‘The Wild Goose Club shall consist of 15 Ganders in Full Plumage; each an Officer with High Rank & Large Pay’
Wild Goose Club Creed – 1880
Our thanks to Brenda Seekins, Author & Hartland Historical Society Member, for sharing many of the Castle Harmony & Commodore Club photos & stories she gathered while researching her 2006 book, ‘Around Great Moose Lake’. Brenda informs us the photos, which had been left behind by Wild Goose Club Members, were recognized as important historical pieces by the future owners of Castle Harmony, Bill & Lorna Trauth. The Trauth’s complete story at Castle Harmony can be found on our website at Wild Goose Club for Boys .
Lorna explained the owners they bought the property from in 1955, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Haywood, had preserved everything they could at Castle Harmony for some 2 decades after the club disbanded. We are eternally grateful to the Hayward Family for caring for these wonderful photos and passing them along to the Trauth Family who in turn graciously shared them so this incredible story may be told to all.
We also wish to thank Little Talks Magazine for their 1956 article entitled “The Wild Goose Club at Castle Harmony” which provided us with many additional details included in our presentation of The Wild Goose Club’s history. The complete article may be seen at the bottom of this page.
~ The Madawaska Club ~
The story of Castle Harmony, and eventually The Commodore Club, begins in 1862 when a group of fifteen wealthy gentlemen of Boston and the vicinity organized The Madawaska Club based in Pittsfield. The founder and leading spirit of the club was Henry Hastings of Boston, who was the first President or, as he was called by members, “The Commodore”.
Their objective was outdoor recreation, especially fishing, duck hunting, and the snaring of wild pigeons. Pittsfield was selected as their first central headquarters in part because it was the largest town in an area famous for its annual fall flights of wild pigeons in the middle of the 19th century. Pittsfield was also directly accessible from Boston via the existing railroad and had a well known hotel, The Lancey House, where club members initially stayed and dined.
The organization soon took over a building which stood in an open field near the hotel. They converted the building into a club house with a living room and kitchen on the lower floor and one big dormitory room with cots occupying the entire second story. They would continue to get their main meals at The Lancey House. Club members chartered a sleeping car from the railroad and usually make the trip to Pittsfield in July.
A few members who were retired from active business remained all summer and well into the fall while others came for shorter visits. All put in a lot of time fishing and when September came, duck hunting and pigeon snaring were the principal sports.
While sport was their principle goal during these stays, they were also a jolly group of men who enjoyed all the pleasures of their adventures in Maine. And they got thirsty. On August 20, 1865 when their club house was still at Pittsfield, The Commodore wrote a letter to General Samuel Lawrence in Medford, Massachusetts in which he wrote, “Seven of us are languishing for that distilled aqua which was originally discovered by one of your ancestors, famous for its strengthening and invigorating qualities, called Old Medford Rum. I will forgive you all your faults if you will ship by the Eastern Express Company one five gallon keg of the oldest vintage to the Madawaska Club, Pittsfield, Maine.”
General Lawrence replied: “Dear General Hastings. Per your serious appeal for the seven sons of Medford desperately dry. Since I cannot accept your invitation and come personally to your relief, I will content myself by sending five gallons of proxy.”
~ Castle Harmony ~
The first club house put them near prime hunting and fishing areas, however its location in the populated downtown section of Pittsfield still wasn’t the ideal location for these adventurous gentlemen seeking wilderness adventures and a secluded club house to retreat to.
That all changed in 1866 with a chance meeting on a steam ship returning from England between Hartland resident and businessman Archibald Linn, owner of the Linn Woolen Mill, and The Commodore, Henry Hastings. The two gentlemen eventually discussed the idea of building a dedicated lodge for the club on Great Moose Lake where Mr. Linn had a large property on the Harmony side of the lake which he highly praised for its ideal location for hunting and fishing and, undoubtedly as important to the members, its isolation from the masses.
Later that Fall, Mr. Linn led an expedition with The Commodore and 8 other Madawaska Club members by boat to the Main Stream inlet on the Harmony shoreline of Great Moose Lake. They scouted the 900+ acre property staking out an ideal location for a new lodge and also nicknamed the inlet the “Port of Galashiels” in honor of Linn’s native town in Scotland. The story is told that one of the club members commented on the search for a new club location to be a “Wild Goose Trip”; a reference which seemingly stuck in member’s minds a few years later.
