[The following is an article that appeared in the Watertown Daily Times, Aug. 6, 1938. The interviewee, Clara Roberts LaPatra Radley, was my great-grandmother’s older sister, who was 65 years old at the time. She died in Watertown three years later, on Christmas Day, 1941. I found this article in the morgue of the Watertown Daily Times office in June 1994.]
Mrs. Clara Roberts Radley
Recalls Former Days
14 Families Were On Island
Parents of Frank E. Gannett,
Newspaper Publisher, Lived
There Then—Lumber Was
Shipped to Sackets Harbor in
By David F. Lane
Before the Galloups islands, which lie straight out in Lake Ontario a distance of about ten miles from Henderson Harbor, became important as a fishing, recreation and farming locality, they played a prominent role in the lumber industry.
Mrs. Clara Roberts Radley, 602 Franklin street, born on the Big Galloup in 1873, recalls when that island was being lumbered of its thick stand of timber and a big sawmill at the head of the island caused a singing symphony of saws as they sliced big logs into millions of feet of boards for the market.
Her parents, Lewis Roberts, a native of Boston, and Ellen Roberts who was from Sackets Harbor, were married at the latter place in 1868 and shortly afterward had gone to the Galloups to start life together. [sic; it was Watertown where they were married in 1868. –MS]
That was about the time that Joseph Charles Gannett and his wife, Marie Brooks Gannett, parents of Frank E. Gannett, Rochester millionaire newspaper chain publisher, were leaving the island for Bristol, Ontario county.
Speaking interestingly today of life among the 14 families that inhabited the Big Galloup during her early girlhood, Mrs. Radley remembers a family of Gannetts, who, she believes, were the uncle and aunt of Mr. Gannett.
“I can’t recall exactly what Mr. Gannett’s Christian name was, but it seems to me it was Warren and that he had a brother, who was the father of Frank Gannett. I don’t ever remember of having seen Frank Gannett on the island, however,” said Mrs. Radley.
“It is all so vague to me now. You see I was so young then. Nothing but a tot. Warren Gannett, I know, lived at the head of the island and I believe worked a farm. It was next to the Johnson farm, which was where the lighthouse now is. Mr. Johnson’s name, I think, was Byron, and he ran the sawmill. It seems that he must have been the manager or superintendent. At any rate the mill was a big one and most of the men in the families on the island worked there.
“There was the Wattams farm at the foot of the island. One side of the Big Galloup seemed to have been cleared, but a thick forest covered the other side. We lived about halfway between the head and the foot and I distinctly remember my grandfather, who had come to the island from Michigan, drawing logs by ox-team to the mill.
“His was one of three families that lived in the woods and he and his ox-team made several trips to the mill each day, hauling all the logs. My father worked in the mill. It was a rather primitive sort of life over on the Galloups then, but everybody had a good time and seemed to enjoy it. My mother always spoke of it as the best place she ever lived in and that it was the happiest time in her life.
“All the people on the island were friendly and made their own fun. They had to for they were pretty much isolated from the rest of the world. But there was a lot of spirit and in the summertime there were many picnics, while during the rest of the year there were many parties.
“About a quarter of a mile above the mill there was a hill and near it lived Irving Willard and Jacob Arnold. The picnic grounds were close by that hill. A big hayrack on a wagon would go around and get everyone for these picnics or parties.
“The Gannetts were great people to entertain and every Christmas [several lines of missing text] …Warren Gannett had three sons and three daughters, I believe. Two of the sons were Warren, jr., and Oscar. The girls were Clara, Jennie and Ida. Well do I remember one very dramatic and romantic incident at the Gannett home. Clara Gannett was quite a young lady at the time and I was just a little girl.
“One night Clara stopped at our house and got me to go over and stay all night with her, but when it got good and dark her sweetheart came, a rope ladder was lowered from her window, she climbed down and they ran away to Sackets Harbor and got married. You see, they had it all planned out and she just wanted me to come, talk, and make a noise to cover up her escape. The man she married was named Baker and they resided for many years on the main road between here and Sackets Harbor. She died about 18 years ago.
“My father served under General Rosecrans in the Union army during the Civil war and saw much fighting in the south, where he was badly wounded. He was also at Gettysburg [Not during the Battle of Gettysburg, he wasn’t. –MS] After the war he was stationed at Madison Barracks for a time and it was there that he met my mother who was Ellen Roberts. Although their names were the same they were no relation. My mother worked in the Camp home before her marriage. She came from Michigan with her parents. My father’s parents came from Wales.
“I was the third of five children to be born to my parents at the Galloups and we lived there until the fall of 1880 when we moved here and my father got a job in Taggart Brothers paper mill. He died 21 years ago and my mother died 14 years ago. I had an uncle, Jerome Roberts, who also worked o the island and now at 85 he is living at Conneaut, O. [Ohio]
“When I was old enough to go to school, I went and of course knew all of the children and all of the families on the island. I remember the ships that used to come to the island to take the lumber from the mill across to Sackets Harbor. Many of them were sailing schooners, but I think some of them were steamers.
“It just seems to me now that the school teacher was paid by donations. They had parties often and I know they sometimes took donations. I think that was the way the school teacher was paid.
“While we lived there, there there [sic] were two deaths. One was the school-teacher’s mother, an elderly lady. The other was a Wattams’ girl. She was about 21 and very beautiful. Her death was caused by tuberculosis. Their funerals were the same day, that of the Wattams’ girl in the forenoon and of the old lady in the afternoon. A boat took their bodies across to Sackets.”