While this book hopes to expand beyond simple stories of my family, it is through our history that I became aware of the heritage of Indian Point both before and during our tenancy.
To be clear, “our” tenancy speaks not solely of those named Thacher. My father’s sister Ellen married Michael FitzPatrick. Both families enjoyed summers together sharing the cabin and two lean-tos until 1981 when our family built a new place on the north shore of the peninsula. Each summer, a growing brood of FitzPatrick cousins continues to inhabit the little, red one-room cabin at the point’s tip.
My journey began with a desire to learn when this cabin was built. As a child I would fall asleep in the lean-to that sits just to the right of this cabin, being driven to sleep by the flames dancing in the stone fireplace and the hypnotic pulsing of the green and red lights which adorned the channel buoys in the Needles. My father is shown here as a boy in the same lean-to.
By the fire, my father and aunt would tell stories of their times here and on Blue Mountain Lake. Originally, the main family summer home was on Thacher Island on Blue Mountain Lake. The island lodge was the first and only privately owned summer home on the lake for a decade beginning in 1867. The island was purchased by John Boyd Thacher, who built a lodge for the use of his father, George Hornell Thacher.
The island lodge remained in the family until the 1940s while the lands on Indian Point, purchased in 1876, were always referred to as the “hunting and fishing” grounds. We have always considered ourselves extremely lucky to still possess these wonderful acres on Indian Point. Yet we wonder what transpired here between 1876 and now.
The oral history speaks of John Boyd Thacher and his brother George Hornell Thacher Jr. using Indian Point for guided camping adventures, with their father remaining at the island in Blue Mountain Lake. Family lore holds that the red cabin was the first thing to be built on the point. We have vague memories of our parents claiming that the cabin dates to 1910. My challenge is to prove them right.
A review of several historic maps of Raquette Lake show no indication of a cabin at the point between 1886 and 1903.
A 1905 photo from the family of Donna Phinney Geisdorf (owners of Sunny Cliff Camp deep in Sucker Brook Bay) shows Birch Point. It shows no cabin and no dock.
It is unclear if the photo shows any structure, but when blown up larger, there is an image that might be a primitive, makeshift lean-to. It has oddly straight edges and corners that would seem unlikely to be natural trees. I have highlighted the lines in red.
The only map that I have found to date which does indicate a structure in the location of the little red cabin is the 1954 USGS Raquette Lake Quadrangle. Unfortunately, there appear to be no USGS surveys done between 1903 and 1954.
So the cabin was built sometime after 1905 and before 1954. Couldn’t we narrow it down a little better than that? Perhaps it was time to talk with the locals of Raquette Lake to see what they knew of the cabin’s history.
Fortunately, there is one person with direct personal knowledge of the cabin. Warren Reynolds was born and raised at Raquette Lake. His family rented the little red cabin for the summer of 1938 and then lived there for a whole year beginning in the summer of 1939. He shared stories with me of his family living through the winter of ’39-’40 in the small one room cabin. Warren travelled to school by boat when the water was open and by dogsled over the ice in winter.
His father worked as a guide in season and hunted, fished and trapped for his family’s sustenance. The family could not have survived if his father had obeyed the Game Warden’s regulations. To hide his illicit bounty of fish and venison taken out of season, Warren’s father dug a 6′ by 4′ hole six feet deep and set 350 feet back in the woods to the west of the cabin with a wooden cover camouflaged with pine pitch, sticks and leaves. The remains of this “ice box” are still there today.
I next approached the local Raquette Lake historian, Jim Kammer, to see what he might know of the cabin. He produced a photo that is part of a collection from the Carlin Boat Livery, one of the first marinas on the lake, located near the present day dock of the Raquette Lake Navigation Co.’s W. W. Durant.
The Carlin Boat Livery was in operation from 1900 to 1935 and dates the photo of the cabin to within those years.
We know from the previous photos that this has to be after 1905. When I showed Warren Reynolds this photo, he remarked that the boat appears to be a row boat without motor moored off shore with no dock visible. In 1938 there was a dock and the Thacher’s gave Warren’s family use of a boat with a small outboard engine. The photo is also missing a tool shed that Warren remembered being between the little red cabin and the lean-to. Lastly, Warren commented that the cabin was far from brand new when his family lived there. He thought it was about twenty years old at the time, which would date it to 1918.
Given all that we know – the local lore, photographic and map evidence – we can say that the little red cabin was built sometime between 1905 and 1918. While this does not contradict the family oral history, I strive to narrow the window in time. Perhaps through reviewing historical newspapers and contemporary literature, I might glimpse proof of this alleged 1910 date….