In 1872, the new Madawaska Club House was completed on Linn’s 900+ acre lot on the Main Stream Inlet of Great Moose Lake in Harmony.
Note: These 2 undated, unnamed photos below come to us from the collection of one of the Archibald Linn Family descendants. We have not been able to confirm yet without doubt, but we believe they may be the oldest known photos of the original Castle Harmony Main Lodge. Many of the features seen in these photos resemble its unique facade and porch before future building and shoreline renovations were completed.
Original (?) Castle Harmony Main Lodge (Photo courtesy of Joan (Joy) Tibbetts)
Original (?) Castle Harmony Main Lodge (Photo courtesy of Joan (Joy) Tibbetts)
~ The Wild Goose Club ~
In 1873, members of the Madawaska Club voted to change its name to the Wild Goose Club with Castle Harmony as its new club headquarters. Members of the club over the years would include several Governors, Senators, Admirals, Generals and numerous influential businessmen.
Renovations to the original building included the addition of dormers and major landscape work down to the shoreline.
Castle Harmony Main Lodge
For the first dozen or so years, getting to the new club house was itself a bit of an adventure. While hardly roughing it compared to most travelers at the time, Wild Goose Club members and guests first took the long train ride from Boston to the Maine Central Railroad Depot in Pittsfield. They then rode in horse drawn carriages the 8 miles from Pittsfield to the Upper Dam Boat Launch in Hartland Village. From the launch, private or rented boats shuttled them up the Sebasticook River and across Great Moose Lake the last few miles to Castle Harmony.
Sebasticook River Boat Landing above the Upper Dam
The club’s private Light House was likely a welcome sight to the weary travelers as they neared the Main Stream “Bay of Galashiels” entrance to Castle Harmony from the lake. Members and guests often arrived late at night so it would be lit with lanterns to guide them into the inlet.
Castle Harmony Light House
The Castle Harmony Light House could easily be seen from the Main Stream Inlet known to Wild Goose Club Members as the Port of Galashiels. The Light House eventually included a Lady’s Changing Room built in its base for the privacy and convenience of its many future female guests.
Castle Harmony Light House from Main Stream
Castle Harmony Main Lodge & Boat House
Wild Goose Club members often participated in parades and various events in Hartland and always maintained their sense of humor as seen in the poster below. Over the years, dozens and dozens of prominent businessmen (and women) from Massachusetts and New York annually traveled to the vaunted Castle Harmony grounds for hunting, fishing and plenty of entertainment.
Wild Goose Club Parade Agenda – 1875
In 1886, the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad line opened from Pittsfield to Hartland providing a quicker and certainly more comfortable last few miles of travel to Hartland before the short ride over to the Sebasticook River boat launch to head up to their Great Moose Lake destination.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot
These unknown gentlemen, photographed below at Lewis B. Wheeler’s General Store on Outer Main Street next to the Hartland Railroad Depot, were likely traveling members and guests of the Wild Goose Club geared up for fishing and on their way to Castle Harmony.
Travelers at L. B. Wheeler’s General Store
~ The Commodore Club ~
In 1888, construction began on a second lodge for The Wild Goose Club eventually named in honor of their first Commodore, Henry Hastings.
The Commodore Club Main Lodge – 1917
Opening by 1891, the new Commodore Club Lodge was a bit more elegant than their more rustic retreat at Castle Harmony. It featured a large and well supplied dining room featuring fine china, crystal and linens providing very comfortable dining accommodations during their stay.
The Commodore Club Dining Room Area
Dining at the new Commodore Club Lodge included engraved silverware.
Commodore Club Silver Serving Fork (Donated by Gerald & Pat Martin)
A November 17, 1894 newspaper article from the Lewiston Sun Journal provides several tidbits of information describing a trip made to Castle Harmony by then Massachusetts Governor Frederic Thomas Greenhalge. He served 3 consecutive terms as the 38th Governor and died during his last term in 1896. He was also the first foreign born Massachusetts Governor. Click the link below for the full story.
