Narrowing down the date of the Lenno and Owassa poem.
While the earliest known photograph of the lake dates from 1896, the name Lake Owassa did not pre-date that by very much. Up until the 1890’s, the lake was known as Long Pond, or even less eloquently as Long Swamp--
New York Times, Wednesday, June 21, 1883, page 5, DROWNED IN LONG SWAMP. BRANCHVILLE, N.J., June 20.--George C. Heald, 19 years old, was drowned in Long Swamp last evening. Heald was a son of Charles G. Heald, of Cooperstown, N.Y. Accompanied by several young men, Heald was bathing in the swamp and was taken with cramps, sinking before his companions could reach him. The body has not yet been recovered.
So far, the earliest references we’ve found to the lake being called Owassa are this July 1896 Forest & Stream advertisement, and this whimsical news article published in September 1897—
Incidentally, most of the ‘outside’ literature and maps, e.g. from New Jersey State geological, botanical, health department, forestry and water supply annual reports-- still called us Long Pond until around 1900-1902. The poem which renamed the lake was written by Branchville’s Reverend George William Lloyd in requiem to his departed wife Sarah Prince Lloyd. Sarah died at age 71 on October 5th, 1890, leaving Lloyd a widower, with their only two children to survive to adulthood; Georgina and Wilhelmina (Minnie).
Sarah is interred at the Branchville Cemetery in the Lloyd family plot, as the rest were later. However, the published items above indicate that Lloyd must have written the poem, and locals & vacationers were referring to the lake, as ‘Owassa’ by the fall of 1896, long before he retired and began publishing his poetry in 1899. Another rare ‘swan song’ booklet of poetry of Lloyd’s from this period is titled, Twilight Orisons. The poem, Lenno and Owassa, was first published in a booklet titled, Lyrics of Lake and Stream in 1899; excerpted---
His brave heart sank within him With a boding, shuddering fear, That her days on earth were numbered, And the parting very near.
Alas! It did not tarry; She reeled and tottered one day, And Lenno had scarcely caught her, Ere her sweet soul passed away.
And though his heart was breaking For his loss beyond repair, He thanked the Lord that his darling Was forever safe in His care.
So he made her grave on the margin Of the lake, and, with loving care, Lined her sleeping-place with mosses, And tenderly laid her there.
Then calling his motherless children With sobbing voice to his side, And looking his last on the bower He had built for his vanished bride…... …………The little forest maidens, Cultured and debonair, Graced the homes of worthy husbands, With connubial virtues rare.
Reverend Lloyd retired from the ministry on June 25th, 1899, and died September 28th, 1906 at age 84. Despite the lines in the Owassa poem, Georgina and Minnie never actually married; they lived in Branchville until their deaths in 1937 and 1938, respectively.
In addition to reference to his children, the plot of the Lenno and Owassa poem also seems filled with visual imagery that could be roughly compared with George and Sarah Lloyd's own lives. The trials and travails of the fictitious Indian couple might be allegorical— with possible reference to Lloyd’s emigration to the USA from England in 1850, to his ouster from the Branchville Presbyterian in 1866 due to his vocal opposition to slavery, and his vehement stance against secession— (he was even shot at for reading a sermon titled, ‘What are we fighting for?’ and a poem titled, ‘The Devil in Dixie’) -to his mission assignments in Horicon, Wisconsin and Moingona, Iowa; and eventually the Lloyd’s invitation to ‘return’ to the Branchville parish in 1883, being re-installed as pastor on April 16th, 1884— all vaguely similar to Lenno and Owassa finally finding their sanctuary on the lake.
Also, one of the main characters in the Lenno and Owassa poem was not fictional. The Reverend David Brainerd (1718-1747) was a missionary to the Lenape Indians, travelling through this area extensively. He, like Lloyd, was first ordained by the Presbytery of Newark. Brainerd’s early death at age 29 is mentioned in the poem, so a strict reading of the Owassa poem would mean the Lenno and Owassa couple were at the lake in the 1740’s [annual dues = one gold crown.] In reality, there were still Lenape Indians residing in this area, although European settlement was already pushing them west into the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania.
There is much more on the etymology of the word ‘Owassa;’ where it originated, and where Lloyd likely got it, what might have influenced him to use it in the poem…. but we’ll save that for another day, as space permits. Here below are the 1899 pages which first introduced our ‘Owassa’ to a wider audience--
This (second earliest known) c.1899 photograph which graces the first page of Lenno and Owassa above, was taken at Drake’s Landing, which was one of the earliest communal boat launches on the lake, at what we now call ‘the Island’— In the detail image, the words ‘Lake Owassa, Branchville, NJ’ are just barely visible on the bow of the rowboat. Warmest regards, JC Rights
Panorama including West Shore Owassa Turnpike in the foreground, taken from above the Spangenburg farm. Albertype postcard image courtesy of the NJ Historical Society.
