In the Gilded Age, as now, American’s love sports; hotels, clubs, and communities had teams. The Thousand Islands region was no exception especially during the influx of summer residents. Competitive sports included golf, tennis, yachting, swimming, motorboat racing, and baseball.
America’s past-time, is now and was, in the Gilded Age of the Thousand Islands, baseball. The whole region, both sides of the border, had their favorite teams. As each team formed it would challenge the others to meet them on the diamond.
The New Frontenac Hotel was no exception and as with everything else at the New Frontenac their team had to be the best. C. G. Emery’s New Frontenac was a world class hotel and Emery would settle for nothing less than a world class baseball team. Leagues were formed, but it wasn’t until R. W. Lyon, the manager of the New Frontenac Team, decided to organize the St. Lawrence River League in 1905 that the competition really heated up. The League included teams from the New Frontenac, Thousand Island Park, Edgewood, Westminster, Lotus, Murray Hill, Alexandria Bay, Kingston, Gananoque, Clayton and Cape Vincent.
The New Frontenac’s Team was organized for the purpose of providing uniforms and other equipment for the team in 1905. C. G. Trussell, hotel manager, was elected president and Robert Jenkins, treasurer and manager. Barnabie Hogan, Williams College 1906, was elected captain. The team started raising money and had contributions in excess of $100 within minutes. Uniforms were ordered, and the team played two games per week the first season.
The New Frontenac Team as well as other teams in the River League was made up of mostly area high school players and college students home for the summer. The biggest rivalry was between the Thousand Island Park Team (AKA: Columbian Hotel Team) and the New Frontenac. T. I. Park defeated Frontenac by 11 to 4 at the end of the 1903 season, which enflamed a rivalry that would continue until fire destroyed the New Frontenac in 1911. The T. I. Park – Frontenac games were very popular; at one afternoon game on August 10, 1905 the Steamer New Island Wanderer delivered 300 fans from T. I. Park to Frontenac.
This report from the Syracuse Herald, 31 July 1902, gives a glance at a game:
The baseball game between the Frontenacers and the Thousand Islands Park team caused intense excitement on Round Island today (30 July 1902). The locals won by a score of 21 to 13.
Bevies of charming girls in red and white costumes came over from the Park and waved flags and cheered their team throughout the game. The girls from Frontenac were not outdone by the visitors and never before has any Thousand Island resort been the scene of such an exciting game as the Frontenac grounds witnessed this afternoon.
In the first inning the Parkers made a run. The Frontenac boys came to the bat and before the smoke had cleared away had placed ten runs to their credit, knocking both Knapp and Runyom from the box. (Tommy) Zimmerman went in and finished the game. Pell and Frosythe supplanted Donaldson in the box for Frontenac after the sixth.
The Park team made five runs in that inning and their opponents immediately duplicated their score.
At the end of the ninth inning the score was 21 to 13 in favor of the Frontenac team. A return game will be played at the Park next week.
The long yell, “C-O-L-U-M-B-I-A-N,” of the Parkers ran out against the “Boom-a-lacka—Boom-a-lacka” of the supporters of the home team. [Sic]
The New Frontenac Team often played against guests. Interest in these games was described as enthusiastic, by both groups. The Order of the Blue Goose, a fraternal organization of persons in the insurance industry, met at the New Frontenac in August 1910 as part of the New York State Fire Underwriters Association annual convention. The Order of the Blue Goose Team played the Frontenac team.
A baseball game was played each year on the Fourth of July between the guests and the staff at the New Frontenac. In 1904, A. Campbell Smith of New York was captain of the guest team and Carl Kennedy of Clayton for the Hotel employees. As many quests returned each summer to the the hotel, the games were anticipated by both sides.
Other occasions prompted championship games. On August 26 and 27, 1907, Antwerp, New York held its annual Field Days including a battle between the St. Lawrence County Champion and the Jefferson County Champion. On the 26th a game was played between Rensselser Falls and Canton to determine the St. Lawrence County Champion, the following day the Frontenac Team as the Jefferson County Champion was to play the winner. The purse was an astounding $50.00.
The 150 foot Coast Guard Cutter (AKA: Revenue Cutter) Morrill anchored off Round Island on August 9, 1911. The crew would play the Frontenac Team on the 10th. The cutter had seen service in the Eastern States as well as being seconded to the US Navy for service between Florida and Cuba during the Spanish American War. It was now stationed in Milwaukee and in addition to its regular duties it patrolled various boating events and races.
The 1909 Frontenac Team was probably the strongest ever fielded in the River League. The team was made up of players like William Bailey, formerly of the Boston Nationals, as manager and first base, Oran Chafee formerly of the New England League, and Frank Losey formerly of the Hudson River League. The Grindstone Island “All Collegiates” did not play for a hotel, but they did play the Frontenac Team in August 1909; Frontenac won by 8 to 1.
The tragic fire that consumed the New Frontenac on August 24, 1911, heralded the end of the Gilded Age and the New Frontenac Baseball Team. Events often appear in themselves to be the agent of change, but the reality is different. Events like the New Frontenac Fire are bookmarks in history; they mark the spot in time when suddenly we realize that the world is changing around us. We often think that in some way the past was a better time a simpler time, a happier time.
By Rexford M. Ennis, Grindstone Island
© Copyright Rexford M. Ennis 2010, All Rights Reserved
Rex Ennis has written several articles for TI Life. His bio is recorded in Contributors in December, 2008. In the past two years Rex has published two important books on the Thousand Islands. The first , published in 2010 is Toujours Jeune Always Young the biography of Charles G. Emery. It was reviewed in June 2010 issue. The second, Saints, Sinners and Sailors of the Gilded Age: A compendium of biographical sketches centered on the Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands which describes the biographies of every name appearing on a 1889 map published by Frank H. Taylor called: Map of the Thousand Islands; Hotels, Parks and Cottages. See the book review in our July 2011 issue and you will find the map in the August 2011 issue.