History Feature: 

-Robert Madison Mitchell

A. Elmer Crowell    1862 – 1952 

 

Anthony Elmer Crowell, known as Elmer Crowell was born November 5, 1862 in East Harwich. His father was a bayman and his parents owned a cranberry bog on Pheasant Lake.

 

Elmer got a gun for his 12th birthday, which started him on the road to hunting. He would hunt over Pheasant Lake. When he was 14 he built a blind on Pheasant Lake. On his first hunt in the blind that he made, he shot a black duck. From that day forward Elmer became obsessed with hunting.

 

One day while he was out hunting he used a trolling Mallard to attract birds to him. But when the trolling Mallard wouldn’t come back to him, Elmer shot the duck. On his way home, Elmer met hunter Captain Calhoun, who had been out hunting all day but hadn’t had any luck in landing birds. So Elmer sold him the mallard he had just shot. Thus began his journey on the road as a market gunner.

 

When Elmer was 15 he started making his own decoys. He had six live mallards with clipped wings and weights so they couldn’t fly away and began hunting. That year he shot 97 black ducks more than anyone on the lake.

 

By 1888 he owned over 300 live ducks and geese, and had many of his own decoys as well. That year the 3 Bears Shooting Club hired him as their lead guide. 

He got married in 1901, he and his wife had one son they named Cleon.

 

When he was 26, Elmer was hired by Dr. John C Phillips as caretaker for his hunting lodge on Lake Wenham. He worked there from 1900 to 1905. Crowell continued to make decoys for Dr. Phillips and was the first carver to turn the heads of decoys he carved to different positions. 

 

While working at the Lake Wenham hunting lodge, three young girls of wealthy parents who were visiting Dr. Phillips saw his miniature decoys. They asked if they could buy them from Elmer and after they did, they took them to Europe to show their friends. Soon after, Elmer began receiving orders from Europe for his miniature decoys.

 

With so many orders for miniature decoys, Elmer he considered carving full-time. Because of the backing of Dr. Phillips and his connections, he was able to carve full-time. 

 

He carved working decoys, miniature decoys and full size decoys. Elmer Crowell carved every species of wildfowl and songbird in northeast.

 

Elmer Crowell was one the most famous and most prolific carvers of all time. He went on to carve thousands of decoys. He also carved with his son. His decoys are still sought after by collectors of today. 

 

 

Elmer Crowell with several of his decoys  

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