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History Lives Here Text

Early Days on theLakeshore


ca1905 Unidentified Douglas lakeshore cottage


ca1900 Near Wiley Roadend looking north toward McVea property


By Dorothy Garesche Holland

Summer cottagers from St. Louis have visited the Douglas lakeshoresince the turn of the century. In 1977 Dorothy "Dot" (Garesche) Holland undertook torecord her impressions of the early years. These recollections were revised in1983. When she visited the 1997 exhibit. Painting the Town: A Century ofArt in Saugatuck and Douglas, whichincluded a painting done by Marie Garesche which Mrs. Holland had loaned to theSociety, she promised us a copy of her manuscript, but died the following year,in her nineties. This copy was kindly furnished by Vincent H. Beckman, a memberof the Cincinnaticontingent of summer cottagers. The Beckman family's arrival on the Douglas lakeshore is chronicled in another section ofDot's manuscript which will be included in a future edition of the newsletter.

For severalyears I have had the intention to jot down lakeshore memories and it wouldprobably still be merely an intention were it not for the needlings of the lateChick Bohn. These memories in no way pretend to add up to the definitivehistory of the lakeshore, they are personal and primarily of the St. Louis contingent,which included many members of my family.

St. Louisanswere not the first resorters in the shore. An early account of the lakeshore asa future summer resort was given me by the late Virgina Bartow. Her father, Dr.Edward Bartow, walked down along the lake from the old Ox-Bow Inn, now part ofthe art camp. They founded the section now called The Knoll. The originalowners included also Professor Lucius Sayre of the Universityof Kansas, members of the Caldwell family andFrederick Sperry. About 1970 Miss Bartow told me that four of the Knollcottages were still owned by descendants of the original owners who built in1898. Some of us remember Dr. Bartow, a tall, handsome old man with a whitemustache and a twinkle in his eyes. He was always at our branch post office inthe morning and, an avid stamp collector, on the lookout for new issues.

It was duringthe summer of 1899 that my aunt. Marie R. Garesche, visiting friends in SouthHaven, took the fruit boat up to Douglas andhired someone to drive her out in a buggy to the lakeshore. She had heard ofthis beautiful untouched stretch of beach and was immediately entranced withthe area. She bought about 100 feet of lakefront property from the McVea familyand made plans for the summer home to which she intended bringing her agedparents each year. As my aunts never threw away any letters, after the death ofthe last one, Lala, I spent many hours going through boxes of correspondence,keeping out anything of interest. In March of 1900 my grandfather, Ferdinand L.Garesche, wrote his daughter, Louise, who was teaching in Minnesota,"Marie is going ahead with her plans for her cottage - a piece of madnessnone of us can prevent." It was considered a"piece of madness"because there was so little money available. Marie was an art teacher at one ofthe public high schools in St. Louis and despite her training at the St. LouisSchool of Fine Arts, later the Art School of Washington University, and ayear's study in Paris under several well-known masters, she received a verysmall salary. A subsequent letter from her father to Louise reported that Mariehad modified her plans, the first ones were too costly.

Marie andseveral of her four sisters spent the summer of 1900 in the cottage, bothparents coming for visits plus several friends. Before her father arrived, hewrote that he knew the cottage was full, so if there was no room for him,please put him in the room underneath the cottage, "I don't mind beingwith the spiders." My Douglas memoriesbegin in this cottage, although they are merely hazy fragments.