Sleeps well the dust of Owassa,
The gentle Indian dame,
On the shore of the woodland water
That bears her beautiful name.
Maple Point, the Cove, and the Spangenburg farms, Lake Owassa, NJ.
This autumn 1896 image of Lake Owassa was made by an accomplished amateur photographer, Willis W. Vail, lugging a huge view camera and tripod from Branchville, and whose arsenal must have included a self-prepared stockpile of 5"x 8" glass plate negatives. On the afternoon of October 26th, 1896, the photographer was a 28-year-old Civil Engineer, vacationing from Quakerstown, Hunterdon County, NJ. Not many people owned cameras back then, or were willing to cart them three miles into the field. Although the field cameras were being marketed specifically to this audience of aspiring photographers, to make an exposure of this quality still represents a remarkable grasp of the mechanics of camera and film; not to mention that it is very well-composed. The original glass negative is larger than this scan appears on a printed page.
No other known photograph of Owassa exists from this viewpoint on Frederick Lawson’s farm-- a bit later known as Allen Point, and now known as Plumer Road (in the vicinity of street numbers 40-50.) The farmland in the foreground of this photo was also documented in 1913 by the State of New Jersey as the former location of a Lenape indian village site. -
Indian Habitations in Sussex County New Jersey by Max Schrabisch. Published in 1915 as Bulletin 13 of the Geological Survey of New Jersey. To date, this is the earliest documented photograph of the lake I have found in 16 years of research.
This image is likely the culmination of at least a four-five hour daytrip from Branchville, specifically for the purpose of taking good ‘landscape’ photographs. Vail would likely have arrived by train, and is known to have frequented the Halcyon Hotel when he stayed in the vicinity. In 1896, the highway between Branchville and Lake Owassa did not exist. The most direct route between the two paralleled the Culverbrook stream, and was referred to as the Union Turnpike, passing the old Longbridge School at the intersection of the Morris Turnpike and Mt. Pisgah. Vail may possibly have been taken as far as this vantage point by horse & buggy, unless he was also taking photographs along the Culverbrook.
Anna Boeckler's store at the inner corner of the cove. This is the only known photo of the original Owassa Clubhouse on the far side of East Shore Road, aka 'casino,' That further building disappeared around 1940-1941, and no one seems to remember what happened to it. It was possibly burned, or maybe just collapsed, but gone post-war. Photo courtesy of the NJ Historical Society. JC Rights
1907Forester photo: This is a very early photo of the lake, taken from near the outlet. The dock in the foreground is Drake's Landing. John Drake rented rowboats on the lake long before the Beardalls arrived, and before the name was changed from Long Pond to Lake Owassa most likely between 1890 and 1896.
Early WBL: This is an early White Birch Lodge postcard, probably about 1917. The hillside in the top picture is in the vicinity of 205 East Shore Road. The Ellis' ran White Birch Lodge until around World War II. In the bottom photo, the Spangenberg Farm field runs down to the waters edge in the area now known as Bonning Road. Generations of Spangenberg's farmed these west shore lands from the early 1800's on.
On the Cove: This is the view from the waterside porch of 'the Store,' looking north across Prehn's Cove. The Springhouse would be to the photographers left. The store was the focal point of the lake activity from it's earliest days as a summer community. When this photo was taken by Theodore Rights in 1913, the store was known as 'the boathouse.' In the 1920's, it was known as Boeckler's Store; in the early '40's, it became Curt Ward's store, and most people still remember it as "Mrs. Macs." That's Bob McDowell's mom, who ran the store till around 1974. Not long after the McDowell's moved in in 1947, Mr. Ernest McDowell dredged out all the marshland in the foreground of this photo.
This sales map published by the Beardall Lake and Deer Park Company dates from around 1908; roughly three years after John P. Beardall purchased the "Deer Park" from the Dalrymples of Branchville, and had it surveyed into streets and lots. On this map, there is no "East Shore Road" above Cottage Avenue, and those hillside lots available for purchase instead border on an seven and a half foot high wire fence that enclosed the Deer Park hunting lands. Beardall was careful to include lake access right-of-ways for anyone who did not buy waterfront property. Not long after this broadside was published, the lots above the Cove were surveyed a second time, to allow for what is now East Shore Road from Deer Park Gate, down and around Wigley's springhouse and out to Maple Point. Most of the Cove waterfront was still available for purchase when this was published, although the area near Beardall Place (road not shown) had already been reserved by John P. and his Brooklyn partners Henry Prehn & John T. Wigley. Beardall also reserved a parcel at Maple Point (intersection of Lakeview and Mountain View Avenues) which would soon include his boat launch and store.
