"There is only one of the original members living to tell the story of how, during the winter of 1892-3, the members of Columbia Yacht Club, then the "Pretzel Club" used to meet together at the home of the Division Street Bridge Tender to lay plans for a yacht club. He is Frank Dagget, number 1 of the membership roll, and one of the hardiest workers in the early days."
So begins a moving, hand-written (in old-fashioned, beautiful long-hand) account of the first few years of Columbia Yacht Club. The original document is lost, but some far-thinking soul made a copy (sometime around 1980, based on the quality) so we have this one link to our first days.
Reading this memoir gives a sense of the dedication, the camaraderie and the fun that imbued the first years of our Columbia. Dagget describes how, "during the spring months of 1893, the entire 'Columbia Yacht Club' turned out to assist in the building of a small scow, about 35 ft by 18 ...And on one momentous Saturday afternoon, the little scow was launched. It wasn't much, but it was the beginning of a long story."
Besides giving us key facts and dates about our Club history, this account provides a look into Chicago during the last decade of the 19th Century. We read about the lumber yards that peppered the banks of the river at that time; cruises up the Calumet Channel, "a quiet country steam," to moor overnight for a weekend's getaway were a favorite pastime. Every Saturday the Club's membership raced around the Crib, the winner being awarded a barrel (a BARREL!) of beer.
Dagget gives a full account of the first decade of our operations, describing how the membership grew, the new Clubhouse was built, the "legendary" Club Steward Johnny George (we have to find out more about him), fun cruises to distant ports and detailed results from regattas. By taking the time to write out his memories, member #1, Frank Dagget preserved for Columbia Yacht Club a treasured glimpse into our founding.
The full text of Frank Dagget's memoir is in the Columbia archives and can be accessed with advance notice.