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Remembrance

by Dwight Carter

 

 

 

            In the southeast corner of Branford is a special place to many people. It is called Stony Creek. The folks who live there call themselves Creekers or Islanders. Some families have been there since the first settlement of Totoket.

            In 1893 and a Creeker and an Islander have met, fallen in love, married and started their family. The Creeker is a pretty young woman named Adelaide Frink, whose homestead is next to the public docks and alongside the plush resort called the Indian Point House, which was operated by her father Nathan Frink. The Islander is a tall, handsome young Yalie, class of 1889, named Arthur Jepson whose homestead is in New Haven but whose heart is on Jepson Island (or Burr Island) where three generations of his family have spent their summers. Arthur met Adelaide while working summers at the hotel as a room clerk and bellhop.

            The Jepson’s lavished love on their only child, Lilian, a dark haired young lady whose nickname, “Gypsy,” best described her appearance.

            The Jepsons added to the Island cottage and it became a lovely, gracious Victorian summer home. Every day Arthur wrote in his log of life on Jepson Island: the weather, important activities; fish caught, nice mess of clams or oysters, friends, family and grandchildren coming and going. By 1927 daughter Lilian and her husband, Dwight H. Carter, Sr., another Yalie, class of ’14, had given them three grandchildren who called Arthur “Bompie” and Adelaide “Nannie.”

            By 1936 Bompie is able to triumphantly report in the log that “Old Man Depression is on the run,” and “Dolly (the only granddaughter) is off to college” and “Tim (oldest grandson) is off to Mt. Hermon School” –“ We’ll find the money somewhere” and “Hec (youngest grandson) is better every day” recovering from a near fatal bout with rheumatic fever.

            It had become a tradition for dear, old friends to join Bompie and Nannie on Jepson, for a few days of good food and good times. Sept.20, 1938 Bompie writes “The girls, Myra, Myra and Nellie arrived in Irv’s Tigress this afternoon, (Captain Irving Page’s “Tigress” was the largest of the ferry/sightseeing boats operating in the Creek), and Lilian and Hec went back to New Rochelle for school. The weather is too bad to row ashore. We’ll have a great time anyway. The weather is bound to get better soon.”

            Sept.21, 1938 Bompie writes “Rain, rain, rain. Will it never end?” And indeed it had been raining and blowing for several days, but such “line” storms were common during a New England fall. By midday, Bompie and Nannie realized the storm was becoming far worse than any of the hundreds they had ridden out over their years together. The tide rose and great waves smashed green water increasingly higher against the southwest walls of the cottage. A sudden terrible sound rose above the cacophony of the storm as the island landing floats and boats were torn away by the relentless onslaught of wind and wave. Bompie, Nannie and their guests joined together on the northeast veranda roof of the cottage, waving white sheets in hopes one of the watermen gathered on shore would rescue them. And those brave men tried- and tried- and tried. But no boat could be taken into those waters as th e wind rose well over 140 miles per hour and each wave was higher than the one above.

            The watchers on shore suddenly realized that the great yellow gray bank of rain sweeping into and over the islands from the southwest was not rain. It was a tremendous storm surge wave, variously estimated to be 16 to 24 feet high, driven across the Sound at the speed of an express freight train by the howling, swirling winds of the storm. It seemed to engulf all the Thimble Islands in seconds. When the wave finally broke and spent itself on the shore, destroying almost everything in its path at the water’s edge, the air cleared.

            Then they saw that the house on Jepson Island was gone. Not a trace was left, except one shattered elm tree and the immutable Stony Creel granite on which a whole happy world had been built. Adelaine and Arthur Jepson and their friends; Myra Spicer, Myra White and Nellie Wright all lost their lives that faithful day, Sept.21, 1938.

            Forty-Two years later Dwight H. Carter, Jr., “Hec,” and his wife built a new cottage on Jepson Island and nowadays it is again often filled with a passel of grandchildren, all of whom call Dwight Carter “Bompie.”

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