I recently followed a beautiful trail that led me to discover the Macsherry family. The adventure, ever-so-appropriately, began with a nature trail named after them.
First the Trail…
It was Labor Day. Summer was pretty much winding down. Tourists were heading home. Kids were bemoaning the fact that school would be starting the next day. But Bob and I had the week off and we planned to enjoy every crowd-free River moment we could squeeze in. Having pretty much grown-up spending summers at the River, I was pretty hard pressed to come up with anything we hadn't done countless times before. But then it hit me that the one thing we had never done was just miles from camp. I am almost embarrassed to admit that we had somehow talked ourselves out of any previous notions we had of stopping there, especially since we have practically been driving by the entrance for over 25 years; but Labor Day took us down a whole new path - a path that led us straight to the Macsherry Trail.
It was a gorgeous day so we packed our lunch and headed down the road to finally see it for ourselves. We were stunned at how beautiful this hidden Thousand Islands gem is! The Macsherry Trail is located on the Crooked Creek Preserve, in the town of Hammond. You can find it by taking Rt. 12 to the Kring Point State Park exit, and turning north toward the River. Take an immediate right onto Indian Point Road; you will find a parking area in less than a mile on the right. The land is owned by the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT). It got its name because it was donated to TILT by the children of Dick and Mary Macsherry in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary (I'll get back to the Macsherrys shortly). The Macsherry Trail is open year-round to the public, for hiking, exploring and enjoying some inspiringly lovely scenery.
The trail begins on Indian Point Road, in Hammond. Passing beaver ponds and meandering through various terrains and wooded areas, it ends at Crocked Creek, with the prize of the hike being a magnificent view of the River, before circling back to the trailhead. The Macsherry Trail consists of 1.5 mile and a 3 mile loops that wind through wetlands and woods along Crooked Creek. Crooked Creek Preserve is one of the largest Class 1 wetlands along the St. Lawrence River and has been designated as an area of international significance, by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The trail was built on the site of an old Boy Scout Camp which was no longer in use. In 1998, Dick and Mary Macsherry celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Their three children wanted to do something extra special for them. Knowing their parents love nature, they called TILT to see if there were any projects that needed funding (note that the entire Macsherry family is also extremely well known for their charitable giving - but I'll get back to that shortly, as well). TILT suggested the hiking trail at their newly acquired Crooked Creek Preserve. What could have been more perfect? As Molly Macsherry MacWade explained: "Both of [our great-] grandparents started coming to the River in the 1800s and it has been part of our lives ever since. The River and the Islands and the land are home to us. It seemed only fitting that we named one of the TILT Trails after our parents. We cherish this place as we cherish our family."
The work began on the trail the following year with the help of over 30 other nature-loving volunteers. They constructed a parking lot at the trailhead, cleaned-up the area where the Boy Scout camp had fallen to ruin, and with the help of a matching grant, designed informational panels with a trail guide researched by Julie Covey, Executive Director of Ontario Bays Initiative (OBI), with assistance from ornithologist Gerry Smith and naturalist Peter O'Shea.
The project was completed in 2000 and the opening ceremony, for what was appropriately named the Macsherry Trail, took place in August of 2000. The ceremony was attended by the Macsherry family themselves, and those who helped make it possible. TILT describes the celebration on their website: "Bob Rush, former owner of 850 acres of Crooked Creek Preserve, purchased by TILT (with funding provided by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Sweetwater Trust, Ducks Unlimited and through contributions made by area residents) gave a short history on the area and Dick Macsherry added some tales as well. The informational panels, created by Bob McNamara, were revealed and, in 2002, Morristown craftsman Don Potter donated his time towards creating a cedar kiosk to hold the panels."
Hence, it is a little embarrassing to admit that it wasn’t until last summer (almost 14 years later) that Bob and I packed our picnic lunch and went the short distance from our camp to experience the Macsherry Trail for ourselves.
We walked only a short distance, down a grassy path, before arriving at a stunning view and a bench, just perfect for a picnic lunch, overlooking a tranquil pond. After that, we ventured on, and came to where the trail split, allowing us to choose between the long and short version of the Macsherry experience. When we first headed down the path, we were planning on doing the shorter route. However, we were so intrigued by the natural beauty, along with the description of the longer loop, that we couldn’t help but do the full three mile route and we are so glad that we did. The winding path took us through what seemed like an unending variety of environments, twists and turns following the well-marked trail. We walked through forests, crossed small creeks, saw all kinds of flora and fauna, and of course took lots of pictures.
The prize, for us, came about half-way through the walk when we suddenly stepped-out of the thickly wooded area and arrived at the edge of the lovely Crooked Creek. We then wound our way back to our car, with our cameras loaded with happy memories taken at just about every step along the way.