Posing for photos at the Castle Harmony Main Lodge was an ongoing tradition for visiting members and guests as seen here in 1898.
1. Mrs. Renfrew, 2. Mrs. Hall, 3. T. VanValkenburgh, 4. Mrs. Davidson, 5. H. T. Hayward
6. Mrs. A. M. Silsbee, 7. William Hall, 8. James Renfrew. The children are not identified.
Several other buildings were built over the years on the Castle Harmony compound to accommodate the growing numbers of its “well to do” patrons including a woodshed, barn and a Boat House along with 2 Guest Houses including “Sleepy Hollow”.
Sleepy Hollow Guest House
In 1901, the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad opened a new railroad line extension from the Hartland Depot to Main Stream in Harmony. Castle Harmony soon had its own dedicated train stop located just before the Main Stream stop. The club then built a private rail siding at the stop to park their Pullman Passenger Car. Members and guests could now travel from Boston directly to the compound with relative ease.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Wild Goose Club Landing – 1923
The updated Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Schedule following its expansion to Main Stream on Great Moose Lake.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Schedule – 1901
The Castle Harmony grounds distinctively stood out on Main Stream’s landscape.
Sleepy Hollow Guest House, Castle Harmony Main Lodge & Boat House
The Commodore Club was located across from Castle Harmony on the Hartland side of Great Moose Lake.
Great Moose Lake (Photo by Google Maps)
The library at Castle Harmony was a centerpiece of activity hosting several generations of Wild Goose Club Members & Guests as seen in this March 1901 photo of an evening poker game. The poker table would remain a familiar fixture in the library for decades.
1. C. B. Gleason, 2. George F. Parker, 3. George W. Hastings, 4. Ralph Linzee Hall
Wild Goose Club Members involved in a little horseplay at Castle Harmony in March of 1902.
1. Charles H. Warren, 2. L. Williams, 3. Ralph Linzee Hall, 4. B. W. Wells, 5. C. H. Cole Jr, 6. W. T. Jeremy
Wild Goose Club Members purchased several private motor launches which were delivered directly to the club via railroad.
Wild Goose Club Members take delivery of a new motor launch at their railroad stop in 1903
The launches allowed Club Members and Guests to venture about the lake or shuttle between Castle Harmony and The Commodore Club. Each Club Member’s private boat launch were, of course, appropriately named by their owner. One of the launch’s known names was “The Gosling”.
“The Gosling” on Great Moose Lake
In 1911, the original Castle Harmony Lighthouse Tower was blown over during a storm and an Iron Fire Tower was built in its place the following year. Portions of the framework of the Iron Fire Tower can still be seen today albeit it nestled in the brush and trees along the shoreline.
New Iron Fire Tower on Great Moose Lake
George W. Hastings inherited the title of “The Commodore” at Castle Harmony and The Commodore Club. George is believed to be the son of the club’s 1st Commodore, Henry Hastings.
The Commodore – George W. Hastings
The 2 magnificent lodges of the Wild Goose Club provided members & guests with an ultimate yet quite comfortable wilderness adventure.
The Commodore Club
Castle Harmony Main Lodge w/Rear Addition
The “Sportsmen” who made Castle Harmony their destination summer home for nearly 70 years were not all men. Mrs. E. T. Bigelow demonstrates the women were just as capable as she takes aim from the porch of the Castle Harmony Main Lodge in October 1902.
Mrs. E. T. Bigelow
Hunting at the Wild Goose Club was enjoyed by both men and women as seen in this October 1902 photo
Mrs. S. Gleason & Frank Linnell
Wild Goose Club Members pose on the front steps of the Castle Harmony Main Lodge for a traditional photo in 1903.
1. Allan Taylor, 2. F. P. Royce, 3. Ralph Linzee Hall, 4. J. K. Mannin, 5. L. Williams, 6. John Dearborn, 7. T. Woods, 8. E. R. Champlin
Fishing on Great Moose Lake was another popular excursion for Wild Goose Club Members and Guests.
