Sale of Reynolds Bros. Lands, to New York State for forest conservation, Reynoldston, NY

The final disposition of the Reynolds Bros Mill land holdings in the 1920’s to the State Of New York for conservation

 

1932 Planing Mill Reynods Bros, Reynoldston NY after sale to State of New York - The rest of the mill buildings and Reynolds family homes have been torn down for lumber - Photo Courtesy of the Adirondack Museum P020416

 
 
Reynolds Land Holdings and Disposition
 
 By 1920 the Reynolds family had been logging for about 50 years.  Its members found themselves with large tracts of land that had been timbered over, no Brooklyn Cooperage contract, and a declining business.  In the 1920s the family slowly began to divest itself of property. The first land sales were to family and long-time employees, often for a token one dollar.  By the 1930s breakup of the family’s holdings was proceeding rapidly.  The Reynoldses sold some of their land to the State of New York for recreational purposes, and allowed the State to take several other significant parcels for unpaid taxes.  At the end of the ‘30s family members divided the bulk of the remaining landholdings among themselves.  Further research will seek to determine how the family ultimately divested itself of all the land that had once supported Reynoldston.

 THE REYNOLDS FAMILY DISPERSES ITS LAND HOLDINGS 1920 – 1939  

The dissolution of the Reynolds family landholdings may have begun as early as Christmas Day,
1920, when for one dollar Herbert and Berton Reynolds conveyed 66 acres of land in or near Reynoldston to Howard Taylor, probably a cousin.  (Franklin County land records, Liber 216, p. 395.) (All references are to the Franklin County, New York, Land Records, County Clerk’s Office, Franklin County Court House, Malone, New York.)  That acerage had likely been clear-cut, and thus no
longer useful to the family enterprise.
 

Evidence that the Reynoldses 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.  
 

By 1923 the increasing, if not predominate, role of pulp in the Reynolds’ business is suggested by a requirement in the Fox range deed that any dam constructed on the property contain “sluice gates or other means to permit the running of pulpwood.”  As Duane, by the shortest routes, is over 20 miles from Reynoldston, the Reynolds Brothers’ operation was clearly reaching out from its nearly logged-out base in Brandon to yet unexhausted areas.   

 Thee remainder of the 1920s saw only a few land sales (essentiaTl gifts) by the Reynoldses.  In May, 1924, Paul Reynolds of Massena conveyed fifty-seven acres of land, and “appurtenances”, to Allen (Allie) Cox and Charles (“Charlie”) Merrick for one dollar. Also in May, 1924 Herbert and Bessie Reynolds and Berton and Pearl Reynolds, all of Malone, conveyed ten acres to Joseph (“Joe”) Bombard again, for one dollar.  This time, however, the Reynoldses retained the mineral rights.   

In 1925 Berton and Herbert and their wives conveyed 25 acres to Joseph (“Joe”) Meno, again
reserving mineral rights.  Liber 188, p. 378.  Allie Cox, Charlie Merrick, Joe Bombard and Joe Meno were all long time residents of Reynoldston, and had worked in the mill and logging woods.  It is possible these conveyances transferred to these men houses which the Reynoldses had built for
them, and on which the workers had been paying rent for years.  In the next decade houses
in Reynoldston would be offered for sale for $50.00, with no takers.
 

Not all of the Reynoldses’ conveyances in the 1920s were for a nominal one dollar fee.  In October, 1928, Herbert and Bessie received $240.00, or eight dollars an acre, from Peter French, of Bangor, in turn for 30 acres of land in Brandon.  Liber 198, p. 350.  In 1930 seven members of the Reynolds family (Herbert, his wife Bessie, Pearl, now Berton’s widow, Paul Peynolds, Beatrice Beaman, Miriam Warden and Millicent Johnson) conveyed 20 acres in Brandon to a Bangor farmer, Carl Chapin, but
only for $7.50 an acre, or $150.00.  Liber 203, p. 447.  This group were the conveyors of land in many subsequent transactions.
   


In 1933 active land sales resumed.  First, on July 8, for $500.00, an unspecified number of acres was sold to George Campbell, another resident with roots extending back to the beginning of the Reynoldston community.  This land, however, may have been unusually valuable, as it included
parts of the Deer River and the Eddy Brook, waters that had powered the economic life of the community during the milling years.  Liber 218, p. 20.  A $25.00 conveyance of one half acre of land to “Daniel” (actually Danford) Whitcomb, also occurred on July 8, 1933.  Dan was a long-time employee of the Reynoldses, and admitted that they had always been good to him.  The half acre he acquired bordered his house in Reynoldston and the property of Beatrice Beaman. 

