We are pleased to present Part I of a series to publish a diary, researched and transcribed by Kristen Pinkney. Kris, as she is known, is from Northern New York having grown up in Watertown, NY.
The diary is a gift, for it provides a picture into the life and times of islanders in the 1880’s. But there is also a unique story of how the diary was discovered and how Kris and her family have been touched by the Thousand Islands.
Edward Dewey and his family purchased Friendly Island in the early 1880s and built a palatial home. The Dewey's two daughters, May and Ella were in their late teens in 1888 and it was May who kept a diary. In 1903 after Edward Dewey died, May and her sister, tried to sell both their Island, and their farm on Wellesley Island. It took more than twenty years before the properties were sold. Poor economic times, and World War I brought an end to the "gilded age" of tourism. Eventually, in 1929, the properties were sold and later much of the Dewey's effects were sold at an estate sale. A Cape Vincent antique collector and his wife attended the sale and bought the diary as well as a series of papers entitled, Mission Minutes. (The Dewey girls had carried out many years of charitable work and the minutes recorded one of their endeavors).
In 1998 the Cape Vincent dealer had a sale of his own, and a book dealer from New Hampshire purchased the diary and papers. He was a friend of Bill and Lois Pinkney, who are antiquarian book dealers now living in Connecticut. They knew the Thousand Islands well, as they had lived in Watertown for many years and they were always vendors at the annual Clayton Antique Show. Kris’ parents bought these two items from their friend with the intent of selling them to Thousand Islands customers.
At a family gathering for Thanksgiving in 1998, Kris and her family started reading the diary out loud and transcribing it on paper. Kristen Pinkney took the diary to her room that night and by morning she decided that the diary should go home to New Hampshire with her and her husband Tom Bregani, instead of going to a customer.
“That decision , Kris exclaims, “has led me on a tremendous journey, finding treasures and meeting dozens of interesting people.” Kris and her husband and their four children spend their annual vacation on Wellesley Island. In fact, they have provided several unique photographs, in the past, to TI Life.
In the coming months TI Life will publish the diary from August 1888 to August 1889. However as interesting as the diary will be, we are grateful to Kris, who was not content in just copying the material on the page, but she dug deeply to identify most of the places and characters who appear in the diary.
One of the special discoveries was a scrapbook filled with photographs. And then, working through the Internet, she discovered who owned the album and that led to many more interesting links. Her collection includes paper records, photographs and other documents linked to the Islands as well as ephemera with a connection to the Dewey family.
We are honoured to present this to you our readers and extremely grateful to its researcher, Kris Pinkney
Rexford M. Ennis
Rexford M. Ennis was born in Watertown, NY. He has had a interesting life by attending a one- room school house for six years before attending high school in Watertown. He received his BA in Political Science from Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio in 1968. He spent his professional career as a telecommunications engineer. Rex came back to the North Country in 1984 and remained. He says he loves the region after having traveled to 85 countries and 50 states.
Both Rex and his wife Janet are year-round Grindstoners. “Yes, Jan and I are on Grindstone year-round and this is our third year.” He states proudly.
Rex first visited Grindstone Island when he was a young child, while his wife Janet has deep roots on Grindstone as her great, great grandfather Jim Kelly, was born on the island in 1826 and he is buried there.
When we asked what Rex what his research interests are, he said, “I love history, and the Islands are loaded. My favorite topic is the Golden Age and learning about different personalities.”
One of Rex’s most interesting research discoveries is original documentation concerning the formation of Goodwin & Co., which was Charles G. Emery’s tobacco company. “But”, he is quick to reply, “I am still looking for details on Emery’s relationship with the American Tobacco Company and I am always looking for more personal data on Emery and his family.“ Currently he is working to save the flag that flew from the New Frontenac Hotel when it caught fire in 1911. www.frontenacflag.org
When we concluded our interview with Rex we asked, if you had your “wish” what would that wish be for the Thousand Islands? He was quick to respond, “I would like an expansion of the Thousand Islands Museum in Clayton. The TI Museum is one of the best kept secrets in the area. It is a treasure trove of information and artifacts, but because of many circumstances it has be eclipsed by the Antique Boat Museum. It needs some tender loving care.” We also asked Rex if he has had any questions for our readers, and he asked, “Yes, why not get involved with the TI Museum?”
We thank Rex for contributing his research in TI Life and we look forward to his sharing more of his special insight into Thousand Islands history in future editions.
Ross D. Pollack
Ross D. Pollack, a contributor to Thousand Islands Life.com since 2007, is a writer and communications consultant based in the Hudson Valley of New York.
In his business career, Ross was Intranet Editor for IBM’s Personal and Printing Systems Group. His work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, USA Today, The Royal Gazette of Hamilton, Bermuda, and various local Hudson Valley and Westchester County, NY, newspapers and magazines.
He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar, a former US Court of Appeals law clerk, and a former JAG Officer in the US Naval Reserve.
We are grateful to Ross for his many hours of research and for sharing this with our readers.
We also thank those who, throughout the month, asked questions, sent notes and made suggestions for future articles. Special thanks to David Fairbairn.