Camping on Keuka Lake
From the Diary of Will S. Gerity
…At 12 o'clock, Will, Clate and myself took a tramp over to Wayne, a small place with 3 churches and quite a number of Dwellings. A nice, quiet place with a fine lake 2 miles long. It took us about 20 min. to walk over and as I wanted to go over to Crystal Spring and had seen all there was at Wayne, I proposed to ride over. We did not have much trouble in getting a rig as a gentleman from Ovid told us to take his. This we did and drove there in about 1/2 hour, seeing some fine country. At the springs we see a large number of Elmira people. Had a short chat with some when we returned to Wayne. The House at Crystal is very nice, a four-story wood building. The water is very nice, of which I took a good drink. Were told the house was more than full. We had a nice walk into camp, reaching it about 4 1/2 and I can say I was hungry. It was not long before we sat down to the table for dinner. The Blessing was asked by Morris. For some reason I was ahead as to the one who asked the Blessing, but it don't make any change in my programe. Our Bill of Fare: New Potatoes Boil, Peas grand, Tea, Coffee, Mummichub, Iceland Moss Pudding, Milk, &c. As I said before I was hungry so every thing was better than common and I eat more than I ought to, but it was not long with me as there was always something going on to use up a good full meal…
…I wiped the Dishes for Van, as he is to go to Hammondsport to meet his wife. So all of us went down to Keuka with him and to my surprise Joe is to start home. So he got on the Boat and went to Col. Moore's to see about some pictures…After the Boat went, I stopped and took some Sulphur Water. Then back to camp and went in the lake and had a nice bath. Also washed the larger boat…I took the large boat with the Flag hoisted. We rowed down to the Landing. There had a chance to bid Joe good bye. Also take Van and his wife in with us. Had lots of fun as we all had on odd hats. After reaching camp, come our Dinner…A Lady in camp was strange and put quite a stoppe[r] to our high times and odd speeches. But at 3 1/2 all were at the table and I asked the Blessing…After eating a good meal, some time was spent talking and joking…A fire was started on the Beach which was grand, a description of which I should fail in. But it was grand. I got a blanket and lay down on it close to that fire, staying there until 10 o'clock, talking with the boys…So this day has gone and our time on this lake is nearly through with and I am in much better trim in every way.
This I can say is one of our loveliest of days and it's grand to be out in the country where one can enjoy it. What a change in the air. It's so pure…
Monday, August 1st., 1870
This, the first day of the month and week, finds me up and in good trim on the banks of Lake Keuka having a good rest from all my duties when at home. But the time is almost expired as we break camp in the morning…(After breakfast) I went out fishing. Was gone 3 hours and only caught 2 fish, one a perch another a pickerel, being the only one caught during our stay. Our fishing was grand as the assortment is good and all large, as follows—Bass, Perch, Bull-heads, Sunfish & Pickerel. Then we have had all we could eat and in every way our trip was grand, only wish we had more of it…
I went down to the Landing with Will…On the way back I got a good drink of sulphur water which I now like. Our walk was just grand. After reaching camp, I boiled potatoes for morning. Then went out for a ride, and I must say we have not had as fine an evening during our stay, as the lake is as smooth as glass. Then the moon shines and all so grand, the air just right in every way. Our camp fire was built. Then the music—I can't describe it—mingled with the thoughts of home…
This lovely morning finds me up and on the Bank of Keuka Lake at 4 1/2 one grand morning… All are up at this early hour as we are to "Break Camp." I commenced the day's doing by starting the fire; then come frying my potatoes. This is a big job as our meal is this alone. Well, I must confess now that as the time has come, I am homesick… Our breakfast was on the table at 6 o'clock. The Blessing was asked by Will, when come our last Bill of Fare: Fried potatoes, bread & butter; tea & coffee, eggs &c. just what anyone could find to eat. At this meal all just put in having a good time. I put on my white clothes so was dressed up for the first time in two weeks. At about 8 I had all my traps in their place and then bid all that were in camp (visitors) adieu and so went down to take my last drink from the spring with Will… After reaching the Landing, we had some time there to wait… The Keuka came in… After waiting until 11 o'clock, the Young come in, so all got on. This was a fine ride, as I had not been on the lake this way before.
We reached Penn Yan at 12:30, then went up to the Benham House and had Dinner at 1… After Dinner I took a tramp around the place and was very much pleased with it. Went up to see S. Ayers but missed him. See him on the street. Also Sam Coe and had quite a chat with them. One hour before car time, we went down to the Depot and went in and see the Towsey Boys and had quite a chat with them. At last, 6 o'clock come, and so did the cars. We were soon all aboard, having a nice ride… It was 8 1/2 when we reached Elmira "It's good to be home for "There's no Place like Home." Our stay at the Depot was short. Bidding our Waverly friends Good Bye, we started for home… It was not long before our supper was on the table, but I could not eat much. Went down to the store to see how things were. Everything was natural. Retired, taking my clothes off, for the first time in two weeks. So ends the sketch of my camping trip.
©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.