FRANK WELLS McCABETranscript of a taped interview.
(ed. by FWM)
Narrator: Frank Wells McCabe.
Tape #: 26 A&B.
Date: September 20, 1983.
Place of interview: Salisbury Town Hall.
Interviewer: Charlotte Reid.
Mr. McCabe has been a lifelong resident of Salisbury, beginning as a summer resident at his family’s camp on Mount Riga. His whole-hearted interest in the Town of Salisbury and in the Mount Riga Corporation, in particular, has motivated his many projects and activities on behalf of the town. The interview deals with his memories of Mount Riga and with the establishment of the Mount Riga Corporation.
Property of the Oral History ProjectSalisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial LibrarySalisbury, Connecticut 06068
Narrator: Frank Wells McCabe
Tape: 26 A&B
Date: September 20, 1983
Place of Interview: Salisbury Town Hall
Interviewer: Charlotte Reid
CR: I am talking with Frank Wells McCabe, for the Oral History Project for the Scoville Memorial Library. The date is September 20, 1983, and we are recording in the Salisbury Town Hall. Good morning, Frank.
FM: Good morning, Charlotte.
CR: As you know, the purpose of getting together is to ask you to speak about your life in Salisbury, and specifically about Mount Riga and how it has woven itself in and out of your life over the years.
I think you had a birthday party very recently which I attended. How old were you?
FM: Eighty, on that occasion.
CR: On that occasion?
FM: I now am past my eightieth anniversary of my first visit to the Town of Salisbury where I came at the age of six weeks. But not under my own power I was brought by my grandmother.
CR: Where did your grandmother bring you from?
FM: From Brewster, New York, because Mother and Father were taking a year’s delayed honeymoon to go to Europe for a trip and I was brought to the Wentworth house on Mount Riga by my grandmother and I lived with her and her cook of long-standing, Kate Gallagher, and another nurse for that summer until my parents returned.
But really my start with Mount Riga goes back to the fact that my mother, in her teens, visited her first cousin, Harriet Wells Warner, at Lotus Lodge.
CR: What year would that have been?
FM: She was born in 1875, so it was about 1890. Her Warner cousins were in a different generation, the girls and boys, but were very close to her age because her father, Frank Wells, had been twenty years younger than his oldest brother, who was the father of cousin, Hattie Warner.
CR: What year do you estimate that the first Wellses or Warners were up on Mount Riga?
FM: it would have been the father of the cousin, Don Warner, of my generation, who first had a camp up there. So it would be some time probably between 1850 and 1870, a guess. He would have been on Mount Riga on many occasions because he was attorney for the Salisbury Iron Company and the Millerton
Iron Company, one having succeeded the other, which had operated the furnace.
CR: Let me see if I have this straight. Don Warner’s father was an attorney and he was what relationship to you?
FM: None. My relationship was with the Wellses. His daughter-in-law was Harriet Wells Warner who married his son, Donald T. Warner, the grandfather of the Donald T. Warner who now practices law in Sharon.
CR: And what are your earliest memories of Mount Riga? Your own memories.
FM: When my mother was married, her father asked her what she’d like for a wedding present and she replied, “A camp on Mount Riga.” So, her mother, being one-third owner of the property, the other owners being complaisant, Grandfather built her a camp on the upper lake which she named, Wish-Come- True, in 1905. We spent all our summers there.
CR: You spent your winters in Brewster?
FM: No, our winters, after 1905, in White Plains. I was born in Brewster, because Grandfather ran the little bank in Brewster from 1905 until 1944, when I was caught up in the military, I never missed a summer on Mount Riga.
CR: Lovely memories. How many people were on Mount Riga? How many camps were there when you first went up there?
FM: Oh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven or twelve. At the time of the last census, I helped the census taker and we discovered that there were forty-three now, a few of the families having split up with the passing generations.
CR: Of that eleven or twelve that were there in your childhood, how many were directly related to you, or belonged to people directly related. Was it all Wellses or Warners?
