In the February Corinthian, I wrote a short story, “The Stories That Find You – Camp Sawyer’s The Well”, about a well and its pump that Boy Scout Troop 14 (from a 2018 article called A Civic Club’s Legacy,) from Barnard School used at Camp Sawyer in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In the story, I wondered if the remains of the well and pump were still there. The Boy Scouts abandoned using the site in the 1950s and the Town dedicated the area as Sawyer Park in 1970.
After reading my story, Gil (Gilbert) Holts offered to help find the campsite and possibly the remains of the well. He is the man who gave us the photo of the Boy Scouts and who is in the photo of the group standing at their cabin in 1943.
In early August, Gil and I met at Sawyer Park. Nearly 80 years have passed since he was a Boy Scout and invasive plants, mother nature, and human development have severely changed the natural landscape of this 16-acre park. Needless to say, finding the old campsite proved more difficult than anyone thought. To my surprise after more than an hour, we did find the site and the long-abandoned tile-lined well.
It was such a pleasure to listen to Gil reminisce about the scout camp he spent so much time at many years ago. He talked about swimming in the creek, playing ball where the parking lot is now, and planting the very small pine seedlings that are now nearly 100 feet tall. I was especially excited to find evidence of the campsite and verify the stories I had read about Camp Sawyer.
The well is now covered again and camouflaged, and we will let it stay buried for now knowing that a piece of history from Boy Scout Troop 14 and their Camp Sawyer still survives in the Town of Greece.
Every historian knows that while researching a specific subject, it is not unusual to stumble on a completely unrelated subject that sparks your interest. One day, not that long ago, while looking for an obscure fact for a story I was helping someone with, I stumbled on a 1937 Greece Press article about Camp Sawyer.
I had written about Camp Sawyer some years ago (Sept. 2018 Corinthian) called A Civic Club’s Legacy, how in the early 1930s it became a camp for Boy Scout Troop 14 from Barnard School. In 1958 the Town of Greece acquired the camp with the provision that it would become a public park. And in 1970 it was opened as Sawyer Park.
What sparked my interest in that 1937 article, was a story about a well being dug by the scouts and their leaders, that hopefully would someday provide a dependable supply of water for their camp. The article stated that the project was running into problems because of a layer of red sandstone and that Empire Clay Products would be donating glazed tile to be used to line the well once completed.
After reading the article, I remembered a photo of Camp Sawyer given to the Greece Historical Society by Gilbert Holtz several years ago. The photo, dated 1943, shows the scouts standing in front of a cabin they had built. What I had never noticed before is a pump in front of the boys. A reasonable assumption can now be made that the boys did in fact finish their well.
I never did find that original piece of information I was looking for and now I am left with several questions that may never be answered about Sawyer Park: Are the remains of that tile lined well still there and where exactly would they be? The land stood unused for several years before the Town officially opened it as a park and there have been numerous changes and upgrades since. Maybe someday, some archaeologist or amateur explorer will find the remains of that long-forgotten well and wonder about its original use. In the meantime, I need to get back to that original research task.
Well, it turns out there is an update to this story and it is thanks to Gil Holts who was a member of Boy Scout Troup 14 and camped at Camp Sawyer.
Carter Park is a 12-acre recreational landscape located on Long Pond Road near The Mall at Greece Ridge. It hosts a playground, baseball fields, basketball, and tennis courts as well as an open pavilion. It is a representation of the long tradition and commitment to recreational investment and development by the town and it is named after a particularly meaningful historical local figure; former Greece Police Chief Milton H. Carter.
The park was part of a recreational development wave in Greece during the 1950s and the former American Legion property was previously identified as the “Long Pond Road Recreational Area.” On 15 September 1970, a Town Board resolution moved to change the name to “Milton H. Carter Park,” in honor of the former chief following his death in 1968.
Chief Carter was a resident of Greece from 1904 until his death. Prior to serving as chief, he was a farmer and a decorated World War I veteran. He was the first full-time Greece police officer and with the support of his wife Edna, served as chief from 1931 until his retirement in July 1960. He was instrumental in the creation of the Greece Volunteer Ambulance Service, shepherding the growth of the department from a small town force to a leading, sophisticated, police agency. He developed and implemented the first professional training of the department well ahead of a New York State law that required it in 1960.
At the testimonial dinner celebrating his retirement, leaders of the community spoke of Chief Carters’ “ramrod straight integrity,” his kindness, and his leadership abilities. Former Greece Town Supervisor Gordon A. Howe said of him at the time, “He bears without burden the grand old name of ‘gentleman’.” So was his mark on our history and Milton H. Carter Park stands as a remembrance in his honor.
“Talk of the Town” Newsletter Article, January 2020, Issue by Keith C. Suhr, Assistant Director, Greece Public Library and Greece Town Historian
Here are some facts and images not mentioned or shared in the original story are:
Chief Carter purchased the shell of the old one-room common school district number 5 school and moved it down the road. He was at the storm headquarters for the blizzard of 1966.