Town of Manheim
Herkimer County, N.Y

Route 5, Little Falls, NY

This article was put together from a pamphlet Beardslee Manor used to hand out, details from several newspaper articles printed in the Herkimer Evening Telegram over the years, and from talking to an acquaintance who used to be employed there. A well-attended presentation about the Beardslees and Beardslee Castle was recently given at Herkimer County Historical Society.

Betsy Voorhees
May 2001

Beardslee Mansion

The History Channel aired a program on Beardslee Castle in October 1999. This elegant castle with its roaming ghost and superstitions is open year-round for dining. If you would like to know more about the famous Beardslee Castle -- read on.

According to historical accounts, there was a small fort in the area about 1750, when the Mohawk Valley was a wilderness of trees and undergrowth. It has been impossible to gather information from that period in history.

Beardslee Castle was built in the 1860s, its architecture copied from an Irish Castle, by Augustus Beardslee. It sets on a rise a few hundred feet from the highway. In 1790, Lavina Beardsley, despite her advanced age, started actual construction of the Manor. Her grandson finished it many years later. Every stone used for the Castle was quarried right on the farm, and were hand cut by stonemasons brought over from Switzerland. The walls are 3' to 4' thick. No two native stones in the "Castle" are alike, yet this unique structure is of elegant design. It is recorded that the completion of the project was supervised by Capt. Guy Roosevelt Beardslee, who was born in the mansion. More than a mile of stone walls surrounded the park-like estate at its completion.

Capt. Beardslee had intense yearnings to construct a Beardslee dam and power plant to furnish power and light not only for his own farms, but also for the Village of St. Johnsville. Several engineers from New York City planned to build a power plant on East Creak but did not have finances to develop it, so Guy Beardslee undertook this project himself. Wiring for electricity in the "castle" was completed by a man named Charles Cook. Mr. Beardslee then sought to sell power to nearby communities and was refused by Little Falls. Mr. Beardslee purchased a generator with a distribution system from a piano manufacturer in St. Johnsville and obtained a contract for street lights for the village, which was about 3 miles away. This transmission line was completed in 1898 and lights turned on in St. Johnsville on March 17, 1898.

The news of electricity for the castle spread quickly, and within a year many nearby farmers used this new form of energy on their farms. From this lowly beginning a small hydro-electric plant was built. This company, which was instigated by Beardslee, was succeeded by Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. The postcard below, sent from East Creek in 1909, might be Beardslee's plant. The card is entitled "Power Plant and Falls on East Canada Creek, Generating Power for St. Johnsville, Fort Plain and Canajoharie, N.Y.

Power Plant

Mr. Beardslee was also a major stockholder in the New York Central Railroad, with his own railroad station at the Castle. He had his own personal covered walkway sheltering his path from the station to the Castle.

Capt. Beardslee was married in Oswego, New York in 1895 to Miss Ethel Shriver, daughter of Harvey and Cornelia (Grant) Shriver, who came from an old Maryland family. They lived on a farm which was part of the John and Petrus Van Driesen patent, which had been in the family since 1790.

Legend has it that Beardslee Manor was built on the site of an old fortified farmhouse that had been constructed during the French and Indian War. A tunnel led from the house into a hill, where a cache of gunpowder was hidden. Indians found this cache of powder and accidentally set it off and were blown to bits. The entrance to the tunnel appears to be in the cellar of the Manor, which has been sealed off by stones. It is thought by some that the ghosts here could be Indians retaliating for the explosion.

When the weather conditions are right, the fog drifts in heavily from the nearby Mohawk River, giving the Manor an eerie setting. During heavy fog, as visitors park their car in the parking lot, the short distance to the entrance seems much further since it is hard to see ahead.

There have been numerous incidents reported by either customers or employees who reportedly have seen or heard strange happenings on the grounds and castle throughout the years. Some of the incidents were: employees hearing voices after the Manor was closed, hearing footsteps and no one is there, seeing a blue light float to the backroom, and also finding lights on in the morning when they were turned off the night before. Others tell of a red light floating through the woods chasing cars. One employee told of feeling a cold chill, and looking up to see the image of a man dressed in black standing in the kitchen doorway and then disappearing. Doors reported to be locked at night would be found open in the morning.

Another legend has it that Capt. Beardslee, who died in 1939, roams the Manor grounds with a lantern in his hand during the dark hours. Several automobile accidents in this area have been blamed on Capt. Beardslee and the blinding light from his lantern as he scurries down the roadside in the night.

