Memories of Dutton’s Island

By Richard Houghton Morrison

The island is located in Umbagog Lake in Errol, New Hampshire. My grandfather Harry Dutton built a camp on this island 1898-1905. I was told that the cost to build the camp was around $105,000, which today would be in the millions.

I am Richard Houghton Morrison, the last living grandchild of Harry Dutton. My mother was Alice Dutton Morrison, youngest daughter of Harry. I spent every summer at the island from age six months to seventeen years old.

I am going to take you on a written tour of the island as I remember it.

We used to land our boat at the inlet on the east side of the island. Located there was a wooden wharf and granite steps to the island.

The main house was on the right and straight ahead was the ice house. This was a building approximately 20′ by 30′. Inside was a bulkhead that contained sawdust. In the winter, workers would cut out blocks of ice to be used in the two large ice chests located in a pantry off the kitchen. The ice blocks were stored in sawdust.

We will now proceed south to a building called the Guides’ Camp. As you entered this building you were in a hall. In a room on the left were two large Kohler diesel-driven generators that delivered DC current for the lights at the camp. Two rooms on the right housed gasoline-engine-driven water pumps. These pumps pumped water from the lake to a large tank located near the top of the lighthouse. The water from the tank fed the flush toilets and sinks located in the five bathrooms. It also fed the sinks located in the kitchen and pantry. Moving down the hall, a utility room was on the left and on the right was a bathroom, and then stairs to the attic that was used for storage. At the end of the hall there was a large living room with a big potbelly stove in the middle.

There were four bedrooms and two were located on either side of the living room. The help lived here and had their meals in the kitchen of the main house.

We will now head north to the main house. When we arrived for the summer we would always enter the house through the kitchen. You entered the pantry that contained the two large ice chests, one on either side.

We now proceed into the large kitchen; countertops on the left, large sink at the end. In the middle of the back was a large, black, iron, wood-burning stove with two ovens controlled by a damper in the flue. The west wall had various cabinets and a door to the porch. On the north side was a very large table and chairs where the help ate. Next to the table was a doorway entering into a large pantry that contained a sink and many cabinets. Also located here was the maid-calling station. From this pantry on and throughout the entire camp, only cherry wood and tulip wood was used on all walls and ceilings.

We now enter the dining room through swinging doors. The dining room had a large table that could be enlarged with leaves. We used the table at its smallest size (eight chairs). It could be enlarged to seat sixteen. Windows on the west side afforded a beautiful view of the lake and mountains. On the east side was a large fireplace with a lovely mantel piece. The ceiling in this room and the living room was sixteen feet high.

I am now going to take you to the front door entering the living room. I can better explain this room from the entrance. As you entered this room you were looking at a huge fireplace with a large bull moose mounted over it. To the left was a tall music box that played large, round, metal disks with holes in them. On this side of the room was the door to Harry and Alice’s bedroom. Next was a large, red velvet couch with ornate gold armrests. Next to this was a large piano and as we turned the corner a cabinet holding cue sticks and pool equipment was located here next to the fireplace. On this side of the room was a standard-sized pool table. Continuing on past the fireplace you came to the open entrance to the dining room. On the west wall were chairs, tables and lamps. One chair of interest was Harry’s buffalo chair done in an off-red leather with actual buffalo horns. An L-shaped couch with large cushions was in the corner. On this side of the room were many chairs and tables. Around the periphery of the room about ten feet up were deer heads, lynx heads, stuffed fish and many other animal heads. A stuffed black bear cub was located next to the fireplace on the right. The cub held an ashtray in his paws.


We will now proceed into Harry and Alice’s bedroom, which was off the living room. This was a large bedroom with twin beds, two large bureaus, a table with a lamp between the beds and a large fireplace. The master bath had a tub, fireplace, sink and a flush toilet. Off of this bedroom was Harry’s den and office. This room was small and had a fireplace with a bench seat on either side, somewhat like a booth at a restaurant, but larger. On the other side of the left bench seat was a large rolltop desk. Harry had a back door in this room so he could leave without being disturbed. Next to this room was a large walk-in closet.

