Winslow Homer's Minerva
by Peter G. Mc Shane
Although probably being a generation late into this Minerva area research, many surprises were encountered.
For one, I believe Homer’s sojourns at the Baker Track and Men Only Adirondack Preserve/ North Woods Club was quite an idyllic time for a hard drinking, fun loving bachelor. He had bordellos to the right and to the left, he had a respected social scene and dance hall, the Aiden Lair hotel. He could paint and fly fish unabated, to his heart’s content. He obviously was associated with his carousing outdoorsmen friends, guides, and models. Traveling the back roads would be secretive and accessible.
Winslow Homer’s correspondence to his friend, the historical writer William, Howe Downes is especially revealing. Answering a request from Downes to do a biography on his life in August,1908, Homer replied “I should not agree with you in regard to that proposed sketch of my life. But I think it would probably kill me to have such a thing appear, and as the most interesting part of my life is of no concern to the public, I must decline to give you any particulars in regard to it”.
Excerpt from W.H. Downes. “The Life and Works of Winslow Homer.” Houghton Muffin 1911
“With admirable loyalty, his brothers have scrutinized every personal detail with sole regard to what he would have been likely to approve and the family habit of reserve in such matters is strong. The reader has the privilege of reading between the lines and if he chooses to exercise it here, he will find nothing but what is credible and honorable to Winslow Homer.”
Boston, March 11, 1911
Connecting the facts regarding Ida Loveland’s life and early death certainly gives one reason to pause.
Ida Loveland, a friend of Homer and mentioned often in the Baker Diaries, leaves the Adirondack area with her “illegitimate” child to work in Winslow Homer’s home town of Cambridge, Mass. As a house keeper for an elderly gentleman, obviously she would have required references. Her young son, George attends the “Pollard School”. Ida marries a man named Frank Holt. When a young Ida dies on Christmas Eve 1903, George is taken in by his school teacher until he can be transported back to relatives in Chestertown, NY. George Loveland grows up a much loved fine young man, marries a school teacher, no children, dies in the 1980’s.
Could this be “the most interesting part of his life” that would “kill” him to have been revealed to the public? Or is this simply evidence of his thoughtful nature to others?
At this junction we just have to let the reader ponder.