Savage, Priscilla

Interviewer: Marion Haeberle
Place of Interview: Wells Hill road
Date of Interview:
File No: 107 A Cycle:
Summary: Rossiter family, Lakeville 1930-1945, later changes, Green Realty building

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

MEMOIRofPRISCILLA ROSSETER SAVAGETranscript of a taped interview.

Narrator: Priscilla Savage

Tape#: 107A

Date: April 14, 1999

Place of interview: Mrs. Savage’s home on Wells Hill Road,

Lakeville, CT

Interviewer: Marion Haeberle

Priscilla Savage is a member of one of the oldest families in the town of Salisbury, the Rosseter family, which has been associated with Mount Riga. Priscilla has been writing a genealogy and has traced her family back to the 16th century. In this interview she speaks of Lakeville and Salisbury as it was while she was growing up. In 1945, after high school, she moved away and now has returned to enjoy the beauty of the area in retirement. She regrets the inevitable changes that have taken place in the town.


Property of the Oral History Project

Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library



MH: On April 14,1999, interviewing Priscilla Rosseter Savage at her home off of Wells Hill Road in Lakeville, Connecticut. Priscilla, you were born herein Salisbury?

PS: Yes, I was born in Salisbury on March 24, 1927 and I’m the only child of Harris and Emma Rosseter which is quite an old family in town.

MH: Yes, a very old family in town. You have been writing the genealogy of the whole Rosseter family.

PS: I wrote the genealogy and had it published, which surprised me, and sold all over the country. The family goes back to the 1630’s. They came over on the second ship after the Mayflower. There’s plenty of history there which you probably don’t want me to go in to now.

MH: We’re really mostly interested in Salisbury, the town. You were born up on Mt. Riga?

PS: No, no, no. My father was. I was born at Sharon Hospital and I was raised, well, right now Green Realty owns the house and the barn used to be where LPM is. In back of the barn where the Barber racing people have, used to be a corn field and there was a railroad track that went down. There were about seventy-five acres that we owned. The railroad track has disappeared and it now is developed with various things down there. But it’s changed completely.

MH:Was this a farm that your father had? Did he farm all of this land?

PS:He wasHe farmed some of it but he basically was a carpenter. Of

course, we had I think, one of everything. We had a horse, we had a cow, a couple of pigs, just about enough for the family. But he basically worked with carpentry.

MH: Was your mother from a family around here?

PS: She was a New Yorker and married a Connecticut man and moved up here.

MH: Priscilla, you say things have changed. Do you find things greatly changed here in town?

PS: Yes, tremendously. Let’s see, when I went to school the school was where the post office is, in Lakeville. Of course, that school is gone and most of the teachers have gone and then I went to finish grammar school up where the grammar school is now and then from there to Regional. But the whole feel of the town is changed. We were very, very close people in the community. If there were a fire, people would pick up the phone, where is it? and everyone would go to help. And if someone was in trouble everybody pitched in, they brought food where it was needed. You don’t see that any more. It’s not the closeness that it was back in the early days. It’s completely changed. If you went up on the mountain, we used to go up on the mountain and bring a picnic up on Mt. Riga. You go up there now, you get to the dam you see a fence. That was never there when I was little. We just plain went in, put a canoe in, whatever we wanted and picnicked. It’s very restrictive.

MH: Did you hike up there or did you go by car?

PS: We usually drove up with a car. Then the family was buried up on the mountain and we’d visit the cemeteries. And one time my dad went up to visit his family and he was told to leave. He was not supposed to be up there, which telling an old Yankee that didn’t go over so well. He told them in no uncertain terms he was going to visit his family. It just goes to show that it has changed. It has changed. But I guess in a way it has to because there’s more people that what it was.

MH: That’s the Mount Riga {Ed: long I}…. you say Riga {Ed; long E}…. But anyway it’s the Mount Riga Association, I think, that owns that land now does it not?

PS: I think so. I don’t know too much about it. Really, I would never say Riga {long E} I always used to say Riga {long I}. That’s what we always called it. I guess it always will be with me.



MH:I think Lila Nash did also. She always spoke of herself being a Raggie.

PS:And that’s another thing you see license plates with ‘Raggie’ on it from

people from out of town who have nothing to do with the mountain. Theway I understand it, if you are a descendent you can be called a Raggie.

