The History of Big Alum Lake
RICE FAMILY GIRLS' CAMP
The girls' camp was called "Camp Wichaka", its Indian name meaning "To Be True". The camp existed on the southeastern shore of Big Alum from 1929 - 1933. Thirty girls attended each one-month session, and Mrs. Browning reports that her mother, Maud Rice, ran the camp.
Three Rice brothers owned the land and each had a cottage. They were Charles Arthur Rice, who had three daughters, Ray Rice and Roland Draper Rice. Dorothea and her two brothers were his children. Charles' and Ray's cottages burned to the ground. After the fire R. Draper Rice bought their properties, built two houses and Maud started the camp. There were tennis courts in the side and front yards. "Joe blew up the rocks for the tennis courts".
One piece of the property was sold to Guy Wescott (currently to the right of Lot #258). Dorothea bought that house and loved it. They sold another piece of land to the Parkers (Lot #246). They owned the rest of the land along the lake as far as the current Lot #286, and that remaining land was divided among Dorthea and her two brothers. Her daughter, Dorothy and her husband later bought her house and some years later Dorothy sold it. It is now designated Lot #264. The cottage next to that was sold to Charles E. Hart and his family (now Lot #266). Another cottage was owned by Morey Forshey who, Dorothea said, died in a hurricane. The cottage located on Lot #268 was the main building for the camp and the one next door was also part of the camp facilities. That cottage and the cottage on the site of the present Lot #266 served as dormitories for the campers as well as for other camp activities.
Camp Life: There were horses for riding, tennis, and swimming activities. A nurse was available. Cattle kept the lawn grazed. There were pastures where the tree-covered hillside behind the cottages is now. The campers had ice cream in the fields and on Sundays sang hymns which could be heard across the lake. There was a boat house on the property; the pitched roof blew off the boathouse and dances were held on the flat roof left behind.
Dorthea wrote, "The Southbridge Finishing Mill brought Dad (Roland Draper Rice) from New York to Massachusetts. He would take the trolley, walk through the woods to the area near the dam, and signal his wife with a flashlight. She would pick him up in the boat for the weekend."