Watchic Lake of Yesteryear (early 1900) – by Donal Greenleaf

Gorham Station ca 1900

Gorham Station ca 1900

In 1949, Donal Greenleaf wrote a wonderful memoir on his summers as child on Watchic Lake at what is now the camp at Watchic Rd 7 (TCV for “Twentieth Century Views”) . Thanks to his niece, we have posted the full memoir here. Below are some excerpts of the Watchic experience of hundred years ago.

I first came to Watchic at the age of 12 in 1902, the month and the day I know not, but I rather suspect it was near the end of June. My father and mother had rented “The Parker House” at $50 for the season [~$1,2oo in 2014 dollars]. In 1902 there were only 10 camps on Watchic…

Summer life on the pond was simple; we had no plumbing or water that came out of a spigot. A few camps had a sink for dishwashing with a pump that might supply cold water from the lake; if you used enough elbow-grease. You always had to prime the damn things. Nobody thought of drinking the lake water. We all had wells with hand pumps. I remember one year when our pump froze up on September 11th. (Lord knows why I remember that date). A high wind blew across the lake all night and the next day. We hugged the fireplace and even then damn near froze to death…

Watchic was way off the beaten path. It was a Sabbath day’s Journey to get there from New York. Sometimes we took the New York-Portland boat but usually the train, with a change over and often a night in Boston. The State of Maine express, which started about 1906, simplified matters greatly. In those early years I came into Portland through Gorham. We could then leave New York at 9:00 pm, get off at Gorham at about 6:30 am and reach Watchic for breakfast via Mr. Higgins ‘fast-moving horse and buggy.