Alexandria Bay - Upon the death of Charles Crossmon on Saturday,Feb. 7, 1892, The Utica Daily Press carried the notice of his death, and the following account of the man himself. "The founder and senior proprietor of the famous St. Lawrence River hotel of that name passed away Saturday at the age of 75 years," the account began that appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 8, 1892 edition.
Every one who has visited the St. Lawrence River knows of the Crossmon House at Alexandria Bay. It is probably the most widely known of any of the hotels along the river. The man who established it was Charles Crossmon. He went to Alexandria Bay in 1848. The place was then a little hamlet containing not more than a hundred souls.
The people were mostly engaged in getting out cord wood which was used as fuel by the steamers plying up and down the river. Mr. Crossmon was a Watertown man. He was born in that place in 1817, and learned the builder's trade which he followed for a number of years after reaching manhood. He went to Alexandria Bay with the definite purpose of establishing a hotel there. Nothing of the kind existed then.
Parties of fishermen used to come during the summer season and they desired accommodations. Mr. Crossmon commenced in a small way. The building which he first secured had ten rooms and about twenty guests could be cared for. There was nothing to indicate in those early days that the St. Lawrence would become within the century the resort of thousands from all parts of the country every summer.
There was no railroad nearer than Utica. People used to come up the canal to Oswego and thence down Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence to Montreal. Travel was, howsoever, limited. The Thousand Islands region did not grow in popularity in a day. The thing which gave it a boom was the building of the Utica & Black River Railroad.
As the number of visitors increased each year Mr. Crossmon continued to enlarge his hotel until now the establishment is capable of accommodating 300 guests, and its departments give employment to a force of about 80.
Mr. Crossmon believed in the future of Alexandria Bay. He had more faith than some of his neighbors. They thought his building operations wild and warned him that ruin would follow. But he was not deterred and lived to reap the reward of this wise foresight.
Things were very shaky in the time of the Civil War. Being situated so close to Canada, many in Alexandria Bay anticipated that the Government would be defeated. Mr. Crossmon believed in the Union cause and its ultimate triumph. When others were almost throwing away the paper money issued by the Government, Mr. Crossmon treasured it.
He bought for $300 forty acres of and in and about Alexandria Bay. From this tract he sold village lots for many times more than he paid for the whole and yet retained possession of more than half of the land. It was during the war that Mr. Crossmon laid the foundation of the fortune which he amassed. He was shrewd and always ready to seize opportunities.
To the management of the hotel he gave his personal attention. The success that attended his efforts is shown in the fame that the establishment has secured. "It was always my aim," Mr. Crossmon once said to the writer, "to attract the very best class of people. I always made it a point to see that every guest got fair treatment, and that nothing should be lacking that would give all a good opinion of my house. If a man stayed with me once, I wanted to use him to tell that he would come again and send his friends. That was the way I advertised, and a way that surely pays in the end.
"I have had people coming here year after year for 20 and 30 years. Merritt Peckham of Utica came here regularly every summer for years. I could mention many others." Of the distinguished men who stopped under Mr. Crossmon's roof might be mentioned men whose names are familiar everywhere. Martin VanBuren, Horatio Seymour, Chester Arthur, Roscoe Conkling, Francis Spinner and scores of men prominent in the affairs of the State and nation were his guests.
They tell pretty good stories about fishing in the St. Lawrence now, but in the days when Mr. Crossmon's hotel was young the fishing was something wonderful. No fish were ever kept on hand. If a party came and wanted a fish dinner, Mr. Crossmon would simply send a man out in a boat and within a short time he would return with sufficient supply.
Farmers would come in from the country with a bushel of wheat in a bag. Any oarsman would row them around all day for that amount of grain
Before the war, the vessels on the lakes and river were mostly American bottoms. There was quite a fleet of them. They were all built of wood. When the war came on, they were purchased by the Government, and the Canadians thus secured the opportunity of getting a monopoly in the business which they have since enjoyed to such an extent.
In the 40 years and more in which Mr. Crossmon was engaged in the hotel business at Alexandria Bay he witnessed many changes. From a wild and uninhabited region, he saw the islands of the river transformed by degrees in the most delightful summer homes. Mr. Crossmon believed that the area was yet in store for still greater things.
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