(from the Webster TIMES Centennial Anniversary Issue, 1859-1959)
From the days when the big lake with the longest name
in the United States was a central gathering place for the Nipmuc Indians and
their friends, the great pond - divided by narrow channels into three larger bodies
of water - has been famed throughout the area.
All historians - and Indians of this and other territories - have agreed that Chaubunagungamaugg means "Fishing Place at the Boundary".
One of the tribes on the other side of the lake was the Monuhchogoks, which was corrupted to the name Manchaug. A map of 1795, showing the town of Dudley, indicated the Lake name as "Chargoggaggoggmanchoggagogg". In 1831, both Dudley and Oxford, which adjoined the lake, filed maps listing the name of the pond as Chargoggagoggmanchoggagogg, but a survey of the lake done in 1830 lists the name as Chaubunagungamaugg, the ancient name.
Authorities have indicated that the development of the name to the present long form stems from the time Samuel Slater began his mills near the lake, which was nearer the Manchaug village. Hence the Indian designation Chargoggagoggmanchauggagogg meaning "Englishmen at Manchaug," came into use. Later they added their original Indian descriptive name, and the entire designation becomes "Englishmen at Manchaug at the Fishing Place at the Boundary" -- or Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.
Despite this official knowledge, the lake - now descending too often to the designation of Webster Lake - is known the world over by the humorous translation "You Fish on Your Side, I Fish on My Side, Nobody Fish in the Middle".
As far as is known, the great publicity attained by this translation and the length of the name, stems from a story once written by Larry Daly, editor of the Webster TIMES, and widely picked up by other papers and magazines. In his humorous article about the Lake and the Nipmucs, and the disagreement over the translation, he submitted his own translation - which is now more freely accepted than the authentic meaning.
In the days of the Indians, the lake was a noted fishing place. The tribes gathered there for their pow-wows.
of the white man changed that kind of gathering, but throughout the years, the
lake with the long name has continued to attract thousands of people to its shores
area of the Lake is 1,442 acres, which comprise three spring-fed lakes joined
by narrow channels, North Pond, Middle Pond and South Pond. There are 17 miles
of shore line. The length of the Lake is 3.25 miles, and at its widest point in
Middle Pond, the distance is 1.125 miles. The shore line of North Pond is 5.78
miles, of Middle Pond, 7.06 miles, and South Pond is 4.17 miles.
A depth chart for Webster Lake from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife can be seen at:
The idea of taking the lake beach as a memorial to World
War II veterans was promulgated by Webster TIMES Editor Laurence Daly, through
the pages of the newspaper.
Residents were eager to pay tribute to the boys in service, and several ideas were suggested, including a half-million dollar civic center in the middle of town. However, scores of servicemen corresponded from time to time with the popular editor. Mr. Daly soon noticed how frequently these men, stationed in all parts of the world, mentioned that they dreamed of the day when they could once again view our lake and enjoy a swim at Second Island. Because the Slaters had so generously made this beach accessible to the townspeople, few remembered that it was not town-owned and might someday be lost to the public.
Therefore, Mr. Daly began a campaign through the TIMES to enlist interest in buying Second Island as a War Memorial. Mrs. Slater was reluctant to sell, but the idea gained in favor and soon there was talk not only of taking Second Island by eminent domain, but also of creating a fine Athletic Field at the park on Ray Street which the Slaters had given to the town years before.
Articles were inserted in the Town Warrant of 1946 and it was voted to take Second Island by eminent domain. The courts set a price of $20,000 which was paid to H. Nelson Slater for the beach and the great acreage surrounding it. The people further appropriated money, about $65,000, to construct a locker house with concession stand, to build a road, plant trees, and landscape the area. The beach was enlarged and improved though the efforts of Alex Starzec and the Parks Department, which supervises Second Island Memorial Beach.
Today, there are two walking tracks, one which incorporates the old French River Bridge, boat launch, basketball court, playground, concession stand and ample parking.
Early Boat Races
Racing on the Lake attracted noted oarsmen from all parts of New England. A race course was established near Killdeer Point, which came to be known as Sea Scout Point and was most often the starting point for sailboat races which were held on the weekends. Racing was in six and eight-oared sculls, with sailing coming into vogue later. Sportsmen came from Boston and Providence for these events, but transportation to the "point" was usually by boat from Beacon Park, or Eliot's Shore, as it was then called, where there was a Yacht Club headquarters. Union Point was a favorite spot for observation, as well as for picnics and water sports.
