Ojibway – James Alker as told to Susan Manes
(Note: I wish the quality of Jimmy’s voice could be captured in these words. it has an ‘old timer’ sound although he is around 55. His family owned Ojibway Island until it was sold to us by his mother 14 years ago. He has intermittently come to stay at Heartsease Island which is the one behind Ojibway, which his mother gave him. The River means a great deal to him and boats mean everything. Again and again he returned to the pleasure of telling me of how many times he beat my brother in Nimblet races when he was a young man.)
Senator Hawkins built the house on Ojibway in stages, the back end first. That is the old part of the house. Guy Fawkes Lee, an evangelist, owned it after that. He lost all of his money in the market crash and sold the island to my father in 1930 for $10,000. (Note: Mr. Alker died shortly after making many repairs and replacements. A few years later Joyce Alker married again.)
Bootlegging … Cubby Guffin was mother’s bootlegger. He was Don Prosser’s uncle. He had an 18-foot boat with a four cylinder Chevy engine. One time Mom ordered 2 cases of Molsen’s ale. It came packed in straw inside a burlap bag. He was shaking when he came in and chain smoking. He looked around and then unloaded, taking the booze to the ice house. He hung around for an hour and then left. Twenty-five years later I asked Cubby what was the matter. He said that the ass had been shot off his boat by the Border Patrol on his way over. Floyd Catlin, his cousin, had been on the Border Patrol boat.
Another day — the Border Patrol had a 32 foot cruiser – beautiful – varnished — Cubby
had a load of booze on his boat. He kept his booze at Allen’s (Heffernan’s to us, the place on Grenadier where chicken dinners can be had). Cubby was crossing when along came the Border Patrol. it was a low water year and he knew every inch of the water. Cubby spun into Schermerhorn’s and back of St. Marguerite’s. By the time they figured out where he was he was back in Canada.
(Note: Then Jimmy gave ne a long description of how he remembers when he was a boy lying in bed listening to the sounds the boats made at night. He could tell by the sound whose boat it was. The bootleggers always came across at night. The Border Patrol also knew by the sound whose boat it was. The Posts had the “Fizzle” with a Redwing engine. That made a sound that was slightly different from the Strong’s John Mack because she had a Gray engine. The boats were the same and had been built during a winter by Lou Estes in the second floor of the Ojibway boathouse. “The Bill” owned by the Posts had a Redwing engine. The “Hilda”, an Alker boat, was thirty-five feet long and 6 feet wide. it had a Fay and Bowen engine from Buffalo and was built in Ogdensburg.)
The boat building business has gone. There used to be many men who built fine boats. They were mostly the caretakers who kept themselves busy in winter doing this. Buddy Gold and Ernie Mance are still alive…Some who are dead are Charlie Ives of Ogdensburg; Donald Adams and Will Birch of Alex. Bay; also Teddy Dingman, Lute Estes and Cap Atkins.
Boat makers now hire just one person who knows how to build boats. They want men who can make one piece over and over again.
My mother was a guest of the Posts, which is how she got to know the River.
One time I had my ass spanked by Bob Massey, who was caretaker at Owatonna. I was caught breaking in. I was about 10 years old.
(Note: Then there was a long description of a boat owned by the Englises called the Katy M. Bob Massey had built it and it was named after one of his children. He talked about how Mrs. Englis didn’t like the River and told a confusing story about this boat coming down from Alex. Bay in a huge gale and Bob Massey getting drenched. Bob Massey said he had backed the boat out of the sea when asked how he had made it.)
T.I. sailboats …. There were four here: Woods, Collins, Morgans and Guy Forest; the rest were in Clayton and T.I. Park.
Nimblets …. There were five. Two of the Alkers, Knaps, Glovers and Jimmy Rendell. They were built in Cape Cod and cost $215 apiece. They were 15 feet long. The Chapmans wouldn’t get one. They were too expensive. They bought a Snipe. it wasn’t much good and had to have a large handicap in every race.
Mr. Rendell was a sweetheart. There were lots of hornets there and one time I spent the night and he kept us awake by playing poker with us. When it was dark and the hornets were sleepy we poured kerosene over them and burned them. He sat way out of the way watching us. This was Jimmy Rendell and me. One time he christened a Westbrook kid between tennis sets.
Even to young kids he was a father confessor. He was the best tennis player around here. Once he beat Bill Tilden in Princeton. He had a choppy game or he’d have been a top player in the country. He loved playing poker. He was a great organizer.
I don’t know how the Newels … Juddy and Claire — got here. Juddy, Jim Rendell and I were the three bad guys of the Bay. Bill Cuthbert wouldn’t stay with us.
Spare time I spent whittling — did a lot of that — and working on the sailboats and shooting tin cans.
There was a flower garden near the ice house. Mother kept it. Mother put cedar trees along the north sea wall in 1934. They were to cut the wind.. She put several dozen in.
Floyd Babcock could change a spark plug in an engine while the engine was running. He could do anything. Floyd’s father, Rody Babcock, ran a cheese company in Chippewa. He was caretaker at Ojibway and died in the boathouse from having a heart attack. Floyd found him in the water dead.
Haskins lived in the house on Heartsease for a couple of years before Dad bought the island. He was a dirty man. He had a walrus mustache, always dripping with tobacco juice. He never took a bath. Kept chickens. Haskins, in lieu of wages, had sold a lot of the furniture in the house on Ojibway. That’s why there are so many things there from Sears. My father replaced everything with things from Sears. He was there until my father bought the Island and fired him.
There was a hermit named Jim Wright who lived in an old launch with a house on it. it was nar-row and tippy. Sometimes it was a barge with a shack on it. He was probably a half-breed. He was so dirty you couldn’t tell the color of his skin. He was probably a trapper and picked berries. He did a little handy work. Bill Schermerhorn knew him.
The “Finesse” was a boat owned by Charlie Lyon. She was built in 1935 by Fitzgerald and Lee. He had a lot of guests front Ogdensburg on her one time at the Bay and they were watching boat races. She had a big 12-cylinder engine — a V drive, a new thing. The engine was under the back hatch. it was idling and all of a sudden it exploded. Just blew up. People all shot out into the water. I was there in my boat and took a lot of them on. Another boat did too. Mrs. Cuthbert, who was 85 pounds soaking wet, always wore very high-heeled shoes. She jumped into my boat with those heels and I thought she’d go right through the bottom. One old lady, who was fat and was wearing a white shark-skin dress, was sitting in my boat and I kept hitting her with the starting rope every time I pulled it to start the engine. She had grease all over her back. Charlie Lyon said, “Finesse est finis”. Chauncey Birch was driving her. He was Charlie’s caretaker for thirty years. He married a Senecle. Bill Aiken worked for George Forrester before Charlie. George Forrester used to put the gas into milk cans and pour it into boats. 1 don’t know why there was never an explosion or fire.
Once there was a party at the Woods. Charlie was drunk and wouldn’t go home. Chauncey had put up with him all day. After awhile Chauncey took him by the arm, said he had had enough for one day (that is, enough of Charlie) and took him home.
There was a fire on Heartsease about 1930. it burned for three days. Even with everyone helping with pails, it burned until rain finally put it out.
Sid Knight was a bootlegger. He had the biggest ice boat of anyone. She had a Liberty engine. it was built by Packard. it was to have been used in World War I for an airplane. it had been developed for this purpose but the war was over before it was finished. All of these engines ended up on bootlegger’s boats. Sid used to carry hundreds of cases of booze. One night he carried too many. There was a wind and he went under. No one ever heard of him again.
– Ellen Burt
Susan Manes asked me to “proof read” and footnote Jimmy’s recollections may perhaps have become confused with stories he was told.
Bootlegging: Prohibition was repealed in 1932 when Jim was 12 — still pretty young.
T.I. Sloops: Morgans and Baileys owned T.I.’s also. Niblets: Cuthberts owned one.
Finesse: Mrs. Cuthbert would resent anyone thinking she wore high-heeled shoes. She always wore rubber-soled flats or gillies — later thrown away by Betty and me because the soles wore smooth. She DID jump into Jim’s boat, though.
My father and Charlie stayed on the boat until the Coast Guard took them off.
Jim Rendell was there that day and they both rescued everyone. They had to beach the boat on Heart Island and let it burn.
Party: Woods Sr. never gave cocktail par-ties, so it must have been somewhere else.
– Betty Jean Wood
Susan Manes — reference Jim Alker’s contributions. It’s marvelous!!
P.S. He’s very wrong about my mother, Helen Cuthbert, wearing HIGH HEELS. Her closet was full of rubber-soled shoes, which Betty and I often had to check for no grip. Mother did not swim and we were afraid she’d slip into the river, which she was known to do.
– Susan Manes
The trip from Ogdensburg, where we spent winters, to Chippewa seemed very long to me. Not only was I car sick, but it was the only traveling I did as a child, except for two trips to Boston to visit my grandmother. it probably also seemed long because I couldn’t wait to get there. Some-how reality was more real there, and the possibilities for freedom were greater too. I must have been impressed very early by the contrast of space at the River and at ‘home’. Even now I connect freedom with space. Our house in Ogdensburg was not small, but there seemed to be enough room at the Island. There was Cricket Hill there, where the island stone was exposed and you could pick up broken pieces and almost always find a cricket, it seemed. There was Pine Tree Point where swimming on w#1dy days was exciting and felt dangerous, and where my sister Jane and I built a tree house in a tau l white pine. There was ‘the end of the Island’ where there was a huge bushy pine and beyond the shore was Little Manzanita. There was Rose Island with the swamp in between and the wonderful mossy places on that north face of the Island where I could play with part of a collection of little cars and blocks that my mother kept in a basket. In my time, the tennis court was growing a few weeds through the clay, until it grew into a forest by the time I was an adult. The best hickory nuts came from some trees near the center of the eastern side. The front boathouse, the back boathouse, the Point, Little Blackie, the school house, the engine house. All of these places I could go to. I had many choices within a space that was handable for a child. Perhaps the safety of all this space I came to relate to freedom.
My bedroom was one that looked toward the channel and I can run through many of the changes that appeared outside that window from dull, metal gray water, trees, and sky, to bright sparkling north wind times. I loved the whole spectrum.
My brother was ten years older than I and, as he went away to school when I was five or six, I didn’t know him very well. He was a hero to me and I remember coming over to the Island one early spring in an outboard with him and I think one or both of my sisters. Suddenly the motor came loose front the transom and fell into the water, sinking into the weeds. He pulled off his clothes and shoes and dove in. When he found it, he took down a line and tied the engine to it. Then he pulled himself and finally the engine into the boat. I thought that was the bravest and hardiest thing I had ever witnessed.
Life with my two sisters seemed a series of having Jane be young enough for me to play with and then too old for me, so she played with Elizabeth (who was Betty then). I remember not being too kind to her for abandoning me like that and it felt as if I was a brat quite a bit of the time. There was one event that tended to cement us together: our summer jobs. As far as I can remember, the only job in winter we had to do was make our beds. Summer was supposed to be an easy time for Mummy too and we were given jobs. My elder sister had asthma and could only do things that did not involve dust or too much exertion. Jane and I were sometimes quite merciless about this, and did our dusty jobs or sweeping the porch with a combination of sarcasm, injury, or exaggerated energy. it felt good to shake the upstairs rugs out the bathroom window because there was a lovely slanting roof there for them to fall on after the shake. Dusting the floors under beds always seemed as if something was really being accomplished because the dust was filmy and visible, not like the grittier dust at home.
During World War II, when neither my father nor brother were there, I can remember my mother and Elizabeth straining with huge chunks of ice to get them into the ice box. I couldn’t wait to grow up enough so I could do that. By the time I was big enough, we had our first gas refrigerator.
We rowed our skiff, the Tom Boy, often. it was kept in the front boathouse and rolled into the water on wooden rollers and rolled out again after we finished so that it would be under cover.
I often spent time alone on the second floor of the boathouse. it smelled good and there was a desk there that I liked and various old papers to read and a scratchy rug to lie on.
My grandparents, who I do not remember, had large gardens. One was called the lower garden. There was a path that went along one side of it to the tennis court. I remember picking currants along that path. There were apple trees toward the ice house and a huge raspberry patch covered with chicken wire. My mother always told me that the gardens had been better and more beautiful when Daddy’s parents were young people, but that was hard for me to believe as they seemed wonderful to me. The blue chicken house that was near the lower garden held, in my memory, only my brother’s pigeons. I loved the neat little nesting boxes which were a perfect height for me to look into and see if there were any eggs or to gently nudge the young. I will never forget the terrible day that we found Percy hanging dead by a string which had caught his leg. Percy had been rescued, as a chick, from a drain pipe at the Bjournland’s house in Ogdensburg. We all thought he was a genius of a pigeon for being so tame. I remember how charmed I was when he landed on my head when I was swimming. Once I saw him land on Pete Strong’s shoulder and peck his ear. I liked hearing Pete yell because he had terrified me by chasing me with daddy long legs.
The high water years wiped out the lower garden completely. I once rowed a boat into it. Daddy had to build catwalks on top of the cat-walks at the dock. The Seaway changed that excitement.
When the house at Ponemah burned we first saw it front our Point. We went over and I worked in a relay of pails of water that went front the River all the way up to the house. I was about in the middle of the relay and we worked for a long time. I don’t remember being tired. it was the first fire I had seen there and I remember having a stone hard determination to do something about it.
I thought of my father as a man who could do anything. He just about could. There is a picture in my mind of his using a large scythe on the grass in front of the house. He was thin and tau l and I thought he must be very strong to be able to do it for such a long time. The rhythm was perfect. In winter he built or repaired furniture or made decoys or flies. He made small carved ducks which he painted. He made me a jewelry box of zebra wood. In summer he was carpenter, electrician, plumber. I followed him around and watched him closely because I could see he knew so much. Cleaning out the carburetor was just one more job. The garden produced well or he could tell you why it had not. He repaired the school house porch, oiled door hinges, built a new boathouse, read books, could quote (it seemed) almost anything and was interested in answering questions at meals.
I loved to sit in the living room when the Craigs and Cuthberts were there and hear the stories that especially Mr. Cuthbert told so well. Mrs. Cuthbert was always so beautiful and spoke to me kindly and sweetly. I was fascinated by (what I saw as) the hugeness, perhaps, plenty of Mrs. Craig. She wore colorful clothes and wonderful jewelry. She had a voice that even Mr. Craig could hear when he chose. She was a wonderful cook and served good foods that I was not familiar with.
We also saw a lot of the Strongs and Ackers. My first love was Buddy Chapman. As a teenager 1 was reluctantly accepted into my sister Jane’s social group, because there was no one of my age except Anne Talcott and she was much too shy to play with me. That is what I was told, although she probably didn’t want to. The person who had the best sense of humor was Chris Acker and I can remember my sides hurting from laughing at what he said, many, many times. A picnic was never really fun unless Chris was there.
My mother produced great amounts of food. There was always cookies, cakes or pies and some-times all three. She preserved food mostly by canning them, but during the War she tried what was called a dehydrator. The beans looked and tasted terrible, but she probably used them in winter stews. The dehydrator was a wonderful contraption of aluminum, which was a new metal then.
After our afternoon swim there was raspberry shrub and a cookie. Iced tea seemed ever present. it was so good with lemon and mint in it. Nobody cooked lamb as she did and I have never been able to equal her brown whole potatoes that cooked along side a roast. I loved her food. She was very fond of flowers and had vases all over the house.
She gave us collections of rolling pins and pans on a rainy day so we could play under the house making mud pies on a table. A special treat was butter and sugar to be taken to the school house and eaten front the doll-sized china and silver, which were kept in doll-sized white cabi-nets. She didn’t talk as much as my father did but she was a whirlwind of activity. I thought she could grow anything and I thought she knew everything about plants, wild or tame. She ad-mired my Cousin Mary (Hasbrouck) who was an expert on wild flowers and painted them.
She was good at keeping me entertained.
Aside from the mud pies, she had a large basket of little blocks and cars of every size and shape. Many of the things in the basket were from her childhood. When I was ill there was the sickling box — a collection of fascinating little things: a fan, an old perfume bottle, a tiny dictionary an inch wide. Also there was a box of ocean shells front her childhood at Cape Cod. I was given chickens or ducks to care for and encouraged to make boats to be sailed on large puddles or attached to a fishing rod line in the River.
There was a lot of company when I was little and it never seemed to bother her to have to cook for all those people and deal with beds and extra chatting. Everything was done on time without a fuss. She must have been a good planner. Yes, there was one fuss. Cousin Gibbie (Averell) came to visit and he had a huge scab on one side of his face. She was very angry at him because not only had he come uninvited, but he persisted in picking at the scab even at meals.
A few years before my father died, I found him one day sitting on the bench he had built on the back porch. As he surveyed the gardens and trees, he talked to me about how much he loved Chippewa Bay and Manzanita Island. He told me that he did not own it, that no one ever had or would. The native Americans had made use of it. Early white settlers had too. His father had led a long life there and now his own life there was about over. He hoped many of his family would enjoy it for many generations, but no one owned it and nothing short of an earthquake could move the stone. it was as permanent and safe a place as he had ever known.
– Katey Manes
Everything WAS beautiful In Chippewa Bay
Until the Seaway opened up
And the freighters came to stay.
Everything was beautiful Until the slick occurred
When that awful black tan came
Along with the Coast Guard nurds.
Everything was beautiful
Til the Army Core came
And brought the winter navigation
So things will never be the same.
Everything was beautiful
In Chippewa Bay
And now they’re trying to take it away
In spite of what the Islanders say.
Everything is beautiful
In Chippewa Bay
Let us all get together
And keep it the same old way.
(This was sung at a “Save the River” picnic.)
Owataonna Islands – Bob Wood
Early Recollections …. Life Style: My father’s law partner, Henry Molloy, had an island in Alexandria Bay. We would call on them occa-sionally. Their place was superbly maintained, and everyone was always dressed as if they were going to a party. I never saw Mr. Molloy without
a yachting jacket — I think he always wore a tie — and his shoes were tan and white or black and white wing-tips, meticulously cleaned and shined.
And they would visit our island about twice a summer, their boat always approaching the island very slowly from the channel (I am sure to give us warning of their arrival). She was a breathtaking Hutchinson runabout stained black, with a mirror-like finish, maintained by the liveried boatman who always drove her. She always looked low in the water, perhaps because all the Molloys were overweight.
One of us would see the boat coming and sound the alarm, “The Molloys are here!” Every guest, child and parent would drop whatever he was doing. Mother and Janet swept through the living room and porch, straightening magazines, fluffing pillows, and picking up the debris of a big, happy family. Dad and we boys raced to the boat house, clearing the floor of life preservers, tools, toys, and bilge pumps. As the boat swung around the foot of the island Mother and Janet would arrive breath-lessly from the house, dispatching us males to run back and change clothes.
The process of unloading the boat would begin. One of the passengers, perhaps Mrs. Molloy, would rise, the boatman would place the step pad on the soft seat, and he and Dad would try to steady her as she stepped onto the gunnel and then to the dock. The boat was long and narrow, and she rocked alarmingly with each disembarkation — Mr. Molloy, the Grandmother affectionately called “Dear-Dear”, and often two of the equally obese children.
The visits were too long; the procession back to the boat house, a dignified promenade. Then the agonizing reloading of the boat (which one weighed the most?); and as the boat swung out of sight, Mother always said the same thing: “They’re Gone!” .
Fire: We were in the living room when some-one smelled smoke, which was traced to the old hot air ventilator in the floor. We ran outside where flames could be seen through the cellar windows. I was about eleven years old, and the first in-struction was for me:
“Go to Choke Cherry and get the boys.
“May I take the Janka?”
“Yes, hurry. Get as many people as you can.” I had driven the Janka many times, but always under supervision.
As the boat cleared the dock, I consciously changed the ritual of warming the engine at slow speed all the way to Cedarmere (now Menkels), and pulled the throttle down to the stop. That was a fast boat for those days and she screamed past Menkels; then the Rock; close to Toothpick (to shorten the distance) and then to Choke Cherry.
I do not remember how good my landing was, but obviously I did remember to tie her up. Run-fing up that rough, rocky path to the house with-out falling, I burst into a room full of teen-agers.
“Rob Roy is on fire! Bring all the buckets you can find — and fire extinquishers and axes.” Jake Glover was there — the only boy in the bay my age. I yelled at him to round up as many islanders as he could.
Back to the boat house; Bill Cuthbert and my brother, Howard, were already in the Chipanog, backing out. I couldn’t understand why Howard left the Janka for me, until I had the boat under-way, wide open. She leaped and dove through the Chipanog’s wake and passed her smartly. Howard and Bill looked at me and smiled.
I guess I forgot to go to any other islands for help. But Jake Glover didn’t. He combed every island in the bay, and soon there were over a hundred people on Rob Roy.
A bucket brigade, from the cove to the house, seemed to form instantly. Men, women and children were in it. Some people I thought too old were in it, swinging buckets from one to another until a steady unbroken flow of water was being carried to the house.
Jack Cloud, Mrs. Johnson’s man from the Rock, was climbing a ladder to feel the wall above the cellar. it was hot, and he carefully asked per-mission to chop into the wall. Despite his pre-carious position on the ladder, he swung the axe straight and hard. Soon they were passing buckets up to him, which he poured through the hole.
Someone thought the valuables should be re-moved from the house. Lloyd Hamilton, who had worked for us for years, and another man decided the huge oak desk in the living room might contain important papers. The two men picked up the desk and carried it out easily. Later, six men were to struggle to carry it back.
The fire, which was to lead to the Club’s first acquisition of a pump, was put out easily. My clearest impressions were of how voluble people became when the danger was past. I was overcome by the realization that so many cared enough to come, to help, to save our house. it was my first sense of community. By then everyone was calling me Paul Revere. But Jake Glover had brought most of the people.
No one ever called him Paul Revere.
– Sandy Wood-Holdt
At the risk of boring all but my closest family, I offer here some of my more vivid memories of growing up in summers on the River.
My earliest memories are of annual journeys to the River. For a few years in the 50’s, we traveled by train from New York City to Hammond, boarding at night and arriving for breakfast. My grandfather Baird, retired from the railroad, would meet us at Grand Central Station and put us on board to make sure we were properly treated. Next morning in northern New York we’d be wakened very early by a porter bearing orange juice to
tempt us from comfortable berths — as if any but my mother needed help on that day.
But most of our trips every summer were launched in the family wagon, loaded on top and inside for hours the night before we left by “poor Daddy” who had to forego the nine hours with two or three kids in the car. The thrill of the 5:00 a.m. call from my mother — “Time to go to the island!” — rivaled only my feelings on Christmas. There were breakfasts in diners after driving an hour — always pancakes, of course — and boxes of
raisins for snacks before lunch; and games for the car like magnetic puzzles or cards that invariably slid through the seats to oblivion. In the years that we towed our aluminum outboard, we took regular watch at the rear window, waiting for the moment of disastrous disconnection between the two vehicles. My favorite stretch of the drive was along New York’s Mohawk River; I even remember how the top half of the trees looked, viewed from a prone position on the rear seat.
My memories of Chippewa are split between two islands: my formative years and recollections are based on Rob Roy; I was a “mature” nine or ten when we moved to Owatonna. My first adventure on Rob Roy each summer was to climb all around the island on the rocks with cousin Chris (poor younger Rick and Martha preferably left behind); it was a kind of walking the boundaries that con-vinced me we were there, and the island was still there. Next came a trip to the Janka slip for the best perch fishing in the Bay and the smells that even now I sneak over to inhale every summer. At night I would listen to the water lapping on rocks just twenty feet from our bedroom window in the Little House, after our babysitter and friend Carol Carpenter had sung us a wonderful song about Christopher Robin.
Heaven for me, at age 6 or 7, was visiting the Big House, full of all those older Wood cousins who temporarily stood in for the big brothers I’d always wanted. John perched us on top of the mantle and left us — just briefly; “Dumb-Bunny” Howard took us swimming and brought squeals of laughter with his performances. David played Three Billy Goats Gruff under the raised walk-way to the Big House, and sang songs with Douglas so often that we finally learned all the hits of the 50’s too. When Granny Wood was there in August one year, we picked blueberries for blueberry pancakes. And from the beginning (even, almost, to today), I could run the dirt path be-tween Big House and Little in bare feet and avoid every root.
For terror those years I had only to look just up-river to the abandoned grey ghost-house next door on the island whose docks had disintegrated. Imagine my silence as we landed one morning on those same wobbly cribs and my parents so gleefully announced, “We have bought it!” I was too old then for fears, but perhaps I was not alone in the Bay at that moment in doubting my parents’ sanity. I soon considered forgiveness when we discovered that Owatonna came stocked with pin-ball machines and a Pool table!
For some years in the 60’s we shared the island with the Boones, who supplied the water skis, badminton, and a set of styrofoam “water-walkers” that inspired Pat Orgain to “walk” from Loon Cove for cocktails one night — in his jacket and tie and buoyant yellow skis. And early on we offered the large house for the annual Yacht Club Dance, so that even when I was sent to bed, I could still hear the band playing and boats leav-ing, and Quarriers throwing each other in the River fully clothed.
I have other kinds of attachments to Owatonna now. It’s where I endured adolescent summers of imagined romances and wild, noisy parties, where boat loads of teenagers gathered for water-skiing, roof-diving, billiards. it is where wide-eyed guests came to visit from prep-school or home, counting bedrooms in awe. it is where I withdrew to a teenage girl’s dream of a round tower-room with a view, to wait for the next boat to land bringing people to play in the game room and eventually even to see me. And, of course, it is where I was married, surrounded by friends and a River, roots and belonging.
It’s odd how perspectives will change over time. At seven I saw in the River its natural beauty — my memories are of warm scratchy rocks and cool water and smells. At fourteen I saw only boats bringing cousins or boyfriends, and the island was where one found friends. Now, my age doubled again, I still cherish friends and the family that help make the River a seasonal set for Our Town; but I also rely on the River for peace and contentment, for colors and moods and reflec-tions of what I first felt as a child.
THE RIVER IN HIGH SUMMER: A PORTRAIT
– David Holdt
If you approach the river from the south, in high summer, in those green-gold days before the slide has begun to accelerate through August to Autumn, you must cross the plateau of upstate New York in the better of its two seasons. The country is rolling, and not yet brown. The corn is coming, the hay down and ready for rolling into bales. Farmhouses and barns hug the thin, back-country roads out of loneliness, for survival. Winter is never forgotten in plans made up here.
it is an earlier decade — the nineteen forties perhaps — the small towns have truly general stores with hand-painted signs. Dogs sleep on the sidewalks, railroad tracks cross main streets in the middle of town; it all feels famil-iar, but distant, like a memory.
Redwings flare up from the tall l grass along the road. Rusting Fords and Chevrolets are pulled into fields where they watch the long mowing day. The names of the towns are outrageously cosmo-Polytan –Rome, Poland, Denmark –or embarrassingly local — Lowville, Alder Creek, Boonville. it is Edmund Wilson country, Hecate County, Up-state.
The first hint of the river comes with the rise to a pink-rocked ridge and the parallax created when one line of pines is far removed from those near at hand. At the crest there is expansion you would have thought redundant in this land of flat fields and rolling horizons. it is the river. Fiat blue, with islands like evergreen dice rolled out across it. In the distance, grayed by the moisture in the afternoon air, Canada.
The St. Lawrence River is shared, for a por-tion of its unexpected length, by New York and Canada. it pulls out of Lake Ontario and persists to the northeast with the inevitability of grav-ity. it carves part of the northern boundary of the United States by doing the same to a corner of New York State that few people have noticed until it is called to their attention. “Oh look at that. I never knew New York went that far up.” Eventually the river goes up the drain into Quebec, missing Vermont which is hiding behind a wall of mountains. Bass fishermen know the river is there. Tourists from Canada cross it to enter the States, and vice-versa. Alexandria Bay used to support a branch of Tiffany’s. New York millionaires used to come up for the weekend by train. More than a thousand islands preceded and outlasted these attempts to civilize.
Large houses remain on small islands along this stretch of the river. Most are beginning to suffer the infirmities of age, and economic evo-lution has replaced their millionaire owners with generations of less affluent types. Still the fishermen, who drive their campers from hours around trailing outboards to launch in their river, pronounce in louder voices than they think that these are the summer houses of the richest of the rich. They do not notice the preponderance of aluminum outboards in the fleets of these castles.
The water of the St. Lawrence has as many faces as it has islands. The light, the time of day, the season, the wind; all of these play upon the canvas of this river. There are swift storms that cut across from Canada, having garnered velocity on the lakes and plains farther west. These come in dramatic forced-marches, swallowing islands with their rains like so many conquests, leaving them behind limp and dripping. The gales that accelerate across the broad bays can drive rain up through the cracks of locked windows, under the shingles of tight houses, and then, in cascades, across porches and docks. When there is calm, the high pressure driving the front cools the sudden blue air, and the water is smoothed, quieted, almost aloof, as if embarrassed by its passion.
Chippewa Bay glances off the main thrust of the St. Lawrence like the tracks of a wrong turn. Curving into the eastern shore of the river, the Bay receives the sun slowly, but holds the sunset. The islands are rock-founded on tan and gray stone, rusted with traces of pink and orange in the right light. Pine and cedar, succeeded by oak and some maple on the larger islands, dominate those islands large enough to support them. Willows scavenge the edges between water and land, weak of limb but resilient in spirit.
The river hugs the islands with a placid Vigilance — always ready Co advance into an opening in seawall or dock — usually receiving the bottoms of swimmers and boats with a mocking gentleness. To sit on an island dock, perhaps in the lee of a listing boathouse, is to bathe in the smells and the sounds of the river. Gasoline. Creosote. Wet wood drying in the sun of the long northern days. The echoes of distant wakes lap and plash under the dock. Seaweed eddies and pools in the boatslips. The heat of the summer rises from the planking, almost as visible as the morning mists. Algae climbs the pilings. Silently. Mossy grasses flock rock cribs, making cushions of granite. Rock bass and minnows, in their lives of constant surprise, flash about in the shallows leaving lingering shadows the eye almost sees.
Among the salmon rocks a blue heron poises above the small fry who pause in his shadow. His pert, sickle head turns in small increments, as if his feathered stem of a neck were ratchet-geared. In the reeds, redwings fight perpetual aerial battles, defending territories only they can de-fine, slackening the chase at the borders. Tree swallows and barn swallows circle in endless sweeps of the space near the shores, tracing a third dimension against the proximate sky. Yellow warblers and song sparrows twitter in the brush; robins exclaim from the oaks.
On a quiet day, in a back bay, the water holds a dancing, grained surface. Shoals, like the bellies of capsized fish, float elusively beneath the blue surface. A cloud can turn the river black and white, until the suns burns back the green and brown and blue. If the wind dies or deflects off the sheltering hardwoods and pines, the rippling slows and separates near the shore, congeals with distance.
The islands are green on tan, green on pink in the right sun. The river is midnight and green, or the palest blue, or white with an ache of haze, or sky blue; all within the time a cloud has the sun in its frayed pocket.
The river sounds: lip-smacking, throat-clearing, bucket-dumping, wind-willowing sounds, cradle the rocks and wash against the docks. They change too, with the wind, and with the sun too, it seems.
Water lilies launch horseflies. Dry reeds saw against their own strings, like desiccated violins; music for those who will hear it.
The rumbles of river engines grow distinct with experience. Outboards beat themselves for-ward, occasionally whining of the pace. Inboards cough into action, then throb with the impatience of lions wishing to roar. Waterskiers spin at the outer edge of centrifugal sound. Freighters leave thunder to dissipate after they’re gone. All engines gargle in neutral, as if being held heads under water by big brothers who tease. Starting an outboard is like curing the hiccups, again, for the moment.
Then rain on the river. Soft, petal-bouncing sounds. Wet winds from the southwest. Distance misted over. The greens melt into one another on neighboring islands, as if the air has been smudged. Freighters and tankers pass, their giant horns blasting through the quiet with shafts of orange sound. Distance is shrunk, upwind sounds are magnified. Time to curl in a corner, in sweater and long pants, and pick up the fat book you put aside last winter for a day such as this.
ISLANDS ARE LIKE CIRCLES
– David Holdt
Islands are like circles. When you walk round one you come again to where you were before. Islands seem like good places to get away from it all. They stand apart from the main. They stand against the flow of events with an independence that generates perspective. But underneath the flow, all islands are connected.
Ceremonies are like islands, too. Ceremonies stand and stand again against the flow of change. They mark the inherited consciousness, the collective survival, the nature of our being human. Underneath the changes, all ceremonies are connected.
It was on an island in the St. Lawrence River that Sandy and I decided to get married. it was on that island that we would share our ceremony when the circle of a year had brought us again to summer.
When you get married on an island it is like getting married on the mainland, except for the water. We knew that there would be grandmothers and landlubbers who did not frequent small boats as part of their routines. We knew that there would be logistical problems: finding beds for relatives and friends, ferrying the band and its amplifiers, the caterer and his canapes. And we knew we would have to gamble on the weather; late June is more unsteady than a groom’s knees when it comes to weather over water within sight of Canada. These obstacles we faced without illusion.
The housing worked out, given the neighborliness of an island community. Transportation problems sank before the enthusiasm of bachelor cousins and younger brothers who live to drive boats in the summer. And living with the weather was important to us philosophically; if we could make our commitments with the new summer sun set-ting across the river, we would. If it rained, we would crowd inside and accept the accompaniment of wind and water as natural music. The oil spill we did not foresee.
We did not plan on the smothering circle that climbed the edges of the island overnight. We had not made lists of ways to clean boots and boats (gasoline and lestoil worked best); nor of ways to show off our beloved retreat when the picturesque dock on shore took on aspects of a refinery yard. Perhaps we were naive, given the traffic in tankers on the St. Lawrence Seaway. it was on Wednesday, after a foggy June night, that we felt the front edge of what was coming.
The shopping run by boat to shore and then by car up to Alexandria Bay is one of the facts of life in the Thousand Islands. Our first clue was in the altered atmosphere of the town. People were preoccupied. The air was metallic. The man in the drug store sold me a newspaper and asked how the smell was.
“Not bad,” I replied, unclear about what he meant. Outside, and then down the stone step of the store I did sniff the air, but then forgot all about it. I was getting married in three days, and there were other things on my mind. We drove back to our bay, lowered the groceries into the boat, and set out for the island. On the way we slowed the engine to talk to an uncle and aunt who are next-island neighbors. Hanging over the sides of a sailboat, they were smearing it with Vaseline and shrouding it in old canvas. it was then that we heard the news.
An oil barge had hit a shoal, in heavy fog, early in the morning. Hit a shoal and backed off — unplugging the hold in its hull — and then ran aground again. it had happened in The Narrows, just above Alexandria Bay, and though we hadn’t seen it, that town’s shoreline was coated with a sludge of crude oil one grade removed from tar, by the time we had begun our shopping trip.
Down river, at the island, we traded rumors and waited. Down river. it was coming. We took refuge in ordinary things, trying to deny the in-evitable. Lunch. A swim. The last of the season, it would turn out. A nap in the early afternoon.