PS:I don’t know if that’s correct or not. That’s what I heard.

MH: That’s interesting. So you went to school in Lakeville.

PS: Yes.

MH: Actually where you lived is Lakeville, isn’t it?

PS: It’s right on the border of Salisbury/Lakeville.

MH: Was it close enough for you to walk or did you have to take a bus?

PS: No, I walked, or my mother took me is it was raining.

MH: Until you went to high school.

PS: Until I went to high school.

MH: And you finished high school there…

PS: I finished high school at Regional.

MH: And then you went on to be an RN.

PS: Yes, and then I went to New York.

MH: Did you stay or come back live in Lakeville after that or did you stay in the city.

PS: No, it took me forty some years to come home.

MH: Well, it’s nice to have some come back.

PS: It’s good to come home but it’s just not the same. It really isn’t. The people that you knew, they’re either gone or have moved. It’s completely different.

MH: I was going to ask. Are there people around that you remember growing up with?

PS: There’s just a few. Like Anna Whitbeck, I think, is still here. There was a Lois Sherwood, I guess she’s Lois Paine now. There’s just a few, not to many.

MH: I know this area was always attractive as a vacation spot. Were there as many summer people and weekenders that you remember as you were growing up?

PS: One thing I remember most clearly is Peter Hill’s camp which was just outside of town. It was a camp where New York people came up to and in those days they didn’t like to see people in town with shorts or women in socks. The townspeople would get kind of miffed, you know, but that was another thing that’s changed.

MH: Peter Hill’s. Where was that located?

PS: I’m not quite sure ’cause I was little. I think it was over towards Millerton, in that direction. It was a big camp.

MH: I see. That wasn’t associated with Camp Sloane? Do you remember that?

PS: No, no.

MH: Were there many stores? Where did you go shopping?

PS: I wish we had the stores back where we went shopping. We had Barnett’s store which was like…. We had just about everything. If you needed thread or anything… It was there. And that was near where the gas station is now in Lakeville. Then we had the A&P store which was almost near Barnett’s. That lasted a while but then the First National came in, which is where the new restaurant, I think it’s a sea food restaurant now. It was there. Let’s see, then we had Paul Argyle’s barber shop which used to be down in that general area where Barnett’s store was.

We had fun. Every Sunday my friend would come by my house and we’d walk to Lakeville and go to the ball game. They had a gazebo then where the band played on Sundays which was really nice, which I wish they had back. And then we’d go to the lake or we’d go to the movies. Below Argyle’s barber shop was a place where you could get ice cream and we’d



get a push up fora nickel and we went to the movies for a dime, which I got to go quite late ‘cause I looked so young for so long. I got in for a dime for quite a while. That I remember.

MH: There were a lot more stores in Lakeville actually selling needed goods than there are now. I mean it seems as though Lakeville has a lot of restaurants and realtors and antique shops but you have to come up to Salisbury to buy food or go to Millerton.

PS: You’re right. You had just about everything you needed right in Lakeville. You didn’t have to travel that far and if you did you went to maybe Great Barrington if you wanted to get shoes or something like that. But mostly everything you could get right there. Even today I hear people say, “I wish we had a grocery store in Lakeville.” You hear that all the time, which we don’t have. LaBonnes is good but we need that community grocery store that people really liked.

MH: That’s right.

PS: It’s changed.

MH: I interviewed a woman who grew up in Lime Rock and lived there until she married and so on. She said that there were people…. Cause Lime Rock had nothing… a few small stores. But there were people who would come around and take an order and then bring what you asked for the next day—a grocer or butcher and so on. Was there anything like that around here?

PS: I don’t remember anything like that. No.

MH: You were close enough to the stores, I guess.

PS: We were close enough and in the summer the people that farmed would have vegetables and things which you could buy off stands. It was convenient.

MH: Yes. Well now were there hotels and, say, rooming houses near the lake when you were growing up or had they passed on?

PS: If I remember correctly, I might be wrong, I think the Wake Robin Inn was there and in Salisbury itself, the Ragamont was there. Yes, I think they were pretty much the same.

MH: Inns and mostly, I guess, for summer people.

PS: For summer people.

MH: I know there were some where people would rent their rooms over the summer, too. Like Betty Haas who said her mother would have boarders during the summer. Of course, her youth goes back, is earlier than yours

PS: Yes. But as I say, it is changed.