In the 1960's the Beardslee mausoleum, located by a bank of the East Canada Creek across from the Manor, was vandalized and a coffin dragged from the tomb and left open for the public to view. Most of the Beardslee family were laid to rest in the vaults within the mausoleum.

The mansion was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Christensen in 1941 and opened to the public as a restaurant in 1944. There are many dining room areas in the Manor/Castle, one of which is in the dungeon. People full of anticipation request to be seated in the dungeon dining area in hopes of hearing something or seeing something during the course of their dinner, especially near Halloween. Although it is called the dungeon room, this particular dining area offers sophistication and coziness.

Norm Gauthier, a psychic from Manchester, New Hampshire, was convinced that Beardslee Manor was haunted. Mr. Gauthier has visited between 120 and 130 "haunted" houses throughout the U.S. and had hopes of capturing a ghostly voice, etc. and brought his sophisticated tape recording system to Beardslee in the hopes of obtaining recordings. He said he heard two phrases uttered, with the first voice recorded as saying, "Who is that person?" The second voice did not record and was not understandable.

The Manor has had fires over the years after which the owners successfully rebuilt. However, the ghosts seem to have survived these fires and still live at Beardslee Manor, with the eerie atmosphere retained within the boundaries of the complex. People far and near do not seem to be frightened away - many weddings, banquets, reunions and small dinner parties are held here. The guests love to sit by a fireplace in the winter as they reminisce. The Manor lends a splendid background for local performers to act in plays of mystery, murders, etc.

People travel for many distances to visit this historic castle, it's unique atmosphere, and to experience fine dining. It is easily accessible, situated on Route 5. Travelers on the New York State Thruway 90 can get off at Exit 29A in Little Falls and follow the signs to Route 5, where a right hand turn leads them to the Manor.

More info contributed by Sarah Timmerman Israel!

Just a short note to mention that Beardslee Mansion is located in the Town of Manheim. It is very close to Little Falls but it is in Manheim. Mr Beardslee had a small village called East Creek that he owned and that is where he had his power plant as well as many craftsmen(blacksmith and etc. He also had his own railroad car that sat on the siding and if he wanted to hook onto a train coming though he would put out a flag and any train would stop to hook his car onto the train.

I was at the Herkimer Historical Society when Jean Sekel's lecture on the Beardslee Mansion (castle). It was very interesting and Nancy (my sister) and I spoke to Jean afterward. Jean did a research paper at school on a local historical monument.

The stories my sister and I grew up with are the following:

There was a cave that the Indians hid the ammunition in and it went off and killed a few Indians during the French and Indian War. King Hendrick (the Mohwak Chieftan) moved his castle to Indian Castle across the river to get away from the white man and his liquor as there was a settlement there - East Creek.

My great aunt told us that the ghost is the daughter that fell from the balcony during a fire (I don't know if this is true).

I believe it was built in the 1860s but the real fancy furniture came in the 1880s from all over the world.

I was one of the many people that went ghost hunting in the woods near there where the Beardslee mausoleum is located. They called in the State troopers for crowd control and got the people and cars out of there. Supposely there were lights seen moving in the woods and people though they were ghosts. Unfortunally vandals got into the area in the early 1970's and destroyed the entire mausoleum and all the graves in that cemetery. As Jean mentioned the fog presented someone walking along the road in the area as though it was a ghost.

All and all it is a scary place. Just above the castle there was a murder in Snells Bush which was never solved, near the lower Snell Bush cemetery, where Charles Stahl was shot on an early morning. I am enclosing an article that was in the paper in 1989 when the last fire broke out. Now a new owner has taken over and they are having parties and many activities there. They are now having the Green Grass Roots singing in the barn every Friday (I think I have that right. I saw it in the local paper this week end.) It sounded interesting. When we went by the mansion there was a large tent up so I guess they were having something there.


[The article Sarah sent was dated Aug. 30, 1989, and is from the Little Falls paper. One hundred firefighters from 7 Herkimer and Montgomery County fire departments fought a pre-dawn fire that broke out in the kitchen and destroyed the entire kitchen area. Smoke and water damage affected the rest of the building. It also states that this was the third fire in the building's history to consume much of the interior but not affecting the strong stone walls.]

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Created 5/10/01
Copyright © 2001 Betsy Voorhees
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