Keoka Lake

A History of Life on Our Lake

by Brenda Hambleton

It has been called a tome...but I think it is more a love story.  Who knew that our stories of Keoka would be funny, sometimes scary, heartwarming, interesting, and fill 400 pages!  Nancy Eaton had the idea of collecting the history of the homes on Keoka.  Questionnaires were distributed and the stories and pictures of Keoka life came in – slowly at first and then the floodgates opened as everyone got involved.  
Charlie Tarbell reached out to people to get more details and Charlie and I spent several days in his pontoon boat and truck taking photos.  What a fun project for difficult times!  As we saw the information come together, we knew that we had something special.  And so, the book grew…

With the help of the Waterford Historical Society, the book covers the history of Keoka Lake from its glacial birth, early indigenous residents, and arrival of settlers from Massachusetts with their Revolutionary War land grants in their hands.  The history of Waterford Flat is entwined with that of Keoka Lake as the community prospered with farming, orchards, and mills of all description.  Stately homes, stores, tea rooms, guest homes, and the Lake House attracted poets, botanists, artists, architects, diplomats, comedians, builders, and rich Bostonians seeking refuge from the summer heat or fishing or the “Water Cure.”

We were fortunate to have talented writers, artists, and photographers throughout the past to chronicle the stories of the lake.  Fred Johnson took photos in the early 1900s – even carrying heavy equipment up Mt. Tire’m to take a photo of the Flat and the lake from the top.  Bill “Dood” Haynes carried on taking photos at every event throughout his life.  We have two professional photographers, Darylann Leonard and LeeAnne Conway, who currently capturing the beauty of the lake.  The book includes their work as well as work from artists including Charlotte Fillebrown, Nancy Engdahl, Ginger Eaton, Emily McKeon, Sharon and Preston Harrison, Ed MacEwen, and one of newest residents – Ann Marie Hershberger.

The body of the book is, what Charlie likes to call, “crowdsourced.”  It is written by shore owners and lake lovers.  There are lots of stories of saving rations to drive to the lake during World War II, perfect days climbing Mt. Tire’m picking blueberries, learning to water ski, seeing ghosts, getting married, and building a place to enjoy the perfect lake.  Each lake property story is told with words and pictures.
The back of the book captures life on the lake in pictures – family doing all sorts of things together like campfires and eating (we do a lot of eating), pets, boating, fishing, seasons, and special places and events.  Next, we test your knowledge of the lake with some games.

My husband and I have owned property on the lake for twenty years.  We knew it was a special place but as I worked on this book, I learned how truly special the lake and the people around it are.  It was a privilege and an honor to layout the stories and photos.  I feel like I know people that I have actually never met.  I have walked Elm Vale Cemetery introducing myself to lake lovers of the past. This summer I hope to meet all of you on and around our lake.