Sabattis Scout Reservation
Hiawatha Seaway Council
1957 – Present
between Long Lake & Tupper Lake, New York
Sabattis Scout Reservation property, consisting of about 5200 acres of land and water, was purchased by Onondaga Council, Inc. Boy Scouts of America, in 1957 for $120,000.00 from the Hitchins Corporation of which Gus Low was the principal stockholder. The Scout Council conducted a capital funds drive and obtained the necessary money to pay for the property and needed buildings and other improvements.
The property is located about 25 miles, by road, from Tupper Lake, NY and about 20 miles from Long Lake. A railroad branch extends from Utica, NY to Lake Placid, NY and passes what is known as Sabattis Station. This station is about 6 miles, by dirt road from the Reservation property.
The first camping season was in 1958. James Stimson, a member of the Council Executive Board, donated $2,000.00 to the Council to get the camp started. The camp Beavers did the necessary labor. At that time Tom Dyer was Council President, and Ernest Blanchard was Scout Executive. Perry Jackson became Scout Executive in September of that year following the retirement of Blanchard.
In 1959 Clifford Clark, camping committee chairman, purchased a used mobile home for $1,500.00 and loaned it to the camp for the quarters for the camp nurse. In 1960 it was purchased from Clark for what he paid for it, by James Stimson who donated it to the council.
On March 2, 1959, Bill Wadsworth, Clifford Clark, Jerry Cummins, and Win. Bellamy went to Sabattis, spent the night at Gus Low’s and the next morning went together with Jos. Pisanchin, a contractor from Tupper Lake, and Armand Vaillancourt, Gus Low’s caretaker, to the scout property. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero, the sun very bright, and the snow four feet deep wherever we measured it. All of us, except Bill Wadsworth, were on snow shoes. Bill was on skis.
We walked up and down the north shore of Low Lake from Gus’s 3/5 line to his 5/7 line, and decided on the locations for all the troop sites, and the water front site. We also marked out the Three Island camp parking lot. Joe and Jerry marked out the roadways by cutting the tops off small trees that would be in the new roads. The next spring we had to took up in the air to find the marked trees since the four feet of snow had melted.
Jos. Pisanchin graded the roads to three island and did a lot of other work in our camps for which he charged the council very little. Jos. was very good to our council and to our camps.
A building contractor from Syracuse, NY by the name of Peter Luchsinger, was hired to construct some buildings on the property. In 1962 he built the following buildings:Trout Ponds Commissary, Trout Ponds Directors Lodge, Reservation Headquarters, Generator Building (first one), Health Lodge, Three Island Commissary, Three Island Directors Lodge, Staff Cabin (west), Staff Cabin (east).
That same year (1962) the camp Beavers erected the 10,000 gallon water tank at a location between Trout Ponds Camp and Three Island Camp.
In 1964 “Pete” built the Reservation Directors Lodge, the Three Island Shower, The Trout Ponds Shower, The Chapel, The Family Building, and the Ranger’s Home. The latter on a site near the eastern property line, and one mile from the Reservation Office.
In 1965 Peter Luchsinger was hired as the Reservation Ranger. Pete and his wife, Dorothy, expected to be very lonely that first winter but they had more company than they really wanted.
The Gilwell Wood Badge was built near the Western property line in 1967, by Peter Luchsinger. That year the Camp Beavers built 3 small staff buildings which they called “Tebins” – wood cabins about the size of tents. The rifle range shelter was built in 1968 by The Camp Beavers.
The Ranger’s woodshed was built in 1969 by Pete. In 1969 a Coleman products dealer donated two Coleman 11” trailers without wheels, to pop-up the Council. These trailers were used for many years as overnight shelters for visiting V.I.P.’s.
In 1970 the Camp Beavers built another staff building as well as the storage building at the rifle range. That year Pete built the vehicle grease pit building, and a building in which to store paint.
Because of need for housing more staff families another mobile home was purchased in 1971 and used until 1978 when it was sold. The Camp Beavers built two larger staff family buildings in 1971, one of which was moved to the new family area in 1977. Pete built the beautiful chapel in 1971.
In 1973 the Camp Beavers built two office buildings – one for each camp. In 1975, a food service company was engaged to supply food to the troops for them to prepare. This resulted in much better food for the scouts as well as a monetary saving for the Council. In 1977, the Camp Beavers built a new larger generator house and the old one was turned into a paint storage building.
That year, Dick Bush, a contractor, built a large kitchen addition to the family building, now called the Staff Center. Dick also built a masonry building which contains showers, toilets, and laundry for the new family camping area. Dick also built a new family center building dedicated in 1978 as the “Cummins Family Center” because of the large donations by Ethel and Jerry Cummins, and the Gifford Foundation.
The family camping area has 49 camping sites for tent, trailer, or motor home camping, and is available to families of Scouters who are with their scout troops in camp.
The camp program is constantly being updated, and as a result is attracting much attention from other scout councils. Many scouts from these councils are enjoying a wonderful scouting experience in Sabattis Scout Reservation.
