Amazing Graves

Horatio Averill

Amazing Graves: Ghosts of Sand Lake

Horatio Averill stone (A. Mace photo)
[click on any image to see a larger version]

Horatio Averill (A. Mace photo)I have lain here many years, and generations of forgetfulness have eroded the knowledge of who I was and what I accomplished. I commend to your attention the words of one of our Fireside Poets, the great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote,

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime and,
Departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Averill Park HotelI have made some of those footprints myself. Born in 1834, by my early 20s I had become a lawyer. Though I practiced law in New York City, I often returned to my boyhood haunts in Sand Lake and, encouraged by my father’s success in developing parcels of land, I became a landowner of some distinction myself. I have heard from the whispers of those who have gathered near my eternal resting place that my hotel burned down several decades after I passed and that there is now, on that land, something called the Church of the Covenant.

As a lawyer, of course, covenants were part of my business and daily discourse, so when, during a trip to the Sand Lake area, I came across a letter intended for the family of a runaway slave, my duty was clear. The slave, Charles Nalle, had escaped from his master in Virginia and had been employed in Troy. While some have argued otherwise, property rights of all sorts are one of the foundations on which our great country was built, and I acquainted the slave’s owner with all the information he needed to effect an arrest of Nalle, so that the slave could be returned to his rightful place in Virginia.

But a wrathful crowd, apparently dazzled by the rhetoric of Harriet Tubman and others, snatched Nalle from the authorities—not once, but twice. A close friend informed me of the mob’s anger toward me, and I was able to secure a rig from a livery stable in Troy and return to the relative safety of Sand Lake. Those fools have no concept of the importance of property rights.

part of the Averill family plot (A. Mace photo)Sunset Lodge, home of Horatio Averill on Burden Lake RoadMy later years included a move to West Virginia, where I founded both a coal and oil company and Raymond City. Returning to New York City, my status as an eminent attorney grew, and I was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. A few years before my death, which occurred in 1887, the village in which my hotel was located was, I believe appropriately, renamed Averill Park.

To my everlasting irritation, however, it was not Longfellow who was quoted as I lay in state. Instead, a stranger—probably one of the rabble who helped Nallestopped near my casket and, in a disrespectful, sarcastic manner, intoned a few words from the poet Shelley:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

[Eric Washburn wrote the above and portrayed Horatio Averill. Photos on this page by Andrew Mace.]

Watch a video of the above: Eric Washburn as Averill. Thanks to Jim Powers for making these videos possible!

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The official logo of the Sand Lake Historical Society November 30, 2017 -- asm © 2018 Sand Lake Historical Society; all rights reserved.