The log cabin on our property in Foxley River, Prince Edward Island was built in 1933 for Senator Creelman MacArthur of Summerside. He bought the property from Herman Bryan, and Mr. Bryan was the contractor for the cabin construction. Senator MacArthur called the cabin Cedar Lodge.
MacArthur owned the property until his death in 1943, when the cabin’s caretaker Bob Skerry and his wife, Ida, became the owners. They owned Cedar Lodge until 1956, when my parents, Harold and Vivian Phillips, purchased it for use as a summer cottage.
The cabin was built using cedar logs for the walls and juniper and spruce for the beams and joists. Some of the cedar would likely have come from the property. The spaces between the logs are chinked with moss that grows in our woods. The flooring is white pine that was stained using a combination of boiled linseed oil and turpentine. The western end of the main room originally had a large field-stone fireplace. The cabin was 22’ by 90’ with two 11’ by 11’ bedrooms, a kitchen that was 12’ x 22’, and a large main room that served as living and dining space. There was an outhouse east of the cabin, and a hand pump in the kitchen for water.
My father replaced the old wood cookstove in the kitchen with a propane stove soon after buying the cabin. When electricity came to Foxley River in 1959, the cottage was wired and my parents added an electric water pump and a few outlets. A small bathroom with a shower stall, toilet, and sink were added to the south end of the kitchen. Hot water came from an Ascot direct propane heater. A telephone was also added and the number was 68-2 on the Tyne Valley exchange. It was a party line until the 1990s, and a crank telephone was used until dial service was introduced in 1977.
My parents renovated the cabin in 1980, adding ranch wall siding and insulation to the outside walls to extend the time we could spend in the cabin each year. At the same time, they added a second story to the eastern end of the cabin, which gave them a bedroom, half bath and sitting room overlooking the river. The two original bedrooms became utility rooms, housing a forced-air furnace and washing machine. Another bedroom and bathroom were made from dividing the main lodge room, creating a living room approximately 22’ x 34’.
The cabin was used every summer until 2002, when we built a year-round home on the property. In 2007, Noye and Noye Construction removed the renovated end of the cabin and the remaining half was moved to another section of our property. They removed the ranch wall siding and restored the original log cabin look. The stone fireplace had deteriorated beyond repair and could not be saved.
In 2018, WL Homes lifted the cabin and placed better footings underneath it. Darcy Hoffert from Nova Scotia replaced a few cedar logs at the bottom of the south and north side of the cabin, replaced some flooring, and did some general repairs. He also sprayed the entire exterior of the cabin with a boric acid mixture to better preserve it.
There are many interesting stories and legends surrounding Cedar Lodge: its use as a possible winter hideout for escaped prisoners from Nova Scotia in the 1940s, location of both church picnics and raucous shindigs, even that Senator MacArthur had his ashes spread on the cabin roof. For our family, the most poignant story is how my parents came to purchase the cabin from Bob Skerry.
My parents owned a general store in Freeland, the community south of Foxley River. Bob was a customer and my parents had rented the Cedar Lodge from Bob for the occasional weekend getaway.
On May 20, 1956, my parents, along with my mother’s brother, Edgar Hardy, and his wife and children, had a Sunday picnic planned for Bloomfield Provincial Park. Unfortunately, rain cancelled these plans in mid-frolic and the party headed back to Freeland. As they approached Foxley River, my father wondered if Bob would rent them the cabin for the rest of the day. Luckily the cabin was empty, so the slightly soggy group stopped in to have their lunch. They lit a fire in the large fieldstone fireplace, played games, talked, and had a fine afternoon.
The following Wednesday morning, May 23, 1956, Bob came into our store to shop. My father asked Bob a question he had asked him a few times before: “Do you want to sell the log cabin today, Bob?” Bob had always said no, it wasn’t for sale, but this day he had a different answer: “Well, if I get my price.” My father couldn’t believe it! Thinking Bob might want a lot of money for the log cabin, he cautiously asked what he wanted. “$1,000 firm,” said Bob. While this was a lot of money in 1956, it was certainly a fair price and within what my father could afford.
My father told my mother the good news and asked her to watch the store. Bob and my father jumped into my father’s old truck, picked up Ida, and headed to Summerside. Richard Hinton, a lawyer on Summer Street, did the paper work for the sale of the cabin, outbuildings, right of way, and one acre of land “more or less”. My father paid Bob the $1,000 and the deal was done that morning.
Bob paid some bills with the proceeds from the sale and after lunch they headed home. My father dropped the Skerrys at their house, which was in a field next to the log cabin, and went home.
The next morning, a customer came into the store with some shocking news: after my father had dropped the Skerrys at their house, Bob walked down to the river to bail out his boat from the rain the day before, then returned home for his customary afternoon nap on the kitchen couch.
Bob never woke up from that nap. He died in his sleep.
Bob had been a great story teller, a well-loved character who could keep an audience spellbound with his tales. We often wonder how he would have told the remarkable story of the day he sold Cedar Lodge. Had he been visited by a forerunner, a spirit suggesting he get his business in order and ensure Ida had a bit of money for her widowhood? Had Bob wanted my parents to have Cedar Lodge?
Of course, we don’t know why Bob decided to sell Cedar Lodge that day, but we were lucky to have purchased such a beautiful piece of Lot 11 history.