On the 4th of August 1933, the Reynolds family, again for $1.00, transferred 160 acres to L. Cass Bowen, who before 1920 has operated a lumber mill in Skerry, just  east of Reynoldston.  This land was on the Little Salmon River, and, interestingly, had been “deeded by Mary R. Robinson and others to Reynolds Brothers Company, and thereafter [was] intended to be conveyed by said Reynolds Brothers Company to Louis C. Bowen by Deed dated August 8, 1919…” but “through inadvertance and mistake” the Deed was not executed.  Liber 211, pp.29-30.  This oversight may show that in 1919-1920 both Cass Bowen and the Reynolds family were becoming increasingly casual about property business – Bowen because he would sell his mill to the Reynoldses in 1920, and the Reynoldses because they were transitioning from the secure income of the Brooklyn Cooperage contract (1910-1918) to a more diversified and risky operation

 
In 1934 Reynolds family property, intentionally or unintentionally, began to return to Franklin County for unpaid taxes.  On February 9, 1934, a 12 acre farm owned by Delia, Newton Reynolds’ widow, was sold for $19.25 in unpaid levies, while Sumner and Haidee Rushlow, she Orson Reynolds’ niece and he a Reynolds employee, lost a “39 acre farm” for $23.36 in back taxes.  It is possible that these and future properties released for taxes were no longer useful for either farming or logging, or that
their owners had moved away or turned to other means of making a living.  The tax arrearages in any case seem small, even for the depths of the Depression, suggesting that land was let go, rather than unintentionally lost.  Liber 211, p. 496.
 

Three other transactions occurred in 1935.  The first of these, on February 11, conveyed to Marjoan Corporation, for one dollar, 30 acres of land along the Little Salmon River’s “reservior and mill dam”.  Marjoan Corporation, of which few records exist, owned other land abutting this new acquisition.  Liber 214, p. 133.  

In November 1935, the Reynoldses sold to William (“Billy”) and Hannah Collins, again for one dollar, a life estate in a tract of land, of unspecified acreage, contained in “Reforestation Area No. 1” – the first reference to a reforestation undertaking.  Notably, the deed states that removal of any of the buildings on the land would terminate the Collins’ life estate.

The next conveyance, also in November, 1935, was of 669.17 acres of land, its boundaries running through Reynoldston, and reaching the dividing line between the towns of Dickinson and Brandon. 
The buyers were “the people of the State of New York”, who paid $2,676.68, or four dollars per
acre, for the land.  The Reynoldses reserved to themselves 0.76 acres of land, and “the right to remove…the residence at Reynoldston, so-called, on the mill lot and the old planeing mill, and…such personal property as old iron, boilers, mill tools, and property of similar character.”  The Reynoldses also conveyed to New York the right to “raise the level of the water in the Deer River by means of the present dam to a level of the high water mark of the mill pond created by the present dam, “and the right to overflow” surrounding land.  Liber 217, p.83.

 Clearly, by 1935, if not well before, the Reynolds family was abandoning any plans they might have
had to resume significant logging or milling operations in what was now “so called” Reynoldston. 
It seems their land was becoming part of a State reforestation reserve, and the mill buildings and family houses were either going or gone.

1936 saw the Reynoldses sell, for $600.40, 150 acres (“as shown on Property Map Reforestation
Area No. 3”) to the State of New York.  Liber 217, p. 235.  On May 16, 1936 Pearl Reynolds sold a parcel of land in Malone for $200.00 (Liber 219, p.73).

The major transaction in 1936, however, was a transfer from Beatrice Beaman, Millicent Johnson, and Pearl Reynolds to Herbert and Bessie Reynolds of 4,721.68 acres of land in Reynoldston, for one dollar.  These acres were distributed among 37 separate parcels, which in turn bordered State land, as well as property owned by familiar Reynoldston families such as the Bordeauxs, Campbells, Bombards, and Collinses, less familiar, but still known local families (Childs, Lincolns, and Gales), relatives and business partners (Bigelows and Lawrences), and finally families heretofore unknown in the record:  Louay and Angert.  Liber 219, pp.91-93.

In the same month, November, 1936, that Beatrice, Millicent and Pearl conveyed almost 5,000 acres to Herbert and Bessie, Herbert and Bessie, seemingly in exchange for the property they had just received, transferred 2,618.81 to Pearl, Paul, Beatrice, and Millicent.  At the end of this conveyance a statement makes clear the purpose of this and the previous transaction:  “It being the intention of the parties hereto by this deed and by one delivered this date to the parties of the first part [Beatrice, Mellicent, etc.] hereto by the parties of the second part [Herbert and Bessie] to divide all the lands in the Town of Brandon owned by Reynolds Brothers and Company or by Herbert H. Reynolds and Berton L. Reynolds, as tenants in common, with the exception of a plot of four acres more or less in Lot 27, Brandon.”  Liber 219, pp. 100-102. 

