Friday, January 28, 2022

Rookery Bay Lunch & Learn: A Tale of Henderson Creek



By Steve Gimmestad


One diary, two years of research and a great deal of passion all came together at the Rookery Bay Lunch & Learn on April 7. The final product is a fascinating glimpse into the history of pioneer life on Henderson Creek.
The diary was written by Frank ‘Watts’ Hall and covered 186 days from 1898 into 1899. Watts was a teacher living with the Kirkland family on Henderson Creek and in his diary he shares a very intimate view of what daily life was like near the turn of the century. Ray Carroll was the presenter and, with much help from Chris Durfey, Steve Bertone, and others, assembled the information and put it into a form that both entertains and informs on what life was like in our area. A great combination to enjoy with lunch. Watts was about 25 years old at the time of the writing, he received $35/month as a teacher and was provided room and board at the Kirkland home located on Henderson Creek. The home was considered to be on the upper end of accommodations at the time. It was a life filled with many hardships. Living off the land was the mainstay of existence. Watts mentions in his diary of when the rains would flood the area around the homestead, there was much meat floating about and the smell was very bad. “Skeeters” were a huge plague



to contend with and the smudge pots they had to burn in an effort to keep them at bay filled the cabin with smoke and burned the eyes and throat. Many times making it hard for Watts to write in his diary. The details in the diary are many and very enlightening. The daily routine, the hardships, and the joys all translate into shaping the life we know today.

Mr. Carroll sums it by saying: “People are people. The context of where and how they live changes, but people are people.” After the presentation, one audience member commented to Mr. Carroll that: “You are the best speaker I’ve heard in years.” “Thank you,” he responded. “It’s because I’m passionate about this.” His passion is our gain and helps to keep the memory of those who came before us alive; a testament that can be shared for generations to come. Elaine Berninger, a Friends of Rookery Bay member for about 8 years, finds the Lunch & Learn series to be a great way to hear about people’s amazing adventures. It’s free to members with a nominal fee for non-members. A great investment. The Lunch and Learn series at the Rookery Bay Learning center is a great way to learn about our area, our history, and our environment. Plus you get a great lunch in the process. One more in the series will be held on May 5th with Dr. Ellen Prager. Learn more by going to

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