So what is it that brings the Pinch family to Little Hawk Lake as early as 1919? And what is it that keeps some of the Pinch family members coming back or longing to do so? Elsie Adelaide (Pinch ) Gilson and her extended family all seem to have such fond memories of their time in the Algonquin Highlands. Initially three sons of Alpha Warren Pinch Sr. (referred to as Alpha Omega in the newspaper article attached but not so by his family) and Sarah Adelaide (Feren, sometimes spelled Ferin) Pinch; William Bray Pinch (born 1880), Alpha Warren Pinch Jr. (born 1884), and Norman Wilbur Pinch (born 1898) all had cottages on Little Hawk and they vacationed there for many years, beginning in the 1920’s. Alpha Warren Jr. is often referred to as Pa Pinch. His cottage was the FIRST cottage built on Little Hawk Lake in 1931 according to the attached story by Susan Wilson “Hooked on Little Hawk”. The Ontario Land Parcel Register indicates that the land was purchased from the Crown in 1934, which is not unusual in that a structure was often put up before the land actually was owned.
It seems in the early years that the main reason that the Pinch family kept coming back to Little Hawk Lake was the fishing. We know in those days that the fish were so plentiful that you could in fact feed a family of six kids for the whole summer. Obviously the fishing was worth the drive for Pa Pinch or he would not have kept coming back. We learn from the writings of Pelham Mulvaney in History of the County of Peterborough (1884), “salmon trout were in abundance, the average weight being about six or seven pounds; but fish of twenty pounds are commonly caught, and they have been captured, according to report, of a weight exceeding thirty pounds”. The photos here certainly attest to that and if you were an avid fishermen as the Pinch family members were, the lure of the Stanhope lakes made the two day drive from their farm in Newcastle not seem so bad. Certainly the drive to the lake was not easy. Keep in mind that there was no Highway 35 until the mid 1930’s so it would have been quite a drive just to catch those huge fish. As reported in the Minden Times article by Susan Wilson, when driving from Lake Ontario to Little Hawk, one would have as many as 12 flat tires. Just imagine a single lane track with no passing lane and only the occasional pull over if another vehicle approached, which meant you might have to back up quite a distance to pass.
According to his daughter Elsie, Pa Pinch started coming to the public campground at the end of the logging road where Oakview Lodge now stands in 1919. At some point his older sons joined the men-only fishing trips and after five years, Pa Pinch eventually brought his daughter in 1924. Elsie Adelaide Pinch, the only daughter in the family, would have been only five years old when she made this trip for the first time. Elsie Adelaide wrote in her own memories of Little Hawk Lake about these early trips north:
My Granddad had built a cabin affair on the back of a pick-up truck and outfitted it as a camper for the other trips to the North Country and Little Hawk Lake. We started out in our Model T Ford and Grampa’s camper from the farm in Newcastle. It was quite an undertaking with six children and three adults. My youngest brother, Alan, was only nine months old. The next youngest, Bill, was three. There were many stops along the way where we all had to get out and help push our loaded vehicles up the hills. The first night out we camped at Fenelon Falls. We also had a tent as well as Grandpa’s camper for sleeping quarters. The next day we arrived at the Hawk River.
Elsie goes on to say that after meeting Alf and Sam Davis (Davies) and their families that ‘Grandpa and Pa continued on in the truck and the Model T. Mom and we kids walked the last mile as the road was but two ruts in the sand’. So if you ever think that your drive to the cottage is tough, just keep these early Pinch cottagers in mind!
At first the Pinch family stayed in Sam and Alf (Davies or) Davis’s boathouse at the edge of the campground on the shore of Little Hawk. I can’t imagine how this worked with six children and possibly boat motors too. It seemed like a temporary arrangement but it did last for a few years. Luckily the Pinch family also had use of Alpha Warren Sr.’s tent and ‘cabana’ truck.
During these early years Pa Pinch was farming in Newcastle and would rush to get the season’s work done so that they could get to Little Hawk. However he became seriously ill as early as 1927 with pleural pneumonia and was forced to give up farming. The family even lived “on relief” for a while according to Elsie Adelaide.
