Oak Point- Where Else?
Written by Kathleen Thomas
posted on August 13, 2014 07:27
All along the shores of the St Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands are small communities. Most consist of year-round homes, camps and summer homes. These clusters come alive in the late spring and summer with devotees, often generations of the same families, returning like migratory birds to favored spots. Such is our slice of heaven-on-earth at Oak Point, in the Town of Hammond, N. Y.
Like many other communities along the majestic St. Lawrence River, there is a small number of 'rounder’s’ (year round residents). Hardy souls who brave the snow, cold and ice of our sometimes long winters; they get to really enjoy the River's scenic beauty, in a winter wonderland. Another small group are 'almost rounder’s' ...folks who manage to get away from the grip of winter for a few weeks traveling, visiting family or just temporarily settling in a warmer clime. These two groups of Oak Pointers make up the core of our community and form a close-knit group who meet almost weekly for Potluck dinners and for special gatherings during the holidays. During the warmer months the weekly Potluck dinners continue, but the gathering swells in attendance and number, of those hosting the events.
With the arrival of spring at the Point, families begin trickling back. It is amazing to me to trace the history of connections these families have with Oak Point. Some are descendants of early settlers who lived here their whole lives. But there are a great many whose parents or grandparents came for vacation, renting a camp from a resident generations ago and were forever drawn to the River and the Point. With that, relationships now decades-old formed to unite the community.
In the 1950s a Community House called, "The Acorn" was built to accommodate activities and meetings that take place in the spring, summer and fall. Dinners, Candy Nights, dances, bingo, Ice Cream Socials and myriad other activities have been hosted at The Acorn. A large deck and swings for young children were added many years ago.
By Memorial Day many fishermen have arrived at camps around the Point, anxious to get out on the River from early morning to nightfall. Many seasonal residents also choose this particular weekend to open up their homes, plant gardens and get settled in.
Of course the vacationers, here for a few days to a few weeks, arrive when the weather warms, allowing more activities in the water. There are always newbies, but these also for a large part, choose Oak Point year after year. Our community is truly a family magnet.
We get to feast our eyes on the River and the islands, the huge ships passing through, beautiful homes and camps, castles and lighthouses. A smorgasbord of activities are available in and on the water. Water sports galore, swimming, canoes, kayaks, wake boards and all manner of fishing and pleasure boats, make for a great menu of activities for the young and old.
Fourth of July
Our greatest population boost is triggered by our Fourth of July celebrations. The festivities are kicked-off by a parade with a yearly theme. Costumed participants, ranging from infants to seniors, marching around Dake Circle twice, stopping before a panel of 'judges' who actually come up with categories for awards for every entrant. Early in the afternoon water games are the attraction at the Town Dock, followed by land games in a nearby field. Races and games are geared to various age groups. Sprints, sack races, potato races, balloon tosses, egg tosses and the like, are cheered on by a large contingent at the edge of the field. After dinner families gather on the lawn at the Community House for the Ice Cream Social. Then the judges award ribbons for the parade participants. At dusk a foghorn sounds to start the 'Wall of Flames.' Flares set up before dark, to line the shores at Oak Point, are lit at this signal and everyone gathers to watch. Some watch from boats, but most watch from shore while a festive red glow lights up the area. I am told some Canadians across the river, look forward to watching this event every year.
A Paddle Poker Run either the day before or after the Fourth is another family affair with paddle boats, row boats, kayaks and canoes. There are two legs of the run, one on each side of the point for safety's sake, going from dock to dock gathering cards for each hand. Winners names are posted on a paddle in the Community House.
These festivities have been repeated for decades and contribute to making ours a close knit community, which not only values the jaw-dropping beauty of our area, but celebrates family and fun.
By Kathleen Thomas
Kathleen (Katy) Thomas is a retired building and landscape designer, now living at Oak Point in the town of Hammond, on property that has been in her husband Everett's family since before the Civil War. Katy was 'bitten' by the Oak Point bug while on vacation in 1961 when she accompanied an aunt and uncle at a camp, owned by her husband’s grandparents. The following summer she was smitten by the young man who was to make her his bride. Katy and Ev retired to Oak Point in 2008, in the home Katy designed. Katy has been working on a project to digitize the 'History of Oak Point' by the late Alice Gorham, so it can be available online.
Comment by: Patty ( )
Left at: 9:22 AM Friday, August 15, 2014
Katy, what a great article! Now that we know all the great stuff going on at Oak Point, we're going to have to crash the party on the way home from church one of these days! Thanks for sharing! - Patty
Comment by: Nancy (Blind Bay)
Left at: 9:40 AM Friday, August 15, 2014
Very nicely done! The Oak Point history is fascinating as well as unusual in this day. Congratulations!
Comment by: Lynette ( )
Left at: 10:15 AM Friday, August 15, 2014
Beautiful article! Beautiful pictures! But it's the people of Oak Point that make this little community so special. Thanks for sharing with us!
