Fly Rod Crosby

Being a Registered Maine Guide in fishing, hunting, and recreation, this detail of my family tree has been important to me.  I have played with my genealogy since shortly after my father died in 1998, but mostly I have just tried to bore straight back through the generations.  On my father’s side it follows at least one line back to a William de Vernai or Verney, born about 1045 in Normandy — who must have been somebody important, because common folks didn’t keep such records about themselves.

mooseheadlakeflyrodcrosby120My father and mother each collected a little material about the family tree but didn’t do any significant research.  When Dad died I inherited the pile of material and then when the Internet went high-speed in the mid-1990s, I began poking around there.

Among my father’s things was a marvelous old book called Porter Genealogy, published in Bangor in 1878.  In it, I have located several pages with salient connections.  (I also have a hand-written list of Sweet genealogy, in the script of Dana Sweet, whose relationship to my great-great-grandfather, Andrew Sweet, remains unclear.)

Here is a salient relationship, from me (at the bottom of the list) back to Col. Ezekiel Porter of Strong, Maine, (who was not a Colonel, but a Captain of the Militia in 1787, so the Col. may have been one of those purchased commissions):

Col. Ezekiel Porter 1762-c.1814, mrd. Betsey (Wyman) Porter
parents of eleven children, including
(3) Thirza (Porter) Cottle 1789-1865, mrd. Dr. John Cottle
(4) Ezekiel Porter 1791-1867, mrd. Eunice Hitchcock
parents of nine children, including
(1) Thirza (Porter) Crosby 1819-?, mrd. Lemuel Crosby
parents of
Cornelia Thurza “Fly Rod” Crosby 1854-1946
(2) Jeremy W. Porter 1820- (still living at time of genealogy), mrd. ? (name not given in genealogy)
parents of
1st Lieutenant James E. Porter, Company I, 7th Cavalry, killed with Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn
(11) Eliza Wyman (Porter) Sweet 1807-1881, mrd. Zebediah Sweet 1809-1873
parents of
Andrew Jackson Sweet 1837-1892, mrd. Mary Jane Knowlton 1845-1913
parents of
Goldie May (Sweet) Hines 1882-1969, mrd. Ralph Gilman Hines 1881-1966
parents of
Clarice Augusta (Hines) Woodbury 1903-1969, mrd. Everett Hugh Woodbury 1889-1945
parents of
Victor Walter Woodbury 1927-1998, mrd. Dorothy Mae Miller 1925-
parents of
David A. Woodbury 1950- (that’s me)

fly-rod-crosby-362x450It’s tricky in the genealogy, because the younger Ezekiel Porter had an older sister, Thirza, and then named his daughter Thirza.  It’s the younger Thirza who is important here.  Cornelia’s middle name is spelled with a “u” in her official biography, and it’s possible, even likely, that the author of the genealogy was working from town records that had it both ways.

So I am the son of Victor, who is the son of Clarice, who is the daughter of Goldie, who is the daughter of Andrew, who is the son of Eliza, who is a sister to Ezekiel, who is grandfather of Fly Rod Crosby.

Fly Rod Crosby’s mother, Thirza Crosby, and I are first cousins four times removed, (“removed” meaning removed by generations, not convolutions of the family tree).

Fly Rod’s first cousin, Lt. James Porter, son of Jeremy Porter, was killed in Custer’s Last Stand.  As with Fly Rod’s mother, Jeremy Porter and I are first cousins four times removed.  That makes Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby my second cousin three times removed.  (My first cousin’s child is my second cousin.)  That also describes my relationship with Lt. James Porter.  My father had occasionally referred to James and the Custer connection — as far back as when I was a teenager he tried to tell me about it — but I had never quite understood those connections or teased it out of the books until now.  He never mentioned, and may not have known, that he and Cornelia were cousins, and in fact he was 19 and living in the next town when she died.

Cornelia lobbied the Maine legislature heavily, advocating that Maine Guides should meet some professional standards and therefore that they should be licensed as well, demonstrating that the standards had been met.  On March 19, 1897, the Maine legislature passed a bill requiring paid hunting and fishing guides to register with the state.  Maine registered 1316 guides in that first year.  The honor of receiving the first Maine guiding license went to Cornilia Thurza Crosby.

She first discovered her love for the wilderness when, on the advice of her doctor, she left her job in a bank to seek “a large dose of the outdoors.”  This prescription brought her to the nearby town of Rangeley, where she found work housekeeping in some of the large hotels in the area.  She became friends with the local guides, and from them she learned the lore of the woods and the pleasures of camping, hunting, and fishing.

frc28In 1886 a friend presented Cornilia with a five-ounce bamboo rod.  She became so adept at fly-fishing that she once landed 200 trout in one day.  She began to write up accounts of her fishing adventures and submitted them, under the name “Fly Rod” to O.M. Moore, editor of the Phillips Phonograph.  “That’s mighty good stuff!” responded Moore.  “Send some more right away.”  “Fly Rod’s Notebook” became a widely syndicated column appearing in newspapers in New York, Boston, and Chicago, and the new name stuck.

Although she shot the last legal caribou buck in the state of Maine, “Fly Rod” Crosby’s most remarkable and enduring contribution to her native state happened far from the north woods.  In addition to being its first licensed guide, she was Maine’s first public-relations genius.  She arranged an elaborate hunting display at the First Annual Sportsmen’s Show in New York’s Madison Square Garden, starring herself, rifle in hand and wearing a daring, knee-length doeskin skirt.

frc27Her sensational appearance at the Sportsmen’s Show, together with the popularity of her column, helped to attract thousands of eager would-be outdoorsmen and quite a few women to the woods and streams of Maine.  In time, she became friends with the most famous of the country’s illustrious outdoorsmen and counted Annie Oakley among her friends as well.

Since she never had children, and apparently never married anyway, there are no descendants.  A neat little biography of her by Julia Hunter and Earle Shettleworth, Jr., is available at Amazon.com.

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