She was only 10 years old when the whole family moved back to Cleveland where Alpha Warren (Pa) had been born and where his brother William had a fairly successful business as a quilt block specialist. The business was called “Rainbow Quilts”. We know that this business did well enough, as it supported not only Will and Alpha Warren’s families but also the young families of Edward (Ted) and Horrell through the Depression years. Ted kept the printing machines running and even invented several machines for this business of printing quilt blocks. Horrell and Gerald/Gerry (Chub) helped with the bookkeeping and the artwork. Elise Adelaide even remembers working there when she was older.
Now that they lived so far away and the trip to the cottage took even longer, Pa (Alpha Warren) Pinch finally built a cottage. This cottage was built with the help of his brother William and son Edward (Ted) Pinch at Little Hawk Lake close to the campground where he had already been coming for so many years. The fact that he named this cottage “Fisherman’s Paradise” is also a testament to the reason they drove so far to get there. In the summers of 1937 and 1938, second son Horrell, with the help of his friend, Bobby Davis (Sam Davies’ son), felled the trees and built the log cabin behind “Fisherman’s Paradise”. Family members and friends also used the log cabin in the fall during deer hunting season. Not so long ago, Sally (daughter of Ted) Pinch even rented it. That log cabin still stands today as does “Fisherman’s Paradise”, although there have been many owners since the Pinch family sold it in the early 1950’s.
Another interesting aside here is that Horrell ended up marrying Eleanor, the sister of this friend Bill Timachko in the above photo. Their great-grandson Logan, turned two on July 2nd, 2019, the same day as Elsie Pinch Gilson turned 100!
It may be of interest that the name “alpha” originates in Cornish and Welsh. It means “son of”, hence the name Alpha Warren Pinch. Over time the “A” is often dropped. Some family members believe that the Pinch name started out as “Apfinch”. One also needs to be clear that the man sometimes referred to as “Alpha Omega” Pinch was actually Alpha Warren Pinch Sr. His wife Sarah would call him “Alph” at times, perhaps so there wasn’t confusion with Alpha Warren Pinch Jr., who was simply “Warren” before he was old enough to be known by so many as “Pa” Pinch. “Alpha” also became the middle names of Russell (born 1918), son of Norman Wilber (Pa’s brother) and Alan (born 1923) youngest son of Alpha Warren (Pa) and Ethel Pinch. Clearly there were enough Pinches and Alphas coming to Little Hawk Lake that they should have a lane or two named after them!
Ethel Frederica (Cooper) Pinch (Note: sometimes her name has been written Ethyl Fredrica Cooper) and Alpha Warren (Pa) Pinch’s first son Edward (Ted) married Millie (Noch) Pinch and had two children. Ted sometimes spoke of an eight year period when he wasn’t able to go to Little Hawk during those early 1930 years. It made him sad. No doubt they were difficult times. Ted and his wife Millie had two children, David and Sally. Unfortunately his wife Millie died young. Elsie Adelaide Pinch, Ted’s sister, had just graduated from James Ford Rhodes High School in Cleveland (the first of nine Pinches to do so from this school) so she moved in with her brother to help him take care of David and Sally. David and Sally were lucky enough to have come to Little Hawk with their Aunt Elsie and Grandma (Ethel) Pinch and Alpha Warren (Pa) Pinch when they were young. David and Sally were also lucky enough to be included on some of the dates when their Aunt Elsie started going out with Doug Gilson. Elsie and Doug Gilson were married in Cleveland on November 28, 1942.
As Kimberlee Neault, grandaughter of Russell Alpha Pinch relates, ‘families were different then’. They took care of each other, sometimes based on need as Aunt Elsie did for her widowed brother Ted. Sometimes it was based on proximity or age. Others have referred to Alpha Warren and Ethel as having a second family. Certainly Elsie Adelaide (b. 1919), William John (b. 1921) and Alan Alpha (b. 1923) were considerably younger than their siblings, Edward (Ted) Cooper, Horrell Oscar and Gerald (Chub) Douglas, born in 1911, 1913 and 1915 respectively. Another example of this is pictured below. Gerald (Gerry) Douglas Jr. was closer in age to his cousins Russ and Bruce and came to think of them as brothers since he literally grew up with them. It certainly seems like the Pinch family members cared for each other and enjoyed Little Hawk Lake together.
