In the summer of 1971, Douglas Legg, 8, was visiting his uncle, Crandall Melvin, at the family estate on the Santonini Preserve in Newcomb. July 10 was a warm, sunny day. Young Douglas headed out on a family hike into the nearby Adirondack wilderness.
He was wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, but his uncle sent him back to the estate to change into long pants to protect himself from poison ivy. A clear trail led from where he left his family members to the house, which could be seen in the distance.
But somewhere between those two points, Douglas disappeared and was never seen again.
When he didn't return, the family postponed the hike and began to look for him. It was about 3:30 p.m. when they last saw him, and by 6 the decision was made to go for help.
Douglas Legg knew the woods. He had been hiking many times and had even climbed Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in the state. But for some reason, the Adirondack wilderness had swallowed the youngster. Following a six-week search, which included 600 volunteers, no trace of the child was ever found. Helicopters, bloodhounds and even psychics were called into the area to search for the lost boy.
"We've tried everything," said Richard Dupey, then a State Police captain heading the search. "The psychics. The dogs. The Army. The Marines. Anybody who had any idea at all, no matter how screwy, we checked everything out. We were there endless hours. We were dead tired."
Even 29 mountain-rescue specialists from The Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Squad were flown in from California to lend their expertise. But they found nothing, stating that the area included some of the thickest brush they had ever seen.
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered funding to develop a search-and-rescue program following the futile efforts to find Douglas. The foundation for modern search-and-rescue techniques was a direct result of the search.
In the mid 1980s, a skeleton was found in the area of Santonini, but it turned out to be the body of a hiker missing since the 1950s.
A year after Douglas Legg disappeared, his family sold Santonini to the Nature Conservancy, which in turn sold it to the state. The buildings to the vast estate were never occupied again, a grim reminder of the tragedy.
Courtesy of the Press-Republican