Throughout 2019, in celebration of Adirondack Life’s 50th anniversary, we’re sharing an article per week from our archives—one for each year since 1970. Kathryn E. O’Brien, who wrote this Fall 1972 portrait of the Warren County Mounted Patrol—which is still active today—was best known as the author of The Great and the Gracious on Millionaire’s Row, a 1978 book about Lake George’s grand mansions and their owners.
No sight compels more admiration than a smartly uniformed man riding a spirited horse; and when that one is multiplied 25 times, you have the Warren County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol. The organization was founded 16 years ago through the vision of the late Carl McCoy, then Sheriff of Warren County, and a group of enthusiastic horsemen who saw this as a unique opportunity to be of service to the area. They have been called upon to handle increased traffic during holidays; to assist in finding lost persons; to patrol camps closed during the winter months; to act as honorary escorts for visiting celebrities; to search the mountains for downed airplanes; and often to act as “extra man” in the Sheriff’s patrol cars.
Men who join the Patrol are required to be residents of Warren County, to be of good character, and to own and maintain their uniforms, horses, trailers, tack, and equipment at their own expense. Applications for membership must be approved by the governing body of the Patrol and by the Sheriff. Opportunities are offered for schooling in legal procedures, first aid, advanced horsemanship, ballistics, and woodsmanship. Each man, on admission to the organization, is deputized, fingerprinted, and bonded.
Since Warren County is a resort area, Patrol members are called upon to direct traffic at weekly rodeos and to handle the crowds that swarm into various entertainment spots. One of their more glamorous assignments occurred about 11 years ago when several Hollywood celebrities, including Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, and Ed Wynn, were due to arrive at Warren County Airport for the filming of “Marjorie Morningstar.” A crowd of 4,000 people assembled to meet the plane which proved to be several hours late. At the cry of “Here it comes!” the crowd jostled and pushed toward the runway, and it took all the skill of the mounted men to control them. Riding their horses under the very wings of the plane and close to the roaring motors, the Mounted Patrol made a corridor through which the stars passed safely to their waiting limousine. “We never saw anything like it,” one of the film party remarked later to the Patrol Captain. “If it hadn’t been for your men, some of those souvenir hunters would have stripped us of everything we were wearing.
Many Patrol members are woodsmen with special aptitudes and knowledge of the Adirondacks. Some have worked in logging camps; others have hunted and fished in the territory for years; one is a lumber dealer intimately acquainted with the source of his supply; another, a game warden with the State Conservation Department, has extensive knowledge of the Adirondacks. When a man drowned in Siamese Pond, a remote spot in the Adirondacks, the Patrol was called in. Leaving their cars and trailers at Bakers Mills, they rode for 10 miles over a nearly impassable forest trail, over the dry bed of a brook strewn with boulders, and at times with no trail at all. Over this rocky terrain, they packed in equipment which included oxygen tanks for the divers, and food and supplies for the State Troopers and others in the recovery operation.
An annual summer activity, Trail Days, was first instituted by the Patrol nine years ago and since then has been a focal point of the year’s planning, bringing horsemen into the area from all over New York and adjoining states.
A few years ago, the Warren County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol cooperated with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in assembling information on the number of saddle horses owned in New York State, and the interest of the owners in using horse trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The information gathered led to the establishing of trails for horseback riding, pack trips, and overnight camping facilities in the forest preserve areas.
One trail dearest to the hearts of the Patrol is the 32.1 mile trek into the Cold River area, located in southern Franklin and the northern part of Essex Counties and passing near Couchsachraga Peak, ancient hunting ground of the Iroquois. This trail has several lean-to sites for riders and stabling for horses. A side trip leads to the area formerly occupied by the Adirondack hermit, Noah Rondeau.
Further up the trail at Duck Hole on Preston Pond is a Ranger’s Station and large building where, if requested, shelter can be provided for a large group. This facility was used in mid-October, 1965, when State officials conducted a trail ride over what was then called “The Cold River Pilot Project.” Riding the trail were Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, his brother, Laurance, the Conservation Commissioner, Dr. Wilm, and others in the party. Attending as advisors to the Department were Spencer LaRure, Edward Malcolm, and Ray Munton of the Patrol. Later, following completion of the trail, the Bureau of Forest Recreation published an illustrated brochure for the Patrol’s Trail Days, June, 1967, in which the Cold River Project was described in detail, and the following tribute paid to the Patrol:
“Founded in 1956, the Warren County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol has been active in their efforts to assist the Sheriff of Warren County in making it a safe and pleasant place in which to live.
“This organization played an important part in the initial planning of the now popular horse trail complex in the Adirondacks and assisted in establishing Statewide policies and objectives for other similar networks. Without this assistance the development of these facilities would have been extremely difficult.
“The New York State Conservation Department wishes to extend its appreciation for this support and is delighted to be able to take a small part in your Trail Days-1967.”
Captained by George E. McGowan of Lake George, the Patrol is now at its full complement of uniformed men, mounted and ready to assist whenever called upon by their Chief, Sheriff William T. Carboy. They have served the County and the Adirondacks well, and continue ready to carry out the principles on which the organization is founded. Their flag, appropriately, shows a horse’s head against a background of blue and gold. Long may it wave!