Irving Burnham’s Memories of the Lake’s Creation

The site of the present Lake Muskoday had been for, many years, a swampy area, overgrown with alder bushes, willow and poplar, thru which Trout Brook took a winding course with boggy areas, hummocks and at least one bottomless hole in the sand. The site of the present dam about one third of the length of the present Lake Muskoday were on the John Graham farm. The central 1/3 lay on the lands of Albert Holcaomb and the southern 1/3 lay on the lands of John Kutcher. As I have no old records available of those years I have to dredge this up from memory but outside of being off a possible few months I believe it is correct.

John Graham died around the end of World War one and Raymond, who was in service, was discharged and sent home to work the farm together with Elizabeth Graham, a second grade teacher and his sister, also his mother Frances Layton Graham and her sister, Eva Layton, a retired school teacher.

During the next year or so the idea of building a dam and creating a lake on the old site was formalized, agreement reached among the owners and plans approved by the necessary authorities.

I believe it was during 1920 that the dam was built and completed in 1921.As I recall, a large pipe was layed down at the level of the brook bed to carry the water during construction. This was to be closed by laminated plank gate to be placed over the pipe when ready. The end of the pipe extended a considerable distance into the lake bed from the face of the dam.

The dam was layed up with fieldstone, with width enough to carry the access road to the farm. A form was built, anchored to the upstream face of the stone wall and a solid concrete face for the dam was formed, extending several feet below the brook bed. Also a square duct was formed through the dam, below the spillway with sectional plank gate the could be removed a piece at a time, to lower the lake level when needed.

Clearing of the lake bed was carried on also but was not yet completed when, I believe it was the late fall of 1921, there were heavy rains and the lake was filled to overflowing. This put a stop to all clearing of the lake bed until well into the summer of 1922. It did give a chance to mark out the precise shore line of the future lake.

By the early spring of 1923 the clearing of the lake bed was completed and brush burned. The only thing left to do was to skid out a lot of poplar poles, which were all trimmed, but strung all over the place. Albert Holcomb, my uncle, “my mother’s brother”, offered to give us the poplar poles for skidding them out and taking them away. This worked out very well as we were, at the time, engaged in filling an order for excelsior wood from Charles Allen Inc. of Fulton, N.Y. which we loaded in the box cars at Chiloway. Basswood and poplar were used for the purpose.

Towards the last of April I remember walking the five miles over the mountain to the Graham’s and boarded with them for awhile. I hired Fred Gales with his team to skid out the poles, and John Kutcher to help me peel them. This was all done by the third week in May and the low, drain pipe was plugged and the lake began to fill.

I went back to Chiloway and rigged a tilting cutoff saw with gasoline engine on the back end of a heavy lumber wagon and returned to the Graham’s to cut the poles into 52″ lengths which we hauled to Chiloway the following winter. I recall that it was cold backward spring and around the 23rd of may we had up to six inches of sleet, snow and frozen rain on the ground.

It might be of interest to know that at the time plenty of men could be hired for 25 to 30 cents an hour and a team and driver for $5.00 an eight hours a day.

Mr. Holcomb later deeded to Raymond and Elizabeth Graham land straddling the lake and a strip, several hundred feet wide along the south side.

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