Just north of Northville on the west side of the lake is the settlement of Gifford’s Valley. Other names it‘s been referred to as are: Winnes Wild Acres, Winnes Valley, and Winnes Pond. Spelling varies for the name Winne. Two areas within the valley were Johnny Cake Hollow and Vean Sweets Clearing. The little valley is nestled in foothill mountains with a large body of water known as Winnes Pond.
In the address roles of 1868 there are 15 families of Gifford’s listed. Looking at the map most of the family names are mentioned there.
Gifford’s valley had it‘s own school; and a sawmill that employed residents. This saw mill is noted on a map in 1856 but by 1868 no noting of it is apparent. There is no idea of size of this sawmill noted in references and the location by 1868 is identified as the residence of I Gifford.
The Gifford’s Valley Schoolhouse was moved to South Main street in Northville 1997 and is now the Northville Northampton Museum.
It’s noted in a references written in 1989 that there is a granite marker in the area of Vean Sweets Clearing with a brass plate attached to in that designates the boundaries of the towns of Mayfield and Northampton and the counties of Hamilton and Fulton. It’s not known if this marker still exists.
Some of the men of Gifford’s valley also worked for John A Willard then later a man named Mr. George Hartwell. Hartwell was an officer who served in the Spanish American War and leased the large sawmill Willard. The sawmill was located in the area of the present Northville Beach and would have been easily accessible to the Gifford’s Valley workers. The is no date in references available as to what year Hartwell leased the sawmill from Willard nor when the sawmill ceased production. If it was still running by 1930 it would have been lost to the lake.
As mentioned in previous history columns the memories of residents who experienced days gone by are very valuable.
Not only the facts dates etc, but the day -to -living .
Below are the memories of Lewis G. Decker Fulton County Historian for 20 years who passed away in 2001. Decker lived for a while in Gifford’s Valley in the area of Johnny Cake Hollow in the early 1950’s as a young man:
“There was a bait shop, located on a hill at the edge of the valley, was owned by a Mr. Arnold . Mr. Arnold also ran a boat livery in summer where boats could be rented for fishing on the lake. In his combination bait shop and Mom and Pop Store he also sold soda candy bars and a few staples, but was only open during fishing season. In early spring he could be seen caulking and painting his old wooden boats to get them ready for the upcoming summer season. He also had a few cabins to rent. The store still stands but is now a private residence.”
As a young boy Decker would visit Mr. Arnold’s shop a lot during summer vacation buying hooks, fish line, and helping with the boats from time to time. Usually the store was a gathering place for many old-timers to come and pass the day sitting on the front porch. Decker happened to be there one summer day when a summer person stopped to ask directions into the valley. His memories continue:
“There are three ways to get to Gifford’s Valley and as long as you knew which way to turn you wouldn’t end up on the main road again. One day a summer person stopped by the bait shop to ask which way was better to get into the valley.
The stranger rambled on and on. Answering more of his own questions than waiting for answers which irritated a native old -timer.
Finally the stranger asked “Does it make any difference which way I drive to get into the valley?” whereupon the old-timer replied: “Not to me it don’t”
He also recalled another favorite comeback for these local men was when a summer person would ask: “Have you lived here all your life?” they would respond with “Not yet I haven’t”.
Another story of times past: “Two riders from the stables rode up the bait shop from High Rock Lodge. dismounted, and threw their reins over the porch rail .
“ As they entered for a soda one of the riders a woman rudely directed Mr. King (who only had one leg) to “Watch the horses” without so much as a please. The riders stayed inside a while browsing.
When they were done looking around they stepped outside only to discover their horses were gone”.
“The annoyed female rider barked at Mr. King “I thought I told you to watch those horses!”
In his own defense he raised his hand , pointed, then replied “I did lady – and they are both just going around that corner”
Another memory of Lewis Decker about living in Johnny Cake Hollow:
“Mr King had a fishing buddy named Mr. Maybe. Night time Bullhead fishing being one of their favorite pastimes the two would put a boat in at dusk in Winnes pond with their long bamboo fish poles, lanterns, and of course a big jug of spirits then fish till it was just dawn. After bringing the boat ashore they would walk home.”
“On their way home, having their belly full of spirits, they would sing. Very loudly. Every once in a while during a song they would belt out an extra loud shout of “Halleluiah!” waking the neighbors that slept.
If you happened to be standing at a vantage point in these wee morning hours, you could follow which way they were traveling. As a light would go on in each house they passed by.”
by Lorraine Frasier