Sara Warner-Phillips & Claudia E. Warner Cover Sheet:
Interviewees: Sara Warner-Phillips and Claudia (Beth) Warner
Narrator:Jean P. McMillen
File #:#37, cycle 2
Place of interview:Historian’s office, Scoville Memorial Library
Date: August 4, 2016
Summary of talk: family background, Lotos Lodge, recollections of Mt. Riga, traditions going to Mt. Riga Road, and various weddings .
Sara Warner-Phillips & Beth Warner Interview:
This is file #37, cycle 2. This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is August 4, 2016. I am interviewing Beth Warner and her sister Sara Warner-Phillips. They are going to share their information about Mt. Riga and some of their memories. This is going to be interesting. We’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM: Beth, would you tell me please your real name?
BW: My real name is Claudia Elizabeth Warner.
JM: Your birthdate?
BW: October 19, 1950
JM: Your birthplace?
BW: Sharon, Ct.
JM: I am now going to switch to Sara. What is your real name?
SWP: Sara Haines Warner-Phillips
JM: When were you born?
SWP: November 6, 1957
JM: Where were you born?
SWP: Sharon, Ct.
JM: What are your parents’ names?
SWP: Donald Tichnor Warner and Claudia Elizabeth Haines Warner
JM: Beth, do you have siblings?
BW: Yes, I have a brother Christopher Kellogg Warner, a brother Peter deforest Warner deceased, Sara Haines Warner-Phillips, and Jessica Wells Warner.
JM: Sara, what is your educational background after high school?
SWP: I went to the University of Vermont from 1975 to 1979. I also attended Marlborough College for an advanced degree in 1999.
JM: What was that degree?
SWP: Master of Science and Information Technology.
JM: What about your educational background, Beth.
BW: I attended Goucher College for two years 1968 -1970. Then I completed by bachelor’s degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1980. I then got my Masters in social Work at the University of Maryland in 1992.
JM: Both of you are descendants of one of the original families that set up the Mt. Riga Corporation. I am going to ask Sara this, what are the names of your grandparents?
SWP: My father Donald Tichnor Warner’s mother was Lois Church Scoville Warner and the grandfather was Donald Judson Warner II. He was the second.
JM: What was the name of the camp that Judge Warner built?
SWP: Lotos Lodge.
BW: The Lotos eaters (from mythology Ed.)
JM: How many buildings are in this compound, Beth?
BW: Lived in buildings?
JM: Yeah, lived in.
BW: 4 well 5.
JM: Do you count sleeping cabins?
SWP: So 2 at Lotos, 1 for Suzie, that’s three, 2 for us and 1 for Jake.
BW: That’s is 6
JM: Are you on the Upper Lake or the Lower Lake?
SWP: We are on the south-west side of the Upper Lake.
JM: The buildings in general are they made out of cedar logs or are they…
SWP: Two of the cabins are made of chestnut; that is Lotos Lodge is made out of chestnut.
JM: When was that built, do you know?
SWP: Well the first building was built prior to 1870, it burned down. It was rebuilt, then additions, if you have ever seen it, it is a very rambling structure.
JM; No that one I haven’t seen.
SWP: It was built in stages between 1870 and 1900. There is an ice house in the back. Then there is a men’s cabin, a big living room cabin, and then what they call the Ladies Cabin which was the actually the original cabin. That has a kitchen behind it.
JM: How much land does it sit on?
SWP: The Warner acreage is 12 plus acres.
JM: We are going to talk about your grandfather. He owned a house in Salisbury and it was called Fell Kill (35 Main Street) which is across from the Scoville Memorial Library.
BW: The Bushnell Tavern
JM: Right, it got moved from where it was close to the road back to where it is now.
JM: How did he get up and down the mountain? Did he have a sleigh or a wagon?
SWP: He did, he had a sleigh, a wagon and he also was a great horseman. He loved to ride. He actually was very sad when cars appeared. It came about that the only things we had of his were his riding boots. He loved to ride; he would ride up after work. He would ride up there many days, in the winter, spring and fall.
JM: I have something about riding over the ice?
SWP: He would ride over the Lower Lake and ride over to his cabin on the Upper Lake.