I awoke around three to the smell of it. On the river, rainbow scabs of the heavy oil drifted by, covering the pine smells, darkening the rocks of the islands. oil on water moves like a head-ache. Dead spots, ominously calm, grew where the sun had flickered. it was just over a week before the Fourth of July. Blue heron were hatching their nestlings. Ducks were breeding in the marshy inlets. Fishermen, campers and vacationing families were on the road heading for the river. it was Wednesday, and the wedding was on Saturday.
There was oil on everything. it stained the boats. it climbed the mooring lines. it got on hands and boat seats; on clothing and shoes. it collected in eddies and floating booms when the wind blew one way, and then spilled again on naked shores when the wind shifted direction. it drove heron away from their fishing and their nests of fledging young. it coated loons and muskrats. it killed fish and ducks. And it smelled. From the first morning breath to the sweaty tossings after midnight, it hung in the air like a moan.
Guests arrived, in summer pastels and whites. They mingled, bewildered, with spill-workers swaddled in yellow slickers stained with black. Two friends rigged a boom across the upstream end of our island, easing the accumulation of oil on the landing dock. Platforms and walkways were carpeted with absorbent batting. All the boats wore black spray shadows at the waterline. Helicopters, like giant, numbered dragonflies, monitored the river from the sky. The spill was big and real. it touched sixty miles of shoreline, and came, uninvited, to our island wedding.
Saturday was bright and as warm as midsummer. Late in the afternoon, however, as the rehearsal was concluding under the trees of the grove, the horizon darkened. A mounting wall of thunderheads moved up the river like a shadow of the oil on the sky. Wind rose quickly, and raised a sea on the broad, stained bay. it began to rain. it poured. There were tears. The house and the people in it were reluctantly prepared for an indoor ceremony, under the calming direction of the minister who had come all the way from the bride’s childhood to preside. Debate covered disappointment.
“it will have to be inside.”
“It’s too early to decide; it might let up.”
“It couldn’t clear in time.”
“The North is clearer, though.”
“What if we wait I mean, it is an island. Who’s going anywhere?”
The wedding had been scheduled for seven. By seven fifteen a prevailing wedge of sky was clear and the clouds were in retreat. Chairs were reset outside. From the window the speakers trumpeted Mouret’s “Fanfare,” the theme from Masterpiece Theatre. The sunset was deep and red; the sky, magenta and slate blue.
“We give each other rings today as symbols of the circle of arms that is always around us; as symbols of the circle of the earth which supports us all; as symbols of the circle of humanity to which we are all related, and to whom we are connected through all of you and all of the people you and we touch and will touch.
We give them as symbols of unity and harmony and peace.”
The oil lay all around us, forgotten, through the ceremony.
“We believe that the gift that we make of ourselves, one to the other is freely given with an understanding and trust: that our marriage represents a shared
anticipation of the future and a shared belief in its opportunities; that our marriage represents a promise to share the burdens and the joys of life …
What do you do when two million gallons of oil encircle your plans and your dreams? We got married. The newspaper accounts of the spill are tucked in the back of our wedding album.
The oil spill wasted a year in the life of the river. Abandoned heron fledglings died and dried up in their nests. Fishing guides and motel owners lost their businesses. A thousand islands were threatened. it took over an hour to drive along the river road from one end of the spill to the other. And still the wrangle goes on in courts and government offices. it is not clear, after many months, who was legally responsible. What is clear is that the American taxpayer has bought and paid for the clean-up, at a cost of over nine million dollars. The St. Lawrence is cleaner now. it took hundreds of people over three months to scrape up the worst of the oil. The winter ice has done more. But it will never be the same entirely. There are rings of stain around many of the islands, and oil sticks to the mind longer than it does to rock.
Islands are like circles. They are open on all sides to whatever the flow of things casts up. Ceremonies are like circles too. it is another year, another circle. We have been back to the island. There was erosion, some damage from ice, scarred rock from the oil. There was also a Spring full of flowers, a heron against the sunset and an anniversary. The island is still there. And for as long as it is it will make an impression on the way things flow. Some who were there will never forget the wedding because of the oil. We will never forget the oil because of the wed-ding. Underneath the flow, which is time, all Life — which is a ceremony of circles — is
(This work first appeared in the CIMARRON REVIEW and is reprinted here with the permission of the Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University, holders of the copyright
Ponemah – Cynthia Conant
I first came to the island, Temagami, in 1917 when I was two years old. The reason being that Ogdensburg was my father’s home town. His parents died when he was very young and his older sister married and brought him up. Her name was Alice Morgan and she married Tom Strong. The Tom Strongs first bought the point of Cedar opposite the bungalow on Temagami called Thelema. While they lived there, their daughter Marge was in Wells College where she became a friend of my mother, Ella Hardee. In 1901 Marge had a house party to which she invited Ella. Ella and Marge’s young uncle fell in love. In 1908 the Strongs bought Ingleneuk and renamed the island Temagami. This island had been owned by the painter Frederic Remington. The building now called the bungalow had been his studio and he had a small house where the old Strong house later stood. My father and his friends often were asked by Remington to pose for him on a stuffed bucking bronco he had in his studio or to paddle a canoe past his porch. Uncle Ton owned a large stand of timber in the Temagami region of Canada, hence the island’s name. Alice, or Gaga as we later called her, was a very elegant, beautiful and social person. She had imported wallpaper in all the rooms and a handsome red the floor in the dining room. All supplies in those days were brought by steamer to Cedar Island, where there was a hotel and a large dock. From there things were transported to each island. Lists were given the captain to deliver on the next trip. Uncle Ton did have a steam yacht which had brass fittings in the bathrooms. These were thought to be solid gold by the natives. The young people, however, used only sail-boats and row boats as their transportation.
Hence the popularity of the St. Lawrence skiff, which was used for racing as well as daily chores. When mother joined the family they owned a large sailboat named the Getha. The story goes that one year when ordered to put on it the name, Get There, the painter missed and painted Getha. Everyone liked the sound so it stayed. It was after this boat that we named our TI sloop bought in 1934. Old records show that Remington lost his money in the stock market and sold the island to Ton Strong. He had previously bought it from George Shephard for $6000 in 1898. it was Reming-ton who built the tennis court, then a clay type. George Shephard bought Thelema Point from Tom Strong. His daughter, Gladys married Howard (Hi) Craig, their son is Phil Craig.
Uncle Tom and my father both died before I knew them. Our family was then living in Toledo, Ohio, and mother, besides loving the island, wanted us to continue to know our father’s relatives. Marge had married Tony Menkel and had inherited Temagami from her father. She had three children; Margot, Ton and Tony, all about the ages of Ad and myself. Mother and Marge were still good friends, and since mother had lived in Ogdensburg for several years when first married, she had many friends there. So it was a natural for mother to visit each year at the island. Sometime in the twenties the Henkels, due to financial reverses, were having trouble keeping up the island, so they sold to mother and all continued as before without any of us children being aware of the switch. This was very hard for the Henkel children to learn at a later age, and Ton never did get used to it, so we have seen little of hin since. But Margot and Tony continued to call it home in the summer until they married. In 1933 Aunt Marge and Uncle Tony moved to a camp near Ogdensburg.
Aunt Margie and Uncle Tony were a great pair to grow up with. Aunt Margie was an athletic, energetic woman who always wore pants at the is-land (the women did not wear pants then). She did all the boat repair work and painting. She was usually to be found down at the canoe house and paint shop, which was located where the beach now is, scraping & sanding. In the evening she would row Uncle Tony in the skiff while he trolled for pike. I don’t know how many fish he caught; I now think it was their little moment alone, away from the mob and noise. Uncle. Tony was made for children. In fact, it never occurred to me that he had anything else to do. He took us on hundreds of picnics, and told us endless stories, some true, some made-up. In the process he taught us a good deal of history, folklore, geology, botany, etc. I wish now I had listened more. He used to take us over to Chimney Island in Canada. This island had a large chimney standing alone in the middle of it. Legend had it that an old lady on the Canadian shore had been told by a fortune teller that when the chimney fell down she would die, so she kept it in excellent repair! At any rate, the island had been used by Indians and by soldiers in the war of 1812. We used to find arrowheads and uniform buttons. A big and devilish treat was that we didn’t take bathing suits and then Uncle Tony would allow us to go swimming in our BVDs, a one-piece underwear which all girls and boys wore. Very racey! Our mothers never would have let us! Uncle Tony was the instigator of our digging every summer for Ezra Brockway’s treasure. He was a hermit who once owned the island. He made salves out of pine pitch and, though he sold a lot, he only went to shore once in a great while, and bought just enough food to keep alive. When he died everyone figured he must have buried his money. So we hopefully dug each summer and then always decided that it must be under the tennis court, and we weren’t allowed to dig there. Uncle Tony once had George Forrester, the old man who ran the store on the dock, out and filled him with booze and he told us fantastic tales of the old days, all of which we thought were gospel.
According to pictures we were all very overdressed in my youth. I know that Ad and I wore starched dresses every night for dinner and when I was small I seem to have on long white stockings, summer or not. When we were about six we wore outfits that mother made herself as suitable to island life. They consisted of voluminous bloomers with a top which came down over the bloomers of the same material and belted. My favorite was an orange and white print with a patent leather belt. Of course, we wore knee socks with elastics to hold them up. Apparently one didn’t go without shoes of some kind in the twenties unless one was going swimming. All these starchy clothes had to be washed in the wash house in tubs and ironed with irons heated on the stove. This I know because we were still doing this until electricity was put in in 1938. We girls had a colored nurse for many years that we loved, Alberta, and once a summer she would take us for our big treat, a ride on the Riverside. This was a small steamer which docked at state land on Cedar each day and at the big dock on Uncle John Howard’s island, Ponemah, next door. If you wanted it to stop at the Howard dock you had to flag it down, which was pretty exciting. The trip took one through the islands around Alex. Bay, through lost channel, etc., and made a stop at the Bay. There we would make a beeline for the store down near the ferry dock, where the Indians sat outside and made baskets and birch bark things. The down river end of Temagami was then full of white birch and we spent many hours writing secret messages on bark and trying to make toy canoes, like the Indians. About 1927-28 Tony got an out-board of his own. The next year I did too. He taught me to start and run it, which was quite a trick. You had to hook up to a battery before starting and then yank on the starter cord. My boat was named the Ho-Hum. At that time, Tony and I had the job of getting the milk. it was a long hard trip, but it gave us an excuse to get out in a boat alone. We went up to the bay behind Snug Harbor to a dock on Oak Island. Then we walked up a long hill to Dingman’s farm, then carried the full cans back down. The getting of milk seemed to be an important part of island life for years. A few years later, we walked up the hill past Backus’ store to the Cuthbert farm for our milk. This turned into a fairly social maneuver, for if you timed it right you met your current boy or girl interest and made plans for the day or night. Everyone tried to be on shore when the mail came in so you didn’t miss anything. In my late teens the family decided that we must have pasteurized milk so we drove to Hammond to Eustis’ farm by the railroad station to get ours. This preoccupation with milk was natural because of our poor refrigeration. We had only ice refrigerators and so it wouldn’t keep long. Beyond the back porch was the ice house, a large structure which was filled with ice each winter. it was cut just off the front of Temagami and pulled up to the top to the ice house by horses. The blocks of ice were packed in saw-dust and stacked right up to the ceiling. it was the job of the boys when they got strong enough to cut the proper size smaller blocks to fit in each icebox in the pantry and kitchen. Beside the ice house was the coal bin which supplied the kitchen stove. This was a huge model which had a pipe running up through a small room on the second floor. This room was always hot from the stove pipe and made a perfect room for the Curtis Roots caretaker to live in, when they came out in the early spring.
We Morgans always lived in the bungalow and the Menkels in the big house. Ad and I had the big bedroom on the water and mother in the single bedroom. We often heard her rapping on the floor with her slipper in the early dawn, and we knew that the skunks had come home. A family of them lived for years under her bed, and would make a terrible racket getting settled after being out hunting at night. Very hard on the dogs having them on the island, but these were our only wild life. When Tom grew older and felt himself a man, he took over a room over the canoe house, which we called the Doghouse. Here he smoked, etc., and was generally emancipated we thought. He evolved a tricky lock to keep Tony and me out, and we spent most of one summer trying to figure it out. it was that summer that we tried smoking just about everything available, except tobacco, which wasn’t. We used tea, dried leaves, the seeds off birch trees, corn silk, you name it. The older kids were very busy having picnics all the time. Tony and I were the “little kids”, so couldn’t go. The way you knew you were finally growing up was that you were included in picnics at Bluff, Chip-pewa Point, etc. All ages went together and so I was lucky enough to sit awestruck listening to Sid Quarrier and his Yale Whiffenpoof friends sing and to be able to tell my friends at home that I knew an All-American football player “well”. At these picnics I did a great many athletic feats that I was really terrified to do, but had to keep up. Such as swimming out to the light at Chippewa Point and going through the caves on Oak Island.
DARK ISLAND … Earliest memories are of hearing the chimes in the clock tower ring during the night. Also of the yachts anchored off the island when the Thayers would have parties. We would go out and talk with the crews of the yachts and they would tell us how many people were there and how many maids and valets they had brought. On Fourth of July the island would be all lit up. There are railings along all the paths and each post has a socket in it. On the Fourth the bulbs would be alternating, red, white and blue. My mother told of watching the castle built and said that Mr. Bourne told his wife that he was building a hunting lodge up here. His daughter, Margie, who became Mrs. Thayer, was not friendly to the girls my mother’s age, so did not mix with them socially, though Mr. Bourne did. She had, when she was young, a gondola from Venice fitted out with an engine and a boatman dressed like a gondolier drove it for her. The natives in Chippewa used to call it Margie’s “Venus gondola”.
SCOW ISLAND … Earliest memories are of being taken to call on Mrs. Post in starched dress and hairbow and having to sit like a lady, being seen and not heard, while the ladies had tea. On these occasions my mother always wore her hat and her white gloves, and the boatman who drove her dressed in uniform. Later in my early teens, we used to go up there to play tennis occasionally with Fanny Post, and it was quite an ordeal be-cause Fanny always had to win and we were allowed not even a “darn” on the court while Mrs. Post watched.
THE ROCK … Always was called Hog’s Back when I was small. Then Mrs. Johnson appeared and built a house on it. Mother and everyone else figured anyone foolish enough to buy that bare rock must be pretty odd, but later everyone loved Mrs. Johnson. She was one of the few people my mother ever called on.
THE SHOAL Earliest memory is of an occasion when Tony and I were out in his outboard and ran out of gas in a big wind. We tried to row but weren’t strong enough to get anywhere. We kept drifting toward the Shoal, which terrified us because we knew an old lady lived there (Mrs. Ford) and we thought she was a witch. However, we had to land and she turned out to be charming and to have very good cookies. Later her daughter and son-in-law bought Owatonna (Glovers), and we got to know her better.
SQUAW ISLAND … I was about the same age, a bit older, as Bobby Godwin, later to become Mrs. Ralph Crow. She was a marvelous swimmer, her mother didn’t swim and hated the island, and her father did nothing but fish all day long so we didn’t know him. No one on the island during my teens, cause the girls and their mother liked Rye better.
WYANOKE ISLAND … Earliest memories are of regattas, which were always held there when I was small. I particularly remember the slide which you got on upstairs and slid down into the water. There were always lots of peanut cookies at the regatta and I think they were bought at George Forrester’s, also many huge pitchers of iced tea. There never was anyone living on it till I was in my teens, when all of a sudden three boys appeared with a mother and began living in the boathouse. Mrs. English and Mrs. Washburne used to take turns keeping house for the boys. They soon became known as the “Boathouse Boys”.
RAGNAVOK ISLAND … Earliest memories are of Fitzhugh coming over to swim and of the Yacht Club we, the Menkels, Morgans and Fitzhugh, had. The boats were metal wind-up-type and model sailboats. We kept a log for each summer of who won races and such, and listed all boats with the owners and the dimensions, just as was done in those days in the Chippewa Yacht Club. These boats were carefully oiled and packed away each fall and tenderly fur-bished up each summer. The sailboats which be-longed to Ad and me are now in the bungalow living room. Unfortunately, the roster and race books were burned in the Temagami fire. As we grew older, a boy named Robbie MacPherson came up every summer as a companion for Fitzhugh. Robbie was my first love and I spent a lot of time with him and Fitzhugh sailing, canoeing, etc. I got to know Mrs. Quarrier very well and she was always one of my favorite people. Mr. Q. scared me until I grew up. I used to marvel at mother’s tales of how the Baileys and the Mackenzies (Mrs. Q.) were brought up. They could not do anything on Sunday at all. No sports, no work, no sailing, no calling.
The Baileys and the Quarriers had Thousand Island sloops named the Whiff and the Whisper. When we were in our teens, mother found one to buy in Clayton and thus started a long era of weekly sailing races. Ours was named the Getha after the Strong’s sailboat, which they had in the early nineteen hundreds. Fitzhugh always was the best sailor and usually won, though Doris Bailey used to give him a run for his money once in a while. Eventually Tom Knap, who was a great sailracing enthusiast, worked out a handicap for several types of boats so we had many in a race. When mother bought Ponemah a small 17 ft. yawl came with it, which we named 3.2 after the beer that was allowed that year. Hullett Strong at Snug Harbor had one like it, so we had a good opponent. Charlie Lyon, also a race enthusiast, though he couldn’t see well enough during my time to do any of it, gave a silver cup known as the Lyon Trophy. This had to be won three times to become a permanent possession. This was awarded for a race run on a handicap basis. To my knowledge, no one ever won it three times but as we grew older there were no more races, and I think it was possibly on the Temagami mantle when the house burned. I know that Gary Goodbody, a guest of mine, won it in the 3.2 around 1935 or so.
CHOKE CHERRY ISLAND At earliest memory it was owned by the Seymours. Mr. Seymour must have been a fancier of fast boats because the fastest I ever saw for years was the Mouch-a-Feu. Villers Seymour used to run it, to the envy of all the rest of us. They stopped coming, and it was rented or stood empty for many years. One family who rented it several summers were the Stuart Burts. Since Allie and Stu were my age and Tony’s we saw a good deal of them. They later rented Jamisons on Brush Island for several summers. Before the Burts rented Choke Cherry one summer
the teenagers decided we needed a club house we had “no place to go” (history has repeated it-self). So we wrote the Seymours and they said we could rent it for the yacht club that summer. We kids spent days cleaning and painting it. it was full of cockroaches and various animals had been living in it for some time. One thing we did was to paint all the wicker furniture green (without benefit of paint sprayers), and after all was ready we invited the adults to a party. The green chairs weren’t quite dry and every lady had green stripes on her best outfit that night. After working on it, we lost interest of course and never used it. After the Burts renting it, the Cuthberts bought it.
SELINA … The point of Cedar opposite the bungalow on Temagami was owned by the Mackenzies when I was small. it had earlier been the home of my uncle, Tom Strong, and was where my mother met my father. So as she sat on the porch of the bungalow she was looking at a spot of many memo-ries. Daddy proposed to her somewhere on that point but she would never tell us just where. The Mackenzie girls were all tall and gorgeous, I thought from my point of view. I remember they and their crowd had a dance in the Temagami dining room when I was small, and I was allowed to stay up for the beginning of it. it was a costume ball and I was dressed for the occasion as the Dutch Cleanser girl and Ad was the Mazola Corn Oil girl. I don’t seem to remember anything about it except admiring the Mackenzie girls.
ROB ROY We spent a great deal of time at
the Woods while growing up. The house was a great place to play Murder and such, and the summer that Monopoly was popular we just alternated between Temagami and Rob Roy. At the regattas we always used to have a water baseball game in which the fathers joined. I remember Mr. Wood as a very fun active father, and we particularly liked to see him aquaplane because he always wore his bathrobe. Never did know why. In later years, both Tony and Loren Wood were enamored of Betty Jean Cuthbert. We spent every dinner listening for the Woods boat to start up so Loren wouldn’t beat Tony over there. The Woods also bought a Thousand Island sloop and it was that sloop in which Loren picked Sam and me up one night at the old dock on the front of Ponemah. By the time they got over here every choice spot on the boat was taken by a loving couple, so Sam and I drew the back deck. This was a maze of pulleys and sheetropes, so every time we came about Sam and I had to shift and climb through them. it was so frustrating that we finally asked to be dropped off and right then on Ponemah he proposed to me. So we owe a vote of thanks to Loren!
HALFWAY ISLAND … The Chapmans are the only ones I remember on that island in my youth. Mrs. Chapman went to college with mother and Julie (Mrs. Ted Mills) was Ad’s age, and Frank was mine so we did go back and forth a bit. Also have pictures of parties with them at various ages. When they stopped going to the island, Frank used to come to our house every summer.
SNUG HARBOR … There were millions of Strong relatives on that island and I mostly remember the marvelous food cooked by Feemy. There were no children our age, though the younger ones were the Rendalls and the Hulett Strong kids. Hawley Ren-dall was a very active noisy father and a great tennis player. He and Tom Knap used to have a match every summer, which was attended by everyone whether they played tennis or not. it was a real blood match and really fascinating to watch because Ton was a smash shot player and Hawley was a placer. Due to them planning them, we had tennis tournaments for years. I played with Ton Knap in the tournaments for year after year, because he was the best and I was the worst.
MANZANITA ISLAND … The Knap children were much younger than I, so my only contact with that island was due to Tom’s interest in sailing and tennis. I understand they used to have a tennis court on their island, but in my day all tennis was played on Temagami.
In the old Norse Mythology, the final des-truction of the world, and regeneration of gods and men is called RAGNAVOK, that is, the Twilight of the Gods. “The growing depravity and strife in the world” says the historian, “proclaim the ap-proach of this great event.” First there is a winter called the Fimbul winter, during which snow will fall from the four corners of the world; the frosts will be very severe, the winds piercing, the weather tempestuous and the sun will impart no gladness. Three such winters shall pass away without being tempered by a single summer.
Three other similar winters following, during which war and discord will spread over the whole earth. Brothers shall kill each other, and no one shall spare either his parents or his children.
“Brothers shall brothers;
Shed each others blood.
Hard is the world;
Sensual sin grows hugh.
There are sword ages,
Shields are cleft in twain;
Storm ages, murder ages;
Till the world falls dead,
And men no longer spare
Or pity one another.”
The increasing strife between slavery and freedom, the “irrepressible conflict” between servitude and liberty were the RAGNAVOK of our American history.
– Frances Thompson Quarrier –
I came to Chippewa Bay in 1887 when my family stayed at Atlantis Island with Dr. and Mrs. Bailey. We bought Palmer or Palmer’s Island and built our house in 1890. We named it Ragnavok, the twilight of the Gods, probably because a popular writer of the time had written .two books — Atlantis and Ragnavok. Wyanoke was called Joe’s Island, owned by an old recluse named Joe. Later it was sold to Mr. Orcutt, grandfather of Ferris Washbourne. Mr. Orcutt’s house burned down. Mr. Henry Denner originally owned most of the islands in the bay.
When we came, Manzanita was occupied by the Knaps. Brush Island by Mr. John Bell, whose sister married Mr. Chapman. Mr. Chapman who lived on Halfway Island.
Dr. Dixon, a dentist, had a little house on Rob Roy Island until it was bought by Mr. Julian Davies who built the house now occupied by the Woods.
Mr. Charles Englis built the house now bought by Mr. Boone and Mr. Robert Wood.
Mr. Chapin owned Scow Island and his niece became Mrs. Brokaw who built on Jug Island. Mr. Wm. Post built the present house on Scow Island and later sold it to Mr. Glassford whose estate sold it to Dr. Sidney Quarrier.
The Menkel’s little island was built on by Dr. Daniel C. Ferguson, beloved Presbyterian minister of Hammond, who sold it to Mr. Preston, then Mrs. Ford bought it and sold it to Dr. Benton.
The hotel on Cedar Island was run by Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, the former was a model for Mr. Remington’s Indians. On Cedar Island, the outside point was owned by Mrs. Shantz and later her daughter, Mrs. Clinton MacKenzie, who sold it to Mrs. Craig. The Beste house was built by Mr. Shepard, Mrs. Craig’s father, later occupied by Mr. Remington, then by Mr. Strang and his daughter Mrs. Menkel, and then to Mrs. Morgan.
Mr. Howard had a house on the Point of Cedar which burned and Mr. and Mrs. Conant built there.
Mrs. Johnson built a lovely house on Hogsback, later known as The Rock, and left it to Mr. Halliwell. His widow, now Mrs. Hathaway, is occupying the place.
Squaw Island was built by the Kennedys and sold to Mrs. Crow’s father, Mr. Godwin. Mr. Seymour built on Choke-Berry Island and sold it to Mr. Cuthbert. (Choke Cherry)
When I was young the Indians used to come in boats to sell their sweet grass baskets. There were two steamers which stopped at Cedar Island going and coming from Clayton to Ogdensburg. The “Island Belle” and the “Massena” and all Islanders from New York arrived at Cedar Island in the morning by the Island Belle.
Mr. Allen, Roy Allen’s father, owned the post office and gave away his wares rather than bother to charge them. it was next owned by Mr. and Mrs. Backus, Mrs. Felt’s parents.
– Fitzhugh Quarrier –
The Sidney Thompson family visited Dr. & Mrs. Bailey, their physician and wife, at Atlantis Island July 1888. The two boys, Clinton and Percy, lived in the loft of the old boathouse, using a ladder to get to their room. The others, grandmother and grandfather and Frances, lived in the main house and I believe also used a ladder to get to their sleeping quarters.
They apparently returned again the next summer, for they bought Palmer Island from Alida Palmer for $500 (a lot of money in that time). A house was built the next summer, with Clinton as the architect. The only problem was that he neglected to provide for stairs and thus we now have those steep steps. The island was renamed Ragnavok from a popular author of the day, who wrote two books, Atlantis and Ragnavok.
In the beginning, the Thompsons traveled by railroad sleeper to Clayton and embarked in the morning on the “Island Belle”, a steamer that dropped them off at the hotel dock on Cedar Island. They then went by sail or rowboat to Ragnavok. All, including visitors, arrived with trunks and wore lots of gear; so one can imagine what the sail would be like. At the Cedar dock was a general store and the post office, in addition to a hotel, where some friends of the Thompsons stayed.
There are not many stories of the “old” times that I can remember:
Frederic Remington, the artist, was an acquaintance of the Thompsons. He had bright red hair and a firey temper, also owned one of the first motor boats in the Bay. When he failed to start the boat, my mother watched him stone it to the bottom.
And there was another story about a bald eagle attacking guests at Ragnavok and overturning them in the struggle, at least that is the story that the boys gave the press. Perhaps you have seen the illustration and clipping.
Wyanoke was known as Joe’s Island. In the ravine near the present boathouse, my grandparents knew a camper with one arm who caught, unaided, a large muskie off the end of Ragnavok.
The fact that the house on Wyanoke was at the high point of the island overlooking Ragnavok was a worry to my grandparents, as they wondered what was being seen on Ragnavok. The boys lived in the old boathouse on the site of the present one and I guess my grandmother did not find she controlled things. Pop, later, was conversant with happenings on the Ford Island — via tele-scope!!
As can be noticed in the guest book, from the beginning there were many Ragnavok guests. Pop made his appearance in 1901 and from then on things were changed! From the start, he refused to visit unless he could play cards, smoke and do other things on Sunday, of course, against strict Presbyterian principles. And, by the way, during my early childhood we had prayer and bible readings by everyone, a verse in turn, before break-fast. My poor reading ability made this a night-mare to me.
Pop insisted on having his motor boat and the fastest — not always the case. As a young boy, I can remember Pop’s “Skipper” going in the Gold Cup races, but in those days a “gentleman” did not race his own boat — Pop watched while hired hands raced. Their procedure was to try to start the “Skipper” in the morning of the race and if suc-cessful they would feed it gas until the start. it had twelve in line cylinders (?), each with a petcock to prime with gas and then try to start with a spark from the magneto.
Life on the Island in those days certainly was different from what it is now. For one thing, life revolved around keeping the help happy — no small task! When my grandparents were alive, a cook and two maids officiated with two college boys acting as boatmen. Even through my parent’s time, the act of being on time for meals was a formidable problem.
During my growing up days, I was six and nine years younger than my brothers, Sidney and Archie, and our two first cousins, Sidney and Timmie Mackenzie. Of course, I thought all four were great and I am sure I merited the title of “pampered pet”. They must also have had good cause to be irritated at the way I stuck to them.
I remember my grandmother as being a very stern person, maybe because of her formidable appearance. I can see her turning her head in the dining room to control the bedlam going on in the children’s dining room, which was in a constant uproar. Later, when the children’s dining room was abandoned, I can recall a party that the Sidneys, Archie and Timmie, gave for my grandmother. On each setting, a soup plate was bottom side up. At Archie’s command, the plates were simultaneously lifted. Each revealed a number of frogs! All hopped about including my grandmother, the maids from the kitchen, and Reddy, our cocker spaniel. Order was restored when the grandfather frog perched on the butterl
We sometimes remained late at the river. I can remember staying until almost November the year of the polio scare.
As a child, I came to the river by train to Hammond and, at first, I traveled with George Forrester’s horse and carriage to Chippewa! A bit later Will Backus, Erdine Felt’s father, drove us in his old Ford, a stiff old vehicle.
Before World War I, Pop arrived in colonel’s uniform with a group of officers from Pine Camp, now Fort Drum. My grandmother and grandfather particularly enjoyed having them. Grandfather was an unusually jolly and pleasant man. He used to walk me back and forth around the porch to the boathouse, with an elegant sneeze at each end.
Many fine house parties were held at Ragnavok for young people, with the males living in the boathouse and the females in the main building. Innumerable tricks were regularly played on both groups water bombs, pied beds, alarm clocks, you name it. As I look back, Sidney spearheaded much of the doings Archie, being older, super-vised.
Electricity, generator type, did not come until I was a teenager; so all lighting before
then was by candle or kerosene lamp. And we
managed well, except it was necessary to contantly obtain ice for the icebox. A big event at this time and later was the ceremony each week of making Pop’s ice cream. I wonder what he would say now about what we usually have?
Pop continued his interest in fast boats until his death. In late years, he would sit in his “Miss Q” on the river outside the Lyon’s waiting for Charlie Lyon to appear in his “Pardon Me” for a challenge — Pop never won, but that did not seem to bother him. it was only in late years that Meema was willing to speak with Charlie. Since he had been one of her beaux, we always won-dered what had happened?
We all know the more recent years at the Island and how my parents enjoyed their daughter-in-laws, Eliza and Louise, and the next generation. They were generous to and happy with both
Families — without much overlap!
One of Pop’s final acts concerned putting in the electric cable to the shore. He could not get any islanders interested in joining the project. But when completed, all wanted “in” and admired his foresight. Originally Pop had a great problem because the light company insisted on billing Pop
rather than each island individually he had the
devil of a time collecting! The answer to this was to give the cable and equipment to the light company and let them manage.
I remember arriving at the river with our family shortly after the electric connection had been made. Sidney and Eliza and family were at the Island, and all were concerned because Sidney experienced a numbness in his body while swimming near the pump house. We joined them for a swim, but before diving in, I tested the temperature of the water and received a terrific shock! The whole front of the Island was “hot” with electricity. This solved Sidney’s problem. it was discovered that the electricity was improperly grounded where it entered the Island at the gas dock. Of course, the old Delco System was grounded on the pipes to the pump house.
One of the great stories about my parents and when Pop was returning with Meema after a spin in the “Miss Q”. He approached the boathouse with his usual.dash and threw her into reverse, but the clutch did not hold. They went through the end of the boathouse as if it were applesauce. Pop had only commented to Meema, “Here we go, Frances”.
Louise remembers Pop as the Megaphone instruction man!!
Also there was the time when a particularly sporty guest, right out of “Field and Stream”, was insistent on demonstrating to Pop how to catch a bass from the Island, using a fly he went with out, while Pop pulled in the biggest bass ever caught from Ragnavok, a five pounder.
I can only think of several disasters at Ragnavok — one, the old boat, “Ragnavok”, took fire in the boathouse. She was put adrift and sank off the upper end of the Island. Another, in more recent times, a guest of ours decided to make a jackknife dive from the swimming rock. He came up with a mantle of red on his head. We wrapped him in bedclothes and drove him to Alex Bay, where he made a week’s visit after thirty stitches in his scalp. He recovered, but the old Ragnavok’s career was ended.
Then there was the time Hugh locked our Amyot sitter in a bedroom closet, where she remained until Louise heard her cries for help.
And there were many other pranks I can’t recall. There was a crash one night and Louise
woke me to say that our boat had cracked up. I
said, “Go back to sleep”, only to be greeted in the morning by two worried boys and our Ragnavok stranded on the Wood’s shoal.
Before 1933 was the period of prohibition.
Chippewa made an ideal spot for “rum running” from
Canada to the States. In the evenings, we would drift about in the dark looking for possible “runners”. Local gossip connected the Hansons with this activity. One day, during my brother’s college era, Sidney and Archie and several friends, with me tagging along, took our boat to Brockville to obtain a case of beer. on the way back, a speed boat chased us. Since the boys were sure it was the Coast Guard, they jettisoned in terror the case! When the speed boat caught us, we realized too late that it belonged to a neighbor — crime doesn’t pay.
The Bourne Castle always has been legendary. Commodore Bourne (commodore of the New York Yacht Club) called on my grandfather each summer, arriving in a gondola powered by an electric motor. The Bourne’s had fabulous yachts, includ-ing the “Dark Island” and the “Running Wild” at the river and a 300 footer on the Sound. The “Running Wild” was usually the fastest boat on the St. Lawrence.
Even in the days of my youth, we had jobs to perform — mine was to go each day for the milk to the farm on Oak Island. it was not unusual to carry ten quarts of milk, with a quart of heavy cream. Depending on the weather, I took either the outside or inside route and loved it.
Often we experienced fog. As sometimes happens, ships would spend the night at anchor. Louise was invited aboard one evening, after she had been spotted by a search light. I put a stop to that!
Surprisingly, we never got in trouble with the Coast Guard. My brothers, and later I, were in the habit of cutting bows of the tourist steamers that plied the river. As soon as the “Kingston” or “Toronto” hove into sight, they would start to blow the danger signal, many short blasts — we loved it! We never made contact, but
sometimes were close.
One thing I would be remiss not to mention –it was Meema who taught all of us how to sail and gave us all a love and respect for the water.
This and more forms the heritage for us at “Ragnavok” and “Scow”.
– Nicholas F. Quarrier –
OIL SPILL 197? …. When I awoke I peered out the bedroom window, as was my habit, for a quick weather check. The river was calm, and the sky was overcast. I rolled over, lulling myself into just a few more minutes of shut eye before starting the day. Slowly I drifted into a peaceful dream-world into which suddenly appeared the vision of a Mack truck. I was jolted awake to the real odor of diesel fuel permeating through the open window. Was I dreaming that a truck passed? I quickly dressed and went downstairs to the porch overlooking the river. The odor had diminished so I forgot about it for the moment and went to fix breakfast.