This is an early view of the Springhouse, taken from Beardall's c1908 sales broadside. This is the same boardwalk that appears above in the 1913 photo taken from the waterside porch of the Boathouse, but this was taken from out at the dock, looking in. The current East Shore Road passes directly behind this structure, as it makes the sharp bend at the inner corner of the cove. In the many years before electricity and refrigeration, this springhouse was open to all lake residents to store their perishable foods on shelves in the year-round 50' degree interior. The sales pitch text of 'wonderful cures' graciously alludes to the era when typhoid fever, tuberculosis and other diseases were rampant in the crowded city- especially during the sweltering summer months. Coming up to the country for the fresh air and clean water was (and still is) one of the main reasons we put down roots here.
John Lone Wolf obit: a friend to many lake residents. Aside from the Spangenberg's, the Lawson's and the Drake's at the north end of the lake, John was one of the only year-round residents from the mid-1920's till around 1935 when summer residents began to winterize bungalows. John was an excellent stone-mason - many fieldstone foundations and chimneys at lakeshore homes are his distinctive craftsmanship. John also built the first boardwalk across the inlet stream to the Willowassa Cottage.
Deed photo: An early deed signed by John P. Beardall and his wife selling east shore waterfront. Beardall purchased the entire east shore from Charles A. Dalrymple in 1905, had it surveyed into lots and streets, then sold properties for the next twenty years, under the corporate name: Lake and Deer Park Company.
A 1910 article about a Lake Owassa resident
Courtesy of Bill Monninger
MEMORIES Of CAMP WEE PAH
I first heard about Lake Owassa in 1945 when good friends of my husband and I rented two tiny bungalows on Blackford Road. We came up for the day with Janet, our three-month-old daughter. If my memory serves me well, these bungalows were formerly part of a camp which was owned by Ann Kovalewski. Ann occupied a larger house on the same property and rented the smaller bungalows to girl scout troops from the Newark area.
For the next two years we made only day trips to Lake Owassa until we discovered Camp Wee Pah. Wee Pah was a 10-acre tract of land located on the West Shore of the lake owned by Jack & Dora Bauer. Jack rented out camp sites for $45
for the season. He also had two bus bodies which were formerly used as Bear Mountain Sight Seeing vehicles. Each was seven feet wide by fourteen feet long. The seats and motors were removed. Two iron cots were placed in the seating area. When they were opened, they became wall to wall beds. The area which once held the drivers seat now had a 2-burner kerosene stove. There was a picnic table and an ice box outside with a piece of canvas stretched from the bus body far enough to cover the table in case of rain. Jack rented these bus bodies for $2 per night.
My husband and I with our two children, Janet and Carol, rented one of these buses for several weekends during the summer of 1948. Our close friends and their two children, rented the other bus.
We enjoyed the time we spent there so very much, except for the cramped quarters. Our husbands asked Jack Bauer if they could build an addition to the bus which would enlarge the structure to 14 x 14 feet and provide room for bunk beds, a dresser, and an indoor table and chairs. Jack agreed. He provided the lumber and our husbands did the work. We rented this larger building for $100 for the season. While this was a great improvement, my husband, who was 6'4" could never stand completely upright when inside. The following year, the men installed electricity which allowed us to have a refrigerator that replaced the ice box.
I must add that Jack was a very frugal man. His favorite saying was "Watch out for your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves." He could also be seen now and then straightening used nails for future use. Jack rarely missed an opportunity to collect money for services. He charged a 50 cent parking fee from any visitors. After we got electricity, he charged an additional 25 cents for the season for use of an electric clock.
We stayed in this enlarged structure for two summers, coming to the lake the day after school closed and not leaving until Labor Day. We women were there without transportation as the husbands, who stayed home during the week, needed the cars to go to work. They usually came up one night during the week and on the weekends. Our contact with the outside world consisted of a truck which came into the camp every other day bringing us milk, bread and a newspaper. The young delivery boy who worked on this truck was our own Bob McDowell. Bob’s parents owned the store and soda fountain in the cove at the end of the lake which became a great meeting place for all the young people. Mrs. McDowell always made the teenagers feel welcome. but was also skilled at keeping them in line. We never worried that they were getting into trouble when they were at the store.
After two years in the "Bus Bungalows", Jack was offered $250 rent by another camper and said we would have to pay that amount if we wanted to continue to occupy them. Not wanting to give up our summers in Lake Owassa, we paid the $250, but told Jack that we wanted to build a platform to hold a tent-like addition for subsequent years. It had Masonite sides and a canvas roof. Jack charged us $45 per year to rent the land.
