Fort Drum’s Remington Pond is named after a North Country native, World War I veteran, and former owner of LeRay Mansion. The Remington family challenged the purchase of their property by the military during the expansion of Pine Camp in the 1940s. (Graphic by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum recalls North Country native who saved LeRay Mansion
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, NY (July 28, 2022) – Remington Pond is named after a North Country native and World War I veteran who saved LeRay Mansion from ruin, only to lose it during the Pine Camp expansion in the 1940s.
Harold Remington was born March 3, 1884 in Watertown, to Edward and Helen Remington, the eldest of five children. He graduated from Watertown High School in 1906, then continued his education at Amherst College, where he was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity.
At age 24, Remington enlisted in the New York National Guard. He was assigned to Company C, 1st Infantry Regiment, at Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor. This was a year after the first military maneuvers took place on the Pine Plans reservation (later called Pine Camp).
He married Margaret Havens on October 20, 1910, at Newton Center, Massachusetts, and their first son, Peter, was born on November 4, 1911.
That same year, Remington was promoted to battalion sergeant major. He left the service with an honorable discharge on October 21, 1912.
Remington worked for the Kamargo Supply Company, which handled factory supply. His family played an important role in the development of the paper and pulp industry in upstate New York. His great-grandfather, Illustrious Remington, was one of the pioneers of newspaper manufacturing in the region.
Remington was also active in the community as a member of the Jefferson County Golf Club and the Black River Valley Club.
When he decided to sue an army commission, he was endorsed by a number of prominent businessmen and officials, including the Secretary of State. In 1916, Remington completed the Citizens Army Boot Camp at Plattsburgh Barracks.
After graduating from the first officers’ training camp at Madison Barracks in 1917, Remington achieved the rank of captain. He was later transferred to 1st Infantry Headquarters in Binghamton.
Remington completed the Light (Mounted) Artillery Warfare Course at the School of Gunnery for Field Artillery, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in May 1918. A month later he deployed to France with the 350th Field Artillery, 92nd Division, as part of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.
He kept in touch with his wife during his deployment – his letters providing insight into what he saw and heard in combat:
“We are now very close to the front and could hear the guns this morning. I am happy to go to the front, yet I feel that a little will be enough. This will show whether we have learned something about the game or not.
Two days later he wrote again.
“Today, part of our battery is in place. I saw German planes under fire from our men and heard heavy fire. Some of the villages near our position have been demolished quite well while others are almost intact. Women and children live incredibly close.
Remington saw a lot of heavy fighting during the war, and he received a battlefield promotion to major just before the armistice was signed.
Following his tour of duty, Remington retired from active duty as a major in April 1919. He entered the United States Army Reserves and commanded two battalions, the 481st and 367th Field Artillery. While serving in the reserves, Remington continued his employment with Kamargo Supply Company as a secretary.
In the 1920s, there were discussions in Albany about turning the LeRay Mansion neighborhood into a state park. However, with the estate adjoining Pine Plains Training Camp, National Guard leaders considered acquiring the 2,000 acres of land.
The property was foreclosed when Remington, who resided on Paddock Street in Watertown with his wife and two sons, purchased LeRay Mansion in November 1936. He commissioned a well-known local architect, Albert Skinner, to restore the mansion to its original size. The Victorian plumbing has been updated, the basement floor has been replaced and electrics have been installed.
Remington’s wife, Margaret, went to the B. Altman and Company department store in New York City with the mansion’s floor plans to get help choosing new furniture. The Remingtons invested approximately $30,000 in renovating the property.
This detail was discovered by Fort Drum Cultural Resources staff in recent years after Margot Remington, granddaughter of Harold Remington, allowed them to borrow her collection of photos, letters, newspaper clippings and other historical documents.
“You can just imagine this lovely lady walking into this fancy department store in town – and money is no object – and she tells them where to put this sofa or this table,” said Dr Laurie Rush , Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program. administrator. “According to Margot, her grandmother gave names to each room – the library, the living rooms and such.”
Rush said Margaret Remington was in love with the mansion long before they bought it.
“Mrs. Remington already had a whole collection of newspaper clippings about the house, and she was so interested in its history before she even bought it,” she said. newspaper articles from 1910.”