The radio was on in order to catch the day’s weather forecast. Keith appeared and immediately commented on the fuel odor. And then we heard it! Over the radio the news broadcasted that an oil tanker had run aground that night near Alexandria Bay and was leaking crude oil.
We quickly decided to search for evidence of the spill. We didn’t have far to go. The odor dramatically intensified as we rounded Rob Roy and boated up river. Up-river from Scow and below Halfway Island we saw a horrifying sight. The river’s surface became dull with a wall of gray oily film with scattered clumps of thick black sludge drifting our way. As far up river as we could see there were films and clumps of oil. it was creating a black sticky ring around our
boat’s waterline. By this time the odor was nauseating. How much time did we have before the oil would drift into the bay? And how would we protect the island?
Back on Ragnavok Island we had a brainstorm. Keith and I quickly gathered as much loose lumber, rope and nails as could be found. We tied each board end-to-end by short pieces of rope. A long line of boards were then floated from the head of our swimming area to the docks. The boathouse slips were barricaded, enclosing all boats. Only our aluminum workboat remained unprotected from the oil. Bv late afternoon the island was secured with booms around much of it.
That evening the oil spill had reached Owatonna Island and extended down to Cedar Island. We prayed that it would miss the inner bay.
The following day we awoke early with a great deal of tension and anxiety. A devastating sight awaited us! The entire island was engulfed in a thick slimy sludge! The inner bay was very eerie. There was a slight wind, but there was not a single ripple of water on the river. Instead there was an endless mat of unresponding thick layer of oil that merely rolled in the wind. The boards were preventing the oil from slapping onto the docks and rocks.
In between Ragnavok Island and Cedarmere Island was a panicking Loon that kept submerging only to resurface with an accumulating amount of adhering tar on its head. Later we rescued a watersnake that was trying desperately to slither its way to refuge. it was caked with a thick layer of oil. We made a futile attempt to save its life by bathing it in a bucket of gasoline.
Very soon, all was silent on the river. The birds had stopped singing. The Loon and the other river wildlife had vanished. Thus began the gloomy summer of 19 ?
– Licia Q. Beekley –
THE A.B.Q.’s …. Nine fifteen in the morning — the pacing on the front porch become perceptively more rapid. You could literally
“hear” Pop looking at his watch — fifteen more minutes before he revved up the Miss Q. for the daily journey to Chippewa and Hammond.
My grandparents’ day was almost a “ritualistic” routine. Arising at 7, Pop came down for breakfast exactly at 8 o’clock. The menu was equally precise — applesauce and heavy cream, hominy and butter, and a one-minute egg — that still gives me the shivers. The “Madame Queen” descended approximately fifteen minutes later to enjoy her orange sections and melba toast with honey. Conversation was thoughtful, peaceful, and quiet; unlike the other meals which we later partook of.
After checking out the kitchen, Meema re-treated to the privacy of her room to read the Bible and chew a stick of Behman’s gum — “For my digestion”, she would hasten to inform me, as I always found it hard to believe that SHE chewed gum!!!
The march down the rock to the boathouse was equally predictable. The twinkle in Pop’s eyes came alive and his pace quickened in anticipation of the whole process of starting the Miss Q. The sleekness of the boat delighted him, but the engine thrilled him. Explosive noises ricocheted around the bay at exactly 9:30 — and if not, verbal explosions! Hopefully, we were off to Chippewa — to walk the roads with Meema or to the Hammond railroad with Pop to wait for the train and his paper. (At that time I thought the train came solely to deliver Pop’s paper.)
The whole routine became “complicated” as Quarrier grandchildren began to clutter Ragnavok. We were frequently “removed” to the little house so that order and peace could be re-established. As we grew older, we were allowed on the porch while the grownups ate supper. One such evening, I was swinging on the sofa and over it flipped. I came weeping into the dining room, obviously disturbing the adult hour. My parents told me to “snuff it up”, and Pop, having stated flatly that the Swing could not flip, proceeded to test it. It flipped and he landed head over teakettle –fortunately not hurting himself.
Frequently after lunch Pop napped downstairs. My mother, holding baby Sid, Jr., decided snoozing Pop needed the snuggly warmth of an infant beside him to make his comfort complete. Little did she realize that the effect on Sid would be equally relaxing — the flood gates opened. He soaked everything including Pop. Rarely have I seen a person awake and arise so rapidly.
When there wasn’t enough action on Ragnavok to satisfy Pop — out would come the telescope. it had been given to him with the thought of identifying freighters. However Pop soon found there was action in the Bay he had hardly imagined existed. Skinny dippers, etc., were no longer safe.
Those years are filled with a million such wonderful memories for me, and I wonder, now that I know some of the difficulties of three generations living together, how it all appeared so smooth and happy.
“A Letter to Her Children” Mrs. (Elizabeth) Loren N. Wood
In June 1920. the Brokaws (Soph and Mort), who lived on Jug, invited Lene and Dot Miller and Janet to spend a weekend with them while Sam Miller, Dad and I fished round about Clayton. We had a wonderful guide, good fishing and fun and really did not want to give up Sunday for a trip to Jug.
However, we were in love with the trip among the islands and on to Jug. it was one of those crystal clear days when everything sparkles and we fell completely in love with the river. We talked so much about it that Mort said “Why not buy an island?” We said, “Of course, but where do we get the money and where the island?” With that Mort said, “I have it”. We jumped into the boat and drove to the Bell island (the Church island to us). We sat on their porch still drooling over everything when up spoke Bell and said, pointing to Rob Roy, “There is your house. Bill McLean, the caretaker is there and will show you around”. We again jumped into the boat and went over. There was no Bill, but that did not deter us. We peeked in all the windows — admired the view and finally found the living room window just left of the picture window open and we climbed in. What a house! Huge, substantial, comfortable and just right. You know the rest — “Quite out of the question. We don’t know the river. It’s too big and expensive and on and on.” We took the night train from Hammond and very soon on Monday Dad called the real estate people. He offered $15,000, was turned down. On Thursday we owned it. And there began our big adventure! You know that we found a completely furnished house except for a carpet sweeper. There was a boat, but no good. And I think there was an old sailboat — a huge one it seemed to us.
There were large oil lamps in the living room and dining room and kitchen area. And small bed-room lamps and lots of candles.
By mid-July the entire Miller-Wood tribe arrived at the river. We brought with us Julius, the Miller’s cook and a maid. Julius had been my mother’s outdoor-indoor man and cook for years, so we knew him well. We hired Bill McLean as our boat man. First of all we needed a boat and that’s when our advisors, Mort and Bell, steered us to the boat works in Ogdensburg and we bought our beautiful Curlew. Just a week ago I wrote to Mrs. Acker and asked her when the Curlew was built. She said it was in the spring of 1915. I quote: “Father had many boats during his life but the Curlew was his first and finest. He was so proud of her long graceful lines. I remember so well his seeking a name for it and ‘Curlew’ just seemed the perfect answer. He would be so happy as we all are that you people are the owners and care for it so much. We are always glad to see it going by Halfway and we join you in the hope it continues going on many more years too.”
But, we needed a fishing utility boat too and were lucky to find the Tot. Again, my memory falters. I think we paid $1000 for the Curlew, but I don’t know what the Tot cost. How we hated to part with the Tot and perhaps we should have spent some money on it and kept it.
I didn’t pay much attention to the boats nor boat house, except for the big old house where huge chunks of river ice were stored. Each day Bill had to bring ice to the 3 or was it 4 old wooden ice boxes at our house. And coal had to go into the cellar bins for the big old cook stove. We started in with every bedroom full and many mouths to feed. Getting the food was a problem. A trip to Ogdensburg or Alexandria Bay for meat, vegetables, fruit, etc., was about once a week and with the ice house, the Backus store, Forresters and George Cuthbert’s milk, we managed. We bought in large quantities and found a farm in Brier Hill for fresh vegetables, chickens and eggs from Backus. We were always hungry and always well fed. I can see Julius making apple strudel. His crust would be rolled thin as paper and cover our big kitchen table, hanging over the sides almost to the floor. Delicious!
We had two row boats and often rowed to shore or Cedar to catch the “Island Belle” or “River-side” (the two day-boats plying between Alex Bay and Ogdensburg). The captain would bring us needed supplies.
After our first year, we planned with the Millers a schedule which gave them the island up until the first of August and we took the rest of the summer. The last couple of days in July and the first two in August we spent together.
I must go back and quickly review the story you have heard so often. it is of our honeymoon glimpse of the river which led us to the Clayton fishing trip. Dad and I were married at 4 p.m. on June 17th, 1908 and took the midnight train for Clayton. The next morning we picked up one of the big river boats and went to Alexandria Bay. We stayed at the big old “Thousand Island House” until the 21st when we went on to Montreal, Quebec, Montmorency Falls, the Adirondacks and down the Hudson to N.Y. Each day at Alex Bay we went fishing with a guide. The memorable day was when we fished around Chippewa Bay and had a fish dinner on Cedar (cooked by our faithful guide). We had caught a good string of them by the way. After our dinner we stretched out on the grass, looked out over the river toward Rob Roy and dreamed that just maybe we could have a small cottage on the river someday.
To go back to our early days at Rob Roy, there was much to do but we enjoyed every minute of it. I say that with reservations because at first I was afraid of the river afraid that the small ones would fall in and that the big ones would hit shoals which you well know they did. We had just Janet and Sonny until Howard came along in 1921 and Rob in 1926. Every time we went out in a boat Janet would jump in with her clothes on until we settled for bathing togs. But all in all and they were all in all — my family came pouring in — the JSTs, the HDTs, the WBTs and the PATs –father and once Uncle Charlie. Then all our friends came and I was on the jump for food all the time. Those first years we were always twelve at table, at least, and I annoyed you all with bells rising bells, breakfast at 8:30, dinner at 1:00 and supper at 6:30. And you came! We kept that up until the days of local help. Mary Dawley who left at 3 p.m.; Alice and Lloyd were our best help, even though Alice was not well, poor dear. Do you remember the water fights with Janet and me joining in? Then there was the year the Molloys spent with us when Henry was ill and you older children were all in camp, but Howard, Harriet and Bobbie were there and you older ones after camp closed.
Do you remember the time we put in the Delco system? Our big chore each morning was to clean and fill all the lamps and it took almost two hours. So the Delco was a joy, even though it didn’t work half the time. We had a self-appointed police patrol and woe to the person who got up in the night and pulled on a light. Our policeman always found us out and reprimanded us. I think we had two or three machines before Quarrier came over and we attached ourselves to his electricity. We made our own ice cream and cooked with wood and coal until we graduated to bottle gas. Do you remember our picnics, mostly on Bluff; though often on exploring expeditions we found new places. I’m sure I did hundreds of loaves of French toast, pancakes, fried chicken, fish, steak and watermelon.
After three years, Sam and Lerie wanted to sell out to us. They were afraid of the river. Sam had been caught out in the Tot in a squall and it was too much for him. We enjoyed them, but it was a relief to both families. The responsibility of sharing boats, etc., weighed on us both. The Miller children were broken-hearted and to this day talk of Rob Roy.
I surely am rambling. I wish Grampy had done this. it would have been concise and to the point.
Those early years it was so very different from the Chippewa Bay of today. No outboards, so it was a quiet river, much more restful than you can imagine. Once in a while an Indian and his squaw would come over from shore in a row boat with beads and baskets to sell. I still have a faded little basket at Rob Roy that I treasure because “Sonny” spent his own money on it for me. The Indians always had luscious blueberries to sell too. Then do you remember the summers Mr. Gray came over in his flat-bottomed boat with fruit and vegetables to sell? What a treat! Vegetables were scarce until midsummer.
We loved to row or canoe in the moonlight and sit around big bon-fires just as you young folks do now, singing and telling ghost stories. it wasn’t until you sons reached your mid teens that night driving distances of power boats was a river habit. No trips to Alexandria Bay. When Janet reached 18 there were very occasional trips to Clayton to dance and the trip was often made by car.
We all remember the overnight train trips from New York to Hammond. The conductor and engineer were our friends and the Hammond station was almost a social spot on Sunday nights.
Those first years had a charm that Progress has taken away, but we still have the river we love — the many friends, the sunsets and the moonlight are all treasured. The lapping of the water on the rocks as we fall asleep — the majesty of the storms — all is there and always will be!
it was real grief to part with the Tot. it was excitement and fun when Janka I arrived on Janet’s 16th birthday. The Blue Chip is special too and to some of us there is satisfaction in “The Covered Wagon”.
Do you remember when Dad and you all (in-cluding neighbors) made the float? History has it that Doug was the only one who stuck with Dad through the whole procedure. Uncle Bill chris-tened it by floating over to the Cuthberts with two boys paddling and he sitting in a chair with an open umbrella to catch the wind. Do you re-member the first sailing races? And I’m sure you don’t remember our Yacht Club meetings on the English-Washburne Island. Their boathouse upper veranda was a good observation deck.
Dad and Mr. Quarrier raced with aquaplanes and I don’t know who won but it was fun.
Do you remember the trips to the Cuthbert farm for milk in pails and the generous handout of cookies? And Mrs. Backus would send us home loaded with her garden flowers.
Then there was the summer the Molloys spent with us when he was ill. You older children were not there until camp was over.
Then there was the summer after Uncle Stew died and Aunt Mid and the three boys were with us. And the summer the Philip Thompsons were there after the children had polio.
I’m sure you remember the chores at Rob Roy and Dad’s uncanny way of getting you all, even your friends, to work. Do you remember how you used to try to sneak around the boathouse to get up to our porch? And even I helped saw wood! Do you remember the bat problems and climbing on the roof of Rob Roy to screen the chimneys?
And when Dad and I came down to Archie La-Monte’s funeral the oil water heater exploded and the house caught on fire. And even dignified Mrs. Strong joined the Bucket Brigade. Then there was the time Lloyd was removing paint on the porch with a torch and Howie was inside and discovered
the window seat on fire — which reminds me of the time when Bob at the age of four walked off the dock, and Howie was nearby in our first outboard — turned off the engine, jumped in and swam to his rescue. His glasses went through the mud to China.
Then there was the time when the older campers front Wulamat came for the weekend and camped. Poor Bobbie (he resented that), wasn’t allowed to come because he was a little fellow.
Do you remember our little dog, Lady Rob Roy, who is buried on the island?
We always swam front the front dock (the drainage pipe was not there).
We had good neighbors — the Glovers — Mrs. Ford and the Lyons. How good Charlie was to you boys with boat rides, etc. And we all loved Tommy. You had the temerity to go ask Mrs. Ford for her black stockings to use on a treasure hunt and I think it really pleased her. And, of course, the Cuthberts — Bill and Howie! What a pair and sometimes our despair. Ellen and Howie and the river romance of B.J. and Loren and their sailboat.
Bobbie’s first driving was at the tender age of five, tearing around the island in the “Tot” to show the Moores that he could drive — terrifying; and the night that Sonny had croup and I was fighting all night to bring him out of it with Dad way down in the City.
During the early years the present ping pong room was a delightful living room, which the mothers and children used in the mornings and all of us at night — all the windows wide open. What a wild rush when a storm came up! With the advent of the ping pong table we moved to the back porch.
I didn’t mention that the Inglis island (Owatonna) had electric lights all along its porch and was a beautiful landmark at night.
There were sad years when war kept Howard from us and we didn’t know where he was. And Jannie’s illness, and Bob and Loren in service. But, it was home and a good place to be sad if one had to be.
To me it is full of memories — treasured memories that pull at the heart strings even as I chuckle over the happy things. Yes, Rob Roy has been a delight and a blessing to all of us –yes — problems, too — just life I guess.
– Loren T. Wood –
One of my pleasantest memories of the river is derived from an activity which I liked the least — fishing. My father went fishing every day and I accompanied him on occasions when he didn’t have guests, but reluctantly because I was singularly unsuccessful at catching anything.
We’d get out there in the river with our New York State fishing licenses, anchored about 1 ft. from the Canadian line because my father thought all the good fish were in Canada, and I could sit there and look 30′ down in the water, see the short clean grasses swaying with the current, and watch those fish rejecting my bait. My pleasant memory is the crystaline clarity of the water in those days.
Another great memory was the old “TOT”, -a 15′ displacement inboard. Now, when you reversed that boat it would only turn in one direction. it didn’t take long to figure out how to work it, and it was consistent! it was not like these new fangled outboards which will reverse in either direction and cause you to make a lot of decisions when going backwards — most of which turn out to be the wrong ones.
My memory also dwells on the people whose wit and force of personality made life vivid on these islands. The Yacht Club meetings were a gas when Archie Quarrier Sr. and Ella Morgan held forth –and they always did.
Mr. Quarrier, by the way, was a big man and appropriately he owned the biggest fastest boat in the Bay — it must have idled at 20 m.p.h. One day when he and Mrs. Q., a lady of splendid dignity, were entering his boat house, the reverse gear failed to catch and as they sailed into the back wall of the boat house he issued the unforgettable cry, “Watch out, mother, we’re going through!” Fortunately they were not harmed.
There was Tom Knap, a mainstay of the Yacht Club, he brought serious sailing to Chippewa Bay and thus a wealth of valuable experience and enjoyment to my generation and, it appears, to ensuing ones.
Ben Cuthbert was a source of great fun for all who knew him. it was he who had the vision to organize the Bay Co. so we would have assured access to the mainland.
Hawley Rendall had a grand voice which would fill a cathedral to the rafters. He could some-times be heard uttering mere secular phrases, but still in full voice, on the tennis court at Scow.
And then there was Dave Halliwell my what a host of memories he provides. Ask your father or your mother to tell you some of those stories.
There were other marvelous people — I hope they’ll be written about but these are the ones
who touched me closest.
– Betty Cuthbert Wood –
My first awareness of the Islands was the view of them from my grandfather Cuthbert’s farm. Strangers used to drive in and ask if they could look from that very lovely hill. My grandmother always treated them as guests, taking out cookies or pie or lemonade. With her I used to go to the Backus home for tea — Erdine was a young girl
she played the piano for us.
My uncle took me and a cousin to the dock for swimming in the summer evenings. We were scared to death of the two Forrester brothers, but when George Cook (their nephew) was around we dared ask him for penny candy (if we had the penny). He was always good natured and friendly, quite unlike his taciturn uncles.
Once in a while I had a chance to visit the school for a day. A cousin my age was there and it was an exciting experience for me. Henry Hanson was the same grade as I, and as you would suspect a very good looking little boy. The most glamorous person in the school, though, was the oldest and tallest at that time — Bill Massey. He and his sister, Kitty, lived all year in the house on Oak Island (Orgains now). They went back and forth by boat when the river was open and then in winter, the envy of everyone, drove a Model T across to school on the ice. There must have been weeks when they couldn’t make it, and I think someone in Chippewa took them in. it seems to me that Helen Aiken (Bill’s wife) was teacher for quite a few years, but I might be wrong — maybe it was her sister. I connect them both with the school. A very big day was the May picnic –probably Memorial Day because it was usually warm, and the whole school took lunches and walked up the shore to a spot where the trillium were thick — white, pink and deep purple. We picked armloads — the boys went swimming. There were probably about 20 of us — 1st grade through 8th.
The old Riverside House seemed a very fashionable place. it was well kept up and Sunday dinner there was a very special occasion. The front porch was always well lined with guests rocking comfortably after a huge mid-day meal. A little ice cream parlor at the back was a delightful stop for homemade ice cream. Mrs. Davies was very patient with little girls deciding between vanilla, chocolate, maple walnut or strawberry, with their very important nickel (payment for bringing the eggs from the farm to exchange for sugar, flour or coffee from Backuses).
I was always intrigued by a family living across from the Store, named Smith. Their baby was named Calvin Coolidge Smith. That definitely places the time and betrays my own age. The story that I heard was they were NOT related to Joe or Howard Smith (cousins). They had a lot of children (probably at best 7), and looked down upon by the majority of the conservative, Presbyterian residents of Chippewa Bay.
An aunt of mine married a relative of the Forresters (where George Cook lives now), and I visited their home with that branch of our family. I haven’t seen it in many, many years, but that forty or so years ago it was a beautiful place. George Cook’s aunts were dignified proper-type ladies. My memories are of a cool Victorian all-adult household — lots of plants — and a beautiful garden, all kept up in a formal meticu-lous manner.
The Forrester Farm on the hill was beautiful too but not as forbidding. The “Islanders” got their milk there — quart, pint, and gallon pails brought in and left to be scrupulously washed and the filled ones tagged and ready in a big basin of cold water. My uncle, George Cuthbert, bought that farm and dairy business when Alden Forrester died, but he was a sheep farmer and didn’t give it the finesse that Alden had. Our milk from the Cuthbert farm and from all around went to the cheese factory. I don’t know that it’s really relevant to get into the cheese factory but here goes I never made it to the first milking but I was called in time to ride down in the wagon with the big cans of milk sloshing in the back. How big? 50 gallons? 100 gallons? A lot bigger than our garbage pails, I know. We drove up a ramp at the front of the factory and some sort of harness lifted the cans up and over to the troughs two men tipped them to pour out the milk. The empty cans were then filled with whey for the pigs and we returned up the hill for a big breakfast. The cheese factory had it’s own very strong flavor — tempo mostly — so leisurely, lifting the heavy cans, slowly pouring out the milk; the horse standing quietly; early morning bird sounds; slow raking of the curd; fat Mr. Tunderman in charge of everything; the rows and rows of seasoning cheeses stored on the shelves, the smell, in summer, was distinctive and far reaching. I don’t remember whether I noticed it in colder weather. The cheese factory was wonderful. I’m sorry it burned down. Once we found a cache of “throw-out” cheese in the white rock ledge above the factory. Never thought to ask about it. My father bought one or two big cheeses every year and stored them under the baby’s (Ellen) crib until we were ready to use them. Mr. Tunderman’s cheese had a very fine reputation in St. Lawrence County.
As you can see, my recollections are sentimental and probably not as accurate as someone’s who lived there full time. it was my wonderful visits with grandparents to an atmosphere different from life in Ogdensburg.
I think that even though we were on a farm we were conscious of the glamor and excitement of the islands. The men who were caretakers or boatmen had a respect and prestige — Bob Heran, the Forresters, George and Ed, Bob Massey; Floyd Babcock (although he was too young at the time I’m
talking about) and the fishing guides — Mr. Hanson, Harry Senecal, various Denners — those who guided and those who built boats — all had particular places in the community.
– Jeannine “Fifi” Wood –
We live in Montclair, New Jersey, in the winter in a house half the size of our summer home. We come to Chippewa in June when the children are through school and stay until Labor Day. We travel by car. it takes six hours exactly.
We start planning for the following summer the day we leave for home, and the long winter that is before us. (I usually start planning one week before we leave.)
Definitely, there is something special about the relationships of people up here — all ages –possibly because generation after generation of the same families keep coming up who realize we have a very unique spot. We think one huge plus is no telephones and also no TV.
One of our favorite pastimes is fishing and just being on the river and soaking up the fresh air and sun. We also enjoy a family cruise on a beautiful day under the Thousand Islands bridge, into the Needle’s Eye and through the International Rift. One of our favorite landmarks is the shortest international bridge in the world at Zavikon Island. In bad weather we love a roaring fire in our stone fireplace. We start the fires with pine cones which our seven-year-old gathers on good days (his job), and, of course, we roast marshmallows in the fire.
All our children have certain jobs for which they receive a weekly sum. If they don’t do their jobs, they don’t get paid. They must also pass a swimming test (without lifey) and take the written boat test before they may run an outboard alone.
One of the worst experiences I’ve had up here (very funny in retrospect, though) was the first summer Howard and I spent together in the big house on Rob Roy with our 4-month-old baby, my 5 and 7-year-olds and his 14 and 16-year-olds, plus sitter. That previous spring, an Army buddy of Howards (whom he hadn’t seen for 20 years), tracked him down. We got together with he and his girl and in a rash moment invited the two of them for the weekend of July 4. We got a wire from the “buddy” a few days before they were due, saying the girl couldn’t make it, but he would be arriving with his two teenage boys on Wednesday. Since they were driving from Washington, D.C., I planned a leg of lamb for their first dinner. Soon after they were on the island, the buddy wandered into the kitchen asking what I was cooking. When I told him he said, “Don’t be surprised if my boys don’t touch it. They’ve never had lamb in their lives.” That dismayed me somewhat, but I was overjoyed when the older boy said after several helpings, “That was delicious! Was it chicken?”!! The next morning at breakfast, I made the bad mis-take of asking each person how many eggs they wanted. When I came to the buddy’s younger son, he said without hesitation, “I’ll have one fried and two scrambled”!! That evening about twenty people — all ages were gathered in the living room at Rob Roy and the conversation came around to patriotism. The buddy, who had had several snorts at that point said, “Don’t tell me about patriotism!” — whereupon he unbuckled his belt, ripped it off, unzipped his trousers, pulled them down (the shorts almost came off, too) and exposed his wooden leg. Howard was mortified and had several snorts himself and as he was seeing the last person off, he fell on some lose boards and broke three ribs. Somehow, he survived the night and at dawn, we took him to the hospital at the Bay. The hospital was very crowded, and they put Howard in the hall. I spent that first night with him, leaving my octogenarian mother-in-law and teenage sitter in charge of the mob at Rob Roy. Howard came back to the island on Sunday — and by that time our water pressure was but a trickle — so out of sheer desperation, we suggested that the buddy take his two sons to see Ottawa and we would have a picnic supper when they returned. They came back at 4:00 saying everything was closed –including eating places. We quickly assembled the picnic and just as quickly ran out of food — each of the visiting boys ate five hat dogs. By Tues-day, the buddy felt Howard was getting along well enough so that they could leave. We didn’t argue. They left in the morning, and I promptly stripped the beds, then took off for Ogdensburg to shop.
By afternoon, Howard was trying his sea legs and was cruising around Rob Roy in an outboard when an old friend and a relative hailed him and handed him the following telegram: “Car broke down in Syracuse. Arriving Hammond on 6 p.m. bus. Meet us.” Howard then speeded to the dock at Rob Roy, hobbled to his mother and said, “What am I going to do??? Fifi, will divorce me!” She later told me he was ASHEN and confessed to him immediately that the wire was a joke!
- What do you know of the history of Chippewa Bay? … I have attached a copy of part of our deed. I suppose they called Lt “Park” Island as we are so close to State Land. As you know, though, we call Lt Cedar. John R. Becker was Mrs. Borst’s father, and we bought the property from their son, John, in 1968.
- Howard had a map of Big Chief Island (now in the possession of the Fullers to whom he sold same), which listed the area as CHIPPEWAY BAY and Oak was called Indian Hut Island. This was in the 1800’s. My aunt, Helen Lyon, once told me that in the early 1900’s all the islands used to be beautifully lit up — Dark Island was in the form of a ship.
- I first came here when I was two (42 years ago!) and my three children have never missed a summer.
- My mother’s family came from Michigan (Battle Creek) and her sister, Helen, met Charles P. Lyon of Ogdensburg at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he used to come for mineral baths, etc. They eventually eloped and here we are!!
- My earliest impression, I believe, is swimming without a “lifey” and probably eating in the servants dining room at Oak — the servants then being a maid, a cook, a boatman and the boat-man’s helper….The first boat I remember of Charlie Lyon’s was a cabin cruiser called the “Finesse”. When I was seven, Charlie took four-teen people to Alex Bay to watch the Labor Day races and I had been sent below to take a nap and awoke to, “She’s on FIRE!” My aunt had just
bought some new Hudson Bay blankets which she was determined to save, and the boatman just as deter-mined to leave on board in the interest of evacu-ating as quickly as possible. He won and we were rescued by two Chippewa Island boys: Jim Alker and Jim Rendall in their outboards. They took us to shore while we watched the demise of the “Finesse”. A model of this boat is still on the veranda at Oak. it was made by a beau of Helen Lyon’s youngest sister who, according to her, “came for a weekend, stayed 6 weeks, ate all the white meat and said: ‘so long’, when he finally left.” Charlie’s next big boat was the “Vamoose” which was built just before gas rationing and was finally sold to the Navy as an Admiral’s Barge. Just before, however, he expressed his defiance of the whole situation and had a sign made and promi-nently displayed: “The O.P.A. can kiss our gas.” His next and final boat, the “Pardon Me” had twin P.T. engines. On the shakedown cruise, Charlie Lyon invited several islanders, but the boat did not perform well at all. She would be nicely cruising along and without warning, settle right down in the water. Then a tour boat appeared and the boatman turned the wheel slightly to give ample passing room and nothing happened; he turned it more and still nothing happened. By the time they actually passed, he was spinning the wheel frantically and missed the tour boat by a very slim margin. The wart that Charlie had on his hand was gone by the end of that cruise! …When Iwas grown, I was in the kitchen making myself a drink and the same boatman told me this story: “You know I used to help Mr. Lyon with the drinks, and in those days it used to be French 75’s. For his stag poker parties, he used to invite all those dignified men front Ogdensburg. Well, they weren’t here for more than about 30 minutes when they’d be out on the lawn playing leap frog.”
Our favorite view (Howard’s and mine) is front our front porch. We face Chippewa Point and have a marvelous view of the freighters and can see the sun filtering through the trees, but are not blinded by it. Must tell you how we happened to discover our place: Howard was at the Bay talking to John Cranker, who was working on a boat the vintage of the “Mirage”, and said to John, “Boy, I wish I knew where I could get my hands on a boat like that”; to which John replied, “I can tell you where, but it doesn’t have an engine.” Where was here, and Howard did buy the “Mirage” (our name) without my knowledge and had planned to put a new engine in her and drive up at the dock at Rob Roy (where we were then) and say, “Here’s our new boat!” He knows me pretty well, though, and told me his idea. (Good thing! I would have been furious.) Subsequently, he asked me if I would like to see the boat which was up on chain falls-not very interesting to a woman. So while he was looking at the boat, I walked around and feil in love with everything.
* * * * * * * * * * *
HOWARD S. WOOD and JANINE B. WOOD, husband and wife, now residing at 87 Buckingham Road, Upper Montclair, New York, as tenants by the entirety, parties of the second part, Witnesseth that the party of the first part, in consideration of TEN DOLLARS ($10.00) lawful money of the United States, and other valuable consideration paid by the parties of the second part, does hereby grant and release unto the parties of the second part, their heirs and assigns forever, all THAT TRACT OR PARCEL OF LAND situate in the Town of Hammond, County of St. Lawrence, State of New York, bounded and described as follows, viz: Being the Northerly end of the group of Islands situate at Chippewa Bay in the St. Lawrence River, known as the Cedar Islands, said Island being known as Park Island. The land hereby described being all that part of said Park Island lying northerly of a line drawn from an oak tree on the easterly side thereof about 100 feet northerly from the causeway between said two Islands and about 390 feet from the extreme northeasterly end of said Park Island, westerly to a point on the westerly margin of said Park Island opposite to, and about 15 feet distant from the center of a shoal rock projecting above the surface of said St. Lawrence River about 15 feet distant from the shore and nearly or quite in line with the foot of Dark Island. Said shoal rock is marked by an iron peg drilled therein. A portion of said property was deeded to Fred Van DeMark and Bertha VanDeMark, his wife, by Frances M. Hambidge, on August 28, 1924. The other por-tion was deeded to Fred VanDeMark and Bertha VanDeMark, his wife, by John C. Howard and Charlotte S. Howard, his wife, on September 28, 1925.
The premises hereby described being the same premises that were conveyed to John R. Becker by Fred VanDeMark and wife, by deed dated October 23, 1928, which deed was recorded in the St. Lawrence County Clerk’s Office October 30, 1928, in Liber 251 of Deeds, at Page 404.
AND ALSO: ALL THAT TRACT OR PARCEL OF LAND, situate on Cedar Island in the Town of Hammond, County of St. Lawrence and State of New York, consisting of approximately one-half (1/2) an acre of land bounded on the north by Borst, and on the east by the St. Lawrence River, and on the south by Borst, and on the west by the St. Lawrence River, and being premises theretofore conveyed by the County Treasurer of St. Lawrence County, New York, to one James E. Kelly, now deceased
Scow – Chippewa Bay – A Special Place
– Eliza Quarrier
- I shall leave the history of Chippewa Bay to others who know it better than I.
- The first owners of Scow Island, I know of, were Jinx Collins (Mrs. Ferd Collins) family. The Brokaws, I believe. Jinx has a number of early pictures of the island. In the early 1900’s Mr. and Mrs. William Post bought Scow Island and built the present “cottage”!, and assorted build-ings about 1908 or 10. They first built the “yacht” house for their big steam yacht, the Karma. The architect was the same as for Rob Roy. A large part of the stone for the houses came from a quarry on Oak Island; as did the stone for Dark Island. The quarry is behind Rabbitt Island, and we would be glad to take you there. There are cut pillars and cut stones still there, and it is very interesting; as are the stories of the numbers of people who were brought in to work this quarry.
I would not care to even guess at the cost of building our “cottage”. Mr. Glassford purchased Scow from the Posts, and was there for approximately ten years. We became the owners in 1952.
- Fitzhugh is loaded with early island pic-tures and memorabilia.
- The history of the Yacht Club I will by-pass for others who know more. The Chippewa Bay Company was formed to establish a SURE right-of-way for the Islanders to have access to the River. The early days for the Bay Co. were tumultuous and colorful!, with strong and out-spoken characters such as Dave Halliwell, Ben. Cuthbert and Mr. A.B. Quarrier. I was a most interested and early member of the Board during some of these growing pains. Sam Conant could give you some very colorful highlights.
- Sidney Quarrier invited me for a house-party week at their island; and I first came to Chippewa in 1926, by train from New York. My impressions of the place, that year, escape me; as I was solely interested in a person!
I do remember though, feeling a sort of claustrophobia by being trapped on an island; and the river seemed one large flat bathtub to me, because of its lack of salt.
When I, not too long after, became a mem-ber of an Island family, and able to navigate boats, I slowly began to feel the majesty of the river; the stretch of peace; the constant motion of the elements, and the beauty and challenge of living with these elements.
- My impressions now are colored somewhat by a certain amount of responsibility. People and things! But the river, with its moods, and the life we live on it stays beautifully constant. The changes are only the same changes as in all our lives everywhere.
- Fitzhugh can tell you this.
- One could write a whole book from the suggestions you have under this number; but I’m sure all Islands have had rather similar stretch-ing and growing experiences. So, I shall write of Electricity. And the First Cable!, because I was there (but I totally forget the date and year).
In 1929 when I was first a real resident of an island, the facilities on any island were a primitive conglomerate of varied temperamental water pumps, coal stoves and/or bottled gas, and sagging ice houses. (Raw sewage, I guess I will not speak of.) On Ragnavok, each succeeding year, as equipment failed to produce, my father-in-law, “Pop” (Mr. A.B.Q.), became more and more outraged, and set his sights on an Electric Cable to come from the shore. He would have it; come hell or high water. The arguments to persuade other Islanders to join were vociferous, hopeless and endless. Then came the meetings with Niagara Mohawk officials, which were not quite as hopeless. In the end, I believe, Pop went it on his own with the support of the Niagara Mohawk. I well remember the day of the laying of that first cable. Measurements had been taken on the ice; Army Engineers, who had served in Normandy, were consulted about how to set the spools and lay the coils out flat without a kink (quite a trick). Pardon Smith and his helpers were set with the huge spools on a scow ready to roll it on out! In our outboards, we followed every open step of water as that cable was gingerly laid. No one was certainly sure that the water depths had been absolutely judged right, or that the wind drift of the scow totally accounted for. But we knew a given length of cable just had to make it — and it did; with little to spare. it was a total happening. it was a first. But may I add a P.S. to this beautiful happening; we, for some reason were not properly grounded!, and for a number of years received strange and numbing shocks from all the water intake pipes.
