by John Conway
April 19, 2013
As Adam did in Paradise,
Today the primal right we claim;
Fair mirror of the woods and skies,
We give thee a name
Lake of Pickerel! Let no more
The echoes answer back “Great Pond,”
But sweet Kenoza, form thy shore
And watching hill beyond.
And Indian ghosts, if such there be,
Who ply unseen their shadowy lines
Call back the dear old name to thee,
As with the voices of the pine.
The paths we trod when careless boys
With manhood’s shodden feet we trace:
To friendship, love and social joys
We consecrate the place.
Here shall the tender song be sung,
And memory’s dirges soft and low,
And wit shall sparkle on the tongue,
And mirth shall overflow.
Harmless as summer lightning plays
From a low hidden cloud by night;
A light to set the hills ablaze
But not a bolt to smite.
Kenoza! O’er no sweeter lake
Shall morning break, or moon-cloud sail,
No lighter wave than thine shall take
The sunset’s golden veil.
And Beauty’s priestess thou shall teach
The truth so dimly understood,
That He, who made thee fair, for each
And all designeth good.
It is doubtful that John Greenleaf Whittier had ever heard of Sullivan County, New York when he re-christened Great Pond, near his home town of Haverhill, Massachusetts "Kenoza Lake" with the mid-19th century poem of the same name. But without Whittier’s poem, the local lake - and the hamlet at its outlet that shares its name - might to this day still be known as Pike Pond.
Hamilton Child notes in his “Gazetteer and Business Directory of Sullivan County for 1872-73” that the community of Pike Pond in the town of Delaware comprised "one church, (M.E.) one store, one tannery, one grist mill, one wagon shop, one blacksmith shop, one shoe shop, two saw mills, one hotel, 25 dwellings, and about 125 inhabitants. The tannery is owned by Gideon Wales. It employs thirty men, consumes annually 3,000 cords of bark, and tans 30,000 sides per annum"
Child speculates that the pond "doubtless derives its name from the abundance of pike which its waters contained at an early day, and which the early settlers were wont to substitute for pork, when the latter article in their larder became exhausted."
In his “History of Sullivan County,” James Eldridge Quinlan notes that the pike were introduced to the pond from the Delaware "by the Indians, or soon after the region was occupied by the whites."
Quinlan further writes that "although the lake is not large, its outlet furnishes a valuable water power. A man named Woodruff had a saw-mill here in 1814. Subsequently, a grist-mill, tannery, etc. were erected on the stream."
Quinlan writes that the tannery was owned by Gideon Wales, Osmer B. Wheeler, and Nathan S. Hammond, all prominent Sullivan County businessmen, before Wheeler and Hammond divested themselves of their interests and Wales took over. Wales, he notes, “was a member of the last Constitutional Convention of this state.”
Of course, both Child and Quinlan were writing before Sullivan County began to entertain summer tourists in earnest. Once the transition from an industrial area to a resort area was underway, virtually all the ponds in the county became lakes overnight, and Pike Pond was no exception. And although there are stories attached to each of the individual name changes, in this case the summer tourists had a direct role in the process.
At some point in time Lord’s Pond became Fowlwood (and then Wanaksink) Lake, Pleasant Pond became Kiamesha Lake, Long Pond became Tennanah Lake, and so on throughout the county.
Former Sullivan County historian Manville B. Wakefield notes in his indispensable history of the railroad and the resorts, “To the Mountains By Rail,” that around 1888, a number of Pike Pond tourists appealed to Blake Wales, the hamlet’s postmaster, to help facilitate a name change to something more picturesque. Whether the tourists suggested the name Kenoza Lake, or whether it was Wales’ idea is open to question, but Wakefield says "Wales already having a fancy for Kenoza from Whittier’s poem, ‘Kenoza Lake,’ set the bureaucratic wheels in motion." The name Kenoza Lake became official on April 29, 1890.
That was last than two years before the community made headlines throughout the region as the result of the grisly murder of George Markert on the Stone arch Bridge over the Callicoon Creek. The subsequent investigation into that crime revealed that Markert was killed by his former brother-in-law, Adam Heidt, a superstitious sort who was convinced that the victim had placed a hex placed upon him and the murder was the only way it could be removed.
Some say Markert’s spirit haunts the bridge to this day.
At the height of its popularity just after the turn of the century, the hamlet of Kenoza Lake was home to a number of hotels, including the Kenoza Lake Hotel, the historic Fern, and the Montana Cottage.
Fire destroyed the Kenoza Lake Hotel in 1923, leaving but a cigar case and a cash register from the barroom, and except for the heroic efforts of the Jeffersonville Fire Department, the entire hamlet might have been consumed. Nonetheless, the community remained the home of a number of resorts, including the Edgemere, the Lake View and the Valley View, well into Sullivan County’s Golden Age.
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and an adjunct professor at SUNY-Sullivan. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com