Moultonborough Historical Society
A Historical Cruise of Moultonborough Bay
Research and Written By: Jane Rice
I think it's safe to say that most people in
Moultonborough are here at least in part because they love the beauty of
our lakes. Since we are now into the winter season and can't enjoy the
lake as we do in the swimming, fishing, and boating season, I thought this
would be a good time to collect some of the many fragments of information
we have about Moultonborough's lakeshores and waters for an article.
We'll start our "cruise" from the town landing at Lee's Mills, which of course is a spot with much history pertaining to it. The first Lee to inhabit the area was David Lee, who with his wife Elizabeth lived in the house across from the place where Blake Road intersects Lee's Mill's Road. Their daughter, Lucy Lee, youngest of ten children, was born there, and she married Lyman Brown, who built the brick house now known as the "Old Orchard Inn." Lucy lived to be 92, and she told many old stories to her great-granddaughter, Mildred Larson, who fortunately wrote them down in the early days of our Society. Lucy's mother was Elizabeth Blake, who family name lives on in the place name of Blake Road.
The large old stone dam and spillway still visible and recently repaired, backed up water in the "upper pond", now known as Lee's Pond, and provided power for the sawmill by means of a waterwheel, and partway down the river was a cooper shop where barrel hoops were made. Logs were accumulated in the bay during the winter, and in springtime working steamboats would come and tow rafts of logs to the mills at Wolfeboro, Alton, or Lakeport, or the Shook and Lumber Company in Meredith, where the new hotel is now being built. At its peak, 75 men were employed, and they sawed lumber with a 62-inch water-powered saw. The spot was noted on an 1853 map as the landing of the steamer "Red Hill", with freight house and passenger station. The "Red Hill" suffered a boiler explosion at Lee's Mills that brought its career to a close, but in the late 1960s there were still the remains of a steamboat or two, half-sunk in the cove, and there are remains of a marine railway and parts of the old steam work boat "Moultonborough" on the shore at the eastern end of the cove. It was also the home of the "Anna E.", operated by Frances Stevens' father, Emerson George, in the 1920's. The dam was also the source for the first electrical power system in Moultonborough, with a line running up to the village. The sawmill was torn down in 1940.
The steamers would also tow a barge to Lakeport once or twice a summer, docking at the location where Irwin Marine is now. Folks from Moultonborough would take the four-hour trip by boat, then board a trolley and head into downtown Laconia for shopping, before repeating the process in reverse. A trip to the Advent Camp meeting at Alton Bay and to Governor's Day at the Veteran's Reunion at the Weirs were two other annual boat trips. Other spots where sawed lumber or logs were picked up for transport by water were Oak Landing in Green's Basin (the Schneider property), Clark's Landing, Black's Wharf, and Union Wharf in Tuftonboro.
If we take a side trip to Greene's Basin, we should note that the Greene family were the original builders of Greene Bay Lodge, now the home of Ron and Nan Baker, and several Greene family members are buried in the small cemetery in back of the house, which was built by Jonathan Greene. This is a separate Greene family from those who built "Roxmont" and "Windermere" on Long Island. An item of more recent history is the "Flying Red Horse", once the symbol of Mobil Gasoline, now attached to a tree on Gilman Point, on the right as we enter the Basin, thanks to Verne Richardson.
The large rock below the ledges on the tip of Toltec Point is known as "Tea Rock", and was once the site of picnics when the Greene family (of the Windermere Greenes) first built the old camp on top of the cliff in 1908. Robert Greene bought the land in 1906, one acre, from Edwin Smith, price $100. He was offered the whole point for $500,but turned it down-now, wouldn't that have been an investment! Instead, he paid Jim Leighton $500 to build the camp, which still stands. There was no road to the camp for many years, due to the bedrock of granite being more or less at the surface all over this point. Access was by boat from Long Island or Oak Landing. Also no electricity, running water, or phone-hand pump, kerosene stove and lamps.
Mr. Gustave Schneider was the other "summer person" in the area, having bought 100 acres in the Basin and put up cottages for family members. "Skunk" Caldwell and his son Harry were year-round residents in the Basin.
The cove to the east of Toltec Point is now mapped as "Raoul's Cove", but on older maps it is "Rowell's Cove", which would seem to make more sense. To the west is Hanson Cove, with Arcadia Campground at the end, and between there and the "Basin" proper is Stanyan Point, named by Richard Jackson after his stepfather Starr W. Stanyan when he bought it in 1946.
In 1936, forty acres at the end of Hanson Cove was purchased by Guy Estes, who with his friend Wallace Greene Arnold, brought a boy's camp known as the "Toltecs" there to enjoy primitive camping. Prior to that it had belonged to the St. Theresa's Boy Scouting Association of West Roxbury, Mass., and buildings and a tennis court had been built there. Toltec Point was developed by Mark Banfield, Richard Jackson, Peter Kraines, William Rathman, and Arthur Solomon.
Blanchard's Island has been purchased by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust in 2002 and can now be landed on by kayakers and others who will leave it as they find it.
Whaleback Island is the site of the oldest summer camp in the area, on the south side of the island, known as "October Morn" and built by Arthur Brown in 1892. "October Eve", on the north side of the island, was built by Harry Clemons, a descendant of Arthur Brown, in 1950. Mr. Brown bought the island from George W. Kelley of Moultonborough for the sum of $40.00, and at first called the spot Twin Island, as a low spot in the center nearly divides the island into two parts. However, George Lincoln had bought the islands between Suissevale and Hemlock Point, now known as Lincoln and Birch Islands, in 1909, and wished to take in summer boarders at "Twin Island Camp", so the Brown/Clemons place became "Whaleback." Other early spots were the Starkweather place on Pinehurst Island and "Camp Inwood" now in the Lively family, both built around 1912.
