In Episode 131, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger row out to a tiny island called Becky’s Garden on Lake Winnipesaukee to explore the fairy tale legend behind this rock and little house. It’s the smallest island on the lake, it’s been on the map since 1885, and the story behind it sounds all too familiar.
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
RAY: Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire – it’s one of my favorite lakes in all of New England, Jeff!
JEFF: I agree, it’s a beautiful place. If we pull off of this road here in Center Harbor on the north end of the lake, we can find a spot to put the canoe in the water.
JEFF: This looks like a good a spot as any.
[BOAT OARS IN WATER]
JEFF: We’re looking for an island on the lake.
RAY: Okay, wait a minute. I checked into this before we got here. Lake Winnipesaukee is a big place. It’s an Algonquin word meaning “Smile of the Great Spirit.” The lake has 283 miles of shoreline, 78 square miles of water, and 264 islands! So which island are we looking for?
JEFF: Ray, today we’re on the search for the very smallest of all the islands. We’re hunting for a place and a legend called Becky’s Garden.
JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to Episode 131 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. We appreciate you riding along with us as we seek out every single legend in New England one story at a time. We love it when you folks subscribe to our podcast—it’s free! And when you reach out to us. We get so many story ideas from you. Feel free to call or text our Legend Line anytime at 617-444-9683. You can also leave our show closing on our voicemail for a future episode.
JEFF: We also appreciate our patreon patrons! These folks kick in just $3 bucks per month to get early access to new episodes plus bonus episodes that no one else gets to hear. Just think, for less than the price of one draft beer per month you help us grow the show. Even if those $3 bucks don’t mean much to you, it means a great deal to us. So thank you! If you can help, please go to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up. And you can also find that link on our Web site.
[ROWING ON WATER AGAIN]
RAY: So Jeff, we’re looking for a tiny island called Becky’s Garden on Lake Winnipesaukee?
JEFF: That’s right.
RAY: As I said earlier there’s hundreds of islands on this lake—some are huge at over 1100 acres, others are more modest at 25 acres in size. As we’re rowing east from Center Harbor I can see two small islands coming up on our left, and plenty of larger islands on our right.
JEFF: That’s true, those islands on the left are small. Just a clump of trees. But we have about a half mile of rowing ahead of us to find the one we’re looking for. Okay, according to my lake map, it should be just ahead of us. There! Land ho!
JEFF: Right there! Maybe fifty feet in front of us.
RAY: What? I don’t see an island.
JEFF: It’s right there, Ray! We’re closing in it.
RAY: That!? That’s Becky’s Garden?! Dude, I’m worried if we hit the island with our little boat we might sink the island.
JEFF: (LAUGHING) Yeah, but look closer.
RAY: Okay, this is wild. The “island,” if you can call it that, is clump of rocks maybe the size of a car. There’s a bush or two growing out of one side of it, and… oh man… that’s crazy! There’s a little house and an American flag on the island! It’s the size of one of those fancy doll houses rich people have.
JEFF: Welcome to Becky’s Garden! The first time this piece of land appears in any charts is an 1885 map where it’s called Becky’s Garden.
RAY: I can’t wait to find out how this happened. Shall we head back in time?
JEFF: Let’s head back to the earliest days of the town of Center Harbor, New Hampshire. Let’s head back to the summer of 1805.
RAY: Center Harbor was just incorporated as a town a few years ago in 1797. There are a couple of wealthy families who live in town, and one of those families includes five daughters. And out of all of those girls, Rebecca is the youngest and most beautiful.
[BIRDS SINGING / SUMMER DAY]
JEFF: More than anything, Rebecca loves tending to her gardens on her father’s property. She grows bright, colorful flowers, and strong viney plants in different places around the yard to make their home the picture of beauty. Rebecca is proud of her garden, and her father is proud of her.
RAY: But Becky’s sisters… they’re a whole other story. Each of them is spoiled rotten. They’re unkind, especially to Rebecca.
SISTER: Look at Rebecca out there in her gardens always getting dirty.
RAY: They’re jealous and cruel, as siblings often can be.
JEFF: Still, Rebecca pays them no attention. She’d rather tend to her pretty flowers. But then, one fine summer’s day, her father’s cattle escape while the family is off for a picnic.
[RUMBLE OF CATTLE AND MOOS OF COWS]
JEFF: In the span of a short afternoon, the cows and cattle trample and eat Rebecca’s entire garden.
RAY: Rebecca is heartbroken at the destruction of her pretty flowers and plants. It’s all ruined. Everything is trampled.
