George Gordon Moore was born in Ontario, Canada in 1875. By 1894 Moore was a law student in Port Huron, Michigan and by 1902 he was a practicing attorney in Port Huron and later in St. Clair, Michigan, married with one child. He was also known as a businessman, socialite, and sportsman, as well as an agent for the Whiting Manufacturing Company. In 1908 the Great Smoky Mountain Land and Timber Company sold an expansive tract of land in the Snowbird area to the Whiting Company. This heavily forested land tract was to be logged by Whiting, but the company agreed to lease to Moore 1600 acres to establish a European style shooting preserve for the entertainment of wealthy clients and friends. Moore selected for his location a remote section of the Snowbird near Hooper Bald in proximity of Haw Knob, Stratton Meadows, Laurel Top, and Swan Meadows. English investors funded the project.
Soon thereafter a clubhouse was constructed of logs, 90 feet long and 40 feet wide, which contained 10 bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, and dining room. The lobby was 45 x 20 feet. There was a lower house that served as the caretaker's home - a four-room cabin with a porch all the way around. A local, Cotton McGuire, was hired as caretaker of the preserve. Surrounding the lodge and caretaker’s home, huge enclosures for the animals were also constructed. There was even a telephone line strung all the way up the mountain to the lodge from Marble, NC.
In 1912 the various game animals started to arrive at Hooper Bald, including eight buffalo, fourteen young wild boar, fourteen elk, six Colorado mule deer, and thirty-four bears including nine huge Russian brown bears. Two hundred wild turkeys and ten thousand eggs of the English ring-necked pheasant were brought in. Additional turkeys were purchased by Moore and scattered about the mountain in an effort to get them started. Finally all constituents of a modern sportsman's ark were present on the Bald.
However, the location proved to be too remote for the genteel Englishmen or anyone else and Moore himself soon became disenchanted with the Hooper Bald project. The venture was ill fated and by the mid 1920's only Cotton McGuire, keeper of the preserve, remained on the mountain. Following the final departure of Moore, McGuire was given the lease for the lodge and caretaker’s house.
After abandoning his Hooper Bald project, Moore, now divorced from his first wife, moved to New York City and established himself as a brilliant lawyer turned businessman who actually counseled President Woodrow Wilson, through aides, on how best to deploy American forces in Europe. He built a fortune with investments while maintaining the life of a high-living bachelor; playing polo and hosting lavish parties. It is during this time Moore made the acquaintance of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. In April of 1925 Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was published. The story is set on Long Island's North Shore and in New York City during the summer of 1922, and there was much speculation that George Gordon Moore was the inspiration for Fitzgerald’s Gatsby character.
Remarried with two additional children, and even though his first venture had failed, Moore apparently still had a yearning to establish a successful sportsman’s hunting preserve. A millionaire in his own right by the mid-1920’s, Moore bought the 22,000-acre Rancho San Carlos while in Monterey, California looking for a place to ride and hunt in his usual grand style. Moore built miles of private roads into the mountains and erected a 37-room mansion. The main room was 75 feet long, overlooking a sweeping polo field. Paddocks for 80 ponies were provided, and famous polo teams came from all over the country. Moore even contacted his old friend Cotton McGuire and requested he capture several wild boars from around Hooper Bald and ship them to his ranch in California. In 1926 Moore received nine sows and three boars from McGuire, and introduced Russian boar hunting to his guests in California.
At his new California ranch, Moore entertained his guests and business associates in a style far beyond what he may have once dreamed of at Hooper Bald. No expense was spared for lavish entertainment including extravagant parties that would include Hollywood starlets and in spite of prohibition, alcohol. The roaring twenties were alive and well at Rancho San Carlos.
In 1929, however, the stock market crash wiped away Moore's fortune. By 1939, hard-pressed to satisfy his creditors, Moore was forced to sell the California ranch. Little is known about his life afterward. In May 1971 George Gordon Moore died in Los Angeles, California at age 94.
Today Moore’s Rancho San Carlos is the Santa Lucia Preserve. The 37-room Spanish Colonial Hacienda is now a private inn for preserve members, families, and guests. The polo stable, beautifully restored, borders a modern swimming pool complex. The hay barn is now a gathering place with a dance floor and antique bar.
Just as in Graham County, Moore’s wild boar escaped his Rancho San Carlos and still roam the state of California.