FM: No, no. There were the Wells’ camps of my uncle, my grandfather’s camp, the Daniels’ cottage – built by Lakeville’s foremost contractor, Mr. Daniels. His wife required summers on Mount Riga because of having weak lungs. And then there was the Warner camp which was all one camp at that time, but later was one, two, three, four camps. And the others have split in that way. Wish-Come-True, my mother’s camp is now held by the families of my two brothers and my sister.
CR: Going back now to the original eleven or twelve, there was a Wells camp, a Daniels camp, a Warner camp…
McCabe – 3
FM: and the McCabe camp and the Schwab Camp plus others. The Schwabs were the other one-third owners of Mount Riga.
CR: And the three owners then were the Schwabs, the Wellses…
FM: And the Warners.
CR: …and the Warners. And then, I assume, that the other six or seven were smaller camps and did not belong to either of the three main…
FM: They were of varying sizes. Perhaps the nicest of all the camps on the mountain was the camp of Dr. Raymond Clark which he built in place of an older structure that burned down, mostly himself, with help, of logs and which was, and is, a most attractive building located on the point between Round Pond and Forge Pond.
CR: So that takes care of six of them.
FM: The others were…
CR: Hunting camps?
FM: …owned by the partnership as it was then and were rented to people who in most cases had occupied them for some years.
CR: Now, when did the Mount Riga group become a formal organization?
FM: It was incorporated, I believe, in 1923 as Mount Riga I-N-C because of the increasing age of the owners and the need to have a vehicle that could be more easily partitioned.
CR: I see. Now, when the original three families, the Schwabs, the Wellses and the Warners, bought land on Mount Riga, how many acres did they buy then and how did they divide it up?
FM: They did not buy piecemeal. It was acquired by the senior Judge Warner, the father of . . . the present Don Warner’s grandfather. He was the attorney for the Iron Company. They wished to liquidate and the one asset they couldn’t get rid of was the cut-over land on Mount Riga. So he bought it so that they could go out of business.
CR: How much did he pay for it? How many acres did he buy? Do you have any idea?
FM: There are many apocryphal stories about it and the acreage is still in dispute. Even after the sale of some twelve hundred acres to the federal government for the Appalachian Trail…
CR: In 1982.
FM: …yes, there is a gap of seven hundred acres between the town’s figure and the corporation’s figure as to the acreage.
CR: What is the corporation’s figure?
FM: Thirty-seven hundred acres.
CR: Thirty-seven hundred. And the-town says three thousand?
CR: They say forty-four hundred?
FM: Forty-three or four.
CR: So, we don’t know the exact date when the present Don Warner’s great-grandfather acquired that land.
FM: It would show here, in the Town Hall, perhaps 1889.
CR: Going back to your early memories, what sort of a road was there up the mountain? What sort of life did you have up there in the summer?
FM: Well, there were two or three roads that were open when we first went there. The road from Ore Hill, up which the ore had been brought to the furnace when the furnace was running, was the poorest of the three roads. The so- called middle road from Selleck Hill which was at that time the best of the three roads, and the road from Salisbury Center which had been opened about 1838, under pressure from the merchants of Salisbury Center who said that all business was going to Furnace Village because the road was so much better; the present road is steeper. The middle road is still the best road although it isn’t open for vehicular traffic. The grades are much easier.
CR: So when you would go up in the summers you would go up the middle road? FM: No, we would come up from Salisbury because we went in wagons owned by Anson Williams, the Salisbury liveryman, who lived at the house now occupied by the Martin Morey family.
CR: In other words, across from the Town Hall here.
FM: That had been close to the highway. After that was bought by Donald J. Warner and his wife, it was moved back. But it had been an inn originally and was right on the road.
CR: So, you would come up from Brewster, what, by train?
FM: Pittsfield and North Adams Express, leaving New York at 3:20, arriving about 5; sometimes on the morning train, but usually on that* afternoon train. Mr. Williams would meet us with a three-seated wagon and drive us over to Salisbury, which was a nice trip, an hour, and then the longer trip up the mountain with stops at many thank-you-ma’ams to rest the horses.
CR: How long would it take you with the horses to get up to your camp on the mountain?
FM: Two and a half to three hours.
CR: Really! That’s a long time.
