Mystery of 1903 Base Camp

Where was the 1903 base camp? (Keewaydin did not settle at Devil's Island until 1904.) This is a mystery that has dogged me since I began working on The Keewaydin Way in 1978.

Although Keewaydin began operating in Temagami in 1902, the small group of six that year  traveled the area without a base camp. In 1903, 32 people ( five staffmen, 20 campers, six guides and a cook) set up a base camp on the North Arm, on a site near Devil's Island, out of which they operated for the summer. They called it the Wigwam. While here they selected Devil's Island for a permanent base camp.

We have the 1903 log, 1903 Tattler and a few photos from that year. Next to the 1902 pencil writings on the Matabitchuan portage, the log, Tattler and the 1903 photographs are the oldest-known Keewaydin artifacts. 


Photo: illustration from 1903 base camp, Keewaydin, Temagami

The Wigwam The sketch is from the 1903 log.  Notice the remarkable similarity in the two campsites. There are a number of photos from 1903 taken at this site, but only the one below shows the water (water is the key reference point in locating sites). Even with these images, we have been unable to match them up to a site in the area on the North Arm.

Photo: 1903 base camp, Keewaydin, Temagami

Clues from the log

That summer, an early crew of Commodore Clarke, camper J.R. Ditmars and the guides gathered at the  Mattawa Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) store, and took the base-camp supplies up to White Bear Lake (today Cassels Lake) where they were cached. Clarke and Frank LeClaire, the head guide, left this group and paddled to the Temagami HBC post at Bear Island. See Trip In Map.

As the 1903 log relates, Clarke and LeClaire "paddled to the H.B.Co's Post [Bear Island] and up to Devil's Mountain looking for a good site. It was found on the large peninsula of the North Arm..." 

On July 22, the entire camp reached Bear Island and headed north.  "Luncheon was taken on a small island a mile or so from Bear Island; after which we waited till a sharp squall blew itself out, then paddled to the Wigwam in a strong head wind." They reached the site, which they called the Wigwam, about "3:30 P.M." 

Photo: canoe trip departing 1903 base camp, Keewaydin, Temagami

In 1903 a trip was taken to Ft. Abitibi on Lake Abitibi in the Hudson Bay watershed (the trip was the precursor to the Bay Trip). From the log we know the number of participants, nine, and their names. Three of those were identified when this photo was blown up. Furthermore, we know Frank LeClaire took his birchbark canoe, and we see him sitting in the bark's stern. We also know there were three Peterboroughs such as these. Assuming this is a 1903 photo, was it taken from the Wigwam?

Clues from the Tattlers

The dateline on the Tattlers says "Granny's Shore." Today maps have the bay, just west of Sealrock Point, marked as Granny Bay. Some early maps have what is today called Devil's Bay marked as Granny's Bay. Or was the peninsula known as Granny's Peninsula? 

After leaving camp for Sharp Rock: "After a 15-mile paddle, they reached Sharp Rocks Portage..."  

After taking the Kokoko portage into Lake Temagami: “This brought us into Temagami, near Devil’s Mountain, and a short paddle of three miles, and we were back in camp.” 

“The fish…were captured right opposite the camp. Go straight to the cliff and fish from there a mile down towards the Hudson Bay Company’s post. Keep as far from the shore as you can see bottom.” 

After leaving camp: “The wind was strong and directly behind us, and Bear Island was made in less than an hour.” 

After leaving camp: “The mojo crew went to the post…in 55 minutes, record time.” 

From base camp: “…at 9 a.m. Joe Lavine and I started for Montreal River [Notch] to meet Deacon Wilson. We arrived at the Post a little before ten …”

Photo: Guide Peter Brown, Keewaydin, Temagami

Around the Wigwam  Peter Brown (left), a guide that year, would later become head guide and live on the island for a period in Mattawa cabin. He is the father of the "Brown girls" — Helena, Marjorie and Phyllis. Chow time under the dining fly (right). That is probably the "headquarters tepee" in the background.

Photo: 1904 base camp, Keewaydin, Temagami

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