1. Charles Ricker, 2. H. A. White, 3. C. F. Murphy
The Great Fireplace at The Commodore Club was built on 3 solid granite blocks open on all sides. The story is told the massive stone and brick structure was replicated from memories of a similar fireplace in a Scottish Hunting Lodge which Commodore Henry Hastings had once visited.
The Great Fireplace at The Commodore Club Main Lodge
Wild Goose Club Members & Guests pose for a photo on the front steps of Castle Harmony Main Lodge in 1917
After seeing this photo on our website, we were contacted by Betsy (Hall) Nordell who graciously informed us Ralph Linzee Hall & Vernon Howard Hall I are brothers and Vernon Howard Hall II & Barbara Hall are Ralph’s children. Betsy is the daughter of Vernon Howard Hall III.
1. Mrs. Meigs, 2. Mrs. Rice, 3. S. P. Snow, 4. Vernon Howard Hall I, 5. William Sutton, 6. Ralph Linzee Hall, 7. George W. Hastings, 8. E. T. Bigelow, 9. G. Rueter, 10. Harry Rice, 11. Mrs. Keyes, 12. Barbara Hall, 13. Betty Bigelow, 14. Dr. Meigs & 15. Vernon Howard Hall II
Mrs. Keyes proved she was also an accomplished fly fisherman even in her long skirt and high button shoes as seen in this 1917 photo.
Mrs. Keyes with her impressive catch on the dock at Castle Harmony
A group of Wild Goose Club Members & Guests strike a pose for a photograph in front of The Commodore Club in 1917.
1. E. A. Adams, 2. William V. Kellen, 3. Rufus Brown, 4. J. J. Enneking, 5. George W. Hastings, 6. B. T. Stephenson, 7. F. S. Sherburne, 8. C. L. James, 9. William Lawrence, 10. Henry Stephenson, 11. ____ Hawley
The rooms at the Castle Harmony Main Lodge were well decorated and featured numerous photos of past Wild Goose Club Members.
Castle Harmony Main Lodge
Things weren’t always good at Castle Harmony as seen in this undated photo of flood waters surrounding the Boat House.
Flood Waters from Main Stream engulf the Castle Harmony Boat House
Electricity finally arrived at Castle Harmony around 1920 and with it brighter lighting for the traditional poker games in the library at the long standing famous poker table pictured here in February of 1921.
(L-R) Arthur Boardman | J. W. May | I. F. Marshall | Dr. C. B. R. Chase | Ralph L. Hall
Castle Harmony & The Commodore Club both relied on local merchants to provide them with supplies over the decades of their existence. These merchants, including many from Harmony and Hartland, received a welcomed additional boost to their sales when members & guests of The Wild Goose Club arrived for their annual wilderness adventures. Many of them delivered their goods directly to the respective lodges.
1. T. A. Appollopnio & 2. George Merrill Lancey make a delivery of supplies to The Wild Goose Club in 1922
Castle Harmony Main Lodge
The article below provided us with many details included in our story above with its insightful look at The Wild Goose Club’s history.
“The Wild Goose Club at Castle Harmony”
From Little Talks Magazine – 1956
“The Wild Goose Club was an organization of Massachusetts business and professional men, which had its location in our part of Maine and continued its exotic gatherings for 85 years. In the year 1862, when the Civil War had barely started, a group of fifteen gentlemen of Boston and vicinity organized the Madawaska Club, with its location at Pittsfield, Maine.
The object was out-of-door recreation, especially fishing, duck hunting, and the snaring of wild pigeons. Pittsfield was selected because it was the largest town in the area of all New England that was most famous for its annual fall flights of wild pigeons in the middle of the 19th century.
Furthermore, Pittsfield had a well known hotel, the Lancey House. The organization took over a building and converted it into a club house, with living room and kitchen on the lower floor and one big dormitory room with cots occupying all of the second story. The club house stood in an open field near the Lancey House, where the members got their meals. On the front of the club house was a large painting of an elephant, which ever after became the symbol of the club, as it has since become the symbol of a national political party.
The founder and leading spirit was Henry Hastings of Boston, who was the club’s first president or, as he was called, “The Commodore”. By 1862 the railroad had reached Pittsfield. Members would charter a sleeping car and make the trip to Pittsfield in July. A few, who were retired from active business, remained all summer and well into the fall. Others came for shorter visits. All put in a lot of time fishing, and when September came, duck hunting and pigeon snaring were the principal sports.