FM: Well, it was a big wagon and he was careful with his horses.
CR: I’m assuming that this was enough of a production so that once you were up on the mountain you didn’t come down that often. Did you come down at all during the summer?
FM: The Lord accepted our going to church one Sunday a season.
CR: One Sunday in the summer?
FM: Mr. Williams would come up on that particular day and we would go down to Lakeville to church.
CR: How did you communicate with Mr. Williams?
FM: Oh, people were up and down all the time.
CR: They were? On horseback?
FM: Father came up from New York every Friday, and the train would be met- In fact, they, in the early days, put a parlor car on the afternoon express. It was switched to the Central New England Line and through Salisbury over to Norfolk where it spent the weekend and went back down on Monday morning. So you could ride in high style and have your breakfast on the train.
CR: And that’s what your father did?
FM: Yes, when he’d come and go for the weekend.
CR: I’m assuming that when he came for the weekend he didn’t have to go in the big wagon of Mr. Williams, so he made it a little more quickly up the mountain. ’
FM: Yes, he… Well, it depended. Usually there were people for several camps that came up and he’d meet them all. So they usually did use the big wagon.
CR: Ah’ It took two and a half to three hours to get up there.
FM: From Salisbury.
CR: That made the weekend a little abbreviated, I would say.
FM: No, because he came on Friday. He went down Monday.
CR: I remember going in the train. My first train trip was from Lakeville to Salisbury and I walked home. So I have a vivid memory of that railroad. When you were up on Mount Riga, what were your favorite things that you did up there?
FM: I think horseback riding. Father was very fond of riding. His father
had been a professional horseman and so he was brought up with horses. I
McCabe – 6
would ride horseback on the wood roads all over. There were plenty of places to ride. We didn’t have to go the same road or even on the town roads. My father liked to have the horses ridden all week so that they weren’t too fractious when he came up for the weekend.
CR: And that was, I’m sure, something you enjoyed.
FM: That was my responsibility. If I couldn’t get somebody to help me, and I usually could, then I would ride one horse in the morning and one in the afternoon, so that they were well tamed.
CR: You are, as you and I both know, married to Mary Lee who was then a Borden, and they had a camp on the mountain.
pjuj. They, in later years, had the same camp to which I was first brought, the Wentworth cottage. Behind that was the Sherwood cottage, named for the families who had lived there in times past. The third camp, the Bordens built behind the others. Having six children and numerous people to help, they needed more space than the ordinary camp. They had those camps for a great many years and later other families sometimes rented them.
Some of those different families have come to rest in other places on the mountain. The Collins, among other people, who have the old Thurston farmhouse at the top of the road to Ore Hill, at one time had the Wentworth camp.
CR: Were there many farms on the mountain in your childhood? How was it different in appearance up there?
FM: Not really farms. There was one farmer who raised vegetables and had cows and had a dairy so that milk was available for people who had cottages up there in the summer. There were various farmers from local families. I remember one of the Suydams was there and one of the Ostranders was another one. Not George or Jane who lived on the mountain where the public beach is now. And various Rosseters, one of the Rosseters was a farmer there for a while. Then, after World War I, Angelo Cantele, who was the great-grandfather of Rick Cantele in the bank, was a farmer there and, in addition, he was a magnificent cook because he had been cook for an Italian General of a Division in World War I. He made the most marvelous sausages, cheeses and other things of that nature.
CR: And did he sell them on the mountain?
FM: Yes, he sold them.
CR: There used to be a store on the mountain in the time of the iron industry but I’m assuming that when you were a child it probably was…
McCabe – 7
FM: It was just a foundation. It was between the Wentworth cottage and Forge Pond dam. Its reputation, perhaps apocryphal, was that it was the only store in Litchfield County in which you could buy a made-up silk dress. CR: Oh, my heavens!
FM: Of course, that ties in with the early tradition. Things were pretty gay and entertaining on the mountain when the iron works were going because naval officers would come to approve the products that were bought for the Navy, anchors, cannon and such. So they had a good deal of entertaining for them. In fact, I think it’s a verifiable report that Jenny Lind gave a concert there on one of her trips.
