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The Hale Family

Four generations of the Heald/Hale family lived and worked in the High Peaks as it developed from a wild timberland to the summer community and visitors center it is today.  The Hale family arrived in Keene in the early 1800’s when Revolutionary War pensioner Asa Heald (1750-1822) moved his large family to Keene from Concord, MA. 

His son, David Heald (1802-1870), whose family later became known as Hale, was paid to build a sawmill and a dam on the Lower Ausable Lake in 1854 by Sylvanus Wells, owner of the tract.  The first dam lasted only one year.  The second dam, built in 1856, raised the lake’s water level 15 feet but was destroyed that same year by the infamous “Freshet of ’56.”  Heald recalled seeing a cataract or waterfall a mile wide and 2,000-feet tall coming down Mt. Colvin which burst the dam, drove the water level in Keene to rise more than 3 feet, and killed 15 people.  His final dam, completed in 1857, made the lower lake ½ mile longer, and he built his sawmill on River Island below the dam.  Only one image, an 1865 painting by the German artist Carl Happel, exists of the Heald cabin, and it shows a merry evening of many visitors at the lakeside. As other guides were permitted to build camps on the property, they created a long-lived tradition of hospitality in the area. 

David’s son, LeGrande Hale (1855-1930), was a well-regarded guide, woodsman and hunter, who built the Warden’s Camp in 1905, a headquarters for guides to use in common and to exchange messages.  Before guides had winterized camps, this building also served as a bunkhouse.  LeGrande Hale became the Ausable Club gamekeeper in 1912 and built Camp Treetops in 1913.  One story told about LeGrande says that after learning that a 500-pound bear was poached, he went to locate the kill.  He then took the bear’s heart and mounted it on the poacher’s fence post.

LeGrande and his son, Mason (1886-1956), were among the three best-known guide boat builders in the Keene area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both were also guides for Camp Treetops on the Upper Ausable Lake.  The last guide to have wood gathering privileges at AMR (Adirondack Mountain Reserve), Mason acted as summer attendant at AMR for several seasons.  Living in a Lower Lake cottage, Mason and his wife, Eva, hosted teas, flapjack breakfasts and suppers before taking guests on moonlight boat rides.

(Karl Happel painting used by permission "© Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg")

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