Most of us now have gotten onto the cable, and this has made much difference for all of us in all of our living.
- “Is there a special memory” — I think the years we had our Hinkley Sou’wester — The Wunderbar — is a very special memory in my book. it was a time of generation congestion on the island for us; and we, and our growing-up family needed an escape. We had fabulous adventures sailing the River and Lake Ontario for days and weeks. it gave us a totally new perspective of all of the 1000 Islands; of the River‘s expanse and of its history; and its relevance to all the Great Lakes system. We found other groups of islands almost as beautiful as our Chippewa, both in American and Canadian waters, and many fasci-nating harbors and small towns on both shores. We learned much of the history that this great waterway had been a part of.
However — We always returned to Chippewa,
grateful for a spot of belonging; grateful for the special people there; grateful for our particular place where the islands have their own beauty and the River at this point has a wide expanse and grandeur.
- Yes — My favorite view is up-river from our island. But — from each island there is a very special view.
SIDNEY S. QUARRIER, born 1906, the son of Frances Thompson Quarrier and Archie Belknap Quarrier, died 1953 at age 47; a victim of cancer, the disease which had occupied the last few years of his life. Long after those who knew him on ‘The River’ have passed, his red-haired temper, his broad and gentle hands, his appetite for competition and the well-planned prank, his wisdom, often imparted with terrifying swift impatience, will be remembered in exaggerated anecdotes. Sid was an exaggeration of life – larger, louder, lovelier and too soon gone.
– Archie M. Quarrier –
SOUTHERN COMFORT … it was one of those gentle June days when the Southwest wind did little more than tease the river all day long. The morning fog had dispersed hours ago, and it was approaching mid-afternoon when he first noticed her.
He had been quickly puttering around after lunch, he always puttered quickly and was on his way up from the dock with an empty wheelbarrow. They had been talking about it at lunch; it was nice to know that Heartsease was finally secure. At last it was relatively safe from the depreda-tions of unscrupulous fishermen, hunters, campers and other general undesirables. it was theirs now, and next year they could put the goats over there to get rid of some of the brush. it was just a very safe feeling to have this additional buffer front the rest of the world.
One of the children heard her first. She was on top of the small, bald bluff of Heartsease, just across the narrow cut front where the old boathouse once stood. She was waving her arms frantically and was trying to yell to them, but the wind whisked most of her words down river. He dropped the wheelbarrow on the concrete slab and turned to see who or what it was that abraided the reverie with trespass on his recently acquired frontier. She appeared to be somewhat distressed as she pointed to the far side of the island with one hand, and alternately whirled her other hand like a propeller, then made a motion as if cutting her throat. Her voice was barely audible above the breeze, but he heard enough to realize that she was not speaking English.
He was irritated at this intrusion into his space and addled at her effrontery of not only being on his island but apparently stranded there as well.
He walked hurriedly down to the dock in the hope that he could perhaps hear some of what she was saying. One of the children said that she thought she was speaking French. Arriving at the end of the dock, he looked across the narrow bay and up towards the gesticulating woman. Despite her desperate pantomime he could not help but notice that she was a well constructed lady in distress. She was in her mid-twenties and had been carefully poured into immaculate, white hip-huggers. She also was wearing a younger sister’s taut yellow top. The equatorial region in between was flat and tanned.
He deftly untied the gently rocking dinghy and started to row across the cut, his initial irritation slowly ebbing into curious ambivalence.
How did she get there? What is she doing there? Did she shear a pin in the weeds? Will I have to tow her into Schermerhorn’s?
These legion questions marched through his well, disciplined mind as he rowed towards Hearts-ease. But then he remembered; he couldn’t under-stand anything she was saying, and altruism edged back towards anger. He thought, peevishly, “I hope she at least speaks some English.” His French was antiquated and rusty at best.
The abrasive grinding of fiberglass on rock jarred him slightly as he landed on the sloping shore. He rose and turned to step out of the dinghy, but stopped mid-stride as he plucked several words out of her incessant imprecations.
Gracious, senor, Muchas gracias.”
French, my ass, he thought. “I’ve got a God damn hysterical P.R. on my hands.”
He pulled the dinghy up the inclined rock so that most of the hull was out of reach of the small waves, and turned to head up towards the summit. His presence on the island had a cataly-tic effect on the distrought woman; for although she was obviously relieved to see him, her hereto-fore punctuated pleas turned into an excited chattering stream of staccato tempoed Spanish.
A French woman, yes, the wife of a Canadian Fisherman with boat trouble; he could understand that. But what the hell was a Puerto Rican doing on his island? They don’t come this far North, or if they do, they surely wouldn’t come out on the river. As if to verify these contradictions, he noted that she was very dark skinned with almost black hair and dark brown eyes.
The babbling monologue continued as he neared the top of the bluff. He stopped and reached out with a reassuring hand, saying, “Senora, please speak slowly; I can’t understand you. No com-prendez Espanola. What is the matter?”
She paused abruptly as if startled by the sound of another human voice, and then, looking at him with renewed gratitude, she resumed her incan-tation, … Gracias, senor, muchas gracia. Mo-tioning for him to follow her, she started off in the direction of her apparently disabled boat.
His frustration and ire were now replaced by a general warm benevolence for the hapless woman in her predicament. He started to follow her through the trees to the far side of the island. Suddenly a third figure materialized out of the brush. He was totally non-descript in every re-spect, except for a broad grin and a sickeningly familiar voice saying, “Gotcha Sidney, gotcha real good.
– Licia Q. Beekley –
TEE BABCOCKS … I heard the whine of an- out-board slowing and stopping, and lay in bed with my eyes knowing exactly what sounds would be next. The swish-swish of a broom, wicker chairs being moved on the tile floor, and soon the splash of water hosing, down the porch — all meant Floyd and Mrs. Babcock had arrived.
As I got up, I felt the vibration of thunder-ing footsteps down the hall and down the stairs. Arch, Sid, and Dave knew also that the Babcocks had come. I believe they had spent the entire night conjuring up new plots with which to taunt and tease Floyd and Mrs. Babcock. Arch snuck out the front to turn off Floyd’s hose when his back was turned, Sid went out the dining room to whisk away the broom while Floyd puzzled over no water from the hose, and Dave sauntered into the kitchen to check Jerry Bird, Mrs. Babcock’s parakeet, who made the daily trip caged and blanketed. (Actually, Dave was making sure Raisin cookies were top priority on the baking list for the day.)
This was the start of a typical day for the Babcocks and how they survived the antics of all of us in such beautiful humor I am not sure.
Floyd was the master of play dumb — always pretty well one step ahead, yet playful enough to lead all of us on. And with these three conniving brains of my brothers at work, this was no mean trick. Through all the joking, Floyd was able to impart many of the unfathomable crafts he knew. He was completely familiar with every aspect of Scow, as he had come to the island as a young man to work as a bootblack. He had become our main-stay both physically and emotionally. When the Babcocks came, I’d hear Mother breathe a sigh of relief knowing that somebody else would share some of the burden of the “actives”, as well as the chores. For years it was our great privilege to have them part of our lives at Scow.
When an island book was suggested, we decided to tape Mrs. Babcock’s recollections of previous owners omitting comments about us, of course. We thought she would be perplexed and embarrassed if we just plopped the recorder down in front of her, so typically, began another ridiculous situation. David was in charge of disguising the whereabouts of the tape recorder and that was our biggest mistake! The final result was a total
disaster either so filled with laughter and giggles that it was inaudible or muffled entirely, as Dave had removed the recorder to the oven in the coal stove. Mrs. Post’s ghost will have to be the source
Mrs. Babcock never got ruffled. All she has to do was get halfway through washing the kitchen floor and find that at least ten people must go through. Occasionally you would catch her taking a little breather from the chaos by relaxing in the corner chair and watching the action.
One particular day she had been asked to bake a dozen of her beautiful creampuffs — to fill only eleven, however. Then to her consternation, one of us appeared with a can of shaving cream, to fill the twelfth. The R.D. Woods were coming for dinner, and Bob was the unsuspecting victim.
Infrequently the Babcocks spent the night; when they did, it was always a treat, because a bit of the job of a day went when they left …
– Licia Q. Beekley –
FISHERMEN …. Oh, the long drive and the months of planning to go to Scow — the dreams of aloneness and halt in the routine of our everyday life. All year this is the ideal. Reality and arrival, and I am up the first morning at the crack of dawn to enjoy this long-awaited moment of peace and quiet. Not so….for as the sun begins to paint its beautiful colors on the horizon, so too begins the buzz and hum of outboards and boats heading toward our island as if it were an oasis in the middle of a vast desert. Even the hardiest of wildlife and humans are intimidated. And so they come large and small — big splendid cruisers and battered little boats, alike only in that they are usually loaded with people. Scow is like a magnet, and the nearer they get the better. On occasion I have walked to the water’s edge and in a whisper asked sarcastically if they would like cream and sugar in their coffee. Nothing deters them. If it’s a hot day, they come closer for the shade of the overhanging trees; if it’s quite windy and their anchors don’t hold — tie off the dock. Why not?
Dick, a friend of Sid’s, was so appalled at the nerve of a boatload of fishermen that he went up to the house and donned his city clothes, neck-tie and all. To the total consternation of the fishermen, Dick reappeared, business attired, sauntered around, and then in a loud voice said, “Well, time for a dip”. In he walked, right off the end of the dock — and the boat pulled anchor immediately and left.
David and Mason have been known to create outrageous situations for fish-lovers… In the orange (5′ long) with its 1/2 h.p. engine, big lifeys, and towing fishing poles attached to large floating objects, they have circled and tormented for hours. To no avail other than burning off excess energy.
One beautiful afternoon, I was peacefully swimming with the girls down on the rock. They were all small then — some in lifeys and some in suits. I happened to notice a fishing boat drawing nearer and nearer. I remember trying to pretend I didn’t see it but its proximity was making me very nervous. Two “gentlemen” were in the boat and the nearer they came, the more raucous they became. A beer flung here. Then wild guffaws and remarks of questionable color –and another can flung over.
About 8 feet from shore suddenly one of the men threw out an anchor. I was completely unnerved at this point and told them to push off. My mother, who’d been perched on the wall, by this time came down the rock shaking her fist. With no warning, one of the men arose and very slowly and majestically stepped out of the boat into the water. We were stunned and speechless…approaching me was first a hat, then the entire dripping body emerged with an outstretched hand. it was Archie!!
– W. Mason Beekley, III –
THE RIVER … Licia’s and Susan’s enthusiasm for and hard work of organizing this book impels me to contribute a few lines….
My first recallable view of the River was its bottom at the age of ten on a one-day fishing junket front the Adirondacks. We apparently caught no fish, because virtually my only recollection is of clearly seeing the bottom, and someone in the boat measuring off the 30 feet of line it took to reach the bottom.
My next view of the River was almost 20 years later, in 1956, front the top of the Scow boathouse roof. I had just married the lovely, vivacious Licia, and our visit to the River was the grand finale of our honeymoon. We arrived late one evening, to be met in Chippewa by various Quarriers in the “Liza-Lee”. Chippewa Bay was immersed in deep fog, but we started out anyway — and spent the next couple of hours anchored in the bay waiting for the fog to lift. Finally we “felt” our way out to Scow. At 6:00 a.m., my three teen-age new brothers-in-law welcomed me to the River by routing me out of bed, marching me to the boat-house and up a ladder they had constructed to the roof, and daring me to jump. Enough awake to deduce that my options were limited to one, I took a quick first look at the River since the age of ten — and jumped.
Before 1898, Scow was two large, granite, soil-barren shoals, one of what had a house on it owned by Jinx Collins’ uncle. Then William Post of Ogdensburg bought Scow and built first the boathouse to house his 100 foot steam yacht “Karma”. A couple of years later, he decided to build a “cottage” and it was then that also the two islands were joined by the tennis court with clay scowed over front Oak. At the same time thousands of additional yards of topsoil were also brought over from Oak. I have often been awed by the thought of the hundreds of scow loads of top-soil, granite (again quarried on Oak), lumber, sand, asbestos shingles and countless other build-ing materials that were required for an island project like Scow, along with the tens of thou-sands of hours of skilled artisan labor required to convert the materials into finished structures. Floyd Babcock came to Scow shortly after its building, at the age of 14, as one of 14(1) servants in the “cottage” with the initial sole responsibility of bootblack (and some think our society has not progressed in the last 75 years!). Floyd devoted almost 60 years to Scow, joined for many of these by his wife, Ruth. Their biographies and that of Scow were, until the mid Seventies, inextricably entwined.
I gained some personal appreciation of “scow loads” from my own construction of what must be the world’s most expensive sandbox. There is an abandoned small goldfish pond on Scow, which when the oldest of our girls was very small, I decided would make a dandy sandbox. I ordered ten or so yards of sand for Chippewa delivery and rented a work-scow from Bill Schermerhorn. On an appropriately calm morning, Floyd, David Quarrier and I made one successful trip, towing a couple of yards loaded on the scow behind our Hutchinson inboard “Scowler”. On the second trip a north breeze came up and we took the ‘inside’ route along the shore. I was in the scow, and as we rounded Ojibway, the scow took a wavelet over the bow, then another, and with several more it was on its way to the bottom. I floated, but when the scow had settled, the 35 foot line off the “Scowler’s” stern was straight down — had we sunk in 40 feet of water, the “Scowler” would have joined the scow! The bills: Schermerhorn’s scow @ $275 (“fully depreciated value”); non-waterproof watch repair @ $50; one day of two scuba divers to remove sand from the scow (unsuccessful, because reportedly “like shoveling feathers”) @ $75; 40 feet of Nylon rope @ $20; waterlogged camera repair (photographer in the wrong boat) @ $50; two yards of sand @ $3/yard; subsequent cost to complete sandbox (Henry Hanson “doing it right”) @ $50. Total sandbox cost: $526. Return on investment: hundreds of contented hours for four little Beekleys, seven little Quarriers and assorted small guests — so far …
The guiding spirit, matriarch and.“Queen” of Scow is Eliza Quarrier. Except for an occasional brief moment of breath-catching, her annual Scow “vacation” is a perpetual round of planning for the next arrivals, changing beds, shopping, laying in provisions, and cooking, along with being hostess, mother and grandmother of all of us who so easily take for granted all that she contributes to our River lives.
At least two of our children took their first steps at Scow, but my most sharply etched memories of their very young years concern, naturally enough, their learning to be “water bugs” — the seeming eternity of “lifies” and their great joy at splashing in tiny water-worn pools (worn in the granite by millions of years of river-wear!) on Scow, Chub, Jug, Manzanita with little Manes, Collins and others. Once I stood in five feet of water, held one year old Liza-Lee at arms length — and expecting her to delightedly float and gurgle, dropped her only to have her sink like a rock, directly to the bottom whew!!
Trips to the Canadian side …
In the years of going to Mallory’s for vegetables, I never tired of admiring their “Wyeth-like barn” and its hillside setting. I never happened to see it in photogenic light and often wished I were a painter.
And then there was Heffernan’s, the “fisher-men’s” farmhouse restaurant on Grenadier — so called because all the guests arrived by boat at their rickety dock. There we dined more or less annually with all or some of Kel and Francie Bates, Sidney and Susan Manes, Laura and Jim Rendall, and others. There was something about the “home-style” of mountains of superb food and perhaps the sparseness of the farmhouse that provoked the highest spirits and the liveliest political, religious and philosophical debate of each summer.
Late, late one night several of us from Scow loon-raided, in fact invaded, the Rendall’s then newly acquired Canadian island. The expected reprisal for my part in the affair was that Tripper Rendall, then in his late teens, easily picked the water’s edge, and without a word simply dropped me in.
Until our young became sun worshippers in their teens, our 150 foot dock has much more frequently been the scene of blurring activity than of languor. True to the heritage of the three Quarrier boys, any child that learned to swim off our dock has just as quickly learned to be an expert at horseplay. Whether boat dockings, water-ski starts, simple dips, trap shooting,
Sunfish starts, or even fishing — each has been accompanied by some form of frenetic crescendo, always accompanied by anyone under 50 being thrown in.
Because of its size and sheer ruggedness, the house has been the scene of varied activities…
We were sitting around the dinner table one evening with Bev and Bob Wood and two European house guests, when a couple of Licia’s brothers decided to test our fire pump. The hose found its way into the house. After some minutes of wet scuffling, with most of us completely soaked at the dinner table, and with the front hall and dining room awash in dozens of gallons of water, our German house guest was heard to remark: “How vunderfull! Chust like our parties in Chermany. I didn’t know Americans could have zo much fun.”
I think it was Kel Bates who recognized our living room as the ideal setting for “murder”, which has to be played in pitch blackness. Potential ‘victims’ found their way into bookcases and onto the mantel, but mostly the heavy furniture and size of the room encouraged moving furniture in profusion: the sofa would travel almost the full length of the room, scattering bodies and lesser furniture before it. “Murder” became a highly developed sport. We reached the ultimate when the huge 300 pound Italian table came crashing down one night — and from that point on we settled for more sedentary games.
Scow has been the scene of many Chippewa Yacht Club dances. The leading spirits behind the days of special preparation for these have been Licia and Eliza Quarrier — who created the “Toilet Maiden” one year, and ‘cold gup’ theme and decorations another. “The Auction” was for a time, an acceptable way of raising a few bucks for the CYC treasury until rising prices and deteriorating merchandise (“$400 for a rotted out row boat?!”) put Sid Manes and tue, as the auctioneers, out of that business.
The most elaborate addition to Scow in my memory was one of the first formula hull inboard/outboard Donzi’s — a blue and white fiberglass beauty designed to do 50 m.p.h. in the Miami to Nassau race. Like a racing car, her 250 h.p. Interceptor engine simply proved too consistently temperamental. Typically, for each day of smooth operation, she spent a day being repaired or tuned, and she was sold in 1976.
All of us live removed to some degree from nature — and so it is with all of us at The River. The vacationers who live closest to nature are the campers — but the price of the fabulous
compensations of Scow is that we are probably the most consistently farthest removed from nature of any island in Chippewa Bay. I frequently commute to the River on weekends, sometimes arriving very late at night and getting out to Scow in an out-board left for me. I have done this dozens of times through the years and these trips alone and in the dead of night sometimes when the river is calm and the sky raining Persius Showers, or south-windy and rainy, or cold with high swells after a north wind day, or dead calm with knife-thick fog — have provided ne with many, many moments of appreciation and wonder, not only of my minuscule role in the whole scheme of things, but of what a fabulous and unparalleled spot all of us have the great good fortune to be able to call our vacation homes.
C.Y.C. DANCE SKIT
ROB ROY ISLAND
SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 1949
– Licia Beekley –
Introductory Poem: said by the whole group
The year is Twenty-O-nine A.D.
And many a thing has changed.
Your children are now grandparents, you see.
Things have been slightly deranged.
The world, they say, has raced ahead
-In many another spot-
Atomic beams to engines fed,
But in Chippewa – NO! They’re not.
Garwood has built an outboard jet, 7000 miles per day;
But ours, when at full speed are set, One day’s a trip to the Bay.
So here’s a salute to our Bali-hi,
And all its backward clans.
Let all the other fools rush by
While Chippewa in stillness stands.
Commodore’s song: (Tune: “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” Singer: Dan Ruge)
I see by the Hammond Adviser,
There’s a Yacht Club at Chippewa Bay;
There’s a blue and white pennant that flies there,
And a dock, but that’s all that they say.
Whose heard of a club with no club house?
Of a flag and a dock with no yacht?
D’you suppose that the River’s gone utterly dry,
And there’s no one out there who can tell them what’s what?
I’ll look in on one of their meetings,
And see what the HELL it’s all for
And put up my own nomination
I’ll be Hot Rock, their new commodore.
Poem: (Said by Dan Ruge)
T’was back in the year of ’49,
When garbage from Upper Chippewa came;
Sixty years have passed in time,
And still it floats down the same.
Garbage song: (Tune: “I Can’t Say No” Singer: Sue Knap)
I’m just a girl who likes things nice,
I want my water straight;
I like my food kept fresh on ice,
That’s what I’m here to state.
it isn’t very pleasant when you are dreaming
Of the cool, delicious swim you’re going to take,
To see another fellers extra dinner
Of left-over banana peels and cake.
Who dumped their orange peels today?
Who ever thought they would sink?
Before they got to my drink –
To swim in your.garbage is tough – I’ve had enough!
Poem: (said by Dan Ruge)
Our oldest living inhabitant
Is Jim of the Alker boat line.
But his tours to Chippewa never are sent,
For Chip’s landings are not too fine.
Dock song: (Tune: “Kansas City” Singer: Jane Knap)
Everything’s all a slantin’ on the boat dock,
All the under pinnings are just shot;
After we saved up all our money, it surely is quite a shock,
And look at the mess that now is all we’ve got.
All our business meetings are about it,
For when the water’s up the dock is down;
It all depends on how and what your new boats going to bump.
For whether you’re old or young, you’re going to surely have to jump.
We’re all in quite agreement that the whole dock is defunct.
It’s sunk about as far as it can sink! It’s sunk about as far as it can sink!
Poem: (said by Dan Ruge)
The Bentons, Bestes, Conants, and Woods
Have multiplied right and left;
Still buzzing ’round the neighborhood
Enough to make us deaf.
Motor song: (Tune: “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” Singer: Licia Quarrier)
Motors roaring on the River,
All the fishermen, they give me a quiver;
Nobody gives a DANN about the noise they make.
Light pumps start at an early hour,
They always make me feel so sower,
All the noise is disturbing to a woman’s peace.
I can’t even think about my own affairs,
Even when alone in my abode;
They all know well they should make some repairs,
But the pumps won’t carry any more load.
Even all the nights are disturbing,
I can’t get my sleep, it seems quite perturbing;
All those kids buzzing ’round my island.
They can’t conceive – Of the noise and the racket that make me pieved.
Poem: (said by Dan Ruge)
Now I’ve heard all your new complaints,
And stand up for what you yearn;
Shut up! and please have some constraint
The meeting is adjourned.
Finale: (sung by all four)
Oh, our islands where we each just go our own sweet way,
Where the things we do Cannot be new,
‘Cause it wasn’t so in gran’ma’s day.
Oh, our Yacht Club which is legal
’cause it meets each year,
For no matter what
Comes from ice or rot,
Our dock must stay there to get us here.
So each summer’s about the same you see,
And the weather’s our chief variety;
So when we say – It’s just a lovely day –
We’re only saying –
You’re doing fine Chippewa
Chippewa’s O.K. CHIPPEWA.
Cruising down the River
There’s no telling what we’ll do;
We might go on or might come back,
it all depends on you.
It’s so pleasant on the River,
And we’ll just look around –
For there might be something doing on an
island that we found.
Snug Harbor – Florence L. Strong
HAPPY THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES
Snug Harbor Island was purchased by Mr. Edward L. Strong in 1889. The house was built the following year, very small and simple, and since that time has been added to and built upon as the family increased.
One of our favorite photos at Snug today shows Mr. and Mrs. Strong in a St. Lawrence skiff pulled up along the rocks with a tent in the back-ground on the front point. They must be camping–but in high fashion, as Mr. Strong is attired in a white shirt and hat and Mrs. Strong is wearing a long dress and elegant bonnet!
I first saw Snug Harbor in June of 1925. I had just married Hewlett Strong in Boulder, Colorado, and was fascinated by all the water surrounding the beautiful island that I was to love so dearly in the years to come.
Imagine going by boat everywhere! My summers had been spent in the mountains at Evergreen in Bear Creek Canyon. I rode a donkey when I was very young, then a horse. I could climb a mountain and bathe in a rushing mountain stream — but boats? No roads to guide you?
A charming family made me so welcome and two nephews and a niece introduced me to the wonders of island living. I made so many blunders. I seemed to be able to row a boat only in circles, and in my first sailboat ride I “came about” on a shoal, and was knocked down by the boom which I did not know could swing around.
One of my first boat rides was with Tom Knap in his “speedboat” a racing boat with a very powerful and noisy motor. I had to wear a bulky life jacket, and it all seemed very exciting. it was fun but my only ride as the family felt I wasn’t ready for such a dangerous ride.
So many things were told me of happenings at the island. One year, a cyclone, coming from the west, ripped the house from Uncle Ad’s island, across from Snug Harbor, and tore up twenty trees between our boathouse and the house. The house itself wasn’t touched and the family were all in-side eating peach ice cream and were unhurt. One tree still stands to show the effect on its twisted trunk. A photograph shows the floor of Uncle Ad’s house with a rocking chair floating down the river.
Hewlett told of rowing up two bays from Snug as a boy in the early 1900’s to watch the workmen with their barges quarrying the huge blocks of granite on Oak Island, to build the castle on Heart Island.
I loved to hear about the days when everyone rowed wherever they wanted to go — even way down to Cedar Island where there were dances during the summer. And each morning, for several years after I came one of our boats rowed by John McPherson, went over to Oak Island to Jed Dingman’s farm, for milk, butter, eggs, and cream so thick that it had to be “spooned” from the pail.
The ice house was filled each winter with ice cut in our bay and carried to the ice house, where it was covered with sawdust. Each morning the big 18″ blocks of ice were washed off in the river and brought into the house and put into the old-fashioned ice chests. The clear big chunks we chopped off for pitchers of iced tea and lemonade seemed to make it taste extra good!
In the early days, the family came from Ogdensburg by steamer, the “Island Belle”, which landed at the back of the island, and all the family and the luggage — one year, even a piano– was unloaded and carried to the house. The family arrived on the Fourth of July and left on the same boat on Labor Day.
Mrs. Edward Strong was a most gracious and hospitable hostess, with a very loyal and competent staff. The house was very comfortably run. Meals were on time and delicious. “Phoemie”, the cook for twenty years, made chocolate cakes and doughnuts appear as if by magic, and picnics were put up at a minute’s notice if asked for.
Picnics were elaborate — men in white flan-nels and ladies in skirts and food to match –cold chicken, mounds of potato salad, iced tea, and always a chocolate cake.
Two favorite spots for picnics were the head of Oak Island with its pitch pines and lovely big rocks, and Crooked Creek with its many bends and quiet waters. A regular flotilla of boats would head up Crooked Creek — the “John Mac”, the island’s inboard, skiffs, sailboats, and rowboats.
Phoemie, using a wood stove, would have a large dinner ready at 6:30. it was a delicious and formal meal, everyone “dressed”, even the little boys in coat and tie. Conversation was good everyone ready to contribute an interesting item — NO politics and NEVER contradict. Small children had their supper upstairs and were put to bed or entertained by their babysitters. Later, my grandchildren were at all meals with the family — but not in coats and ties! No way to have them miss the fun of a family meal once they were old enough to feed themselves.
Sometime after the house was built, Mr. Edward Strong brought in a barge of sand from Grenadier Island to make a beach at the foot of our bay, which has been used by three generations of children — and by turtles to lay their eggs.
Boats became larger, outboard and inboard motors were constantly getting more powerful, less rowing was being done. Hewlett thought that everyone should know how to sail. Understanding the winds and how to use them, he felt, was an important lesson for all boaters. At one time, when he had retired from business, he promoted a class of sailboats for C.Y.C.
In the living room, on the wall by the door, is a family record of heights and dates of each child and many friends. The earliest mark is of Elizabeth Strong (Mrs. Wm. Westbrook), aged three months, in 1894. One year, an overzealous cleaner washed the wall and caused a panic. The faintly recognized marks were painstakingly re-done.
The island, run and staffed by Mrs. E.L. Strong, was closed and shuttered for a few years during World War II. In 1944, the H.P. Strongs began coming up again for an occasional weekend. Gas for boats was scarce and its use carefully planned.
A rented boat from Schermerhorn’s Landing would take us to the inner shore of Oak Island, where we landed. The boat was tied up and each person would take his own pack of clothing and a share of the provisions, and we hiked across Oak to the shore across the bay from Snug, where a rowboat was tied up, ready to take us to the island.
The trek across Oak was a real challenge, as we had to blaze a trail, and we sometimes lost our way. There were certain landmarks a field of “elephant grass” that ripped at pants legs to plow through, a ridge with lovely fossil rocks, a marsh where we had to lay down planks for the wet seasons — all a grand romp for our Scottie dog but a haul for us with our back packs!
There were, of course, lovely treats along the way wintergreen to crush between our fingers and sniff, clumps of blueberries in season, and one day we discovered a nest with twelve partridge eggs laid out in great precision and cleverly hidden with leaves. At the end of two days, on our return, the eggs were all hatched.
Living was now quite different. Na Phoemie in the kitchen turning out roasts and cakes and no John fetching crates of oranges. The hostess/ cook/carpenter’s helper would sometimes forget that a wood stove needs a new log occasionally and in the enjoyment of a beautiful sunset or good conversation with guests, would return to the kitchen to find a meal uncooked — dinner hours became very flexible!
One of our greatest pleasures each year is to watch for the loons, which often nest in the marsh behind Snug. Their cry is a happy thing for us to hear and we wait to see the pair bring their one or two babies out for the first swim. A favorite picture is to see the young on the back of the mother, having a ride when too tired to go on a further trip.
One year we watched what must have been their courting dance. We quietly gathered on the dock as a pair slowly and majestically paraded before us each leg alternately revolving slowly like paddle wheels. Surely they were oblivious of us but we had grandstand seats.
For a few years we were entertained by a pair of bald eagles. We could watch them soaring for almost half an hour, just enjoying the pleasure of riding the air currents. We discovered that “papa” was very selfish about bathing — he re-fused to allow his wife to share the water until he was finished. The early flights of the young were most entertaining as they learned to control their wings and would hike and jink across the tree tops on the teetering edge of a crash.
One of our favorite times were the Fall days and preparing for duck hunting. it was as much fun getting prepared, as the actual hunting it-self. Putting new cords on the decoys, seeing that the weights were safely tied to the cords, and the decoys in good shape. Then the work of setting up the blind, the cold job of putting out the decoys in the early dawn in icy water, only to replace them all in a better location when the wind shifted.
Although the duck dinners were delicious, the hunting itself was na more enjoyable than the hunting lore — the stories of past hunting season incidents. One morning, setting out for our blind with our decoys in a little outboard in a deadening fog, we chuckled as we heard some “lost fools” going round and round in their outboard. We never did reach our destination and later getting together with the Ackers from Halfway Island, we heard them describe what must have been us in the same words!
For a number of years we stayed at Snug into late November, sometimes packing up and leaving in a snowstorm, and arriving as soon as the ice broke up in April. These were the years when many islanders left the river in September and returned in July and there was little activity on the river. The colors of the maples against the pines in the Fall, the lovely warm sun of an October afternoon after a frigid night, the flocks of geese which often sounded like crowds cheering at a baseball game, compete for beauty with the delicate greens and sprinkling of trillium in the early Spring. Perhaps because it is so transient, nature seems most beautiful and fragile at those seasons.
How could I think of Snug Harbor without thinking of “John Mac” who was a part of the family — running and caring for the boats, the island, and watching out for each child. He was with the family for forty years.
A wonderful dream now is remembering how, each morning, milk, butter, and thick cream was brought in from Dingman’s farm on Oak. Sometimes the young children were taken over, and had the excitement of drinking warm milk as it came from the cow.
Every year brings fresh memories each one very joyous and cherished. But the early days seemed so peaceful. No one ever thought of vandalism, or invasion of houses. But with any annoyance, there is the thrill of saying, “next year at the island.”
Sturgeon Point – Victor and Stella Anderson
During the summer of 1924, the Fred Rosenbaums (Rochester, N.Y.) and the George Forresters (Chippewa Bay) held a picnic on Sturgeon Point. Mr. Rosenbaum thought it would be a good place to build a cottage. He purchased the land from Anna D. Roger and Lydia Denner, October 1924 for $200.
In those days, it took seven to nine hours to come from Rochester to Chippewa Bay. Baggage was strapped to the running board of the Reo, the roads were poor, and there were few restaurants along the way. Now the trip is made in three hours and fifteen minutes on super highways.
Plans for the cottage were drawn by Walter Foley, a brother-in-law of Fred Rosenbaum. The cottage was built in the spring of 1925 by Eben-ezer Forrester, Mort Livingston, and Howard Smith. The carpenters wages were $3.00 a day.
The cottage was heated by a wood-burning stove. There was a hand pump in the kitchen which brought river water to the sink. Drinking water was carried from Cedar Island. There was a kerosene burning stove for cooking and kerosene lamps for light. At an early date, a Delco Electric System was installed. it was noisy, even though the motor was in the boat house. One year, during high water, the plant was inundated. it was never replaced. Some time later, electricity was brought to the island from the mainland. it brought a whole new way of living. No more kero-sene stoves to blow up in your face, and no more blocks of ice to bring from George Forrester’s ice house.
The mail was picked up at the Backus store and milk was purchased from the Doolys or Alden Denner. it was not in bottles. You took your own pail and carried it home.
One summer, in the late 20’s, a steady pounding was heard near the Forrester’s store. it was an Indian lad, pounding on a black ash log to loosen the layers of wood, which he cut into strips to make baskets. There was a small tent for sleeping and the cooking was done in an iron kettle, hung on a tripod. A strong market basket could be purchased for 50 cents.
In 1958, the Victor K. Andersons’ purchased an acre of mainland between Pickerel Point and Sturgeon Point, to insure the privacy of Sturgeon Point.
In the 1920’s and 30’s, two boats, the Kingston and the Toronto, could be seen through the gap. One day it was the Kingston and the next day it was the Toronto. They could be identified as the Kingston had two smoke stacks, and the Toronto had one. They could be seen going down the river at 8:05 every morning. You could almost set your watch by their passing. They are no longer in service. Automobiles, buses, and airplanes have taken their place.
The Island is now owned by the Victor K. Andersons. Mrs. Victor K. Anderson.(Stella) is the daughter of Fred and Louise Rosenbaum. Victor K. Anderson is the son-in-law.
No one knows why it is called Sturgeon Point, but during low water it was a point and during high water it was an island. Due to some dredging being done to open the way for water to flow through easily, there is now water all around the island and it is no longer a point at any time.
Many years ago, in the summertime, Jim Wright could be seen rowing a boat, loaded with firewood, talking to himself all the way to the Forrester dock. it is said that when Jim had folding money, he washed it and hung it on the line to dry. When he had money enough, he made a trip to George Forrester’s store (now owned by the Chippewa Bay Company) for lard to put on his bread.
Chippewa Bay is truly a “very special place.”
