History

The founder of the Abenaqui Club was Mr. George L. Allen of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1899 Mr. Charles A. Jenness leased to Mr. Allen for a golf course and tennis courts about 25 acres of land, consisting of his old orchard, so called his pastureland and his entire field except his house lot and garden. Before that time golf in local Rye Beach area was primitively played on two six hole “pasture” courses, one in Rye Beach on Sea Road and the second and even more primitive in the Little Boar’s Head area.

In 1899, Mr. George L. Allen and four other community minded gentleman, Francis E. Drake of Chicago, A.A. Carpenter of Cleveland, Ohio, Albert Batchelder and Frank C. Hall of local origin, took the twenty-five acres of leased land and four acres of purchased land and formed the nucleus on which the original nine hole course was built. In 1900 the clubhouse and first tennis courts were constructed on the four acres of club owned land, their present location, in 1902 sufficient additional land was leased to complete the nine hole course and Frank Batchelder was hired as Greens keeper for $750 per year. The organization was incorporated in 1903 under the name of the Abenaqui Club and all the assets of the original club, including the clubhouse, tennis courts, leases and equipment, were sold to the new club, and stock in the latter was issued to pay for same.

In the simple style of those days Abenaqui thrived as a summer resort facility. Rye Beach was known as the “St. Louis of the East” at the turn of the century with most of its summer population coming from the mid west cities of St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, along with a fair sprinkling of New Yorkers, Philadelphians and a few genuine New Englanders. The club membership numbered a paltry fifty families but made up for it in enthusiasm and interest for their lack of numbers and individually donated equipment, held teas, gymkhanas, luncheons, dances and croquet tournaments to obtain needed funds with which to meet the $3,600 to $4,000 yearly budget. Besides the usual intra-club tournaments, home and home team matches were arranged with Portsmouth, York, Maine and New Castle clubs. From this, a formal, league schedule was implemented including the latter mentioned clubs.

In the 1920’s Abenaqui Country Club began having fiscal woes and this condition would continue, off and on, for many years to come. On July 20, 1926, Abenaqui Club executed a mortgage with the New Hampshire National Bank in the sum of $30,000 to secure payment of debentures numbered 1 to 60 of $500 each issued prior to August 29, 1925. As the years passed, Abenaqui Club continued to struggle financially when in September 12, 1941 at the annual meeting another crisis arrived and it was reported at this meeting that some of the land, that the club rented for the use of the golf course was about to be sold and that arrangements would have to made for acquisition of the same. In addition, it was determined that of the seventy known stockholders only thirty-two were at Rye Beach in the summer, the others had either moved away or were dead and that of the thirty-two “in residence” only eight were members of the club and only three showed any active interest in the welfare of the club. It was then under the counseling and guidance of the late Stanley M. Burns, a land committee was appointed to acquire the land in danger of being sold. At that time various members of the club advanced money to the trustees of the committee to purchase the land. The purchase was completed and 63.67 acres were purchases for the price of $19,800 on August 22, 1942, Abenaqui Club, Inc. was organized and by deed dated September 10, 1942 the committee trustees conveyed the Abenaqui Club Inc. all the land it had acquired.

In 1962, rumor had it that the Herbert L. Jenness families were considering selling 13.48 acres of woodland (the current site of hole 16, 17 and 18) to a developer for house lots. Despite many past fruitless attempts to obtain this land in the past, Dr. George T. Bottomley, was successful in persuading the Jenness family that Abenaqui Club, Inc. could purchase said land for $4,702.50. This was not the first action taken by Dr. George T. Bottomley to keep Abenaqui afloat.

Dr. George T. Bottomley played a most significant role in the preservation and enhancement of Abenaqui over the many years of his involvement of the Club. He was president of Abenaqui Country Club from 1944 -1963, the longest tenure of any president in the clubs history. In his day he was properly considered to be “Mr. Abenaqui”.

In 1943, the year before Dr. Bottomley first became its president, Abenaqui’s financial woes were staggering. The membership has declined and changed dramatically as the residents from the Mid-West who had been among the founders and early supporters of the club discontinued their annual trips to the East Coast. They have been only partially replaced by some less affluent residents of Rye area and some new summer residents who lacked any deep-rooted commitment to Abenaqui. The advent of World War II with its reordered priorities and shortages had also taken its toll on the clubs equipment and condition. The club might well have gone under without the strong leadership provided by Dr. Bottomley.

One of the less attractive obligations of the presidency of Abenaqui in that era was to go to the membership for more funds to support the club. Dr. Bottomley was most successful in this role and raised substantial support from the members. One of his major accomplishments was to enlist the substantial aid of three “godfathers” Governor Huntly N. Spaulding of New Hampshire, Alvan T. Fuller of Massachusetts and Mr. Samuel H. Allen of St. Louis, Missouri whose family had long been active supporters of Abenaqui. These “godfathers”, together with Dr. Bottomley, provided more than $30,000 in financial support to help cover the annual operating deficits through the year 1952. Without doubt they saved the club. They neither expected nor received any financial return on their “investment”. During this same period of time Dr. Bottomley was constantly pushing for improvements to the golf course through development programs, expansion of membership, and increased club activities. Dr. Bottomley remained steadfast in his commitment to constantly improve Abenaqui’s golf course. He not only wanted to make the course more challenging but also wanted to make the course more visually appealing to the players. He was perceptive enough to realize that invisible improvements (like underground drainage) while most important, did not have as much member impact as visible improvements like trees, shrubs, or flowers. Accordingly he made sure that each year’s improvements had an equal balance. Funding both these kinds of improvements was the objective of the Course Improvement Tournament started in 1975 during the presidency of Dr. Bottomley’s oldest son, John. After Dr. Bottomley’s death in 1982, the tournament was renamed in his memory.

From the Presidency of Dr. George T. Bottomley in 1945 to the present, Abenaqui County Club has grown and prospered as a nonprofit organization. In 1983 a plan was developed to transfer the ownership of the Club to its active membership. The Club was to be reorganized into a not for profit membership corporation. In October of 1983 the club was formally purchased by its active membership during the presidency of E. Taylor MacPherson, and the guidance of a committee, chaired by Mr. Donald O’Brien. More improvements followed and the course was constantly being upgraded. Membership was growing; members were becoming more proactive in assuring that improvements and quality of the course kept pace with its growth.

In 1993, a new improvement to the course was suggested to the membership. The plan was to completely redesign the outside nine Holes Nos. 5 through 13. The architect of this new layout for the outside nine was Al Zikorus of Maine. Much time and care was taken by committees on both sides of the issue and in time, it was decided by a very courageous Board of Governors to redesign and rebuild the outside nine holes of Abenaqui. The Governors decided it was more important to solve and improve the drainage problems on the outside nine and improve Abenaqui’s access to a dependable water supply and they would deal with the division later. The work was completed, under the guidance of course superintendent Patrick Kelley, in less time than expected and under budget. Between the ponds built and the wells found Abenaqui had enough water to sustain itself in the future in time of a drought.

Abenaqui Country Club was established in 1903 as a place for people to meet in the summer and play golf and tennis for two months out of a year. It has grown to support nine months of pleasurable competition. In all of its development some things have remained the same, Abenaqui has a summer ease about it and it is a place where the Pro, in our case PGA Head Golf Professional, Ben Alexander, will find you a game when you have none. It is a club that followed what Dr. George Allen, Dr. George T. Bottomley, and many other past presidents and members had envisioned when they worked tirelessly to establish and improve Abenaqui Country Club.