Ted Pinch also had a second family. He remarried in 1942. His second wife Jean (Price) Pinch was the mother of two more children, Elsie Jean and Rick. Elsie Jean (Pinch) Nelson knows that her first summer at Little Hawk was when she was a mere 20 months old. Her father Ted had converted the old boathouse that Pa Pinch had purchased from Sam Davies. It had been moved close to Fisherman’s Paradise. Ted made it more like a cabin with a bunk house on the back that had enough space for a double bunk bed. Even if Ted had the funds, he and his new wife, Jean were not able to purchase Crown land on their own, since Pa Pinch had purchased land in the names of his children and you were not allowed to purchase more than one piece of land from the Crown in the same name. Ted and Jean were finally able to buy their own lot on “The Island” in 1958.
While it is quite clear that the Pinch family came for the fishing, it seems that they stayed for other reasons, not the least of which would have been the glorious environment around Little Hawk Lake. One might ask why the family didn’t stay full year round? Of course we know that living on a lake in a cabin in winter would have been impossible. Yet one wonders why did they travel back to the Newcastle-Bowmanville area to farm at the end of the summer in the early years? Why didn’t Pa Pinch get involved in the logging industry as so many other locals did? Was it his health? Or maybe it was the lure of a better life in Cleveland with his brother Will’s business. Alpha Warren (Pa ) Pinch did keep busy building cottages. In addition to “Fisherman’s Paradise”, Elsie Adelaide (Pinch) Gilson relates that her father, Alpha Warren (Pa) Pinch built a cottage, just west of the campground which is now the Government Landing. This was known as “Francis Folly” and was built for a friend from Painesville Ohio. He also helped build a cottage for his brother William Bray Pinch on the west shore close to what the Pinch family referred to as “The River” going into Big Hawk and which many of us know as “The Narrows”. He also built a smaller cottage on the same lot as Fisherman’s Paradise, just a bit to the north. Elsie and her husband Doug Gilson named it “Holiday Harbour” and made renovations and additions to it after mother Ethel was no longer able to travel to the cottage. Next Pa built a cottage for nephew Bruce Pinch which was on the west shore just before his brother William Bray’s cottage. Following that construction, he built the cottage of Irene and Stewart Foster. Irene was the sister of Ruby, Bruce Pinch’s wife. This cottage was to the east of “The River” or as we know it now, “The Narrows”, going into Big Hawk. In that same bay, on the same east side of The Narrows, he also built the Welburn cottage and a second cottage for the Welburn’s son and daughter-in-law. Another cottage was built by Pa Pinch originally for his daughter Elsie, but she and her family opted to stay where they had road access and this cottage just east of Ted and Jean Pinch’s cottage was sold to Glen Burns and his family. Pa Pinch also helped out the Hewitts of Little Hawk Resort build several of their rental cabins. Norm Pinch built a cottage, close to the Burns’ cottage, that he and his family lived in for some time and then sold to the Wallace family. Norm Pinch also helped build cottages for his sons Bruce and Russ on the west side of Little Hawk Lake. Maybe your Little Hawk cottage is one of the Pinch family cottages? Today there are a lot fewer Pinch descendents on Little Hawk. However fourth generation Pinch descendents that are still on Pinch Lane (grandchildren of Russell Alpha and great grandchildren of Norman Wilbur) include Kimberlee, Sheree and Brent. Others still yearn to visit and even have a Pinch Family Facebook group where they share photos and stories. In July 2000, the Pinch family had a picnic reunion at the cottage of Gayle (Pinch) Gengemi, daughter of Russ and Helen Pinch. The later is now 94 and Russ unfortunately passed away a few years ago as did Gayle in 2001.
