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                                      photo by Paul Wight

Summers on Branch Pond

     Written by Paul Wight,

      Commodore of Branch Pond Sailing Club for over 10 years and spending summers on Branch Pond for 37 years!​

     Submitted, February, 2013


I was the Commodore of the Branch Pond Sailing Club at the time this picture of a race was taken.  Dave Hardy was my time keeper and we would have been waiting at the finish line for the boats to cross.  Using the Portsmouth handicapping system Dave would have the race results and we would gather at someone’s camp for a social hour.  Some sailors would brag while others made excuses but we all had fun.
Having been involved in sailboat racing in Florida I was pleased when the Branch Pond Association asked me to organize a sailing club.  As Commodore of the new club I made it open to anyone on the lake who wanted to race and we would have twelve to sixteen boats racing each Sunday afternoon.  There were a few hobie cats and they were about twice as fast as the mono hulls and we would have them go around the course twice.  Often boats from the YMCA camp would join us and one man would sometimes show up in a canoe to see if he could beat the sailors.   Sailing made an ideal sporting activity for this beautiful lake and it was enjoyed by everyone.

Another activity I was involved in that I thoroughly enjoyed was being Road Commissioner of our private road. The city wasn’t maintaining our camp roads, but through pressure by the residents they agreed to grading and snow plowing if the roads and ditches were wide enough for their equipment.    I was instrumental in getting our road organized into a Road Association and they elected me their Road Commissioner.  
Bringing the road up to the city’s standards was quite an undertaking.  Trees and brush had to be removed to widen the road, a foundation of gravel had to be added and culverts had to be replaced.  I had excellent support from the members with several volunteering to help.  In a very few years we had a good looking road that was smooth and, with the use of calcium chloride,  was dust free.  
I made many friends in the process.  After turning my responsibility over to a new Commissioner they had a ceremony for me standing by a new culvert, which they dedicated in my honor.   
My retirement project was to build a camp on the lake, which I did with a lot of help from family and friends.   It was by far the biggest building project I had ever tackled.  I enjoyed doing it and was very pleased with the results. 
My family so enjoyed the camp and the lake they started coming every year and have been doing so for thirty five years.   I took pictures of the family each year and put them in frames along the camp wall.   Were you to walk along that wall you could follow the progress of kids growing up, marriages on the dock, sunset cruises, mountain climbing trips, fishing, parties, evenings with bonfires, and great meals of  lobsters, corn and blueberry pie. Of course the pictures wouldn’t begin to tell the story of all the fun times we have had.  The family’s habit of coming back each year has made it a tradition, one they plan to keep into the future.
Some of my ancestors were the early setters of Happy Town and I have interested stories about them.   I am so fortunate to be spending the summers of my retirement years on this beautiful lake doing things I enjoy with my great family and good friends.

 

​A Wee Bit of Branch Pond History
     Written by Susan Terrell
     (Mr. Burnham's Letter provided by Joel Ranger)

 

You know that cute little green cabin on the point on the left as one enters the narrows from the north? Joel Ranger, the present owner of this cabin, has shared some history with us. Rummaging around in an old bookcase, he found the following words of Alan Burnham who built the cabin in 1935. Mr. Burnham relates:

"When I was first asked to set down my memories of Branch Pond, I felt it would be somewhat presumptuous of me to do so while there are still Whitcombs, Sawyers, Sweeneys, Maddocks, and Walls who have all known it so much longer than I have. In that context, I write this sketch based solely on my own memory and on those stories which were told me by others.

When I first came to the Pond with some Harvard classmates in 1935, I bought one acre from the Phillips Estate. At that time we were the only people on the narrows and between Phillips Landing and the Copelands. The Phillips’ Estate signatories to my deed included Lyndon H. Phillips, Edgar Phillips and Josephine Treadwell Clapp, Executrix. Shortly after we arrived, using Phillips Landing as our base of operations, we were told that someone had heard an announcement on the radio about "those Harvard fellows down at the Pond."

To help us get started, Lyndon Phillips loaned us the use of the old Robinson camp building at Phillips Landing. It was a long, narrow, one-story shingled building which we were told had been brought over there on the ice. He also loaned us his canoe-boat. Edgar Phillips further helped us get a start with water pipe, etc.

Edgar was the landed proprietor who told me that he undertook, at the turn of the century, to guide Edward B. Mears to the good fishing and hunting spots on the pond. Mears, of Bar Harbor and Philadelphia, was the original owner of the central island at the north end of the pond. At the time, it was know as Mear's Island. Later it was sold to Miss Carolyn Gower of Skowhegan who subsequently married a man named Brown. The island then was renamed Teacher’s Island, as she was a teacher, and then she sold it to Walter Turyn and his wife Betty. Turyn was at that time principal of two public schools in Huntington, Long Island.

Mears had a partner on the island named Jacques, and they had some very distinguished guests including Philadelphia’s romantic-novelist doctor, Silas Weir Mitchell, and, as I remember it, they were joined on occasion by Senator Hale, whose camp once stood just north and east of Judge Peters’ place, now owned by Mr. Fenn. There were two camps on the island and in the larger log house may still be seen brown paper cutouts profiling the fish caught and each one signed by the man who caught it. At the northeast end of the island were two large double-ended power boats (probably naphtha) set on a steel marine railway used as service boats and for fishing.

