from The Tuscarora Club's Forty Year History: 1901-1941
The History of the Tuscarora Club
by Ellis Parker Butler
Ellis Parker Butler was a nationally known humorist whose writings were translated into many languages. Yet he moved so modestly and quietly among us and was so deeply interested in every phase of the life of Tuscarora that his literary reputation took second place to the friendship and affection which he inspired among those who were fortunate to enjoy membership along with him. He was asked to speak at the thirtieth annual dinner in December 1931, on the club's history. He dwelt humorously upon many of the subjects which have been already covered by Dr. Fraser and Henry Ingraham. The members may decide for themselves which conception of lives and characters is the most revealing.
One of the things that practically nobody cares a damn about is the history of the Tuscarora Club or -- as it is sometimes called -- the Mill Brook Valley Poachers Aid Society. This is the only club in the world that has spent thirty consecutive years worrying about De Silvas, feeding poachers fifty-cent trout, and extending the propaganda for two-hole privies.
The club was founded thirty years ago, in 1901, for the enforcement of the game laws, the propagation of game and fish, if any. For many years the hardy De Silvas and their families led by William Bradley and other pioneers, fished and hunted, and in time two of the De Silva brothers, Joe and Ward, by contact with these superior beings, became semi-civilized. At least they became civilized enough to run a boarding house and a mill and maintain a mortgage.
Their property was that on which the club now stands, and the mill was downstream at the gorge. Our houses are the same but our mortgage is new. The mill was known as Grant's Mill, but for what reason you can search me, unless Grant was their owner.
Thus for many years the De Silvas gained a precarious living making boards and keeping boarders. Year after year the hardy Brooklynites came to the Catskills, eating three meals a day, kicking about the food, telling lies about great big ten-inch trout, and saying that Ward and Joe must be getting blamed rich charging seven dollars a week for nothing but board, lodging and fishing. Then came the crash.
In 1900 them dad-blamed blood-suckers, the Rondout Savings Bank, foreclosed a $10,OOO or $12,000 mortgage on them poor De Silvas, and the fishingest lot of Brooklynites in Henry Ward Beecher's borough were scared blue for fear they would lose their Catskill fishing.
Into the breech leaped -- and may his soul be casting a fly in Heaven, and may a tablet on our clubhouse soon immortalize his name -- William Bradley, the founder of the Tuscarora Club.
The nucleus of the club was recruited from the business and professional friends and patients of William Bradley and Dr. H. G. Preston -- and may his soul -- well, anyway, there was no fooling about it. Their friends received a letter stating that a club was being formed, that one share of stock, par value $100 was enclosed, and that the annual dues were $10 a year. Enclosed find bill for $110. Please remit. And all remitted. One of these was that staunch snow-capped mountain peak, Dr. Homer E. Fraser, to whom I am indebted for most of this information. He is the last of the original members remaining in the club. The boarding house, farm and mill property were bought from the bank -- and did they take a wallop! -- for about $5,000, $2,500 in cash and the balance in a new mortgage. The club's history is just one blamed mortgage after another. The membership limit was put at forty, the dues at $10, with an allowable $10 assessment per year.
William Bradley was made the first president of the club, and it is a safe bet he was elected unanimously; Dr. Preston was made vice-president, and the club's troubles immediately began because Joe De Silva was made superintendent. He lasted just one year but he managed to stir up a big flood that swept down the valley, took out all the bridges, destroyed a beautiful meadow across from the clubhouse, and carried the mill downstream one or two miles, leaving flotsam and jetsam all along the way but not drowning any De Silvas. *
The second superintendent was an English ex-stonecutter named Wagstaff. He gave all the members a pain in the neck and he left at the end of the year. That year William Bradley died -- about 1903 -- and Dr. Preston was promoted to the presidency. The meetings of the club and board were held in the University Club in Brooklyn and were enlivened by Dr. Preston's telling the stories that Manning Barr tells now.
Dr. Preston owned the property next above the club and had his summer residence there, and now began buying farms and stream property up the valley, enforcing the poaching laws, having poachers punished, and making every one up that way sore as pups. Every one down the valley was already sore at the club. The club bought the O'Connor property at foreclosure, and, through the efforts of Harry West and Treasurer Charles A. Jenney, traded it to Harvey De Silva for the stream on his farm. Fishing privileges were secured as far down as Wickham's line. William Bradley fitted up a bedroom in elegant style; Harry West gave the club the piano that is now one of our superb antiques; Mr. Lambert gave the pool table that so long slanted north-northwest, and planted the orchard on the hill behind the clubhouse. Some one gave us the money for the barometer and Treasurer Jenney bought it and kept it in his New York office, saying nobody at the club would know how to read it anyway.
