Back to Rabbitwild . A Shelter in the Wilderness


little ruth

Little Ruth Wicks & her Papa William S. Wicks

I love this sweet photo, so natural and good. All of the photos that I have or have seen were taken by professional photographers I think, but not this one, which I adore. I wonder where they are, the natural background doesn’t have the look of Victorian Buffalo, maybe they were in Barneveld or the Adirondacks.  Ruth looks like she is about four years old, so the year should be around 1888. The origin of this photo is that of  Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemann, granddaughter of Grace Wicks, Ruth’s sister and I am so happy to have found her and photos that I have never seen before.

Maybe Ruth & her Papa  are on the site of Rabbitwild …. the timeline looks right:

Adirondack League Club Early History Transcribed in 2009 by Town of Webb Historian Peg Masters

1886 – Utica Weekly Herald, “Rod and Gun,” November 9, 1886, p.12

“Black bears are unusually numerous in the Adirondack region this fall. Charles A Nicholson of Utica, W.S. Wicks of Trenton and Howard Brown of Brookline, Mass. are about to erect a handsome and commodious log camp at Big Rock Bay, Jock’s Lake. A.D. Barber, Jr., of this city has erected the frame for his new hotel on Jock’s Lake in the North Woods. The building will be 40X60 feet in size. Mr. Barber and his guests have killed 27 deer and near the lake this fall…”

rabbit wild cabin

The drawing above is of “Rabbitwild” by William S Wicks found in his unpublished book of the same name for little Ruth. I am sure this is the cottage that was ultimately built on the site surveyed by Wicks and Brown in the above article, which I love.

rabbitwild 2


Until recently I did not know that Rabbitwild existed. Through various sources I learned that the idea of Rabbitwild was not just a story, the cottage existed but was lost to fire. Through my correspondence with Grace’s granddaughter, Elizabeth I was beyond amazed when I learned that she had photographs of Rabbitwild – shown here.  These photographs take my breath away … I have looked at the drawings so many times trying to visualize what it must have looked like in the woods overlooking the lake … and here it is.  I am so thankful to Elizabeth for sharing these photos. Now I am slightly obsessed with the thought of how the interior might have looked … which will have to be left to the imagination … I am thinking hand-made twig furniture, oriental rugs, big rustic table oil lamps and fur blankets.

Before the McMansions of the Cottage genre camps, then and now, camps were meant to be rustic comfortable getaways. I like an excerpt from “Adirondack Camps: Homes away from Home 1850-1950” by Craig Gilborn, that describes the “life” best: ” … camps are old clothes, fishing poles, wooden boats, creaky buildings, moss on the roof, and critters under the porch …”

I wonder when the cottage burned and how it happened.  Was it a random, unfortunate event when no one was on site? Lightning? Were they there? Was it a chimney, oil lamp or kitchen fire with no way to extinguish it, and they had to see it burn? There is nothing worse. What season was it? They never rebuilt, why? What happened to the land? Was it sold before Wicks died, or after? I think of this cottage as Ruth’s cottage – did she feel this way too? How old was she at the time? Was she traveling? What were her thoughts?

So many questions, and no way of knowing the answers really.

Maybe at this point in Wicks life, some projects were being eliminated.  He was rather young when he died at 63, but somehow I think you know, you just naturally know. At the time prior to his death he was active in running his farms, exploring the scientific propagation of brook trout that he raised on his preserve in the foot hills of the Adirondacks (Barneveld), and was actively working on a plan for the development of a civic center for Buffalo.

Maybe the Adirondack Cottage chapter had simply been closed, even though he was a charter member of the Adirondack League Club, and identified himself closely with it for  his last thirty years – that is love.


Remembering my Great Grandfather Wicks, my Grandmother Ruth, the dream of Rabbitwild

& their beautifully wild and civilized life in the woods.

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