Old Town Sailing Canoe 108172


New Member
Hi everybody. I've been messing around with boats my whole life. Growing up on Lake Oscwana in Putnam Valley, NY I remember seeing this strange boat in the south cove when I was about 10 years old. It was a red canoe with a sail. There was no wind that day and the sail was slack and it just sat there on the water. I cannot remember the people in the canoe. It was hot that day and the saggy sail looked the way I felt. I was with my uncle in a little aluminum boat with like a 20 horse outboard and we were bouncing around and never got all that close to it to check it out in detail. It was probably around then that it got damaged because I never saw it on the water again. This I think was around 1965. Years later I came across the same canoe up in the rafter of a boat house that was part of an estate that was being settled. Nobody wanted it so I took it home and stored it away. This was some time in the early '80s. So the other day I took it out and set it up. The rigging probably hasn't been put together in 50 years. It has 3 cracked ribs, some missing planks and the usual banged up ends. The sail is ragged but all there, the battens are still in it, perfect for a pattern. The rudder is missing a clevis pin and a bit of wood, and the seat caning is gone. I would love to restore it or have it restored but frankly I'm not sure what to do with it. I know one thing though. This pile of kindling would love to go sailing again! :) I hope the build record still exists and I thank all who keep these canoes and the memories of our ancestors, our heritage alive.


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Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
The Old Town canoe with serial number 108172 is an 18 foot long, AA (or top) grade, guide model with red western cedar planking, open mahogany gunwales, mahogany decks, mahogany thwarts, mahogany seats, a keel, and a floor rack. It was built between November, 1930 and April, 1931. The original exterior paint color was similar to the one shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/designs/design34.gif which was known as the design number 34. It shipped on April 11th, 1931 to Peakskill, New York. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link at the attached thumbnail image below.

This scan and several hundred thousand more were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/ot_records/ if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA and http://www.wcha.org/join.php to join.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. The sail rig may have been added after it left the factory since it is not mentioned on the build record. The list of restorers at http://www.wcha.org/buildsupply/ may be useful if you want to get it repaired. This forum and the books available from http://store.wcha.org/Books/ may help if you want to restore it yourself. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.



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New Member
I did a little research on the original owner. Jessie A. Benedix was born in 1902 and took possession of the canoe at the age of 25. She and her family was from the Bronx (which made Oscawana a perfect summer retreat). I don’t think she ever married as I found she was mountain climbing in the Adirondacks with her sister in 1945 and 1946 and using her maiden name. The next year she was in Colorado rafting with river guides Norman and Doris Neville. Last I found was a listing of her in Eastchester at the age of 110. I don’t think she or her sister Agnes had any children. I guess she was quite the outdoorsy type. God bless her.

Lake Oscawana was quite the place in those days. Not like today with eutrophication and a hardly controlled weed growth problem. The summer bungalows of the past became year rounder’s of today many with the same septic systems of the bygone era. Back Jessie’s day hotels which are all gone now dotted the lake shore. Gazebos and dance bands played on the weekends. Babe Ruth practiced at his small ball field just around the bend. There are photos online of Lou Gehrig and the Babe clowning around on the lake. Prohibition was just ending. I’m sure Jessie was out there then attracting attention with her bright red sailing canoe cutting the wake of some big lap strake Chris Craft with its Grey Marine engine purring by. I bet the Babe took a second look at her.

My Grandparents bought their summer house in the mid ‘40s. My Dad said her remembered seeing the Babe driving around in his big black limo going into Wildwood Knowles. He never met him thought.

Seems there was less stress in life back then. Being out on the area lakes and at the shore really does bring a nice perspective to it all.


Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
I love the history that can go with a canoe-- it's another way a canoe can take us down interesting trails. Thanks for sharing this!


New Member
We all love photos. Here are some from the 1930's of lake Oscawana. One has 28 wooden boats and most are canoes. Enjoy.www.canoe at oscawana.org.jpgwww.28 canoes.org.jpgwww.sailboat oscawana.org.jpg