Winter 2008 Newsflakes

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February, 2008

Dear Friends of Lake Fairlee,

A belated Happy New Year and welcome to the very first Newsflakes on the Lake Fairlee blog!

Life here at the lake, as you might imagine, is a lot quieter in mid-February than mid-summer. There are a scattering of fishing huts, occasional ice skaters, cross country skiers, and snowshoers – depending on the day’s weather conditions. And, speaking of weather conditions, this has been a winter from days gone by – snow arrived in November and has kept arriving, breaking some records in parts of Vermont. Unfortunately, and all too often, the wonderful snowfalls have been followed by ice storms that have made it hard to “play” in all of the wonderful snow and have caused several homeowners to hire crews to clean off their roofs to protect them from the weight of the snow and potential leaking.

But, enough about winter, let’s go back to the end of summer 2007. For those of you who enjoyed the lake in July and early August, 2007, you will be surprised when you return in 2008 and drive down Lakeshore Road. The following account and photos were submitted by Sandy Dion, a board member of the Lake Fairlee Association who lives on Lakeshore Road with her husband, Taylor Stedman.



In late August, powerful winds blew down dozens of huge white pine trees on Lakeshore Road, Robinson Hill Road and Quinibeck Road, downing power lines, damaging several cars and destroying the second stories of two homes. Several roads were closed off for a day or more to allow the power companies to deaden the live wires. Forbes Home There were no injuries. Luckily, no one was home at the cabin of Ruth Forbes and her son David Forbes on Lakeshore Road when a huge tree was toppled by the high winds onto their roof and tore away a good part of the top floor, exposing the rooms below. Their neighbors, the Freemans, who bought the old Penfold home on the corner of Route 244 and Lakeshore Road, Freemans Pine Tree Rootalso sustained significant damage when another huge white pine tree fell onto their roof and severely damaged the second floor of their home. Many trees snapped off in the middle and were left angled into other trees, creating a dangerous hazard for CVPS workers who responded quickly to the situation, as well as for the tree crews who showed up later to cut the trees down and called the leaning trees “widow makers.” Freemans Tree StumpKudos to town firemen and police and state road workers who came on the scene within minutes to help. Neighbors from all over the area came with chain saws and trucks and shovels to help. Several residents have since taken down many of the large pines near their houses to prevent this from happening to them in the future. The Valley News has reported that the severity of storms has increased in the past few years, causing new hurricane-strength winds and lightning storms to create more damage in the Upper Valley and throughout Vermont. Whether this is caused by changing weather patterns or by global warming is not known. This writer has lived through several Florida hurricanes, California earthquakes, and one midwest tornado, but has never seen such an outpouring of immediate and caring assistance as our Thetford/Fairlee/West Fairlee community has shown.

Perhaps, it would be wise when you next return to the lake, to walk around your camp site and check out any large white pines that are close to your house!

Now, in keeping with the revival of Newsflakes two years ago, we continue with another camp “history” from around the lake. This year we are featuring excerpts from “Early Days of Camping on Lake Fairlee” by Katharine Newcomer Schlichting which was found in the old Crawford cabin on Passumpsic Point by the new owners, Kathy Zug and Bill Laycock.


…During the early part of the twentieth century, summer camps for children began to be established to meet the needs of parents and children who recognized the desirability and benefits of extended periods in regions of mountains, hills and lakes during the long summer vacations from school. At camp, children could leave the crowded cities and towns behind for a more healthy environment of pure, cooler air and greater freedom from contagious diseases such as polio, diphtheria, etc. prevalent at a time before most preventive inoculations had been developed. …Many summer camps began to spring up in the area around and near Lake Fairlee from 1905 to 1921…the surrounding countryside was occupied mostly by farmers with large open fields and pastures. Sheep raising had declined with the increase of wool production in the west and in Australia late in the 19th century. So there was considerable Vermont farm property for sale at low prices.