In 1866, on a steamer returning from England, Henry Hastings met Archibald Linn of Hartland, who was coming home from a visit to his native Scotland. Linn sang the praises of the country around Great Moose Lake or, as he probably called it, Moose Pond. As a result in September of that year nine members of the Madawaska Club left the Lancey House in a Concord coach.
At Hartland, joined by Linn, they boarded a flat-bottomed, stern-wheeled steamer and proceeded up the river and across the lake to the inlet that they named the “Port of Galashiels” in honor of Linn’s native town in Scotland. The party landed and staked out a location for the club, having decided to move it from Pittsfield village right out into the country, where hunting and fishing were at the very door. There in 1872 they erected a club house, to which they gave the name “Castle Harmony” – doubly appropriate, because it lay in the town of Harmony, and the word applied to a group of congenial fellows getting recreation together.
There, through the years, the members developed their 900 acres, erected three other buildings, and annually brought hundreds of personal guests. The club membership, in its whole 85 years, never exceeded 35, but many members would entertain as many as 20 guests a piece during the long season from mid July to late October.
At a meeting in Young’s Hotel in Boston in December of 1873, the members decided to rename the club the “Wild Goose Club”. In the early days it was a hard place to reach. A long train trip from Boston to Pittsfield was followed by a buckboard ride of nine miles to Hartland, then six miles by row boat to their club site across the lake. There was no telephone, and the only way to get mail was to go to Hartland for it.
In 1886 the Sebasticook and Moosehead Railroad was extended from Pittsfield to Hartland. But it was not until 1901, when the line was extended to Mainstream that the club had a siding put in near its camp, so that the club Pullman car from Boston could be put on that siding and stay right there until members wanted to use it to return to the Hub. In the last 45 years of its existence the members could go from Boston almost to the gates of their camp by rail.
The members of the Wild Goose Club, who called themselves “ganders”, would find quite a different population now inhabiting their camp – a lively, jolly, but very gentlemanly group of 30 young goslings under the charge of a New York school teacher named William Trauth, Sr. For where the old gentlemen from Boston once snared the now extinct wild pigeon is one of the finest and most carefully conducted boys’ camps in Maine – Mr. Trauth’s Wild Goose Camp for Boys.
Just a little more than a month ago I had the pleasure of visiting the camp, and had lunch with William and his wife, Lorna Trauth, their counselors and all the boys except those who were away on an over-night canoe trip. I was struck by the seemingly casual and flexible, yet actually carefully planned organization of the camp. Nowhere have I ever seen such uniformly good manners, natural and not obviously artificial, in a group of youngsters aged 8 to 13 – usually the most boisterous and unmannerly of ages. I suspect Wild Goose Camp today is much more quiet and orderly than was its predecessor, the Wild Goose Club, and I am sure it serves a much better purpose.
Mr. Trauth has carefully preserved the portraits, the albums, and the records of the old club, which were carelessly left on the premises when the property was sold by the sons and grandsons of old members, for the younger generation of those visiting Bostonians just didn’t care what happened to the old club. But Mr. Trauth has an eye for historic lore, and thanks to him we can today get a glimpse of how those Bostonians of the 1870′s spent their time in the Maine woods.
For one thing they got thirsty. On August 20, 1865, when their club house was still at Pittsfield, the founder Henry Hastings wrote a letter to General Samuel Lawrence at Medford, Mass. Hastings wrote: “Seven of us are languishing for that distilled aqua which was originally discovered by one of your ancestors, famous for its strengthening and invigorating qualities, called Old Medford Rum. I will forgive you all your faults if you will ship by the Eastern Express Company one five gallon keg of the oldest vintage to the Madawaska Club, Pittsfield, Maine.”
General Lawrence replied: “Dear General Hastings. Per your serious appeal for the Seven sons of Medford desperately dry. Since I cannot accept your invitation and come personally to your relief, I will content myself by sending five gallons of proxy.”