Next was a corner bedroom with twin beds, dresser, table, private bath and a walk-in closet. This was the bedroom I slept in. This room also had a fireplace.

We now proceed to four similar bedrooms, all with brass double beds, dressers, walk-in closets and a fireplace. These rooms shared two bathrooms. The end bedroom was larger with a double bed, private bath, fireplace, dresser, tables and a walk-in closet. All bedrooms had their own door leading to the large wrap-around porch. The porch had five large stairways to the ground, one on the east, two on the north and two on the west.

A double door entrance at ground level near the wharf led you into a storage area that ran under the porch around the entire periphery of the camp. In here were canoes, rowboats, wood storage piles, boxes, boxes of clay pigeons for skeet, and many other miscellaneous items.

The entire U-shaped main house had a large porch all around it. The northwest corner of the porch had a walkway to the lighthouse. The lighthouse was built to house a large water tank near the top. As you walked into the lighthouse, you entered a room with all kinds of closets and cabinets that were used for storage. On the left of the the room was a stairway that circled around the water tank and took you to a room at the top of the lighthouse. This room had a large light that was used as a beacon at night. There was a circular walkway around the top of the lighthouse, with a great view in any direction.


Richard E. Pinette, Northwoods Echoes (the author, 1986), 15-20:
— The Ojibway was 30′ long, not 26′.
— The solid brass cannon was mounted on a steamboat named the Valantta.
— The stone watchtower was actually called the lighthouse.
— There was not any pipe laid across the lake to Tyler Cove. Drinking water came from a natural spring located in B Cove. A wooden trough was installed from the spring to the edge of the lake. Five-gallon cart boys were filled here.

Joseph Crook Anderson II, The Duttons of Glen Rock, Malden, Massachusetts: An Updated Account (the author, 2013), 74-78:
— Richard H. Morrison was born in 1931.
— The main house on Dutton’s Island was U-shaped, not circular. Harry and Alice’s bedroom was located next to the living room in the front of the camp.
— The room off the master bedroom was not a card room. See my description above.
— The living room had only one large fireplace.
— The porch extended to the lighthouse at the northwest corner.
— My grandfather had a telephone line laid on the bottom of the lake to Tyler Cove. The line then ran to the lake house hotel in Upton, Maine.


Harry Dutton’s Lighthouse Today

The power of the Internet never fails to amaze me! Yesterday evening, I received an email from Mark [last name not given] who is familiar with Metallak Island in Lake Umbagog, the site of Harry Dutton’s camp. It would seem that Mark lives in the area and had seen this blog. He wrote:

 I took this picture of the lighthouse over the winter. The current owner built a gazebo on the old foundation. There has been a mobile home on the island for years. The old foundations are still intact. If I get a chance I will try to get you current pictures of the island.

The two pictures he attached are shown below:

Lighthouse Gazebo

Metallak Island mobile home

This confirms that the two structures seen on the aerial photo of the island (see my blog post below of April 3, 2014) are indeed the lighthouse and the mobile home pictured above.

My thanks to Mark for taking the time to send these interesting photos.

Additional Notes on Harry Dutton’s Camp

I recently purchased a copy of the book Northwoods Echoes, written and published privately in 1986 by Richard E. Pinette. Chapter 2 is titled “Dutton’s Island” and describes in entertaining detail Harry Dutton’s camp at Lake Umbagog in Maine. According to this book, the island was called by the locals “The Million Dollar Island” because of the money that Harry spent to build his summer home in the middle of Lake Umbagog. According to Pinette, the house, with its seven large bedrooms

. . . was beautifully designed to blend with the natural beauty of the island and the surrounding lake. Its interior was finished with exotic wood panels from distant parts of the world. The red-shingled roof, the first one of its kind in the entire region, sloped down to cover the wide porch which went completely around the mansion to offer breathtaking panoramic views for the guests as they sat outdoors in their comfortable rocking chairs, enjoying the cooling lake breezes during the hot summer days.

