There is an often-mangled but famous quote of a line from the 1786 Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse" that goes something like this "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Burns, of course, uses poetic Scottish words "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley." The Anglicized version drifted into mind as I started to write this week's BeeLines. The plan was to use three old photo postcards of the same beach that went by different names over the years Noble's Beach, Wilson's Beach, and Forest Park Beach as a picture-history, with short descriptions about when it went by each name, and its main attractions.
Forest Park was already documented as starting mid-1924, so a search in the digitized Westfield Republican newspapers was made for any references to Wilson's or Noble's Beach between 1856 and 1924. "Pay dirt" was hit in The Westfield Republican of October 6, 1897, page one, which had numerous highlighted sections for both names. The article provided a detailed history of the beaches and creeks along the shores of Lake Erie, from Chautauqua Creek west to Bell's Creek nearest the town-line between Westfield and Ripley, which changed the focus of BeeLines for this week. Following are quotes from the article, interspersed with brief comments by current Westfield Historian to clarify the surprise names.
"Retain The Old Names" was the headline for a letter to "Editor Republican: - I was considerably interested in the letter of Dr. Milton Wilson on the rights of property owners to the nomenclature of their possessions as applied to the beaches published in a late issue of the Republican." (The "late issue" in question was located in the September 22, 1897, Westfield Republican, Page 8.)
"I feel that we should give to the owners of the beaches along the shores of Lake Erie all that in reason is possible, even speaking the words that they direct so that the public shall still have access to these places of attraction, health and comfort. The lake, that we all love and glory in, would be shorn of one great feature of attractiveness were the property owners less generous of the shore line. As it is, these owners, with a patience that is heroic, year after year tolerate and almost invite the invading army that is not slow to avail itself of all that is offered, to com and spread itself on their holdings.
"In the matter of our names of local points it has always seemed to me the right and proper thing to hold to the original designation without regard to the oft-recurring changes. When the country was new a certain creek, about 3 miles west of the village, was known as Bell's creek, and although the Bell family no longer is represented on its western bank at the intersection of the Main Road, still Bell's Creek holds to its name as it goes its way to Lake Erie.
"The same is true of Montgomery creek one mile east, and I hope the name will survive as those waters shall run. The next creek eastward at the present western line of the corporation which was early known as Johnston's creek, seems to have taken to it the name of the twice owner of the adjoining property, and is called and known as Vorce creek."
AHA! So we have an older name for what is now known as Freeling's Creek Montgomery creek the creek that, not long after this 1897 history was written, became the source for water for the steam locomotives on the NY Central Railroad. And we also have an older name for what had become by 1897, and still in 2016 is known as, Vorce Creek to wit, Johnston's (or Johnson) creek. A map from about 1880 actually shows the name Johnson Creek. This is the creek that crosses Route 20 at the edge of the Village of Westfield, between the Antique barn at the location of the original first settled farm and the recent Nixon Farm. On Lake Road or Route 5, Vorce Creek crosses underneath just west of where Hawley Street enters Route 5. There is a beautiful waterfall right under the north side of that bridge.
"In regard to the beaches of the same district: the westerly beach which is immediately north of the Light road and near the original homestead of the late Perez B. Noble, a small beach difficult of access, was early and constantly known as Noble's Beach." This is currently (2016) the beach at Edgewater Condominium Community. In the Late 1800s and early 1900s, Noble's Beach was the name most commonly applied to the beach that later was called Wilson's Beach, and after 1924, was the beach at Forest Park.
"That [beach] next to the east at the mouth of Montgomery creek and near the residence on the lands of the late John Wilson, grandfather of Dr. Milton Wilson, was known as Wilson's beach. It is a large beach easy to access but not as beautiful in surroundings as that next to the east of which Dr. Wilson speaks." So the beach at the mouth of the creek that became the water supply for the steam engines on the New York Central Railroad was the original Wilson's Beach. I recently hiked down to that creek and beach, the property of which is owned by the Village of Westfield, and photographed the beach, creek, and remains of the pumping station.
"The third beach, at the mouth of Johnston's or the Vorce creek, is nearly covered by the westerly boundaries of the Peacock property, but the entrance to it on the west is wholly through Dr. Wilson's lands whose fences have often suffered from the none-too-careful pleasure seekers. This beach was earlier known as Harris beach, not from ownership but because the nearest and most prominent residence was that of Mr. Jonathan S. Harris, and earlier that of his respected father." According to this description, and in the opinion of the writer of the quoted article, it is apparent that what is now Forest Park's Beach, earlier called Wilson's Beach, and even earlier called Noble's Beach, should really be called Harris Beach.