By Jerry Cummins
(The above account was written around 1980)
With the realization that an expanded camping program was an urgent need of the council’s scouting program, an intensive search for a suitable site covered several years and was eventually rewarded in 1957 by the discovery by Jim Stimson of some 5200 acres of Adirondack wilderness. With the approval of the Community Chest the property with its streams, lakes, forests and resultant wild life was purchased from The Hitchins Corporation, A. Augustus Low, president. For many years “Gus” Low was good friend and an ardent supporter of the camp and its program. The original estimate for the purchase and development of the site was $600,000.00 although subsequent improvements and development have far exceeded this figure. Credit must be given to those Scouters of that era whose vision and zeal saw to it that the new camp was developed into, and maintained as, one of the finest in scouting. We would be remiss in not remembering its guiding angel and initial director, Bill Wadsworth, camp committee chairmen Kip Clark and Newt White, Scout Executive Ernest Blanchard, as well as Jerry Cummins and longtime camp ranger Pete Luchsinger.
Sabattis Training Center, as it was then called, opened in 1958 on what is now known as the Trout Pond site. It was completely under canvas, including the commissary and headquarters facilities. It offered then, as now, a complete primitive camping experience based on basic scouting principals of patrol and troop unit programs supervised by experienced counselors and an intense recognition of all pertinent safety Regulations.
The establishment of a family camping program for the wives and children of adult Scouters with their troops went a long way toward solving the unit leadership problem. Tent and trailer sites, and tents were made available. A recreation building, a swimming beach, washing machines and a commissary are also provided.
A need was soon seen for some permanent buildings for maintenance, storage, administration, residential and health requirements. A central “reservation” building with a maintenance area, staff room, commissary storage and preparation room, and the central camp office, was erected along with residences for the reservation director and the Trout Ponds and Three Islands (more later) directors. Offices and commissaries were also built for each camp. The family recreation building previously mentioned with its laundry area, a ranger’s home and sundry other smaller buildings added immeasurably to the camp’s operations. One of these was the completion of a health lodge complete with residential quarters for the nurse and doctor in residence, a dispensary and several beds in an infirmary room. A chlorinated water system now serves the entire camp and the permanent buildings are supplied electricity from central generating plants.
Not long after the inaugural summer it was seen that the demand for camping had far outstripped the Trout Ponds site and a new site, Three Islands, was opened with identical facilities and general layout and program as the older site.
The original family camping site has recently been moved to a different area and a new recreation (family) building erected. The previous family building has been converted to a staff “R and R” retreat.
A number of these permanent buildings have been dedicated to various camp benefactors. Among them are: the main reservation building to Jim Stimson; the former family building to Dr. Nathan Wiseman; the new family building to the Cummins family (Jerry and Ethel).
A recent addition to the camp program was the institution of canoe and hiking trips of varying days duration. The location of the camp in the vicinity of splendid trails and waterways in the wilderness is most fortunate in this respect. Despite the many “improvements”, which, incidentally, leave the troop camping areas as primitive and as remote from “civilization” as they were in 1958, and despite some changes in program, Sabattis Scout Reservation continues to operate with the same goal and in the same basic approach as visualized by its founders; a full program of primitive wilderness scouting providing fun and development for the boys, and an increase of year round troop morale and activity – may it always be so.
By Per Lee Noxon
(The above account was written around 1980)
Since the two above accounts were written much has been done at Sabattis to improve it for the campers as well as the staff that works there.
In 1986 we sold Lows Lake and the wetlands to the south of it to the State of New York. This was a win-win situation for all parties. The state was able to open canoe passage to the Five Ponds Wilderness areas to the public and we still retained exclusive use of the islands in Lows Lake for camping in July and August.
In 1999 we upgraded the camp water system with the addition of a new water tank and also opened a new shower house for the use of the campers.
From 1990 through 1998 we were aligned with Otetiana Council and their camps and operating as a part of the Adirondack Scout Reservation. That relationship ended with our merger with Seaway Valley Council and with the addition of Camp Portaferry we now wholly own and operate the Adirondack Scout Camps.
This aerial view of Sabattis shows Big Hornet Pond in the lower right. The slim body of water above Big Hornet is Three Pound Pond and the large body of water in the upper left is Lows Lake. In the very bottom right you can see the Family Camp Recreation Building. The large structure near the center is the Reservation Administration building.
It is interesting to note that even though almost all of the camping and program areas are in this picture you can see none of them because we take being a wilderness high adventure camp seriously.
Many of the program areas have seen major improvements to provide a better area for camp activities. We’ve added a new rifle range, an obstacle course called Challenge Valley, a wind surfing program which was donated by Eastwood American Legion in Syracuse, and more. The out of camp canoeing and backpacking program has been formally named the ASC Treks and has received National Accreditation from the BSA.
As we move into the future we will keep pace with the needs of the campers and current with the Scouting program.
Ted Holz – Jan 2, 2000