Over the years friends came for visits and decided to "pitch a tent" and join us during the next few summers. I think there were probably 10 or more families who summered at Camp Wee Pah.
Since we had no running water, we did our bathing and laundry in the lake. My children enjoyed soaping up their dungarees while they were wearing them and then jumping into the lake to rinse the soap out. I washed the clothes in the lake and then sat in the boat, rowed by the children, with the clothes trailing along behind for their rinse cycle. The children were responsible for getting buckets of water from the well to be used for cooking, dishes, and moping the floor. They tried to convince us that we had running water because they picked up the buckets and ran with them.
Camp Wee Pah had and outhouse which was situated in a very central location. One day while a line was forming to use the facilities, we finally realized that Bobby Germann, one of our teenage residents, had locked the door from the inside and climbed out the window. He was hiding in the bushes, and with great glee, was watching the reaction from the waiting line.
We spent most of our days enjoying swimming, fishing and boating on the lake. The children all became excellent swimmers. In their early years, they were not allowed to use the float or swim by themselves until they proved that they could swim from the float to the shore without stopping. In later years, they sometimes enjoyed swimming the two mile length of the lake with my husband rowing beside them in case someone got tired.
The lake was fairly quiet during those years, even on the weekends. There were only a few motor boats and swimming was permitted on all parts of the lake. There were also no restrictions yet as to the type of boat or size of motor. One of the residents had a fairly powerful motor boat that could pull five water skiers at one time - a truly memorable sight. Another teenager had a small hydroplane that he and his father built together. Since there were so few boats, you could actually recognize the sound of individual motors and knew exactly who was on the lake.
At the end of the each summer, swimming races were held in the cove area. The competition between the East and West Shore was never more evident that at these events. In my memory, West Shore always managed to bring home lots of blue ribbons. They also frequently won the greased watermelon competition which was the final event of the day. It took a lot of cooperation to get that melon on the raft.
Several times during the summer the area kids hiked to Tillman’s Ravine, which is located in Stokes Forest. They would cut thru McCoy’s farm on Rt. 521, cross over the mountain to reach the ravine, and spend the day sliding down the rocks in the waterfall until the seat of their bathing suits was worn thin. I can never remember any of our children saying they were bored or that they had nothing to do.
While the summer days could be very warm, the evenings were almost always cool. We were always grateful to be in the mountain region of Lake Owassa when our husbands would come up on the weekends telling us about the heat-waves in the cities. Our weekend evenings were spent outside sitting around camp fires. Often we would be wrapped in a blanket to keep our backs warm while our faces would be burning from the roaring fire. About 10 p.m. the fire would be reduced to brilliant embers which were just right for cooking marshmallows and hot dogs. Many a card game was enjoyed at the picnic table, again wrapped in blankets with the cards being illuminated with the light from a kerosene lamp.
Around 1955 Jack and Dora who were getting on in years wanted to spend the rest of their lives in Ft. Meyers, Florida where they had lived in the winters. They were asking $10,000 for the entire 10 acres which went from the 250 feet of lake front back to Rt. 521. We all tried to come up with enough money to buy the camp but $10,000 was a lot of money in those days. It was later sold to Howard Hamilton who intended to run the camp in much the same way as the Bauers’ did. The following year the Lake Owassa Community Association voted to disallow any commercial enterprises on the lake.
Hamilton divided the property into parcels of land, most being 65 x 125 feet with joint ownership of 50 feet of lake front property A corporation, Wee Pah Acres Association, was formed which controlled the front lot for the purpose of paying taxes, insurance and maintenance. My husband, Gene Seider, was the first president of the corporation. When we applied for membership in LOCA, our applications were denied by the Board of Governors stating that a 50 foot lake front was not sufficient for 17 families to use. Hamilton had reserved 100 feet which he intended to sell off as 2 fifty foot lots.
The Board of Governors told him if he would sell these lots to Wee Pah Acres Association, they would grant membership to the 17 families. After a lot of controversy, 17 families were granted membership in LOCA.
And so, Camp Wee Pah was abolished.. Many of the buildings had to be moved so they would be situated on the owners newly acquired property. Many families built more permanent structures. However, we will never forget the good times we had camping at Camp Wee Pah.
Written by Marion Seider Cirello White June 2004
Recently I received an email from Jules Marron.
He goes back to the 1920's when his grandparents and parents first rented and then built on the West Shore. I don't think a house can be built today for under $1600.00 like back then. Mr. Marron graciously submitted the photo and documents below which I am happy to put on the website. The home which has dramatically changed since the original construction in 1931 is currently owned by the Weintraubs.
By the way, I would guess that Marron Road was named after this family.
Many thanks to Mr. Marron!
Jules Marron Sr & Irene Marron (1930)
Jules Marron Jr (1940)
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