July 1991

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Camping on Keuka Lake


From the Diary of Will S. Gerity

Edited by

Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr.

Introduction, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Part II

Friday, 22nd.

Is another one of our lovely day[s] and it finds me up early for camp life, as it was 7 1/2 when I awoke, having a fine sleep on our new bed of Hemlocks and, as I have said before, it[']s one of the healthiest of all Beds. At least I always sleep so sound. After once up, I tramp down to the lake and wash, clean up, then commence at my breakfast as I am to Boil Potatoes to fry. So my time is all put in until 9 o'clock, when all were at the table. The Blessing was asked by Gus, when we begun at our Bill of Fare: Fried Potatoes, Fish, Bread, Toast, Tea and Coffee, together with a number of small things.

After eating all I could and lounging around for a short time, Will, Van & I went down to Keuka landing and see the Boats come in, but still there was no mail. We took our time all the way, both down & back as our Breakfast was most too much for us. On my return to camp, I took my Diary and put what I could remember down, so my time [was] all taken up until I took my letter paper out to write to Nett.1 But the letter did not amount to much as all the boys in camp were soon down where I was, so I gave it up.

Then came Dinner which as here to fore has given vent to some of the oddest of speeches. Van always doing his part. So far we have been regular as to our meal hours, having Breakfast at 9 and Dinner at 4, and at all times we are finding the boys ready to eat. Our Dinner hour was at 4 and all were at the table. The Blessing being asked, we commenced at our Bill of Fare: Potatoes, Fish, Tea, Coffee, Berries, Berry Pudding with a number of other things too numerous to mention. After eating more than our fill, we spent some time in talking. In the meantime, some visitors in camp told of a sulphur spring a short tramp below us. So nothing would do but we must have some of the water. So we went down and drank all we wished and returned to Camp very much refreshed.

Some of our party have been down to Keuka every time the Boats come for news from home but up to this time none has been heard. After gathering in our tent we had some talking. This was of the "odd" kind which makes a change for us. At about 9 o'clock the _________ chapter of __________ was read by Will and then prayer when all went to their place of rest. But there was not much, as it was not long before everyone in our tent was up singing at the top of their voice, in every way trying to make all the noise they can as the Horn was used. But I can't describe it as there was so much going on. This lasted quite late as it was nearly 12 when I got to sleep.

Saturday, 23rd.

Is one of the finest days we can have. Still is very warm. I was up at 7 o'clock and went down to the beach, then took a fine wash in the Lake as the water is very clear and pure. In fact, I do think its the nicest place we have yet seen. Then our tents are in as grand a place as one could wish for. After washing up, I commence my part of the morning work by taking a kettle of Potatoes and washing them. Soon had the fire going. Then come our Breakfast, which we had at our regular hour of 9 o'clock with a new Bill of Fare: Potatoes, Toast, Eggs, Tea, Coffee, Bennett's Slap Jacks, Maple Syrup, etc. all of which I took my part to make way with them. As a general thing, it takes from 1 1/2 to 2 hours to eat a meal with us as we always have so much talking to do.

After eating a good meal, Will and myself took a tramp around, then went down to the landing to get some news from home, but as the Boat from Penn Yan did not come in, we waited for the one from Hammondsport. But on this there was no mail. But it brought Joe Davis & Ed Pickering in as visitors, so we all went up to camp. Joe had a Box from the Girls. In it was a Boquet from Nett for me, one from Hatt for Will, then the two sent one to Pete and Morris together, with some of the nicest cookies. But for all they are not as nice as all say, as the "Doughnuts" were the best. After having quite a chat with the boys and about 2 o'clock I commenced at my part to get up a dinner which was not over with until 3 1/2. When the party of 9 gathered around the table, I asked the Blessing. Then we commenced at our "bill of fare:" Jam Potatoes, Fish, Toast, Tea, Coffee, Bread & Butter, Rice Pudding, and in with all this we make with about 6 qts. of nice sweet milk. Then the Lady whose Husband has charge of the farm gave us a nice Grape Pie.