The following are two news articles about the Forresters
RITES TUESDAY FOR GEORGE FORRESTER
Widely known Chippewa Bay business man expired Sunday; was 89 years old — Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 (1943), from the home in Chippewa Bay, for George Forrester, 89, who passed away Sunday afternoon at 1:10 after an illness of about two weeks. Mr. Forrester had been ill with influenza, which developed into bronchial pneumonia.
Mr. Forrester was born Dec. 5, 1854 at Chip-pewa Bay, a son of William Austin and Caira Webster Forrester. He was the eldest of seven children, one of whom died in infancy.
As a young man, Mr. Forrester sailed for about 10 years as a first mate on the Great Lakes, after which, for several years, he sailed on one of the river boats. He then worked for C.B. Orcutt as captain of the latter’s steam yacht about nine years. After retiring from sailing, he built a grocery store and gas station on his point, where the main docks of Chippewa Bay are located, and conducted these enterprises for over 30 years or until the time of his death.
On Sept. 24, 1912 he married Mrs. Caroline Ray of Rochester, the ceremony being performed by the late Rev. Dr. Ferguson at the home of Mr. Forrester’s brother, Eben Forrester. She died April 7, 1930.
He is survived by one sister, Mrs. Ross Eaton of Irma, Alberta, and two nieces, Mrs. Omar Eaton of Alexandria Bay and Mrs. S.P. Brown of Potsdam; also two nephews, George Cook, with whom he lived, and Earl Wilson of Fort Covington.
Mr. Forrester was next to the oldest resident of Chippewa Bay, and one of the most respected.
Rev. Mr. Jones of the Redwood Methodist Church, officiated at the last rites, and inter-ment was made in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery.
The bearers were Alden Denner, Floyd Babcock, Joseph Smith, Herbert Slate, Robert Heron and William Backus.
AGED CHIPPEWA RESIDENT PASSES ...
E.A. Forrester, 72, had been in hospital for several weeks, rites Monday Funeral services were held
Monday afternoon at Chippewa Bay, for Eben Austin Forrester, 72, who passed away Saturday afternoon at the Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg, following some weeks treatment there for infection in his foot. He was taken to the Hospital July 21. Gangerine set in, and this disease, complicated with sugar diabetes, proved fatal.
Mr. Forrester was born in the old Forrester homestead at Chippewa Bay on June 10, 1861, and was the youngest son of Carrie Webster and W.A. Forrester. He had been a resident of Chippewa Bay.
Temagami – Adelaide Morgan Beste
In 1898, George Shephard (grandfather of Phil Craig) sold, for $6,000, the three and a half acre island, Temagami, then known as Ingleneuk, of the Cedar Island Group in Chippewa Bay to Frederic Remington, the famous American painter. This be-came his summer home and workshop. He improved the cottage, a two-story frame building with a small porch. He built his studio a short distance away at the water’s edge, what is now the living room of the bungalow, with high windows for the north light. He installed a clay tennis court, and had his canoes shipped to the island. He made one try with a naptha launch and speedily dis-carded it. The canoe was good enough for him. By this time, overeating and excessive drinking had bounced his weight toward the 250 pounds mark. Remington could still mount a horse, still ride. His service from the tennis base line still sizzled. Almost daily at Ingleneuk he took a plunge and swam in the chilly river waters. For additional exercise, he would ease his huge body down into one of his canoes, pick up the double-ended paddle and cruise around Cedar Island. As a paddler, he was second to none. He dearly loved the challenge of the elements, to point the bow of his canoe into the wind and meet the “white horses” in the open river head on.
Frederic Remington is best known for having preserved, in oils, water colors, sketches and bronzes, “The Vanishing Old West”. But though the West became the soul of his art, almost all of it was produced in the East. The ten years whose summers he spent at the island were his years of increasing perfection. He was an illustrating artist, one of the greatest artists America has had. He was born in Canton, New York, and that is where he is buried. During the summers at the island, he persuaded all kinds of people to pose for him my father, Harry Morgan, and his friend
Cecil Brownlow of Ogdensburg, who was dark as an Indian, Joe Smith of Chippewa, and dozens of others, who would best ride the saddle in the studio and be transformed into a cowboy.
During these years, on neighboring Thelema Point (now known as Craig’s), my uncle and aunt, Thomas Fine Strong of Ogdensburg, and his wife, the former Alice Morgan, were spending their summers, and entertaining their Ogdensburg friends, as well as the college friends of their daughter, Marguerite (Margie, Wells ’03). In those days, the river steamers were the life line of the islands. They brought guests, groceries, laundry, supplies of all kinds. Every island had a deep water dock suitable for docking one of these 80′ two-decker vessels. Ponemah’s dock was at the foot of those steps on the head of the island. Ingleneuk and Thelema were served by the dock at the outer edge of the bay in the middle of Cedar Island, toward shore. There was a store, run by George Forrester’s father. There guests debarked to stay at the island. Guests of Thelema walked across to the dock on the other bay, and were rowed across to the point. In 1901, after her graduation from Wells College, my mother, Ella Hardee, came up to visit her friend Margie Strong, vowing that she was not going to be impressed with Margie’s much-touted “Greek God” of a young uncle, Harry Morgan, then just finishing medical school. Two years later, she accepted his proposal, on the rocks of the point, losing her best coral beads on the same momentous occasion. They were married four years later, after he had repaid the tuition money which his rauch older brother-in-law had loaned him. They lived in Ogdensburg for four years, 1907-11, before moving to Toledo, Ohio, where he became the city’s first pediatrician.
In those early years of the century, the Thousand Islands were among the most fashionable of the summer resort areas. The Gold Cup Races, for the fastest motor boats in the country were run at Alexandria Bay. Many wealthy people main-tained steam yachts, housed in boathouses such as still stand on Wyanoke and Scow Islands. Cedar Island was a center of activity, with the store and the hotel (razed by a controlled fire in the winter of ’66-’67, because of its hazardous con-dition). Life was quite formal, with dinners served by several maids, boatmen to keep launches running, or to row errands, while people sailed, canoed, or played tennis for diversion. The Getha was a great, wide catboat, capable of taking ten or twelve young people on a sail, by day, or by moonlight. Almost every evening, Gaga (Mrs. Strong), a handsome and imposing grande dame, would inquire, “And who is going canoeing tonight?” On a small island, full of young people, almost everyone was eager for a little time a deux. Somehow, in spite of the awkward looking clothes, the pictures show people having the same kind of good times they have today.
In 1908, Frederic Remington, building a large home in New Rochelle, found himself caught in a stock market crash, and was forced to sell Ingle-neuk. He sold it to Thomas Strong. About the same time, Mr. Shephard, evidently regretting having parted with Ingleneuk, purchased Thelema Point from Uncle Tom Strong. The two islands have remained in the same families ever since. (Gladys Shephard married Howard Craig, father of Philip, who married Joella Zabriskie of Ogdensburg.)
Uncle Tom and Gaga made extensive changes in the cottage on Ingleneuk, making it into the large building with porches, kitchen wing, sun-porch, etc., which all the pictures show. The beautiful paneling, the lovely scenic wallpaper, and many pieces of furniture were still there when the house burned in 1963. To the island every summer came their daughter, now married to Anthony Martin Menkel, a lawyer in Pelham, New York, with their three children, Margaret, Thomas and Anthony, Jr. And, as guests, my parents, with Cynthia and me. The Menkels came by car from Pelham. We came by train from Toledo, in a sleeping car which was switched at Buffalo, and again in Syracuse, in the night, getting us up to Philadelphia Junction, N.Y., where we got breakfast in the station, and eventually arriving at the station in Hammond.
After World War I, and my father’s death in 1920, we spent our summers on Cape Cod, near my mother’s dear college friends, the Warren Goddards, and did not return to the island until 1923, when I was eleven and Cy eight. The Menkels were 13, 12, and 6. That summer and the next, I remember learning to sail in a skiff with pointed ends, two sails and a funny little center-board. You generally had to use oars to bring it about, and as I was not allowed outside the bay, there was a lot of effort involved. it must have been the next summer that Tom and I, sailing the Panut, a broad-beamed, heavy catboat, were caught in a white squall, almost out at Dark Island. The goose-neck broke, I was ordered to sit on the boom to keep it from thrashing around and we ploughed before the storm all the way to Quarriers, where we were rescued, proud but with chattering teeth, by our horrified parents. That was the summer that Tom and I went canoeing in the evenings, and smoked every imaginable type of “cigarette”, from tea to dried leaves.
We had a great collection of Ives boats, metal boats of various styles, from ten to twenty inches long, with wind-up motors in them. We spent a good many hours, with Fitzhugh Quarrier racing them, keeping records of them, oiling the motors, as well as sailing the toy sailboats now in the living room.
The Regatta used to be held at Wyanoke Island, and was distinguished, in my memory, by peanut cookies and iced tea, and by my always being beaten in the swimming races by Julie Chap-man (Mills) and Frances Seymour (Harrison). They also had motor boat races between Seymour’s
(Choke Cherry Island) Mouche a Feu, and Uncle John Howard’s Ponemah, both long, cigar-shaped and very fast, as well as go-bang races for all the other motor boats.
Toward the end of the Twenties, in spite of sharing operating expenses, the Menkels decided the upkeep of the island was becoming too much of a financial burden, so they sold it to my mother; continuing, however, to use the island jointly for several more years. The Thirties, depression years for adults, were still carefree ones for the five of us in prep school and college. Mother went twice a week to Ogdensburg for groceries, being met at Chippewa dock by our boatman-caretaker. (We walked up the hill for mail, and for the milk, carried in tin milk pails from George Cuthbert’s farm.) Georgie and Susie, mother’s colored maid and cook, came with her from Toledo. We sat down to each meal in the big dining room, at the long table, which Aunt Margie had made, that seated twelve or fourteen, with mother at the head, and Georgie passing things, and removing plates, etc. Susie produced marvelous meals cooked on the coal stove, augmented by a bottled gas one. Ice came from the ice house beyond the back porch, which was filled each winter by George Cook. They cut blocks of ice out of the river, hauled them up with horses, and packed them in sawdust, almost to the ceiling. This supply would last us all summer; the man filling the ice boxes in the pantries each day, and making ice cream in a hand cranked freezer once a week for Sunday dinner. Susie’s peach ice cream, her brownies, her homemade rolls and potato salad for Sunday night supper, her iced tea, are sighed over nostalgically by many people, even today.
On ironing day, there was no toast for break-fast after nine o’clock, for the coal fire had to be built up in the stove to heat the irons. When one cooled, you put it back on the stove and took another one, using hot pads over the handles, or perhaps a gadget with a wooden handle that clamped onto exchangeable iron bases. Our lights were kerosene lamps. Each morning, Georgie washed the chimneys, trimmed the wicks and filled the bases if needed. We went to bed by flashlight, quickly. New guests were always told the three cardinal rules of the island: Never walk with a lighted lamp; Never throw away a lighted cigarette; and Don’t try to row or paddle to Dark Island.
We almost always had house guests. In those years, no one had summer jobs, summer vacation was just for fun, and there were always boys and girls visiting. No one went steady, unless actually engaged, and it was customary for a girl to try to attract as many males as possible, even at the same time, which made for considerable social turnover. There were regular sailing races twice a week, with trophies at the end of the season.
There was an annual tennis tournament, with both doubles and singles, running over a couple of weeks; with a good gallery for each match, played either on our court or at Scow. We picniced at Bluff or Chippewa Point, and even had Scavenger Hunts in canoes, paddling furiously from island to island in search of strange objects. We sang a lot, sitting on the porch, in the old rockers and on the railing. And we danced in the dining room to the windup victrola. Sometimes we went to the Bay by boat, in the Temagami, or the Janka, or the Curlew; and danced at the Crossman House, or at the Dime-A-Dance place by the Boat Tour dock. Or went by car to Clayton to the big Casino there, with a huge dance floor and good bands. it was very romantic, with the colored lights shining out over the water; then coming home in the moonlight over the roller-coaster Goose Bay road, in the rumble seat •of somebody’s car. We used to go to dances at the Ogdensburg Country Club, too, when it was still a private Club. That was during prohibition and drinking was done out in a car, not at the bar.
it was an exciting day in — was it ’29 or ’30? — when we got the Temagami V, our first Gar Wood, varnished mahogany, with two front cockpits, and a rear cockpit behind the engine. The Tema-gami IV was long and narrow, with more bow ahead of the windshield than there was seating area behind. The Temagami VI, some ten years later, was like the V, another Gar Wood. We also had a series of Thompson outboards, with Johnson motors, from 7-1/2 horse, gradually working up to a 35. The greatest acquisition was the Getha II, the Thousand Island sloop, similar to the ones owned by the Quarriers and the Baileys. it looked like the toy sailboats, much flat deck, a cockpit to put your feet in, exciting to race, and room for any number of people to lie down on on a moonlight sail. But it was thirty years old when we got it, and by 1946 the bottom was just too rotten to fix. So sadly, we took her out toward Dark Island, punched holes in the bottom and watched her fill and sink with a ton of lead on her keel.
World War II, with gas rationing, put an end to the way of life of our youth. By the time the war was over, mother had died, we five were settled and raising families in far apart cities. We had gotten electricity (D.C. current) — a Delco plant in 1938, which did away with the kerosene lamps and the old irons, and we cooked with bottled gas, but we still had the ice house, until 1951. Finally, with shore electricity, the Conants on Ponemah, the Tony Menkels on their island, the Bentons (Margot) at camp on the shore, and Tom with a place on Fire Island, N.Y., things feel more or less into the pattern that they follow today.
– Stephen Beste –
HISTORY …. There’s a legend, of course, that Paul Bunyan made the Thousand Islands. He was contracted to dig the St. Lawrence in order to keep the Great Lakes from flooding everything. When he’d finished, whoever it was had hired him refused to pay, so Paul started shoveling dirt back in and had got a thousand shovels full when his boss paid him. You can easily check the story in a Paul Bunyan anthology, but I wouldn’t bother. I had to go to a summer camp in Minnesota before I heard it. it was never a part of island lore. If authentic, the legend probably originated in Michigan or Wisconsin where the real large-scale logging went on. Sad to say, I didn’t grow up with any legends at all about the place.
Geologically, I understand that the St. Lawrence is unique in having a bed carved by glacial action before the river arrived. Sup-posedly, this explains the unusual straightness of the river and the relative absence of marshy banks. You might check this, though.
When I discovered in prep school that the St. Lawrence had been used for military expeditions during the French and Indian War and the War of 1812, I was duly impressed. Since then I’ve never canoed or rowed to another island without marveling at the strong arms those early people must have had. When I’ve just rowed a half mile, rowing on to the horizon seems like a truly heroic feat. I’ve never heard of anyone finding any evidence (e.g., Indian arrow-heads) of those early days, however.
During the early days of the railroads, the City of Portland, Maine, had a scheme to reach the West by building a line to Montreal, down the St. Lawrence to Detroit, and on to Chicago. If this had become the main line west, both Portland and the Thousand Islands might have seen more prosperity than they have. But Philadelphia interests built a line to Pittsburgh, and a Mohawk Valley route was built from New York, effectively putting the Thousand Islands into the economic backwater in which it still wallows.
I remember seeing in recent years a reprint sent to us by the Watertown newspaper of an article they ran since 1950. The Big House had burned on our Island in September of 196_, and everyone sent us copies of their pictures so that my mother could reconstruct a scrapbook. Someone who lived locally had the paper send us two glossy prints of the old house and the article. Perhaps my mother still has it. According to the article, the entire U.S. Thousand Islands were purchased by someone in the mid-1800’s from the gov’t. This was thought a pretty foolish purchase at the time, but the man planned to start logging the islands, hauling the wood out on the ice.
Somehow, during the 1890’s, the Thousand Islands became a fashionable summer place for the wealthy. it was at this time that Harriman (?) was building a little hunting lodge in the Adirondacks and building a railroad line through the mountains to reach it. He could board his private car in New York and disembark right there. New-port, R.I. was also enjoying much the same revival at about the same time. (Cornelius Vanderbilt built his house in Newport in 1892-5.) I’m keenly interested in this phenomenon, but have never found anything written on it. There is much written on the architecture involved, and obviously such spas depended upon the railroad and a wealthy class, which didn’t appear until about this time. But who “discovered” the Thousand Islands? Who promoted it? In the terms of the age, was it a high-class place or not? Perhaps there were some gentlemen’s magazines published in New York during the period which might have some answers.
At any rate, by 1900 the Old Hotel (as it’s known today) was built on Cedar Island and doing a steady trade. Steamers arrived twice a day from Alexandria Bay. T. Menkel tells me that they finally tore down the hotel last year, since it was in such a shambles as to be a hazard. I can never remember anyone staying there, though when I was younger I thought it a pretty scary place and never went in. I did go in once, however, a few years back, and found it surprisingly small.
Not more than five or six guest rooms, I don’t think, so it can’t have been too large an opera-tion in 1900 for all that it had steamer service. Perhaps the steamers were just stopping on their way to Brockville. The newspaper article I men-tioned would have more details.
In 1900 Frederic Remington, the painter, bought our island (now called Temagami) and built himself a studio. The big house was already there, less its plantation porches. The fact that the bungalow (as we have always called it) was a studio explains its curious sitting. It’s right down next to the water and on a diagonal to the shore. But of course, it faces north and there are no trees in the way. Remington named the island Ingleneuk, which no one who followed him seems to have cared for. Remington got to his little chimney-nook by skiff from the steamer landing on Cedar. Pictures of the time show two or three skiffs beached, oddly, on the windward side of the island on the rocks. it would seem that a skiff of that time was treated as a much more utilitarian thing than the carefully var-nished and preserved ones of today. (I am told that the St. Lawrence skiff is a Thousand Islands design no longer being made, but you probably know that.) Remington sold the island in 1903 for $3,000, according to an extract of title which we had in the big house before it burned. The island was sold two or three times after that, but always for $1.00, which tends to obscure the reasons for the sales as well as the island’s value. But then, islands more than most things are worth no more than what somebody wants to pay at the moment. For information on Remington’s works while there, see the aforementioned newspaper article, my mother, or the Remington Museum in Ogdensburg.
Just when the blossom started to fade on the Thousand Islands, I don’t know. Boldt Castle and Dark Island must mark some kind of zenith. Cer-tainly what we have today is a second growth. Schermerhorn’s Landing and Capt. Thompson’s Motor Lodge on the commercial side; new blood such as the Orgains; new buildings such as the Rendall’s self-built house. The patrician days when I could walk into Cavallerio’s Market in Alexandria Bay, identify myself, and have half the store carried down to the boat for me, these days are long gone. Along, I suspect, with much of the inherited money which supported that kind of carriage trade. Cavallerio lost ground when Grand Union built a supermarket in the Bay, and when the Interstate made shopping in Syracuse possible — both within the last ten years. The market became a delica-tessen, then a hot dog stand, then closed. No fool, Cavallerio was opening a night club/steak house with those artificial gas lanterns outside. A second growth.
NAMES …. Remington sold Ingleneuk in 1903 to somebody-or-other Strong. Sometime thereafter it was re-named Temagami, after an Indian name taken off a map somewhere. Or so I’m told. You’ll have to ask my mother or Cy Conant. But why did all these names come up? Temagami, Ponemah, Manzanita, Ragnavok, Rob Roy, Wyanoke,
Atlantis… Of course, it was the fashion then to choose such names, but why? What connotations did they summon for the new owners? Contrasted with the older Cedar Island and Oak Island, the new names seem so romantic. Perhaps the new names were of a piece with the barge boards and ginger-bread of the Victorian architecture — as playful as the secret passages which were built into Dark Island. But I don’t yet think that I have a feel for them or what they meant to the people at the time. I look around at all the contemporary sub-divisicn names like Forest Park, Shakespeare Village, Old Orchard (built yesterday), etc., and cringe. But I understand why people choose such names, because they are fashions in my own time. But I don’t have a feel for the island names. Perhaps, after talking with some of the older people, you can give me a setting for them.
Incidentally, what is Halfway half way between? I always thought it was half way be-tween our house and Alex. Bay when I was little. But I’m not sure any more that our house was quite a landmark, or even that Halfway is indeed half way.?
One other name. On the way to Schermerhorn’s, if you go behind Oak, there’s a rock with a white shack on it. On it in red the owner has painted two dice and the legend “Pair-a-dice”. For me, the taste evident in that name highlights the class distinction which I’ve always felt there to be between the islanders and the cabin tourists and fishermen. But more on that later.
At some point long before I was born, people got into the habit of naming their principal boat after their island. The inboard which we have now — and have had since 1949 when it was built at Alex Bay is Temagami VII. Hence, there are now or have been a Manzanita, a Little Cedar, an Atlantis, a Wyanoke, and a Ragnavok. In the late 50’s this tradition was broken. The Conants, upon getting an inboard, refused to name it the Ponemah because they didn’t like the name. The Baileys, sharing Atlantis Island with the Bryants found “Atlantis” already taken and so chose “Bailiwick”. The Menkels went the same family-name route with their “Talisman”, although there they didn’t have much choice. The Menkels only admit that their island is called “On-the-Rocks” when pressed to the wall. Mostly it’s just “The Menkels”.
FAMILY HISTORY …. I grew up thinking that there were only two clans at the island and that everyone else was just sort of miscellaneous, geneologically. The Woods/Burts/Cuthberts were one, and considering the number of Wood children of my generation, it’s a sizable clan. The other was the Bestes/Conants/Menkels/Newells/Strongs, with an offshoot over to the Bentons, who are first cousins to the Menkel children. I’ve realized since, that the Knaps and Quarriers have quite sizable families and might not consider themselves miscellaneous, but my original conception remains. Neither the Quarriers nor the Knaps have children who were in my crowd when I was a teenager, so I don’t really know anyone in either family. Moreover, their islands (Scow and Manzanita) being on the periphery tended to inhibit contact, much, I suppose, as people who live in corner lots in subdivisions tend to see less of their neighbors than those who live in the center of the block. I’m told that last summer (1970) the center of teenage social life shifted down to the Scow Island area. In another generation it will be back. Certainly I remember feeling that people who lived down on Scow, Jug, and Halfway were at the end of the earth. The fact that they got their mau l at Schermerhorn’s only accentuated that.
I won’t give you a family tree because I don’t know any more than the outline. Suffice to say that my maternal grandfather came from Ogdensburg before he died in 1918. At some point, my maternal grandmother (Ella Hardee Morgan) bought Temagami and Ponemah Islands. For $1.00 as I recall, although I believe there were messy doings about that with someone on the Menkel side being squeezed out because of the depression or some-thing. I don’t know any details, though I’m sure it’s far enough in the past that you could inquire freely. I understand that Tony Menkel grew up in the Big House on Temagami and that he’s my second cousin. You’ll have to get someone else to flesh that out.
In 1949 or thereabouts, the Conants and the Bestes agreed to split up the land, which the two daughters had inherited from Ella Morgan. Con-veniently, there were three islands connected by little bridges, so that this division was easily done. What will happen in my generation is a good question. Indeed, it’s a good question in all the families in which the children grew up at the island. The problem of who’s going to get the land or how it will be shared seems like such a feudal concern in this day and age. But it’s very much with us. Those of us who grew up at the island talk a lot about roots, continuity, and a place to belong. But we rarely connect all those medieval virtues with the medieval problems that go with them. Who will get the land?
BUILDINGS …. When the Conants moved over to Ponemah, they lived over the boathouse. But in 1952 built a new house on the top of the island. This house was remarkable. it was made of con-crete block, THEY DIDN’T PAINT IT GREEN, and two college kids named Garlock hauled the concrete blocks up the hill from the scow.
The Conants’ house was designed by an archi-tect who still practices in Watertown and built by Garlock & Sons of Alexandria Bay, N.Y. Long be-fore I was born, there had been a big house on the top of Ponemah. It’s most memorable feature had been a large curved-glass picture window. Some-how, whenever that house is spoken of, the curved-glass window is mentioned to the exclusion of everything else. I’ve never known why. But the house, including the famous curved-glass picture window, had burned to the ground. (I suppose it’s a bit redundant of me to say burned “to the ground”. As you will learn, that’s the only way houses burn when they’re on an island.) The new house was to be relatively fire-proof; hence the concrete block.
To everyone’s amazement, the Conants painted the house purple! To appreciate that, you must understand the situation up to that time. Every-thing on Temagami and Ponemah had previously been painted dark green with white trim. Buildings on Rob Roy were dark green with dark green trim. Halliwells’ was gray with green trim, Menkels was brown with cream. Dr. Borst’s place was yellow with white trim. To my child’s eye, especially, this was all neat and proper. Just as all the pieces to my block set were white, and Johnny’s pieces were red, this color-coding brought a very satisfying order to Chippewa Bay. And, of course, green was best. Dr. Borst’s yellow island was definitely peculiar, but then, so was Dr. Barst. I’ve never met him, but he was always getting robbed of expensive machine tools, he didn’t have any kids, HE DIDN’T NAME HIS
BOATS (!), and his name sounded like Boris Kar-loff’s. You couldn’t have gatten me to go to Dr. Borst’s place unaccompanied for any errand. Be-sides, he kept some unknown shoals hidden out off the end of his island in case you got too close. The other oddity in Chippewa Bay was the Bryants’ place on Atlantis. They weren’t sinister because my big brother played with Bill Bryant and we saw them all frequently. But I always thought their island a bit shabby. After all, they had (and still do) a brown boathouse and a white house. Not only was the house not the same color as the boathouse, but it was this very un island color. And besides, there’s such a great amount of un-tamed real estate out behind the house. The island hadn’t been properly domesticated.
In 1952 the Garlock boys were in college at St. Lawrence. That summer found them working for their fathers as hod carriers at Conants’. Charles Garlock had founded the company back when and his two sons carried it on. Royal handled the appliance and hardware store end of it. Sterling ran the lumber yard and did contracting. They had one son each who took over the business, starting at the bottom in 1952. Just as the islanders have watched their own children grow up, they’ve watched the shore peoples’. Cy Conant wanted windows put on a screen porch once in the 50’s and who should come to measure the porch but Sterling Jr. He took the longest time measuring everything just so, filling a notebook, and departed with many Yes ma’am’s and Thank you ma’am’s. Next trip to the Bay, Cy is taken aside by Sterling Sr. who chuckled at her account and said not to worry, he was double-checking it all. I expect to be around when the next generation of Garlocks get broken in.
I worked for Garlock & Sons as a laborer in 1963 before I studied architecture; I can tell you why building on the islands is so expensive. There’s so much hand labor involved. First, materials cost more because they have to be trucked clear up to the North Country. Then Gar-lock as the supplier takes his cut. Since he’s a relatively small yard whose inventory sits idle six months of the year, his cut has to be larger than a big-city yard’s would be. Then, everything has to be loaded onto a scow and carried to the island. The trip from Alexandria Bay with a scow takes an hour and a half and uses 20 gals. of gas. The scow must then be hand unloaded and the concrete blocks (eg) wheel barrowed up to the house. Skilled laborers get to the job late and leave early because their travel time from shore is on company time. Where concrete is involved, the contrast between hand-mixed and truck-mixed batches is especially expensive. Nor does scowing materials over from Chippewa Bay ease things if that means that a truck must be loaded at the Bay (Alex Bay) and hand un-loaded onto the scow at Chippewa. It’s expensive any way you take it. Building your own house is the only way to do it.
BUILDINGS II Temagami had a big house and several out-buildings. The bungalow I’ve already mentioned; Remington’s studio. There is also a one-room-with-bath house for the boatman, although I don’t ever recall having a boatman. Our boathouse is unusual in not having rooms over it, but we had servants’ quarters over the work shop instead. This is the building next to the
beach which until this year had a steel I-beam extending out over the water. Small boats were pulled up here and stored or worked on inside. The apartment above the workshop used to be for Mattie and Vernie Newbury (sp?) when I was small.
Vernie was a handyman, Mattie cooked. He died years ago, but she still lives on their farm on shore on the way to Hammond.
Was I talking about a second growth? It’s happened on the island. After the big house burned down we added a small kitchen and dining alcove onto the bungalow and that became the main house. Just as in years past parents had retreated to the bungalow leaving children in the hands of babysitters, domestics, or themselves, so now did my mother fix up the boatman’s cabin for her own use. The apartment over the workshop was re-opened after many years and re-painted to add two extra bedrooms for us boys or guests or what have you. This past year, the downstairs of the workshop had been given a kitchen and some bedrooms under the pressure of a married daughter with children. Apparently having two women share one kitchen is the ultimate friction, the ultimate impasse. That was the most acute rub in 1949 when the Conants and Bestes split up. Two mothers sharing one kitchen. The island also has a pump house, made of stone as all Chippewa Bay pump houses seem to be for some reason. I can remember seeing a water tower on the island, but all that remains of that are the footings and the water pipes. An elaborate fire-hose System was once built, with commercial-style fire-hose racks protruding in places. But these were rusty and never used so long as 1 can remember. Just as well; the way the big house finally went, they wouldn’t have made much difference. At any rate, I think they became obsolete when the water tower was removed. I don’t think our pressure tank System could handle four fire hoses.
Until four years ago, we drank river water straight from the tap, although guests were served well water from State Land. We put a chlorinator in when the pollution count got just too high. Now everyone drinks from the tap. it used to be said that babies brought to the island always got diarrhea their first year but had no problems after that. I can’t remember ever having any problems with the water although guests did. In a perverse way, I took this as a sign that I actually did belong at the island — that I was so much a part of it that even my body had adapted where others’ hadn’t. The trip to State Land for water was one of the earliest chores to be done, sweetened before I can remember I suppose by the fact that he who fetched the water got to take a boat. Between the chlorinator and the well at State Land being capped, that daily chore is gone. But how heavy those water jugs were (this was before plastic jugs), and they always had a seam around their middles that cut against your skin. The pump on the other hand was a blessed thing. Such sweet water it made, and even after you finished pumping it kept coming for awhile, over-flowing the jug and the concrete stand and your toes. Such a feeling of abundance.
The big house had a coal bin and a great sawdust-filled ice house, which were strange places indeed. I don’t remember seeing any ice, although I remember the great ice box which filled half the pantry and had the sturdiest latches I’d ever seen on anything. it and the coal-burning stove were sunk one fall when that was still the natural way to get rid of things. The coal bin was left half full by the arrival of electricity in 1951. it simply sat there like all the old high-chairs and kerosene lamps in the attic until one day the house burned down. Between the saw-dust and the coal, I imagine that end of the house burned pretty well.
Electricity arrived in 1951, I think. The Conants have a plaque in the rooms over their boathouse which gives the exact date and has a section of the cable. The cable cost $2.00 a foot and was given to Niagara Mohawk after the islanders paid to put it in. The men who planned the cable somewhat botched it, as you can see if you visit Ponemah. Originally the cable was to reach the pumphouse an the far side of the island. But they hadn’t accounted for the rise and fall of the river bed. When the cable arrived at Ponemah, it was fifty feet short, so they had to build the present transformer house on the near side of the island. All I can remember is the newness and strangeness of the electrical outlets and the glossy white presence of a new electric refrigerator. I was five at the time and too young to remember how it was before.
Telephones to the mainland were never wanted and still aren’t. The Conants and we have always had an Army surplus field telephone between our two houses. A telephone isn’t so bad if there’s only one other party who can possibly be calling you. Did I say one other party? That depends upon your imagination as much as on wires, surely. We used to tell newly-arrived guests that they weren’t all that isolated. They could call Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, on that telephone right over there. After the dubious guest cranked the phone, likely as not shocking himself in the process, he would find himself talking to Sam Conant of Abercrombie & Fitch. Sam’s Hotel (Owatonna), the hotel nobody ever came to, had a phone. The only island with one. In fact, I think the instrument is still there, though long since disconnected. Perhaps someone should tell Pardon Smith, who runs the Hammond Telephone Company, that one of his dial phones is waiting to be collected. Or perhaps Pardon Smith’s dis installations are simply no faster than his installations. That would explain the delay. The Hammond Phone Company, one of the last independents in the country, is what taught me to love Ma Bell. Seriously though, it’s an incnvenience to have to go to shore to wait for a call, but would you have it any other way? I remember going to shore once to arrange details for a trip south. My mind was full of plans for the next day’s travels and the calls I was expecting. I had to wait for half an hour, though, under the mercury-vapor lamp at the store. As I waited, the world beyond Chippewa Bay dissolved. A pair of boats came through the cut and wheeled into Crows, discussed it for a moment and then raced each other back again. Red lights turning to green and then red again as they jockeyed with each other. The sounds finally reached me, telling me who they were and thus who they were looking for. They were out of sight through the cut, but I could tell by the sound when they stopped at Burts. I felt very much at home that I knew the river and the boats and my friends so well that I knew what had happened. Headlights came over the hill behind me. A young local and his girl cruising. No, no one down here. The car turns, sweeping the garages with its lights like a night watchman. No one, so he gooses it, spraying gravel around, as full of a summer night as I am. I am in the center of a pregnant stillness again. Nothing will ever happen in the circle of this light, but the night-sounds carrv a whisper of girls who almost were and years that are yet to be. The lights dash out again from behind shadows in the distance, wheel again and pause. I could believe tonight in green lights at the ends of docks, and that no matter what I do with the telephone I will only get my uncle at Abercrombie and Fitch.
I suppose it fits my organization to mention garbage here. So why not. it hardly used to be a problem; we just took everything out in the channel and dumped it. Then, sometime in the 50’s we got a garbage disposal and an incinerator, so that cut the dumpables down to cans, bottles, bones, and corn on the cob. Plus paint, which is always a mess. At some point, however, the Coast Guard said na dumping in navigable waterways lest there be a $2,000 fine. (That sounds like the Refuse Act of 1899 which has gotten so much pub-licity recently. We heard of it first.) We also ignored it first, going underground. it was clear at the time that the Coast Guard was concerned not about pollution, but about navigation. The Seaway had just been opened and some of the clearances were pretty tight, especially down near Alexandria Bay. When your biggest boats clear-bottom by only three feet, it doesn’t do to have people sinking four-foot ice boxes there. As a result, we dumped dumpables at night, feeling deliciously illicit about the whole thing. Unless it was raining, or the garbage was especially putrid, in which cases we didn’t feel so delicious about it. By 1968 however, pollution was upon us. The river was na langer drinkable, the well on Cedar was capped, and somebody came up with a garbage service on shore, so the midnight dumper rides no more. Hey, that rhymes. Maybe I should make a ballad out of it …Former polluter reforms, etc. Better yet, why don’t you make this tome of yours into a musical? There’s your first lyric.
SHOALS Shoals have always been for me the leprechauns or gremlins of island life. Not that they were ever invested with a personality, but for capriciousness and mystery the shoals are an easy match for such little people. Moreover, each shoal carries legends of the people who ran aground on it, just as surely as if their boats were still impaled there to this day.
Back before the Seaway, when the water level changed dramatically from year to year, “knowing the river” was an even more demanding job than it is today. A year of low water filled the river with all kinds of unknown shoals. Years of high water brought no peace of mind, really, because you always wondered if the water was high enough.