MH: But you did not have to depend on the railroad. Was the railroad in existence for a while, when you were growing up?

PS: Yes, because down through our property through the woods was the track that went from Lakeville to Salisbury. And there still was a train that went ‘cross the trestle in Lakeville. When I went into my nurses training, when I came home, I would come up from Grand Central to Millerton and be picked up there to be brought home.

MH: Oh, they would pick you up. You couldn’t take a train into….

PS: No, you couldn’t take a train.

MH: From Millerton?

PS: No. But they had the old crank phone, I remember, in the railroad station. You had to crank to get the operator.

MH: Oh, really. I think the Lakeville operator was in one of those little stores that are still there opposite Holley House.

PS: I think you’re right. Yes. The bank used to be across from Holley House, at the top of the hill there.

MH: Yes. That’s the insurance company now. As far as businesses are concerned, were there many around that offered jobs and work for young people? Or for anyone actually?



PS: Yes. Well, if I remember correctly, you could work in the summer, you know, if someone wanted to work in the store you could probably apply for a position. But we used to go up on the mountain and pick huckleberries and get them really by the bushel baskets. Then I’d bring them down take them to First National and sell them and go buy school clothes with it.

MH: You must have picked a lot.

PS: We did pick a lot. Children then had chores to do which they don’t seem to have that much today. And you didn’t hear about trouble with children like you hear about today. Because when they got home from school they had things they had to do. It was a healthy way of living and you were happy.

MH: Well, you had cars to get around in but say in bad weather in the winter, going to school in the snow, were the roads cleared as readily as they are now?

PS: The roads were kept wonderful, they really were. My cousin lived up in Belgo, and they had a horse with a sled and they could come down and meet the school bus with that. We had a lot of fun with that horse. We’d hitch a toboggan to it. Along the back roads in winter one of us would ride the horse and the others would sit on the toboggan. We did have such a good time. And then a lot of the activity was centered around the church. We had Young People’s Fellowship – we used to call it. You had hay rides, or you’d go ice skating out on Twin Lakes and maybe spaghetti dinners in the basement and your whole life was more busy with… I don’t know how to put this, it was wholesome.

MH: Were you in the Methodist Church at that time?

PS: No. I was baptized in St. John’s in Salisbury Reverend Chiera was there then:

he was such a nice man. We had such active times at Christmas, Easter and then we’d have church picnics. He always seemed to look out for everybody. But when he got in the car all the parents, the mothers, would shiver because he really liked to go in his car. When we went to Lime Rock to the other church’s fellowship nobody was too anxious to ride with him. Probably he went forty and in those days that was fast.

MH: It sounds as though you had a very happy childhood and adolescence.

PS: My mother was extremely strict. She kept me pretty well sheltered. I wasn’t allowed to go to high school dances, dates or anything. She was very, very strict. I was allowed to go to church activities and things like that. But I think she was overly strict sometimes.

MH: Once you went to high school you had contact with young people from the other towns like Canaan and Cornwall and Sharon and so on. Had you had contact with them in any other activities before that?

PS: No, you met a whole new different group of people and you just made very fast friends which you still have today. Like Emma Carberry, Dolly they call her. She married Paley and she was in my class. She was from Sharon. There’s a few. They were in different towns. You try to keep in touch.

MH: But before then you were pretty much in Salisbury and Lakeville.

PS: Yes. That was your home.

MH: Those were the people you knew and had activities with. Where was the movie house? You mentioned going to the movies.

PS: The movie house was where Brothers restaurant is in Lakeville. Of course, when you were little the movie house looked huge but when you look at the space where it was today, it must have been very tiny. The railroad station was across the street.

MH: That was the only movie you went to.

PS: Yes. The only one



MH: I had heard that the man who owned that movie house also owned something over in Lime Rock in one of the big houses and he showed movies there. But I’m not certain when.

PS: I never heard of that.

MH: The place was self-sufficient really.

PS: Yes, and I think people today would enjoy having a movie house that they could go to, the children especially.

MH: I found since I moved up here that you really must go by car to anything. If you want to shop for clothing and so on, you either go to Great Barrington or to Torrington or to Millerton. And the same if you want to go for entertainment. One thing they have a lot of here, I don’t know if they had as much before, are restaurants and eating places.

