As I explained in a separate post, Cindy Haskell is a descendant of the family that operated Haskell’s Camp at Loblolly Cove in the early 1900s. She sent me the following newspaper article from 1939, which she transcribed from what she described as a poor-quality print copy. The photos are also scans from that article, which is why they are also of poor quality.
At Loblolly Cove a Duke’s Descendant Serves You Sea Food Fit for the Minor Gods
BY FREDERIC C. SHARON, 1939
Do you like shore dinners? Of course you do if they are good. To be good, the clams must be fat and tender, the lobster must be broiled to perfection, the fish must be freshly caught and properly browned, the doughnuts must melt in your mouth.
As I absorbed one of those delectable meals in a sheltered little cove on the north shore of Massachusetts, near Rockport, seated at a rough old table covered with oil cloth, shielded from the sun by a tattered old sailcloth, I thought of the trite saying often attributed to Emerson (but wrongly), about the man who made a better mousetrap.
I wondered how this little place so secluded one had to inquire to reach it, so primitive it was only a camp, how such a place could reach almost national fame.
Of course it was the food that brought the world to this spot but how had it originated, how had the news of such cookery gotten around, how had it been advertised?
How It All Started
So as I sipped my coffee and smoked my cigar I resolved to question mine host, who is also the chef-de-cuisine and a raconteur of rare ability.
How did this place originate and how did it become so well known? I asked.
Now you touch me in a tender spot, spoke up mine host, Frank E. Haskell, a hearty sunburned fisherman, as he stretched out in a chair opposite me.
The place was started by my father and myself back in 1896, that’s over 43 yrs. ago, he said with a far-a-way look in his eyes and this is the way it happened. Father was a pilot. He was known as Captain Emerson B. Haskell, in the days when Rockport was a flourishing port as an exporter of granite as well as a fishing port. Many schooners came into the harbor loaded with coal, but on account of shoals it was essential to have these vessels piloted safely to anchorage.
Father kept his dory in this little cove and would go up on the hill above the beach and with his glass would watch for incoming ships. When he spotted one he would hurry down, get in his dory and row out to the vessel which he would then guide into the harbor.
Real Clam Bake – Yum! Yum!
Of course there was plenty of time between boats, so the captain discovered that the cove was an ideal place for lobsters and rock cod. Accordingly he invited some of the officers of the schooners down to have a clam bake. A real clam bake consists as you probably know of clams, fillets or fish, lobster, sweet potatoes, green corn, all steamed in a heaped up mass of sea weed.
The fame of these clambakes was spread by these men and soon summer visitors heard about them. They used to come up from the resorts in tally-ho’s and barges (that was before the automobile) and then they began demanding shore dinners for smaller parties and individuals. So began the business that made Loblolly Cove famous.
“Why Loblolly Cove?” I asked. “What does Loblolly mean?”
“That’s what I wanted to know, and I was a long time finding out. I found in the dictionary that ‘loblolly’ meant thick oatmeal gruel; another definition said it was a kind of tree. This didn’t suit me; I found that Peter Emmons, a Welshman, received a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts about the year 1700 of this region. He named it Loblolly Cove. Now why. I wondered.
“Some years ago a Welshman had one of my shore dinners and after finishing his lobster remarked that that was as good a loblolly as he had ever eaten. I pounced on him at once. What did he mean by loblolly?”
“Why,” he replied in surprise, “don’t you know what loblolly is?”
“No,” I said eagerly. “What is it?”
Loblolly on Bread!
“Well, in my boyhood in Wales,” he replied, “we used to catch lobsters and cook them and the piece-de-resistance was the loblolly, the liver or fat of the lobster, you know that sort of greenish thing you see in a broiled lobster. Well that is the loblolly and we used to spread it on bread because we didn’t have much butter. So there you are. The loblolly is a lobster liver.”
“And then to clinch it, one day a lovely old lady from Salem was having a shore dinner and as she finished she said: ‘That was a lovely loblolly.'”
“So I tackled her and here is what she said: ‘Loblolly, why all my life I’ve known the liver or fat of the lobster as the loblolly.’
