Camp Coe

CAMP COE Watercolor by Wm. J. Carpenter

  DeLand, Florida 1927     9 1/2 X 13 1/2 inches

 The watercolor paintings shown here were created by the architect/artist Wm. J. Carpenter AIA for his sons to memorialize a scene on the Ohio River near Beaver, Pennsylvania.  It depicts a favorite family camp site while they resided there between 1901 and 1919.  Coe was the maiden name of his wife Agnes. (My grandmother).  It measures 9 1/2 X 13 1/2 inches and is in the original frame.

 One of four known versions he painted of this scene ( one for each of his sons), this 1927 issue was in the collection of Edward for many years, and at his death it passed to his son Jack and into the present collection. Because of its connection to the family history the painting has been researched extensively and a large amount of information relating directly to the painting has been collected. The history of the camp will be covered briefly here.

One of the other originals is the only portrait layout of the series, and is signed “Camp Co-1914, WJC”.  The second,  a landscape orientation, shown here, is signed WJC and dated 1917. These two paintings are now in the private collection of a family member. Another issue, believed to have been painted about the same period is known to be in the private collection of another family member. 


In Edward’s 1919 photograph album are several pages of the four boys and the artist swimming and canoeing on the river at “Camp Coe”. The snapshot of the two young boys reproduced here shows the twins, Clarence and Richard, in a canoe along the bank. All the members of the family were avid canoeists all their lives; in the 1980s Richard disposed of his last “Old Town” in Wagoner, Oklahoma. This site of “Camp Coe” is only about one and one-half miles downstream on the Ohio River from where the family lived on Bank Street in Beaver. This was a convenient location for four young boys to set up a camp, away from home, yet easily accessible by bicycle, or on foot, so they could return home for a meal when they felt the urge.

Clarence & Dick Ohio River 1917

Clarence & Dick Still Canoeing 1950-60s

Photo by Jack Carpenter, 2002

On a trip to Beaver, Pennsylvania in the summer of 2002 I was able to locate the site of the camp within a few yards and the scene has changed very little in the 88 intervening years.  Although there is now the Interstate 60 highway bridge across the Ohio River in the background, the shoreline and hills in the far distance can be easily recognized. (The automobile in the photograph is parked on the approximate site of the painter’s position, but the view from that point is now blocked by trees.)  A resident who now lives on the site told me the river level is now higher than it was at the time of the painting, because a dam has been built across the river downstream, thus explaining the disappearance of the beach along both shores in the paintings.  Thankfully missing are the railroad tracks down along both banks of the river which were almost certainly in existence at the time of the paintings. (The inclusion of the oil well derrick in the right rear was probably a whimsical addition added to commemorate the family’s connection to early oil drilling around Parker and Brady’s Bend, Pennsylvania where Agnes Coe was born.  I have found no record of oil wells in the immediate Beaver area.)

Adapted from Wm. J. Carpenter, The UnForgotten Man, Vol. I, The Artist, Jack Carpenter, Copyright 2001 Unpublished .




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