In 1935 the Wall’s Farm was then in full swing with horses and a cow, and Allan Walls was doing a lot of timbering, as he did for most of his life. Hilda’s flowers were always a joy to behold around the old shingled farmhouse.

Hanson’s Landing was then known as Wentworth’s Landing and old "Uncle Billy," constantly chewing on his pipe, sold worms to the fishermen and rented boats from the little white clapboard house with green trim which still stands in the middle of the landing area. Later, Ed Hanson bought the landing and added the large boat-storage buildings and a well equipped outboard engine repair shop which did a thriving business thanks to Leonard Stover and his wife Winnie who lived at the landing. Visits to them from the Fire Warden in his pontoon-hydroplane were always a thrill for us pond dwellers.

Adjoining Hanson’s was the chalet-type house of one Harjean, reputedly a New York City hairdresser. This was later turned into a tourist court but has lately been rescued and restored to its original attractive appearance by the Smiths of Orono.

Just beyond this, to the east, stood the great, towering wooden ice-house, with its long ramp up from the water, belonging to the Maddocks. Later it was torn down, and the Maddocks started a tourist camp and motorhome park which, a few years ago has been greatly enlarged and improved by the Graves family.

All I remember about the Upper Cove is that David Dewitt had a camp there. He was the one who persuaded his daughter, and her husband Albert Hurd, to move up from Massachusetts to Hurd’s Corners, at Nicolin road, where he built the main house and row of tourist court cottages for them along the Highway (Rte. 1-A). These were later razed to make way for Ovzychick’s trailer camp.

Probably the oldest extant structure on the pond is the shingled cottage at Phillips Landing which belongs to Martha Giles. Our camp lies on a point of land in the Upper Pond facing north and parallel to the narrows and just northeast of the large island which Ed Phillips always called Twenty-five Acre Island. In skirting the shoreline of our point, my mother came across the dead stumps of several large trees. Pulling one apart, she found the inside of the weather-beaten stump to be charred. Upon making inquiry, she was told (hearsay) that the point had burned off in 1909. That was the year that the "Government Man," as he was referred to, surveyed the Pond for the Federal Government. He had an elegant little canoe-boat with an inboard Fay engine, which I almost bought from Ed Phillips, until he told me that it was oiled by gravity flow. You simply poured oil in the top and it ran out the bottom.

With the assistance of Webb Higgins, who lived opposite Ed Phillips’ house on Route 1-A, we cleared out the dense growth of alders and built the rock-pile foundations on which to set our sills. We learned so much from this man who, despite his age, was so spry and resourceful. When we tried to lay one of our 4" X 6" sill pieces between two foundation piles, a huge boulder intervened to prevent it. Webb simply said to us: "If you boys can’t lift it, drop it!" That is exactly what he did by digging a hole off to one side. He was then able to simply topple the boulder into the hole.

When it came to buying lumber for the first portion of our four-room camp, namely the 12’ X 16’ livingroom, we received ready encouragement from Leon H. Brown whose lumberyard was at Ellsworth Falls. No question of payments, and with seemingly unlimited credit, we were later told that, despite our old Model-T Ford, it had to do with our having Pennsylvania license plates. As to our utilities, we were told that the water was "clear as a hound’s tooth" so we piped our drinking water from the narrows side and continue to do so today. Our lighting and stove were both kerosene fueled. We recently converted our stove and the ice-box to gas and still light with kerosene.

Unlike Graham Lake, Branch Pond was, we were told, as deep as the nearby mountains are high-perhaps a slight exaggeration when one reads, from a sounding map, a maximum depth of ninety feet in the center of the Upper Pond.

The Lower Pond appears, at first glance, to be deserted, and we always enjoyed the intimate size and privacy of Pickerel Cove which lies just south of our point and east of Twenty-five Acre Island. Actually, most of the Lower Pond (the southern end) belonged to Stuart B. Copeland whose great log house and private estate, "The Boulders," rival the Adirondack camps and those on the St. Regis Lakes. With its long connecting bridge, private semicircular beach and large boathouse, it is an ideal spot for entertaining. Mr. and Mrs. Copeland were charming hosts, and we attended a square dance given in the little playroom cabin just east of the main house and facing on the beautiful little cove at the lower end of the Pond which leads one to the former public beach and the gate-controlled dam. With its high cliffs, conifers and little islands, it has always reminded me of Japanese prints I have seen.

When we were building the camp in the thirties, I often wondered who was the lady for whom I was building it. She is Frances Berking, of Greenwich, Connecticut, who I married in 1947 and who first came to camp that summer. . Even though we are approaching our fiftieth anniversary (1985), we are still, and I guess will always be "summer people." Wendall Gray, Colin Farquhar, and Bill Burrage, some of the college friends who helped me to build the camp, always looked forward to coming to Ellsworth and the Hancock House where we received a warm welcome each summer.

My only plea is that despite the "Government Man" and certain commercial enterprises which favor the designation of "lake," that this body of water remain, as it was always know locally, Branch Pond, the place where they cut the ice. Green Lake, with its Post Office and flanking railroad track, although about the same size as Branch Pond, was thus more appropriately always known as a lake."

Alan Burnham, FAIA.
Greenwich, Conn., 1983

Mr. Burnham passed away a year after writing this at the age of 71. He was a New York architect "whose research provided the intellectual foundation for the architectural preservation movement in New York." (Obituary, New York Times, 3/5/84)