CR: On Mount Riga? I had never heard that story before. What other stories have you heard, either verifiable or not, about the early years when the iron industry was flourishing?
FM: Of course, the camp now called Castinook, right there by the dam, was built for the iron master, Mr. Pettee, who was brought over from Springfield about 1805. I’m quite sure from Springfield, the city of Springfield, Mass. He was a skilled iron master. That camp was occupied for many years by the Griggs family. They were the grandfather and the father of Mrs. Barbara Griggs*husband, Van. They occupied that camp for a long time. At one time also they had rented the Daniels’cottage from Mr. Daniels.
CR: And that’s where the iron master lived?
FM: That’s where he lived. It was a very substantial house with nice interior trim. It was a well-built house. Then there were the other houses at that time. There was the house on the lake where George and Jane Ostrander lived, which had been formerly lived in by the Suydam family. The father’s name was Col.-Ellsworth Suydam, named after the first Union officer to be killed in the Civil War. He was a colonel in the Zouave regiment raised, I think, in New York State.
CR: Did the iron master do most of the entertaining?
FM: That I can’t tell you, perhaps the furnace’s owners.
CR: The Brazee family has been associated with the Mount Riga group, haven’t they, over the years?
FM: Yes, they have been in that general area. The mother of the present Edward Brazee lived originally somewhere along Mount Riga Road, where there were a few houses, near the Brook. I remember her telling my mother, in my hearing, that she had to get up at five in order to walk to Hotchkiss where she had a job.
CR: My heavens! That must have been quite a trek.
McCabe – 8
CR. Now, as the years went on, I assume that some work was done on the road because, as a child, I remember the road down to Salisbury as being quite dangerous…
FM: Yes, when automobiles began to be allowed on that road, about 1918, it became dangerous. With the horses it was controlled. But the tendency of people, particularly on a steep road, is to let the car run fast going down. It’s been amazing that there haven’t been more serious accidents.
CR: I would agree with you.
FM: We had one this year. I don’t recall another.
CR: Over the years?
FM: Over the years. This one was really off the mountain. It was down by the lower bridge.
CR: How do you feel about the future of Mount Riga? I’m jumping around a little bit here, but I just wonder, do you think it is going to be viable to keep this many acres in private hands up there?
FM: Yes. The complexion of the present people who do the thinking in Washington – if there is any thinking done in Washington – is not to spend money for great additional parks. New York State owns the land abutting Mount Riga on the New York State side, except for the little bit Mount Riga, Inc. owns. On the Massachusetts side, not directly up to the state line, but a bit north of it, that state owns some land. On the east side the federal government owns the land bought within the last couple of years, for the Trail. And so as long as the thinking of the owners is as it is, the government has it protected
in wild state without having any loss of taxes.
CR:I see what you’resaying. Bysurroundingit…
FM:If the complexionever shouldchange and the owners were thinkingofdevelop
ment, I think we would immediately get a response from the state and federal governments to prevent that.
CR: I see what you’re saying. If your heirs and the Warner heirs should have a change of heart…
FM: There are many stockholders now. But most of them have one or two shares, more or less acquired because they were people who’d been on the mountain, had camps there, and the controlling stock is still in the three original families.
CR: I’m always puzzled. I gather that if, even if, you’re a Wells or a Warner or a Schwab, that you don’t really own your camp site, the land on which it sits. Explain that to me.
McCabe – 9
FM: There are three blocks, four blocks of land owned. Three that came out of the corporation when they incorporated and it ceased to be a partnership. Each owning family retained about seven acres of land as it had been before, so that there are those enclaves that are privately owned. My grandfather had acquired about ten acres of land up on the top of the hill looking down at the Lower Lake from other owners who were never in the corporation. There are those bits of land that aren’t in the corporation.
CR: Averaging about ten acres each?
FM: Yes. Make it ten. But there are, of course, many camps on corporation land. The buildings were sold to the families who had rented them for a long time so that they could have the privilege of maintaining them.
CR: And that’s what they get – the privilege of maintaining them? FM: They pay a ground rent.
CR: They pay ground rent?
FM: To pay the taxes.
