Sunday, December 27, 2015

General Henry Champion

Have you ever discovered something in plain view yet you never really noticed it?   I found such a situation,  a road sign, as you turn onto Rt. 16 towards Colchester entitled “Henry Champion Highway.”  Some questions – who was Henry Champion and why is a highway named for him?  There seem to be at least four Henry Champion’s, the most prominent being father, Henry, Jr., aka Colonel Henry Champion, and his son Henry III, an officer in the American Revolution.

Henry Champion III was born in Westchester (the western section of Colchester) at his family’s magnificent Federal style house (located near intersection of Rt. 16 on Rt. 149).  Although not an East Hampton resident, Westchester, a part of Colchester, had close ties locally as the Champion's owned various properties in Chatham.  The Champions also owned several parcels in Chatham.

Born in 1751, Champion entered into service in the Continental Army at the Lexington Alarm, served as Ensign for 22 days before being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of Eighth Company, Second Regiment on April 26, 1775.  In May in became a 1st Lieutenant and was one of the men who fought at Bunker Hill.  Promoted to Adjutant on the staff of Col. Samuel Wyllys, he became of the First Connecticut Line.  In July 1779, Champion was detached from his old regiment and appointing Acting Major of the First Battalion Light Brigade, organized by General George Washington to attempt the capture of Stony Point on the Hudson.  This corps was composed of men picked from all regiments and under direct command of General Washington.

Major Champion continued his military career until the close of the Revolutionary War, returning home to Westchester and entered life in politics. The designation “General” was likely an honorary title of respect conferred for the meritorious service during the Revolution.  Champion, with a partner, Moses Cleaveland, dabbled in land development in the Western Reserve and founded current day Cleveland.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

CCC Camp Jenkins Secret Society - 1933

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, had two locations in East Hampton - one at Salmon River on Gulf Road near the Comstock Covered Bridge and a second, the 181st Company at Camp Jenkins, north of Cobalt near Great Hill. The CCC program, which local resident Martin Podskoch has written extensively, was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide work opportunities for young men in a wholesome environment. Organized work initiatives, including stabilizing embankments along the Salmon River or clearing brush in our State Forests, were some of the many projects tackled. For two years, CCC members encamped only a few hundred feet from the Cobalt mine sites, and working in conjunction with the State Forest and Park Commission, cleaned up forest debris and underbrush that had accumulated for years, building tables, benches and cement fireplaces for picnickers and cleaned out the longest of the two horizontal mine shafts still easily found in 1933. Although no longer accessible, for years visitors could walk on logs on the muddy mine floor to its very end, approximately 75 feet in length.

During their work experience, sixteen of the men, CCC members at Camp Jenkins, banded together to form what was believed to be the first secret society of the forest recruits in the U.S. The society, known at I.D.K. Sunset Lodge, No. 1 with officers' stations named after trees, adopted by-laws and elected officers. A prerequisite to admittance in addition to being a member of the CCC was "good character" and the society, advanced by many standards of the era, was open to any race, creed or denomination. The first officers were Great Oak, A. G. Kamm (recreation directors of the camp); Small Oak, Albert Budrow; Sturdy Elm (secretary) Frank Wodin; Tall Pine (historian and publicity agent) Henry Kunz; Hemlock (treasurer) Michael Reynolds; Walnut (outside guard) W. H. Bartlett; Hickory (inside guard) William Kruger; Spruce (guide) Joseph Perkowski; and, Willow (chaplain) Archie L. Brown.

The purpose of the organization was to promote goodwill, entertainment, recreation and the welfare of the majority of young men working at the camp.

The society had six committees including investigators (known as the Birches); membership (Ashes); grievance (Cherry); board of inquiry (Poplars); athletic (Brush) and refreshments (Tall Timber). The right and left supporters to the Great Oak were known as Cedar and Chestnut.

Lodge meetings were held in a log cabin constructed at the camp (no longer standing). Its entertainment committee planned a dance inviting the local public to tour the camp. The first "Sapling" to be initiated was Al Kuchl of Hartford. Ritual included three degrees performed by a team of officer members and regular meetings were held on Tuesday evenings.

Walking tour Edgewater Hill

Remarks by Dean Markham

Sunday April 19, 2015

Chatham Historical Society Walking Tour of Edgewater Hill

Many thanks to Mary Loos for sharing the background of her father John Weinzierl and history of the family and this property here at 140 East High Street;  and to Steve and Lisa Motto for including me today, as I've found from some of my research that I also have some personal and family ties to their property here at Edgewater Hills.

One of the iconic landmarks dotting the countryside as Americans ventured forth to explore this vast country and recreate from their toils was the wayside inn or hotel, or what we fondly call the motel. East Hampton, through the likes of a Bavarian immigrant, John Weinzierl, saw his dream come to fruition in 1952 when he started the White House Motel that until a year ago, stood on this site.

