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Arthur Conan Doyle Visited Lake George 100 Years Ago

By Joseph W. Zarzynski

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This spring, as Lake George businesses and residents gear up for the 2014 summer tourist season, folks might pause to take note of an important centennial anniversary. Early June 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and his wife, Jean, visiting Lake George. The celebrated Scottish physician and author was the creator of the world’s most famous literary detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his friend and chronicler, Dr. John Watson. Furthermore, Conan Doyle was the writer of several other noteworthy novels including The Lost World (1912), about a 20th century explorer, Professor Challenger, who discovered a mysterious colony of prehistoric dinosaurs and other exotic animals in the South American jungles.

The Conan Doyles traveled to Lake George from New York aboard a Delaware & Hudson Company train on the way to Montreal. From there the couple would journey west to the mountainous wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. In newspaper interviews, Conan Doyle stated they were traveling to Jasper Park in the province of Alberta to spend two weeks “roughing it.”

When the train arrived at Lake George on June 3, 1914, Conan Doyle reportedly stepped off the railway car and spent several minutes looking down the length of the waterway.  He then commented on its likeness to a setting in one of his recent books.

The Edinburgh-born writer compared the scenery of Lake George to that in his 1893-published novel, The Refugees: A Tale of Two Continents, (aka-The Refugees: A Tale of Huguenot Persecution). That book takes place in Europe and North America during the 17th century. Ironically, the sections in the book about North America have been complimentarily compared to the writings of James Fenimore Cooper, author of the 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans, about the August 1757 siege of Fort William Henry.

Lady Doyle added that Lake George’s scenery easily surpassed that of anything in England or Scotland.

The Conan Doyles stayed at the Fort William Henry Hotel at the south end of the lake. They took a ride upon Lake George on A. E. Conklin’s motorboat, Lenape. The couple also reportedly visited Bloody Pond, site of the September 8, 1755 massacre of British soldiers by French troops and their Native American allies at the Battle of Lake George.

Since the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887, Conan Doyle’s tales of the 221B Baker Street duo have been popular reading for generations of armchair sleuths. Recently, Conan Doyle’s literary creations, Holmes and Watson, have been featured in blockbuster movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, a British television and PBS series entitled “Sherlock,” whose first episode won a 2011 Peabody Award, and the current hit CBS television series, “Elementary.”

With the public’s ever growing fascination with the adventures of Holmes and Watson, it is gratifying to know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, architect of this mythology, once visited the “Queen of American Lakes,” 100 years ago.

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