CR: About what is the range of the cost of the ground rent?
FM: I think it has gone up because the taxes have gone up with inflation, in spite of the very tight management of the town.
CR: Thank you, Mr. McCabe.
FM: About two thousand dollars a year.
CR: Two thousand a year. That’s certainly very reasonable for the lovely… FM: It just about covers the tax.
CR: Yes. Tell me about the question of public use of the swimming area and the camp ground. What is Mount Riga policy on that? •v
FM: It’s had to change over the years because there are too many people in the world.
CR:I know. What is it?Can you outline what it is now?
FM:It is in a looseway,the maintenance of the swimming areaand, I think,
one, two, three,fouror five places where people can camp overnight or
over weekends on the Lower Lake. There are restrictions on its use: generally restricted to people from Salisbury and the adjacent towns. But there are exceptions to that, because of people who have been swimming there since the year one. Actually, they aren’t cut off.
CR: So that if I were a resident of Salisbury, as I am, and I wanted to swim up there I simply go up and as long as I have a Town Grove sticker or a Transfer Station sticker…
McCabe – 10
FM: No, you have to make your arrangement up there with Teddy Brazee, the Warden. CR: I mean just to swim. I can swim without a camp permit. Is that correct?
FM: No. You’d have to check with him because you can’t get more than so many people at that beach.
CR: I see. So there is a limitation.
FM: In other words, if you get up to fifty or sixty people…
CR: He’ll cut you off.
FM: He’d say, ’’Come back another day.” Because all of you’d make so much noise, it carries across the water.
FM: It destroys the pleasure of everybody else on the Lake Shore. But most people reserve ahead when they’re going to use one of the camp sites.
CR: Yes. I know they do that. I just wondered more about swimming.
FM: I’m afraid that the swimming is not as available as it used to be and that’s just because there are too many people who want to swim.
CR: Right. ’ There’s no restriction on the use of the pool at the foot of the falls, is there?
FM: That is done by monitoring it. If you get too many people down there, we throw them out politely.
CR: Throw them out?
FM: We rarely bring the police into it because it’s only…
Most of the people who go there are very decent and nice, but every so often you get somebody who wants to have a beer or pot party and then we rely on our public protection.
CR: Well, I hope that you, over the years, will be able to maintain this rather loose arrangement and not have too many problems with it. Certainly, as a citizen, I think it’s been great.
Is there any other area? I seem to remember, as a child, there is a small area on one of the other lakes that was also available to the public. Is this true? There was one camp site and a place where you could swim.
FM- I don’t recall it. Of course, there was an organization which was a corporation, but it had the name of an association, called the Grassy Lakes Association, that owned land in New York.
CR: On Grassy?
FM: On Grassy. And what they did was under their control. Grassy’s somewhat muddy bottom isn’t as ideal swimming as the Forge Pond, in fact, or Round Pond or the Upper Lake. But, as of now, happily, we have acquired the controlling interest in that Association.
McCabe – 11
CR: I see.
Well, let’s go back a little bit to your childhood on the mountain. Is there anything else that you particularly would like to tell me which will give other people who weren’t able to be there…?
FM: We’ve mentioned Anson Williams who was a great part of the thing. The other great Mount Riga character was Davey Jones who was sort of a factotum, in charge of things for old Judge Warner, and also for my grandfather. He was a man who had a great influence with his fellow men, which was just a matter of character. He kept order among people who might have a tendency to be unruly. He would supervise the work that was to be done for camp owners and the other minor repairs to be made.
I recall one family that lived part way down the mountain towards Ore Hill, at a place known as Babylon, just about halfway down to the upper reservoir.
CR: Beyond the cemetery?
FM: No, down the Ore Hill Road.
CR: Oh, down the Ore Hill. OK
FM: They were the Taylor family, the father and the wife and the two sons, Hank and Al, and their wives. Dave said how old Dan had been in the Coast Artillery in the Civil War. I guess they were sort of the predecessors of the pot generation. Paregoric was in great demand for people who had to endure the rigors of winter on Mount Riga.
CR: Oh, really?
