Quiet

“Great things are claimed for that quiet hamlet in the way of natural attractions, consisting of the lake itself, and its Main street, which, night and day, is the quietest and most death-like avenue of commerce to be found outside of East Syracuse.”

– A Baldwinsville editor comments on Skaneateles in the Gazette & Farmer’s Journal, June 20, 1895

Flotsam

Alabama Flag CU

Some day, I must get around to writing, at length, about De Cost Smith. Born in Skaneateles in 1864, the son of E. Reuel Smith and Elizabeth De Cost Burnett Smith, he excelled as an artist, a writer, an outdoorsman, a scholar and an important collector of Native American artifacts. He lived enough to fill a goodly sized biography. But today, just one story.

In his early twenties, De Cost Smith studied art at the Académie Julian in Paris, probably in the years 1886 and 1887. And one day he was browsing in an upholstery shop, and saw a flag. The shop owner explained that it was salvaged from the flotsam of the C.S.S. Alabama following its sinking off Cherbourg, in June of 1864, when the legendary Confederate raider was sent to the bottom by the U.S.S. Kearsarge.

css_alabama_sinking

Ever the collector, Smith bought the flag for 15 francs.

When De Cost Smith died in 1939, the flag passed to his nephew – his sister Celestia’s son, Clement Sawtell. If that name rings a bell for you, perhaps it’s because Sawtell wrote and published Captain Nash De Cost and The Liverpool Packets, without which I could not have written my piece on Nash De Cost, De Cost Smith’s great-grandfather, for whom he was named.

The author of a number of monographs, Clement Sawtell had an appreciation for history, especially nautical history, and so the flag was in good hands. And in 1975, at the suggestion of retired Rear Admiral Beverly Coleman (a grandson of Col. John Singleton Mosby, “The Gray Ghost,” of Civil War fame), Sawtell donated the flag to the state of Alabama.

And so a flag made its way from the waters of the Atlantic to Paris to Montgomery with the help of an artist from Skaneateles.

Aim High

Now that spring is upon us, it might be well to consider the sports of summer and how we might excel, what goals we might set. With that in mind, here is some valuable information:

The Skaneateles Country Club record for one hole was set in 1938 and is held by Robert J. Meredith of Brighton, N.Y., who carded “a neat 18” on the fifth hole. It was reported that he had to rest for 30 minutes before moving on to the sixth.

And for those of you who sail, the record for Most Boats Passed While Airborne was set at the Country Club in August of 1964 by a visiting sailor named Pete Bone. Frustrated by a poor start in the first race of a meet, Bone chose to unfurl his Lightning’s spinnaker in 40 m.p.h. winds. The boat began to fight its crew, planed, then left the water and soared past the boats of ten (10) awestruck skippers. The epic flight ended abruptly and poorly when the boat returned to its accustomed medium, but it is a feat that may never be duplicated.

Stella Maris at the Creamery

Chinese Room New

My thanks to everyone who attended my talk on the Stella Maris estate — and the three “families” that have owned it. I did indeed go off on several tangents, including the truth about the Chinese Room, which was not in Stella Maris but rather atop the L.C. Smith Building in Seattle, but I did explain the connection. It was a pleasure to spend time with so many people who care about history.