Then the Macsherrys
After such a delightful walk (which we promised ourselves we would be doing more often), I was curious to know more about the Macsherry family. The trail is not the only place in the area to be named after them. The Alexandria Bay Library also bears their name. And River Hospital dedicated their Emergency Department in the memory of Mary Macsherry. So, I decided to do a little trail blazing of my own to see what else I could find out about this family.
I very quickly discovered that the Macsherrys are extremely well known throughout the North Country for their generosity. Richard R. Macsherry is a Former Trustee Emeritus of the Watertown Savings Bank Inc., in Watertown. He and his wife Mary were married for 64 years and spent those years giving back to causes in Watertown and in the area of their summer home in Alexandria Bay. They provided funding, for example, in 1997 to build the Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay. In 2010, they gave $1 million to establish an 11,000-square-foot addition, the Macsherry Parish Center, at Trinity Episcopal Church, which they attended. The Watertown Times appropriately referred to this generous couple as philanthropists ( See http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20121213/NEWS03/712139840). The article went on to explain how the Macsherrys have created numerous endowment funds for various area organizations, including the Jefferson Community College Foundation, United Way of Northern New York, Samaritan Medical Center, Hospice of Jefferson County, Trinity Episcopal Church, Macsherry Library, River Hospital, Clayton Opera House and the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.
For every donation they made, Richard and Mary Macsherry always talked them over first and agreed on the causes they both felt were worthwhile. As Richard put it, “We always had to agree on everything…But we didn’t like the publicity; we got our own satisfaction by doing the things we did.” Jayn M. Graves, of the United Way, said the Macsherrys were always private about gifts they made. “In addition to all of the known acts we can recount, I think we’ll never know how much they gave because I know they made many anonymously to people in need.” That reminds me of these familiar words: “When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (Matt 6:3-4).
The Rev. Mr. French of Trinity Episcopal Church stated that “the Macsherrys sincerely believed they had an obligation to give back according to their means and viewed giving to their community as a long-term partnership, not a one-time offer.” When Mary Macsherry passed away in 2012, Mr. Macsherry gave $1 million to Samaritan Medical Center, Hospice of Jefferson County, Trinity Episcopal Church and River Hospital, Alexandria Bay in remembrance of his wife.
River Hospital wrote the following in their 2014 Annual Report after receiving yet another gift from Richard: “The memory of Mary Macsherry lives on throughout the North country and at River Hospital through her altruistic lifestyle and the continued benevolence of her husband, Richard R Macsherry. In addition to their many diversified acts of philanthropy, Mr. Macsherry provided River Hospital with a considerable gift in honor of Mrs. Macsherry's legacy in 2012. In turn, River Hospital dedicated the Emergency Room in memory of Mary Macsherry. This gift allowed River Hospital to further its mission to provide compassionate, cost effective and accessible primary health care to the River Communities. Mr. Macsherry’s continued embodiment of his wife's humanitarian work and kindness is appreciated by many but especially by River Hospital. Last fall Mr. Macsherry demonstrated his generosity once again. As River Hospital moved forward, with plans to incorporate a second and much needed elevator, the expenses were overwhelming. Without hesitation he came forward and graciously offered to supply River Hospital with the necessary funds. River Hospital is grateful to have such a dedicated individual, with an innate sense of civic duty in our midst. These contributions have made a lasting impression on the River Communities.”
Not surprisingly, their family has carried on the Macsherry giving tradition. Their daughter, who became an Episcopalian Priest, said she has always emulated her mother as a philanthropist. The Rev. Mrs. Macsherry MacWade said “My whole life, I learned giving back was important, and it never occurred to me to do it any other way. That’s the way my parents taught me to live.” And of course, one example of this family tradition was their gift of the Macsherry Trail.
And speaking of happy trails that end with a beautiful view, I am reminded of these precious words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23).
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Macsherry for your example of generosity to us all. I hope to meet you both one day at the trail’s end.
By Patricia Mondore
Patty Mondore and her husband, Bob, are summer residents of the Thousand Islands. Patty is a published author and a singer/song writer. Her most recent books include “River Reflections: A 90-Day Devotional for People Who Love the Water” and its sequel, “Nature Reflections: A 90-Day Devotional for People Who Love Nature.” Her other books include” River-Lations: Inspirational stories and photos from the Thousand Islands,” and “A Good Paddling, Proclaim His Praise in the Islands, and Perennial Faith.” She and Bob, co-authored “Singer Castle,” and “Singer Castle Revisited” published by Arcadia Publishing, and co-produced Dark Island’s “Castle of Mysteries” documentary DVD, in addition to a Thousand Islands music DVD trilogy. Patty is a contributing writer for the “Thousand Islands Sun”. Her column, "River-Lations", appears in the Vacationer throughout the summer months. The Mondores are online at www.gold-mountain.com.
See Patty Mondore’s articles – and more