Catherine (Cay) Phillips Eddy
1909 – 2007
Catherine (Cay) Phillips Eddy was born in Providence, RI, on July 31, 1909. She was one of four children of Abbott and Amy Phillips. Her father was a lawyer with the Providence firm then known as Hinckley, Allen, Phillips & Wheeler. Her mother, Amy, was at home on the East Side (Rochambeau Avenue) raising the kids.
Cay contracted the whooping cough during the first year of her life. One of the remedies in those days was to be near the cleansing sea breezes. So Abbott and Amy brought the family, via boat, down to Sakonnet Point. They built a home on Round Pond Rd (Plat 9, Lot 248 on the Little Compton Tax Maps – now owned by the Nathaniel Howe family).
Cay recovered from this illness and grew up between Providence and Little Compton. Her first love was always the latter though. Her summers here were consumed with the likes of swimming at Warren’s Point (see rescue story about her mother in Notes on Little Compton, page 262), boating off Sakonnet, tennis, and golf. She was a bit of a tomboy. She would tell me of helping along with the other kids to push the meat wagon of Ephraim Palmer out of the mud on Round Pond Rd. She and her dad would walk up that road, being ever vigilant for large snapping turtles, to dances in the Stone House barn. It was still a working farm then, and the cows would be watching the dancing from their adjacent stalls!
Cay went to the Wheeler School in Providence and for two years to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.
In the late 1920s/early 1930s, Cay ran a dress shop out of the family house in Little Compton. That house was one they had built around the corner on Gardiners’ Bluff (Plat 9, Lot 235, now owned by the Lloyd family). It is constructed of stone with a stone tower. Cay told me of awakening one night there to see a man crouched outside her window shooting a revolver. Such was during Prohibition when liquor would be brought ashore during the night at nearby Tappen’s Beach. The next morning they found a case of scotch on their doorstep!
In 1934, Cay married Gerald (Gerry) W. Harrington. Gerry was a lawyer in Providence with the large firm then known as Edwards & Angell.
Cay and Gerry had three sons – Gerald W. Jr. (Mike), born 1937; Phillips (Flip), born 1939; and Brian A., born in 1941.
In November 1942, Cay and Gerry purchased Bay Farm in Little Compton. The tract contained approximately 25 acres and ran from West Main Road to the Sakonnet River (now depicted as Plat 4, Losts 16-24). While Gerry was away in the Navy in WWII, Cay ran the farm alone – raising sheep; harvesting apples from its orchard; raising ducks, geese and chickens; and tending a huge vegetable garden. Aside from farming and raising three young boys, she found time to stand air watch on the tower at the eastern end of Peckham Road and volunteer with the Red Cross.
Cay and Gerry divorced after the war. Cay continued to live at Bay Farm. In 1947, she met F. Stetson Eddy, Jr. at the Fo’c’sle on Sakonnet Point. Stetson and put into the harbor for the night on a sailboat to visit Henry Ballou. Cay and Stetson were married in 1948. I recollect being told that the honeymoon had to wait until Elsye Soares Johnson (many remember her as being the proprietor of the Cove Market at the Point) and her husband, Frank, could watch over Mike, Flip, and Brian. They honeymooned on Sea Island in Georgia.
Stetson ran a family heating oil business (C.F. Eddy Co.) in West Newton, MA. Cay delivered a fourth son, Stetson W. Eddy (Tack) in 1949. They built a house in Wayland, MA in the early 1950s. Cay was a suburban housewife (I think of Joan Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver!) but returned to Bay Farm at every opportunity she could on weekends, school vacations, holidays, and of course summers. Well I remember the long trips down from Wayland in the packed family station wagon – in the earlier years, before the construction of Route 24 and I-195.
Cay settled into a life of raising her four sons, but also volunteering her time to many organizations such as the Little Compton Village Improvement Society, the Little Compton Garden Club, the Little Compton Historical Society, the aforementioned American Red Cross, and later in Florida, the Lemon Bay Conservancy. She loved to ski and the family often headed north in the station wagon to Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, VT where her brother Abbott (Bud) Phillips (a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division in WWII) ran the ski school. Cay also played a skilled game of both golf and tennis, and she and Stetson won many tournaments together. She became a ranked player in Rhode Island women’s golf.
Cay had an abiding love for the outdoors and the natural world. Little Compton was the perfect place to instill this love in her sons. Walks in the woods and along Dundery Brook behind her mother’s farm (Laneway Farm, Plat 18, Lot 28) enabled her to identify and teach us about native birds, animals, and trees. Cay was also a talented artist – engaging in decoupage, needlework, painting local scenes in watercolors and oils, and crafting shell arrangements. The corn crib at Bay Farm was filled with thousands of shells she had collected! She and Stetson had built a house on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida after he retired in 1964. She was always first out on the beach there in the morning to collect the night’s deposit of shells. Cay referred to Manasota Key then as “the Little Compton” of the west coast of Florida.
With advancing age, Cay and Stetson would spend summers in Edgecomb, Maine, winters on Manasota Key, and springs and falls in Little Compton. Cay had divided Bay Farm in the 1960s and eventually gave each of her children a lot. She also sold her youngest son, Tack, the cottage at Bay Farm where he lives to this day. She would be pleased to know that the front field at Bay Farm is still cultivated by Wayne Montgomery (a grandson of her friend Manny Camara) and the lower two fields down by the river are planted in tomatoes and other crops by a farmer from Tiverton. She would also be pleased to know that you can still drive down West Main Road and see a landscape that has changed remarkably little since she came to town in 1909.
After Stetson’s death in 1992, Cay joined many of her old Little Compton and East Side friends at the Laurelmead Retirement Community off Blackstone Boulevard in Providence. There she could play a spirited game of bridge and slip under the fence to take walks on the grounds of the abutting Swan Point Cemetery. Cay died on May 29, 2007 – two months shy of her 98th birthday. She led a full life, and her tank was on empty, as she would have wanted it, at the time of her death.
Stetson W. “Tack” Eddy, Jr.