People know the waters in which they travel frequently, but different people nurse the strangest fears of unfamiliar places. For me, the whole end of Chippewa Bay behind Knaps’ is a place to approach cautiously at dead slow. The Menkels, on the other hand, go full speed through there on their way to their cousins the Bentons. Just so, my mother will never go between Menkels’ and The Rock, though I take water skiers through there happily. Admittedly, you have to know how to do it, and that usually entails going out with a row-boat and a sounding rod one day and having a thorough look at things. it takes a certain dedi-cation, of course, to go to that trouble and then risk an expensive boat in the test of it. But there’s a real pride to be had in knowing the river. It’s a sign of belonging. Sounding expeditions, being scientific approaches to the problem, often cannot cope with the mystique that surrounds shoals, and I don’t want you to think that learning the water can be as straight forward as I may have made it sound. An odd Thunk felt in unknown waters can start belief s, handed down from father to son, which will be impervious to scientific test. My mother swears that there is a shoal about one-quarter of the way from Rob Roy to Menkels’ and will avoid it. I can remember going out with diving masks and some friends and not finding a thing. But of course, the river is murky, and we might not have looked everywhere, and perhaps it isn’t exactly one-quarter of the way. The chart shows nothing there, but you never know …. My guess is that years ago someone hit a submerged log there, or that someone hit something with the keel of a sailboat. Who knows? Like the little people, the fact that you can’t see them proves nothing.
Most islanders, myself included, takes it as a point of honor that they know the river and that they could get home blind drunk on a dark night at full throttle with no mishaps. And in fact, live seen that done enough times to know that there’s some truth to the boast. But you can see why piling up on a shoal isn’t just a mishap; it’s a public embarrassment. This is all the more true since no one has ever been injured in a boat at the island to my knowledge.
I remember Uncle Dave Halliwell for the peculiar old boats he used to drive with the funny names. Also because he flew naval signal flags from his flagpole every day, though no one I knew could ever read them. I’ve gathered since that older people remember him with a bit less pleasure and that he was somewhat outspoken in his boast that he had never hit a shoal in 30-odd years. He piled up on Toothpick one night and there was such general glee that even I heard about it, though I didn’t really know Uncle Dave and hadn’t been at the island that summer. Reportedly, Uncle Dave went into a blue funk for several days and didn’t speak to anyone. I’ve always wondered what message his signal flags were carrying those days.
In 1967 my mother and a German girl who was visiting us went over to the Menkels. When they left, after dark, my mother backed off, cheerily waved good-bye, gave it the gun, and rammed Menkels’ shoal full speed. The shoal was a foot and a half out of water at the time, marked with a flag, and within the glow of the Menkels’ dock lights. No matter. The German girl, who had never been in a boat before, was scared witless. I’m sure that visions of the Titanic sinking with all aboard crossed her mind. Sinking, however, was the last thing that was about to happen, as the whole boat was at least a foot out of water and quite securely wrapped around the rock. As I understand it, my mother’s only reaction. was a matter-of-fact “Damn”, followed by a call to the dock for a ride home.
The only sinking I recall happened to a tourist in a little outboard-driven cruiser. We were sitting up on the Conants’ lawn having five o’clock cocktails on a gorgeous day while this fellow tried to go between Menkels’ and The Rock. I have never felt so detached witnessing a calamity. We all saw him heading for the shoal; we all knew he was going to hit it. But there was no tension among us, no excitement; people sipped their drinks while the little boat jolted once and sank in three minutes. What else was there to do? Immediately, someone made ready to drive over and rescue the man, but a boat came out from Menkels to do it, so we didn’t. The sun had set a bit lower, illuminating the islands like jewels in the bay. If you looked, you could see how the V-wake from a boat was oddly truncated, but soon that too was gone, leaving only the brilliance of a late afternoon. We went in to dinner.
HIGH WATER, LOW WATER …. When the Menkels are asked how large their island is, they say between 1/2 acre and 3 acres, depending on how high the water is that year. The years of really high water have ended, due to both the Seaway and to the general lowering of water levels in the Great Lakes in recent years. This last reflects the huge amount of water diverted from the lakes for municipal and industrial uses. The Illinois River, for instance (where my home town is), is little more than the sewage outlet for Chicago, sustained by the great amount of Lake Michigan water with which the city dilutes its wastes. The present low level in the Lakes has brought shipping interests in the Illinois Valley into conflict with municipal and navigational interests on the Lakes. If Chicago diverts less water from Lake Michigan, the Illinois River will become un-navigable (and Chicago will have to build better sewage treatment plants). There have been plans to reverse the flow of Canadian rivers which now flow to Hudson Bay, using them to replenish the Great Lakes, but Canada is disinclined to bail the U.S. out at the expense of its own water, and the schemes are costly. Whatever comes of it all, high water on the St. Lawrence is not going to be part of it.
Look at the docks in Chippewa Bay. Notice how high they all are. In our case, that height is the result of high-water years in the early fifties. We built new docks shortly after, and everyone swore that they’d be so high they’d never flood again. And sure enough, at least that hasn’t happened. I can remember the jerrybuilt expedients that high water brought to dock design. Cat-walks, for a start. Two-by-sixes supported on two-by-fours and strung down the middle of each dock to provide a dry footing. Then, since the whole boathouse was awash, uprights would be nailed to the sides of the docks like fence posts, to provide something for the boats to ride against. There were rough days when the high water and waves combined to make clearance under the doors of the boathouse a risky business. If you have a crosswind, you must come in swiftly. But if your windshield clears the doorhead by only six inches on a calm day, the last thing you wanted to do was to go in briskly.
But catwalks and flooded docks were fun for a child. My concern with high water centered on the beach at Temagami. I would arrive to find only four feet of sand above water. Besides, the sand at the back of the beach is inferior, being full of plant roots and thus entirely unsuitable for a true connoisseur of fine beach sand. The beach, however, was always being washed out, such that we import a scow-load of sand every four years or so. The beach was never a good measure of water levels. My own index was a rock formation on the weather side of the island where I played Panama Canal. A generally flat rock has a natural trench in it which used to flood. In high-water years I could use my big boats. Other times, only the littlest plastic ones could navigate the canal. I don’t know which deserted this mighty canal first, the water or my interest in such things. But I noticed last year that the whole affair is high and dry and growing that blueish dry-land moss. I had been going to show my niece what a great place I knew of for playing boats in. But it wasn’t, anymore, and I felt unaccountably bereft.
Low water has forced its innovations in dock design just as high water had before it. Rob Roy has great cliff-like docks (perhaps in the wake of those high-water years), but the Woods have hung cat-walks along their sides.
WEATHER …. The wind blows only two ways at the island — from the north or from the west. Sometimes during the night you will wake up as the wind changes, backing around to the north. The familiar groans and creaks of the house will move into a minor key, and you wake with a sense of apprehension. Without thinking, you move to close the windows on the north side of the house where the curtains are now streaming into the room. Are the boats secure? You wonder, and your mind’s eye sees them riding on different waves than when you put them to bed. You don’t think “north wind” or “cold front”; those are abstractions. But you know that when the house sounds this way, the boathouse feels thus way. And it worries you enough to wake you up. In the morning you will take great pride in all of that — it’s another Sign that you belong. But tonight you reach absent mindedly for an extra blanket on your way back to bed. It’s going to get colder.
Right now, where you’re living, do you know which way the wind is blowing? Could you say what the weather will be tomorrow without reading the newspaper? Which is the weather side of your house (it will need painting two years before the lee side)? When I am at the island, I know these things and feel the better for it. I know the winds and the waves just as I know the shoals. I’m wise in their ways, and thus I belong here. And by extension, I belong on this earth. I’m not just a day-tripper skimming between cities in an air-conditioned car. I am part of the wind and the water, because I have felt their hand upon me. as told by Ruth Herrick Hatheway
(in her words)
Mrs. Morgan was a great friend of Mrs. Menkel’s. They were college friends at Wells College and Mrs. Morgan, who had come from Toledo, went with her friend from college to Ogdensburg and that’s where she met Dr. Morgan whom she married and had the two girls, Adelaide and Cynthia. I think Dr. Morgan was killed in the First World War and Mrs. Menkel and her husband had run into difficulty financially; so Mrs. Morgan started coming to spend the summers with her because Mr. Menkel was in New York. Mrs. Morgan began underwriting more and more of the costs of the island and finally when the Menkels needed more money, Mrs. Morgan bought them out. This caused a lot of hard feelings, because there were a lot of things that had never been settled and they had been good friends. For instance, it was never decided when the island was sold whether the various decorations, which were family pieces, should have gone with the island or whether the Menkels should have kept them. And I know that Tony, the little fellow, was very unhappy about a little boat he had which he didn’t consider should have gone with the island. Mrs. Morgan used to invite Mrs. Menkel to come up, but there were enough hard feelings so that she didn’t really come, but Tony came from the time he was little and would spend all summer with her. Margo had other interests and Tom, the oldest, was married or off at college.
Mrs. Morgan began to realize that her two daughters were both very keen about the island life and how was she going to divide up her property. So that’s when she bought Ponemah from the Howard family, who were related to the Strongs. I knew the Howards and their two children, Tom and Louisa. Louisa was a very lovely girl, older than I, and Tom was a year or so younger he was rather peculiar. I think Tom became a decorator in New York and Louisa married a Frenchman, but what happened to them, I don’t know. The Strongs came from Ogdensburg, as did so many of the families who came to Chippewa, and of course my father came from Alexandria Bay. And there was another group who came from New Jersey; the Baileys who, I believe, were originally connected with the Denners.
But to get back to Mrs. Morgan….she always wanted to stay friends with Mrs. Menkel and wanted to do what she could; so after she bought Ponemah she would rent it to someone through an agent, and then she would allow Margo Menkel Benton and her husband, Louis Benton, and their children to use the island for two or three weeks every summer. it was when Margo and Louis were there — they would come up with a maid who would take their two daughters rowing back and forth Margo had gone to shore to meet Louis when a faulty pilot light or something caught and ignited a drum of kerosene on the back porch and the whole house went up, just like that. So the Howard house was com-pletely obliterated — and it burned the trees, and of course they saved the boathouse. This was about 1940. The trees have never came back; all the vegetation was scorched.
Well, then Mrs. Morgan died and left Ponemah and Temagami to both girls. The girls tried to keep the house together and it didn’t work. They both agreed to write down everything they considered important about the island, and see whether they could work it out or whether they were just too far apart. Well, it seemed they were just too far apart and so they made a divi-sion, and Cy got Ponemah, where the Conants lived far two or three years in the boathouse, maybe four years. The boathouse was very comfortable and eventually they built their house. But you see, they’d made an amicable agreement.
The following are news articles that appeared in the Watertown Daily Times
Thursday, September 28, 1961 …. The name of the island has been changed from “Ingleneuk” to “Temagami” and the island is considered beautiful enough to be on picture photographs which can be purchased in the general store at Chippewa Bay.
Joseph H. Smith, 69, who owns and operates the general store and Esso station about half way down the hill in Chippewa Bay, posed as a boy of 9 for the noted artist. “He used to tell me to sit on a stool with an oar in my hand. I suppose he was sketching me as some Indian, paddling a canoe,” Mr. Smith said. “I sat for him twice and he paid me 50 cents each time.”
“My uncle, Peter Smith, used to be the boat-man for Mr. Remington,” Mr. Smith added. “He used to pose for him, sitting on a horse. He probably was an Indian on a pony, or a scout on a pony, before Remington got done with him.”
“Every once in a while Mr. Remington would sketch and sketch, get mad at what he had done, and give all of them to my uncle. He’d collect them and when he had quite a pile, he’d burn them.” Asked what he remembered about Remington, Mr. Smith said, “He was a big man. I can still see him, coming into the wharf here, standing in his boat. He was boisterous. Held always stand in the boat, just before landing, with a pike pole in his hand. He’d hit the dock with it and pull the boat in.”
Riverboats Are Gone — When Remington decided to build his studio on the island, he built it on the north tip and got the north light in his windows, which were all across the north end of the studio. The present owners have added a porch and three rooms on the studio for sleeping quarters for guests.
When the present owners look out the north windows of the cottage, or sit on the north porch, they can see the sloping farm land in Canada, some three miles away. However, gone are the many tourist boats which used to carry passengers from Clayton to Ogdensburg, such craft as the Island Belle, The Riverside, The Brockville, The Mississqua and others. Now ocean going merchant ships go up and down the channel of America’s Fourth seacoast, the St. Lawrence seaway.
The first deed recorded in St. Lawrence county court house regarding the Cedar Island group, was dated Nov. 8, 1854. At this time Azariah Walton and his wife, Mary, deeded the island to Ezra Brockway.
In 1885 the Brockway heirs deeded the Cedar Island group to Martin E. Phillips, who in turn sold it to George B. Shepard in 1887.
On May 25, 1900, “Ingleneuk”, one of the five islands of the Cedar Island group, was deeded to Frederic Remington, native of Canton, who was then living in New Rochelle.
The Remington’s kept the island for nine years, selling it to Thomas F. Strong of Ogdensburg on Feb. 22, 1909. Strong died and around 1916 the island was deeded to Marguerite Fine Strong Menkel, also of Ogdensburg.
Mrs. Menkel deeded it to Ella Hardee Morgan, Aug. 9, 1933, who on Oct. 16, 1942, deeded the island to Adelaide M. Graves Walker and Cynthia M. Conant, her daughters. On March 21, 1949, Cynthia M. Conant and Samuel D. Conant, II, deeded the Remington portion to Mrs. Donald (Adelaide M.) Beste of Peoria, Ill., who prior to her marriage had been Adelaide M. Graves Walker.
– Mary Biondi, Hammond Historian –
CHIPPEWA BAY HOME NEAR FREDERIC REMINGTON’S
SUMMER ISLAND BURNED …. Flames of a rampaging fire claimed the 74-year-old buildings on “Little Cedar” Island at Chippewa Bay Wednesday night. Thirteen people, a lone sentinel of chimney from the offending fireplace, charred trunks of once shady cedars, and a rescued boat or two with motors are all that remain.
A two-story frame house, boat house, and even the docks were consumed by the fire which it is reported started from the fireplace. The Larking family and their guests will no longer take the chill off a summer evening with a com-fortable fireplace. The house, although first built in 1888 by Edward L. Strang of Ogdensburg, was completely modern with electricity supplied by cable from the mainland.
About 9 p.m. a fire got out of control and the Hammond Fire Department was called. They were hampered by lack of effective pumping equipment. The new Alexandria Bay fire control pumping boat came nearly nine miles to help in fighting the fire. The section of island burned was up-river from the popular Cedar Island State Park facili-ties and they were not burned in the blaze.
This part of the island group known as Cedar Islands became prominent last year when Frederic Remington’s 100th Anniversary brought them into the spotlight. “Ingleneuk” was the name given by Remington to an adjoining island he cherished for several years. Lying only about 100 yards away from this spot today are the burned remains of structures first built in 1888 by an Ogdensburg man whose family has remained an important part of the Chippewa Bay island colony.
Several years ago two of Remington’s paint-ings, which have been described both as gouache and as watercolor depicting scenes at this place, were discovered after having been hidden behind dresser drawers in an old chest for manv years. They are dated 1888 and are now in the Remington Art Memorial. One of these 11″x16″ treasures is titled “Chippewa Bay”. The other is titled “Snug Island” and is on a tan background with a figure of a woman on a point of land surrounded by water. it is rumored that this was one of the few times Mrs. Remington, or “Missie” as Frederic called her, posed for his paintings. From all the evidence of these paintings it appears that these were scenes Remington painted of this tongue of land so near his own Ingleneuk”.
It is a coincidence that the previous owner of this spot later called his next island home “Snug Harbor Island”. The island where Remington had his home and studio is now called TeMagami, a famous Indian name.
After Mr. Strong sold the now burned bit of land, W.F. Sudds, a Gouverneur musician who loved fishing in the St. Lawrence, owned it. He changed the name to Windecot Island.
Later, a Mr. Herrick from the Calaboga sec-tion of Hammond owned the land. He became presi-dent of Girard College in Philadelphia, Pa., who later turned his summer property over to a group under the name of Little Cedar Corporation.
People who live on the islands do not have to pay fire tax in the towns and rightly so. They are surrounded by water, yet it is ineffective if there is not electricity or adequate pumping facilities to put the water to work. Everyone will help when a fire breaks out. If it is possible to save nearby structures, trees and personal property everyone will help. But a fire on an island is a tragic and hopeless thing.
The Rock – Anne Wright Wolcott
Early in the 1900’s there was no house on the pink Laurentian limestone island, known fondly as “Hog’s Back”, and now called The Rock. But a woman who visited the Seymours on Choke Cherry, the island just below it, fell in love with the uninhabited contours of the island, rowing out each day by herself and enjoying the most unique of the Chippewa Bay islands. The woman’s name was Mrs. Louise Johnson, known by the many young people she befriended as “Aunt Lou”. She bought the island from the County, as it had never been owned before, and in 1924 completed the house and boathouse, designed by an architect named Church. At the time, Mrs. Johnson lived in Larchmont, New York, but when her husband died she moved into an apartment at 955 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Here she soon surrounded herself with a coterie of young people in whom she took a great interest and who could rely on her friendship. One of this circle was a rising young New York businessman, R. Davis Halliwell.
In the 20’s and 30’s, Mrs. Johnson devoted more and more of her energies to The Rock; bring-ing in topsoil, trees, building gardens, furnish-ing her summer home with valuable antiques, many of which are still there. The young continually came as visitors, girls from Vassar whom Ruth Herrick on Little Cedar knew. Two maids always occupied the two little rooms behind the kitchen, and the large room and bath over the boathouse served as dormitory for guests.
Over the years, Dave Halliwell became a partner in his firm, Bliss Fayban, a company which rebuilt failing textile mills. When the firm disbanded, Dave retired from active business and acted as a consultant, enjoying the benefits and freedom on semi-retirement the rest of his life. He became the constant companion and trusted confidant of Louise Johnson, and when she died Dave inherited both The Rock and the apartment at “955”. At the time of her death, Dave was very much in love with a young lady in New York, but Louise Johnson’s will stipulated that Dave would inherit nothing if he married her.
Dave Halliwell became a controversial char-acter in Chippewa; admired and despised, adored and feared. He stayed on The Rock for more and more of the year, as long as six months. Each May, Dave arrived with flats of the choicest flowers for the beds he was continually building. Seawalls were constructed, topsoil came out on barges, trees began to grace the island. Dave planted rows of lilacs, established peonies, maintained an enviable vegetable garden. And he was the sort who took pleasure in the heavy work of building docks, painting the house and boat-house, fussing with the generator in the pump house (before the cable brought Niagara Mohawk to the islands).
The names of hundreds of guests filled the guestbook at The Rock and Dave Halliwell was a smooth and charming hast. His life was conducted with great style — a constant reminder of a civilized life in which manners and intelligent behavior and cultured, artful conversation were valued. He maintained a strict dress code, even for children coats and ties, dresses, clean fingernails — all required and expected if you were a guest at Dave’s table, which was always set with “Aunt Louis” Canton china, resplendent with fresh vegetables from the meticulous garden.
In 1950, Dave married Carleton Talcott’s widow, Ruth, from Little Cedar. Ruth had known Dave since she was a nineteen year old Vassar girl and remembered the houseparties of bright young people in the 20’s that had first brought Dave to Chippewa. She became an indefatigable wanken, Dave using her additional energies to expand the gardens and increase the number of guests. Ruth’s two children, Anne and Jay Talcott, who had spent all of their previous summers on Little Cedar, now became part of the latter day Fitzgerald scene at The Rock. Jay’s first summen was spent as a live-in laborer for Dave, sleeping in a room in the bottom of the boathouse, working eight back-breaking hours a day and dressing for dinner at 7:00. Another year Jay worked on Grenadier for a farmer, who sold his produce by boat on a weekly trip around Grenadier and along the Canadian shore. But during most of their prep school and college summers, Anne and Jay worked elsewhere and spent shorter periods of time at The Rock, usually at the end of the summer.
Dave’s greatest pride was the Newasi, a 30′ Fay & Bowen, built at least as early as 1906 when it won a match race at the Larchmont Yacht Club. it had a white hull, decks finished bright, an endless bow, vertical windshield, cockpit small and well toward the stern of the boat. Dave often took guests out after dinner to circle Dark Island and “open her up” in the Channel. On one occasion, with a guest of the Gordons’ in the boat with him, he cut a little too close to a freighter and was drawn sharply up against the hull. With a large hole just at the waterline, the only thing to do was to run for the boathouse with the throttle wide open…which he did, secured Newasi with four lines, where she hung until repairs could commence. The lady guest, one Alice Wright, was returned to Snake All in the Rocket, a smaller, slower version of the Newasi. it was not many years later that the son of said Alice Wright, one Richard T. Wright, a Lieutenant (jg) in the Submarine Force, was visiting at Snake All, and met Dave’s stepdaughter, Anne Talcott. These two met on Temagami at a party given by Cindy Beste and were married the following summer…Dick apparently had forgiven Dave Halliwell his previous escapade with the freighter and his mother.
The boathouse at The Rock was apparently built for the Newasi, as the slip was just a foot langer than the boat and only a foot and a half wider. Newasi’s gleaming white hull slipped un-scratched in and out of that slip for many years with only Dave and Ruth and Bob Heron ever allowed at the helm. Dave Halliwell was a masterful boat handler and navigator, but the best River Rat can be thrown off by a change in the night horizon and shifting landmarks, and one dark night Dave put the Newasi high and dry on Toothpick, the rocky nesting and feeding ground of terns and gulls that lies between The Rock and Choke Cherry. Just that day, Dave had received permission from the Coast Guard to turn on an intermittent light on his pump house as an aid to night navigation inside the bay. it was Dave’s habit to come in below the island and above Toothpick, but the new light and perhaps the evening’s revelry and late hour dis-torted his usual unerring sense and onto the familiar landmark he went, probably at full throttle. At 2 a.m., Stu and Ellen Burt went by and noticed the bow of a boat up on Toothpick and immediately went to investigate, searching in the dark through the cockpit. They found Dave’s tweed jacket, but by then Dave had made the swim to the island. According to Ellen Burt, “The next day was a calm Sunday and all the little boats in Chippewa went round and round and round Toothpick and people brought picnics.” Mrs. Quarrier, coming out on her porch at Ragnavok, looked out and observed, “A little flower bloomed on Tooth-pick last night.” This brilliant, impatient man, by turns angry and loving, always seeking perfection in himself and others, had finally been brought down….and thus the air of celebration. His temper had been let loose at children, family members, workmen, strangers — and now he had been humbled; he had made a public mistake, and with his most prized possession.
When Dave Halliwell died he left The Rock to his wife, Ruth, who had stayed up there with him into the Fall many a year — once until Thanks-giving, watching skim ice making up every morn-ing. The Tom Knaps stayed, too, and sometimes the Wests appeared on Atlantis, but Ruth was good at finding other humans and befriended the Greeks who were running a restaurant on– Owatonna in the late fifties. She also became quite close to the Presbyterian minister, a Scot, and his wife in Hammond. it was one evening in the Fall that Dave and Ruth were at this minister’s for dinner, and Dave, reaching an admiring hand toward the tweed jacket his friend was wearing, keeled over and died; his heart, taxed by lifting creosote soaked railroad ties that afternoon, simply stopped.
Ruth kept the island and enjoyed another ten years there with her third husband, Curtis R. Hatheway. Curt enjoyed the fishing and the company of old friends, the gentle tempo of island life. Anne and Jay, both married and with children, began coming every summer, sometimes sharing the island with their mother or each other. Ruth added a kitchen-living room in the bottom of the boathouse, and added a small bedroom upstairs with a dormer window — renaming this new complex Stone’s Throw. In this way, two families could be on the island at the same time.
Both the Newasi and Rocket were sold when Dave died and were replaced by Lyman inboards, Minihaha I & II, and later by a Penn Yan. There were the usual assembly of outboards, canoes and a rowboat or two. Anne and Jay continued to share the island until Anne and her husband, Dick Wright, bought Brush Island in 1972. Jay kept the island a few more years, but circumstances changed and he decided to sell — and now The Rock is owned by Bill Bryant, formerly of Atlantis.
So many people have left their marks an The Rock, it is hard to remember them all — but Henry Hanson and his father were certainly key players. Henry Jr. opened and closed for Ruth and her children and could keep all existing equipment operating long after it should have been pronounced dead. His father would bring his own long black boat around to take unbelieving guests on his magic tours up river to The Lake of the Isles and The Rift. And Mrs. Snell, who is as much a part of Chippewa as the Laurentian limestone, cooked and cleaned and took the laundry home and opened and closed, painted the inside of the
house in the Fall, made curtains and recovered chairs. And Chris Craig who was babysitter for Ben, Christian and Elizabeth Wright for three consecutive summers at The Rock.
From its first barren days as a nearly tree-less “Hog’s Back” it has changed again and again to accommodate man and his self important comings and goings, but The Rock remains what it is -solid and immovable, forever attached to the earth.
Thelema – Gladys (Mrs. Howard) Craig
Yes, I sure can wonder back to the early days as Father bought the island the Morgans have the year I was born, 1887. Mr. Knap had bought Man-zanita at that time and I imagine got Father
interested. Those were the good old days no motors of any kind. The old Massena, with Captain Dana with a big red beard, brought everything we needed up from Ogdensburg every morning; mau, milk, even our ice, and took our letters and lists for everything back to bring up the next day. There was also another steamboat that came up in the afternoon — “The Island Belle”. Later, I guess the old Massena wore out and The Riverside took its place. People went on it from Ogdensburg to take the trip around the islands. The old hotel at Chippewa was also operating, though not very briskly, and I am not sure when that was built — I remember the Sprats rented it one summer.
It was easy to get servants in those days. I remember Mother didn’t want any smell of cooking so that was done in the kitchen over the boathouse and our man brought it up to the pantry on big trays, where one of the maids looked after it and us. The cook and maid had their room on the third floor and the man had a room next to the boathouse which I believed burned down not so many years ago. I know the main house also burned, but at a much later time.
We had row boats, a canoe and a huge sailboat that held us all — I think, what they called a cat boat, but we called it the Clytee. We used to love to go on picnics over on Dark Island where the castle is now (in rowboats), and if a big wind came up we would take our white tablecloth and wave it and our man would bring the big sailboat and rescue us. I remember sailing up Co the Chapin island, which the Posts bought many years later.
Little by little, others bought the islands.
Three Ledges Farm – Ruth Bockus
Harry N. Bockus was raised in Gouverneur, New York, and later settled his family in New Jersey. They would return to upper New York to visit with grandparents, and an assortment of relatives and friends. Summers were spent at Louisville Land-ing, on the St. Lawrence, before arriving of Chippewa Bay.
Three Ledges Farm was bought in 1938, with a plan to breed Jersey cows and to build a camp on the water front. The camp was built and a cruiser house to accommodate the 40′ Chris Craft. The children sailed a 16′ Olympic.
In 1946 we started our summer migration to the River. Van had returned to Yale, after three years of war service, and I was about to add to the baby boom. Summer vacation meant earning money working on the farm. We had a Lawley 110 and started Co sail. We were fortunate Co meet some local young people and to find out how they spent their leisure time. The following summer we attended our first square dance. I have never been to a more physically strenuous event. The super strength of the farmers made it quite un-necessary Co know the steps. I have no recollection of my feet ever touching the floor.
it must have been a full blast of wind and we found ourselves very close Co Rob Roy Island. There was a group on the dock and we were motioned to come in. That was our introduction to Island people and we were anxious to get acquainted. it was Mort Collins who suggested we race our boat on weekends, and it was Commodore Knap who shot off the cannon.
Licia Quarrier invited us Co a party at Ragnavok and we were very happy Co attend. I re-collect many similar gatherings on Halfway, Jug, Manzanita, Snug Harbor, Rob Roy, etc. However, in the beginning, we were often in doubt as to the format of the party. Should we wear casual old but clean, or new and a little dressy? This might be settled with the flip of a coin. On one occasion, I had to borrow a bathing suit and was issued, from attic trunk, a one-piece wool suit well ventilated with moth holes. it was all such good fun and the beer continued to flow. Mental stimulation would come from a game of charades with such star players as Bob Wood and Chris Acker, and even the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” could be acted out, but possibly not spelled.
Our colony started to grow and before long there were twelve cousins, all in varying stages of “River Rat” development. We wanted the chil-dren to have more than farm exposure and so we traveled to many of the uninhabited islands. I would say that the romance of Iroquois Island was our favorite. An abandoned home, surrounded by weeping willow trees and a growth camouflage that made you sure that Sleeping Beauty could be found within. The children grew up, took to their Boston Whalers and have made lasting friendships. How very fortunate to grow up with the River ex-perience.
We travel around the islands and speculate on what life was really like eighty or more years ago. That grandiose time of castle building and gracious entertaining. In 1965, Van bought a little piece of that romantic past. Her name is the Corona and she’s a 28′ launch, originally part of the mammoth steam yacht, Corona. The yacht, built in 1903, was owned by the Laughlin family (Jones & Laughlin) and about 170 feet in length. Our Corona was originally electric until later when a gas engine was installed. We have been told that while on the boat, a son was born to a cook and caretaker from the Laughlin Island. Later, the son became a caretaker and was given the launch. A few years spent in restoration and she’s as good as new.
We have recently acquired a Hutchinson launch built in 1934. This one we bought in perfect con-dition and named it Rambler II. The original Rambler belonged to Van’s father, and we dearly needed that boat to transport us and friends on many an escapade. it is all part of traveling down memory lane and fun to have the reminders.
Uncle Ad’s Island – Francie (Rendall) Bates
Summer Reflections … Friends often, upon our return to Exeter, suggest places nearer by, bemoaning the distance and the time it takes for us to drive to ‘the river’!! And when we say that there is far more to it than that; that if we left it we would never find its ‘specialness’ again in any, more convenient, place.
What draws us back, each one of us, to this particular space of island river? Is it purely habit? Or has the presence of that special water become essential to some deeper sense of being within each one of us? Our memories, like islands in a nebulous seascape, remain permanent and secure to each one of us. Here are some of mine.
When we were small our (Rendall) family left for the island as soon as school was over. My father drove us up and helped to settle us in, returning frequently for short periods of time before his ‘real’ vacation started. My Grand-mother Strong was there when we arrived. The rugs had been rolled out, shutters were off, and the furniture uncovered but little else done, allowing each one of us children that initial exploration to see if everything was as it had been when we left. Somehow it was one place where change, even to new chair-covers, was looked on with a jaundiced eye. We children recognized permanence and it was there – symbolized by that house on that particular rock island in that particular river.
In our family it was an established fact that each one of us contributed to the whole and so we had specific jobs, designed to grow with age. Whether ‘Chief’ was there or not, Mother saw to it that we carried them out and when friends came to visit they were immediately enlisted…no one was spared. And none of us objected, if I remember correctly. There was a sort of comradery about it. I would see Jim go off to the laundry house where those scrub-boards lay in wait for him and Ned going all around the house each morning after breakfast to sweep away the cob-webs that any spider might have had the temerity to weave over night; there was brass to be polished, and ice to be washed, and root beer to make and bottle and alas, the infamous ‘garbage run’ to the swamp (which none of us questioned). I was delighted to be promoted from inside work to the sharing of the milk detail. The Dingman’s lived year round on Oak Island for a few years and, at least, they summered there when we rowed over to get the milk…and that unforgettable thick cream. The barn was beautiful; each stall painted a lovely blue. The house was small and clean and cozy, and the creamery the same. They had a cocker spaniel that brought Mr. D’s slippers to him at the end of the day. We spent hours of pure wonder with those two kind people, following them around the immediate premises or covering the whole island on walks with ‘Jed’.
What we did in chores didn’t amount to a hill of beans, of course, but the seeds of that old fashioned ‘work ethic’ were sown right then and there. Snug Harbor was managed benevolently by ‘Nana’ Strong and her summer crew that kept that island afloat. Queen of the kitchen was ‘Phemie’ who cooked the three meals a day on her two wood stoves. My Father’s responsibility was to the wood shed which he kept stocked in good order. Phemie was a spare, strong woman who taught us all a thing or two about love and laughter, of which she had plenty and was generous with both. Johnny MacPherson had a boat named after him, and he and Harry Powers answered the demands that an island requires, keeping pump house and boats running and house repaired. Jim and Ned and I loved those two men and they taught us what gentle-men were all about. We had good teachers all around us.
Sundays were most often Nana’s day for visitors. We would watch for the ‘John Mac’ to round the point of Oak with Johnny at the wheel, and sitting in the wicker chairs we would see Aunt Bessie Hoard or Aunt Rose. We had a lot of Sunday ‘aunts’. The piece de resistance for dinner would be Mother’s ice cream. Once, I remember holding my breath with delight and anticipation as Mother muttered, “If this ice cream doesn’t freeze in two minutes I am going to throw it in the river!!” That was a promising note. Jim was her aide.
After the two minutes had gone by, further inspection showed little progress. I watched as Jim lifted the freezer to his shoulder and in solemn procession the two of them marched to the back rocks whereupon Jim threw the freezer aloft. Mother, fully dressed for dinner, jumped in as did Jim. As dinner was announced there they were, laughingly afloat in a sea of foamy pink cream.
These are my memories and they are as permanent as the rocks on which our house was built; Jed Dingman pointing to an Indian bow on the floor of one of Oak Island’s caves and its disintegration at human touch, the explosion of the boat off Dark Island and fearing for our friend, Bill Aikens; the rum-runners signaling from the Canadian shore and subsequently finding their boodle under a layer of dead fish sectioned off in Ding-man’s long since abandoned dock. I remember with affection Miss Smalley and the three Hasbroucke boys at Scow, and before their residency Fanny Post admonishing poor Phillip with the oft-repeated phrase, “Go to your room Phillip”; Mr. Glazier and his niece too; tennis tournaments that my Father and Mr. Knap organized; sailing races weekly, and wonderful picnics up Crooked Creek with Bjournlands, and Ackers and marvelous, zany Becky Irving; and prim picnics at the Posts where we were served by uniformed helpers; and Hat Glover with her brown eyes and look of surprise; mischievous Jake and Emily with her thin, pretty mouth and jolly Fordie King who visited his Glover cousins and his grandmother, Mrs. Ford. The traffic between the Alkers and the Rendalls was everlasting and when Aileen went west for the first time I missed her greatly. The first summer that Nat Gross came up to tutor Jimmy Alker I stopped playing with stuffed bears, and the fol-lowing summer when Trevor Smith came I started buying True Romance at Smiths. Like others before us, we all grew up. The whippoorwills slowed down their singing in the pine grove and we knew summer was over, but we were comforted by our ingrained assurance of others to come — “God willing”, said Phemie, and crossed herself. What good fortune to have lived it…and loved it and to know that the rocks and the river will remain.
Vansittart – George B. Jackson
A CHIPPEWA BAY CHILDHOOD …. The Chippewa Bay area became a factor in my life in about 1890, ten years before I was born. My father, Will Walter Jackson, who lived in New York City, was invited by his Columbia College classmate Clinton McKenzie (father of Mrs. Herbert Glasier and Mrs. Fitzhugh Gordon) to visit him on Ragnavok Island. While at the river, father met the Bacon girls (Mary, the oldest, married Dr. Silas Brown of Ogdensburg, who built the house on Jug Island. Sophia, the middle daughter, married Morton Brokaw of Brooklyn. They became the parents of Virginia — Mrs. Ferd I. Collins — and purchased Jug after the Browns moved to St. Paul, Minn.), who were summering on Scow Island as guests of their uncle, Joseph York Chapin of Ogdensburg.
