Camping on Keuka Lake
From the Diary of Will S. Gerity
This is a grand morn after our rain of yesterday afternoon. It finds me up and around in the best of trim at about 7 o'clock and in place of tramping down to the Store, I tramp out to the Lake and there take a good wash and prepare for Breakfast which as it came time for every man was up and about. At about our regular hour we had a good meal…after which I took my regular morning walk. Then back to camp and after a talk, we made haste and went down to Keuka Landing and took the boat for Urbana Wine Cellar.(1) This was a nice morning ride. We left camp about 10 and landed on the other [side] of Lake at about 11…At the Wine Cellar we were met by John Watrous, clerk of the cellar, who took great pains to show us everything. One pile had 15,000 in it, and in every way it's a big thing. We spent some 2 hours there, then went down to Grove Spring House.(2)
There we had to wait some time, as the Boat Keuka did not come along until 3 1/2. I was very hungry so the time went slow. We all got on and when 1/2 way across the lake, we had to turn around and go back to the Wine Cellar. There changed Boat and got on the new large one, Young. This is the largest boat on the Lake but for me it is a hard boat to ride in. When near Keuka it commenced to rain and when we landed, it rained very hard, so we had to remain there for some time. But there being so many of us, we cut up and had lots of fun. Will and I took a tramp in the rain back to camp. Then it was 5 o'clock, rather late for Dinner, but they had everything all ready for us on our return. This was a ride I shall long remember. I received a paper from home. "Stell's" writing, but it was 2 or 3 days old and one I had had in my hands before. As I have said at 5 1/2 we were all at the table. The Blessing being asked by Gus, we commenced on our Bill of Fare: National Jamboree, Tea, Coffee, Bread Pudding. In this Jamboree there were most everything—Potatoes, Bread, Milk, Pork, Birds, Salt, Pepper etc, which makes one of the best dishes any one can get up, especially when one is so hungry. We were some time at the table, as all eat slow and large quantities. After supper there was not much going on, so we gathered in our tent, then sung, laughed, talked and spent the evening hours until 9 1/2, when the 20th Chapt. of Prov. was read by Gus, then prayer, when we tried to go to Bed, but there was no sleeping to be done as some commenced to cut up, I in with them, being singing which lasted until after 11 o'clock when I made out with all that was going on fall sound asleep. So this, the 7th day from home, has gone, and again I can say Good Night.
This lovely morning finds me up at my usual hour of late, 7 o'clock, on the bank of the Keuka Lake where the air is as fresh and pure as can be, and here I can note this one thing down, that I am entirely free from cold, and if I were at home doing what I do here, people would think me foolish but for some reason I am entirely free from any thought of colds. After taking my regular morning wash, my time was given to the Breakfast…After Breakfast I spent a few moments writing up my Diary, which I am sorry to say is all the time behind, as there is something going on all the time which keeps me from it. After nicely writing, nothing would do but I must tramp one mile down to the landing as our friend Gus Wilson is going home. At 10 o'clock I started, having put on clean clothes & blacked up my boots.
Reached the landing some time before the Boat come, but while there the Young [steamboat George R. Youngs] come in with a large party on board from Penn Yan, a Sunday School picnic. A young man by the name of Towsey, son of Rev. Thos. Towsey, jumped off and shook hands with me…We spent some time at the landing as the Boat Gus was to take was late, but we cut up and so made time pass quick, as it was after 12 when we returned to camp. When there my time was spent in various ways, laughing and having lots of fun until it was time to commence dinner which as usual, falls on Morris, Will & myself. When we had all things ready at our usual hour, 4 o'clock, all were at the table. The blessing was asked by Will, when we went at our big and good Bill of Fare: Potato Balls, Fried Fish, Perch & Bass, Tea, Coffee, Bread, Corn Starch Pudding, all of which I eat with a few pickles and some green cucumbers, not getting through until after 5 when all the boys in camp went away, some fishing, others berrying, while some took a tramp up the lake after some of the finest stone I ever see and the most regular in shape and size. When with a little time you can made a splendid card.