After eating very hearty I went with Will down to the Landing. I got a Letter & Paper from my Dear Sister Stell. How much I should like to have her come out here and see us as I know she would enjoy it. Also got a letter for Clate, this being the only mail. On our return to camp we stopped and took a drink of the sulphur water which was tip top. After reaching camp I went out fishing and caught one nice Bass. Also had a nice Perch up to the Boat when my Line gave way with Mr. Fish, this being the first of my fishing. Our evening was well spent, everyone trying to enjoy himself. But I shall not try to say much. Had prayers at 9. Pete read the 138 Psalm, then prayer. But it was some time before we got to bed. Joe & Ed slept with us.

Sunday, 24th.

Is another one of our lovely mornings. It finds me up on the banks of Lake Keuka at about 7 1/2. The morning is grand. After I got up, I went down to the Lake shore and took a fine bath, changing my clothes. Went up to camp and commenced on my part of the Breakfast. So here I have nothing more to say until we had our meal which was grand as we tried our best to get an extra meal for our visitors at about our usual hour. Some later we gathered at the table at 10. Blessing was asked by Van, then came Bill of Fare: Boil Potatoes, Fried Fish, Toast, New Butter, Slap Jacks, Maple Syrup, Tea, Coffee, with our usual supply of new milk. As I am hungry, I did my part to make way with what I wanted, which was more than I ought to eat. After which I took my Diary and went one side from camp and wrote up all I could of the days doing on Saturday. So in this way I made out to keep rather a quiet day.

Still for Sunday there was more or less noise made, then the talk was on different subjects to what they should be. Still each one seemed to enjoy themselves. There was one grand sight and this is to see the Boys laying around with a blanket under the shade of the large pines. While there we had some calls. Young Wycoff come in and see us. Not long after they left and about 3 1/2, we had a hard rain. This interfered with our dinner some, making us late, but it came around all OK. It was a grand thing to be out camping and having it rain when you are all ready for it. I spent sometime trying to prepare my part. When at 4 1/2 all were at the table and then the Blessing was asked by Joe Davis, when we commenced out Bill of Fare: Jambone Bread, Fried Fish, Tea, Coffee, Manioca Pudding, etc., all of which were tip top and I eat hearty which did me good, except too much.

It was after 5 when we got through. Then Clate & I got in the small boat, Will, Ed & Gus in the other and went across the lake more than a mile. The point in view was Bluff Point. Before leaving home I had formed an idea, but when passing it on the steamer was disappointed as it was no where near my idea as I had formed it. It was a huge pile of rocks. But on reaching it today have changed my mind. As we come up to the point and landed, I find a bluff point indeed and had hard work to reach the top which had a fine grove of trees on its banks. After reaching this point we had a big and long tug to reach the top. On the way up we looked back and see one of the finest sights I ever see. The country was lovely.

After reaching the top we had good luck and were favored by a young man who was kind enough to take us up on the house top.2 There we had one of the finest of views, looking over 5 counties. As we look down the lake, one can see any number of Vineyards, while up the lake there are any no. of fine farms. We could see Mud Lake very plain, a small lake 3 miles long, but we were tired all out and had quite a tramp before us so we went down after staying 1/2 hour. Had a nice row over the lake back to camp. Reaching it at dusk, having been gone 3 hours. Our evening was spent talking, singing, and having as good a time as could be for Sunday night. This evening is spent in a different way than those at home, and with a different party. This I like for a change. The days pass by very fast and I hardly know what becomes of them. Here I will say "Good Night."

©1991, Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr.
Introduction, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV


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.


1. "Nett" was the nickname of Janet E. Dounce, the girl Will was courting and whom he later married.

2. The house at the top of Bluff Point from whose roof they observed the view was the Wagener Mansion, a Greek Revival structure built in 1833.

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