FM: Paregoric and other things. You’d see a man cutting down a tree; he’d stop cutting with his ax in mid-air; and then after about a minute, he’d come to and finish the stroke.
CR: Was this because of alcohol or drugs?
FM: No, paregoric and painkillers. They used to use a lot. Remember the drug stores in the old days were full of bottles of painkillers.
FM: Laudanum and alcohol and combinations thereof. These things got people through the winter on the mountain.
CR: Did David Jones take care of the Taylor group?
FM: Well, they were employed, you see, doing necessary chores. They were all expert woodsmen; Davey would see what had to be done and check them out.
McCabe – 12
FM: I remember one story. Perhaps it’s apocryphal, but I think not. Davey Jones was checking tools in my grandfather’s tool shed and he discovered that the largest monkey wrench was missing. So he called Mr. Taylor, who was working at that time on a job, and David said to him, “Dan, I was just checking and I see the Major’s monkey wrench isn’t here.” He said, “Don’t look at me, Dave. Don’t look at me. I don’t know nothing about it.” He said, “I don’t say you do. I don’t say you don’t. But the Major’s coming up next weekend and I want that wrench back.” “Don’t say that to me, Dave,” said Dan; “I don’t need that wrench. I’ve got twelve monkey wrenches to home.”
Old Dan Taylor was quite a character. In his youth he had been both respected and feared.
CR: Oh, before he took to drink and…
FM: Well, no. He had always taken to drink. That was a local problem. He was always in need of a drop. But there was an old sailor who lived around there and did odd jobs – this is way back – and he and Dan got in a fight in a place one night. The next morning the sailor disappeared and Dan was arrested because he had threatened the man’s life. But there was no evidence, so they let him go. Three yearslater the old sailor turned up.
He’d been sofrightenedbyDanthat he’dgone twelve miles north over the
top of Mount Washington in the middle ofthe night to get away from Dan. He
was hale and hearty and so the rumor was put to rest.
CR: There were no liquor stores the way there are these days. How did they get their liquor?
FM: I don’t know how liquor was sold in the town at that time. But a great deal was sold. As you know, the alcoholic content of the citizens of Salisbury was higher than of any town in the State of Connecticut.
CR: I didn’t know that. Where did you get that fact?
FM: It was in the statistics, the federal statistics. I think the average consumption per year was thirty-nine gallons.
FM: That is not a fair estimate of the habits of the people in the town because there were, you know, at least five taverns. This was the first stop from the Hudson River on the way to Boston. The weary travelers, after having been jolted in the stagecoach would need a good deal of ‘sas’.
CR: So that made the average go up.
FM: That would bring the average up. I think that in 1839, it was twenty-nine gallons or something like that. It’s in the federal statistics.
McCabe – 13
CR: Tell me, what did they drink in those days? mostly whiskey?
FM: I think rum. Because there was a big trade between New England and the West Indies; they’d take down the staples of life, fish and other food products, and bring back rum.
CR: Did your family drink rum or whiskey, or what?
FM: I think they were very catholic in their taste. They drank almost anything that was appropriate for the occasion.
CR: What about food up on the mountain? Was there a regular trip down to Salisbury?
FM: There were two deliveries. George Clark’s store delivered one day in the week and Roberts’ store in Lakeville delivered another. There was a vegetable man that came up with some regularity in later years. Then, as I said, milk and vegetables were raised by the farmers on the mountain.
CR: On the mountain.
FM: So that was relatively simple. We had one very rainy summer. It rained every day in July and we just went under water. Some people would go down on horseback and bring back provisions, a bag or two.
CR: I’m sure you enjoyed that.
FM: Well, it was a necessary chore.
CR: And rather fun, I’M sure.
How many, other than the families who owned camps, how many people spent the winter on Mount Riga, would you say, at that point in your childhood, in the 1920’s or earlier?
FM: I’d say from 1910, 1915, well, George and Jane Ostrander, the place where the swimming facility is now. And that was an interesting marriage because she was also his aunt by marriage having been married to his uncle first. She had a very good vegetable garden. They sold peas in particular.
CR: They stayed all winter? What did Mr. Ostrander do? Timber or lumber? Lumbering?