passumpsic1-2.jpgHarvey Newcomer was one of the two founders of Camp Passumpsic and Camp Wyoda. His daughter, Katharine Newcomer Schlichting, was the author if this account. (the former Camp Passumpsic is now home to Nancy and Jim Hughes, Jim and Sharon Morgan, Suzy and Gordon Kerr, Judy Zuckerman and Art Bassin and Pat Grove and Mike Fanizzi)

Schlichting’s father, Harvey Newcomer taught science at Wadleigh High School in New York City with two other science teachers, Mr. William Clendenin and Mr. Frank Bryant. Clendenin and Bryant had started a girls’ camp on Lake Fairlee in 1911 known as Camp Quinibeck. During his lunches at school, Newcomer heard all about this wonderful venture, and the conversation often ended up with the suggestion that he might like to consider running a boys’ camp. He talked the idea over with his wife and they were persuaded to go that fall to Vermont with Clendenin. They took the train to South Fairlee (now Ely) where they were met by Raleigh Hatch who took them to the hotel in Post Mills. They looked over several farms for sale on the lake and Newcomer returned excited about the possibilities. He returned again that winter when it was bitterly cold with lots of snow. Raleigh Hatch met him again with a horse and sleigh. The winds were so strong and cold that even the extra buffalo robe and a lantern by his feet did not help much as the winds blew down from the north. In spite of the cold, arrangements were made to purchase the Titus farm property on the north side of the lake.

“Passumpsic” was the name chosen for the new boys camp. Legend has it that Indian warriors from the Penobscot tribes in Maine used to go to their pow-wows in New York by way of a Vermont lake situated directly on the trail. “Passumpsic” they called it, for it meant “much still water.”

An aside: When the mill in Post Mills changed hands, the new owner opened the dam and let the water out of Lake Fairlee claiming he owned the lake. This caused consternation among the camping directors as their floats were no longer in twelve feet of water – they were now only shoulder depth. A lawsuit ensued and the State of Vermont was declared the owner of the water. However, during the period when the lake was low and the beach was so wide, Dr. Angell of Randoloph Vt, who had a cottage on the lake, discovered a number of Indian arrowheads along the shore. Some were nearly perfect. They certainly indicated that Indians camped along the shores of Lake Fairlee and they might just have been from the Penobscot tribes.

For those of you who might not remember, Camp Passumpsic consisted of property on both sides of Route 244 which was connected by a large foot bridge that extended over the road so the boys could go back and forth safely. The footbridge was not taken down until the late 1990s.

passumpsuc3-2.jpgDuring the spring of 1914, in preparation for the boys arrival, the Titus farmhouse was enlarged to become a lodge with a dining porch, large kitchen and sitting rooms. The former large cow barn on the other side of the road was transformed into a recreation hall and basketball court, complete with a hardwood floor. Six bungalows for the campers, similar to those at Camp Quinibeck, were built on the top of the hill and had a wonderful view of the lake.

The morning of July 1, 1914, the Newcomer family set out to catch the White Mountain Express at Grand Central Station in NYC. Mr. Newcomer escorted the Passumpsic boys in the day coach, while Katharine and her mother and sister and two kittens rode in the parlor car. The Boston bulldog had to ride in the baggage car.

By late afternoon, they arrived in South Fairlee, and were surprised to see a large hay wagon drawn by two enormous horses waiting for them. The trip from the station to Passumpsic had them arrive just in time for supper. Katharine writes that “the air was crisp, and the surrounding hills looked like giant mountains with everything so fresh and green.” Imagine what that must have looked like to a girl from NYC seeing the lake for the first time!

passumpsic2-2.jpgShe continues, “the first morning, everyone was busy getting settled. The afternoon program was a “hare and hound race”. The first clue, near the new tennis court, read “cross Lake Fairlee to the opposite shore and beneath a stone under a large maple tree you will find your next clue. I was right there with the hounds, ready to jump in a boat and go across the lake with the boys. However, I soon got the message that boys did not care to have girls spoiling their fun…

Passumpsic boys had a busy schedule with such activities as riflery, tennis, water sports, shop, riding and mountain climbing. They also put on entertainments with the Quinibeck girls joining in the fun. The audience always enjoyed the boys especially when they dressed up and tried to act like girls!

