empire in the mountains of Franklin County.

The following people have been of considerable assistance to me in the preparation of this article: the late Del Forkey, of the editorial staff of the Malone Evening Telegram; the late Dan Beaman of Malone, for the use or his files and photos; Mrs. Vivian Gero of Malone; Mrs. Grace McMastars of Duane; and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stevens of Saranac Lake also provided infor­mation and recollections which I wish to acknowledge.


[1] The very public nature of the scandals, covered by the newspapers, related to Elsa’s husband, J. Richard von Arkovy, must have been very hard for the Schroeder’s to handle, along with the decline in finances.

[2] “(Berton Reynolds) He and Clarence Briggs had Debar Pond….they bought and owned it for several years and they sold it to ….I can’t remember. They owned it for several years and fixed up cottage and kept things kind of repaired. Wheeler was the man who bought it and was the man that dad and Clarence sold it to and he sold it to Perry. It was more just a summer place they used to go and we used to go and stay all the families. And then of course Wheeler came in and planted it all to trees and then Perry came in and cut all the trees down. Wheeler enjoyed planting the trees and Perry had the time of his life cutting them down.”Beatrice (Reynolds) Beaman Oral History Interview by W Langlois & Robert H. McGowan December 1969 Tape 9 p.2

[2]Evidence that the Reynolds were planning to continue, but diversify, that enterprise appears in a 1923 one dollar sale of land by Berton Reynolds to an entity in which he was a partner:  The Debar Mountain Silver Fox Range, a Duane, New York “fox farm” that catered to the growing craze for fur accessories for women. (Franklin County land records, Liber. 216, p. 395.)

[i] Dates added by W. Langlois

[ii] Dates added by W. Langlois

[iii] Dates added by W. Langlois

 


7. Malone Palladium Jan 7, 1892

[about Christmas Celebrations at the Schroeder’s]

Duane.

          On Christmas evening a goodly number gathered by invitation at the home of generous- hearted Robert Schroeder to enjoy a Christmas tree, It has been his custom to have such a tree every Christmas for years, chiefly for his employees. This year quite a good many others were invited, and among them Mrs. Wm. Duane, Mrs, Nancy Woodford, Jas. Foote and family, and some of the young ladies of the place who spoke pieces. There were also present Henry J Merriam and J. W. Lyon, Malone. Music was furnished by Putnam’s Orchestra of Malone. The tree alone was worth going miles to see. It’ was all covered with ornaments and lighted up until it was of dazzling beauty. The speaking was good, and pleased every one very much. The presents were then distributed, all of which were nice and useful. Every one present received something.     Among the gifts were lamps, dressing cases, silver thimbles, and other things equal in value, and each person had a sack of nuts and candy. Elsie, the little daughter of the hosts, aged nearly two years, walked to the tree to receive the first present from it, and was delighted with a lovely doll’s cart and doll init. Refreshments were served, and then all withdrew to another room for a pleasant hour with a magic lantern, the views being nicely shown by Chas. Beyerl, who was the manager of the occasion. Mrs. Schroeder exhibited her presents to the ladies. They were numerous and costly, and among .them was a  remembrance from Mr. Lawrence, of Malone, with which they were greatly pleased. Music was furnished, and the opportunity afforded to all for a Waltz, and everything was done by Mr. and Mrs. Schroeder that could have been to make the evening pleasant. It was at a late-hour when the guests began to leave for their homes—all thanking the hosts for the enjoyable occasion.

Vera


8.  ADIRONDACK ROMANCE

Published in the Chateaugay Record July-Sept 1915

SCHRODER THE GERMAN AND HIS WOODS MANSION.

 A Story of a Foreigner’s Feudal Ambitions and Blasted Hopes.

 The Utica Saturday Globe says: “Looking down a tree-bordered, gently sloping green and out upon the shimmering bosom of a beautiful Adirondack lake, which lies snuggled In the embrace of Debar and Baldface Mountains, in Franklin county, stands silent and empty a most remarkable mansion of a most singular man and the cemetery of his misdirected hopes. It is a strange story that attaches to the mansion and one which could be related only within the pages of a novel.

 Something over 30 years ago there came into the romantic Debar Mountain region a young German, named Robert Schroeder, on a fishing and hunting expedition. He was a scion of a family of wealthy brewers and the story is that he was of so adventuresome and eccentric a nature that his relatives preferred to have him live in America, the recipient of an almost princely annuity.

