Court Room

The original court room is the setting for the start of the museum tour.

The site of the courthouse of Lake George has been a part of Warren County's history since the founding of the county on March 12, 1813.  The first court house was completed in 1817 and stood for 26 years, until October 26, 1843 when it was destroyed by fire.  In 1845, an architect from Glens Falls drew up plans for a new building.

A title stone located in the present foyer over the entryway to the original court room supports the evidence that this was the exterior part of the building.  The court house was completed in fall of 1845, and the final cost was $3975.32.  In 1878, the court house had to be expanded.  A front portion was added with a tower and a clock. At the turn of the century, more jail cells and living quarters for the local sheriff and his family were provided.

Prisoners were held, tried, and convicted in this grand old building until 1963.

(Excerpt from a report by Mary Ellen McGowan, Lake George High School Student  -- 1/23/85)

Warren County Jail - 1845

 

The jail cells located in the museum basement were constructed in 1845. Prisoners were managed by a jailor who lived in the building with his family.  The prisoners did spend time out of the confines of this space - i.e. "the sixteen prisoners in the county jail at Caldwell* will be set at work on the main highway just north of the village, which will be widened and leveled" (The Warrensburg News, March 18, 1897)

"Jail liberties" were created in 1813 so that "the unhappy lot of the imprisoned DEBTOR was somewhat alleviated by the granting of jail liberties" within the legally designated perimeters outside the jail house.  These prisoners (if someone posted bail for this purpose) could swim, fish boat, ice skate or roam the area with maybe an occasional stop at the Coffee House.  They did have the opportunity to work to pay off some of their debts.

Information found in a pre-1900 newspaper article tells about a correspondent of the London Law Times inspecting some of the prisons in New York state: "Prisoners intermingle freely, there is scarcely an attempt at classification, and -- well, I won't refer to the sanitary conditions. . . . . a word about the prison of Warren county, which is not inaptly named the Hotel Bellevue.  The windows of the lower floor open directly upon the pavement.  There is nothing to prevent communication whether verbal or manual, between prisoners and passersby. . . . the prisoners have no work of any kind and spend their time loafing in the corridors smoking and playing cards." Not long after 1900 a new and improved two-story jail was built in back of the court house.

*Lake George Village was known as Caldwell until 1903

Willett Trial

  The most famous trial to be tried in the court house was the Willett trial.  It all started on December 27, 1880.  Two men, George H. Willett and John B. Pair (Willett's brother-in-law), ran a barber shop in Glens Falls. 

    It was 9:20 am when Charles W. Cool headed towards his home, and heard a gun shot.  Addison Beecher Calvin, an officer, and L.P Juvet also heard the shot.  When they arrived at the barbershop, they found John Pair dead on the floor.

    Dr. McGregor and Dr. Fred B. Streeter performed an autopsy.  They found a bullet had passed through the victim's left arm, entered his chest between the 7th and 8th rib, punctured both lungs, passed out the chest through another rib, and lodged in his right armpit where it was found.

    On December 29, the D.A hired George S. Hotchkiss, a detective from Brooklyn.  He found that Willett was the last to see Pair alive, and he also found a pistol and cartridges of the same caliber in Willett's rooming house.  Willett had bought them from a gunsmith in Burlington, Vermont.

    Willett was arrested on December 30, 1880 by Melville Bitely, and held until January 8 when he was committed to Warren County Jail in Caldwell (Lake George).  The trial was from September 19 to the 30th, and from October 1 to 10.  The trial started on Tuesday, September 20 at 9:00 am.  Upon receiving the news of President Garfield's death, court was adjourned until 3:30 p.m that day.

    Mr. Leets was retained as an expert witness on cartridges, and M.B. Buswell was an expert witness on the weapon used.  Mrs. Wing testified that on the night of the murder, she saw a "French-Canadian" go into the alleyway.  Constable Warren Allen stated that he saw a man load a revolver under a coat, also a "French-Canadian type". (Both Pair and Willett were French)

    Willett was found guilty on October 10, and was sentenced to be hung on December 2.  While in jail he remembered his mother telling him to trust in God.  He built a church out of cigar boxes scraps of wood, and anything else he could find.  Word spread about the work of the condemned man and Mr. Carpenter bought it for $450.  The money was used by Willett to secure additional legal aid, and file for a second trial.  This trial lasted from September 17 to October 1, 1883.  It cost $9180 for the two trials.

    On September, 1883 the photographer, Seneca Ray Stoddard, took a photo of the trial in progress.  (see picture above) The Morning Star News said that "He threw open the doors of the court, took a photo, and ran down street."

    It was argued by Charles Evans Hughes that if you refuse to answer, it can not be considered a guilty plea.  On October 1, 1883, George H. Willett was found not guilty.  After this, Willett disappeared, and no further information can be found on the case.

(Excerpt from a report by Mary Ellen McGowan, Lake George High School Student  -- 1/23/85)

Soccer Machine

"The Play Soccer Game" was invented in England. This game on display in the Museum was produced in New York City by the Chester - Pollard Game Company. Before the game was placed in the Museum it was available for play in front of the the Kurosaka's Bazaar on Canada Street in Lake George Village, as seen in  this post card.

