No Ordinary Case: The Reburial of Tom Thomson

Hello everyone,

I am considering submitting as a short story my tweets covering the six days of events between July 16th, 1917 to July 21st, 1917. You already have seen the tweets in real time, but I thought the course of events during these days would make a good story that would stand on its own. I am working on this complete story, but here is a preview below.

At the start of the story I have added a brief introduction and description of the people involved during these six days.

I would be grateful for any comments or advice. You can reply to my tweet or send me a direct message. I greatly value your interaction.

The short story excerpt is below.



P.S. I’m hard at work on next year’s round. You’ll see me back at the Shack in Toronto on November 28th.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ tt 1917 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No Ordinary Case: The Reburial of Tom Thomson. A Story Told in Tweets

“As I said before this was no ordinary case.” That was the reply by R.H. Flavelle, undertaker, in a letter to my brother-in-law, Tom Harkness to justify the extra costs of embalming fluid and carrying the casket a mile-and-a-half through the woods to the cemetery. Indeed, for six days, it was anything but ordinary – it was a litany of errors and a series of ill-advised actions that made the tragedy far worse than my disappearance.

My body, as most believe, was recovered from Canoe Lake on July 16, 1917. I mysteriously disappeared eight days earlier on July 8th, 1917. This is the story, not of the tragedy of my disappearance, but rather the tragedy of my reappearance, my burial, and my reburial.

Canoe Lake

George Bartlett, Algonquin Park Superintendent. Likes order and to keep things quiet.

Martin Blecher, Jr., Canoe Lake cottager. An American from Buffalo

Lowrie Dickson, guide and hired hand. A young man. Lost both parents in the Park.

Annie Fraser, wife of Shannon Fraser. A sweetheart, good cook, but a busybody

Shannon Fraser, proprietor of Mowat Lodge. Not a man of principles. Owed me money.

Dr. G.W. Howland, Toronto doctor. Vacationing in the Park with his family.

Charles Plewman, guest at Mowat Lodge. Just arrived the previous day.

Mark Robinson, Algonquin Park Ranger. A good friend of mine. A man of principles.

George Rowe, guide and hired hand. A good man but likes his drink

Charlie Scrim, guest at Mowat Lodge. A good friend. Has the consumption.

Hugh Trainor, Canoe Lake cottager. Father of Winnie Trainer

Winnie Trainor, Canoe Lake cottager. Winnie and I were engaged, or so she thought.

Owen Sound

George Thomson, my older brother, on vacation in Owen Sound when I disappeared.

John Thomson, my father.

July 16, 1917

5:15am Canoe Lake: Morning fine

6:29am Mark Robinson is up early baking bread. ‘What else is there to do to take my mind off the search?’

6:33 am Annie Fraser, having a brief respite from morning chores, gazes out onto Canoe Lake. She sees Rowe and Dickson in their canoe.

6:36 am Shannon Fraser at Mowat Lodge is hitching up the hearse and horses. It’s only proper to keep a hearse as tidy can be.

6:39 am Charlie Scrim’s breathing is better today. After breakfast, he’ll take a walk down by Canoe Lake shore.

6:41 am Charles Plewman likes the rustic aspect of Mowat Lodge ‘But it’s so damn gloomy here!’

6:45 am George Rowe and Lowrie Dixon decide to make it an early morning on the lake. Fishing, but still searching for me.

8:15 am Dr. G.W. Howland’s daughter awakens. After yesterday’s near catch, she wants to go fishing again today.

8:46 am Dr. G.W. Howland sights a dark figure under water. Directs George Rowe and Lowrie Dixon to investigate.

8:50 am Rowe and Dickson get closer. It’s a body of a man. Rowe shouts ‘It’s Thomson’s body!

8:55 am Charlie Scrim, wondering what the commotion is all about, learns of the terrible conclusion. He bursts into tears

9:11 am Charlie Scrim rushes to report to Mark Robinson that body was found in Canoe Lake by George Rowe about 9am

9:16 am George Rowe and Lowrie Dixon tow body to near shore. Body is kept in water. Close to the Blecher and Trainor cottages.

9:31 am Martin Blecher Jr. and Hugh Trainor, horrified at the body’s return, cover it with blanket. Too close for comfort.

9:41 am Park Supt. George Bartlett orders Mark Robinson to await arrival of coroner tomorrow. Best to keep body in water.

9:50 am Shannon Fraser sends perversely worded telegram to Thomson family, ‘Found Tom this morning.’


10:15 am After 8 days in the water, it’s a difficult, unpleasant, maybe impossible task to positively identify the body.

10:20 am George Bartlett remarks to himself, ‘Thomson had it coming to him. This has to stay quiet’

10:26 am Hugh Trainor, has seen dead men, but never one in the water that long. Dead men in the water disappear.

10:36 am Mark Robinson is alarmed at the condition of body. Telegraphs for undertaker and embalmer Flavelle of Kearney and Dixon of Sprucedale.

11:04 am Mark Robinson says of the body – ‘This is an indignity to Tom, he’s got to be buried soon.’

12:08 am The day has not turned out as everyone had hoped.

1:46 pm John Thomson in Owen Sound receives Fraser’s telegram. Aghast at its tersely worded ambiguity, sends immediate reply for confirmation

4:50 pm Undertakers Dixon and Flavelle arrive at Canoe Lake. Can’t do anything until orders received. They stay the night

7:09 pm Evening train comes and goes. No coroner. Body must stay in the water overnight. Mark Robinson winces at the thought.

7:37 pm Dead men did not return from the battlefield upon which they fell. Why then would a dead man be returned from the Park he loved?

8:00 pm A sultry, humid hot evening. Welcome weather, but it’s a curse when a body of a friend is decomposing in the water close by.

8:15 pm A sunset and a deadhead in the distant water.

8:50 pm Residents of Canoe Lake are in collective shock. The body of the man they knew as an artist is between this world and the after-world.

9:20 pm George Rowe and Lowrie Dickson prepare for an all-night vigil. Sound of body rubbing against roots is made worse by the night time silence

10:10 pm Lowrie Dickson knows that Visitors have no inkling of how unforgiving the Park is. He lost both his parents in the Park.

11:05 pm George Rowe is thankful that the black flies are done and the mosquitoes are lying low. It’s the damn midges that are eating him alive.