If only the dining room walls could talk, there could be many a book written about the guests that have graced these sporting camps over the years. Let’s start at the beginning. In the early 1900’s, Russell Spinney had graduated from Bryant and Stratton Business College in Concord, N.H., but did not like city living. He made his way to the Rangeley area and worked as a guide there at Capt. Barker’s camps. It was there he met his future bride. In February, 1910, Mr. Spinney married Blanche and brought her to this spot, 6 miles over the ice from Rockwood, by horse drawn sled. On the sled were a barrel of molasses, 2 barrels of flour, 1 barrel of salt pork, and other basic necessities. The camps were built in the early 1900’s by the Spinneys and Douglas Rollins. The Rollins family owned the property at that time, but eventually sold the camp and 127 acres to Mr. Spinney. The only access to Tomhegan at that time was by water. In the early years people came to Kineo Station in Rockwood by train and were picked up by one of the forty foot cruisers and transported to Tomhegan. After reaching camp, the guests were catered to by the staff; elegant meals were served three times a day and after the evening meal the guests were provided with a lantern to light their way back to camp. Their fires were started by cabin boys and fresh spring water was brought in.
Ferguson Point was named after one of the early guests of Tomhegan. Mrs. Ferguson fell in love with her Indian guide, and being a lady of means, she had several tents erected on the spot with red carpet running between them. It was here that they whiled away the summer days in romantic bliss. Marjorie Spinney, daughter of Russell and Blanche Spinney, often shared memories of others that have visited here as well; one would be Mr. Gene Tunney, (one-time heavyweight boxing champion), who had a training camp at Baker Point. He spent Christmas with Marjorie’s family, when she was only a small child going to school. Another was Mrs. Alice Statler of the Hilton-Statler hotel chain, who spent the summers here from 1939 until just before her death. She made a significant contribution to improving the boardwalk, which once stretched one quarter of a mile connecting all of the cabins and the lodge. It was rebuilt courtesy of Mrs. Alice Statler, to make the walk easier as she got older. She had the very best California Spruce brought in to build it, so it would last. However, the Tomhegan boardwalk was regretfully removed in 2012 due to safety issues and deterioration. We know the boardwalk is missed, but we hope the special magic felt at Tomhegan continues regardless.
After Mr. Spinney’s death in 1939, the camps were operated by his wife, Blanche, and daughter Marjorie. Marjorie was born April 13th, 1916, in cabin #4, Diana. She married Keith McBurnie in 1950. They had their honeymoon in cabin #1, Hemlock. In 1951 Blanche passed away, leaving Marjorie and her husband Keith, to maintain and keep Tomhegan going. In 1954 Marjorie had a road put in, creating a big change for access to Tomhegan.
Marjorie was well known in the area for her love of wild animals; most of the camps are named after pet deer she raised here. The deer were often seen feeding near her camp and she had pictures of them inside the camp lying on her bed and under her Christmas Tree. The doe “Diana” whose gravestone is situated near the pump house (in front of cabin #3, Ramona) was a particular favorite. Diana mothered thirty-five offspring during her eighteen-and-a-half-year span here at Tomhegan (see Diana page attached). Marjorie and Keith continued to run the camps until 1977, when due to poor health, Marjorie was forced to sell the property. However, she continued to live at Tomhegan for many years beyond that time.
In January 1983, the camps were purchased by Steve and Pam Rich. There was no electricity and water had to be brought from the frozen lake by sawing a hole in the ice with a chain saw. The family immediately set out to rebuild the badly decomposed camps. The camps had not had paid guest for some years, although the squirrels, chipmunks, bats, and an assortment of other wildlife were living rather well here. Steve, using his skills as a carpenter and manager, first gutted out the “Guides Camp,” (which later became the site of manager’s house), and completely rebuilt it, making it their home. Then the cabins, one by one, were set back on their posts. All the plumbing was repaired or replaced, new kitchens, porches or walls were built, and finally in September of 1984, electricity was brought in by an underwater cable. Pam was very particular about cleaning the camps and did most of it herself, along with painting, taking reservations, greeting guests, bookkeeping, and feeding the crews working on the camps. All this was done that first year and nine months without benefit of electricity, running water, or even a telephone.
In 1988, Tomhegan was purchased again by a single owner and slowly became neglected. In 1993, the camps went up for auction and were purchased separately. The group of owners formed an association, Tomhegan Camps Owners Association (TCOA). As of today, that association still stands and consists of a committed group of owners.
We are glad to say that Margie continued to live in the “Winter Camp,” (now named Margie), until 2005; when she was no longer able to live alone and moved to Skowhegan. She would occasionally make the trip up (with a caretaker) for short stays or special occasions until was no longer able to do so due to failing health. She passed away in October of 2007, at the age of 89. Her camp was rebuilt in the Fall of 2007 and named “Margie” in her honor.
We hope that your presence, here at Tomhegan, helps to continue create happy memories and history. We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the history here at Tomhegan.