In 1909 my father, Ferdinand A.Garesche, and his brother-in-law, James B. J. O'Brien, bought about 30 feet ofproperty on the south end of Marie's and put up their cottage. In the early1900s the trip from St. Louis to Douglas was no matter of a seven or eight hour drive. Wetook the day train to Chicago, our familygetting on in Madison, Illinois,just across the river from St. Louiswhere we lived. At the Chicagostation we climbed aboard a Parmalee bus (in the very early days it washorse-drawn) and headed for the pier. There we took the lake steamer for theovernight trip, getting off either at Holland orthe closer Jenison Park. Breakfast waseither in Hollandor Saugatuck after we arrived by the Interurban which ended its run in front ofthe Butler Hotel. Then by bus or Mr. Daggett's taxi to the lakeshore. Later Mr.Daggett would bring over the trunks and the barrel of beer my father alwayssent up - once in a while one ofthe bottles turns up, a beautiful blue-green. One night there was a terriblestorm as we crossed the take and we were all scared and very ill; my mothersaid never again. From then on it was the night train to Chicago and the Pere Marquette Railroad to Fennvillewhere our old friend Mr. Daggett would meet us.

At first all supplies came from Saugatuck and my parents and aunts wouldoften walk to the Kalamazoo River and row over. Eachfamily rented a boat for the season - our boat was number 17. There was also aferry that crossed every hour, returning on the half hour, round trip a nickel.Later a horse-drawn bus ambled along the shore driven by one of the old men ofthe Campbell family, he was very kind to children and allowed my brother, John,when he was five or six years old, to ride up and down with him. There werealso two motor buses from Saugatuck, both driven by enormously fat men. Eachbus had four long seats that were open at the ends. When the buses werecrowded, after the movies for instance, adventurous ones stood on the runningboards.

ca 1950Interior of St Peters


It was thosesame buses that took us to -Mass on Sundays, to the small white frame St.Peter's [near the river in Douglas]. Later a newSt. Peter's was erected on the edge of the bluff overlooking the river. Itsbeautiful simplicity has pleased everyone, residents and vacationers alike. Formany years there was no resident pastor, the priest from South Haven came everySunday morning. Sometimes his car broke down, sometimes the road wasimpassable, and he would phone Mrs. Fish who lived across the side street totell us there would be no Mass. Mrs. Fish took care of the vestments and thechurch was opened by Mr. Devine who also acted as usher and collection taker.


Sometimes theappointed altar boy would not appear and when this became evident several boysor young men would step up into the sanctuary to serve. For years St. Louisan,Mrs. George Hellmuth, made herself responsible for the flowers and I rememberher coming to our cottage to tell my mother it was her turn the followingSunday to provide them. She could either bring the flowers herself or give Mrs.Hellmuth two dollars and she would see to them.


ca 1915 St Peters Church


There was noelectricity at first. We had coal-oil lamps in the living room, dining room andkitchens, and candles for the bedrooms. Electricity was brought to the shoreafter a few years, but it was temperamental and the slightest storm would causeit to go off, so for years we kept a supply of candles and lamps on hand. Wealways had plumbing, although each cottage had a little outhouse for the help,but for a long time we had no hot water, except that heated on the kitchenstove or a little sterno in the bathroom where my father heated his shavingwater.


After a fewyears the MacDonald brothers opened a grocery store in Douglasand fruit and vegetables were brought around by nearby farmers, -- the Felkerpeaches were especially delicious. Later on the Lelands opened a store inSaugatuck, an establishment with groceries on one side and merchandise on theother. I remember the little trolleys on wires that would be sent whizzing fromthe various counters to the cashier. The ButlerPantry occupies part of that space today. Mr. Walz was the butcher, we couldhear his "Good morning," as we sat at the breakfast table and hewould deliver the order in the early afternoon.


When I wasvery young there was an ice cream and candy stand across the road from ourcottage, just a little stall where the shutters could be pulled down at night.It was owned by Sam McVea, "Uncle Sam" everyone called him, and laterhe was joined by his nephew Bill, the father of the present Bill McVea. Theyadded a screened-in summer house holding two tables and had a choice ofchocolate or strawberry sundae, but my generation preferred a large nickel icecream cone or a box of Cracker Jacks with its prize. In the 1920s, much to thedelight of the lakeshore residents, Bill McVea opened a grocery store. And itwas a marvelous store, any staple anyone wanted or asked for, fresh vegetablesand fruit from the nearby farms or even closer. One day my mother wanted somefresh corn and Bill turned to one of his helpers and said, "Go out andpick a dozen ears for Mrs. Garesche."


