Briggs was born in Boonville, NY
on July 4, 1860, the eldest of his parents Naamon and Cynthia Briggs' nine children.
As a young man he worked as a farm hand but became a skillful marksman. This led to a position for a few years as a sharp-shooter
with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Walter bore a remarkable resemblance to Bill
Cody. He had a similar bushy mustache and long flowing hair. He frequently
donned a raccoon hat during the winter that earned him
his nickname "Coon."
In the 1880s,
Coon returned home and took up
guiding sportsmen in the Adirondacks. He built a camp to host his
clients along present-day State Rt. 28 at the base of Bald Mountain above
Third Lake on the Fulton Chain. Wearing a long braid topped by broad-brimmed western
hats, plus his remarkable skill with a rifle and salty stories of his experiences in
the western frontier helped distinguish Coon from other well-known Adirondack guides.
Coon Briggs was first appointed as a fire observer on Bald Mountain by the State Forest
Commission, he used the rustic wooden tower that had been on the summit since
1912. A tent camp provided his shelter until 1919 when Coon constructed a log
cabin to protect him from the elements. . Newspaper reporters took notice of this unique
wrote articles about the "Sage of Bald Mountain" who
befriended the clouds and became darn good at predicting the weather. The
publicity and nearness to the resorts in the Old Forge-Fulton Chain-Big
Moose region brought hundreds
of visitors up the trail annually to see the tower, the magnificent views, and
meet the irascible Coon Briggs.
In the spring of 1922, Coon Briggs was relieved of his duties as
a summit observer by Forest Superintendent Curtis R. Pettis for his failure to
use more tact and courtesy towards visitors to the conservation station. He
had been on probation for the past three years due to complaints about his
gruffness. Strangers did not understand his personality and the State felt it
was obliged to let him go when he did not mend his ways. His good friends and
fellow guides still enjoyed stopping by his cabin to listen to his stories and
share a tasty home-brewed beer that he kept chilled in the creek nearby. In
April 1926, the Adirondacks lost one of its truly unique characters when
Walter Coon Briggs died in a Utica hospital following a brief illness.
Thousands of people across the country mourned his death and tens of thousands
more have climbed the steps to his perch on top of Bald Mountain since to the
tower he helped erect on the summit in 1917.
committee is very much in need of more volunteers to help us on
our spring and fall workdays. Several of our original members are not
able to work anymore due to health issues. You don't need to live here
in Old Forge to volunteer. A simple form needs to be filled out and
filed with the DEC office in Herkimer to be covered by workman's comp. Send
us a note and we'll provide the form and details and notify you of
scheduled workdays. If necessary, we'll find you accommodations with a
committee person here in Town and reimburse you for your travel
expenses. We would love to find a volunteer willing to put up and
facebook page for us to network and share stories with other hikers.
to the Friends of Stillwater
Mountain in another part of the Town of Webb who re-opened their fire tower
this past summer. The new one-mile trail is not difficult thanks to their hard work and
the views are absolutely stunning!
Visiting our Site!
- send a note if you would like to help.
Back to Friends of
Bald Mt. Homepage
Created by: Masterpiece Productions of the
Last updated: December 26, 2016