Cranberry Lake tied to Park history

In Philip Terrie’s article “The Battle of 1915” [May/ June 2015], I was particularly interested in the mention of James S. Whipple, former chief of the Forest, Fish, and Game Commission (now the Department of Environmental Conservation). Whipple is no stranger to those of us here at Cranberry Lake.

A land-investment company was formed here in 1902 called the Bear Mountain Park Association. It bought a large tract of land on Cranberry Lake and had it platted and subdivided into lots. Their property included Birch Island, and that island was the first piece of property they sold (in 1903). The purchaser was none other than James S. Whipple, in partnership with Ernest D. Holdridge.

James Whipple was born in 1852 in Cattaraugus County. His father, Henry Francisco Whipple, served in the New York 154th Volunteers in the Civil War. He fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, where he was taken prisoner by Confederate soldiers. Sergeant H. F. Whipple was eventually transferred to the infamous Andersonville Prison, where he died of starvation in July 1864. His widow raised their six children.

James S. Whipple wrote prolifically on conservation topics as varied as boar hunting, lumbering, and the future of the Adirondack Park, which also included a literary battle waged in the pages of Forest and Stream magazine about the legality of state land sales at Ampersand Pond. There is a memorial tablet honoring Whipple on the summit of Whiteface Mountain.

Whipple’s son Gurth was also a conservationist and author in his own right. His book Fifty Years of Conservation in New York State, 1885-1935, was called at the time “probably the most concise and complete work on the history of conservation in New York State” by fellow author (and fellow Cranberry Laker) Charles A. Sleicher. The younger Whipple was at one time dean of the College of Forestry at Syracuse.

Old-timers at Cranberry Lake once referred to Birch Island as “Whipple’s Island,” a moniker I first learned from my grandfather back when I was but a child.

Mark Friden, Cranberry Lake
The writer is Clifton town historian.

Reader Interactions


  1. Allison says


    I’m a decedent of the Whipple family and grew up in Gowanda N.Y. the town has two counties Cattaraugus and Erie County. In fact I even had a classmate Jamie who was a Whipple! Lol

    Anyways my family also resided
    on Cranberry lake. My grandfather is Richard (Dick) Murray. When I was about 8 he sold the property back to a Whipple decedent in the 1980’s. My aunt Nancy Murray Dematteo bought and built a cabin, but in the not to recent past sold the property.

    We will be renting 3 properties this summer from the 24th of July to the 31st. It’s sort of like a family reunion where my aunt and mother Lynne will be gathering.

    It would be wonderful to further connect ties to the lake and to the Whipple family!



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