McVea store inthe off season


For many yearsthere was a wonderful butcher at the McVea store, old Charlie, a Czech, who hadbeen a Chicagobutcher until he retired and bought a little place down the shore. In onecorner of the store were newspapers. Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis paperscould be reserved, marked with the person's name, andput in a large pile. There was aalso a branch post office and the morning mail, distributed about 9:30, was thefocal point of the day. Everyone gathered there, everyone knew who had recentlyarrived, bridge dates were made, teenage gatherings arranged and it was almostas good as a club.


Bill andGertrude McVea were always patient, helpful and courteous, even in the midst ofdemanding customers, kids grabbing chewing gum, dogs on leashes and severalpeople all wanting to be waited on at once. McVeas delivered not onlygroceries, but milk. Driving the truck, a museum piece, was a prized job; mycousin, EdmondBenoist, was one of the first drivers and was much envied by hiscontemporaries. It became a tradition for each driver to inscribe his nameinside on the ceiling. The present Bill McVea still has the truck, called"Bruno" by its devoted drivers, and the names are still visible.


In my memoryDouglas was a real paradise for children, we could roam safely at will and wespent days roaming - through Shorewood, through Camp Gray with its mysteriouswooded paths, down to Campbell's dock to climb around in the boathouses untilan irate Mr. Campbell chased us out, through the woods behind Trumbull's andRosemont where we picked blackberries and discovered an arbor of luscious whitegrapes to which we, illegally, helped ourselves. Betty von Brecht, MarieMichel, Wilhelmina Howard and I rambled together, sometimes taking picniclunches, often climbing Baldhead or taking the chain ferry to Saugatuck. Wewandered through meadows catching butterflies, we collected tiny baby frogs onthe river road, and searched for turtles in Turtle Creek.


In the morningsand early evenings everyone went to the tennis court owned by Trumbull's, a court still used by the presentowners, the Corletts. It was the principal gathering place, togetherness beingmore important than the actual game. As 10 or 11-year-olds we were snubbed byour teenage elders, but we came anyway. Then, as now, there were beach suppers,marshmallow and hot dog roasts, and, sometimes in August, corn roasts.


Card gameswere popular from the very first days and I can remember being half asleep whena loud cry would come up from the dining room as someone won a big pot atpoker. My parents, mother's sisters, Laura and Rosaline O'Brien and theirfriends loved to play and the evening would end with a Welsh rarebit made by mymother. Often when they were playing there would be a tap on the window andthere would be Miss Sophie Sloan with a whispered, "Can I get in thegame?" She loved the company of younger people and they loved to have her.


Then there werethe more staid 500 and, later, bridge parties with four or five tables ofdressed-up ladies and a sprinkling of men. Before flashlights were popular eachhousehold had one or more candle lanterns and as each guest came in she woulddeposit her lantern at the door. When it came time to go home there would bemuch confusion trying to identify the lanterns. The wise ones had tied acolored string around the handle. Elaborate refreshments were served about 11,my mother's specialty was tomatoes stuffed with crabmeat salad and hot biscuitsfollowed by ice cream with red raspberries and cake. I was pressed into serviceto help the cook and pass the biscuits. Every cottage had a cook, often anursemaid, and on Thursdays and Sundays they would gather at the Douglas Beachfor a picnic.


The place to go for the teenagersand almost teenagers, especially on Saturday and Wednesday nights, was the BigPavilion in Saugatuck. One of the mothers would take a group of us over andfind a bench on the river side. Girls who stayed on the street side werelooking for pickups, so it was said. At any rate, those from the lakeshorealways settled in about the same spot. The floor was wonderful, the musicequally wonderful, and each dance cost seven cents. When the boys were brokeour mothers would buy tickets. The girls paid 15 cents entrance fee to thePavilion, but the boys managed to slip over one of the rails on the porch alongthe street side or go through a window. At one end of the pavilion were themovies and at the other end an ice cream and refreshment stand. For someobscure reason we never ate there. Parrish's Drug Store was the place to go.