Most of the development of the lake occurred after the advent of the railroad made it possible for visitors and townspeople to reach various points along the lake. The train to East Thompson stopped at the depot downtown and also at the depot in the East Village, and disembarked passengers all along the lake shore -- Beacon Park, Union Point, Point Pleasant, Bay View (from there it was a good walk into Point Breeze), and also at Bates Grove.
The greatest resort period in the Lake's history probably occurred from 1895 to 1930 when a fleet of boats was in operation each summer to take thousands of passengers to the cool spots where picnics, clambakes, bowling, dancing, swimming and canoeing flourished.
The Hills, father Edgar S. and son, Ralph B., operated two of the most prominent resorts -- Point Breeze and Beacon Park and also operated the only fleet of boats ever to be successfully maintained on the Lake.
Edgar S. Hill was connected with many activities in town, including the TIMES, the Music Hall, the State and Liberty Theatres, lake resorts, and the Street Railway or trolley cars.
A small clubhouse was in existence at Bay View and another at Point Breeze. There was also a picnic grove and resort at Bates Grove. Edgar Hill purchased Point Breeze in 1897. Actually, Hill swapped his interest in the Music Hall for the Lake resort. About the same time, he took over Beacon Park and purchased a fleet of lake "steamers".
At Point Breeze, Mr. Hill added on the huge dance hall, which later owner Henry Gawle used as the dining room for the resort which featured clambakes and catered to outings. Mr. Hill also built a great stairway, about 20 feet wide, leading down the steep embankment to a wharf and landing shed, where the steamers pulled in with thousands of visitors each summer.
Eliot's Shore, or Beacon Park as it was later named, was purchased from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who had taken it over from Father Quan of St. Louis parish. Already popular in the area as a picnic and swimming spot, Mr. Hill built a big pavilion, a dance hall, a steamer house, a boat shed and two canoe houses. In addition, a wharf was constructed at the shore, and later one of the few open-air theatres in this section was built at Beacon Park.
The pavilion's top floor was on street level at the park entrance, but stood three-stories tall on the shore side. The third floor held a small dining room and a large "casino" where soft drinks, ice cream, popcorn and souvenirs were sold. (At no time was liquor ever sold at these lake resorts in the old days.) The second floor contained the apartment in which Ralph Hill and his wife lived and on the ground floor were dressing rooms for the actors and actresses, as well as supply rooms. On each of the three stories was a wide verandah overlooking the lake. This spacious building was converted into a lovely private dwelling when Alfred E. Kleindienst purchased Beacon Park in 1937.
The original fleet of boats consisted of the City of Webster (100 passengers); Empire (75 passengers); Leslie (35 passengers); Point Breeze (35 passengers) and the Vixen (18 passengers). Regular stops on the Lake were made at Point Pleasant, where Henry and Ma Bugbee rented cottages; at Bay View, where Monsey Camp was later located; Point Breeze, Long Island, Goat Island, and Wawela Park. Industries from Worcester and Providence chartered trains to come here for their annual outings and hired the steamers for the day.
At that time there was nothing at either Union Point or Killdeer. In fact the latter was actually an island, accessible from the Gore Road only through a swamp, and later by a small footpath and then a buggy path which was made by filling in. Eventually the whole swamp was filled in and Killdeer became one of the most populated places on the lake.
When persons living at one of the islands or at Wawela wanted the boat to stop by for a passenger, a red flag was placed on the landing in the daytime or a red lantern at night. Because of the numerous families living at Long Island and Wawela, there were many night passengers, especially for the shows at the Beacon Park theatre. Acts from the regular vaudeville circuits were hired throughout the summer, the show changing each week.
1899, the trolley line was run from the Main Street up Lake Street and over a
bridge to Beacon Park. This opened up a new world for townspeople, and make the
lake accessible for family outings. Each Sunday for many years, special attractions
were booked for the park where visitors could watch free of charge the great feats
of that era. There were balloon ascensions, high-wire acts, and other types of
aerial and diving stunts. A baseball field was laid out and Webster's well-known
semi-pro teams played there weekly, drawing large crowds of spectators.
The younger Mr. Hill, who previously had been connected with the Webster TIMES as a bookkeeper, and who also conducted bowling alleys on Main Street, became affiliated with his father at the State and Liberty Theatres after he sold Beacon Park.
