Killdeer Island is still a beautiful spot. The transition from a Summer Colony to one of year-round homes has replaced the rustic beauty with man-made beauty in keeping with the life style of the present generation. In place of the narrow winding dirt roads there are paved roads even on the side streets and there are well kept green lawns, nursery bought shrubs, and cultivated flowers. The new homes are in the style of suburbia and those being modernized follow the same pattern . The Purdy residence remains on Beacon Road, but other than the landmark Oak still standing on the waterfront there is little that bears resemblance to the original structure. Pine needles that kill the grass, and tall pines that block out the rays of the winter sun are not desirable for year round living, so the trees on the west side were removed to make space for a flower garden. On the rear lot, where the stable once stood the trees, have been taken down to build a three car garage and storage loft.
The residence was converted to a permanent home by the Sjogren's granddaughter Eleanor Hallock who lives there at present. The dwelling erected by Dr. Westphal next to Purdy's changed ownership a number of times, with each owner making additions and embellishments so that the original is no longer discernable. It is now the attractive home of Rose and Abraham Blackman. The cottage to the east of Blackman's as stated was built in 1923 by my parents. It is now occupied summers by the author and his wife Mary. The house is exactly the way it was then and the surrounding area extending back to the Killdeer Road is heavily wooded with a variety of trees and native shrubs. Many wild plants such as Lady Slippers and Jack-In-The-Pulpits still thrive in the back woods.
To the West of Hallock's, the former Hahn residence has been modernized along with Sam Healy's camp which is now the guest house of the new owner, James D'Alessandro.
Lake Circle, or Cazeault Point, (as it was once known) was devastated by a 1938 hurricane and the cottages have been rebuilt or altered for private homes that can no longer be recognized as the rentals. One remaining, although converted to a permanent home, is on Killdeer Road opposite Sandy Shore and occupied by an old time resident Eva Munsch. Another landmark that remains in its original state is across the street from Eva's and is the Phillip Nims camp. Evelyn Nims served as Secretary of the Killdeer Club for many years in the pioneer period.
Further down the road, at the intersection of Beacon and Killdeer Roads the original summer residence of the Ralphaelson's still stands and is owned by the son Howard.
The 1938 hurricane also raised havoc with a group of rental cottages near the entrance to South Shore Road bordering on the Indian Point lagoon. Some of these cottages owned by Arthur Raymond were completely demolished and had to be rebuilt. Today they are all privately owned, well kept and little changed in appearance from the original. On South Shore Road there are a number of camps intact from the early 20's, and the camp built by Arthur and Alice Klebart on a bluff overlooking Point Breeze comes to mind. It is now owned by their son Rodney and is typical of the first camps erected.
The Jumbo was acquired by Leonard and Janet Malser a few years ago, and moved to a back lot across the street. It was reputedly built in 1866 as the sign over the entrance still proclaims but the name Jumbo belies its size because before many additions were made it was small. Leonard and Janet built a year round home on the site of the Jumbo. Craver Point which protrudes into Smith Cove from the South Shore Road has been a landmark on the Lake for many years. The dwelling as viewed from the water appears to be the original.
The Killdeer Clubhouse which had also served as the office of the Developers was demolished in recent years, and replaced by a concrete block structure that serves the community well as a meeting place for business and social activities. Unfortunately many of the surrounding pines, which were nearly one-hundred years old, had to be removed. The gully between the road and the clubhouse was filled in by Henry Racicot, the son of a pioneer resident, Alexander Racicot. There is now a circular drive into the clubhouse and it is a fine asset to the Island.
Once again it must be stated that it is impossible to mention all who took an active roll in the early development but the author would be remiss if a few people intimately bound with Killdeer lore were omitted. One was Jim Mr. Purdy's handy-man, whose main duty was taking care of Mr. Purdy's daughter Ruth's horse, Beauty. Mentioning of Beauty's name brings to mind an episode that occurred in this time period when Ruth, an accomplished equestrian, rode Beauty to the waterfront down the gentle slope which has been referred to as a sand pit to drink the water. Beauty leaned over a bit too far and Ruth took an unexpected bath. Fortunately she suffered no injury except to her pride.
Once again the author must ask the reader's indulgence as extraneous material has been introduced which has no place in a scientific treatise. Returning to some earlier inhabitants, Mr. Harry Marcoux is remembered as being a man of many hats. Harry could perform any type of operation from making cement blocks to felling large trees. He operated in the hollow just to the East of the Sandy Cove Road entrance into Killdeer Road. Although his deed prohibited him from engaging in manufacturing no one ever challenged him or felt it a threat to their business.