A letter from The Kurosaka Family

The Soccer machine was in front of the Store in 1925 when Dad came up from NYC to LG for his health- loss of right leg & TB. He was given 2 years if he remained in NYC and may be 10 years if he moved to the country. You will see how wrong this prediction was later in the narrative.

Dad purchased the machine from Yellow Novelty Company of Schenectady in 1934 (approx.) prior to this, the  machine was on concession at 50/50 split of proceeds.  Dad maintained the machine till 1941 when I took over till 1946 when I graduated from LGHS & enlisted in the US Navy, my brother Bob took over till 1953 when he graduated from LGHS also.

In 1953 Dad purchased a "Newer" machine from Mr. Herman Murray, who was the original owner of the Playland Amusement Center - Mr Murray got the machine from the Glen Lake Casino - Dad paid $65.00 for the machine, It immediately replaced the original machine which had become quite shoddy & in a bad state of repair, that is the machine in the post card picture taken in 1956 (fall) for our 50th Season for the Bazaar since 1908 - that machine operated quite satisfactory till 1968 when it had to be completely refurbished.

Meantime I had returned from the service & attending RPI where I graduated in 1954 - Bob went off to Potsdam State from 1953 to 1955 the USMC 1956 to 60 he was in the 1958 landings by the Third Marines in Lebanon.  We shared maintenance of the machine in those years, as the one home would do the work on an as available & need basis.  In 1957 I returned to then area & resumed the upkeep of the machine - In 1968 with the aid of my Wife, my Mother &my Daughter Jan who did the art work - the machine, Players and Spectators were completely integrated to represent World Cup Style Soccer - and to up-date the machine to modern sports standards.

In 1969 Dad passed away some 44 years after coming to Lake George for his health - he lived 44 of the 79 years of his life here in Lake George, and is interred in Evergreen Cemetery.  At that time Mother gave me the Machine - from 1969 to 1971 the machine took in enough pennies to completely cover all costs & expenses for my trip to Japan in 1971 as an Assistant Scoutmaster of a B.S.A. Scout Troop to the 13th World Jamboree held in Japan.

In 1972 the machine needed a complete rebuilding & renovation, so a machine was constructed out of the parts available from the "Original" machine which we fortunately kept for parts & the 1953 machine - the present machine is the result of that combining of parts - by the mid 70s all the original glass was replaced by "Plexiglass".  This past season in June the front glass was pushed-in & the ball stolen - the machine was inoperative till the week after Labor Day when a new ball was donated by Mr. Frank Dunn of Fairhaven, NJ - Thanks Frank from all of us!!

The game board & players were repainted by my younger daughter Kim this past spring & new Jackets were made by my Mother (81 years young in Sept.) 

This machine is on Loan to the Lake George Historical Society Museum for the Winter as a Memorial to My Father, & for the debt and gratitude & appreciation that my Family & I feel for Lake George as a Community for their unbiased treatment & support during the trying days of World War II, when others of our ethnic background were either severely restricted in their actions & movements or interned.

Thanks Again Lake George! 

--Unsigned letter from Donor, circa 1970

 Sculpture by John Rogers (1829-1904) 

 

The Council of War
Plaster, painted 

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln, and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton depicted in a "Rogers Group" patented March 31, 1868.

John Rogers created groups on the subjects of everyday life, the theatre, Shakespeare, the Civil War and horses.  At a time when it was in vogue to have parlor statuary in one's home, Rogers provided appealing high quality durable plaster statuary which was well within the financial reach of many for whom marble or bronze statuary was not.

The Lake Monster 

The "Georgie" in our museum is a replica of Georgie the Lake George monster.  After a "Court Order" on July 7, 2001 and, with great ceremony the original Georgie traveled to Hague-on-Lake George where he will be on display during his extended visit at the Hague Historical museum. 

 

This picture is of the "Real Georgie" before he traveled to Hague...or is it?

Anchor & Mortar Bomb 

 

The anchor was found in Lake George about 100 to 200 feet from Meadow Point, just north of Huletts Landing.  Reportedly found by Ron Gavaletz, Glen
Taylor, and two other divers from Massachusetts.  The anchor was on a
flat sandy bottom 30 feet below the surface. Mr. Gavaletz has said that
the anchor resembles one from the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston.

The Powder Horn

The Story of the Powder Horn

"Made at Lake George by Simeon Rovs in 1756, the horn traveled far before it arrived in Michigan by 1850.  It was found with a box of deeds (1788), and letters on the woodpile when my father attended his grandfather's funeral in 1890. "Barzilla" is carved in a written place on the horn and "Serj't or Clerke" Handee appears in the Jabez Fitch Diaries of 1757-1758...personal meetings as well as record keeping for the troops and provincial regiments.  He signed a deed in Connecticut in 1800 so had it at the time from where it passed to the family (Hendee, Hendy, Handy) for its trip west after 1835. Now at last it has found a haven at Lake George where it had its beginnings".

--Dorthea Handy Phipps 1994
Powder Horn donor

A TRAMP ART BOX - circa 1900

This example of "tramp art" was made for John and Clara Mills who were turn-key and jail cook at the Old County Courthouse Jail.  It was made from one cigar box by a prisoner.