PS: No, not really, no. It was more of a little New England town with its grocery store, a place where you get your sewing stuff or whatever you needed. Now it’s not that way. It’s just not that way. It’s more of a…. To me it seems like it’s becoming a bedroom community for New York because the farms are being cut up to twenty-five acre parcels. These huge mansions are being built on them and a lot of weekend people. You don’t get the everyday camaraderie that you had before. It’s different. It’s more like a bedroom community.

MH: Yes, there are lots of weekenders where we live. I think there are more weekenders or summer people than people who live year-round.

PS: Yes. The natives are getting fewer all the time, you know that were born and raised here.

MH: Yes. How long had your family stayed in the place where you had lived, which you say is now Eugene Green’s realty?

PS: They sold it when I finished high school. My mother, being a New Yorker, wanted to go back to New York. My father, being from the country, wanted to stay here. So he stayed and she went back to New York and was very happy. And he stayed here and was very happy.

MH: You say, New York. Was that over in Duchess County or did she come from closer to the city?

PS :New York City. She worked for Lord and Taylor’s for over eighteen years.

MH: Oh, I see. And did your father then live up on the mountain?

PS: No, no. The place sold and he moved into Salisbury proper and stayed there for the rest of his life. No, wait a minute. I forgot. He moved up with Julia Pettee. He took care of her and her niece and a daughter.

MH: That’s up on Selleck Hill.

PS: Yes, on Selleck Hill. He stayed up there for quite a few years. Then he moved to Salisbury. The niece and her mother moved down there and he took care of them down there.

MH: I guess you have been up on Selleck Hill and seen that there are more houses there in that area than when you were growing up. Am I right?

PS: When I was growing up there were hardly any houses at all and we used to go up there and swim. There was an old swimming hole up there… The mountain laurel was all over. It was just fun to go pick it and go swimming and then maybe go up and have a barbecue at Julia Pettee’s house. Things like that.

MH: From Julia Pettee’s you could get up to…. Wasn’t there a road that you could get up to Mt. Riga?

PS: I’ve never done it but they say there’s a back way of going up to the mountain.

MH: And when you were growing up who had the great big house? It’s a big farmhouse. No, it’s more than a farmhouse but they own property. It’s not far. You come to it- it’s on the right before you get to Julia Pettee’s place. I think the Hewats have it now.

PS: The Brigantis had a farmhouse up there which is right on the crest up on top. It wasn’t a great big one, it was small but they owned an awful lot of



land. I remember they used to have a big black bull which they would stake and if you went up to Julia Pettee’s you ran as fast as your legs could take you past their house. It was scary. But do you mean on the curve?

MH: Yes.

PS:I think that was the Hewat place but I’m not sure.

MH:It’s a big place and it had been owned by some other people. Narrators

who are older than you remembered who had had it and I don’t recall the name. I think it began with an ‘L’. But I was just curious whether you remembered anything about it.

PS: I remember the house, it was on a curve up over the hill. It was beautiful place.

MH: It still is.

PS: Then you went up past that and the next farm on the left was the Brigantis. I think that Sid Cowles owned a lot of land to the right of the Brigantis, across the road in that area.

MH: I don’t know if he’s still living but he was in the Carolinas.

PS: He died.

MH: He used to write letters to the Journal. Sid Cowles He wrote what he remembered of Lakeville which were very interesting to read.

PS: I know he owned Community Service.

MH: Yes. Community Service now is a place that is a real estate, isn’t it?

PS:No. Another company took it over. You can still get lumber and supplies.

MH:Oh, yes. He owned it when it was down at a different location.

PS: A different location.

MH: I thought there had been some business that had at one time started further up toward Salisbury. I could be wrong and it could be earlier too. When we first moved here the building which has been remodeled and made into a bank (ed. National Iron Bank) was called the milk barn.

PS: Oh, my favorite spot. They had the best ice cream and of course, we lived just practically across the road from them. So it was great to go down and when you got ice cream, you got a scoop almost three scoops of what you would get today. It was huge. And then Silvernail had a gas station. I don’t know if there’s a cabinet shop in there or not. I don’t remember. Right next to where the milk barn was.

MH: That building right next to where the milk barn was has been remodeled too.

PS: That’s where the gas station used to be.

MH: Really. I think there were a number of gas stations in the Lakeville and Salisbury area which no longer exist.

PS: They had one in Salisbury, I remember and they had one across from us. I can’t remember any other. Now there isn’t any in Salisbury.

MH:No. For repair or for selling gas – nothing except for the one new place

which is opposite the post office in Lakeville. That is quite new. And that had been a livery stable, hadn’t it?

PS:That’s where Barnett’s store used to be, where that gas station is.

MH:I think we’ve pretty much covered the things I was going to ask you. Is

there anything you would like to add?

PS:No, I can’t think of anything. You can’t go back, of course, and we don’t

know what the future’s going to hold. But I still wish it were back the way it was. It’s so different, the people and the environment.

MH: What caused you to comeback? The fact that you had been born and raised here?

PS: Well, I think it’s something that’s in you. You want to go home in your old age and I just always wanted to go home. Unfortunately, the way my life went I couldn’t do it and when I finally retired I decided I’d like to come home. And I do have some cousins here and a few relatives.

MH: You had worked as a nurse?



PS: Yes, I worked as a nurse.

MH: Until you raised a family.

PS: Raised a family. Then just wanted to come home.

MH: I’m glad that Charles is willing to come with you because he is not from around here.

PS: No, he’s from Maine.

MH:Well, he’s a New Englander.

PS:He’s a New Englander.

MH: If there’s nothing else we can cover, this has been most interesting. Especially what you have said earlier about the Rosseter family. You really have delved into genealogy.

PS: Yes. Back to the fifteen hundreds.

MH: That’s wonderful.

PS:It was a chore

MH:You are planning to write.

PS: I hope I can get this down before I die anyway. Because I’ve got all these mountain stories and I’ve got all these records he kept when he was young.

MH: I have some of those stories that the forester, George Kiefer, told which might be quite similar to the ones your father spoke of.

PS: He may have gotten them from my father. He wasn’t on the mountain.

MH: No, he was down off of the Selleck Hill area. He still is.

PS: Right. Julia Pettee, she got most of her information from my father. And never once gave him credit for it.

MH: She wrote a lot. I looked it up in the History Room. She did a great deal of writing in the Lakeville Journal.

PS: She found out how the furnace worked from him. All that information she got from him. Rand, who wrote for Readers Digest, got a lot from my father but he gave him credit. But Julia Pettee never did. But there’s a family thing that caused that Her sister married my father’s brother – Catherine. She never liked my father’s brother, which I don’t blame her in a way. Deep down inside of her was always that animosity, you know. My father took care of her when she got old and the girl.

MH: That’s right. You said that earlier. What about the furnace? Didn’t her father have something to do with it?

PS: He was the Iron Master.

MH: And your father worked up there too.

PS:The family…Well this went back before.

MH:Much Earlier.

PS: But they owned part of the lake area, my family. If you ever look up on the map you will see where it was. Warners owned a lot up there, the two families.

Warners kept but our family lost. She was averybrilliant woman, Julie Pettee.

MH: She had worked elsewhere, then she came back here.

PS: She was a librarian.

MH: Is the house that your father used to live in, up on the mountain, is that still there?

PS: I think there’s a camp there now but the original one burned. Yes, the original one burned. But the house in Salisbury is half of the Knight Asylum. That half he bought and the other half is still in Lakeville, at the foot of the hill down there.

MH: The other half is where Aller and Rout have a law office. It’s right at the junction of Farnum Road.

PS: Yes, that’s where it is. And the other half we had.

MH: I meant to mention that and ask you if you knew that that had been because somebody said they divided the property building that Dr. Knight had and then moved them. It was nothing in those days to move a building and put it on another foundation.



PS: Right I could swear that place was haunted though.

MH: When we interviewed a man by the name of Finn, he was Gertrude Clark’s brother. He said…. I mean, Gertrude Clark, you know…

PS: The name’s ringing a bell.

MH: They’re always in church over on the left. She has difficulty walking now. John Clark is very tall.

PS: Oh, he keeps pushing her.

MH: Yes. Anyway, I remember… They have always lived in that area. Her brother said that Farnum Road used to be called Muck Alley.

PS: Really.

MH: You don’t remember that.

PS: I don’t remember that.

MH: Well, I guess they are a little bit older than you, too. Just the fact that things weren’t paved, I guess, and taken care of. In the spring it was called Mud Alley.

[Some unrelated conversation omitted]

MH: I’m so glad you were willing to share some of these memories with us. Thank you very much.