Posted by: cheryljk | February 17, 2008

Seine Bay on Chazy Lake

This is how the Seine Bay looks today.  There are two little streams that run into the lake to make this bay.  The name comes from the nets the fisherman used to use to catch fish.  Of course netting fish is illegal today, but once this lake positively teemed with fish, including some pretty little silver-colored fish that people  would cook up; whole fitting a host of them into one big cast iron frying pan and crisping them nicely for a Friday dinner.

For much of the Twentieth Century people mined ice from this bay, clear clean ice from the fresh clear water.  Although the bay froze almost to the sand and boulder covered bottom, water flowed under the ice in the springfed streambeds entering the bay, one from Lyon Mountain and the other from Mud Pond.  These underice rivulets made fishing almost a year round possibility.  There was a beautiful mound of sand just up the hill slightly from this bay, which was a source of sand for many a beach ’round the lake.  For years the sand moved from its ancient resting place to cover stones and boulders on the lake shore softening the waters edge for the bare feet of swimmers brave enough to enter the lakes frigid waters, for Chazy Lake was never warm, even on the hottest days of summer.  While the mound was being moved small birds by the flock drilled holes into its high walls making nests to fill with fledglings which would learn how to fly and catch some of the endless mosquitoes down by the lakeshore or the insects of the hayfield on the flat acreage near the mound. 

Whether that old mound was an artifact of the huge glaciers which scoured deep lines into the hard rock pluton that underlay the valley, or the remanent of of some ancient Indian dwellers no one will ever know.  The sandy pile was gone long before our nation concerned itself with such things, in any case the needs of the valley dwellers trumped such airy concerns over a pile of dirt.  Yet when the pile was gone some felt the loss.

In 1908 a fire cleared the mountains of trees and even their thin blanket of soil, revealing the glacial dumps of gravel, house size boulders and the beautiful iron rich stone on which the ice had carved its directional graffiti.  The farm children cleared the fields of rocks and boulders each spring as they welled up from underneath the sandy land which had been the shores of the much larger glacial lake of the past and piled them in neat walls to mark the boundary between land which could be cultivated for crops and that which was only suitable for grazing and berrying and the picking of beautiful striped violets in myriad colors each spring, just the right size for small hands to bring home to mothers, aunts, and grandmothers to be put in a teacup for a few hours of graceful beauty before their delicate being faded. 

Behind those stone walls the forest grew back, early on it was softwood, poplar and the iconic white birch of the mountains so prized once by Indians for canoes; now peeled by hands to show children miniture canoes with seats made of twig.  A faded relic of the past glory of such trees.  Here and there some maples or oak withstood the fire, and Howard King as a young man planted apple trees around in the woods so that they would grow and drop apples on the ground to feed the deer that everyone loved so to hunt and eat.  They were great for hungry hunters too, to stop and grab a ripe, if scaly, apple from a tree on an afternoon in the woods.  Howard said that before the second growth got so big the apples had been better, but once the hardwoods overtopped them they were starved for sunlight and were better for deer than men.

Philmore, Howard, Exford and even their baby brother Sullivan, who was born the year of the fire, wandered the barren hillsides and loved to touch the land.  Howard, more than any of them was drawn to the wild with or without its mantle of trees.  He loved the bare rock because it revealed the bare skin of the valley, a basin of solid rock, an ancient pluton, laced through with veins of magnatite so big and so prevalent that in places the needle on a compass would spin and true north was better found by the stars than by such a needle.  With their cousins and friends the King boys learned the land, they learned the names of the trees that sprout after a fire, and those that follow soon after and those that bring the forest to a climax.  They marked trails to their favorite trout ponds where the native fish went to spawn and which in spring filled with tiny troutlings that could be scooped up illegally and cooked for breakfast just an hour after they were caught as the sun rose.  They marked trails to places where deer would congregate and left apples, apple trees, and blocks of salt.  These places were death traps for the deer, but they had no idea of what await them in hunting season.  They found bee trees and honeybees and brought bee keepers to capture them, relocating the hive in a civilized box from which the industrious creatures could easily reach the gardens and fruit trees to bring in a late summer harvest.

They walked with their cows over the rocky hillside to the old pond bottoms that had eutrified and become rich bottomland, perfect for rich grazing that gives a milk fit for butter.  They were trail blazers on the farmland, and each reached out to the larger world as do all boys to leave trails of their lives.

Seine Bay was a stop on an old Indian trail that passed through the valley that slopes from Mud Pond after rising up from the Canadian Plain of the St. Lawrence in the North.  That trail went on along the lakeshore, following the old sand of the old lakeshore to Russia and Redford south of Lyon Mountain.  It was along this naturally gentle rise through this mountain valley that the trains came to Lyon Mountain, offloading ladies and gentlemen to take the air at the lake before continuing on with a rougher load of cargo and passengers for the mining town at Lyon Mountain.

Seine Bay and the nearby Northwestern shore of the lake became the territory of the sons of Xavier King.  But the lake is long and down at the other end, the road to Ellenburg follows the waters that entered at Seine Bay as they leave the lake on their way to Lake Champlain where they will slip through marshy land into Canada and the St. Lawrence.  At the dam where the Great Chazy trickles out of the lake the sister of Xavier’s grandmother settled with her husband and built a beautiful house with an unparalled view of the massive Lyon Mountain.  Further East, and before Wilfred’s road a straight old road runs due north to Ellenburg and then northwest to Churubusco where Xavier and Wilfred’s mother was born or a person can turn right and go east to the town of Moores where Xavier and Wilfred’s father Seraphim, came as a young Canadian in 1840 to become a pioneer in the North Country.

Past where this road joins what is now 374 there is another road, called Wilfred King Road, which turns off to the right and runs across the highlands above the South side of the lake, below Johnson Mountain, and it at the end of this road that Xavier’s youngest brother set up his territory and filled it with the homes of his sons and daughters.

Chazy Lake was settled late for an Eastern land, the Adirondacks are a hard place to live.  The mountains are high enough to be cold and wet, even if they are no match for the mountains of the west, but more importantly the soil is thin and the growing season is short and only the hardiest of pioneers would venture to such a place.  But in this place they could flourish and live life has their parents had, and their children could live as they had and even their grandchildren could go on with many of the same day to day routines, though horses changed to tractors and sleighs to snowmobiles. 

They came here to be free to live as they had always lived, not so much seeking political freedom as seeking personal freedom.

And they found it, and they were happy.



  1. Looking for Don Breyette,formerly employed at theClinton Prison as a Counselour.
    We were friends when my parents rented the cottage next to his at the lake. He escorted my wife and I to Expo 70.
    Just trying to get in touch late in life;
    possibly to see each other.


    • Dan,
      Donald Breyette Sr. died 1988, his wife Margaret in 1970. Son, Donald A. died 1994 and daughter Julie in 1998. They are buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Dannemora, NY.

  2. I used to camp with my parents at Chazy Lake when I was a young teenager in the mid sixties. I remember King’s Grove very well. My wife also used to camp there in a rented cottage. I think the family that rented the cottage were named Payne. We used to hang around with a fellow named Donnie Patenaude, I believe he lived in a log home on the gravel lane that led east from Kings Grove. There was also another friend of Donnie’s named Tom Douglas.

    Thanks for the memories. We were down at Chazy Lake about two weeks ago, but we never found the old campground. Thanks to your website we’ll be able to find it next time!!

    Al & Sue Macintyre

  3. I attended LMHS with Joyce Patenaude. I know that the family had property on that road. We used to call it Peekaboo Lane many years ago.

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