After camp opened, several counselors thought it would be fun to build a “roller coaster” from the top of the hill, where the bungalows stood, to the bottom very near the stable for the riding horses. This marvelous contraption consisted of a rail on which a small wooden car would roll down the hill at great speed. Two passengers sat on the car, someone would give them a push, and away they would go, lickety split, landing in a big pile of hay. It was a fast and furious ride.

In July 1914, rumors of the First World War reached Vermont and Passumpsic via The New York Times which came daily by mail. I recall the evening meetings of the men who came to Passumpsic to discuss the possibility of war which was brewing in Europe. Evidently, it had something to do with the heavily loaded wagons with teams of six or eight horses which were driven past Passumpsic on their way to the railroad station in South Fairlee.

Later we found out that the wagons contained copper ore from the reopened mine in West Fairlee, to be shipped to Boston and made into copper for the manufacture of munitions. The sandy road by Passumpsic was very steep, and the horses had a difficult time negotiating the hill.

On Titus Point, there were several houses originally from the Copper Mine in West Fairlee which evidently went with the deal. The Green one had an excellent water supply. One of the help at the camp had to get the Passumpsic drinking water from this well. He used a yolk with two buckets and carried the water over to the kitchen. In the meantime, a well was being driven at Passumpsic, and later that summer the State Board of Health approved the water.

That fall during the hurricane season in Vermont, all the sleeping bungalows at the top of the hill were blown down, so in 1915, a whole new set were built on the east side of the hill in a more protected area.

Many years later (1921) when Passumpsic had increased in enrollment and new facilities were needed, this very spot where the bungalows first stood was chosen for the new complex, which included an assembly hall, dining room, kitchen, and storage space. The Starry’s (the next owners of the Camp) were undecided about the name for the substantial building, when a heavy thunderstorm came up followed by a colorful rainbow. One of the junior campers suggested the name “Rainbow Lodge” and that is what they called it.

The Newcomers had two daughters, age ten and twelve. Would it not be better to become directors of a girls’ camp? Suitable facilities were available for rent on Titus Point (later called Passumpsic Point), so with two years of camping experience behind them, the Newcomers decided to start a camp for girls.

The girls camp – Wyoda – the next installment.

If you have questions or want to make your own contribution to this history, please contact LFA, PO Box 102, Fairlee, VT 05045.

Just think, winter is almost behind us and it won’t be long until we are all enjoying warm summer days on the shores of Lake Fairlee.

Suzy Kerr, President Lake Fairlee Association

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SAVE THE DATE: Lake Fairlee Annual BBQ Dinner, Saturday, July 12, 2008

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The following camps operated on Lake Fairlee starting in 1906, as reported by Katharine Newcomer Schlichting

1906 Billings Boys Founder: Vermont YMCA *
1908 Big Pine Girls Founder: Rev. Wykoff (New Haven)
(later Beenadeewin)
1911 Quinibeck Girls Founders: William Clendenin, Frank Bryant
1914 Passumpsic Boys Founders: W.W. Clendenin, Harvey Newcomer
1915 Lochearn Girls Founders: Mr. & Mrs. Frank Chubb*
1915 Aloha Hive Girls Founder: Ellen Farnsworth*
1916 Wyoda Girls Founders: Mr. & Mrs. Harvey Newcomer
(now Summer Horizons day camp owned by the Aloha Foundation)*
1921 Neshobe Girls Founders: Mrs. Osgood, Mr. Dudley
(later Norway for Girls and Boys)

* Camps still in operation today

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