Comment by: Donna D ( )
Left at: 12:04 PM Friday, August 15, 2014
Very nice article, Katy! We will add it to our archives at Hammond Museum.
Comment by: Karen Buck Andrews ( )
Left at: 1:03 PM Friday, August 15, 2014
I missed the fun this year! Thanks for the photo and the memories! Well Done.
Comment by: Bruce Dana ( )
Left at: 2:08 PM Friday, August 15, 2014
Wonderful article!! Enjoyed it very much!! We are so Blessed to be able to live and visit here.
Comment by: ann nadeau
Left at: 1:37 PM Wednesday, August 20, 2014
very special article--I am so happy to be here at Oak Point with you all
Comment by: Helen Rabozzi
Left at: 4:59 PM Wednesday, August 20, 2014
salutes to you, Katiey what a great tribute. HER
Comment by: Len Ewald ( )
Left at: 11:52 PM Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Katy - I have such fond memories of Oak Point from the '50's - as a small boy along with my 2 brothers - my Mom and Dad would rent one of the cottages by the pier in the cove for maybe one week each summer. We really embraced the river - swimming, playing in the row boats, jumping off the pier or other docks, going to the candy store (now long gone) - kids just having fun! Dad later bought an island far up river near Ivy Lea in 1958, which is where we now vacation each summer for two weeks. I STILL try to take a quick jaunt down route 12 to Oak Point every so often during our stays at the cottage. I loved Oak Point then, and still love it today! It was my introduction to the 1000 Islands! I miss the ships - I so loved watching the ships! We're on the Canadian side now, so don't get to see them. I currently live in Denver, CO - but will always return to the 1000 Islands every summer that I can. Len Ewald
Comment by: Katy Thomas
Left at: 12:40 PM Thursday, August 21, 2014
The Trading Post burned down years ago and was rebuilt as a home/camp. The camps down by the pier have been replaced with much nicer cottages and are rented out as Oak Point Lodges. The candy store may be gone, but we still have Candy Nights (non- profit) for kids young and old in the summer months in the Acorn. Kids still 'embrace the river' just as you did, and it is great fun to watch them. Ian Coristine states, "The River chooses some." For us there is the additional connection -Oak Point is in our blood!
Comment by: Len Ewald ( )
Left at: 11:00 PM Thursday, August 21, 2014
Hi again Katy,
Yes, I was aware the Trading Post burned down quite a while ago, and have seen the newer cottages you speak of. I visited Oak Point summer of 2013 - didn't get back there this year. I have had a life long dream of kayaking to Oak Point from our island near Ivy Lea. Do you think it possible someone in the community would allow me to stay one night, either by pitching a small pup tent on a lawn, or better yet, take me in? It would likely take a full day to paddle there, and a full day to get back. Let me know your thoughts on this wild idea. BTW - I remember Mr. Dake quite well from the 50's - he paid me a nickle for retrieving a bucket from underneath a cottage, in which I (probably) went straight to the Trading Post. Ha! A nickle bought about any candy bar you wanted back then. - Len
Comment by: Gail Barney Mason Kolpack Dressel
Left at: 4:06 AM Thursday, April 7, 2016
I live my life in Buffalo, NY, a body here with a heart and family - Barneys, Dakes, Lowreys. Brooks and Billings that lives apart from me in Oak Point, NY. Every few years, I get a chance to come back and join my heart and it takes everything in me to have to return to Buffalo. In April 2015, we returned to "plant" my Mom, Margaret Anne Mason Kolpack at the family plot in the Ingham Cemetery on Sand St. - a promise fulfilled. I wish I could have stayed with her - there is no place like it on earth - total peace and joy !
Comment by: Katy Thomas
Left at: 11:29 AM Thursday, April 7, 2016
Len Weald, it is April 2015 and I am reading your comment for the first time. I don't know how I missed it. If you would still like to make the kayak trip, or if the river route is too much for you, you can drive down. Let us know. Susie can send you our email. We would love to 'put you up' overnight. Harry Dake was my husband's grandfather!
Comment by: Linda Coe
Left at: 11:26 PM Monday, May 30, 2016
Thank you for this article on Oak Point! I became aware this evening that my third great-grandmother was born in Oak Point! What a wonderful place she came from!
Comment by: NANCY
Left at: 6:11 PM Friday, July 7, 2017
I, AS A CHILD, SPENT MY SUMMER AT THE POINT. WE OWNED A COTTAGE ,, NEXT DOOR WAS MY GRANDPARENT HOME. THE BOAT HOUSE I THINK IT IS STILL THERE BUT RE BUILT. MYGRANDPARENTS OWNED A HOTEL AND HAD A VERY LONG DOCK WHICH THE CANADIANS USED, I KNEW HARRY AND IVY DAKE, THE BILLINGS, SISSONS WHO OWNED THE LARGE HOME AND BELIEVE IT IS STILL IN THE FAMILY. MY MOM WAS A GALLAGHER WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN HAMMOND. THE STORE THAT BURNED DOWN I THINK WAS THE SAME ONE THAT I
REMEMBER WHERE EVERYONE CONGREGATED. THIS ALL TOOK
PLACE 70 YEARS AGO.
