Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blue Mountain Lake’s Thacher Island Revisited

GHTSr & TomYou see me here standing where my great-great grandfather George Hornell Thacher Sr. once stood on the porch of the family lodge built in 1867 on Thacher Island on Blue Mountain Lake.   The photo is not dated but given his aged appearance (no, the guy on the left), I believe it to be from the early 1880s.

My father spoke of visiting his uncle on the island as a young boy in the 1940s.   No Thacher has had the opportunity to walk the island since then. It had always been a dream of mine to visit my family’s first summer home. A dream fulfilled thanks to the hospitality of John and Janet O’Loughlin, whose family has owned the island for over two decades.

I am extremely grateful to John who, after discovering my writing, sought me out and extended an invitation for my family and me to visit their island.

erectingThe island holds a special place in the hearts of the O’Loughlins and their extended family.   Janet and her brother spent many childhood summers lodging at Potter’s.   She often visited the Andersen family, who owned the island at that time. She and her brother fought over just which of them would one day buy the island and make it theirs. In the end, it was Janet’s beloved, late brother who made the island part of their legacy.

Their family has lovingly restored and expanded the lodge.   The original walls of the 1867 lodge still remain within newly finished interior and exterior walls, noticeable by the almost one-foot-thick door jambs. Just as the original cabin remains, albeit hidden, on the island, I wondered what other traces of my family remained on Thacher Island.

the poemWhen I researched my family’s time on the island, I came across this interesting 1920 postcard showing a wooden plaque affixed to a tree.   Was this still there?

The postcard intrigued me because the lettering is too small to discern anything other than “The Lonesome Pine”. I assumed the meaning would be lost to posterity until I made a find in my cousin’s family photo album.  In this photo, shown above, four of the five Thacher brothers are seen erecting the shrine in September of 1919. My grandfather Kenelm is at left, George Hornell Thacher 3rd is hammering, and Edwin (also known as Ebby T.) and Thomas are crouching on the right.

Another photo shows a close-up of the text of the shrine. It is the poem “The Lonesome Pine”, written by Charles Frederick Stansbury.   The words of the poem evoke a tall pine tree on the island that towers over all the others.

An 1870s photo of the island by Seneca Ray Stoddard, shows one pine tree eclipsed its neighbors by more than thirty feet.  This must have been the Lonesome Pine located about one hundred feet behind the lodge.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.56.21 PMAlas, the tree is no more. Whether it succumbed to old age or the July 1995 microburst is not clear. John said that the island lost hundreds of trees in the microburst and it took him and the family weeks to clean up the destruction.

Momentarily dejected by this discovery, my spirits rose when John revealed that another part of our family legacy has indeed survived on the island. John mentioned having seen a photo in one of my earlier articles of John Boyd Thacher 2nd rowing a guide boat off the north shore of the island.

John led me along a path through the woods from the cabin to their boathouse.   As we entered the boathouse, John pulled away a large tarp and there she was.

JBT2 guideboatThe photo of John Boyd Thacher 2nd is from 1922, but it could be that this guide boat dates back to the Thachers’ earliest times on the island in the 1870s.   (Perhaps a guide boat historian would like to take on the challenge of determining the age of this boat!)

As we prepared to leave the island, I realized that I misspoke when I said we were the first Thachers in over seventy years to walk the island’s paths. John and Janet’s two-year old grandson, who now explores these shores, carries on the island’s name as legacy to their family and ours.


Related Stories

Tom is the great great grandson of the very first “summer folk” on Blue Mountain Lake. The Thacher family built the first private summer home on Thacher Island in 1867.

Tom has spent every summer of his life on Indian Point of Raquette Lake on lands purchased by his family in 1876. In researching the origins of his family’s century old, one-room cabin, Tom is discovering over 200 years of Adirondack History seen through the lens of one plot of land.

Extended versions of this article and other stories and photos can be found at Fifty Acres of Beach and Wood which chronicles tales of iconic characters of Adirondack history whose footprints have graced the shores of Indian Point.

Tom is currently fundraising to publish a book of his research. The proceeds from the book will support the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts. You can make a contribution to the book fund here:

2 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    What a great story. Thanks!

  2. Tom:

    What a wonderful story, very glad you published it. I had not known about the second Thacher Island until my brother directed me to you article.
    I have been researching the Thacher Family for over 35 years and have put much of it online on my website:
    Please take a look and see if you have additional information (or corrections) to your Thacher’s. It would be great if you have any photos to add of family.
    And of course info to bring family up to date (nothing on living people is added without written permission).
    Regards, John

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