FM: Well, yes, and he had a maple sugar bush up in back about opposite where you turn to go up Bald Peak, down in the hollow and he’d make syrup. Of course, they’d fish. They ate a good many fish. And he had other work of various sorts.
CR: The fishing isn’t particularly good on the mountain, now. But it was then, was it?
FM: It was very much better. Of course, the soil was just as acid under the water as it is generally through the upper part of the town. So we had made one survey and we have now under project a survey which will lead to the
McCabe – 14
improvement of the fishing.
CR: You hope to stock it?
FM: No, just improve the water quality and the plant life so that it will stock itself, basically we won’t stock it. But the water quality is important; we don’t want the pond to go dead.
CR: I see. We know that problem.
Going back, there’d be the Ostranders up there in the winter. How many others?
FM: Old Mrs. Thurston who lived in the house where the Collin family now are.
She had been Mrs. Rosseter and had lived in a house just above the Wentworth, which is now just a cellar hole but the well is still used by the summer people. Then she married Mr. Thurston because, she said, there was no point in keeping two fires going.
CR: That’s a pretty good reason for marriage.
FM: A very nice old lady. I remember her.
And then there was the farmer who lived down in the Merritt place which was down below the cemetery, where you go up from Lakeville. That was the Merritt place, a very good-sized farmhouse bigger than the others, on top of the hill. I don’t think there were any others.
CR:It must have been prettyrugged, I would think, in the wintersthere.
FM:Yes, I think it was. It sort of holed youup.
CR:Yes. You didn’t see anybody until spring.
FM:You had a barrel of salt pork and a barrelof flour and probably alittle
CR: Venison, probably.
FM; cornmeal and flour and that was about it, and fish.
CR: I remember my aunt talking of toboggan parties on the mountain, coming down that mountain road on a toboggan in the mid 1920’s.
FM: My wife’s family had a Swiss Bob. We used to use that on that run. That was after cars were going up there so they would plow it out a bit so that you didn’t slide off the corners.
CR: That must have been fun, I think.
FM: Yes. That was a certain amount of hazard in it.
CR: I’m wondering what else we might include about the mountain that other people would not have been privy to, as you were, as far as memories of that time. We’ve had, in the oral histories, David Brazee’s accounts of the hunting and fishing up there. I think yours is very good because it gives us a feeling
McCabe – 15
of other families that were there, the ones who really held the mountain together as far as ownership. I think this is important for us to get on record. I’m going to flip the-tape over now and I’m going to let you collect your thoughts for a minute and see what else you might want to add.
-End of side *
-Side B ~
CR: I think one of the things, Frank McCabe, that I would like to have you talk about a little bit is the social life on Mount Riga, when you were growing up. This group, I think, probably did almost as well as Newport in another way. I gather there were dances and a very vigorous social life. Would you like to talk about that?
FM: Almost without exception everybody there had room for guests, and invited guests every weekend, sometimes guests for their children as well as guests for the adult members of the families. During the week, there’d be a good deal of bridge playing on the part of wives who were there. But on the weekends there’d be parties, sometimes dances. Labor Day weekend there was a big party up at Wish-Come-True, my family’s camp, with some of the local fiddlers playing for square dance – the older type who held the bow in the middle, not at the end – and a caller. People would come in their horses and wagons from up on Mount Washington as well as some up from the valley. It would be quite a sizable party. Davey Jones would have a couple of men come and bolster up the foundations of the camp before the square dance because we would have twenty or thirty people jumping up and down on a foundation like that. There’s a certain hazard in it.
But the-big occupations on the weekends in clear weather were the hikes. They’d go maybe up to Bear Mountain one time or to Mount Everett, the Dome, on another. Or at least once a season… There was a very fine French restaurant over by Bash Bish Falls run by one of the – I don’t know whether it was Luchow’s or another one – but one of the big restaurants in New York at that time and the proprietor used it as a vacation spot for his staff. So they’d walk over there, over the top of the mountain, up over Brace or Monument Mountain, and come down along the creek above Bash Bish Falls, down to the Inn and have a good dinner. Then Mr. Williams would come with the wagon and take them home by way of Millerton.