Wherever they are, the memories seem to endure. As Carol Pinch fondly recalls “I used to love swimming with Aunt Jean (Ted Pinch’s wife) at their cottage – all the wonderful stonework that Uncle Ted did!” Linda Gilson Jones (daughter of Elsie Adelaide Pinch Gilson) also remembers that “the terraced stones made it so much easier to get into the lake. The sun shining on the stones also warmed that area so nicely too.” In her own words Elsie Adelaide Pinch Gilson lamented having to sell her cottage in 2012, as expenses kept piling up and ‘it also was getting harder each year to walk up the hill to the outhouse! Most of my relatives had either sold out or had died so it was time to leave. But it is missed.’ The Pinch memory banks of Little Hawk are definitely at the maximum to overflow level. Imagine that they started to come over 100 years ago! Ethel and Pa Pinch continued to come to Little Hawk Lake after Pa retired and during the time that they were spending winters in Sarasota, Florida. Even after Pa’s death in 1965, Ethel continued to “commute” to Little Hawk from Florida, via Cleveland. Her daughter Elsie Adelaide believes that she continued to do this until she was about 84 years old when she went to live in a nursing home in Oshawa, Ontario. As her memory failed her in these later years, Ethel didn’t even recognize her daughter Elsie, but she would say to Elsie, “Pa is just out fishing on the lake…. He’ll be back soon.” Memories are a great thing!
And then there are the memories of Elsie Jean (Pinch) Nelson, daughter of Edward (Ted) Pinch, about the ride north from New Jersey. “It was an uneventful 11 hours. One highlight was a woman who sold wild blueberries and homemade bread from a kiosk that was there for many years. Unfortunately a few years ago that kiosk was replaced by a McDonald’s. We always ate lunch at a Canadian restaurant, never fast food.” Other Pinch family members remember that Canadian homemade butter tarts were a favourite treat.
The food, particularly the fish has played a strong role in the Pinch family story at Little Hawk Lake, yet it seems that the environment was also important to the many artists in the family.
Pa Pinch was not the only artist in the family. (See story – Driftwood: More than a Piece of our Past) He did create the first totem pole at Fisherman’s Paradise, that was later taken down and at some point given or taken to a boys’ camp, then it went to Cherokee Lodge on Halls Lake, and thankfully ended up again at Ted and Jean Pinch’s cottage. Pa Pinch of course created many other creatures out of driftwood. William Bray Pinch had studied photography from a professional photographer in Toronto and then did his own photography work in Toronto for about twenty years. He had also been a commercial photographer in Cleveland, Ohio in his early years. Elsie Adelaide remembers her Uncle Will as being very talented and able to pick up any instrument and play it. Ted Pinch also seemed to have been creative in many ways besides inventing some of the printing machines for the quilt block company noted above. He had help from his brothers to build his cottage but he did so much landscaping himself over the years. Relatives remember how he even had a kiddies’ pool in the stones. Ted’s grandson Leigh Nelson remembers that his grandfather was quite creative and a bit of a scavenger too. *He found ways to use and reuse whatever happened to wash up on shore. How many of us still do that today? Or how many of us would make our own furniture as Norm Pinch (Pa Pinch’s brother) did? Norm made all the dining room furniture out of wood from the nearby trees. Bark was taken off and the white wood was coated with a light stain and then varnish. The backs of the chairs were left in a natural state with bark on and unfinished
Note: After Ted passed away in 1988, Jean continued to come to the cottage for a couple of decades and even regularly used to swim across the bay to what they called “Burn’s Rock”. She also paddled her yellow canoe every morning, weather permitting.
Other Pinch artists include Gerry Pinch Jr. who worked as a commercial artist for some time. Elsie Jean (Pinch) Nelson was also an artist as was Gail Pinch Glasgow (daughter of Horrell Pinch), who worked painting for an artist who created cartoons in the Cleveland area. Elsie Adelaide Pinch Gilson created lovely clothes for family, nieces, and her mother. She was great at needlework too; crocheting many afghans, creating quilts, cross-stitch artwork too. Perhaps Elsie had learned to make quilts from her mother Ethel, who was a quilt maker herself, or perhaps from her grandmother Sarah, who also made quilts and in fact inspired William Bray to create the designs he did for his quilt block company.