Father proceeded to fall in love with Fanny, the youngest. He would row from Ragnavok to Scow to call on my mother. He later told us that when he was opposite Strong’s island on the way up, he would tell himself that he was almost there; and when he reached the same point on the way down he would feel that he was almost home.
Fortunately for my father, and ne, the Bacons had moved from Ogdensburg to Brooklyn so he was able to continue his courtship, although the trip from West 18th Street, New York, to the heart of Brooklyn must have been more arduous than the boat trip.
After marriage my parents continued to spend a good part of each summer at Scow, until my great-uncle Joe sold it to the Posts, who built the present imposing house and boat-house. My recollections of life on Scow are vague. I recall that my brother and I would build rock castles on the shore facing Canada and wait to see if the swells from the Kingston or Toronto (large passenger boats) would destroy them. I also recall parties organized by my father and attended by young people (grown-ups to us) from neighboring islands; there were contests such as potato and sack races, followed by refreshments lemonade, homemade ice cream and cake.
In 1908 the Browns moved to St. Paul and sold Jug to the Brokaws. My mother would go there for the summer with her three children and her mother; frequently the household would include the Brokaw children, Elizabeth and Virginia, or Margaret Mc-Intosh, a cousin on my father’s side.
Trunks and a big order of groceries from Park & Tilford were expressed to Morristown, and I remember the consternation one summer when these did not arrive. They were finally traced to Morristown, New Jersey.
We had no motorboat and would row several times a week to shore at the present location of Schermerhorns, sometimes in stormy weather, and climb the hill to Capt. Forrester’s farm with our milk cans; returning with milk, eggs and vegeta-bles. Other supplies came from Ogdensburg on the Island Belle or Riverside, which would stop at Scow or Halfway Islands where we would pick them up.
Our cousin Margaret was a great story teller and would entertain my brother and me as we rowed the big white boat to shore and back. She maintains that when she finished a story we would rest on our oars until she could think up another. We must have missed our calling: we should have be-come bosses in the Teamsters or Rail unions. Of various incidents which I recall from those days, a couple stand out as period.pieces:
In the days before World War I, men wore detachable collars — high, white and stiff like Woodrow Wilson’s. Gentlemen always wore collar and tie to meals. But these collars required the services of professional laundries, and during the course of a two-week vacation they became a little worse for wear. One day my great-uncle, Joseph Chapin, came to lunch without a collar! My Grand-mother Bacon, his older sister, exclaimed, “Joe! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself! Look at Will; he is wearing a collar and tie.” Uncle Joe looked at my father and came back with the perfect squelch, “Lavinia, I’m afraid that I never could see much virtue in a.dirty collar.”
Grandmother Bacon was a Presbyterian and a strict Sabbatarian. The general rule seemed to be that if it was fun it was not holy. Swimming, fishing, boating and games were banned on Sunday. “Light reading” was out, but “uplifting reading” and of course the Bible were allowed. (Fortunately the Horatio Alger books were considered uplifting.) My Quaker father, with Machiavellian diplomacy, punctured the barriers by proposing a “religious picnic” on a neighboring island, where we would cook our meal and then sing good rousing Presbyterian hymns, by the campfire. A good time was enjoyed by all, including Granny!
There were lots of chores for us children. Beside going for provisions, we pumped water – about twenty feet vertically from river to tank brought in wood for the range, swept the cobwebs off the porch (they were all back by night), and did other odd jobs. But we found time to swim, catch minnows, go fishing, berry picking and
Picnicking – not to mention reading and loafing. When after Labor Day the time came to close the house and take the boat and buggy for the train trip home to Brooklyn and school, we were a dejected group.
Today life on our island is very different, with electric appliances, even a telephone (an amenity available on the Canadian side)!! But the river and the islands look almost exactly as they did sixty years ago – a fact which can be matched by few other vacation areas. There are some new houses (including ours), but more and bigger trees on many of the islands.
The late Thomas S. Knap, in an article appearing in the July 1971 Quarterly of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association, tells that the islands were originally valued only for the wood they contained, which was cut to fuel the river boats. This may explain why many of the islands had few old trees in the early 20th Century.
When the time comes for that last trip of the year to shore and car, we are a little somber.
But come January we begin again to “think island”.
Wyanoke Islands – Helen Orcutt English
My father, Calvin B. Orcutt, bought “Wyanoke” island from the Denner family of Chippewa Bay in 1894. The Denners had bought the island from the Indians.
In the early 1890s, my father was invited to visit Dr. George Bailey’s island “Atlantis”. As he sat on the porch, he looked across the river dividing the islands. His eye was caught by the beauty of “Wyanoke” and its magnificent trees. There was no building on the island. He got into a row boat and rowed around it in the early morn-ing and thought, “This is the island for me”. Wishes were soon transformed into actions and “Wyanoke” was his before he returned home to New Jersey.
Some time later my father, Calvin B. Orcutt, was coming down the river on a boat. The Captain of the boat pointed to “Wyanoke” and said, “Some darned fool man bought that island”. My father answered, “I am the man”.
My Mother was quite appalled at the trans-action, as I was then not five years old. She said, “You will have to build a fence around the island as Helen will be drowned”. This did not happen, however, I was told not to go near the river alone after the boathouse was built. In all the many happy years our family spent on “Wyanoke”, I am very thankful to say that we did not have one serious accident.
In the early days, our family came up to Hammond, New York, in sleeping cars from the Grand Central Station. We were met by horses and car-riages and driven to Chippewa Bay where a boat took us to the Island. We sometimes came to Clayton, New York, by sleeper where a river boat called the “Island Belle” met us. This boat made daily trips back and forth to Ogdensburg. When it stopped at Cedar Island, some of our guests would get off there. Sometimes this boat carried our meat and supplies from Alexandria Bay. When the meat was not put off (by mistake), my mother would say, “I think you will have to go out and fish for your dinner”.
A great many of our supplies were shipped up from New York…canned goods, hams, bacon, and many other things we now buy from our super-markets. My father also sent up delicious peaches, pears, and melons. What appetites we had!
The material to build the large house on “Wyanoke” was brought up from Ogdensburg in the winter time over the snow and ice. The house was on solid rock and secured with heavy iron bolts.
The views from the spacious porches at the original house at “Wyanoke” were magnificent. We could see over to the Canadian mainland. We had a powerful telescope. I remember looking through this telescope and seeing a woman in Canada come out and shake her tablecloth.
One of our favorite boat rides was to Chimney Island in Canadian waters, where there were the remains of an old fort dating back to the War of 1812.
The Bourne island (owned by an executive of the Singer Sewing Machine Company) had a house on it built like a castle. This island was called “Dark Island” and was in American waters. Young Howard Bourne came to our tennis tournaments at “Wyanoke”. (We called him “the millionaire baby”.)
On Cedar Island lived the well-known artist and sculptor, Frederic Remington. I remember being invited*with my friends to his studio. This famous artist was a very heavy man and a large eater. He had a canoe with double paddles. His wife was charming.
At Alexandria Bay, 12 miles up the river from Chippewa Bay, was “Heart Island” owned by the late George Boldt of the Waldorf Astoria. There was a room in this castle named from his daughter Clover. The castle was never finished after Mr. Boldt’s wife died and is now all in ruins.
My father had an important business connection named Mr. Edgar Luckenbach. He was the owner of a large fleet of tug boats in New York Harbor (in fact, I remember seeing one of these tub boats once when I was riding on the old ferry boat). Mr. Luckenbach came to the St. Lawrence every season. He and his family were very “nouveau riche”. They made an annual call on us when my father was there. I cannot remember the name of his steam yacht, but it had a steam siren on the smoke stack which could be heard for miles. When our family heard the yacht siren blowing, we all rushed to greet them. The ladies were dressed in the height of fashion — gloves, veils, etc. They could hardly walk up the hill to our house, but I do remember that they enjoyed the simple way we lived.
There were many romances on the Island and happy marriages resulting from days spent together at “Wyanoke”. We played a good deal of tennis; fishing was also a favorite pastime. But one of the best memories of all were the evening rides in the motorboat. “Oriole” was the name of the boat. The views of the sunsets and the cool, fresh air and beauty of the clear blue St. Lawrence will always be remembered. Sailing was also a favorite recreation, also canoeing and row boating. The first boat my father owned was a steam yacht “Wyanoke I” with a canopy top. it took almost an hour to get the steam up in the boilers. We had a man to do this who was very heavy. When he went to either side of the boat, it would have a heavy list.
My love and respect for the “Stars and Stripes” was born at “Wyanoke”. We always flew it there on a high flagpole. Another blue and white flag was flown on another pole near the boathouse when my father was on “Wyanoke”. I put out my flag from a window every Sunday here at home when it is clear, also on holidays.
My father would say, “Oh, girls, aren’t you glad to be alive?” How much we all loved to be at “Wyanoke”!!
My mother had a beautiful bed of red gera-niums planted near the house. The young male guests slept in the boathouse and each one was instructed to turn off the kerosene lamps on the way down to it. We had no electricity in the early days. My mother always asked that the young people be on time for meals. We also had morning prayers before breakfast each day.
The weather on the river was changeable –sometimes heavy gales and thunderstorms would come up. As a young girl I can remember running up the hill over the rocks to the big house. In May 1914, a severe electrical storm took place. A bolt of lightning struck the high wooden water tower at the back of the house. This started to burn and soon it fell over and the house caught fire. There being no water in the tower, there was no way of saving the house. Many people came over from the village of Chippewa but all they could do was to save a few pieces of furniture. Water all around, but it could not be pumped up from the river. The house was all consumed. Fortunately, no one was living in the house when it burned. My father died in 1911 so he was spared seeing the house burn.
A happy ending to this story is that our family moved down to the large boathouse at the end of the island. An attractive small addition was built and furnished. We used this comfortable small building for several years, also entertained our families and friends there.
The name “Wyanoke” means a “going around place” and this name certainly suited it. The young people had many good times in the little boathouse. My son Calvin (named from my father) bought a small outboard. He named it the “551”. I think it made as much noise as any boat could. The neighborhood was annoyed but also amused. My youngest son, Richard, and his family still go up to the River, even in winter, and cherish “Wyanoke” as much as anyone could. My oldest son, Theodore, loved sailing and he and his family also cherish “Wyanoke”.
I shall always remember the wonderful times we all had at the Chippewa Yacht Club picnics at Mrs. Morgan’s on Cedar Island.
* * * * * * * * * * *
AFTER THOUGHTS …. There was an annual re-gatta each year at Chippewa Bay. When the gun went off, the noise scared a mother mink over on the mainland. She ate up her babies. After this the time of the regatta was changed.
There was a fire once on Cedar Island. All the boats in the Bay went to the fire, including the fire-boat; but unfortunately the fire consumed a house.
The important event of each day was going for the mail at Chippewa Bay Post Office. We had large leather bags with the names of each island on them. The Post Office was owned and operated by the Backus family. On the walk up the hill, we passed the Denner Shop where the matchless St. Lawrence skiffs were made. My boat was named
“Marguerite” my father’s boat the “GGG”. it had a leg of mutton sail. Up the hill from the Post Office was the cheese factory, opposite Alden Forrester’s dairy farm. Mrs. Smith’s hardware store was ably run by this capable lady. There was also a small church in Chippewa Bay.
The Hanson family and Horace Allen are also remembered.
We had a faithful man working for us, named George Forrester. He ran the grocery store at the Chippewa Bay Wharf. We called him the “dock spider”. My mother was at his store once and he invited her to have a drink of “soda pop”. She really did not want it, but she accepted his offer. When my mother’s monthly bill came in there was a charge for the drink.
George Forrester had an old motorboat with a loud exhaust pipe on the top. He often came over to “Wyanoke” to take our faithful cook and wait-ress for an evening ride. We could hear the boat coming as soon as it left the dock at Chippewa. Our island was a mile away.
One of my father’s many hobbies was building stone walls. A high wall supported the tennis court. The stone and cement walk leading up from the boat house to the main house, built out of beautiful native stone, is a fitting memorial to him.
Henry Hanson – In the words of Henry Hanson
Henry Hanson, beloved caretaker for three generations of islanders, took his own life in 1978. His had truly been a life of service — first to his country, as an Ace pilot in the Army in World War II, and then as the wise and steady caretaker and boatman, who worked in some way for almost everyone in Chippewa Bay. He taught those he knew the great resourcefulness that is the common characteristic of river people. Listen to
him now….looking at pictures of the fire when the hotel burned on Cedar…”We burned it in the wintertime, see; we waited until there was snow. I was supposed to write an article for the Water-town Times but I never got around to doing it yet, that’s why I kept all the material. The hotel? it must have been built in the Gay Nineties. They hadn’t used it since the 20’s.
“I first came up in 1925. I was born in Alexandria Bay but my father and mother lived on Grenadier Island where Heffernan’s Restaurant is now — that used to be Dad’s farm and I was seven years old in ’25 and had to go to school. So we moved to Chippewa. I went to school in the old stone school there, through the eighth grade and then we went to Hammond. The old country school we had anywhere from 12 to 15 pupils in all eight grades, one or two in a grade — just one teacher. Of course, you sat there if you were seven or eight and listened to everything all the way through. That was a great way to learn. I took the eighth grade Regents in Geography and History when I was in the seventh grade and passed them with flying colors, just because it rubbed oft. The teacher was a fellow named Vernon Smith and then we had Mrs. Northrup who was the principal’s wife from the Hammond School, and I think Bill Aiken’s sister-in-law, Julie McCleer we had at least three different teachers. I was there seven years.
“My dad was a farmer from Minnesota and he used to travel with the threshing crews in the Fall. They’d start out in Minnesota and go through the Dakotas as far as Saskatchewan out through Alberta, clear out to the West Coast. And there were a lot of people from this part of the country who did the same thing. The Senecal boys from Grenadier Island, whose family used to run the hotel over there, used to travel out there to thrash too. And one Fall they invited Dad to come back with them when they were done. This was in about 1912, and he spent the winter. Then he went back and got married and came back for his honey-moon and stayed. We were on that farm from 1914 until 1925. And then he was caretaker at Dark Island and then we got the place going here at home. We lived on Dark Island a lot of the time; I was practically brought up there. The Bourne family? Well, there was one daughter, Margie, and four boys, George, Severn and I can’t remember the rest of them, and another daughter. Margie married Mr. Thayer. That was the heyday. When Mrs. Thayer, who inherited the island from her father; she got so she didn’t want it and she gave it to the Christian Brothers, a religious organization out of Long Island. it seems her father had given his Long Island Estate to them originally. The religious group thought they were going to use it for a summer camp but decided it would cost too much to run so they put it on the market. A big real estate group had it, Previews had it, and they had some of the Dupont family up here. In fact, I took the Duponts out there and they were interested in buying it and went so far as to make them an offer, I guess. But whatever happened, I don’t know, but the next thing I knew, Martin had bought it for $25,000. What kind of a deal they had, I don’t know, but they had an offer of $200,000. He must have sold them a bill of goods. I stay away from that outfit as much as I can now. There’s more going on there than meets the eye, somewhere. live got quite a dossier on him at home. He gets his names from the telephone book, works one part of the country one year, one part another (to get contributions). I met him when he first came here. He had a boat and I was helping him get things out of the car, and there was a bag in there with two handles. I reached in and got only one handle and the thing opened and there was green money in there. I just glanced in there, but I saw $1’s and $10’s and $20’s and $50’s -1 think he’d just opened his mail.
“The first association we had with the islands was the Washburns’ parents, the English’s. That place was rebuilt in the 20’s. Mrs. English was quite an old lady. Ferris’s mother and Mrs. English were the Orcutt daughters. Dad was the overseer of the remodeling in the 20’s and we’ve been associated with the place ever since. I helped rebuild the tennis court over there; there was a tennis court over there. That was when I was about 14, going to high school.
“I happened to be going through the Quarrier guest register the other day and the first entry was 1894 — they had guests (at Ragnavok) in 1894. The Baileys, the Knaps and the Quarriers would be the original settlers, I believe. Where Tony Menkel is now, that was Mrs. Ford’s and she was Mrs. Glover’s mother. Now the Cuthberts were on shore, but they never spent much time up here until after the war. The Wood family I remember. I used to take the old man fishing. He was a crusty old gentleman, a pretty good fellow. He was strict, he gave the boys what for. Always at the table, they’d go through the history of the day; they’d go over the bills at dinner.
“George Cook’s father ran the farm on Oak for Inglis, who was one of the original owners. Lyons bought Oak from Inglis. Charlie C. Lyons, his family owned the railroad ferry in Ogdensburg. He never worked, always a playboy.
Chippewa Bay before the turn of the century
“There was still logging going on in the late 1800’s and iron ore coming out of Rossi. They’d pile the ore on the shoals in the winter and the sailing barges would come pick it up in the summertime — or sailing scows, they were. Frank Dana owned the house we live in now and in 1840 he had a big schooner that he’d bring into the dock right here. The dock was about 200′ long and the barges could come right to it. There was a sawmill here somewhere and the barges would go to Ogdensburg and Clayton. And there was a cooper down by the hotel; he made barrels and butter tubs. There were maybe two or three thousand people right then at the turn of the century. The Forresters owned the store and sold coal and groceries and ice; and Alden Forrester had a livery and sold milk and eggs by boat to the islands. Those were the Gay Nineties, all right.
Chippewa Bay – THE CHAIN OF TITLE OF THE ISLANDS
IN. THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER
(Taken from “A Souvenir of the 1000 Islands of the St. Lawrence River”, by John A. Haddock. Printed by Weed-Parsons Printing Co. of Albany, N.Y., 1896, 2nd Edition, Revised and Corrected.)
The St. Lawrence has marked the line of sepa-ration between Canada and the United States since the boundary line was fixed by treaty soon after the Revolutionary War. The 1000 Island section of the river has been the scene of some of the important campaigns in four great conflicts between nations. The first was the Indian War between the Algonquins and the Iroquois which continued many years with occasional intermissions. The second struggle was between the French and English, and some of its hostile meetings and victories and defeats took place on the islands and on the neighboring shores. In the American Revolutionary War with England and in the War of 1812, the de-fense of this locality was of decided importance but its joint occupancy was decided by the wise men of both countries.
Some of the most exciting incidents of the disgraceful military action known as the Patriot War with its intermittent outbreaks from 1837 to 1839, took place on this side of the river, no-tably the burning of the Canadian steamer, Sir Robert Peel, on Wellesley Island on the night of May 29, 1838 and the Battle of the Windmill near Prescott, Ontario on Nov. 13 of the same year.
The islands were transferred to the State of N.Y. through several treaties with the Indians, following the same chain of titles by which the main shore, from the Hudson to the St. Lawrence, came under the proprietary and governing control of the State of N.Y. The dividing line between the U.S. and Canada passes somewhat arbitrarily among the islands, varying in size from a small pile of rocks covered with a few stunted trees, to others quite large–one of them (Wellesley Island) containing nearly 10,000 acres of arable land. This valuable island was conceded to the U.S. under the treaty with England negotiated at the close of the War for Independence.
The State of N.Y., by a patent under the Great Seal, conveyed the islands to Col. Elisha Camp of Sackets Harbor, N.Y. In 1845 Azariah Walton and Chesterfield Parsons purchased (not from Col. Camp, but from Yates & McIntyre of lottery fame, whose title came from Col. Camp) the northwest half of Wellesley Island and “all the islands in American waters of the river St. Lawrence, from the foot of Round Island (near Clayton) to Morristown”, a distance of 35 miles. The consideration was $3,000.00.
Eventually the Parsons interest was purchased by Walton, who became the sole owner, and con-tinued as such until the firm of Cornwall and Walton was established in 1853, when they pur-chased nearly the whole of the remaining half of Wellesley Island and then the firm became sole owner of all of these islands, having vested in them all the rights and title originally granted Col. Camp by the State of N.Y. (Azariah Walton and Andrew Cornwall, both of Alex. Bay, N.Y., were the sole owners of the firm of Cornwall & Walton.)
The value of the islands was quite nominal until they fell under the new firm’s control and even for several years afterwards. Eventually there grew a demand for them and they were sold at low prices but with a clause in the conveyance requiring a cottage to be built within three years.
Orren G. Staples of Watertown, N.Y., obtained as a gift from this firm, the grounds at Alexandria Bay, upon which he and his partner Knot erected the 1000 Island House at Alex. Bay in 1873. This proved to be an advantageous move on the part of Cornwall & Walton, for many of the bong line of distinguished guests coming to this hotel on vacation became interested in making the Thousand Islands their permanent summer home and purchased islands, on which were erected many of the elaborate summer places that were such an attraction to the river in the latter part of the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th.
The first recorded settler in town was an Irish hermit who had migrated from New England. His name was William McNeill and he lived in a niche or cave in the rocks at Chippewa Bay. Most children in Hammond at some time learned the whereabouts of this spot. This was prior to 1812. In the very early days the French controlled this part of the river and they made up a plan with street names, etc., for Chippewa Bay which they called Port Madras. This map is on file yet.
Later the name of Chippewa was given it from the Indian name. The cutting off of the timber and the coming of the railroad put an end to the tremendous business that was done at the Bay. All business and transportation from the town, as well as from Rossie and other nearby places, went out of the Bay by ship. Thousands of feet of lumber, timber and shingles, tanbark, lath, hoops, stone, lead from Rossie and Macomb, tons of grains and farm produce, cattle, hogs and apples in barrels went out over the dock at Chippewa.
A large warehouse operated there with a family living on the second story. Later this warehouse property was taken over by Capt. James Denner, owner and operator of a fleet of two-masted schooners. Capt. Henry Denner went down with the Mary Valentier when it was sunk on Lake Ontario. Canal boats and barges and other boats added to the heavy trade.
One of the islands called “Iron Island” was important to this trade. During the frozen winter months pig iron, lead and ore were drawn by sleigh and stacked there until the ice went out in the spring when it could be loaded onto barges. Hence, the name “Iron Island”.
Another island is called for a similar reason. “Scow Island” used to be the depository for timbers which were later picked up by scows from Ogdensburg.
A glass factory stood at the corner of the Calaboga Road where a deserted gas station now stands. This did a brisk business in dishes and hollow ware.
Where the present Riverview is (which was completed in 1905) there stood many years ago an ashery. Potash was manufactured and shipped by boat to Oswego, then through the canal to New York, Boston and points East. Back of that on the creek (known by many various names locally) was a water power saw mill. Below this on the same creek was a tannery.
A 25-room hotel stood on the corner of the so-called “New Road” next to the present post office and store, where the Wayne Stories now live. They did a good business under many different proprietors. it was destroyed by fire in the late 1880’s. Alexander Marceau operated a blacksmith shop next to this. There was a ship yard and several other saw and shingle mills, a cooper shop, several blacksmiths and a shoemaker also.
The first fair grounds in town were located on the land east of Helen Cuthbert’s dairy barn and extended to the line of the next farm. There is a big boulder yet, which was a portion of the judges stand. The race track was a quarter mile track.
Excitement reigned on the 15th of April 1865 at 10 a.m. when, there being no telegraph then, the first news of Lincoln’s assassination came by way of Chippewa. A troop of the Massachusetts Cavalry, seven men with a sergeant came by looking for Booth. it had been reported that he might make his escape by this way to Canada.
The District School House #11 erected in 1860 to 1861 was made from stone taken from the lot it stands on. Masons were Jeremiah Norton and John Rodger, early settlers. The carpenter work was done by Ora Reynolds and Joseph Denner. The building complete cost five hundred dollars. The builders are believed to have had a contract for only $450. Opposite this was the site of the first school house of the town of Hammond, a frame building which was later operated as a grocery store.
The large island lying in Chippewa Bay called Oak Island was the scene of great activity just after the turn of the century. Mr. William Plimpton, former supervisor of the town of Alexandria, was in charge of a crew of about 150 men.
For four years. His head stone cutter, Mr. Powell, directed the cutting of the stone to specifications for the construction of Boldt Castle. Each stone bore its mark, designating its use and placement, and so well was the work done that after being taken on the scow, “The Queen” to the site, not one needed alteration.
The stone cutting and drilling was done entirely by hand, there being na machinery in use on the job. The quarry covers an area of about three acres at the head of Oak Island, about a mile from Schermerhorn’s Landing.
The slabs of granite were lifted from the quarry pit by a steam derrick and loaded onto small flat cars, on a narrow gauge railroad, either pulled by man or horses to the finishing sheds. They were then reloaded onto the cars and taken to the dock where they were put aboard scows and pulled by tugs to Hart Island nine miles away.
During the four years Mr. Plimpton recalled only two accidents, which is a splendid record since they cut pieces of stone 8 ft. x 14 ft. x 8 in., as well as slabs 20 ft. in length for steps. All work on the castle was stopped when the wife of George C. Boldt died in January 1902.
Hundreds of tons of finished and unfinished granite blocks and bases for pillars that were to be used in the castle were left at the quarry and on the docks. Many of these pieces weighing several tons are still there. Following Mr. Boldt’s death in 1916 the unfinished castle and the quarry became the property of Edward J. Noble.
Other operations on Oak Island have included farming (with a dairy, cheese making, barns and later sheep raising and grazing), lumbering. Oak Island house was mentioned in the local newspaper in 1878. In April 1883, Oak Island house was purchased by Mr. Ferguson.
Mr. & Mrs. Martin Phillips finished building a hotel on Cedar Island in 1886. Mr. Phillips was noted in later years for being one of Frederic Remington’s favorite models for Indians.
Ragnavok Island was originally Palmer’s Island. Ragnavok Island, or the Twilight of the Gods, was probablv named because a popular writer about 1890 had written two books–Atlantis and Ragnavok. Atlantis Island still bears this name also. The Baileys were the first to build a permanent type cottage on Atlantis Island in 1886. Very soon after this many were built.
Joe’s Island, owned by an old recluse named Joe, has given way to the Indian name Wyanoke.
Brush Island was owned by Mr. John Bell, whose sister married Capt. Frank Chapman who owned Halfway Island. Na one has ever been sure just what two points it is halfway between.
A Dr. Dixon (dentist) built a little house on Rob Roy Island.
Of the Cedar Islands one is named Little Cedar, Eagle Wing, and Temagami, formerly Frederic Remington’s Ingleneuk.
Joe Chapin owned Scow Island. His niece (“Jinx”) married Mr. Brokaw and built on Jug Island. Mr. William Post built the present house on Scow Island and later sold it to Mr. Glassford whose estate sold it to Dr. Sidney Quarrier. The story of how Scow Island got its name is told in the item about Chippewa Bay.
Large Manzanita Island was bought from the late Henry Denner, who owned most of the islands in the Bay for $300. (This included Choke Cherry Island also.) James Knap, father of Thomas Knap of Ogdensburg purchased them in 1886. During the winter of ’86, Mr. and Mrs. Knap were in Cali-fornia and admired the manzanita bushes native to that state. As plans for the present house were drawn by a Californian it didn’t seem strange to call their new island Manzanita. The house was built by Mr. Hart, a local carpenter in 1887-88. The stone for the first floor and basement came from the quarry on Oak Island. Later Oak Island stone was used for Hart Island (Boldt Castle) and Dark Island. Joe Reed of Alexandria Bay was the contractor.
One of the interesting stories about island names concerns one of the tiniest of islands, near Oak Island. This was one of George Forrester’s stories. He lived in Chippewa Bay all his life and for many years owned the property on the shore that the Chippewa Bay Co., Inc. now owns. George said that many years ago a young man came to him and asked if there were any small islands that could be bought as he was about to be married and wished to build a small house on an island for his bride. George told the young man that he owned such an island near the head of Oak and after telling him how to get there rented him a row boat. The stranger came back, told George he would take it and made arrangements for having a small house built on the island that winter and arranged to have the house furnished and stocked with food saying he and his wife would be up the first thing in the spring.
George was paid a total of fifteen hundred dollars in cash for all arrangements. He never saw the man again and to this day the island is known as “Honeymoon Island”.
Snug Island was owned by Edward L. Strang. Later it was bought by Professor Suds (a well known musician and composer) who added, renovated and named it Windecot Island. The beautiful modern cottage recently occupying this part burned within the past few weeks. Mr. Strong’s son now occupies the island which he calls Snug Harbor at Oak.
Francis Dana (of Dana Point) was a brick maker. He made bricks from the local clay and sold them in the local store as far back as 1832. An old store account book found recently says that he was credited with $22.40 for 7200 bricks. He lived on Garden Island now owned by the Mertons. He had descendants who were well-known ship captains on river boats for many years.
Squaw Island was built on by the Kennedys. Later sold to Mr. Godwin, Mrs. Crow’s father.
Choke Cherry Island, first bought by the Knaps, and now owned by the Cuthberts, was vari-ously called Choke-berry and other names.
In the 1880’s and 1890’s it was common for the Indians to come in boats to the islands to sell their sweet grass baskets. They were Onondagas or Oneidas.
Two steamers which stopped at Cedar Island coming and going on the nun from Clayton to Ogdensburg were the Island Belle and the Massena.
All Islanders from New York arrived at Cedar in the morning by the Island Belle. She was the former “Island Wanderer”.
Mrs. Johnson built a lovely house on Hogsback and left it to Mr. Halliwell. it is now called the Rock and is owned by Mr. Halliwell’s widow.
The recent owner of Dark Island tells us that it was originally called Lone Star by the Indians and later on named Dark Island when charts of the waterway were published, because of the dark look it had from up or down river on account of the great number of evergreens.
it took two years in the early 1900’s to build the Towers, as Comm. F.G. Bourne called it. it was added to in 1928 by Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Thayer, Mrs. Thayer being the daughter of Comm. Bourne. Ships pass very close to the island and it commands a view both up and down the river. it was used by the Indians for many years as witness the number of arrowheads and places to grind meal which have been found on the island. Its inter-esting passage-ways, and innovations of the period of its structure always fascinated visitors. The island could be very stormy and wild in bad weather and covered passages were built to go from dock to house.
– 896 YACHT RACE SPORT vs. LANCET RECALLED –
(Reprinted from “The Quarterly”, official publication of the St. Lawrence Historical Asso-ciation.)
BY THOMAS KNAP … it was the evening of August 5th, the year was 1869 and the place, the dining room of the Crossmon House in Alexandria Bay.
At a table in that dining room were six gentlemen who were guests that night of Captain David H. Lyon of Ogdensburg: Dr. J.H. Brownlow and Mr. Al Port of Ogdensburg, James G. Knap of Manzanita Island, Chippewa Bay; Mr. H.J. Wilbur of Sport Island, and Mr. Gilbert Raferty of Fairy-land Island, both of Alexandria Bay.
All these gentlemen were vastly interested in boats and the meeting had been called to discuss a proposed race between the “Sport” and the “Lan-cet”.
The steam yacht “Sport” was owned by Mr. Wilbur. A paddle wheel driven side wheeler, 47 feet long and 16-1/2 foot beam, she had beautiful mahogany cabins and fittings and was said to be not only the “finest yacht on the river” but the only known example of a side wheel yacht on the St. Lawrence. She had been built in 1881 at Newburgh-on-Hudson for Elisha P. Wilbur Jr., son of the president of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
The “Lancet”, a crew driven yacht 52 feet long and 12 foot beam was owned by Doctor Brownlow (a general practitioner who built the home on St. Caroline St., across from the late Elks Club and now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Charron).
At the dinner Mr. Wilbur said that he would be agreeable to have the race take place at any time and on any course that Dr. Brownlow chose, so it was decided to have the race at two o’clock on Aug. 20th. The course was to be from the end of the railroad pier in Ogdensburg to a buoy at the entrance of the Brockville Narrows and re-turn, making the total distance approximately 2 miles. it was also decided to have a wager of one thousand dollars aside.
It must have been a lovely sight the after-noon of the 20th. A light southwest wind was blowing, the sun was shining and the yachts them-selves as they came up to the starting line were something to gladden the hearts of any sailor! The “Sport” was a black yacht with quantities of brass work sparkling in the sun and with the bright red steel paddles; the “Lancet”, snow white with a red stack; both boats shooting showers of sparks from their forced draft boilers.
Doctor Brownlow was skipper of his yacht with Al Port steering, Gilbert Averell giving advice (and probably holding down the safety valve!); Henry Woods as engineer and Henry’s cousin, Jim Lesperance doing the firing. History does not record who the crew were aboard the “Sport” ex-cepting that Mr. Wilbur, the owner, was aboard.
The race began from a standing start at the end of the railroad pier with most of Ogdensburg watching. Soon after the yachts were underway it was evident to everyone that the “Sport” didn’t stand much of a chance as the “Lancet” pulled away and was never headed, winning by several hundred yards. They returned one hour and twenty minutes later at an average speed of about fourteen miles an hour, a speed that was breathtaking in those days.
Dr. Brownlow had a large party of friends that night at the old Century Club in Ogdensburg to celebrate the event.
This glimpse into River lore was taken from a journal kept by James G. Knap who for many years was secretary and treasurer of the Chippewa Bay Yacht Club
(Historians Note: In 1916 the “Sport” was almost destroyed by fire when the Thurston ship-yard at the Bay in which she was stored caught fire. She was removed in time. The Wilburs used the “Sport” on the river, for trips up the Rideau in summer and for fall hunting trips on Lake St. Francis. After World War I she was sold to a firm on Lake Champlain for conversion to an 84-1/2 car ferry with vertical beam engine. Later she was returned to the Cornwall area where she abandoned and sank. We can find na further information on the “Lance”.)
FROM THE MINUTES OF THE CHIPPEWA YACHT CLUB
August 2, 1919 … The Secretary read a let-ter from the Secy. of the Oak Island Yacht Club, dated July 16th, 1919 — proposing that the members of the Oak Island Yacht Club be taken in the Chippewa Yacht Club without initiation fees and that the Oak Island Yacht Club go out of exist-ence. The same to be effective after the present racing season. … A.B. Quarrier, Sec.
August 3, 1920 … Mr. Seymour called the meeting to order. He then appraised the Committee fully of the terms upon which Mrs. C.B. Orcutt would rent her boat-house on Wyanoke Island to the Club. He stated that Mrs. Orcutt would allow the Club the use of it and the island (including the tennis court) provided that the Club would pay the taxes and the insurance charges and make any necessary repairs. The Committee decided to ac-cept Mrs. Orcutt’s terms and to take over the boat house to use as a club-house. … F.R. Bailey Jr., Sec.
August 21, 1920 … The Tennis Committee re-ports that the club tennis court has been cleared. and put in the best condition possible at this time of year. The thanks of the Club are due Mrs. Quarrier for the use of her tennis net and Miss Knap for the use of her marking apparatus. On trial it was proved that the court was not in good enough condition to permit a test of skill on the basis of which prizes might be awarded. The tournament therefore was postponed (sic) until another year. The court is in sufficiently good condition to furnish good Sport, and it is hoped that members of the club will use it during the remainder of the season. … J.M. Jameson, Chairman.