“‘But, why?’ I asked determined to find out further about this elusive word. ‘Why,’ she said, ‘when I was a girl we used to go to Nahant for our lobsters because there was a Welshman there who caught such wonderful ones, noted because of their delicious loblollies.’
“So that settled it. Peter Emmons was a Welshman, the lobsters he found in his cove had superior ‘loblollies,’ so he named his cove ‘Loblolly Cove’ and the lobsters to this day have kept alive the tradition.
“Well,” continued Haskell, “I was young and wanted to see the world, so I went to New York and entered business. After two companies I was with folded up I decided to come back here, especially as this business had grown and father needed me, so here I’ve been ever since.”
There’s a Way to Cook ‘Em
“What makes your fish or lobster so much better than the average?” I asked.
“In the first place, we get our own lobsters and fish right here in the cove; they’re absolutely fresh. Then there is an art in broiling lobsters over a charcoal fire so they keep juicy. Haven’t you had lobsters too dry or stringy? That is because they are often boiled first then put away in the ice box and afterwards broiled. That dries them out. There is a knack in broiling them fresh and just enough.”
“You’ve entertained some important people here haven’t you? I notice as I came in that your sign boasts on the fact that President Taft had dinner here in 1910.”
Haskell’s face fairly beamed.
“I’ll say we had notables! In addition to President Taft’s party we’ve had governors, ambassadors, artists, authors, university professors and so on. John Hays Hammond used to come down here frequently and he arranged the Taft dinner on Aug. 10th 1910. In addition to President and Mrs. Taft and their children there were Captain Archibald Butt, afterwards lost on the ‘Titanic,’ secret services men and the Hammond party of eighteen — altogether 32. Hammond’s yacht ‘Wayfarer’ was anchored just outside the Cove. I gave them a regular old-fashioned clam bake and how they did eat!
“Then in 1912 Governor Dix of New York and his party had a bake.
“The John Boyle O’Reilly Club used to come down every year for a clam bake and reading of O’Reilly’s poems. So many of them have passed on that they don’t have any more reunions,” he said sadly.
“The ambassador from Siam used to come down to this coast every summer and always came here three or four times each season, as did the Romanian minister.
“Professor Woods, language professor at Harvard, spent the summers in Rockport and often brought down his foreign students, Hindus and Parsis.”
A Wedding and a Clam Bake
“Two summers ago there was a big wedding in Bass Rocks of socially prominent people. Some folk from Ohio who have a summer home down here wanted to do something for the party so they invited them over here, 45 in all, for a clambake. I fixed them a swell bake down on the rocks and they afterwards came up here and had coffee and doughnuts. It was a moonlight night and the colorful summer clothes of the men and women made a regular picture.”
“Where did your family come from Mr. Haskell?”
“From England, but originally from Normandy. William Haskell, known as captain, settled in Gloucester in 1642 and Roger D., his brother, settled in Salem about the same time. The family goes back to the time of William the Conqueror. He granted a coat-of-arms to the original Roger de Haskelle which you can see is a shield surmounted with an apple tree full of apples,” and he exhibited a picture of the escutcheon.
“The apple tree bothered me for a long time till my niece, looking up the family history in Boston, discovered that Duke William, before his raid into England, was in dire straits for food and when Roger de Haskelle brought into camp a huge supply of Normandy apples the duke in his gratitude dubbed him knight and gave him the escutcheon with the apple tree! At any rate,” laughed Haskell, “that’s the story. We ought to be surrounded with apple trees and serve apples with our dinners, but,” he sighed, “these trees around the camp are wild cherry.
“There are a number of interesting relics here, taken from wrecks. For instance, look at this steering wheel,” and he exhibited an ancient wheel, mounted on a piece of an old deck. “This wheel is over 150 years old, one of the oldest in existence. It was mounted on a tiller. It is known as a traveling wheel because the tiller and wheel moved across the deck. It came off an old vessel wrecked off Cape Ann. I’ve been offered good money for it, but I won’t sell.”
And there in that little grove near the beach off this cove with an old boathouse for a kitchen, pieces of old wrecks for a dining place with an old sail cloth for a roof, you can get clams, lobster and fish that epicures say are little short of perfect and the cooking by the descendant of a Norman knight and his “missus” puts those delectable viands in the class with the ambrosia of the gods.