From Elsie Adelaide (Pinch) Gilson we know that her father, Alpha Warren (Pa) Pinch was also musically talented. He used to play fiddle at dances when he and Ethel were a young couple and also at dances at Halls Lake. He even played the zither! Alpha Warren (Pa) and Ethel’s youngest son, Alan, made an electric Hawaiian guitar. We know that Will (William) Pinch , Alpha Warren (Pa’s) brother had been a commercial photographer before he went fulltime into the quilt block business. Perhaps it was Will who took some of those early photos at Little Hawk Lake? Undoubtedly there are more talents from the descendents of Alpha Warren Pinch Sr.
Yet another creative side of the Pinch family comes out in the work of Elsie Jean (Pinch) Nelson. Elsie Jean was ahead of her time, creating her own calendars with scenes from Little Hawk Lake. The “Little Hawk-opoly” board pictured below is one that she made for her mother in 1990’s from a computer kit. She is not only creative, but also managed to be very true to a time that would be near and dear to her mother, Jean’s (Ted Pinch’s second wife) memories. Elsie Nelson set up the properties to reflect families who lived in the cottages during the early 1960’s. South side properties of Little Hawk Lake were “Little Hawk Lodge” through to “Wretham”. These were the cottages with road access. The first three properties on the West side also had road access at that time. They start at “Barber’s Point” through to “Uncle Will”. The North side includes only South facing cottages on the island separating Big and Little Hawk (Burns, Wallace, Ted and Jean Pinch’s cottage, Wellburn, Foster and Phillips). The only property actually on the East Side that was included is “Dr. Cain’s”. Of course you will also notice other important places, like the Government Dock, the River to Big Hawk, Little Hawk Lodge, and Oakview Lodge. Bobby Davis’ Cabin also has a spot close to the Government Dock and Little Hawk Lodge. We know from the story (See Cottage Tale – “What would it be like to be one of the first women who lived and loved in the Algonquin Highlands?”) of Rose and Sam Davies (sometimes know as Davis) that they had a cabin between Oakview Lodge and Little Hawk Lodge/Resort. Bobby was the son of Rose and Sam Davies. This cabin was torn down quite some time ago. This delightful “Little Hawk-opoly” board is certainly an historic document of an unusual sort. The game lets us know that the Pinch family owned at least six cottages on the lake at that time: “Our cottage” (Ted and Jean’s), “Fisherman’s Paradise”, Alpha Warren Pinch’s first cottage, “Uncle Will’s”, William Bray Pinch’s cottage, Russ and Helen Pinch’s cottage, Bruce and Ruby Pinch’s cottage and “Uncle Chub’s” (Gerald/Gerry Douglas Pinch) cottage.
We know that Pinch family members were avid fishermen, adventurers, hard workers too and talented artists. Yet there is still one more piece of the Pinch puzzle that is certainly worth mentioning. Ted Pinch had a sense of humour as you might guess from the photo (below) of the sign that was tacked on his cottage door for years. ‘If you must break in, go to the back door. Take out the 2 wood screws holding the woodshed door. The key to the lock is over the door. There is nothing to eat or drink and damned little to wear. Take care and be sure you close up the place.”
The PDF attached is a two part instalment from the Minden Times supplement, “This Week”, written by Susan Wilson in 1990. It will certainly give you a more in-depth understanding of the Pinch family. Thanks to editor Jenn Watt for permission to reprint.
While the author of this article has tried to verify stories, as always with family lore there may be errors and certainly there are omissions. My apologies in advance. Many thanks to the Algonquin Highlands Heritage Project, The Minden Times, Carolyn (Hewitt) Fuerth, Peter Hewitt, Oakview Lodge and the Pinch family members who contributed to this story, particularly Elsie Adelaide (Pinch) Gilson, Elsie Jean (Pinch) Nelson, Linda (Gilson) Jones, Leigh Nelson, Kimberlee Neault, Carolyn Jo Barbaruolo, Jami Leigh Pinch, Jim Dixon, Greg Pinch and Carol Pinch. Joan Hamilton
Written by Joan Hamilton
See attached PDF “Hooked on Little Hawk“.