August 21, 1920 … it was suggested by the Commodore that the 1921 Yearbook be a little more elaborate. it was suggested by the Commodore also that the officers of the club procure yachting caps, coats, etc. … F.R. Bailey, Jr., Sec.
August 22, 1922 … The treasurer reported that according to an agreement made in 1916, the club owes George Forrester $1.00 a year rental for the dock at Chippewa, and that during the past winter a check for $3.00 had been sent him for 3 years rental. This check was returned by Mr. Forrester with the explanation that he never in-tended to make any money from the dock. In view of the fact that no trace could be found of a contract, or of a receipt for rental, and in view of the fact that the club has invested about $1000.00 in the dock, it was moved, seconded, and passed that a committee consisting of Dr. Herrick, Mr. W.P. Mackenzie, and Mr. Knap, be appointed to try and induce Mr. Forrester to accept the check for rental of the dock. C.J. Herrick, Sec.
August 25, 1923 … The commodore then made a short speech on the success of the season and emphasized the fact that the club should do more to bring the members together. He also suggested that dances be given every week by the different islanders … The chairman of the regatta com-mittee reported on the racing season, and thanked the committee, especially praising Miss Brokaw and Mr. Menkel. He mentioned that even though the regatta was of a smaller size than last year, the enthusiasm over it was far greater than that of
the preceding year Sidney S. Quarrier, Sec. August 26, 1923 … The Sports Committee (executive committee) was chosen as follows: Chairman- Mr. W.P. Mackenzie, with a committee of Dr. Jameson, S.S. Quarrier, Miss Margaret Menkel, Miss Jameson, and R. de V. Seymour. This committee was appointed with an understanding that different games, such as; quoits and archery, etc., should be fixed up at the club S.S. Quarrier, Sec.
August 23, 1924 … The subject of protection of the islands during the duck-hunting season was then discussed at length and it was finally agreed that the following list of members should each subscribe $25 to be given to the treasurer for the keeping of a caretaker during the 3 months: Octo-ber, November, and December: A.B. Quarrier, Mrs. Louise Johnson, A.M. Menkel, P.H. Godwin, E.L. Strong, R.C. Seymour, J.C. Howard, J.G. Knap, C.A. Herrick, Frank Chapman, Addison Strong, M.V. Brokaw. it was then duly moved, seconded, and passed that a committee of five: Chairman J.C. Howard, committee- Tom Knap, Frank Chapman, E.L. Strong, and A.M. Menkel, with power to act in soliciting funds and engaging a man. The treas-urer is to send out bills and cooperate with the committee (ex-officially). it was moved and seconded under the suggestion of Dr. Herrick that all the shoals around Chippewa Bay should be marked by the House Committee S.S. Quarrier, Sec.
August 28, 1926 … The question of a new club for the Chippewa Yacht Club was then con-sidered following a report by Mrs. Johnson to the effect that Orchitt Island was no longer suitable since it would require too much money to fix up the boathouse. Mrs. Johnson suggested Toothpick as a possible club site and explained her plan to buy it and build a club there. Mr. Menkel brought forward buying the Smith property on Cedar Island as a suggestion. His plan was to have a syndicate consisting of from 10 to 20 club members buy the property, give the hotel dock and buildings to the Chippewa Yacht Club and each draw lots for the rest of the property. Miss Brokaw suggested the possibility of securing a point on Oak with one of the docks, whether temporarily or permanently. These three plans were discussed at length and it was voted to appoint a committee consisting of Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Menkel, Miss Brokaw and the Commodore and Secretary to look into the matter and report the following summer … Virginia Brokaw, Sec.
September 4, 1933 … Mr. Knap brought two insurance men to talk over the policies of a group insurance. The insurance was to be on theft only. The main idea was that since so many things have been stolen recently, that we could get our boats and tools insured at a cheaper rate than if we did it singly. … James W. Alker, Sec.
July 4, 1934 … After the minutes were ap-proved as read, it was suggested that the members go at a moderate rate of speed through the Cut, and take a wide turn. … James W. Alker, Sec.
July 4, 1935 … A motion was made, seconded, and passed that a ramp at the dock should be made and that all small boats, punts, small outboards, etc., were to be pulled out upon it during rush hours instead of being tied to the wharf. Re-solved that the Chippewa Yacht Club hereby ac-knowledge their appreciation and thanks to the Supervisor of the Town Board and the Highway Com-missioner of the Town of Hammond for the construction and completion of the new and excellent road. … James W. Alker, Sec.
September 1, 1935 … The question of what will happen in the event of George Forrester’s death was brought up, and Mr. Wood made the motion that a committee of three, of which Chas. Lyon be chairman, and Messers Knap and Cuthbert be the other members, should be appointed to attempt to solve the problem of acquiring the Chippewa dock and adjacent property. (Motion amended by Mr. Cuthbert to include Mr. Wood.) … Mary Post Bremshe
July 3, 1936 … A motion was proposed and accepted that the dues for the present year be twenty-five (25) dollars to cover expenses of the docks on the mainland. A motion was passed in appreciation of Mr. Halliwell’s loan to cover ex-penses for the loan to cover expenses for the completion of these docks … Betty Jean Cuthbert, Sec. pro tempore.
August 1936 … Mrs. Morgan offered to accept the responsibility of the club diving float Betty Jean Cuthbert, Sec. pro tempore.
July 3, 1937 … The members of the club voted to give Bert Slate of Hammond the sum of $60 •for delivering the mail during July and August at Backuses … Betty Jean Cuthbert, Sec.
August 13, 1938 … Mr. Glasford propOsed that the executive committee have the power to investigate the possibility of a shelter being built on the CYC dock … Betty Jean Cuthbert, Sec.
The following article was published in the “Thousand Islands Sun” on Thursday, Sept. 9, 1954
LETTERS FROM OUR READERS … Dear Mr. Editor: The following article has come into my possession recently and I think everyone from this section will be interested in it, as I was. it was writ-ten by the late Lester L. Laughlin, who lived almost his entire life in Chippewa Bay until he
passed away a few years ago Vida Smith.
* * * * *
I am dedicating this article to the rising generation of Chippewa Bayites who know little of their home village history prior to 1861 to 1865. I am indebted to the following people, whose memoirs and records were freely given me in com-piling this article: George S. Forrester, born in 1854, the records of his father; W.A. Forrester and his grandfather, Amos Webster; the diaries of Martin L. Laughlin and memoirs of Anna Laughlin Wilson, born in 1854.
Lester L. Laughlin
November 19, 1940
The first settler in town was one William Mc-Neill, an Irishman who lived in a cave near the St. Lawrence river at Chippewa Bay. The exact date is not known, however it was some years prior to 1812. In the early days, when the French con-trolled this part of the viper, they named this “Port Madraze” (or MaDraze) but later it was given the Indian name of “Chippewa” to which was added “Bay” for the beautiful body of water which fronts the village. The county road runs to the shore line of the river to the docks now owned by George F. Cook. We will start from there, following the shore, thence up the hill on the county road which was known in other days as the “Bay road”.
In these early days, there being no railroad, all town business and transportation was drawn by ox-team or horses to Chippewa Bay, thence by boat and river. Thousands of feet of lumber, timber and shingles, withes, tanbark, lath, hoops, stone; tons of iron ore, pig iron and lead from Rossie and Macomb mines; tons of grains, all kinds of farm produce, cattle, hogs and apples in barrels, passed over this dock.
Just a few feet south of where the George Forrester (now George Cook) store now stands, one Colonel Lamphier erected in 1818, a large two-story warehouse, which was operated as a general store by one Abraham Cooper of Oxbow. Peter Allen (the old settler) the elder and his family lived on the top floor of this building the first year they came to this country from Scotland.
The property was taken over in 1850 by Cap-tain James Denner, owner and operator of a fleet of boats consisting of two-masted schooners, the S.P. Johnson, Mary Valentier and Bellow. “The Mary” was lost with all hands, in a storm on Lake Ontario. Captain Henry Denner, brother of the late Edward T. Denner and son of Joseph Denner, went down with the boat. These boats, with outside boats, canal boats and barges, did a heavy business. Thousands of bushels of grain and feed passed in and out through the warehouse. The writer worked many a day carrying sacks of grain from warehouse to boat on his shoulders, for the great sum of ten cents an hour. Pig iron, lead and ore were drawn by sleigh to an island located at deep. water, called “Iran Island”, stacked there until the ice went out in the spring when it could be loaded on barges.
A three-story hotel stood where the George Forrester cottage now stands (on the water’s edge east of the store) and was operated for several years by James McLain. In later years, the parents of the Smith boys, Peter, Griff in and Henry and their sister Hannah, lived there.
We now leave the river and go to what was called “the Depot Hill”. On the summit, to our left, stands the first residence built in Chippewa Bay. Erected in 1838, it was first occupied by James Robb. Alden Denner lives there as this is being written and the property was owned by George S. Forrester, now dead, and George Cook is the present owner. On the river bank a bit east of this house stood an ashery, for making peral ash, which was shipped by boat to Oswego, and the east, via canal. Chippewa Bay boy, Loren Bailey, father of Captain Loren Bailey, well known lake and river captain, was killed here. He was the grandfather. of the late Frank F. Bailey of Ogdensburg. He spent his summers here in the home now owned by Mrs. Josephine Catlin.
On our right, at the southwest corner of Calaboga and Bay roads, southwest of the hotel and opposite the garages of George Cook, stood the Chippewa Bay glass factory (present site of Hewitt gas station). They did a good business in the manufacture of dishes and hollow ware. (it is true, believe it or not.) Where the hotel (River-view hotel) now stands was an ashery owned and operated by W.A. Forrester, father of George S. Forrester. He manufactured potash and shipped it by boat to Oswego, thence through the canal to New York, Boston and points east. Back of the hotel on “Gunther’s Creek”, later known as the “John Henderson Creek” one Henry Wilbur built and operated for several years, a water power saw mill. it was kept busy sawing logs from the spring ice breakup until August. Hundreds of logs were floated down the creek and many others were hauled by farmers. Back to the water front where the creek enters the river, or say below the bridge on land now owned by William Backus. Abel P. Noise also built and operated a water power saw mill, depending on the creek for power. He did a good business during the season. In later years, James Lyon purchased it and moved it to Black Creek.
Still on the water front, we locate on the land now owned by Roy G. Allen, a steam saw shingle mill, owned and operated by W.A. For-rester. Logs were rafted to mill by way of the St. Lawrence River and Chippewa creek, where they were elevated to the saws. Their season was longer than the other mills and they did a large business as boats loaded direct from the mill dock. Thousands of shingles and many thousands of feet of lumber were shipped from this mill. In connection with this mill, one William Soper operated a ship yard on the Hanson sight. Here was built the sloop “Mill-Bay” the hull of which lies in the mud of the little bay back of Jed
Dingman’s boathouse. Back to the hotel we climb the grade of “Ashery Hill” to locate on our left, on land owned by William Backus, a large black-smith shop. On our right stood a cooper shop on the sight now occupied by the Mrs. DeLong house, Colonel Nahum Wilson with Martin L. Laughlin did a large business here manufacturing hand made butter tubs, wash tubs, cedar cisterns and pork barrels.
Next on our right stands the stone school house “District Na. 11” erected in 1861. The stone was taken from the lot it stands on. The masons were Jerry Norton and John Radger, grand-father of Arthur Rodger. The carpenter work was done by Ora Reynolds and Joseph Denner. The building complete cost five hundred dollars. I am not sure, but believe the contract was for four hundred and fifty dollars.
On our left, opposite the stone school house, stood the first school house in Chippewa Bay, a frame building which afterward was operated as a grocery store by Frank M. Buss, who later made his residence there.
W.E. (Ed) Forrester at one time ran a general store where the Floyd Babcock residence now stands. Jim Lyons office stood on the sight where now stands Joe Smith’s store and gas station. The building was later used by Thomas Murphy as a shoe shop. This building is now part of Joe Smith’s garage. W.A. Forrester and Amos Webster owned the plot of land fronting on the county road from the triangle road to the Calaboga road, back to the John Henderson line. They opened a general store on the corner opposite where the William Backus store and post office now stands. They did a big business there. Later Mr. Webster purchased the Forrester interests. In 1870 M.L. Laughlin erected the building now known as the Backus store. William Veitch and Marion Holmes conducted a general store here for some years. Alexander Allen owned the building.
On our left going east: On the northeast corner of the county road and the so-called “new road”, now the Babcock corner (just east of the Post Office) stood a two-story, 25 room hotel, which did a good business for several years under several different proprietors: William Butter-field, Charles Forrester, James Moshier, Henry Barney, E.A. Brewer, Mortimer Robinson, Robert Nicoll, Guss Buss, L. Beardsley, Frank Buss and lastly Frank Turner. it was destroyed by fire in the late 1880’s. North of the hotel stood a blacksmith shop owned and operated by Alexander Marceau. On our right, on the southeast corner opposite the hotel, on property now owned by Herbert Catlin, Jim Lyons erected, in 1838, a large building used as a store and supply depot for his many employees, mill hands, lumber jacks, tannery men and teamsters. The old Forrester home stood on this lot (later the Jed Hart home), fronting the triangle road. it was built by Jim Lyons and used for a boarding house for his many men. George Forrester was born in this house, December 5, 1854. His brothers and sisters were born here with the exception of Blanch, now Mrs. Eaton of Alberta, Canada. Where the little creek comes down from the George Cuthbert farm and where the game club now stands a cheese factory, which did a large business buying and tanning skins. Zt was the only one such nearer than Ogdensburg. The first fair grounds in town were located on the land of John Buss, this is now a part of the Helen Cuthbert farm located east of the dairy barn and extended to the William Cuthbert line (now the Harold Soole house), taking in all the land from the top of “Buss Hill”, on the left of the road to the foot of the Cuthbert hill. Cuthbert hill at that time was known as “Whitemore Hill”. A big boulder which is still there, was a portion of the judges stand. The race track was a quarter mile track. The cutting of the timber and the coming of railroads sounded the death knell to business in Chippewa Bay. One of the oldest residences in Chippewa Bav is the present propertv and home of George Cook. it was erected in 1839 by “Old Square” Bailey who, with Mrs. Bailey, lovingly known as “Old Grandma” Bailey lived there. The M.L. Laughlin family lived in a part of this house while the Laughlin home was being built. (Henry E. Hanson now owns the Laughlin place.) Anna Laughlin Wilson was born in this house in 1854.
Amos Webster, George Forrester and George Cook have each made this their home. The Baileys, Websters, Forresters and Cooks were all related.
We recall the day in 1865 when we received the sad news, by special boat from Ogdensburg of the assassination of President Lincoln. it came at 10:00 a.m. on the 15th of April, there being no telegraph in town, we were the first to get the news. There was much doing when a troop of Massa-chusetts Cavalry, seven men with a sergeant in command arrived looking for Booth. it was re-ported that he might make his escape by this way to Canada. The only descendants of these pioneer people still living in Chippewa Bay are Joseph H. Smith, Alden Denner, Harley Dooley, Prof. G. Allen and George F. Cook. The writer now signing off. I thank you.
A STORY OF MURDER AND BURIED GOLD
1000 Islands–On September 20, 1906 the fol-lowing article appeared in an area publication. “Chippewa Bay Residents Excited by the Actions of 4 Strangers — Does it Really Exist Old Residents Credit the Story — No Effort Made to Locate it Since 1890.”
A party of four men, surveying the inlets and creeks of Chippewa recently, have left for parts unknown. Where they came from is equally as mys-terious as their departure, and according to the inhabitants near the point, their actions and movements while in that vicinity, created lively interest and widespread comment. Many believe that they were treasure hunters and were trying to locate the alleged hidden treasure which tradition credits with being buried some where around Chip-pewa. Anyway, the old story is revived of the English paymaster, whc was murdered near there during the war of 1812, and many believe that was the object of the searchers.
Again, others contend that they comprised a government survey party for the purpose of widen-ing Chippewa Bay proper, and still others ex-pressed themselves as content in belief that the mysterious visitors were nothing more than a party of fishermen locating a prize spot for fishing.
However, the most accepted theory seems to credit the English paymaster story as the most plausible, as two visits were paid and the same precise movements gone through.
That the treasure is hidden somewhere along the numerous creeks and inlets bordering the Bay, is borne out by several of the oldest inhabitants. They state that the story of the English pay-master’s chest is as old as the hills, and that many conflicting stories were once freely circu-lated dealing with the matter in a serious light, but inability to locate the treasure placed a damper on the probability of its existence and since 1890 no effort has been made to discover the whereabouts of the English dodbloons.
The story has been rehearsed so many times, that nearly every resident along the river can recall it ward by ward, and many of the oldest settlers believe it is no myth but a reality and say that history will bear them out in regard to it.
To have four strangers prowling about during the day and sometimes at night with lanterns set the entire population of Chippewa Bay into a rest-less fever of excitement eventually developed into a frenzied scramble of discovery.
Joseph Senecal, the most widely known fishing guide on the river, declares that the treasure really exists and has made many futile attempts himself to locate it.”
This is the legend as we know it.
The stories of pirates in the Chippewa Bay area have been told and retold but the most common one is told of the Patterson gang. Jim Patterson and his brother Ned and four other men along with a Frenchman, one “Binette” who seemed in some way related to the Pattersons, were the principals. The gang had scows, bateaux and other small boats. They had several places on the islands in Chippewa Bay to secrete their plunder. One island near the Canadian shore could only be reached by an obscure inlet and route was so hidden from both water and shore that na outsider could find it. They also had several places up Chippewa Creek to hide their plunder. They used to send Binette out through the Canadian settlements on a peddling tour. He could find out (through knowledge of both French and English) who had the best horses, cattle or other goods and where they were kept. They would take several boats hiding them at various points in the bushes along the shore and going well armed, their plundering expeditions became very successful and a terror to the Canadians.
The British paid their soldiers at the garri-son in Kingston once a month in gold which was sent up both by land and by water so that it might be safe.
Binette learned that a bateau with three or four Frenchmen and an English officer would leave Montreal for Kingston and would pass the islands the following evening. He got the word to the Patterson gang who lay in wait for the supply boat and overpowered the crew and took possession of the bateau. They landed their prisoners on an island and made their way directly up Chippewa Creek where the boat and specie were hidden temporarily. When Kingston learned of this, they went to wipe them out and surprising them passing around an island, killed them all except Zach Livingston. Since Patterson was the only one who knew just where the specie had been hidden, when he was mortally wounded, the secret died with him.
NORTH WAS HOTBED OF SMUGGLING
JUST BEFORE WAR OF 1812 OPENED
The following is a news article that ap-peared in the “Thousand Islands Sun” on Thursday, August 19, 1965
In the early 1800’s commerce between northern New York and Canada was beginning to flourish Trade in the years from 1805 to 1807 between such communities as Kingston, Ont., and Sackets Harbor and Ogdensburg and Prescott, Ont., was consider-able despite the fact that both Sackets Harbor and Ogdensburg were in their first years of existence.
Schooners brought cargoes of potash and salt to Kingston, Montreal and Prescott from Ogdensburg and Oswego returning with goods from Canada. In northern New York most of the large land-owners were Federalists, the peace-loving party which preferred to remain on good terms with Great Britain and Canada at all costs.
In 1807, all free interchange of commerce with Canada and England came to an end when the Embargo Act was passed by the Jefferson administration forbidding trade with England and posses-sions. Federalist party leaders in northern New York in particular the large landowners of St. Lawrence county were furious with the act. Indus-trial leaders and farmers in other parts of the north were not pleased with the development either.
Soon after the passage of the Embargo Act, northern New Yorkers began to smuggle goods across the border into Canada and return with goods from there. Industrial and commercial leaders in Jef-ferson, St. Lawrence,Oswego counties felt that continued trade with Canada was essential to con-tinued growth. Jefferson and St. Lawrence coun-ties were just beginning to show signs of what promised to be a vigorous growth when the Embargo Act was imposed.
In 1808, there were few soldiers in the north to prevent the recurrent smuggling operations. Occasionally, the law was enforced, but for the most part smugglers were able to operate with reckless abandon and flaunt the unpopular law enacted by President Jefferson. Federalist leaders like Jesse Hopkins, Augustus Sacket, John Cowles and David Parrish openly criticized the law as being needless and injurious to the economy of the area.
Augustus Sacket was appointed collector of customs in late 1807 under the Embargo Act but resigned in 1808 because he experienced great difficulty in enforcement. He later became a severe critic of the act. He was succeeded by Hart Massey of Watertown, who was little more successful in its enforcement.
Smuggling activity was especially heavy in St. Lawrence county in the years just preceding the War of 1812. Merchants and landowners in the Ogdensburg area were developing especially close ties with Canada. Jefferson county also had its share of illegal intercourse with Canada but nothing to compare with its neighbor county in the north. The volume of illegal smuggling activity just before the beginning of the war made activity in northern New York during Prohibition years seem tame by comparison.
When war was declared, the declaration was greeted with little enthusiasm in St. Lawrence county where the Federalist party, which wanted peace and trade with England and Canada, had a three to one numberical edge. In Jefferson county the development, while not popular, was more gen-erally accepted and steps were taken to mobilize for possible attack. it was apparent that north-ern New York was inevitably destined to be part of the battleground in the conflict.
Sackets Harbor overnight became a center for a military buildup with regular army and militia forces being sent there to build up fortifications against possible British attack. Another result of the arrival of considerable number of military forces was that at last some control over smug-gling operations might be gained by having troops patrol the area and prevent illegal trade with the enemy.
From a community of a few dozen residences Sackets Harbor became the main American base of operations with its own shipyard. Large contingents of soldiers, sailors, marines and mechanics were sent to the community to aid in building military fortifications and a naval base.
In St. Lawrence county, particularly in the Ogdensburg and Madrid area, illegal commerce with the British and Canadians continued as heavy after war was declared as it had before. American forces sent into the section to quell the activity received little or no cooperation. Socially they were either cowed or astracized and garrisons found it hard to purchase goods and food for sub-sistence. Cattle and sheep were openly driven across the border into Canada for trade. Potash and other goods also were exchanged in return for Canadian goods.
British officers and troops visited Ogdens-burg frequently in the early months of the war coming across the St. Lawrence river from Prescott to trade there. David Parrish, the noted indus-trialist, and Judge Nathan Ford of Ogdensburg were among those suspected of being sympathetic toward the British.
it was against this background that an organ-ized effort to stamp out the smuggling operations was decided upon by military officials at Sackets Harbor in the late winter and early spring of 1813.
The initial efforts of Lieut. Loring Austin and his detachment to check smuggling in St. Lawrence county had met with some success. Subse-quent letters will recount the difficulties en-countered by Lieutenant Austin and recount the ultimate failure of the mission.
The following letter regarding the situation was written to General Pike on April 9 by Lieuten-ant Austin. A sudden blockade to success of the Operation is revealed.
“Presuming we should meet resistance only from our general enemy both Lieutenant Wells and myself have been entrapped by those we considered as friends and detained in the county of St. Lawrence by virtue of a writ of which the following is a copy – “‘St. Lawrence County.
“The people of the state of New York by the grace of God free and independent to our sheriff of said county greeting.
“‘We command you that you take Loring Austin if he shall be found within your bailiwick and him safely keep so that you may have his body before our judges and assistant justices at our court of common pleas which is to be held at the court house in the town of Oswegatchie in and for said county on the first Tuesday in June next and then and there to answer unto George C. Conant in a plea of trespass assault and false imprisonment to the damage of said George C. Conant of $5,000.
“‘And have you there this writ witness Natham Ford, Esq., first judge of said court at Oswegatchie in our county aforesaid the 16th day of January in the 37th years of our independence, 1813.
“‘Wm. M. Bowers attorney, signed A. Richards, clerk.”
“From the obligations of this I appeal both for myself and Lieutenant Wells to the authority from whom I derived my power or right to make and secure prisoners.
“Mr. Conant was pointed out by the collector as one coming within the description in my orders. He was accordingly seized, but by a note the collector was afterwards released. Lieutenant Wells had the management of that business and has the authority by which he acted with him. I presume he acted prudently.
“Against my known enemies I have always pro-ceeded with caution, but these scoundrels have entrapped both him and myself totally unprepared.
“The United States can surely afford myself and Lieutenant Wells the necessary bail $12,000. it is too large a sum to warrant any appeal to my friends.
“For heavens sake, sir, exert authority to extricate us from these disguised enemies and oblige. – Loring Austin.”
“Mr. Shaw has used every exertion to secure the boats. They have doubled the number which government presumed to be there. My prisoners shall be at the Sackets Harbor in a short time. The gun according to your orders is taken.”
Lieutenant Austin wrote General Pike, April 10, recounting further details of his and Lieuten-ant Wells detainment.
“I take this opportunity of one of my detach-ment whom I send to Brownville this evening to inform you that my bail will be required for $90,000. They have brought against nie damages of $5,000 for each man apprehended by me and hold bail for $10,000 each. They seem here resolute to carry this question to the extremity and appear somewhat fearful that an armed force may be ordered to release nie from their iniquitous con-finement; not by urgent and repeated request. I shall accompany the sheriff to Ogdensburg this evening which place I presume they will make my residence till released.
“You may conceive, sir, the unpleasant situa-tion in which I am placed by his legal patronage of absolute treason and 1 trust those who are invested with the proper authority will speedily rescue nie from it.
“My detachment being merely under charge of a sergeant may find themselves in very great difficulties. I have directed Sergeant Hayes to apply to you for any information on the regulation of the men.”
General Pike’s letter pertaining to the matter follows: .
“I have the honor to receive your letters of the 12th. I return you my sincere thanks. En-closed are the papers relative to the arrest of the prisoners, also a copy of the collector’s letters to me on which the detachment was sent down to St. Lawrence county. I trust them to your entire discretion, and beg of you to publish a statement to contradict the impression intended to be made by a publication which appeared in the Utica Patriot of the 13th.
“Lieutenant Austin was ordered to assist the collector in the enforcement of the civil author-ity and not in its violation, at least that was my intention; if he has exceeded his orders he has done wrong. If they were too extensive, it was owing to a want of legal knowledge. But I hope you will suggest some mode by which this young man can be liberated from this unpleasant situation which they submitted to out of respect for the civil authority.”
Eleven days later General Pike and his forces sailed from Sackets Harbor to invade Canada and the general met his death in the Battle of York. Smuggling remained a major problem, particularly in St. Lawrence county. But gradually, as feder-alist leaders in St. Lawrence county became more sympathetic to the American cause, it lessened.
In the latter part of 1813 and until the end of the war, the increased military garrison at Sackets Harbor enabled military officials to keep a tighter rein on illegal trade with Canada. During the latter part of the war the situation in St. Lawrence county was kept under a reasonable state of control although considerable smuggling still took place.
– Mary H. Biondi, Hammond Historian –
The following is a news article that appeared in the local newspaper
ISLAND NAMES REFLECT EARLY INDIAN HABITATION Chippewa Bay There was a Mohawk legend that the Great Spirit planted these islands as his earthly paradise, then scooped out deep basins of rock from the lower reaches of the river to create treacherous rapids and thus protect his sanctuary from invasion. Their name for the area was Manatonana or Garden of the Great Spirit.
One of the islands in Chippewa Bay Owatonna is probably from the same name.
The Indians of this area were a branch of the Chippewas called Mississagua, who built birch canoes and huts. In 1826-27 there were 200-300 of these Mississaguas. Other Indian names such as Spearhead Point, Indian Chief, Little Squaw Island, Grindstone Island and such are remainders of the part the Indians plaved in the history of the area. Oak Island is called Indian Hut Island in early maps, Atlantis was big Squaw and Twilight was Little Squaw.
One of the early books of the St. Lawrence describes the look of the islands with evergreens and watch towers along the river. Many loons were mentioned. Every rock on which there was a tree was counted as an island and it was noted that there were 1692 in all.
Along the shore were farm houses with their fires of pine logs, at which a traveler could share hot steaks, fried bacon and potatoes, tea and toast with the owner. They also mentioned festoons of sliced apples hung to dry for winter pies near the fire.
Several Types of Boats There were several types of boats used on the great river. Bateaux were flat-bottomed, half size and tapering to a point on each end. They were preferred for down river travel through the rapids. Other flat bottomed boats, 35′ to 40′ long, 6′ wide in the middle, carried 4 to 4 and one-half tons. Worked by oar, mast and sail, they had drag-ropes for towing and long poles for pushing through the rapids. A “pipe” was a measure of about 3/4 of an English mile. Old books mention something “2 pipes off”.
The St. Lawrence has marked the line of separation between Canada and the United States since the boundary line was fixed by treaty soon after the Revolutionary War. The 1000 Islands section of the river has been the scene of some of the important campaigns in four great conflicts between nations. The first was the Indian War between the Algonquins and the Iroquois which con-tinued many years with occasional intermissions. The second struggle was between the French and English, and some of its hostile meetings and vic-tories and defeats took place on the islands and on the neighboring shores. In the Revolution and in the War of 1812 this was an important locality. Some of the most exciting incidents of the dis-graceful military action known as the Patriot War took place near here with the burning of the Canadian steamer Sir Robert Peel and the Battle of the Windmill in 1838.
The islands came to the state through several treaties with the Indians. The dividing line between the U.S. and Canada passes somewhat arbi-trarily among the islands varying in size from a small pile of rocks with a few stunted trees to Wellesley Island which contains nearly 10,000 acres of arable land.
All For $3,000 … The State of New York conveyed the lands to private ownership in 1845, including “all the islands in American waters of the St. Lawrence River from the foot of Round Island (near Clayton) to Morristown” (about 35 miles) for $3,000.
After the 1000 Island House was built at Alexandria Bay in 1873 and many fashionable guests found the charm and beauty of the area, it became a popular summer resort. Prices of the islands immediately went up.
– Margaret McCormick Lantier –
THE GARDEN OF THE GREAT SPIRIT …. Over four hundred years have passed since Jacques Cartier discovered the St. Lawrence River and claimed it for France. If he, or one of the Indians he met fishing off the river bank, were to return today, he would be amazed at the changes those four hun-dred years have brought.
And yet, there would be na mistaking that river and the Thousand Islands, for there remains to this day the same grandeur of mighty waters that thrilled Cartier, the same incredible beauty that inspired the Indian to name this place “Garden of the Great Spirit”. Na wonder the Indians chose the Thousand Islands region as the one beautiful enough to be a fit abode for their God in his moments of relaxation. And although the wilderness the Indians roamed has given way to towns and farms and factories, the beauty of the Thousand Islands remains unspoiled. it is a beauty compounded of blue waters, deep, sparkling, reflecting in a shimmering mirror the trees and shrubs of those islands, great and small, which dot its great expanse. This beauty is Nature’s own handiwork, and it thrills today’s tourist just as it thrilled the explorer of yesterday.
But in every other respect those four hundred years in which the white man has lived in the Thousand Islands region have witnessed great changes. The history of the settlement of this rich St. Lawrence Valley and its development is an interesting one.
Early History … First claimants to the immense tract of land that extends from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain were the Iroquois or Five Nations, who allotted to the Oneidas the Thousand Islands region, including the present Jefferson County. The Algonquins, however, had moved in from Canada to occupy same of the is-lands, and strife resulted between the rival tribes. Thus it was when Samuel de Champlain explored this end of the St. Lawrence River in 1615, he found the Iroquois and Algonquins engaged in a war of extermination. Champlain’s support of the Algonquins earned for the French the deadly hatred of the Iroquois and was one cause of the French and Indian War.
In 1778 the Oneidas ceded to New York State this region over which they had fought so many bitter battles. For several years, however, there was no road, nor even a beaten path, through the dense wilderness to the seat of the state govern-ment in Albany. Hence, the first white settlers, who established themselves on Carleton Island, looked upon the wooded land as theirs to use. They were the so-called “lumber thieves”, who simply helped themselves to the apparently in-exhaustible supply of fine timber.
Next, in 1801, came a settlement of trappers, fishermen and hunters. At this time, Captain Bartlett started the first ferry from Bartlett’s Point, present home of the Clayton Yacht Club, to Ganonoque, Canada. In 1806 came squatters who began to clear and till the soil, though they held no legal title to it. Some remained even after the rightful owners arrived to claim their land.
One of the most colorful periods in this early history of the Thousand Islands region is the years when the smugglers held sway. Beginning with the Embargo and Non-Intercourse Period of 1807-1808 and continuing until after the War of 1812, these swash-buckling adventurers ruled the river and the islands. The Canadian frontier was poorly guarded and smugglers grew rich importing liquors and goods of all kinds and exporting potash in great quantity. The French road between High Falls, now Lyons Falls, and Clayton was built in 1808, and this new route made the illegal trading even easier and more profitable. These traders used boats in summer and the natural bridge of ice in Winter to move goods in and out of Canada, and they thumbed their noses at the ineffectual pursuit of government agents. There were a few games of hide and seek among the islands, but the smugglers ruled practically un-molested for several years.
Industry and Commerce After the War of 1812 a law abiding spirit gradually developed and the young settlements in the Islands region settled down to the serious pursuit of the lumber-ing business. Great rafts of logs were floated down the river to Montreal. Ship building, begun in 1832, grew to become an art as well as a great industry. More land was cleared and farms in-creased until today the St. Lawrence Valley boasts some of the finest dairy farms in the state. Today, along the shores of the river that Cartier first saw in 1535, the trackless wilderness has given way to farm and factory, both essential to the economic life of Northern New York.
Important, too, are the ships carrying their varied cargoes to and from the Great Lakes ports, gateways to the Mid-West. The importance of the St. Lawrence in today’s commerce can be realized if we recall its vast proportions, over 774 miles long from its source in the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and carrying three-fourths of all the fresh water on our globe to the sea. What great force, as yet undeveloped, lies here! The great industrial potential of this valley hails the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Fame as a Summer Resort. The Thousand Islands region has a fame far greater than that brought by its farms and industries, however. As a vacation paradise it is world-renowned. The river, fifteen miles wide at its source, gradually narrows to five miles in width, and the islands, over 1800 of them, vary in size from mere points of rock emerging from the water to those of sev-eral square miles in area. They extend from Cape Vincent to Ogdensburg, a distance of some fifty miles.
At Ogdensburg the river is only a mile and a quarter wide and a few miles beyond is where the famous rapids were, the real hindrance to shipping before the construction of the Seaway.
it is a playground and scenic wonder that the islands have gained their greatest fame. The most popular diversions of all at the Thousand Islands are the delightful sight-seeing boat trips. These island tours were inaugurated over seventy-five years ago and have been continued without inter-ruption each summer since.
A Hint to the Tourist … There are two separate island tours out of Clayton which cover the entire extent of the Thousand Islands region. Each has its own important points of interest and is a must for the visitor who wishes to explore the beauties of this world-famous region and to enjoy, as the Indians did, the laughing waters of the St. Lawrence River.
The longest and most complete cruise, made only by the boats of the American Boat Line out of Clayton, New York, anc;.1. Gananoque, Canada, takes the tourist on a fifty-mile cruise among the islands with a stop-over privilege in either port.