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Wilton memorial has a well-read history

By Staff | Sep 15, 2013

Several years ago, the Swift Water Girl Scout Council realized it they had to consolidate tis resources. It closed five facilities, including the Anne Jackson Memorial in Wilton Center.

Logically enough, the council said Camp Kettleford in Bedford was more easily accessible for many more girls. Wilton Center is a lovely semirural area, not exactly an urban area with ready transportation.

The camp was closed in 2012, the site was sold, the dam that created the camp’s “waterfront” was removed and it eventually will be developed in some manner.

For those of us who were Girl Scouts during the 1960s through the 1980s, the years that I was a leader of various levels of Girl Scouting, it was a sad move. I took my required troop camp qualifying training there with the late Hazel Adams, of Milford. It was so much fun, I did it twice. There is always something new to learn, and Hazel was a wealth of practical advice.

I was there with several of my troops for camp training.

In the early 1970s, it was still a “primitive” area. There were several Adirondack shelters and privies in the lower field, but there was no waterfront. Upgrading of the area into an established day camp began in 1985. More than 100 girls from the surrounding towns attended each session.

One of my girls’ favorite memories is of a weekend when we planned to train for an overnight camping trip. It rained, of course, and being prudent, we moved into the lodge.

In keeping with our objective, we tried cooking over a fire in the fireplace rather than the quite adequate lodge kitchen. The neighborhood dog wouldn’t eat our spaghetti.

We slept in the lodge loft, a spacious area at the time, but which was invaded by a small bat. Cadette Scouts (seventh- through ninth-graders) can produce some really good pretended hysterics, not that they had actually planned to sleep.

The Anne Jackson Memorial has a long and colorful history.

From about 1910 through the 1940s, it was owned by Dr. Fordyce Colburn and his wife, the then popular novelist Eleanor Hallowell Abbott. They called it “Rollo Farm” in honor of her grandfather, Jacob Abbott, the author of several children’s books known as the “Rollo Books.”

The lodge was Mrs. Colburn’s studio and is the only original building left, at the end used as the caretaker’s quarters. The empty farmhouse was burned by the Fire Department because of repeated vandalism.

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Coburn moved to the seacoast, where she died in 1958 at 86. The property was acquired by their friends Patrick and Anne Jackson. After Anne’s death, Patrick gave the farm to Swift Water Council as a memorial to his wife.

Eleanor Hallowell Abbott was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1872. Her parents met at a reception given at the White House by President Abraham Lincoln. Her father was a minister and an author, and she knew such writers as Longfellow, Whittier and Whitman, frequent guests in her parents’ home.

After her mother’s death, she tried her hand at freelancing, and a poem was finally accepted by Harper’s Magazine. Her short story “The Sick-a-bed Lady” won a Collier’s Prize of $1,000 and established her as a writer.

In 1908, she married Fordyce Colburn, of Lowell, Mass.

Her novels, light romantic fiction, were popular through the 1930s. My favorites are “Molly Make-believe,” published in 1910, and “Peace on Earth Goodwill to Dogs,” a wonderful Christmas story from 1920.

The Wilton Public & Gregg Free Library owns several of her books, but doesn’t generally circulate them.

You can go there and read one.

Keep up with the past with Another Perspective, which runs every other Thursday in The Telegraph. Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or jessies@tellink.net.


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