Pinette adds that Harry Dutton hired the finest cooks to prepare meals, as well as waiters and servants who served them in the beautiful dining room of the camp, decorated with parqueted wood floors, Persian rugs, and wood-panelled walls with mounted trophy heads from Harry’s hunting and fishing expeditions. The servants lived in separate servants’ quarters on the island (visible in the movies that I posted in the last blog post).

The Duttons love for the game of golf has been well documented, and an island in the middle of the rugged northwoods did not prevent Harry from participating in the sport:

[He] found a spot on the shore of the mainland and he had his own private golf course carved out of the forest at a place known as “Tyler Cove.” Recently this writer [i.e., Pinette] made a special trip to that area to try to locate the site of the old golf course, now completely grown over with trees. With the aid of two foresters . . . the exact spot was located. Still distinguishable are a couple of the greens, now with spruce and fir trees up to fourteen inches in diameter growing out of what was once the putting surface.

With no suitable water supply available on the island, Harry Dutton laid a special pipe across the water on the lake bottom to bring fresh water from Tyler Spring on the mainland using mechanical pumps. A few years after the house was built, the windward shore of the island began to show signs of erosion.

Hundreds of huge blocks of quarried stones weighing several tons each were hauled across the lake ice in the winter months and . . . were used to erect a mighty sea wall and boat slip. The exquisite stone work resembled the walls of an ancient castle moat and they are still visible to boaters today.

In the 1940s, the Union Water Power Company, which controlled the level of the lake, developed plans for a larger and higher dam at Errol, New Hampshire, which would completely flood the island. The company purchased the island from Harry Dutton’s heirs and hired a contractor to dismantle and remove all of the buildings from the island. The buildings were torn down during the winter months and the materials were taken away over the lake ice. Ironically, the construction of the bigger dam never materialized. When Pinette wrote his account in 1986, he reported that the island was then leased to a married couple who used it as a weekend retreat. While the big house was gone, the massive stone walls built to prevent erosion were still intact, as was also the lighthouse. Although I cannot say for sure if the lighthouse survives today in 2014, a close-up aerial photo of the island from Google Maps shows a rounded construction that seems like it could very well be the lighthouse.

Metallak Lake

This rounded structure is located on the north side of the island, just to the left of the lone house in the photo, and is seen better in this closeup:

Metallak Lake Rounded Structure

As it turns out, surprisingly, Harry Dutton’s large house has not completely disappeared. When the buildings on the island were razed, one of the wings of the mansion was cut away from the rest of the building and moved six miles over the ice to a spot just off Mill Road in the town of Upton, Maine, where it was set up on concrete supports. In 1986 it formed a section of the home of a young married couple. They had made some renovations, but most of the original interior had been preserved.

One room in particular has been left virtually intact, just as it was in those days of grandeur. We visited the room which had been the formal dining room. The refined grace and richness is still evident on every side. The sixteen-foot cathedral ceiling, which seems to reach for the sky, is of parqueted solid wood sections, each about three feet square and accentuated by criss-crossing heavy beams. The solid imported wood is tulip wood with a natural finish the color of honey, with a rich and deep tone instead of a shine. The walls are of the same pleasing patterns. One end of the preserved room is covered with wood and glass china closets built into the wall and divided by a solid wood, five-panel door, leading to what was then the pantry, a place where lights were displayed to signal the maids. . . . The wing of the Dutton mansion which was saved from destruction also included a section of the spacious porch which has now been closed in for an additional room. The original double-hung windows, which had faced the lake, are still in place and in good condition.

Pinette ends his account by noting wistfully that the island in the waters of Umbagog Lake is now just a skeleton of its former self:

Gone are the affluent guests, the maids and the servants of that grand era. Gone also is what was once perhaps the grandest mansion in these parts. . . . But the memories of the once glorious island live on, and the massive stone work which remains serves as a silent reminder of the magnificent days of Dutton’s Island, the “Million Dollar Island” in the heart of the northland.