To return tothe cottage building. Aunt Marie, not foreseeing the day when almost everycottage would need two parking spaces, proceeded to build three more cottageson her property. The one next to our family cottage went up about 1911 or 1912and was rented for many years to the Dinks Parrish family of St. Louis; Mr. Parrish never came to Douglas,but the ladies in his family loved it. Mrs. Parrish, always known as "MissAg" even to her children, had two sisters who lived with them "AuntSal," an unbelievably salty character, and another who was rarely seen.There were three Parrish daughters, all great readers, Grace and Wilhelmina,excellent, almost professional photographers, whose work has been exhibited atthe Missouri Historical Society, and the youngest, Isabelle, later Mrs. MorganMcCormick.


This cottage,named "Sans Souci" meaning "without care," was the summerhome of the von Brecht family of St. Louis for many years. In 1954, after renting it forseveral seasons, Chick and Jeanne Bohn purchased it, and Jeanne, her childrenand grandchildren occupy it every year. The next cottage erected on theproperty, right on the beach, was the Maisonette, put up about 1914, with alower level of two extra bedrooms. In the 40s it was purchased by my aunt, LalaGaresche and her friend, Grace von Phul, and the lower part remodeled andenlarged. Lala died in 1961 and Grace sold it to Mary Northern and her brotherand sister-in-law, the Hafkas, who sold it to Sue Erikson of Hinsdale, who hasdone considerable remodeling, bringing in the furniture from her former homeand has made a lovely year-round house.


It wasprobably about 1916 that Aunt Marie built the "cement" cottage,actually stucco and called it "Ravinedge." She lived in this cottagefor every summer from then on, except the seven or so years she was in Europe. At one time she had severe eye trouble and thedoctor told her she must be absolutely quiet for a long period. She and hersister, Millie, decided to spend the winter, so she installed a furnace andsettled down. Much to the consternation of the family in St. Louis, she sent home snapshots of thefrozen lake and, even worse, of the shore photographed from the frozen water.She was spending her "quiet" winter climbing out over the ice moundsto take pictures! Unfortunately, these pictures have been lost. Ravinedge wasleft to her sisters, Lala and Mimi, and eventually came to me in 1961. I rentthe upper part, my son Gary and I live in the apartment below, and further downthe old studio has been remodeled into an apartment.


Before leavingMarie R. Garesche, I must add a few words about her art; unfortunately she hadno agent to promote her work and she sold her pictures in her Michiganstudio and in Floridawhere she spent many winters and had a small shop and studio. Many of herpaintings are lovely, especially those she did in Greece and the flower pictures. Inher seventies she took up etching, installed an etching press (since donated toOx-Bow) in the Michiganstudio and turned out some really handsome etchings. She exhibited frequently,her pictures being accepted at many juried shows. She was a founding member ofthe Artists' Guild of St. Louisand of Artists' Equity in the same city. Most of the family own and cherish herpictures.


In 1900 one ofAunt Marie's friends, Mrs. John O'Fallon Delaney, came to see her new summerhome, and promptly fell in lovewith the area, buying the property south of Marie's, excluding the McVea rightof way. The Delaney cottage was larger and much more elegant than anypreviously built. Although the Delaneys had no children, they wanted plenty ofroom for relatives and friends. Her sister, Miss Sophie Sloan, lived with themand the two ladies always referred to each other as "Sister Lizzie"and "Sister Sophie." Mr. Delaney lived the life of an Englishgentleman portrayed in novels written before the first World War. He hadinherited a great deal of money, he had received an excellent education,holding degrees in both law and medicine, he had traveled extensively and hadnever worked a day in his life. Tall and handsome, he always, even to his lastsomewhat hazy days, had beautiful courtly manners. Mrs. Delaney, a busy,bustling little woman was one of the kindest people alive and never happierthan when doing something for someone.



To be continued page 157