Is the River your Camelot? I refer to that magical kingdom of King Arthur, where the goal was “happy-ever-after-ing"! If you grew up when I did, you might remember all the words to the Lerner and Loewe’s hit songs in the musical, “Camelot”. One favorite was sung by Guinevere as she asked King Arthur this question:“What Do the Simple Folk Do?”
In the accounts of River history, we often hear of the wealth of the aristocrats of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The well-to-do came with yachts, servants, trunk loads of evening wear, enjoying life in social circles, private clubs, and elaborate parties. Do you ever wonder: “What did the simple folk do?”
This month I will offer you a peek at a modest family of River Rats, the Twichell’s. I am indebted to my husband’s grandparents, who must have carried a camera everywhere. Grandmother Vera, faithfully glued these snapshots in photo albums and diligently labeled most of the photos to identify the subjects and places. This has become a family treasure, enabling us twenty-first century citizens to see how our forefathers enjoyed their River life. Most of these images were taken between 1907 and 1917. In our digital age, we must remember that these were spur-of-the-moment shots taken with simple home cameras and film! The scrapbooks are more than a century old. If these photos seem a bit blurry, chalk it up to the romance of patina.
What did the simple folk do?
How did the Twichells travel to Westminster Park? Like many visitors, the trip began with a long train ride. Sometimes the Rochester folk came aboard a steamship. Then at the River ports, there would be a transfer to a smaller vessel. There were a number of docks at Westminster which could accommodate the small ferryboats used to transport passengers from Alexandria Bay to the Park.
In this first photo, we see the Twichell family, having arrived on the Westminster ferry, on the dock of the Ferry Slip. This is a 1916 photo of Vera’s side of the family. You can see in the background of the photo how the willows had grown up forming an archway over the waters of the canal. Many refer to this as the Willow Channel. There was a substantial dock area featuring a gazebo for guests to sit while waiting for the ferry.
This second photo shows Vera’s sister, Hope, standing on the same dock. This photo had been hand colored. Vera seemed to enjoy adding color to artistically embellish certain photos, as was a popular craze between 1915 and 1925.
Edmund and Vera welcomed their guests with their TWICFOL banner. (“Twicfol” stood for “Twichell’s Folly”.)
Once the family and guests settled into the cottage, the fun began. Activities were not unlike those enjoyed by many Westminster Park citizens today.
Family members of all ages enjoyed reading on the porch… or just watching the river go by.
Everyone was a fisherman… or fisher-Woman….
Judge Chadsey was in charge of the ice cream maker.
Dining was usually al fresco.
Vera loved to walk and often entertained her guests with long hikes. (This photo is a favorite of mine, as it was taken in front of my Westminster cottage.)
The waterfront fun was always beckoning…
as well as hygiene….
And the children played nearby…
While the family owned two motorized boats, it seemed that the family skiff was the vessel of choice for many outings. Here we see Edmund (AKA Ted) rowing in Poplar Bay. Notice the Westminster Hotel grounds in the background.
And the Twichell/Chadsey women knew their way around the river as well.
Vera’s sister, Hope, is rowing to Alexandria Bay. [River historians: What famous boathouse is in the background of that photo?]
Sometimes the ladies of the family would row out in the skiff and gather water lilies. Upon returning to the cottage, they would be woven into long waterlily chains. There are photos of the lilies decorating the cottage dining table.
The photo on the right is one of my favorites, where we see Sarah Francis (Fannie) Twichell rocking on the porch and Erastus (purchaser of the land) peeking out of the door.
Vera’s photo albums are full of family adventures, but history lovers might enjoy seeing period photos of the places we know and love.
Vera labeled this Lost Channel but I believe this is the Benson house on Rabbit Island by Benson’s Rift.
There were frequent trips to Rockport (Ontario) for church services, buying bait for fishing trips, and general visiting. Here are a few from our neighboring town.
In Rockport Fitzsimmons Boarding House and Lawn; and buying supplies for a fishing trip in Rockport
Other trips include:
The dock and pavilion at T. I. Park
Hope takes an excursion to Alexandria Bay wearing her Sunday best in front of the Thousand Islands House, in Alexandria Bay
Some days were filled with homemade fun.
And some were filled with memorable excursions; and the weather rarely slowed them down.
One August day in 1913, they celebrated a birthday with a shore dinner at Pitch Pine Point. They referred to this spot as Camp Blue.
Notice the lettered signs nailed to the trees. Those signs still hang in the Twichell living room. The celebrants are all long gone but the signs serve as a reminder of a special river day.
I love the details we see in these photos… Mr. Rowe had quite a fancy pipe, did he not? And the lady on his right is taking a photograph of the photographer of this photo. What is the lady second from the right holding? If you think she looks stern, check out her expression in the next photo!
Check out the twinkle in this lady’s eyes…Mischief abounds even at a minister’s picnic!
Mr. Rowe gives up snuggling with the ladies and tends to the dinner.
I am thankful to have these photos to serve as a reminder of days gone by. Interesting to see that one hundred years pass by, but the places and the activities do not. No matter our station in life, we all find a way to enjoy our days in this beautiful part of the world. We are the Lucky People.
[See The Twichell Family, TI Life, Volume 14, Issue 3, March 2019]
© Linda Twichell 2020
Linda Lewis Twichell, a fifty-seven-year resident of Westminster Park, has collected historical information on the Westminster community since the 1970’s. Presently, her research focuses on the lives of the people who settled here in the last quarter of the 19th century, and the cottages that they built. A book of Westminster Park, its people, and their stories is in the works. Be sure to check out Linda’s other historical research published in previous issues of TI Life.