Now to a brief run in with the Whitney Estate…..Whitney constructed a ten foot high steel fence around his estate game preserve with mesh openings 8 x 4 inches, with chestnut posts placed every twenty feet. Even to 1975 lumbermen occasionally found traces of this fence in the big trees as we did hiking. One side of this game preserve was right across the road from the main house. Once a week and after every storm, the fences were always inspected.
In 1897 Mr. Whitney imported from Wyoming a buffalo herd of eight cows and five bulls. They arrived at Lenox Station in two railroad cars and were transported up the steep, thousand foot rise to the preserve in huge crates drawn by four-horse teams. The king of the herd was the big bull “Apache”, the largest buffalo bull in the world. “Apache” was afterwards sent to the Bronx Zoo where he met his death. The buffalo thrived well on the grass and blackberry bushes, and in winter were brought into an enclosure and fed with hay, well filled with brambles which they liked to chew. Each buffalo was estimated to be worth at least $500.
Mr. Whitney began collecting elk until he had 180 head at one time, beautiful creatures but dangerous, especially in the breeding season of October and November. When even this large enclosure could not feed so many elk, some were captured and sent to his estate in the Adirondacks. The men had quite a struggle getting the animals into shipping crates.
In 1901, he added to his preserve ten of the rare black tailed deer. He also bought several head of Virginia deer. Some antelope arrived but could not withstand the severe Berkshire winter. In 1902 two pair of two year old moose from Canada appeared. These were given an enclosure of their own in the valley and seemed to enjoy the dense woods and deep valley. When the estate was abandoned, the big game was shipped to New York or sent to Austin Corbin’s New Hampshire preserve. The moose were so wild and hard to capture that they were allowed to remain, as were the deer. Eventually, years later, only “Old Bill” was still around.
Old Bill wandered at will through the whole area, sauntering down the main street of Lee, or appearing at intervals outside the original estate and calmly allowing people to stare at his vast bulk. Courtesy of History of Washington 200th year.
Flash hike Saturday with Mr. Tom Hoffman as our guide into the history of the Navin name at October Mountain State Forest, largest in the State! You may all know about the Whitney Estate, but on the Lee/Washington line along West Branch lies much more. Here the original Washington settlers built sawmills, barns and made a hard living farming. The route we took from parking at the 4-corners: West Branch Road to the cemetery, past Washington Mountain Marsh Trail, onto the Navin Trail, past Spruce to Tannery Trail where the Navin homestead lies then Navin Falls, and heard moose. 2.5 miles in and back. Afterwards we took a scenic loop thru gate 7 to County Road around October Mountain Reservoir and back on Lenox-Whitney Place Road and of course drove to the Anderson vista. 7.5 miles. Just a fraction of the trails to explore here. All site detailed posts to follow.
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