Harwood began searching the history of those lost camps in the fall of 2011, when he was approached by Tony Tyrell, caretaker of the island for the Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Tony’s the one who pushed me off of the cliff,” Harwood quipped of that day Tyrell brought him a photograph of the commons building of a camp once used by Boy Scouts from Philadelphia.
The photo was taken from a boat just off shore, and Harwood’s curiosity drove him to find the exact spot from the formation of rocks depicted in the picture.
He then went ashore and searched for evidence of the building’s foundation.
“That started this whole quest,” he said. “It just snowballed from there.”
HELP FROM MANY
He began searching the Historical Association archives to find other photos of camps on the island and began to put together the pieces of a puzzle from a time long lost.
“Lots of help,” he said of the support he received while investigating more than a dozen properties from one end of the island to the other, all located near the shore and often along one of Valcour’s quiet bays.
“Lots of digging (for recorded evidence) and lots of help.”
Harwood soon began offering community presentations on his findings. Through that contact, he would learn more from people who remember what it was like on Valcour decades ago and those who actually owned property or spent summers on the island.
“Things just started to fit together,” he said.
John Fassett, who summered at Father Moore’s camp on the eastern shore facing Vermont, found Harwood on the Internet following publication of one of his presentations and shared information.
Other former residents of Valcour Island, the Washbournes, will return to Valcour this summer as docents of the lighthouse, Harwood noted with pleasure.