YE OLDEN TYME - A VISITOR TO THE CANADIAN CAMP CLUB HOUSE ON BASSWOOD LAKE IN THE EARLY 1900’S

13 September 2019

From the early 1900’s through until the mid-1940’s, the Canadian Camp Clubhouse operated on the north-east shoreline of Basswood Lake (also named Big Basswood Lake, Lake Waquekobing and Lake Wakwekobi). The Clubhouse was originally a primary terminus of the then famous Canoe trip from the Canadian Pacific Railway line at Biscotasing through some lakes in that area then it eventually headed adventurers down the Mississauga River (also spelled Mississagi and Mississagua among others) through portages and well-marked trails.

Famous Canadian painter and member of the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson took the Mississauga adventure in 1912 and painted a landscape of the area during the trip. In 1910 my Grandfather John McEachern was the first homesteader north of the Mississauga River just downstream from War Eagle Rapids which was in turn a short distance downstream from Squaw Chute which is where Thomson is believed to have capsized his canoe losing some of his art pieces in the turbulent water. Despite the artist’s misfortune in navigating the rapids, most travelers successfully made their way to the end of the journey and portaged from the Mississauga, where Red Rock Lake is now situated, and took the rather short but steep path up to the Clubhouse on Basswood Lake. From there they would make passage across the Lake and catch the CPR line at Dayton Station.

As detailed in this story, the Clubhouse was also the destination of less adventurous visitors who simply wanted some peaceful rest away from their regular routines or others wanting to partake in the fishing and hunting opportunities which abounded in the area. This recollection was of one of those visitors who needed some respite from his hectic life – his trip however did not fulfill his doctor’s orders and the man left with all of his nervous disorder fully intact.

Note: In a future Blog we plan to revisit more information and history on the Mississauga adventure and its relationship to the Canadian Camp Clubhouse and tie it in to other local historic elements.

YE OLDEN TYME

To Editor of Algoma Advocate,

Komta Cottage, Basswood Lake, January 1926.

Dear Sir,

Quite a number of years ago there drove up to my door one day, an American tourist. He had come by train to Dayton Station and I think it was Albert Hagen who drove him from Dayton to my cottage in a buggy. He was looking for a boat to take him across Basswood Lake to the Canadian Camp Club House.

Mrs. Dobie and I were here enjoying our summer holidays and as he arrived just at lunch time we invited the stranger to lunch with us, and fortunately had a very good meal to offer him, which he seemed to enjoy very much and when the coffee was served he tasted it and said, “I never expected to get as good a cup of coffee as that in Canada”. (I have been a coffee drinker all my life “in moderation” and have an idea that I know good coffee and that Mrs. Dobie knew how to brew it).

After lunch we began to discuss ways of getting over the lake, and I offered to row the gentleman over as the lake was calm and I was young and strong and only too glad to show courtesy to strangers coming here to enjoy our scenery and climate and the wonderful fishing we have to offer to those who come. As we sat having our after lunch chat he informed me that he had started a small manufacturing business in a small town in Illinois 25 years before, and the town had grown and with its growth his business expanded until he was making $35,000 to $40,000 per year profit, and he was so devoted to his business he had never taken a holiday and would not yet be doing so only that his doctor had ordered him off for two months to avoid a nervous breakdown, and it was evidently a case of “Do or die”.

I assured him that he had landed in one of the best places in America for a summer holiday. I have lived in this part of Algoma for 57 years and the longer I live here the more I am convinced that there is not a better place to be found anywhere to recover nervous energy and restore a rundown constitution, and enjoy the wonderful beauties of nature, than right here amid the beautiful lakes and streams, and forests of this most picturesque part of Algoma.

So I rowed him across the beautiful calm blue lake with its enchanting surroundings and we talked of and admired its beauty as I plied the oars across the lake. He did not offer to assist me although he was a six-footer with a strong frame, but he had evidently never been in a skiff before.

When we reached the Club House and I introduced him to the people in charge, Mr. and Mrs. John Hope I think were there then, he asked me if I would mind waiting till he wrote a letter to send back with me, and I cheerfully consented, and sat down on the verandah to enjoy the view and rest while he wrote.

He did not appear to be a fast writer, but after a long wait he came out with two letters and a dime and explained that he had no Canadian stamps and would be glad if I would mail the letters for him, which I promised to do and I kept my promise. Canada postage was then two cents. He also said that Mrs. Dobie and I had been so kind to him he would like to have us row over to the Club House and stay a few days with him as his guests, and as he left part of his baggage in my house, it could go over at the same time. Being young and strong as I was, it was just fun for me to tote baggage across the lake, and I told him if Mrs. Dobie would care to go we would take his baggage and at least, have a meal with him.

On my return from the Club House, I found I was wanted in town, so after supper we closed up our cottage and went home to Thessalon, and the next day while busy in my office I got a call from my Club House friend, who had given me the letters, and the dime and this is what he said, – “I came across the lake today and found your house locked, so I hired a carpenter to remove one of the windows, and am talking on your phone, will you please go to the post office in Thessalon and get my mail and send it to the station with the bus driver, also the six cents change for postage money I gave you, as I am leaving on today’s train”. That sounded like a pretty big order, especially the six cents, but I gave it my best attention, and from that day until the present I have never heard from or of him and cannot remember his name, or the town from Illinois from which he said he had come.

Whether he had told me a fairy tale or not about his wealth does not matter. All the money I had ever seen in his possession was the dime he gave me to purchase stamps. I heard a story once of a tourist, who promised a darky boy a dime to carry his satchel and when he looked for the dime he could not find it in any of his pockets, but the boy said, “you betta look again, boss, if you evah had dat dime you shuah has it yet”.

I often think about that Illinois tourist and wonder what was the matter with him. I thought then he was probably just extraordinarily economical or stingy, but with my present knowledge of nervous trouble, I realize better the effect that a night of absolute quiet and peace had on the nerves of a man who for 25 years had lived and worked and slept amid noise and bustle and hurry. The absence of noise at the Club House, no doubt, kept him awake. He would naturally begin to think of home, and would worry about his business. When a man is in good health very small troubles will magnify a hundred fold if he lies awake in the night, but to a man in a nervous condition they will magnify a thousand fold, and even six cents will loom up like a leak in a stone dyke, which is going to let a flood in soon. So I think that is what ailed him, and had there been a friend with him to talk to him and cheer him up his nerves would have become calm and in a few days he would be peacefully enjoying the pleasures of Basswood Lake, and at night sleeping like a healthy child and in five or six weeks would have gone home a revived man, and a living advertisement of the advantages to be gained by a visit to this wonderful pleasure ground, which cannot be surpassed anywhere for its beauty and healthfulness and charm.

During this past summer it was my privilege to talk with scores of American tourists passing to and fro’, and some who tarried, and found them almost without exception the finest kind of people, courteous, thoughtful, and generous, and all very much delighted with this part of Algoma and anxious to return another year. It is a good time now to begin to plan for the coming year, for the best ways and means to encourage and interest and entertain them and keep them coming.

J.B. Dobie