By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
A 99-year family reunion is something to celebrate, especially when it is a mountain pioneer family returning en masse to these mountains.
The Dexter family, led by older brother John, were the original settlers of the Twin Peaks area and several branches settled in the Alpine and Strawberry Flat parts of the mountain for many decades. That area later became known as Twin Peaks, when the post office would not accept the name of Strawberry Flats, when they applied for a post office.
Several branches of descendants of the large Dexter family came up to the mountain over Labor Day weekend from far parts of the western part of the U.S. Most stayed in the Antlers Resort which was originally built by Greg and Julia Dexter in 1924.
Ron Dexter, Julia and Greg’s youngest son, on Saturday evening in the library room of the Antlers gave the family members in attendance a PowerPoint presentation of historic family pictures from the mountain area, with family members yelling out “that’s my mother” and “that is Aunt Julia,” etc. Ron, who spent his life as a cinematographer after being cast as an extra in the movie Coming ‘Round the Mountain as a child, has been collecting family pictures and trying to create a family history for his Greg Dexter branch of the family. He has cousins doing the same for their Dexter branch. Ron was helped because his mother, Julia Nick Dexter, had written several books in her later years. One on the Twin Peaks area called Mountain Memories was published in 1991, telling the story of the early days of Twin Peaks.
Ron himself has added numerous artifacts to the Mountain History Museum over the past few years, including the ice tongs he had to use as a young teen to keep the ice box filled to keep the food for the restaurant and resort his mother ran, known at the time as the Alpine Terrace Resort, fresh and cold. That was in the years before electricity was available for refrigeration in the Twin Peaks area. When he donated them a few years ago, while he was in his 80s, he said he was amazed he still had them. Those tongs were the reason he often would be scolded, because either he had put too much ice in the cooler and the food was being frozen, or not enough to keep the food fresh for the restaurant.
The entire Dexter family had a family reunion in at the Alpine Terrace Resort in 1933; a photo of that family reunion with over 57 family members was memorialized with a photo of the family on its front steps (now on display in the Mountain History Museum). There were five sons in the family, and they all brought their extended family for the reunion.
Another reunion was held in the early 1990s and another photo was taken. This was when Julia released her Mountain Memories book, and she again had the family photographed on the front steps of the Antlers.
The family commented this Labor Day weekend that the roof looked as rusty now in the 2020s as it was 90 years ago in the 1930s. A similar Dexter family photo was taken recently during 99-year family reunion by Ron Dexter, although there were fewer family members this year. They anticipate many more family will return for next year’s 100th anniversary celebration.
The Dexter family can trace their U.S. roots back to Gregorie Dexter, one of the men significantly involved in the founding of the colony of Rhode Island and the plantations with Hutchinson and Roger Williams as a refuge for religious freedom. They sought to create a colony in which the liberty of thought and freedom of expression was a founding ideal.
Gregorie Dexter was so significant in the Providence Plantations that he is mentioned by name on the 1663 Royal Charter granted to Rhode Island by King Charles II of England after it had separated from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This official charter granted Rhode Island and Providence Plantations not only the right to govern their colony but guaranteed them individual “freedom of religion,” which is what the separation of church and state in the constitution is based upon.
Family trees were shared at this reunion so each family member could trace their family lineage back to Gregorie Dexter and back to England.