Most of us are familiar with the sad story of the American wild pigeon. When our Maine people with itching feet sought new homes in the prairie states in the 1840′s and 1850′s, they recorded the almost unbelievable size of the pigeon flights. The slaughter of the birds was wanton, heedless and often useless. Glutted markets could not absorb the killed birds, and thousands were left to rot on the ground. The ruthless slaughter finally brought an end to the whole species, so that today not a single wild pigeon remains.
The members of the Wild Goose Club did not shoot the pigeons. They snared them in huge nets. And what hauls they got! In 1865 their catch was 1,920 birds; in 1866 it had risen to 3,490, which proved to be the peak; but for several years afterward the annual take exceeded 2,000. Compare those figures with the shooting of ducks. The largest recorded kill was in 1865, when the total reached 280. In 1866 it dropped slightly to 210, and in 1867 sharply to 166; and in 1870, when they netted 1,864 pigeons, they shot only 42 ducks. In the club records we note entries like these: “Caught at St. Albans 51 pigeons; got at Gressy Isle 26 ducks; caught 79 pigeons at Uncle Josh’s; got at Douglas’ 42 ducks, 24 of them cockaloroms of grand style.”
The Wild Goose Club got more pigeons and ducks than they could use. On September 5, 1866 their journal records that they caught 105 pigeons, but were nearly devoured by mosquitoes. Then the next day they sent 15 dozen pigeons to market, noting that on the same day there was both a grand Sabbath School picnic and a circus at Hartland.
The records contain a number of humorous incidents. In September, 1867 the members had so many guests with them in Pittsfield that the Lancey House was filled to capacity, as well as the club dormitory. A group of members, returning from a late evening out, saw a buggy at the hotel door. From it stepped a gentleman, who gave his hand to a female companion, who entered the parlor with her head heavily veiled. The landlord was summoned from bed. He informed the couple that he could not accommodate them because the house was full.
But the club members were too humane to turn a female out of doors at that hour of the night and into the chilly autumn air. The kind hearted Commodore Hastings informed the pair that they could have his room, but that to reach it, they would have to go through a room where two of his guests had already retired. Reluctantly the couple accepted and the two male guests were ordered to draw their heads under the bed clothes while the woman passed through. With face still covered, she crossed the room and found refuge with her companion in the Commodore‘s quarters. The next morning the pair departed with the woman still heavily veiled. Shortly afterward, when a deputy sheriff arrived, the gallant club members learned that they had given refuge to a woman running away from her husband with another man.
Another incident concerns a local character called Uncle John Pigeon. One day the old fellow came to the club saying he was out of bait. The bait he sought proved to be a bottle of Hostetter’s Bitters, but he settled for a bottle of Wahoo Bitters, which perhaps had just as much kick as Hostetter’s. An interesting coincidence is that this summer in Wild Goose Camp was a boy named Webster, who is great-grandson of one of the charter members of the famous Wild Goose Club, who snared pigeons and drank Old Medford Rum on the same spot long, long ago.”
This poem was hung in a gold frame at the entrance of the Castle Harmony Main Lodge:
“Here on the shores of this wild lovely lake
Where nature all her prospects richly blend,
Has met for years (What memories awake!)
A choice Companionship of genial friends”
The Wild Goose Club came to an abrupt end in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression when many of its members could no longer justify or afford the expense. Upon the death of the last surviving Wild Goose Club Member, W. L. Haywood, ownership of the Castle Harmony compound transferred to Mr. & Mrs. Edward Haywood who spent many summers there vacationing with their family until 1955.
In 1937, The Commodore Club was purchased by Edward Cudihy, Raymond Heffernen & John McHugh. Mr. McHugh soon sold his interest however Mr. Cudihy & Mr. Heffernen spent numerous summers at the lodge with their families. During these years, the Heffernens contributed generously to various fund raising efforts in Hartland including new equipment for the Hartland Volunteer Fire Department & Scott-Webb Memorial Hospital. They eventually sold The Commodore Club which is privately owned today and still stands proudly along the shores of Great Moose Lake.
The Commodore Club
Although The Wild Goose Club ultimately faltered, its spirit of adventure and camaraderie would be reignited at Castle Harmony a couple of decades later when a former New York school teacher and his wife purchased the property and soon opened the Wild Goose Camp for Boys.