Harry Clemons also figures in the history of Little Ganzy Island, where guests of his, digging for fishing worms back in the 1920's, unearthed a metal container with counterfeit silver coins and the dies used to make them, wrapped in newspapers dating back to the 1890s. State and Federal authorities subsequently dug over the island, but no further evidence was found.
The small island in front of Ambrose Cove is now officially known as "Children's Island", but in years past. When Howard Arey had the marina and "Lakeside Superette" it was "Arey's Island." Those who summered along this stretch in the 1960's and '70's will remember Hazel Straw presiding in the store, with her pet raccoons in a cage by the door. At one time the electric wires crossed the lake via a pylon on the island, and larger sailboats could not reach the upper part of the bay due to the danger of the mast touching the wires. Lance Burke and I picked blueberries on the island one summer day, and certainly the Kingbirds whose nest was in the blueberry shrub were very upset by our presence.
Clark's Landing is said to be the spot where Moultonborough's first settlers landed, and the earliest settled part of town was on Birch Hill, where the Suissevale development is now situated. Jonathan Moulton and his dog were with a scouting party who are said to have killed six Indians near this spot. The settlers later traveled up the lake from Alton Bay on a homemade raft and landed near here, where a family named Clark had a farm and it eventually became known as Clark's Landing.
Across the lake is a small summer development known as "Ferry Shores", and it is said that Duncan Mcnaughton kept a ferry here to enable travelers to cross to and from the Neck without having a long detour by land, leading to the name of today's "Ferry Road."
Buzzell Cove, with Cove Island in the center, is on the right beyond the end of Ferry Shores, and was once known as Smith Cove due to the Smith family who farmed the section from the cove up to the Neck Road.
Joe's and Poplar Islands are part of the Camp Tecumseh property, of which a landmark is the large green lawn running down to the waterfront on the Neck side of the Bay just below these two islands. Camp Tecumseh was started in 1903 by Josiah McCracken, George Orton, and Alexander Grant in 1903, on the site of the old town "poor farm", and to this day some of the original buildings are in use. Known as Chandler's Island s on the map done in 1770, they were logged off by Dr. Zachary T. Hollingsworth in 1921, before being sold to Tecumseh for $400, but they are now well covered with woodlands again. Hollingsworth Hill is one of the highest points along the Neck Road.
Across the Bay is a large white boathouse that belonged to the Bald Peak Colony Club when it was first started by Tom Plant, builder of "Plant's Castle" or Castle in the Clouds, which is visible on the mountainside above. The shoreline on this side of the bay becomes a part of Tuftonboro opposite the small Gun Island just below Bald Peak.
Approaching Melvin Village, Garnet Point projects into the lake on our right, and this was also a site of early summer settlement, along the shores belonging to the Langdon farm, after which the cove is named. The area would have been nearly all cleared for farming in the late 1880's when the lake began to be a popular summer resort.
The name Garnet Point was given to the former "Wentworth Point" because several of the early summer families included graduates of Bates College, whose school color was "garnet." Five-eighths of an acre was bought in the name of Rodney F. Johnnot, together with three friends, Tuttle, Ranger, and Smart, in the summer of 1890. Emery W. Given bought into this scheme in 1899. and descendant Tom Given still summers along this shore today. Theodore Brigden has written a booklet of about 50 pages that details all the early families who began this summer colony. Also along this shore is Camp Robindel, started about 1941, one of the few summer camps for children still in business in Moultonborough.
Around the corner of Garnet Point are four small islands, including Hartshorne Island, once known as one of the Wentworth Islands, which still supports its original camp, built in 1907. The main shore along this stretch belongs to Geneva Point Center, and was consolidated from a number of small farms by Dr. Jared Alonzo Greene when he began the Roxmont Poultry Farm in the 1890s. He left the chicken business behind and built the "Inn" at Geneva Point about 1907 to take in summer visitors.
Below the Geneva Point property is the former Camp Plumfield, now known as the Crosswinds Development, and the Tanglewood Shores development is also in the cove facing Black Island.
Black Island, where the senior portion of Camp Waunakee is located, was known on the 1770 map commissioned by Gov. Wentworth as "Devil's Island", and the rocky sandbar connecting it to the mainland, a geological feature known as a "tombolo" and created by the action of the ice sheets on either side which have pushed up the sand and rocks, was known as the "Devil's Battery" for its resemblance to a row of cannon in a fortress. It became a part of the camp in 1946.
Josselyn Randall passed on to the library a copy of the logbook kept on Spectacle Island in the summer of 1953. Very low lake levels following a dry summer in 1952 gave way to high water in the spring of 1953 due to heavy snows, and high winds during ice-out damaged many docks and boathouses, including those on Spectacle. This was the summer that forest fires burned on the Ossipees from June 22 until July 13, witnessed by those on the island. An early deed for the island is in 1903, when the half-acre island was sold for $100 by Charles Davis to Allen Brown. He left it to Dr. George Christy of Toronto, author of the logbook, which has many references to Buster McCormack's Store, Nichols' Store in Center Harbor, and catching the "Alouette" train from Meredith back to Canada-all things that are no longer. Josselyn's parents, Lee and Barbara MacPhail, were the owners of nearby Pistol Island for many years and are frequently mentioned in the logbook.
Dow Island is named for the Dow family, early setters of Moultonboro Neck, Nine-Acre for its size, Perch for the fishing, and Foley, along with Morrison Cove, are both presumably named for early residents or settlers.
This brings us to Long Island, which is worthy of an article of its own.