National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 16, 1970

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Photographs by Tom Thomson

by Dennis Reid, Curator of Post-Confederation Art

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  7  |  8

Notes on the Photographs

31 A Northern mill-yard, I 

Click figure 31 here for an enlarged image

32 A Northern mill-yard, II

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This incredible scene is probably the mill-yard of the abandoned Gilmour Lumber Company at Canoe Lake. Ottelyn Addison has described it as "a treeless, desolate area of thirty acres or more covered with pine slabs and sawdust." (13) She has remarked that today, fifty-five years later, "the ground, even though now covered with shrubby trees, still feels springy from the rot tell chips and sawdust that haven't yet become solid." (14) Mowat Lodge, which Thomson used as his headquarters while in Algonquin Park, faced the old Gilmour mill-yard.

Mrs. Fisk has suggested that the man seated on the stump might be Tom Wattie, an Algonquin Park ranger. Comparison with a published photograph of Wattie seems to support this suggestion. (15) Wattie was on the Park staff from 1909 to 1929, stationed at North Tea Lake in the northwestern area of the Park. (16) He first met Thomson toward the end of August 1913. (17) He would have to have been on a special trip to Canoe Lake to have had his picture taken in front of the old Gilmour yard, as it was outside of his territory . 

33 Wesley Nash with John Thomson's hound

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Mrs. Fisk has identified the neighbour's boy having his picture taken with Thomson's father's dog on the step of the Thomson home, 528 Fourth Avenue East, Owen Sound, Ontario.

34 Dr. J. M. McRuer, I

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35 An unidentified man, I

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36 Dr. J. M. McRuer, II

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37 An unidentified man, II

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Thomson first met John M. McRuer shortly after arriving in Toronto from Seattle - probably in 1905 - and before McRuer's graduation from the University of Toronto in 1907.18 They remained close friends until Dr. McRuer's death in June 1917, just before Thomson's drowning. Dr. McRuer practised medicine in Huntsville, a small town to the west of Algonquin Park, from 1907 until late in 1913. He had by then become seriously ill with tuberculosis and moved to Denver, Colorado, where he died.

The Albion Hotel, shown in photographs 34 and 35, was located in Scotia Junction, due north of Huntsville. This village was a railroad divisional point on the way to Canoe Lake, and was served by the Huntsville doctors. (19) These photographs, then, were taken some time between 1907 and 1913; from the consumptive appearance of Dr. McRuer, a later dating seems more reasonable.

It has not been possible to confirm the identity of the companion of Thomson and McRuer in photographs 35 and 37. The photographs were clearly taken on the same occasion as those of Dr. McRuer. Ottelyn Addison has suggested that the person might be either H. B. Jackson (20) or W .S. Broadhead, (21) both early Toronto friends of Thomson, and colleagues at the Grip Limited studio. Thomson first visited Algonquin Park, with H. B. Jackson, in May 1912, (22) and may have met his friend Dr. McRuer at Scotia Junction on the way; the train was often delayed there before proceeding east to Canoe Lake. However, it was later that summer of 1912, during August and September, that Thomson and W. S. Broadhead went north to the Mississauga Forest Reserve on their famous canoe trip. (23) We know for a fact that they did not stop to see Dr. McRuer on their return, although there is some suggestion that Thomson at least had visited with him some time earlier in the year. (24) As far as is known, these 1912 trips are the only two Thomson made as far north as Huntsville with either Jackson or Broadhead.

Next Page | Photographs 38 to 40

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