Mother Johnson


Mother Lucy Johnson, Seneca Ray Stoddard drawing

The Adirondacks: Illustrated (1874)

          In the 1860s and 1870s, travelers and sportsmen often stopped at a house at the falls on the Raquette River. They were greeted by Philander Johnson and his wife, Lucy (1815-1875), a fat, friendly, motherly woman who made tasty pancakes. The house and the woman became so popular that the place was listed in guidebooks as Mother Johnson’s.

          On a visit to the hotel, guidebook author Seneca Ray Stoddard ate a splendid dinner which included a dish of juicy venison. Then a fine fish appeared on the table. “What kind of fish is that, Mrs. Johnson?” asked Stoddard. “Well, they don’t have no name after the 15th of September,” said Mother Johnson. “They are a good deal like trout, but its against the law to catch trout after the fifteenth, you know.”

Hotel Sketch150.jpg

Mother Johnson's, Raquette Falls, Harper's Weekly

          Soon thereafter, Rev. William H. H. Murray visited and introduced the hotel to the world in his book Adventures in the Wilderness (1869).

“Mother Johnson’s.”---This is a “half-way house.” It is at the lower end of the carry, below Long Lake. Never pass it without dropping in. Here it is that you will find such pancakes as are rarely met with. Here, in a log-house, hospitality can be found such as might shame many a city mansion. Never shall I forget the meal that John and I ate one night at that pine table. We broke camp at 8 A. M., and reached Mother Johnson’s at 11:45 P. M., having eaten nothing but a hasty lunch on the way. Stumbling up to the door...we aroused the venerable couple, and at 1 A. M. sat down to a meal whose quantity are worthy of tradition...Mother Johnson. Bless her soul, how her fat, good-natured face glowed with delight as she saw us empty those dishes! How her countenance shone and sides shook with laughter as she passed the smoking, russet-colored cakes from her griddle to our only half-emptied plates. For some time it was a close race, and victory trembled in the balance; but at last John and I surrendered, and, dropping our knives and forks, and shoving back our chairs, we cried, in the language of another on the eve of a direr conflict, “Hold, enough!” and the good old lady, still happy and radiant, laid down her ladle and retired from her benevolent labor to her slumbers. Never go by Mother Johnson’s without tasting her pancakes, and, when you leave, leave with her an extra dollar.

Mother Johnson