Dr. Benjamin Brandreth’s Universal Vegetable Pills

I recently went to my grandmother’s funeral in Vermont and I thought some of my grandmother’s family history would be interesting to legal readers.

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Caroline “Joyce” Knepper was born to Ivan L. Stanton and Marion Ida Hunter on December 28, 1930.  Her first home was a cabin on Brandreth Lake. Eighteen months later, she became a big sister when her brother, Emlon, made his appearance. Her father, Ivan Stanton was an Adirondack guide and caretaker of the Brandreth family’s rural 30,000 acre retreat. Her mother, Marion Hunter, was a homemaker at the family’s Brandreth Lake home. When Joyce was growing up on Brandreth Lake, the only way to reach her house was by a train to Brandreth station, and then switching to station wagon for the long 7.5 mile trip down the unpaved road. In the winter, the family’s home  was only accessible on horseback or by sleigh.

Joyce was homeschooled by her mother at their kitchen table. On Sundays, they sat in the living room listening to a church service on the radio. Summers were spent swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and picnicking. She enjoyed picking blueberries and making homemade ice cream with ice that had been cut from the lake and stored in sawdust in the ice house. One of her fondest childhood memories was riding the railroad handcar to a fishing spot known as “St. Agnes’ Chapel.” In the winter, the family would ice fish and spent many long hours snowshoeing through the trails.

Rural living had its drawbacks, though. When Joyce was seven, her appendix ruptured. Her parents put a mattress in the station wagon and drove to the nearest train station, where they had to a take a train to get to the nearest hospital. The family moved to Worcester, Vermont soon after that, enabling the children to attend public school and have other children for friends for the first time. Later, my great-uncle Emlon would take over as caretaker and guide at Brandreth.

Here’s a little bit of history about the Brandreth Park, where my grandmother grew up:

Brandreth Park is the oldest family-owned forest preserve in the state of New York. Wikipedia entry here.

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Dr.  BenjaminBrandreth was born in England and came to this country in 1835. He was the son-in-law of an English apothecary who developed and patented the first laxative pill, thereby creating the family’s fortune. In 1851 Dr. Benjamin Brandreth, having made a fortune with his “Brandreth’s Universal Vegetable Pills”, bought Township 39 in Hamilton County  of upstate New York, consisting of 24,000 acres (97 km2) in the Adirondacks  of New York State; he paid 15 cents an acre. In this manner he established “Brandreth Park,” the first private preserve in the future Adirondack Park.  Included on the property is 890-acre (3.6 km2) “Brandreth Lake.” Consequently, Hamilton County is one of the least densely populated counties in the eastern United State. The property is mountainous and heavily forested.

A joint venture between Thomas Allcock and Dr. Brandreth led to the development of the Allcock Porous Plaster company in Ossining, NY (known historically as the village of “Sing Sing”). The name of the firm eventually changed to Allcock Manufacturing. After Brandreth’s death, control of the firm eventually moved to his great-grandson, Fox Brandreth Conner, who began manufacturing animal traps along with pills and plasters. After a pause in production for World War II, production of the traps resumed and the Havahart brand became a registered trademark. Conner sold the pill and plaster business in the 1960s thus ending Brandreth’s medical legacy, but continued making the Havahart traps. In 1979 the Havahart trap business was sold to the Woodstream Corporation of Lititz, Pennsylvania, and the remaining property in Ossining was sold to Filex Steel Products Company. The remaining 34 employees in Ossining were offered jobs in Pennsylvania with the new owner, but many retired, thus ending the 142-year legacy of Brandreth’s enterprise

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This undated photo is from my grandmother’s papers shows the plant in Sing Sing:

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My great-grandfather once made breakfast for General Patton, who came to Brandreth Park to meet with Fox Conner. There is an interesting article here about Brandreth’s role in the war.

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A building on Brandreth Lake, pictured above.

Here are some of photos from my family’s collection showing fun times at Brandreth:

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I think this might actually be my great-grandfather, but it’s hard to tell with the hat on.

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Throughout its ownership by the Brandreth family, the property has been managed in a way to preserve as much as possible its native character. In order to preserve the property’s primitive character, all development is limited to the north end of Brandreth Lake, and no motor boats are allowed on the lake. The family anticipated the concept of cluster development which became popular in the 1990s by concentrating all building on the north side of the lake, thereby ensuring pristine views toward the south. Property owners, all descendants of Dr. Brandreth, need to apply to the building committee of the Brandreth Park Association before building.

The property was not logged for many years, as the family desired to maintain it in a primitive condition. However in 1911-1919, a softwood harvest was performed by the Mac-a-Mac Lumber Corporation, of which John N. McDonald and Benjamin Brandreth McAlpin, son of Gen. Edwin A. McAlpin, were principals. This first harvest was extensive, with between 30-35 railcars of spruce logs shipped daily to the St Regis Paper Company’s plant in Deferiet. Additionally, Mac-a-Mac was storing an additional 70 carloads of cut logs in ponds and lakes for later transport off the property. A second harvest took place in the mid-1920s. Since then the family has permitted occasional selective harvesting.

In the 1950s, the Brandreths sold 6,000 acres (24 km2) and donated an additional 9,000 acres (36 km2) to Syracuse University while retaining recreational usage rights in perpetuity. Around this time the family created the Brandreth Park Association to provide a vehicle for each family member to have a voice in the management of the property, and to help pay for taxes and other operating costs. In 1992, the Association enrolled the property under the New York State Forest Tax Law which provides for an 80% exemption from property taxes in exchange for a commitment to sustainable timber production. In 2007, some members of the family established a nonprofit organization known as the Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station in order to preserve and protect the land adjacent to present-day Brandreth Park, on which the family still retains recreational rights. This tract was last owned by the Nature Conservancy.  The Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station makes the Shingle Shanty property available to outside parties for research subject to permit.

So, now you know something you probably didn’t know before!

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