The club was now full fledged and enjoying the full hostility of the natives. It was properly hard up, mortgaged to the eyebrows, and had just fired Wagstaff, the bounding stonecutter. For the third year it chose Willie J. De Silva as superintendent and he arrived with his shirttail flapping out of his rear elevation like a flag of distress and with more children than a cock turkey. He was a grand old two-fisted bear-story-telling horny-handed rooster, hairy-faced, shrewd as a Yankee, rough as a stone fence and clever at scraping a living. He and his good wife are still living in Margaretville. Old Willie J. gave up the superintendency because the club would not pay him twenty-five dollars a month, six months a year. It could not afford to.
The long superintendency of Willie J. was a period of good-enough fishing and primitive life. The food was good, the rooms frigid, and it was worth the trip up to hear Willie J. tell his stories. You felt that you were a thousand miles from real civilization. Willie J. came home from Areny one stormy night. Mr. Fort: "Was the road very bad?" Willie J.: "Only one mud hole." Mr. Fort: "Where was that?" Willie J.: "All the way to Areny."
Dues were increased to twenty dollars per year; then to twenty-five. Assessments came regularly. Willie J. farmed with oxen. The first automobiles chug-chugged up to the club. Members, some of them, and their wives, more of them, quarreled. Willie J. was in constant enmity with Mr. Jenney, the treasurer, who had built the bungalow to the west of the clubhouse.
One bitter cold day Charles H. Roberts and another member drove up the Dry Brook valley and hired a farmer named Haynes as superintendent. He was a fine upstanding man, in neat leggins, and the indolentest man on earth, bar none. He didn't last. We hired Smith, from our own neighborhood, and he didn't last. Lowes found us Jukes, the star catastrophe of them all, and he got drunk and fired off shotguns on the veranda, and he packed up and went away from there. Lowes found us the efficient Soderlind, and he might be with us yet but for his wife's ill health. Then Charles Roberts went exploring in the forests of Maine and found McGowan for us -- and may he long be with us.
With the death of Dr. Preston we elected Dr. Homer E. Fraser president. The club had a mortgage of $7,500 for which bonds were sold to the members, to the amount of $5,700. This was in 1917. Dr. Preston died and his upstream property came on the market. Largely through the negotiations of Clarence Lowes, we bought that property. The bonded mortgage was made a second mortgage and a first mortgage placed with the New Paltz Savings Bank for $15,000. We paid $12,500 for the property. Everything was going fine; we had more mortgages than the club ever had, and there were still plenty of De Silvas around. Dues were doubled to $50 and the membership limit increased to fifty, which it still is. We owed about $27,000, mortgages included. This was in 1922, and the Tuscarora Farms Corporation was formed to owe the mortgages, hold the real estate, and lease it to the club, with each member having an equal share. Charles Roberts invented the baffle.
The rest is modern history. Dr. Fraser declined re-election and David J. Reinhardt, of Wilmington, Delaware, the place the trains go through on the way to Washington, became our fourth president. Clarence Lowes proposed the famous evaluation plan and signed up the members to pay $500 each -- about $25,000 -- and the bonded mortgage, the bank debts and most of the New Paltz mortgage were paid, the dining room was extended, the rod room improved and many other good and durable improvements and repairs made. Largely through the enthusiastic efforts of Manning Barr fishing rights all the way from our lower line to Arena were secured. The stream has been improved by a number of dams, the stocking of all parts of the brook has improved the fishing, the Reinhardt and Barr bungalows have been built, the dues have been increased to $100 a year and, winter or summer, the club is comfortable and cheery.
The outlook is bright. The brook is still there. Some of the mortgage is still there. The club is better than it ever was. Dr. Ladd has planted trees far and wide and handsome. The trout are big and lively. We have a good superintendent. There are enough De Silvas left in the neighborhood to last for years and years and years. Everything is lovely and the goose honks high.
* [ORIGINAL] EDITOR'S NOTE: The pipe from which the present "Pipe Pool" gets its name was originally the flume of the old mill and was carried to its present position during this flood.