On a sunny Thursday, July 18, 2013.a group of about 25 people congregated at the Sysladobsis Lake (Dobsis) Boat launch to participate in the LCOA educational event prior to its picnic and annual meeting. The event, made possible by siblings Sandra Tolman, Rebecca Briggs and Stuart McLaughlin, was a tour of two camps that included their family histories consisting of several of the founding families of the Lakeville, Springfield and Carroll areas.
Sandra’s camp at the head of Dobsis,
...formerly the camp of Marie and Carroll McLaughlin, long-time caretakers at the Dennison camp at the Locks/Dobsis Dam, was filled with memorabilia from Marie and Carroll: furnishings such as a wringer washer, hand-crank Victrola and record collection, and bird’s eye maple and caned furniture made by Carroll; kitchen items including a bread machine, yellow-ware cooking bowls, stove iron, and a match-book collection; scrapbooks, correspondence with area families such as the Elders and Bobaleks (the Elders place is now the Bobaleks), life history of Henry Dennison, pictures of the Pines, Spruce Lodge and the Locks, and the personal diaries of Marie who was ultra-observant of nature and wrote lyrical passages about it.
She was also partial to the writings of Edna St. Vincent Millay who lived in nearby Kingman. Marie, the daughter of Elmer “Pop” Thornton, who along with his 2nd wife Kate (Marie’s step-mother) were earlier caretakers of the Dennison camp, had preserved items from her mother, such as her dishes, her own baby shoes, and Elmer’s lodge ribbon, all of which had been wrapped in fur skin, long since disintegrated. Other interesting items included an old Abercrombie & Fitch catalog and the front page from a late 19th century Montreal newspaper reporting the visit of the Queen.
The cabin itself was made from hand-hewn logs with horsehair chinking. The main part of the camp was moved down lake and added onto. The kitchen had an open ceiling area. The outhouse had pictures of how it was decorated for a Bangor News contest; family members presented it the booby prize! The camp is now named “Lilly Pad.”
Sandra told stories about life on the lake, particularly about Marie and Carroll walking the livestock up lake for the winter as it was too isolated down at the Locks/Dam, although one winter they got stuck there and it was pretty brutal. Sandra also had treats using original recipes from the olden days for the tour participants.
The tour moved over to Bottle Lake to a camp shared by Rebecca and Stuart, also with refreshments.
Rebecca gave an overview of the area families in their ancestry. The 3 siblings are the children of Rebecca Lombard, a much-loved elementary school teacher, and George Hugh McLaughlin, and grandchildren of Edith Averill and Frank Lombard, descended from the same line as the inventor of the Lombard Log Hauler, Alvin Orlando Lombard. The elementary school in Springfield was named for Edith and that in Lee for Edith’s sister, Eula Averill Ham, two of 17 children of Rebecca King and Ralph Averill of Prentiss; the University of Maine Extension Service named Rebecca King Averill “Homemaker of the Year” in the 1920s. Other family members and descendants have been civic-minded, serving in the state legislature, in their local communities, in education and in the development of the area that we enjoy today.
Their grandfather Frank Lombard was a guide at the Pines for many years and knew much about guiding, fishing, hunting, conservation and character, of which he was exemplary. Their other grandfather Bert McLaughlin was a lumberman who grew up “behind the mountain” overlooking Mill Privilege; he worked for the Eaton Land Company owned by lumber mogul Louis Woodbury Eaton. According to Mr. Woodbury, Bert McLaughlin was the only man who could support two 75-pound chains around his shoulders while balancing on a rolling log in the rapids and tying or chaining logs together without falling in the water – an excellent log driver!
Their grandmother’s sister Marion Averill and Clifton Lewis of Springfield owned the Pines. The three siblings had many visits to the Dennison camp to enjoy Marie and Carroll and to the Pines, with family members both exploring and doing chores.
The parents of great-grandmother Amanda Lombard (mother of Frank) were the Mahars of Topsfield who were friends of the Pratts, related to the Eastman family, inventor of the first camera. They had a home on Musquash Lake, and would take pictures of friends and neighbors in Topsfield; the siblings have some of these original family photos in the early days of photography.
Inside the camp, built over one weekend in 1965 for $620 and added onto since, Rebecca had numerous albums of original materials consisting of pictures, articles, graduation notices and party memorabilia from the various sides of their families, a true trove of historical effects.
Stuart then proceeded to add stories and anecdotal tidbits about his experience growing up on and around Dobsis. Their father was a forest ranger, and one of his jobs was to keep the “fire line” clear of brush; it ran along the west side of Dobsis from the Pines to Nicatous, and this was the Forestry Service’s means of communication. He recalled fishing with his grandfather the guide and catching 2 washtubs full of perch – it was great fishing! Then there were the tales of hermit Perley Mitchell who had 4 hunting cabins in remote locations (Stuart never could find one). Perley lived in a tar-paper shack, had an orchard, a big garden and a 1932 Chevy, and he would pull the vehicle up close to the cabin so the heat from the woodstove would keep the engine from freezing.
As a lad, Stuart would ride the cow up from the Locks for the winter. One year, Carroll decided to try boating the cow up, so he rigged up 2 canoes with a plank across and a stall for the cow between, and he tested it out by leading the cow into place. The problem was that he never tried it with the motor going. So when he started the motor, the noise spooked the cow and Carroll ended up in the water. That was the end of that experiment! Stuart described Carroll, who plowed the roads in winter, as a wheeler-dealer, selling canoes and other items for far more than their value. Stuart also recalled the 120-foot-long dock in front of Marie’s and Carroll’s camp (now Sandra’s camp) where the boat “Manhattan” would pull in taking passengers to and from the Pines; he noted the abundance of “deadheads” that had been in the water there, left from moving logs down lake or to the mill on the land separating Pug Hole from the main body of Dobsis.
Stuart enjoyed his boyhood pleasures and pranks, which included ice-boat sailing (they could really zoom!), a model A tractor converted to a wood splitter, and leading other motorboats fast down lake, he knowing a very narrow passage between rocks, others being off just enough to wreck their motors.
With special thanks to Sandra Tolman, Rebecca Briggs, and Stuart McLaughlin, this event was a wonderful historical tribute to some of the pioneers of Lakeville and our greater area.
Submitted by Marilyn Hartman
LCOA Education Chair/Event Planner