Mark Robinson, Letter to Blodwen Davies, March 23, 1930

To Blodwen Davies
Toronto, Ontario

Brent PO Ontario
Via North Bay
March 23/1930

I have your letter of March 11th which was delayed in reaching me, hence delay in answering. Yes, I knew Thomas Thompson very well we were friends and spent many happy hours on the trail and by the camp fire, discussing the beauties of nature. the wild friends of the forest, fishing, etc. Tom was a study at all times one day he was Jovial and Jolly ready for a frolic of any kind so long as it was clean and honest in its purpose. At times he appeared quite melancholy and defeated in manner. At such times he would suddenly as it were awaken and be almost angry in appearance and action. It was at those times he did his best work. He would quite often come dashing into my Cabin and in an excited tone ask about certain rocks or trees or rolling Hills. I will mention one instance as an example.

We saw Tom come almost at a run over the Joe Lake Portage, canoe over his head. Throwing his canoe into the water he seized his paddle and shooting the canoe out into the water paddles like a mad man to our wharf. Here he pulled up his canoe in haste and up into our cabin. say Mark you know. I know you know Just what I want, three trees. Spruce trees, black spruce rough old looking trees you know what I mean. trees again a cold green grey northern sky where can I get them at once. I said Tom just tell me what you want and possibly I can help you. He then described the two black spruce trees. I said go to the little wharf below Sims Pt you will find those trees you want in a grove. But can I get them against a cold northern sky? I assured him that I thought he could. He was away like a shot and

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like a wild man was disapearing over the portage. Three days Later Tom came into our cabin. there was a big smile on his face as he said, say Mark, those trees where just what I required for my canvas, and the sky was just right. How do you always know what I want. I could only tell him, Tom you describe things so accurately it’s no trouble to remember the odd things we see every day.

on another occasion he required an old Rampike. I sent him to Hickeys Lake. Just what I was looking for, he said a week later Makes a fine canvas. I did not see either of the above pictures. We spent many happy hours looking at old tree stumps etc. One day we were looking at a white Birch tree and I said Tom it would be rather hard to get all those old snarles in with the Brush. Not at all he answered, and a few days later he showed me a canvas, almost perfect in copy of the Living tree. On another occasion we were looking at an old Pine stump that was partially covered with moss and the grey colour of the wood was of many shades of grey. he looked at it and said there one of the hardest things to paint in the woods, see those different shades of grey. a artist must get them in perfect or the sketch is a fraud on the Public there aren’t more than two or three in every hundred who will notice it but it’s not true to nature and imperfect notes destroy the soul of music so does imperfect colour destroy the soul of the canvas. I mention these facts just to show the Honest purpose of Tom’s views on the different things in life.

The spring before his untimely death he painted a canvas a day showing the various stages of the advancing spring and summer.

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He was very fond of this work and one day dashing into my cabin he said may I have my records on those walls for the summer. I assured him that he could but death stepped in and they were never hung. I saw a great number of these canvasses they were good. I think Tom’s Brothers and sisters got most of them.

Tom was an excellent woodsman, canoeman, swimmer and guide. He loved to camp and guide and many a sick friend Tom paddled around fishing and growing strong and back to health again and would take no remuneration of any kind he was an ardent fisherman and loved to capture some very old trout that fooled the best fisherman. For about ten days before his death there were several of us trying to invent a lure that would entice a willey old trout that frequented a pool below Joe Lake Dam. Tom was there every day and several times had hooked the trout but never landed him. I had about the same luck and it was a good natured contest as to which of us would land the trout.

on the morning of his death he almost got the old trout and as he missed it he said I am going to one of the little lakes and get a trout and put it on Mark’s doorstep early in the morning and he will think it’s the old fish from the dam he went to Mowat Lodge or the Trainor cottage got a few supplies and left to get the big fish at one of the little Lakes

J. Shannon Fraser Canoe Lake PO Ont was at the lake as Tom left and was the last man (as far as the Public know) to see Tom alive he left at about 12:50 pm and at the inquest it came out that Martin and Bessie Blecher American German tourists with cottage at Canoe Lake Ont found Tom’s canoe floating not 3/4 of a mile

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from where he started out from the Trainor cottage at about 3 p.m. an east wind was blowing and this canoe could not have been there under ordinary conditions. they did not report finding the canoe until the following morning when the canoe was brought in from behind Little Wapomeo Island. then J. S. Fraser reported the matter to me and at once I passed the report on to Supt. Geo W. Bartlett who like myself refused to believe Tom was in the lake but might be lost in the woods with a broken leg he ordered a search to be made and I kept it up until his body was found by Geo Rowe Guide of Canoe Lake PO Ont and Dr. Howland of Toronto in Canoe Lake not far from a rocky point on the west shore of Canoe Lake and about equal distance between the two Wapomeo Islands

I assisted Roy Dixon undertaker of Sprucedale Ontario to take the body from the water in the presence of Dr. Howland there were no marks on the body except a slight bruise over the left eye his fishing line was wound several times around his left ankle and broken off there was no sign of the rod his provisions and kit bag were in the front end of the Canoe when found. the lake was not rough. We burried his remains in the little cemetary at Canoe Lake, Martin Blecher Sr. reading the Anglican funeral service at the grave. Later his remains were taken up and went to Owen Sound for burial. Dr. Ranney of North Bay conducted what inquest was held. Tom was said to have been drowned. It may be quite true but the mystery remains.

He made his home at Mowat Lodge a good part of the time. Taking frequent trips into the wilds alone. At such times he

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would call in and state the date he would return if all went well with him he always would report at the time stated and usually be in the greatest good humor and have many pleasing little events to talk about. on those trips he would look for the wildest looking places possible and finding some suggest a desolate point with a few knarled red pine with a stunted look. He would camp close by to see just how it would look in a storm and study the sky and colour etc his sketch the West Wind is the result of one of those wandering trips into the wilds of the Park. Now I have mentioned a few things that will not do for a book but I felt you would like to know so as to write to a better advantage. A few friends follow

  1. Miss Trainor of Huntsville Ontario to whom it is said Tom was engaged could tell you a lot of fine things about Tom if she will talk.
  2. Ed Godin Park Ranger Achray Stn CNR Ont via Pembroke Ont Tom put up with Ranger Godin when in that section of the Park.
  3. J. Shannon Fraser and wife of Canoe Lake Ont and daughter Mrs Arthur Briggs all knew Tom extra well and if Fraser will tell the truth much could be got from him but weigh well his remarks.
  4. You might interview Martin and Bessie Blecher but again be carefull. They possibly know more about Toms sad end than any other person. Canoe Lake PO Ontario.
  5. Edwin Thomas and wife Kish Kaduk Lodge [Govt?] Park Station Ont knew Tom very well and were reliable friends of Toms.

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  1. Geo Rowe who is quite aged now was a good friend of Toms and many others who have moved away and I do not know where they are.

I hope I haven’t bored you with this letter and with best wishes
I remain
Yours truly
Mark Robinson Chief Ranger

Brent. P.O. Ont.
Via North Bay

Source: Library and Archives Canada/Bibliotheque et Archives Canada, MG30 D38 ‘Blodwen Davies fond’, Vol. 11, Mark Robinson, Letter to Blodwen Davies, March 23, 1930. Notes: Original document withdrawn from circulation. Copy available on microfilm C-4579

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