As I said, all had gone away, so I was alone in camp. I took my Diary and wrote up the day's doing as far as I could, and wrote some letter[s],…but after once nicely into the writing, Will come in and nothing would do but I must go with him down to the sulphur spring. So we started, but I did not get any farther than Mr. Stanhope, the man who has charge of the Vineyards belonging to Mr. McDowell. There I stayed and talked with him until they returned from the spring. Went out and took a drink from the pails, then back to camp. It was rather late and, by the way about 2 o'clock, we had a heavy rain which put our fire out and drove all into their tents. So in the evening there was not much going on. At 9 all were at the table and Morris read the 96th Psalm, then prayer by him, when all went to bed. So this evening was spent rather quiet.
This is what anyone can call a nice day, and with all its beauty it finds me up at my work somewhat earlier [than] common as we have quite a tramp before us. [Had breakfast, which included fried fish]…The nicest we have had, so I eat four. They were fresh and sweet. So far we have caught all we could eat and not half trying. There they are so nice and large, and the meat so sweet. At 9 1/2 we were all through with our eating, then all turned in and helped to clear the table.
Pete & Van went down to the landing while the rest of us went up to see the Glen. And after a nice ride and then a long tramp, we…finally found what they call "Barrington Glen." It's a nice place when once in it…We spent some time there, but Morris and I were the first to start, so we took the road and went alone, having a nice walk and talk, reaching the Camp at about 1 o'clock, all tired out and very glad to see our home.
Then come our Dinner, but just here we had some rain, but not enough to hurt our cooking, and by our regular hour, we had Dinner on the table. The Blessing was asked by myself. Then went our Bill of Fare: Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Stew, Bread & Butter, Tea & Coffee, 1 min. Pudding with other things—pickles, cakes, cucumbers etc…Then come a tramp down to the landing. The boat had some sugar that come in my name from Gus. Remained there some time. Then went up to the sulphur spring and took some of the good water which makes me feel all right.
We had our grand "Pow Wow" or anything you may wish to call it, which begun at about 8 and lasted until 10 1/2. First came music by Morris, then Van took the stand and began his part…As my time is so broken up will only give the program and write doings when I can. All had on caps made for this jubilee. Then the camp was illuminated with Chinese lanterns which made it look nice.
1. Music by M. L. Bennett
2. New Members
3. Speech by Geo. B. VanVelsor
4. Music — a song by club
5, History of Club by Geo. VanV
7. Poetry by M. L. Bennett
8. (Music) — Busted
9. Poetry by Lin Randall
10.Poetry by M. L. B.
11.Little of everything by all, which made a big time, every one doing all they could to make fun, then every thing was original…
This morning finds me up and on the banks of Lake Keuka with our party having good times. I was up at 7 1/2 when some time was spent washing and brushing up. When I commenced to help on the Breakfast which was ready at our regular hour, when we all were at the table and had the Blessing asked by Joe, then we went at our Bill of Fare: Potatoes, Slap Jack, Maple Syrup, Tea & Coffee, with other good things that I can't remember of. Was Perch and Bass Fried and I can say they all went well, all doing what ought to be done to make way with it. The only fault one can find in our trips is the eating. After breakfast some time was spent in talking when I took my walk down to the Landing…[The dinner "Bill of Fare" was] Jamboree U. S., Bread new, Pickles & Cucumber, New Potatoes, Berry Pudding, Custard Bread, Milk, Butter &c., all of which as usual went good. I eat as much as I could hold…I went out with Will across the lake over to Oak Lodge…Spent the remainder of the evening around the camp fire, where the time was spent singing, joking and in every way having a good time. When at 9 o'clock, after our fun, Joe read the 75th Psalm and all retired. So this day has gone & with it I have had a good days rest.
©1991, Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr.
Thanks to Jill Middleton of Horseheads, who owns the three volumes of the Will S. Gerrity diary, for permission to print these excerpts. A portion of this material was published in York State Tradition in the Fall 1973 and Winter 1974 issues.