Vacationing at Harry Dutton’s Camp

Dick Morrison is the last person alive who remembers spending the summer at his grandfather Harry Dutton’s camp on Metallak Island in Lake Umbagog. Until he was seventeen years old, he would go there with his family and spend a month every summer. The following videos are clips from family movies in Dick’s possession. These movies were taken in the 1930s and show his parents, his brother, and other members of the extended family enjoying their time at the camp.

In this first video, we approach the camp, as all visitors did, by launch from the mainland. The most prominent feature of the camp was the lighthouse, which according to Dick was a disguise for a large water tank, pumped full from the lake and used to power the camp’s plumbing system.

A summertime visit to the camp offered many types of outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, canoeing, swimming, badminton, and shooting, all of which can be seen on the next video.  In the first badminton clip, Alice (Dutton) Morrison, Dick’s mother, shows her form in the near court competing against her husband, Arthur W. Morrison. In the second clip, the older player on the near side is Harry Dutton’s son-in-law, Erving Morse, who was the last president of the Houghton & Dutton store. The shooters are Dick’s father, brother, and mother–Arthur W. Morrison, Arthur D. Morrison, and Alice. The boy in the canoe with the dog is Arthur D. Morrison.

Dick Morrison has very fond memories of visiting the camp, and has promised to put together a recording describing it in more detail, which I hope to post some time in the future. In the meantime, we will take one more tour around the camp by water before heading back to the mainland. What a fun and relaxing place the camp must have been, for both humans and dogs!

Harry Dutton’s Camp

Harry Dutton’s lavish “camp,” located on Metallak Island in Lake Umbagog (just outside the town of Upton, Maine), was a popular summer vacation destination for all of the Duttons.

Upton, Maine

Lake Umbagog2

The camp was built in 1898-99 and remained in the possession of Harry’s descendants until the 1940s when it was eventually sold.

The construction of the camp was an event of much interest to the local population, as evidenced by this story published on the first page of the Lewiston [Maine] Sunday Journal, on 19 November 1898:

Bethel, Me., Nov. 19 (Special). The people of Bethel and vicinity are much interested in Upton, where Mr. Dutton of the well-known firm of Houghton, Dutton & Co., Boston, is erecting a summer house on Metalluck Island in Umbagog Lake. Bethel has often expressed a desire for railroad connection with the large lake country lying northerly of it, but now many think that the future holds more in store for this region if this vast territory is left undisturbed by the railroad. Development inevitably follows in the wake of the railroad and the wilderness of the great forests no longer remains. The territory now lying northerly of Bethel, and made up of Newry, Grafton, Upton and the lower Umbagog region still remains comparatively unbroken in its seclusion. Here the sportsmen can find immense tracts of almost virgin forest, and haunts as wild and rugged and unbroken as they were two centuries ago. Each year many come to this section from other states and enjoy its exceptional sporting facilities. But until recently no move has been made toward the development of the country as a summer retreat.

Mr. Dutton not long ago purchased Metalluck Island of its owners in Upton and at once began to get it into suitable condition for building. The island contains two or three acres and receives its name from the famous Metalluck, the last of the Androscoggin tribe of Indians, who for a long time dwelt on the shores of Umbagog lake and near this point. Mr. Dutton has built a breakwater of rocks around the island, so that its shores are fully protected. The house is being built near the shore and follows its contour to quite a degree. It is one story in height and the front will be 117 feet in length. There will be two wings, one of which will be 97 feet long and the other 77 feet. The building will be of considerable width and will cover quite a surface, thus affording accommodation for a large number. It will contain many fireplaces and will have all conveniences. Mr. Dutton intends to erect a lighthouse on the head of the island and undoubtedly will change the entire island into a veritable paradise of a summer retreat. Mr. Dutton has a nice summer house near Rangeley, but the railroad and its followers are not to his liking when seeking recreation. He had been in Upton looking after his interests but the charge of the entire matter is in the hands of Mr. Alva Coolidge of Upton. A large crew of men are at work upon the building and the outside work is being hastened as much as possible.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, in which I will take you on a boat tour around the island, compliments of Harry’s grandson Dick Morrison, and perhaps we’ll also be able to get in a game of badminton.