JEFF: Her father hates to see Rebecca so melancholy, so he offers her a gift.
FATHER: Rebecca, You may have any island in the lake that you wish.
JEFF: When Rebecca’s sisters hear that, they’re furious!
BECKY’S SISTERS ARGUING
JEFF: They each want their own island too.
FATHE: Very well, you may each have your own island. But… Rebecca shall have first pick.
JEFF: Rebecca, knowing her sisters and how nasty they can be, decides she will pick the smallest island on the lake as her own, leaving her sisters the bigger and better tracks of land.
RAY: The island Rebecca picks is so small it’s barely big enough for a couple of shrubs to grow out of the outcrop of rocks. But it keeps the peace in her family, plus, Becky is a simple, humble girl, she figures the little island is just fine for her.
JEFF: Soon, word spreads about Rebecca’s unselfish act, and that’s when a wealthy and handsome young farmer comes calling at Rebecca’s house.
FARMER: Rebecca, I’m so taken by your beauty, and by your unselfish nature. Please, will you do me the honor and be my wife?
[SUMMER BIRDS SINGING]
RAY: Rebecca agrees.
[MUSIC WEDDING MARCH]
RAY: And this little tiny island on Lake Winnipesaukee is known as Becky’s Garden forever more. As for Becky and her handsome and rich young husband? Well they live happily ever after. And that bring us back to today.
JEFF: This is straight-up a New England fairy tale.
RAY: Pretty much.
JEFF: We’ve got the handsome prince, or farmer in this case. We’ve got the beautiful and kind daughter who is oppressed by her ugly sisters, and a sibling rivalry that leads to the meekest and mildest girl coming away with the biggest prize in the end…
RAY: She marries a rich dude?
JEFF: She marries a rich dude.
RAY: Yup, it’s pretty much like the story of Cinderella. But I struggle with fairy tales, Jeff.
JEFF: Why’s that?
RAY: Like you, I have a daughter. And the moral of this story is that a man is the ultimate goal and prize. A man can save you from your troubles. I mean, I want my daughter to count on herself as she grows up.
JEFF: I get that. I really do.
RAY: I feel like the way old Disney movies portray the helpless, beautiful girls kind of did some damage to expectations. The newer movies are doing a better job of making the girls into real heroes like in Brave, Mulan, and Frozen. I don’t know, maybe it’s time to let that old model of fairy tale go?
JEFF: Ray, you sound so cynical!
RAY: And think about it… Becky’s other sisters got their pick of the islands on the lake. Some of those islands are pretty big! I picture them looking at Becky’s choice and saying, “Keep your man and little rock, girl! I got this HUGE island all for me!” Who really won in this deal anyway?
JEFF: (LAUGHING) I see your point. Yet, the names and stories of those other sisters are lost forever. But Becky. We’re still talking about her centuries later because someone named this little rock “Becky’s Garden.” It’s been on the maps a long time. Shoot, this morning I looked on Google Maps, and as you zoom in, you see the words “Becky’s Garden.” The maps scale doesn’t allow enough room to show the island, but there’s the name right where the speck of an island sits.
RAY: I get it, I get it. Becky is immortalized forever now. I just wonder if this is the kind of story I want my daughter to hear. Maybe we should have skipped this one?
JEFF: That’s tough to do because these stories are so powerful. They speak to some deep part of our psyche. We love them and keep them around because in the end, the good people triumph and the bad people get what’s coming to them.
RAY: Right, they get huge islands.
JEFF: (LAUGHING) We love to dream of something better, and know that it can come true because it has for others. Fairy tales give us hope! Plus, you’ve got this island out here with the name “Becky’s Garden.” It begs you to ask how it got that name, and then you hear the fairy tale story, and the legend continues. Besides, some girls want the handsome prince.
RAY: Yeah, and others want their own big island. We just don’t tell fairy tales about that.
JEFF: I LOVE stories like these because you’ve got this real place, with a real little house that’s been in the news for many decades, and our own New England version of a fairy tale.
RAY: And it does offer a chance to have a discussion about what kind of morals and values we want to instill in our kids.
JEFF: Hear hear! If you want to leave us feedback on this or any of our other tales of weirdness from all over New England, head to our Web site at ournewenglandlegends.com, or join our Super Secret Facebook group and join the discussion there.
RAY: We’d like to thank Eric Altman from Beyond the Edge Radio, Jim Harold from the Paranormal Podcast, and Megan and Sophie Belanger for all lending their voice acting talents this week. And our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL: Hi, this is Brenda Songer from Hampton New Hampshire loved podcast number 125 that bizarre is closer than I think.
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