How to Use this Site

This website is essentially an archive of documents. Some of the documents were created at the time of the events they record, and others are devoted to interpreting the evidence after the events in question, sometimes long after the events happened. The site is organized into thematic sections. Within each section the documents are organized by document type and then by date.

You will encounter these documents in much the same way as would any historian who goes into the archives. These are the real documents. They have been typed, and sometimes edited for length, but we have attempted to make the information as close as possible to that which you might discover in the archives. Even the typographical errors and spelling mistakes have been kept as they appear in the original documents.

Where necessary we have added comments in [square brackets]. Where we could not read a word we indicated this by [illegible] and where we have guessed at a word we have added [?] after it. If we have excerpted a section from a larger document the gaps are indicated by [...].

Why would we create a website like this, when so many researchers have already investigated the death of Tom Thomson? Clearly, many people are interested in Thomson’s life, and his death, yet most have not had a chance to consider first-hand the documents these researchers have based their conclusions on. In this website you will find a great deal of primary evidence. Like a professional historian or sleuth would, you will have to do the detective work to piece together the story of what happened, why it happened, what the outcomes were, and whether and/or why these events were important. Like any researcher, you will find the documents reproduced here might contain clues, contradictions and even some misinformation.


The “Death on A Painted Lake” website is split into six main sections. The titles of each section are found on the horizontal bar situated beneath the site's title. The sections are as follows: Home, Tragedy, Portraits, Landscapes, Artists' World, Interpretations, and Archives. Each of these titles is a clickable button and in selecting one or another of these buttons, you can navigate freely from one section of the website to another. The button indicating the section you are presently in will be darker than the other section headings.

Three things will happen when you click on one of the headings at the top — the top bar will change to reflect the new section, the menu on the left-hand side of the page will change, and the content in the centre of the page will change as well. The left menu will now have a button labeled "Introduction" highlighted, as well as the other selections available in the section of the site. For example, the left bar in the Tragedy section will have four selections — Prelude, Search, Discovery, Responses. The section you are in/viewing will be highlighted.

Clicking on one of the subheadings in the left menu will change the content in the center of your screen, and will present you with a list of sources to view. These sources will be listed according to the type of source. Once one of the titles of the sources in the center of your screen has been clicked, the source itself will be displayed in the centre of the screen. After you have finished reading it, and you want to get back to the list of sources, simply click on the "Return to Parent Page" button at the bottom of each source. If you want to go back to the last page you viewed, then your browser’s “Back” button will also work.

Every document will have a link to “About This Source”. This will tell you why the source was created, how to understand what it means and how to find out more about it. It may also help you determine how much credibility to give to the information in the source.


The citation indicating the source of every document and where you can find the original item is indicated at the bottom of every document. For photographs and other art works the citation/caption is available by “rolling your mouse” over the image.