The land transferred between members of the Reynolds family on or about November 26, 1936
totaled 7,340.49 acres.  Prior to that date they had transferred 1,209.67 acres, more or less, to
former employees, relatives, a fellow mill owner, and the State, for a total of 8,550.16 acres. 

Still more land transfers by the family were to come.  Another 200 acre lot went for taxes in January,
1937.  Liber 219, p. 252.  Almost exactly two years after the family division of 1936, on November 28, 1938, Reynolds Brothers and Company gave up to Franklin County for unpaid taxes 19 parcels of
land, totaling 1,397.41 acres, for a total of $573.46, or slightly less than .25 per acre.  Eight hundred of the 1,397.41 acres lost for taxes in 1938 were in parcels identical in size to those divided among Reynolds family members in 1937, raising the question whether the remaining roughly 500 acres were included in the 1936 division.

Under the most conservative assumption Reynolds Brothers, even after the peak years of the
Brooklyn Cooperage contract, owned 8,550 acres of wilderness land in Brandon.  That number is simply the sum of lands transferred before November, 1936 plus the lands divided among family members as of that date.  It is possible, in fact almost certain, that more land should be added to this total, for example some or all of the 500 acres that were part of the 1,397 acres reverting to the State in 1937 that may not have been included in the 1936 division. 

On July 30, 1937, Herbert and other relatives, for $500.00, transferred an unspecified amount of
land in Skerry to Carrie Randall.  The Reynoldses exempted from this grant 66 feet on either side of the Little Salmon River to be used as a public fishing ground.  Liber 221, p. 154-56.  

The last two conveyances by the Reynolds family in 1939 consisted of 50 acres of land sold to Frank Aldrich of Bangor for one dollar on February 15 and a transfer of 383.39 acres to the State of New York (for $776.78) on August 28.  None of the parcel sizes in the last conveyance exactly matched any parcel sizes in the family division of November, 1936, meaning they were possibly parcels not included in earlier transactions.  We can confidently say, therefore, that the Reynolds Brothers holdings in Brandon exceeded 8,000 acres, and in all likelihood exceeded 9,000 acres at their peak. 

Further research is necessary to discover how land still in Reynolds family hands after 1939 was
ultimately dispersed.


 c 1923

 Reynolds Bros buys 12,000 acres – Debar Mountain Tract in Duane -selling to to the State of New York after
a year for a game refuge

Syracuse Post Standard
Sept 11, 1949

 


 From 1934 Malone Newspaper
Article:
 

STATE TO BUY  COUNTY TRACT FOR CAMP SITE  

Ownership of Reynoldston. once a thriving village in the early lumbering days of the northern Adirondacks but now just one oi the few remaining ghost towns of that industry, soon will pass to the state. Negotiations for about 700 acres of land, including practically all of the vacant desolate houses that once were peopled by the families of lumbermen, have progressed so satisfactorily that aboat all that remains to complete the deal is the search of title.  The Reynolds tract, extending in one bolid portion of the town of Brandon to the limits of Dickinson, who still retain something more than 9,000 acres. It was this tract that back a few years ago provided a cut of pulpwood worth more than $500,- 000 to the Malone Paper mill which ran in double shifts to convert this forest into high grade paper, giving, employment to a whole district In Malone.   

Just what uses the state plans to make of the Reynoldston property is not yet known. The tract was negotiated for under the appropriation made for the purchase of abandoned farm lands and the acreage includes all of the old Reynolds farm of about 350 acres, and about as much more of timber land cut over.  

The only vestige that will remain of the village life of Reynoldston will be a life lease for Caretaker Collins and his wife, b 350 acres, and about as much more of timber land cut over. The only vestige that will remain of the village life of Reynoldston will be a life lease for Caretaker Collins and his wife, both veterans of the community.  

The state is preparing for the purchase reserved the right to rebuild the dam at Reynoldstonand flood muchof the adjoining land as the water would cover from this dam.  This would create a narrow little lake about a mile long. It is thought probable that the state intends to establish another camping ground off the main travel roads for quiet and solitude that this afforded in such camps as Barnum Pond, Fish Creek and Meacham lake.  

To many old timers this sale of the entire village of Reynoldston will evoke memories not altogether without regret. The Reynolds brothers operated many camps and gave employment to many men and the store and the mill at the hamlet which bore their name employed many others. Located southwest of Malone the little village was peopled by a hardy, thrifty lot of people who were  compelled to drift to new surroundings when the lumbering was finished.  

About seven or eight years ago houses in the vacant streets of Reynolds were offered for sale at $50 upwards with no takers. The state will undoubtedly will remove them and another ghost city of the
Adirondacks.
 

 

 

 

 

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