Comment by: Kathleen Thomas
Left at: 11:46 AM Saturday, July 8, 2017
Nancy, thanks for your post. Your memory serves you well, Harry and Ivy Dake were my husband's grandparents. The Sisson clan and Billings clan are still a vital part of Oak Point life. The hotel was sold to the Presbytery of Northern New York and became a summer conference center, later abandoned and then the property sold piecemeal to various Oak Point families. The store was called the Trading Post and various families over the years ran it and the camps around it. The building was rebuilt as a summer home. A few years ago two families of the Sisson clan bought it and the camps, tore down the camps and built new ones. Known as Oak Point Lodges, they are rentals and often filled with the same people every year who hold Oak Point dear. The Big House and its boat house out on the point are still in the Sisson family. You may want to check out the website oakpointny.com. It is a work in progress, but has some interesting information and pictures you might like to see.
Which cottage did your family own?
Comment by: Dustin Teibel
Left at: 10:00 PM Wednesday, October 4, 2017
I'm so glad I found this article! My Grandfather, John Dake, (whom I believe may be your husband's uncle - son of Harry & Ivy) just celebrated his 98th birthday a few weeks back. As far back as I can remember, he's told us wild tales about growing up in Oak Point.
After reading this, and other wonderful things about the area, I'm looking forward to making the cross-country trek with my family to visit next summer.
Comment by: John Scherwin
Left at: 10:10 PM Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Katy, I came across your article today, purely by chance. Oak Point was most important to me in the first 18 years of my life and frequently thought of thereafter. We summered at my Grandmother’s cottage, the Woodbury camp, between the Lewis and Cromie camps, on the bay.
Peter Sisson and William Lewis were counted as my best friends and we had a great time each summer as additional friends from the renters’ families came and left. I often miss the friendships and carefree days from that quieter time, the water activities, classic boats, and especially the St Lawrence herself. I remember Harry and Ivy Dake, mentioned, Jim Reed, and all the other Oak Point summer residents, the Inn, the Oak Point Store, sunsets over Butternut Bay, the village of Hammond, especially weekly visits to the Hammond Library.
College and summer employment and, later, a professional position put an end to those experiences in 1961 although I have been back briefly on two occasions. Of all the places I have visited or resided in the US and abroad, Oak Point is the dearest to me in so many ways.
Thank you so much for refreshing the memories!
Comment by: Katy Thomas
Left at: 4:29 PM Friday, November 24, 2017
John, after reading your comment this evening, I immediately called Pete and Sandy Sisson, who was floored at the memories. He remembered that your sister and Peggy Caneen were best of friends and she is still around. My husband and I were discussing some of your recollections and the people you mentioned, some who still are or whose families are very much a part of Oak Point. I will ask Susan Smith, the editor of ThousandIslandsLife if she will serve as go between to get you in touch with Pete Sisson again. Thanks so much for posting your comments.
Comment by: Susie Smith
Left at: 6:19 PM Friday, November 24, 2017
John please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do not have your email.
Comment by: John Scherwin
Left at: 9:12 PM Sunday, November 26, 2017
Katy, Thanks so much for your interest in and reply to my post. I wrote so quickly that I missed other details from your article. Back then, I went by my middle name Chris(tian). I think I knew Everett although we mostly traveled in different circles. I remember the Goram and Baker families. My first trip back to Oak Point was a week in a Trading Post cottage with my young family in 1983.The next year we were transferred to Rio de Janeiro where we encountered the name Perry Haddlock with the American Society. Last brief visit to Oak Point was with my father-in-law in 2011. We drove up to the Seaway so that he could see how locks work. We have been living in Texas and now in Florida since Rio so it is not easy to visit the North Country, although I am hoping to do so at least one more time!
Comment by: Jean Frank Doud
Left at: 7:08 AM Sunday, July 8, 2018
My family started coming to Oak Point in the early 50's and have been coming nearly every Summer since. My grandfather Alfred Warters, who passed away in 1976 at the age of almost 98 was the first of the family that introduced the rest of us to the Billings family cottages and some of the family is there right now on vacation July 8, 2018. There were many Summers we rented nearly every cabin and have wonderful memories. The family names that have been there are Frank's (several of them), Doud's, Comfort's, and several more. I personally have been there beginning in the 50's and for a majority of the Summer's have spent vacations there. It is in our blood and we never found a place better for relaxing and enjoying the beautiful river with the ship's passing by. A perfect place to take children, which all of our families have done and continue to do. This is the first year my husband and I couldn't make the trip, age is becoming an issue, but we have wonderful memories of the Billings and the visits with Don and family members. Thanks for the memories Don, Lisa and Larry and the rest of the family.