CR: That’s probably where you acquired your love of good food and good restaurants. I gather that tennis has been a part of life up on Mount Riga from the early days.
McCabe – 16
FM: The first court was Dr. Raymond Clark’s. Then my father built one about 1910 and then after World War I’ the Mount Riga Tennis Club started in the fields above Castinook near the east end of the lower lake. That has gone on and flourished so that I think in this last year’s tournament they had seventy-five entries: quite a thing to have of a weekend. You have to get a guarantee of good weather from the Lord.
CR: Now, going back to your own personal life, you were married in what year?
FM: In 1930. Actually, on September 20th.
CR: Really? This is your wedding anniversary.
FM: This is our 53rd wedding anniversary.
You’ve been on Mount Riga every summer except when you were in service?
CR: And you were in World War II for…
FM: I guess it must have been two summers.
CR: Two summers that you missed up there.
FM: Forty-four and forty-five.
CR: How many years did you do the weekend routine of working in Nev; York or
FM: I guess I only worked in New York for six months in my life, between boarding school and college. I developed such an aversion to commuting that I swore I’d have to live near my work, so when I had an opportunity to go to Albany in 1926, I grabbed it and that was not a bad summer commute. That was about sixty miles from the mountain. After we were married, we’d come down, at first Saturday nights because banks were open on Saturdays. Then they closed on Saturdays, because the husbands of bank employees were employed by the State of New York which didn’t work Saturdays. You couldn’t keep staff if you didn’t give them Saturdays off. Then I would come down here Friday nights and would get up early on Monday morning and drive back.
CR: Have you been with the same bank in Albany from 1926 until now, or did you change around?
FM: Until I retired in 1973.
CR: Well, you do maintain an office, don’t you?
FM: I have an office. I also was the chairman of a small company that had been started by a former president of the bank, whose secretary I was, and that had grown by chance into an oil company since oil was discovered under its
McCabe – 17
land in the southwest. So I ran that for a number of years on the side. Then after I retired from the bank I ran that until this current year when we liquidated.
CR: You are liquidating it. What was the name of your bank, just for the record?
FM: The National Commercial Bank and Trust Company. Then they changed the name and now it’s known as the Key Bank, because it’s part of a chain of Key Banks scattered around upstate New York.
cr: I see you started, I presume, in a rather lowly position and became president of the bank.
FM: Yes, that was as a transit clerk, a lowly position… I had a cousin, one of the Vreelands from Brewster, who had been in the bank as secretary to Mr. Pruyn, the president. He suggested when he heard I was coming home from Europe and wished to go into banking, that Mr. Pruyn might take me on in his training program. He’d give these young men a job as so-called secretary but really he was just giving them the benefit of his years of experience in banking and in corporate management as well. Another young man-of my age, Fred Moseley from Boston, had been promised it that year, but Mr. Pruyn said I could have it next. So I came up and worked in various departments in the bank. Freddie Moseley married Jane Brady of the Brady family in utilities so they wanted him to go down to New York into that family office. So then I was secretary to Mr. Pruyn and, after he retired, I worked for his family and looked after his affairs.
CR: Well, I think the town of Salisbury and Mount Riga Corporation are certainly lucky that you didn’t like to confute and that you stayed in New York only six months because it’s given you an opportunity to keep up your other major interests in life.
FM: Yes, I’ve always been very grateful to my cousin that he found me a place that was within at least weekend commuting from…
CR: From Mount Riga.
FM: And now with the better roads, without speeding, it only takes twenty minutes.
CR: Yes. What sort of time did it take in the early years? It must have been closer to three hours, wasn’t it?
FM: It would take two hours.
CR: Two hours?
FM: It’s only sixty miles. It’s just the fact that roads get better.
McCabe – 18
CR: That’s true. Well, I thank you very much for being willing to do this.
FM: You clear my conscience because my family and friends on Mount Riga are always asking me to do something about Mount Riga. Now this will spur me on and after I see the recording of this I’ll try to fill in some gaps of it that will mean more to people on the mountain.
CR: Good! Well, thank you very much.