Had it not been for the Remingtons’ restoration of the mansion during the Great Depression, this landmark would almost certainly have deteriorated beyond repair had it been left unattended for another decade.
The Remington family resided at LeRay Mansion for five years until the US government invoked eminent domain and purchased 75,000 acres of land for the Pine Camp expansion. The War Department had determined that the Pine Camp reserve would not be adequate for the training of an armored division to be stationed there.
Five entire villages were eliminated (Sterlingville, Woods Mill, Lewisburg, LeRaysville and Alpina), while others were reduced in size; 525 families were displaced and over 360 farms were lost.
The Remingtons were also ordered to vacate their property, but from January to October 1941 campaigned to keep their home. They presented their advocacy in letters sent to all levels of authority – from the commandant of Pine Camp and senior military officials to all local, state and national branches of government.
According to his correspondence with a member of the United States House of Representatives, Remington stated that he understood the original plan was to acquire “poor land north and northeast” of the training camp. But the proposal made public by the War Office would take “the best land, some 75,000 acres west from Calcium to Antwerp”.
Part of the reason they took matters into their own hands, as explained in correspondence, was that much of the negotiation for land acquisition involved the army and county businessmen. Landowners did not have access to a forum to express their views.
A general officer wrote a registration letter on behalf of the Remingtons:
“I was in charge of Madison Barracks and Pine Camp in 1924 and 1925 and I know the situation there quite well. Mr Remington owns the old historic LeRay mansion which was in ruins in 1925 but which has rehabilitated as a private residence.Although the land around the mansion is not particularly rich, it is built up and cultivated with a considerable number of people living there, and I think it would be a shame to dispossess them unless it would be necessary.
The commander offered another area of land to consider, as did the Remingtons. Ultimately, the War Department deemed the ground essential for field training and maneuvers, and a letter from the Deputy Army Chief of Staff explained that “exemption from Remington ownership would seriously interfere with the use of the entire territory for military purposes”.
In a letter to the 2nd Corps Area Commander, Governors Island, Remington proposed that a representative from the Armored Division investigate the central portion of the LeRay Mansion property. He argued that it was not as useful as they thought and that it would be easier to lay out the entrances to the maneuvering areas through the north and south ends of the property – land he was ready to be sacrificed to save the historic monument.
“The property is so close to the barracks and its character is such that it will have to be bypassed whether it belongs to the government or remains in my possession,” he wrote.
According to a local report, they were offered $50,000 for the property, which included the mansion, farmhouse, barn and tenant house located on approximately 1,700 acres of land.
Remington had the property appraised as being worth three times that amount, and he filed a civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. Court documents say the actual amount offered to Remington was $57,500, which he said was “totally inadequate.”
It was a losing battle for the retired Army Colonel, and the Remingtons eventually bought and moved to an estate in Cape Vincent. However, LeRay Mansion was never far from their thoughts.
“The Remington family was heartbroken when they lost their home, after fighting the military in court,” Rush said. “After World War II, Mrs. Remington wrote a letter to President Eisenhower asking that the house, at the very least, be returned to the community.”
In April 1955, Margaret Remington corresponded with the New York District Corps of Engineers with a request for information on how to obtain custody of the mansion. She contacted members of Congress for help. In her letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, she said the mansion, whose cultural influence left its mark on upstate New York, had remained largely vacant since Camp Drum’s deactivation.
As chair of the LeRay Mansion Committee, she wrote, “We of the LeRay de Chaumont Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, fearing what may happen, would like to have the power to take over this federally owned building and open to the public as a historic landmark in Jefferson County.
LeRay Mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Over the years, the mansion has served as lodgings for senior military leaders and as a guesthouse for visiting dignitaries.
Before the Remington family owned the property, their pond was known as Lake St. James – named after its original owner, James LeRay. Presumably it was renamed Remington’s Pond under new ownership and later became known as Remington Pond.
In the 1980s, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Branch assumed responsibility for the Remington Pond Recreation Area (which included Remington Park and Remington Beach). Since 2018, the LeRay Mansion neighborhood has been managed by the Directorate General of Cultural Resources of the Directorate of Public Works.
To learn more about the Remingtons at LeRay Mansion, visit www.leraymansion.com and follow www.facebook.com/FortDrumCulturalResources.