The Clarks of Willsborough Point – Once Upon a Lake

Livre en anglais

The third book in the Clarks of Willsborough Point series follows Orrin Clark throughout the 1820s as he enters adulthood. He embraces life as a farmer, attempts to own land, marries and becomes a father – all while he struggles to understand and adapt to the enormous challenges and opportunities that arise when the the Champlain Canal wrenches the Champlain Valley from its remote, rural existence and forces it into a whole new world that changes his way of life forever.




In this, the third book in a series, the author invites you to take the next steps with him as Orrin Clark emerges from childhood, reaches his majority, is no longer indentured and sets forth on his own. We will follow him through the decade of the 1820s as we watch him begin to take on the attitudes, skills and responsibilities of adulthood. He remains committed to the life of a farmer and continues to live with the Blinn family for a few more years during which he hones his skills in his chosen vocation and is introduced to a world beyond Willsborough when he serves as a forester in a Quaker community to the north and meets his future wife. With marriage in mind, we see Orrin set off on his own when his father makes it possible for him to purchase a piece of land up the road, and a wedding is soon in the offing.

Soon, we find ourselves on the wagon as Orrin brings his bride, Mary Moon, over the mountain to his home on a parcel of land called Ligonier Point which extends into Lake Champlain from Willsborough Point. All seems to be blissful for the young couple until out of the blue Orrin discovers that he has been caught in the net of a speculator, and the land that he has paid for is actually not his. Their lives are shattered and Orrin and Mary must make a decision. Do they simply give up and move elsewhere or do they take the high road? We become part of every twist and turn as they struggle to bring balance into their lives and to reclaim the land they live upon. Miraculously, a son is born in the midst of their woes, and they are swept away with joy and renewed courage to continue on as best they can.

With this said, Orrin opens the door and asks us to step into their daily lives. We accompany him into the dense forest that covers the land on Ligonier Point and watch him as he wields his axe throughout the long winter days and, with the help of his oxen, gradually creates fields for pasture, opens land for crops, develops a barnyard that keeps his livestock safe from predators, improves his barn that offers winter shelter and storage for the fruits of his labors and, at the end of each day, wearily returns to his cabin for respite. Now Mary steps forward and beckons us to spend some time with her as she goes about the duties of a wife and mother. She maintains a spotless home, tends her garden and goes about the daily chores of cooking, cleaning, milking the cows, churning butter, dipping candles, making cheese, washing, ironing, sewing, spinning, knitting, and the list goes on and on.

Finally, Orrin asks us to become part of the rapidly broadening “world” around him. A canal is born and, suddenly, interaction and communication open up in the Champlain Valley of New York and Vermont. The area is emerging from its remote rural way of life and is moving forward to assume a position in trade and commerce that goes far beyond the reaches of the lake and its surroundings. The moniker of “isolated” becomes a thing of the past. Ever of a curious mind, Orrin eagerly studies the cultural, social, economic and political changes which call upon him to adapt in ways that he had never thought of before. Wherever life takes him, he is eager to go.

About the Author

Twenty years ago, the Clarks reached out from the past and urged Darcey Hale to pry open boxes, search through drawers, and peer into every dusty nook and cranny of their dwellings and outbuildings, where she discovered and brought to life the 51,000 written and printed materials, 6,000 photographs and 2,000textiles that had been awaiting new life for well over a century.


In Darcey Hale’s first two books she has eloquently presented the life of Orrin Clark up to his twenty-first birthday. In her third book, Once Upon a Lake, Darcey continues to portray life in Willsborough and in the Champlain Valley during the early 1800s, as she masterfully depicts Orrin’s trials and tribulations, as well as his joys and sorrows, as a young man setting out on his own. Her extensive research draws upon the 52,000 19th-century records which the Clark family kept meticulously, and had remained hidden from public knowledge until she discovered them in various former Clark property buildings and brought together. To tell the story of the lives of the Clark family is a profound work of art. The reader will find this book captivating – one that you will not set aside for very long.
– Ron Bruno, Willsboro Town Historian

Once Upon a Lake, the third in a series of congenial books about one family who settled Willsboro Point, is grounded in the documents preserved by the Clark family and enriched by extensive secondary literature. The book will command an adult reader’s attention while the details of pioneer living will also appeal to a younger audience. An adult could read this book to a child – and both would enjoy and learn about wresting productive fields from forest, training animals, running a household, creating a vegetable and herb garden, making clothing, raising a family and dealing with issues beyond their control – it informatively deals all aspects of life in first decades of the early 19th century. The book closes with the new era of steam boating on Lake Champlain and the changes it brought, the stuff for the next book in the series.
– H. Nicholas Muller III, historian of the Champlain Valley.

Once Upon a Lake, is the work of roughly a decade of analysis and interpretation by Darcey Hale to master the records in the Clark Family collection. That is not to say there were no accomplishments along the way. In 2013, she was instrumental in getting the property designated a Ligonier Point Historic District. In following years, her interpretation of the Clark family records was documented thru the detailed accounts found in two detailed volumes about Orrin Clark’s life. A new third volume, Once Upon a Lake, brings the story up through the year, 1829. And, Orrin is still a young man with plenty of life’s history to live. Just imagine –packet boats, steam navigation, the California gold rush—we could go on—but you the reader get the idea!
– Morris F. Glenn, Board of Trustees, Adirondack History Museum

Informations complémentaires

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