Let’s jump back, however, to 1673. Middletown was awarded additional land by the General Assembly on the east side of the Connecticut River - what was called the second Three Mile Division. This tract started at the boarder of East Middletown, what is now Portland, running north-south about 9 miles and east 3 miles to the Colchester line. The Selectmen in Middletown impaneled a surveying or proprietors committee in 1714 headed by Captain Cornwell and later William Whitmore whose task it was to survey the 3 mile division and lay out parcels of land. This process took over 20 years. The term "lots" derived from the lottery process that Middletown land owners were able to select a parcel in the new territory. They drew lots or numbers that entitled them to receive one or more of the predesignated parcels. There were 273 - 40 acre - parcels. Depending of your assessed property value in Middletown, you received rights to full or partial shares. One had the option of paying the per share price for the lot, selling or trading it. The wealthier or more enterprising drew multiple lots. My ancestor, John Markham, had the fortune of selecting the equivalent of 2 1/2 lots or 100 acres. His draw, as it happens, included the land from Pocotopaug on the point, along the shore of the bay and eastward to this site. Originally known as Markham's Point, it is now Meek's Point, after Arthur Meek acquired most of it in the late 1930s early 1940s. The first Markham home, constructed around 1750 is a Cape style home just across the way on Old Marlborough Road, owned by Steve and Rhonda Kissinger. John Markham also acquired land to Bear Swamp including this Edgewater Hills site. And I guess my family surrounded this site as my Great-Great Grandfather, Edwin Baker, owned what is now the Lake Vista Condo's - it being referred to as Baker Hill.

John Weinzierl, as an 18 year old with $10 in his pocket, and a cousin, Joe Rankl (Marlborough) as a sponsor, came to the United States. Enterprising, John did odd jobs - worked in the bell foundry, did haying and bought land from tax or estate sales - piece by piece. He married at St. Andrew's Church in Colchester in 1935, living on the lake but planning to build a house at 138 East High. John saw the design of a house he liked in Southington while driving his truck, and commissioned Ralph Strong to put his saw mill here on the property (Steve Strong now operates the mill) who cut the lumber. In 1937, Al Knotek (my Grandmother Rose's brother) built the house. John did the bulldozing and excavation and sold wood and fence posts from the lumbering.

Many people who visited our Lake Resorts desired rooms with private bathrooms, so in 1952, to meet the budding demand, John built the White House Motel with 8 rooms. He added efficiency apartments and finished the office on June 24, 1955 in time for his daughter Mary's wedding to George Loos. The old garage at 140 East High was converted to a house in 1965. George and Mary bought the motel in 1966.

In 1989 they sold the White House to their daughter, who in turn sold the property to Steve and Lisa Motto. I think John Weinzierl would have been very impressed and proud of what has developed here, beginning with the entrepreneurial aspirations of a young man seeking his fortunes and opportunity in America to a new generation carrying on the tradition.

Speaking at Town Meeting concerning Purchase of New Ladder Truck

Public Remarks by Dean Markham to the East Hampton Town Meeting, December 21, 2015 concerning the purchase of a aerial ladder truck produced by Pierce Manufacturing.

I rise to support the replacement of a 30 year old ladder truck in use well past its functional prime with no reasonable expectation of continued cost effective maintenance. Its replacement probably should have occurred 5 or more years ago. It's significant replacement cost has annually put such consideration on the back burner - until now.

A year ago the only option available was a dual rear axle ladder truck that probably would have cost equipped near $1.5 million. Our fine and dedicated Fire Commission, Chief Greg Voelker and Company Members did the due-diligence to present to the town a superb alternative with significantly improved features and capabilities at nearly 50% of that original estimate.

One of our highest priorities as citizens is protection of the public health and safety. Often overlooked are the dedicated volunteers who jump to the call to battle fires and other emergencies. This piece of equipment provides safety to them as they serve us. There are also hidden savings that we rarely think about. For example, one increase in the ISO (insurance rating) of our town would cost each homeowner and businesses substantially more annually than any tax increase to pay for the vehicles and equipment appropriate for our firefighters. And, there is an unmentioned expense that would pale this apparatus purchase. How much do you think a full-time paid fire department would cost? We should all be standing and applauding these dedicated volunteers.

The rub tonight is that we are faced with a damned if we do - damned if we don't situation. Our new Republican majority council (Patience Anderson, Ted Hintz, Jr., Mark Philhower, Josh Piteo and Melissa Engel)  has decided, for lack of any understanding on my part, to punish all our taxpayers for bringing this expensive piece of equipment before us. They have totally disregarded the recommendation of our Finance Director and a unanimous vote of the Board of Finance to lease-purchase the truck over 10 years (citing what would be a savings of approximately $8000 a year) by robbing the budget referendum approved capital reserve fund to pay cash for this major item. How many of you would pay cash for a new automobile?

Our capital reserve fund, voted by you, was to smooth the impact of the High School renovation project. I can only surmise that our Council is also punishing all of us for approving that project. Under this plan, you will see a significant mill increase, far, far beyond what is reasonable and what prudent Boards of Finance and prior Town Councils had planned. The current rationale evades me because we all pay. Considering the near record low of interest rates, it would behoove our town to take advantage using the power of our AAA Standard and Poor Rating. We've all heard the rumblings that the Federal Reserve intends to begin raising rates. Now is an opportune time to finance this long-term asset.

So what's the solution? Our public safety or our wallets. You could vote the resolution down. But does that really make sense? NO. The better solution is to adopt the Resolution, and, if our Town Council is wise, in the next few weeks, they have the power to reconsider how the ladder truck is acquired. The bid remains in place until February 7th. Seems like plenty of time to do the smart thing.

I hope you will support the Ladder Truck purchase this evening. Overall it is in everyone's best interests.

Note - The resolution passed by unanimous voice vote of the nearly 250 townspeople in attendance and was declared approved by Moderator Red (Robert) McKinney.