Indians frequented the Tupper Lake region for several
generations before a handful of hardy trappers, hunters and
fisherman ventured into the area soon after the Revolutionary
War. Sir John Johnson made the earliest-known white man's visit
to the region in 1777, leading a group of Loyalists to avoid
capture -- from Johnstown, NY, north to the Raquette River for a
stopover in the Tupper Lake wilderness, then across southern St.
Lawrence County and the St. Lawrence River to safety in Canada.
The first settlement is believed to have been established around
1844 near the shores of Big Tupper Lake. History records
indicate that a land surveyor named "Tupper," who drew
the boundary that now marks the St. Lawrence-Franklin County
line (the lake straddles that county line), named the sprawling
lake after himself in the late 1790's.
In the 1850's, Pomeroy Lumber Company began the first logging
operation overlooking Raquette Pond and Tupper Lake. The new
settlement established there became what is now known as the
village of Tupper Lake. The settlement, which grew along the
shores of Tupper's lake, was officially named for the lake and
incorporated in 1890.
In the 1890's, Pomeroy foreman William McLaughlin sold many of
the lots in the company's forest clearings spurring a boomtown
growth for Tupper Lake. Then a major overnight fire in July 1899
destroyed nearly 170 buildings and wiped away much of Tupper
Lake's early settlement. But relentless, Tupper Lake
pioneers launched a community rebirth, building new homes and
reestablishing their businesses, and restoring their village to
prosperity within just a few years. Timber harvesting and
lumber-cutting operations resumed at a record pace.
The Raquette River provided the first corridor for moving logs
to market. The Hurd Railroad, which arrive in July 1890, and
Webb railroad which came about two years later, were built
through downtown Tupper Lake. The extensive freight operations,
roundhouse and other rail facilities built near the juncture of
the two lines transformed Tupper Lake (also called Tupper Lake
Junction) into the leading rail center in the Adirondack region.
Over the next two decades, four sawmills sprung up along the
Tupper Lake's second economic boom began in 1922, when the
community raised an astonishing $20,000 for the purchase of a
160-acre parcel on the eastern edge of the village and
establishment of the Sunmount Veterans Hospital (now Sunmount
Developmental Center) which was dedicated in 1924, before a
crowd of 2,500 people.
Today, efforts are underway to establish Tupper Lake as the home
for the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks.
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