 Be that as it may, it is certain that for years be spent money lavishly, a chimera which drank gold with an insatiable appetite and in the end left him but the dregs of ruin and disappointment. Schroeder was captivated by his first view of lordly Debar Mountain, of its Baldface rival, of the forest bordered lake, of the Loon Lake Mountain vista beyond. He looked about him and saw thousands of acres of wilderness, and there grew up in his mind a picture of a semi-feudal estate with scores of industrious families, retainers comfortable and happy in his service, employed in the work of cultivating the most extensive hop yards in the United States. Immediately he set to work to bring about a realization of his dream. He purchased several hundred acres of land and in the course of a short time had increased his estate to some 2,000 acres or more.

The first home he built was destroyed by fire. The second he built of stone, with iron doors, and with an immense stone wall separating it from the servants’ quarter—in itself a big frame building of two stories, basement, cellar and attic. The stone building, which always afterward he retained for his personal apartments was speedily added to by a rambling frame structure with spacious rooms containing hard floors, solid mahogany staircases, bath and every convenience for his guests. There was a music room, a dancing hall, a palm garden with fountain, a conservatory and a library and spacious dining room. The front entrance was of stained glass of the most beautiful and elaborate design, costing several thousand dollars. The only entrance from the servants’ quarter was through a broad passage way piercing the stone fire wall directly into the dining room and protected by iron doors. His wine cellars—there were several of them.—were immense and even today when the building is occupied by nothing but the ghosts of his departed dream and the echoes of the songs of himself and his bibulous companions, the visitor may see hundreds of empty champagne and Rhine wine bottles, evidences of a pampered taste at once expensive and morally and physically ruinous.

 The outer buildings are large, and numerous. There is a storehouse where wines, meats, teas, coffee, spices, sugar and other provisions were kept in large qualities, protected by locks and barred windows. There is a building in which was a blacksmith shop for the repair of his farm machinery. There are barns for the care of horses and for storage. Back along the private roadway is a shrub grown race track upon which his trainers put through their paces his string of horses. These horses were never taken from the place, but were kept for his own amusement, and it was his habit to call his coachman, order out the canopy top and team of ponies, drive to the center of the track and there with no company save numerous bottles of ice packed champagne, spend several hours of the day watching his trotters as they responded to the trainers’ whip and word.

 At one time Schroder had between 30 and 40 families quartered on his wilderness estate. employed either about the great house. stables and grounds or working in his hop fields, where by the way were never a source of profit. The then hungry mountains and railroads, thousands of loads of manure …drawn from Malone ate up its owner’s splendid annuity, together with the hundreds of thousands which he borrowed from his wife’s family, until in the end the dream of feudal greatness became a nightmare of ruin from which there was relief only in the bubbling wine which Schroder became more and more a slave and the shackles of which he broke only when, ruined in purse and mind, he turned his bathroom into a lethal chamber.

When Schroder first became enamored of Debar mountain and its environs and set up his wilderness home on a baronial scale he was a bachelor. But after a short time he married a beautiful New Jersey girl, the daughter of a millionaire brewer and brought her to his Adirondack home. It was not a happy life the girl led there, for he permitted her little company of her own choosing, and those of his choice were not her liking, for in the main they were those of whom the master’s wine cellars most appealed.

 As the dream of the German neared the nightmare stage the wife sought to save for herself and her little daughter something from her own fortune, which, together with a vast sum borrowed from her father, had been sunk in the wilderness estate, and Schroder gave her a blanket mortgage in the sum of $50,000.

Shortly after this Schroder went to Europe and the wife foreclosed the mortgage, or, rather, exchanged it with a real estate firm for some building lots in Brooklyn. The horses and the splendid furniture were sold, the latter being shipped to New York, where some of the most valuable pieces now beautify the home of exclusives. For several years the rambling mansion stood tenantless, save as the Adirondack guides, overtaken by storm or night, spread their bough pallets upon the parqueted, floors and snored until awakened by the sun streaming through the stained glass windows.

 A couple of years ago the mansion, an adjoining cottage, the lake front and a couple of hundred acres of land were purchased by Messrs. B. L. Reynolds and Clarence W. Briggs, of Malone, who are using the cottage as a summer home and who may yet turn the mansion into a club house or, perhaps a sanatorium. Within a few days several hundred of the remaining acres were sold for a sum less than was Schroder’s wine bill for a single year.

