Lydia Martin Smith

Lydia Martin Smith

Courtesy of Adirondack Collection, Saranac Lake Free Library

           Lydia Martin (1834-1891) grew up near Franklin Falls. She had great intellectual potential and was sent off to Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. She was trained in all aspects of writing---spelling, grammar and penmanship. She also studied mathematics and bookkeeping, science, history and religion. At the age of 24, she had good looks, education and grace, but she was still not married. 

          In 1858, she was met Apollos “Paul” Smith at a dance. That winter, Paul walked 20 miles on snowshoes from St. Regis to Franklin Falls every week to see Lydia. Soon, they were married and moved to Paul’s hotel that he had built that year.

          The great success of Paul Smith’s Hotel is usually credited to Paul’s remarkable storytelling and ability to guide sportsmen to game and fish. But it was Lydia who cooked the delicious meals, helped clean the rooms, hired and fired the staff, wrote real estate contracts, managed the money, and expanded the business. It was Lydia who helped make the Smith’s millionaires.

          An early visitor to Paul Smith’s Hotel, Reverend William B. Lusk, described Lydia: “Being ambitious, resourceful and practical, she proved the ideal mate for a hotel owner and quickly won a place in the hearts of all the guests by her gracious dignity, and quiet efficiency---a place she held as long as she lived. She was ever planning for the comfort of her guests and there was no detail in the management of the hotel that escaped her watchful eye. All turned to her with their troubles and all found in her a staunch friend. In the kitchen her presence was felt most noticeably, for there she presided and prepared or supervised every meal, soon giving Paul Smith’s the reputation for a wonderful table, which it has maintained through its long history.”

Lydia Martin Smith

Paul Smith's Hotel, 1892


By Peggy Lynn

She was born in Franklin Falls in 1834
Her brothers guided tourists up and down the river's shore
Girls back then were not allowed to wander and explore
So she learned to read and write and neatly sweep a floor

Lydia was sent away to study down in Troy
She came back with more schoolin' that almost any boy
But that did not intimidate a young man name of Paul
They courted and they fell in love and married in the fall.

Lydia, I want to tell your story
Lydia --- so we'll know
Mountain women can be heroes

Paul Smith built a grand hotel along St. Regis shores
Lydia was raising sons along with other chores
Paul was famous far and near for wit and savoir faire
His wife was quietly making him into a millionaire

Yes, it was she who hired and fired the staff at the hotel
And when it came to contracts she gave those lawyers hell
She managed the accounting and the money in the till
She even taught their growing sons until the school was built


She was only fifty-seven when she passed away
No one seems to know what hastened on her dying day
Some folks say it broke her heart to lose her eldest son
Others say she finally felt her battles had been won

History tells us only half of all that had occurred
We read all of his accomplishments and very few of hers
Some say that there's a woman behind each successful man
I'll bet she's right beside him, teamed together, hand in hand


--- 1995 by Peggy Lynn/BMI

Lydia Martin Smith