JM: I hope he tested the ice before he did that.
SWP: I am sure he did, but there were still residents who lived there at that point. He would stop and get a something hot to drink and then continue on to his camp.
JM; I think one of the Warners, I am going to say Judge Warner to cover my bases, used to say that Mt. Riga was like Brigadoon and Salisbury was like Shangri-La. This makes a very nice comparison.
SWP: That was probably the judge. It sounds like him.
JM: Christmas Day and sleigh rides with you father?
BW: Not our father. I didn’t do that.
SWP: Our father on Christmas Day, our dad sis not tell a lot of stories, but one of the stories he did tell was being given a new sled and a new pair of boots. They were taken up by sleigh to the top of the
mountain and they rode their sleds all the way down to the bottom. By the time he got to the bottom, the toes of his boots had been worn through from dragging them to slow down the sled. He loved that story.
JM: When we talked before Sara, you told me that there were certain spots that you would stop and do certain things going up the mountain. Are they the same for the two of you?
SWP: Not really, no
JM: Then I will ask you Sara first your ritual going up the mountain, and then Beth is will ask you your ritual.
SWP: Well because there is 7 years between us, we would stop by a rock which is still there at the bottom of the mountain and is still on the paved part of the road. My father would tell us a story. Each time we went, the rock would have slid a little bit more. At this point it had drifted now right next to the road. The story was that there was a mountain lion that lived under the rock and that was why it moved. We would stop and he would tell the story. It was a fable for him to spin a yarn. It was a huge granite rock that you can see and it is before going over the bridge. The next place we would stop was the water trough. It was an old chestnut log there was a tin cup. We would all get out and drink a little bit of water. Across the way was a turn out and you could look down like an overlook. There was a birch tree that had been pulled it down so it was like a rainbow. My dad always called it “Rossiter’s Rainbow.” Actually in our family papers we have a photo album that Pauline McCabe made called “The Way Home” or something like that. She took beautiful photographs all the way up from the bottom of the mountain to Lotos Lodge. One of the first pictures it that overlook with that tree, but that was in 1910, somebody must have actually recreated it because it had to have been a different tree. The next place we would stop was the waterfall. We would stop first, there is a little cut through that you can look at the waterfall. It was always how’s the water? Are the Brazees making sure the flow is good? The other think I didn’t say is that we would often stop at David and Kathleen’s house and find out how everything was. That was always part of it. We would stop there, look at the water; everybody would give their assessment and then we would pull in and sometimes we would go down and sometimes we wouldn’t. Those were the major stops until you got to the kettle. There is a kettle at the bottom of the hill right at the Lower Lake below Castinook. We would stop there and get water. When we were little that kettle was not there. Our artesian well where my father would always say, “This is water that came out from between the rocks, deep down in the Earth, the best water in the world.”
JM: Well he was fond of it.
SWP: The only other thing is that we didn’t drive up and around the lake as we do now. We drove along the Lower Lake.
JM: There was a road there at that time, wasn’t there?
SWP: Yeah but there wasn’t a public beach.
JM: No that came later.
SWP: When the public beach was designated; they put in the road, but we would always drive along the lake. It went by the tourist beach that you see at the Lower Lake and it just drive straight right along the edge of the water by Camp Ozone where Bill Brewer was. Then the next landmark was what we called the Rickety-rackety Bridge. I am sure everyone has talked about that.
JM: I never heard of it.
BW: The corduroy bridge, there was an old post card or notecard that used to be in the pharmacy of two old colliers standing at a bridge. They called it the corduroy Bridge.
SWP: Probably because it was made of chestnut logs.
JM: Yeah that would be what a corduroy road was.
SWP: That bridge is still there, but it was like we are almost home.
JM: That was your signal that you were close to home.
SWP: I would be way back in the car being asphyxiated by carbon monoxide in the station wagon. I would be like “OK I am ready to get there.” When we were kids, we would go into Lotos Lodge where we would park our car. We would have to walk up to our camp. Now starting in 1965-66 they took an old coal road and they made it into driveway.
JM: So you can drive up now rather than…
SWP: Schlep, the cousins all felt sorry for us because we had to carry everything up to our camp. It was not that big a deal.
JM: It would not have been then because you were used to it. But to do that now it would be more of an effort.
SWP: The only other thing that I can tell you is that that road we spend a lot of time looking for slag. Did people talk about that?
JM: Yeah they did.
SWP: You can’t find it so much now because it had the lime stone chips on all the roads so it has really been buried.
JM: Alright, let’s go up the mountain with you, Beth.
BW: My memories are that first we had to drive to Canaan to pick up block ice to take up to put in our ice box. When I was little, our kitchen had an old ice box and a wood stove. So we would get the ice. Then we would start driving up the road and I always felt it was miles and miles away from where we had been in Sharon. My recollections are that I do not have remembrances of stopping at the Brazees, my recollections of the big rock that moved down was that the mountain lion rode the rock down. He rode on the rock and we looked to see if he was on the rock.
SWP: I always thought it was under the rock.
BW: Well no it could have been under the rock. Then we would go up across the bridge and then it became a different world. First stop was the watering trough and having the water. I don’t remember so much looking…I remember the view looking back down into the valley, but I don’t remember necessarily viewing on the way up. Then we would stop and look at the waterfall and for me it was always sad if the water was not just gushing. Then we would drive and get up to the Lower Lake. I do remember driving along past the dam, coming in through a different topography because when we would turn in to go to Lotos Lodge, it was like fern city; the ferns were just and I was overwhelmed by how beautiful that was. My brother Chris and I did not like carrying everything up to the cabin, but the paths were very good and very well maintained. The first thing we would do was get in, unpack the food, and at that time the cabin was one big room with a fireplace, porch on the front covered, tiny kitchen with the real old ice box and wood stove and off the back of that, there was a little porch. We had at least 4 beds in the main cabin. I guess that big round table we have now was there; I don’t know where we ate. I think just then going to the lake.
JM: Holidays on the mountain, we’ll start with Memorial Day. Do you have any special memories either one of you about Memorial Day? Sara is shaking her head no.
BW: I do. We used to go up after we had done the Memorial Day things in Sharon. The big things was going in swimming because how cold was the water? Then as I got a little older, it was getting a suntan. But going in the water, could you do it? Were you able to do that? Dad always did. Whether truth or fiction, he once went in when there was still a little bit of ice around the edges of the lake. It could happen. The cold did not deter him.
JM: Bless his heart. 4th of July?
SWP: Fourth of July was always a big deal because of barbeques at the forge and baseball games, softballs games.
JM: Was it a softball game among just the people on the mountain?
SWP: Yes, firecrackers and bottle rockets and things like that.
BW: I don’t remember that we went up on 4th of July. We spent 4th of July in Lakeville with friends. I remember all the activities in Lakeville.
JM: This is the beauty of having the two of you. I am so grateful that you are willing to do this Beth. Thank you so much for thinking of it Sara. How about Labor Day?
SWP: Labor Day is the biggest day of the year! Truly! 7.
BW: We all lived for Labor Day.
SWP: There was an all mountain tennis tournament. It started in 1950. The winners took a milk can home.
BW: Dipped it?
SWP: No, it was just an old milk can but it had like a charm bracelet with medallions with the winner’s name engraved on it. So now there must be 50 of them.
JM: Is that where the hat tradition came from?
SWP: No that was our father. Our father did that one. Donald was always the officiator at the final and he would always arrive wearing a hat. Our cabin is filled with hats; we probably have got 100 hats.
BW: All different kinds.
SWP: Including from the Civil War era straw hat that you know the old big like a beaver hat but it is a straw one with a band on it. I don’t know where he got that. But he would always wear a hat and then over the years then somebody else would wear a hat. We all wore hats. It became a thing where everybody wore a hat. Now I think Jimmy Dresser is the officiator and I think he makes a point of having something outlandish on.
JM: I have heard that. What do you remember about Labor Day Beth?
BW: I remember that we would get up on the mountain on Friday and we would have to drive around and find out who was playing the next day and whom we were partnered up with. It usually was posted at the tennis court. You would find out your time. Back then it all started early Saturday morning. It was mixed generations; everyone played. Crosby (See tape #104 Crosby Wells) played. It would go on through Saturday. Did they have finals Saturday or Sunday?
BW: So on Saturday you just sort of came and went and played your matches and going back to your camp. Hooting and hollering.
SWP: Lots of grandstand kibitzing, not serious at all.
JM: That was fun.
BW: In the bleachers all the young boys were mostly, but I think it came to be girls too. When the tennis balls went into the woods, they would go in and find them and bring them back out to play. On Sunday the same thing, you could go down and find out when your time slot was. I think sometimes people had to go out in their cars and find people to come and play because they wouldn’t have gone to check their time, time was money.
SWP: Barbara Griggs. She was always MIA. On Sunday Syd Cowles and his wife Hazel…
BW: They would sort of tend a fire cooking hot dogs and hamburgers, buns…
BW: Corn, and beer. Did we pay?
SWP: I don’t know whether we paid or not.
BW: Mom and dad must have paid; I have no idea. Then that was taken over by Joe and Betty Bell.
BW: They are Upper Lake. Then their son Duffy, Joe Jr. did it. I don’t know who does it now.
SWP: The Heinemann’s and Margie Vail
JM: Did you ever spend a Thanksgiving up there?
BW: I didn’t.
SWP: I spent a couple of them. One I spent at Wentworth cabin which is the Millers’. One I spent at the Cluchmann’s cabin which is …They are both on the Lower Lake and both on what would be called the Lincoln City Road. The one that goes, I have a map that says “This way to Babylon”.
JM: On you are the first one to mention it. Babylon was a small hamlet with 3 cabins. I have asked Mike McCabe, and I asked Robert O’Brien and you are the first one that has spoken of it.
SWP: I have a map that says “This way to Babylon.”
BW: It is a handwritten map that different people like added notations to it.
JM: I may have a copy of that.
SWP: I think I sent it to you.
JM: I think you did. I was fortunate enough to see the scrapbook that Louise Brewer made.
SWP: Oh yeah
JM: Emily Egan sent me the PDF of it.
SWP: Oh wow, I would love to see that.
JM: I got it all printed out and put all the articles where they were supposed to be. I can send you the PDF on that.
SWP: Oh that would be great!
JM: You all have been so generous to me; I have really got quite a wealth of information.
BW: It is an interesting part of the world.
JM: It is fascinating part of the world; I am just so grateful that you are willing to share. I really am.
SWP: the only thing to tell you about Thanksgiving is that it was cold. The food was cold; it was so cold.
JM: What was the name of the Cluchmann’s camp, do you know?
BW: It doesn’t have a name.
SWP: If it has a name, I don’t know it.
BW: It is called “The Silo”.
SWP: As a matter of fact that is what I have heard people call it. Jimmy’s half -sister Margarete married a Cluchmann so she could tell you.
JM: Who was Harriet Electa Wells Warner? Is that the Polly that…
SWP: No, she was married to Donald Tichnor Warner 1st.
BW: Was it Electra or Electa?
SWP: It was Electa. Her mother was Electa Smith Wells.
JM: What was her story then?
SWP: Her father was Philip Wells of Litchfield. Her mother was Libby Harrison Wells of Salisbury. She was born in Brattleboro, Vermont. She lived in Brattleboro. Her mom died of diphtheria during the Civil War era. She spent part of her childhood living in Litchfield. I don’t know how she met her husband, but they married. She was known to be beloved by all. I have journals of hers; she just a people person. She was always thinking about others, doing for others and people loved to go to the mountain because she was a really good cook. She had a big table made on the porch of Lotos Lodge that could seat 20 with big barn boards on sawhorses, just many, many chairs all held together with wire to keep them from falling apart. On the wall was sailcloth, a piece nailed to the wall and then another piece with little holders, and another piece. Your silverware was put into the pockets and was it clothespins?
BW: Clothespins with your name on it for your napkin, your cloth napkin.
SWP: That was like this wonderful tradition that she instituted, but that that lakes was stocked when they lived there. It was stocked with bass, by Davy Jones. She was famous for her fish chowder which I have the recipe for somewhere. She was beloved. Her first cousin was Pauline Wells McCabe.
JM: That is the one that I know.
SWP: Right. That’s Robbie O’Brien’s great grandmother or grandmother, either one I am not sure.
JM: Grandmother because I have gotten the genealogy from Margie Vail specifically. (See file #2, cycle2, Margie Vail) Robbie we talked a lot about Chiefy. (See file #36, cycle2 Robert O’Brien) That was where I wanted to go with that one and Wish-Come-True. We did quite a lot on that because everybody is different and when I was doing Mike McCabe, (See file #104, Mike McCabe) he was telling me about the garbage detail, but he said, “If you really want to talk to Robbie about the garbage detail and Chiefy.” That is where I was going. With the Millers (See file #106 Fran & Pete Miller) we talked a lot about the winter they spent on the mountain and how they prepared for it. Everything is different.
Now the next thing I have is iron ore and George Wentworth and fairy rings.
SWP: I can’t tell you about George Wentworth.
JM: I think he was the first iron master.
SWP: Right, I do know that, but I don’t know anything other than that. Fairy rings…
BW: We did always used to stop.
SWP: There is a fairy ring on the road between the Lower Lake and the Upper Lake; we would always stop and look at the fairy ring which was a..
BW: We just did that. Yesterday or the day before?
JM: What is a fairy ring?
BW: It is a big huge round circle
SWP: about 10 feet deep
BW: 10 feet deep and no trees grow in it.
JM: Oh that is an old charcoal pit
BW: Yeah. Flowers and ferns grow in it.
JM: Trees won’t grow in it.
SWP: It was just all ferns. The only thing that was growing was ferns.
JM: You told me a pig story with Dan Brazee?
SWP: Yeah I don’t know if this is true, and you should ask Dan Jr. if you ever get ahold of him. Dan would put a pig on the island, what we call now Treasure Island. There are 2 large islands on the Upper Lake. One is called Warner Island and that is across from Wish-come-True. Then there is another one down at the other end of the lake which we call Treasure Island. The story goes that Dan would put a piglet on the island at the beginning of the summer. He would let it fatten up.
BW: It can’t be true?
JM: Why not?
BW: How would he get it off the island?
SWP: Maybe he waited until the ice formed. That would be the only way.
JM: Did Danny Brazee, and I think I have the right Brazee when there was in the 1950’s and I may be wrong, there was in impetus from the NY and Massachusetts to buy Mt. Riga.
SWP: That is true.
JM: Danny put his pet fawn Bambi in his truck and took it to Hartford to show the…
SWP: I didn’t know that.
BW: That would be David Brazee.
JM: To show that they were taking away Bambi’s home. It worked.
SWP: I bet it did. I didn’t know that.
BW: It gives me goosebumps.
JM: That was what he did. I am not going to say Bob Estabrook, but it has been documented by somebody that that actually happened. Wedding, were there any weddings on the mountain?
JM: I heard about Chany Wells (See file #24, cycle 2 Chany & Crosby Wells), but that was later.
SWP: Steve Gilman and his wife Pat Probst Gilman, It was in 1968-69; it was a very hippie, laurel and flowers in the hair. They arrived on a canoe.
BW: At that our dad officiated. Steve’s three aunts were there, the ladies from Ingleside. (84 Main St. Salisbury).
SWP: Zed, May and Lo She was Lois.
BW: Zed because she was the last, as in the French alphabet.
WP: If you want their Christian names, Jeanette Smithers, Mary Warner, and Lois Warner. Jeanette was married for a short period of time, but the other 2 were single. They had never married. They all lived together in that house.
JM; Ingleside is the house that Don Buckley lived in.
SWP & BW: Yes
BW: Oh I can give you another wedding. Suzie (Suzanne) Kaytis was married to Noel Evans out on what we called Sunset Rock in front of our cabin. They were married by my dad Donald. The reception was in our cabin.
SWP: That was in 1990 maybe. I am not exactly sure.
JM: When I was being introduced to Camp Ozone, they were in preparation for a wedding.
SWP: That is correct.
JM: The people that were staying there were from Australia.
SWP: That’s correct.
JM: I don’t know who was getting married to whom, but I do remember that. That would have been last year 2015.
SWP: Danny Brazee got married on the Public Beach (Ostrander Beach). Danny Jr. married Linda Van Doren.
JM: When was that?
SWP: Oh probably in the 1990”s. Again dad officiated and then there have been many weddings. Marjorie Dresser got married up there. Andrea Collin got married up there.
BW: Maria Keith got married up there.
SWP: Frank Wells’ son got married up there. Then who knows how many others.
BW: It is a great place to get married.
JM: I am off the track now, but I was very impressed with the Annual Meeting that I was permitted to attend last year because of the stewardship of both the land and the water. In talking with various people from this wonderful area of the country, so many people care about the land and water. It is not a selfish: it is selfless which is great. I have down Alice Combes; she is now the President of the Mt. Riga Corporation. And I have Betsy Cluchmann? What about Betsy?
SWP: She was a Collin. Her father and her uncle owned one of the old houses. I think they own it.
BW: Yes, I think so too.
SWP: I don‘t know whether it is a corporation…
BW: Dwight would know that.
SWP: No Dwight was in the garage that… but at any rate she was a Collin. She is no longer alive. She died of breast cancer. Again dates really do escape me but it was in the mid 1990’s. You know what; they are all up on the mountain in the cemetery.
JM: Under the category of small world, when I was interviewing Mary Collin Sullivan (See file #103, Mary Sullivan). She was talking about Bim Collin. Bim use to camp with my husband’s nephew Eddie Chiera.
SWP: Oh my God! I know that name. Gosh I remember him.
BW: Chiera is an old name.
JM: Yes, he was my brother-in-law. There is a connection. Is there anything Sara that you want to add before I go to Beth and her stories?
JM; Beth we are going to talk about Sputnik.
BW: Yes, I am not sure if it was the first time Sputnik went over the mountain, but it was pretty close. I don’t remember the year and I don’t remember how old I was. I do remember that the three aunties came from Ingleside and we had dinner down at Lotos. The Gilmans, all 4 Gilmans were there, our family, Donald’s family; I am not sure about Jonathan’s family. I am not clear on that. We went up to what we call sunset rock and we lay on the rock with our heads on each other’s stomachs, looking up at the sky and saw Sputnik go over.
JM: That would have been 1958 or ’59.
SWP: Or it could have been 1957 because I was born in the year of Sputnik.
JM: Oh that is wonderful.
BW: When I think about how many generations and I think the thing is that the Aunties came. That must have blown their socks off.
JJM: I have from Charlie Vail (See file # 14, cycle2, Charles Vail) the day that he went to Tanglewood. They sort of crashed Mrs. Koussevitzky’s after concert party, came home and watched on television, the first man landing on the moon.
JM: With the Sputnik and the moon landing it is just wonderful. You can’t write this stuff. Now what do you remember about the flood of 1955.
BW: I remember the hurricane.
JM: It was a hurricane.
BW: I was in Lotos Lodge with Ginger Gilman and her daughter Ellen; we were sitting looking out on the lake. We were inside the living room with a fire going. I remember watching the rain on the water. I didn’t remember about that, but my cousin Ellen remembers that they had had guests. The wife was pregnant and began to contractions so her father Steve Gilman, since the road was out, rowed them across the lake to the New York side. That is how she got off the mountain.
JM: Did she have her baby?
BW: She was fine; Ellen never said anything else. No news is good news.
JM: Is there anything else that you would like to add, Beth, before we close?
BW: Well, I was just remembering Lilly Cove when it was full of lilies.
JM: Where was Lily Cove?
BW: Lily Cove is just to the left of our cabin, south west corner of the lake. My uncle Jonathan built his house, his camp, there. That cove was full of lilies with lily pads when we were children.
SWP: Pink, white, and yellow lilies, different varieties and it was also down by the dam. It was all covered in lilies, but acid rain just wiped them out.
JM: Thank you both. This has been special.
BW: Fun! Now are you talking to families down off the mountain who had relatives on the mountain like the Pettees and the Balls and local people who no longer live or work on the mountain.
JM: No because I did not know about it.
SWP: Ok I don’t know who would know the most about it.
BW: There is Julie Pettee’s book.
JM; I am going to say thank you again.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068