 When Schroder returned from Europe, broke and owing hundreds of thousands more than he ever could pay, he and his wife lived for a time in modest quarters in Brooklyn. One day he was found dead in his bath room, having committed suicide by turning on the gas. Within a year his wife, the beautiful New Jersey girl who had eaten out her heart within the shadow of Debar mountain, went into the same bath room and when they carried her out she was a corpse. She also had appealed to gas to end the dirges of dead hopes.


9. MEMORIES OF 50 YEARS IN THE NORTH

 COUNTRY

 By F. L. Turner

(Published in The Malone Farmer, July 1, 1931.)  [Republished in the Franklin Historical Review Vol. 4 1967]

 The unusual experience through which the town of Duane, in Franklin County, has passed thru in the past 107 years is an illustration of how the best laid plans of men often go awry….(Section of article about James Duane has been omitted here)

About 1883 Robert Schroeder, of New York City, moved into the town, bought up a large tract of land and built on elegant home on the shores of Debar Pond. He had previously bought hops in Malone and owning a brewery in New York was determined to grow his own hops. He hired a big force of men, mostly Germans, and engaged Charles Beyerl, a German, who spoke English fluently, as general farm manager. He caused six or seven immense hop kilns and storage houses to be built; Russell Cunningham, of Malone, having the contract for most of them.

In a short time Mr. Schroeder had six hundred acres in hops, said to be the largest hop yard in the world. Everything was done on a big scale, with­out much regard to expense. Several teams for months each year hauled manure from Malone and Loon Lake that had been shipped from the cities. The land was coarse grovel and sand in which cobble stones were plentifully distribut­ed. The result was that fertilizer put on one week was out of sight and below a point where it was of any use in ten days. The land was totally unfit for hops, the yield was always extremely light and the crop cost three times as much as the same amount could hove been bought in the open market.

One winter’s day when the snow was deep one of the teamsters got his team stuck on Studley Hill. The telephone had only recently been installed and German teamsters were unfamiliar with its use. All that they knew was that the voice was carried over the wires. Going over to one of the telephone poles this worker kicked it vigorously and shouted, “Charles Beyerl! Charley Beyerl Sand down a team quick. I’m stuck in the snow.”

Later Mr. Schroeder’s home was burned but was immediately replaced by an elegant and expensive mansion of many rooms, beautifully fitted, one of which had a marble floor, with a fountain in the center. Mr. Schroeder entertained his men acquaintances from New York lavishly and expensive wines and liquors were dispensed with a free hand.

The room in this mansion occupied by Mr. Schroeder was in one corner, built entirely of stone, two feet thick, had massive doors and bore every indication that he feared robbery or something worse.

Soon after he began to slip financially and it was not long before the crash came and land, home and household furniture and china were sold for a song. Very little of the land has been tilled since. Like the Duane property previously mentioned, it has grown up to small trees and brush. Mr. Schroeder must have spent in the vicinity of a million dollars with practically no re­turn. Some of the furniture was bid in by Judge Frederick H. Bryant.

During the last two years of Mr. Schroeder’s residence in Duane he was petulant and overbearing, charging his help with petty thievery and railing at them when meals were cooked in a building into which he could look from his room in the stone castle. He objected to eggs being served for breakfast. Mr. Beyerl had left Mr. Schroeder’s employ before this state of affairs had been reached. He was a faithful, honest superintendent and worked hard against tremendous odds. Not long following Mr. Schroeder’s return to New York he committed suicide. 

B. L. Reynolds and E. A. Briggs, of Malone, bought the mansion and one other house, the land surrounding Debar Pond and a considerable acreage of woodland with the idea of reselling for a private club but do not think it ever materialized.

Thus Duane’s population again decreased and most of the land is revert­ing to nature.

10.  Malone Palladium Jan 7, 1892 – New Hop Statistics (1)

From the recent census bulletin on Hops some figures of interest may be drawn. The regular census year was 1889, but the figures for 1890 have been obtained, and for comparison some data for previous years are added. A few of the figures are given here. The acreage was as follows:–

                                                                1879                       1889                       1890

  •  Total United States                  46,800                  50,212                   48,962
  • New York  State                          39,072                 36,670                   35,552
  • Oneida Co.                                      5,937                     6,002                    6,180
  • Otsego Co.                                       9,118                     7,749                     7,679
  • Madison Co.                                    6,076                     6,956                     7,040
  • Schoharie Co.                                  5,871                     5 ,563                     5,689
  • Franklin Co.                                    2,075                    2,330                       2,796

Previous post:

Next post: