Remembering Radnor’s Caretakers

The Bakers

(More information coming soon.)

 

Jesse and Carrie McElyea

Carrie McElyea

Carrie McElyea

Carrie McElyea, known as Mrs. Mac, was born in 1913. She moved to Radnor Lake in 1946 with her husband Jesse McElyea. He worked for the railroad as a bridge painter prior to his life at Radnor Lake. The silver paint that was used gave him lead poisoning, and he was no longer able to continue in that position. The spillway operator job at L&N’s Radnor Reservoir had just opened up due to a rattlesnake bite that killed the previous caretaker. Jesse McElyea was offered the post and moved into the boat house while they readied the Caretaker’s house for his family.

Jesse and Carrie McElyea were both private investigators and raised bloodhounds on the property. When necessary, they would use the hounds to search for escaped convicts and missing people. Jesse McElyea was killed during one of these missions. After the death of her husband, Carrie McElyea remained at Radnor Lake as caretaker.

The Caretaker's residence is located on top of the dam, right next to the spillway

The Caretaker’s residence is located on top of the dam, right next to the spillway

Mrs. McElyea would tell stories of arresting illegal fishermen and handcuffing them to the swing on the front porch. Often while she waited for the police, she would make them something to eat and they would “visit” until the authorities came to get them.

Another favorite story was the day she spotted a huge alligator walking down the drive from the swampy parts of the Lake. This was in the late ’60s early ’70s. Mrs. McElyea pulled out a shotgun and killed the alligator. She then skinned the alligator and hung its hide on the front porch to dry, after which she sold it.

Visit the kiosk located near the Caretaker's residence to read more about the contributions of Radnor Lake's caretakers. The kiosk also has information about Radnor's birding opportunities.

Visit the kiosk located near the Caretaker’s residence to read more about the contributions of Radnor Lake’s caretakers. The kiosk also has information about Radnor’s birding opportunities.

Carrie McElyea, whose husband was caretaker for the area for 11 years before his death, and who continued as caretaker for 19 more years, watched over the site from her cabin on the property. After Radnor Lake became a State Natural Area, Mrs. McElyea remained caretaker as a state employee. She retired March 31, 1979. Through those years, she raised her children and helped raise her grandchildren, along with enforcing the rules to protect Radnor Lake. Carrie McElyea died Tuesday, August 14, 2007, age 94.

Caretaker Panel

Caretaker panel: Click on the image for a larger view