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Lake Mohonk means much to New Paltz. In the eighteen-sixties, the Point was a favorite picnicking place for county people. Young men with the luxuriant whiskers of the period, young women in shoulder shawls and crinolines, climbed the steep trails to John F. Stokes' Mountain Inn, set by the side of the deep, clear, glacial lake. There they rowed, danced, drank and ate chicken dinners to their hearts' content. Overnight guests were accommodated in ten crude bedrooms over the dance hall.
In the summer of 1869 a Quaker gentleman then residing at Poughkeepsie, Alfred H. Smiley, came on an exploring trip and fell in love with the spot. He and his twin brother, Albert K. Smiley, head of the Friends' School in Providence, Rhode Island, bought the property -- 280 acres -- from Mr. Stokes for $28,000.
The extent of financing involved made paying guests a necessity. In the summer of 1870 the Stokes Hotel was slightly remodeled and guests, who were nearly all personal friends of the Smileys, began to arrive. Year by year the number increased, in spite of the unwritten rules which prohibited liquor, card playing, and, later on, the promiscuous intrusion of automobiles upon the scene. The restful atmosphere of Mohonk Lake became one of its chief charms, attracting from all over the country highclass guests.
In October, 1883, Albert K. Smiley, who had been appointed by President Hayes to the Board of Indian Commissioners, called at Mohonk the first conference of Friends of the Indians. These meetings took place annually for many years and brought about a great change for the better in the treatment of the Nation's wards. In 1904, when such reforms were practically realized, the conferences enlarged their scope and the title was changed to Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indians and Other Dependent Peoples. The last of such conferences met in 1929.
The Smileys added at different times to their original purchase until it now comprises seven thousand acres. New roads have been built, grades improved, the forests opened to nature lovers by enchanting woodland paths, vistas cleared and rustic shelters built, wonderful gardens created.
In October, 1908, the Testimonial Gateway at the entrance to the property, a gift of friends, was dedicated in commemoration of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Smiley's fiftieth wedding anniversary. The Albert K. Smiley Memorial Tower on Sky Top was presented in 1923 through contributions from 875 Mohonk guests and neighbors.
An area covering the upper reaches of the mountain has been set aside as a game refuge for the protection of wild birds and animals.
Albert K. Smiley died on December 2,1912, at his winter home in Redlands, California, aged eighty-four. His wife died there a few weeks later. After the death of Daniel Smiley on February 14,1930, at Mohonk Lake, the ownership and management of the property and the Lake Mohonk Mountain House passed to his sons, Albert K. and Francis G. Smiley.
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