This weekend my son Julian and I are going on an adventure to retrace many of the important Montana sites where my great grandmother Fanny Y. Cory lived. We are shooting a documentary video of her life that will be released on Saturday, October 14th, to celebrate the 140th anniversary of her birth.
Julian and I plan to camp on Sewell Lake near where the Cooney 1,800 acre cattle and horse ranch was located. We’re hoping to catch some video of the moon sparkling on the waters of the lake at night. We plan to find Fanny’s old studio and the little church where she and Fred Coonie were married at Canton, near Townsend.
We have an interview scheduled with Amanda of the Montana Historic society at Montana’s Museum where her original Fairy Alphabet are kept.
And another with Jackie, who married Ted, Fanny’s grandson, who can remember vising Fanny on Camano Island.
Fanny had purchased the little house perched on the cliff on the southwest side of Camano Island in 1947. She spent some time every year there to be near her daughter Sayre and grandchildren.
She had permanently moved to Camano in 1953 the big new Canyon Ferry Dam on the Missouri River near Helena, Montana was completed. The rising water covered the little community of Canyon Ferry and most of the 1,800 acre Cooney horse and cattle ranch, where she had lived and raised her three children for fifty years.
While they had moved her studio and a windmill to higher ground, the old ranch house wasn’t moved, and along with most of the ranch was covered with water. The family felt like the ranch they had known and loved and had the happiest memories of lay below the waters of Sewell Lake.
This is why, in 1953, when she was 79 years old, my great-grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory moved to Camano Island, Washington. Her little house overlooked the waters of Saratoga Passage to Whidbey Island and the snow covered Olympics beyond and was just across the street and down a magical tree lined driveway from the farm where her grandchildren lived: my mother Ann, her sister Margaret and brothers Robert and Bud. In the custom of her Island neighbors she named the beach below her cottage “Montana Beach.”
Fanny, or “Meetsy” as she was known by her family, always loved Montana. In 1951, she was named Montana Mother of the year, an honor she treasured.
So we’re following Fanny back to her roots to discover more about this remarkable woman who is the matriarch of our family of artists.