Across the street Mrs. Cobb had a large garden where she raised vegetables. She once sold native corn for twenty-five cents per dozen and she was a welcome neighbor. George Schremser had a year round dwelling at the West intersection of Beacon Road and Killdeer Road, and did small contracting projects on the Island. After the season ended, and the city slickers departed, the natives resumed their social life for the Winter, and George often played cards with the Purdy's before they left for Florida. The advent of paved roads and town water in 1966 helped accelerate the transition to year round residences.
Originally the entrance road meandered like a serpent to avoid grading expenses, and in some instances to take advantage of certain water front locations. Close to the Gore Road (now Route 16) the narrow dirt road made a hairpin turn around a small hillock almost reversing direction before it continued ahead. This was probably following the original trail which had to stay on high ground to avoid the marsh through whichit passed. To this day there is a right angle turn near the Indian Ranch border on Killdeer Road and this helps preserve the natural beauty by slowing traffic and not making a racetrack of the main road. The completion of Route 395 from New London to Worcester hastened the day when this community will be one of year round homes. This day only awaits the arrival of town sewers which are already being planned in the near future. Some equate growth as being synonymous with progress but those of us who were fortunate enough to enjoy the pristine beauty of this paradise in its early days, can only look back on a vanishing landmark as the trees continue to fall, the water becomes more congested and the open space is less and less each year.
CAMP ON KILLDEER ISLAND. THE NARROWS Old photograph showing the steamboat Empire on which the author made his first trip to Killdeer Island. Just to the rear of the Empire is the flagship The City of Webster passing Killdeer Island and Misery Island to the left on its way to Point Breeze. The fleet of vessels owned by Edgar S. Hill, a local lawyer, consisted of five boats– the Leslie, Vixen, and Point Breeze in addition to the two already mentioned, They began operating about 1902.
BEACON PARK Pre 1920 photograph of Beacon Park from which the author embarked on the steamboat Empire on his first visit to Killdeer Island. The trolley car ran from downtown to Beacon Park and the boats departed from the dock where the City of Webster is moored in the picture. My cousin's canoe in which we paddled by the South shore of Killdeer was stored on a rack in the large building to the right of the City of Webster and was operated by Ralph Hill the son of Edgar Hill In the winter the canoes were all chained together to prevent theft.
Photo post card looking out over Middle Pond from Purdy house with oak tree in foreground. Indian Point is at left with Long Island and Point Breeze in the distance. Circa 1925
1920 post card showing old Club House on waterfront
Photo post card of Beacon Road waterfront. Purdy house is behind canoe in foreground while author's. cottage is obscured by trees at far right. Circa 1930
The author is indebted to many people for their assistance in preparing this Early History of Killdeer Island and without whose help it would not have been possible to preserve much of the material for posterity.
First, I must thank my wife Mary who although not a native spent many summers on the Island with our children and was able to corroborate many of the events narrated by my parents which my failing memory needed.
Next I am indebted to my son Bernard Jr. who proofread the text and corrected my many errors. Matt Chabot, a life long native of Webster as well as a long time friend, provided the photographs for the illustrations as well helping me recall certain past events. He thought the vehicle used by the Killdeer Development Company to transport people to see the property was a Pierce Arrow, while I thought it was a Cadillac.
The confusion trying to recall the make of vehicle may lie in the fact that it might have been a standard chassis with a special body made by a company famous for making custom bodies, Waterhouse-Webster. Since Mr. Waterhouse had purchased property from the Killdeer Company, they may have reciprocated and arranged to have a special body built on a standard chassis. It is known that they built bodies on Pierce Arrow chassis and such a vehicle would boost Webster and attract the attention of buyers. This is pure conjecture.
Continuing my acknowledgments after my usual digressions which persist to the end I must thank Lynn McLauglin, who has a large collection of old post cards from many sources and which served to refresh my memory. Leonard and Janet Malser have pictures of early Killdeer parties which they found in the Jumbo. They reviewed an early text and made suggestions. The largest source of information is to be found in past issues of The Webster Times which has accurately reported local events for many years. The old copies of the Times have been microfilmed, and while the Corbin Library has microfilms of all editions their viewer has been out of order for the past year and it was necessary to view them at the Nichols College Library, for which the author is grateful.
Stanley, the Town Of Webster Engineer made available old maps of Killdeer Island none of which provided any information, not on the Sperry Buell 1920 Survey. Elmira Surozenski, the present Secretary of the Killdeer Island Club, made a membership list of charter members in 1930 available.
KILLDEER ISLAND AN EARLY HISTORY
Copyright © 1987
Bernard F. Duesel
Dedicated to the memory of my mother who always said that one day she would own a piece of Samuel Slater land and made it come true on Killdeer Island.
GOSHEN, NEW YORK