When Ralph Hill took over Beacon Park, he engaged some of the outstanding carnival attractions and also operated a ferriswheel, merry-go-round and other amusements on a concession basis. He relates that until the trolleys stopped running to Beacon Park, all the extensive lighting for the grounds came from a special hitch-up with the trolley wires.
The Hills sold Point Breeze to Michael Commons, who in turn sold to Michael Lilla, who operated the resort for many years until it was taken over by the Gawle family.
About 1920, William G. Haggerty opened up a section at Killdeer, known as Sandy Shore -- a beautiful curving beach. He erected bath houses and concession stands for dispensing food. Only means of access was via the steamers from Beacon Park, and for several years, the popular Sunday excursion was a visit to Beacon Park and a steamer ride to Sandy Shore for the excellent swimming.
About the mid-1920's, Killdeer Island was bought from the Slaters by K.D. Purdy of Schenectady, N.Y., and Frank E. Wilber of Webster, representing the Killdeer Development Co. George Hall was also connected with the development. They installed a road by "filling" a portion of the swampland and constructed many bungalows. Their purchase included Sandy Shore, and this semi-public beach when it became "lots for sale".
Ralph Hill then leased Second Island for four years, and moved the Sandy Shore bathhouse to this section of the lake. He tried to buy the beach and land from Mr. Slater but was unable to do so. A few years later, Mr. Slater offered to lease the Second Island area to the Town of Webster at a nominal fee of $1 per year, and this offer continued for about 10 years.
Beacon Park Sold
Mr. Hill decided to give up operation of Beacon Park, and offered to sell the
entire site, with all the buildings and facilities to the Town of Webster at a
cost of $35,000. The article was turned down at the annual Town Meeting, and it
seemed as if Webster had lost forever its opportunity to own shore front at the
lake which could be used free of charge by the townspeople. In 1937, Alfred Kleindienst
bought it and converted it into a private estate.
In the meantime, development had been going on all along the shores. Union Point became a popular spot for summer homes, as did Point Pleasant, which eventually passed from the ownership of the Bugbees into private hands. A few homes were built at "The Narrows", the channel scarcely wide enough for the big steamers to pass through, and which connects the north and middle ponds of the lake. Here was a favorite swimming place for youngsters because it was an easy swim across the narrow channel to Killdeer, and then a tramp through the woods brought the braves ones to Sandy Shore, at no transportation cost.
Birch Island, almost connected to the Narrows by swampland, was eventually filled in and built up. Here, too, a pavilion was erected for the accommodation of patrons and the beach was semi-private.
At the turn of the century, several summer homes were built around the "circle" at Point Breeze and later several year-round houses were added. Off Point Breeze Road juts and arm of land, known as Loveland. Bay View had only three our four summer cottages nestled in the pines near Monsey Camp, the former Bay View House which was popular with young people of another era. It served as a popular girls' camp, open every summer under the direction of Miss Lillian Monsey and Miss Helen Hanley. Cottages and additional bunkhouses were added to the facilities, which included instruction in swimming, boating and water skiing.
At the southernmost end of the lake, along the Connecticut border, lies Colonial Park. In the early 1920's, George Hall built the Lake Hotel, which was later operated by William Haggerty as Indian Inn, a name it retained while operated by Edward Blanchart and others. In the late 50's, the spacious resort hotel was the main building of Lutherwood, a camp operated by the Lutherans of the area. It brought many young people to the lake in the summer, where they had swimming and boating at their private beach, in addition to instruction and a program of crafts and sports. A small store (called "The Dug Out") was operated by the Fritzche family who owned the beach rights and maintained it as a swimming spot for the public.
A section of waterfront comprised of about 35-40
acres located between Birch Island and Union Point was sold by Justin Herideen
to ACO Development Corp. (John Androlewicz, Milton Carter, and Henry Osowski)
who developed the property into a 64-room motel and conference center called Treasure
Island in 1965. The property included a 50-boat marina. The motel was destroyed
by fire in 1972. The balance of the property which included the restaurant and
swimming pool was salvaged and sold to Hometech Corp. in 1973 who operated the
restaurant and sports facility and planned to build a 50-unit condominium complex.
The restaurant and sports center burned in 1974 and the plans were abandoned.
The property was eventually sold to Noel Development Corp. in 1989 and construction
of 78 condo units began. In Feb. 1991, a joint venture was entered into with Bay
Finance Co. with a commercial loan that allowed the complex to be completed. Presently,
there are 78-units and a marina which is managed by the Treasure
Island Condominium Trust.
Copyright© OldeWebster 2001
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