June 3, 1917 Sovereign Sunday

Note to followers: This is another Sunday entry

June 3, 1917

Saturday’s newspaper came by train last night. Shannon, as he was wont to do at times, had to read me a sensational story on the front page. No, it wasn’t the headline about the labour strike was about to paralyse the country, it was a story entitled, “Chased Husband Across Canada.”

“This is why  Protestants shouldn’t marry Catholics.” I looked at him puzzled. I didn’t understand his introduction to the story.

Shannon continued,“Listen here, “

‘Domestic trouble ensued between, Mr. Brennan, who is a Roman Catholic, and his wife, who is a Protestant. Following a quarrel in Winnipeg, Mrs. Brennan surreptitiously left with her daughter and journeyed to Stratford, Ontario. Mr. Brennan pursued her to Stratford and managed to prevail upon the police authorities to regain custody of his daughter. But Mrs. Brennan, using the services of two private detectives managed to seize back her daughter while he was on his way to Toronto.’ 

I now understood his logic. Catholics shouldn’t marry Protestants. Domestic strife would inevitably ensue. If the wife was Protestant, according to Shannon, she would be the guilty party.

“How about Anglicans marrying Presbyterians, Shannon?”, I asked.

“It’s all right, I guess. So long as they don’t get married in a Catholic church.”

I failed to see Shannon’s brilliance in the matter, so I decided not to pursue the topic any further. At Mowat Lodge, Shannon’s point of view is the rule of law.

Shannon began again “You were spending a lot of time with Winnie when she was up in May. You two should think of gettin’ married. Might get you out of conscription.”

I realized I subconsciously led him to the topic of marriage. I looked at him and didn’t say anything. He knew to stop the conversation, then and there and leave things unsaid. “I’d better be gettin’ out to the horses.” He disappeared into the back kitchen.

Marriage wasn’t foremost topic my mind. It was conscription. Actually, it was both. The other prominent article on the front page was Borden’s offer to Laurier to form a Coalition Government until  War’s end. In the article Borden had offered half of his Cabinet posts to Laurier in the hope that he could get the support from Quebecers  bitterly opposed to conscription. I didn’t really understand all of the politics and implications but it mean that conscription was coming closer and closer. The paper also had a big announcement for a mass meeting to discuss conscription at Queen’s Park. All the signs were pointing to the inevitability of conscription – or marriage.

It was shortly after ten, when Annie asked me to walk up with her to Hotel Algonquin. I had told her yesterday, that I managed to convince Taylor Statten to come and do a reading. She was grateful for my efforts. The lay service was at eleven. Ed did his reading and Taylor did his. I paid attention to neither. We concluded the service by singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” accompanied by Molly on the piano. The piano was in dire need of tuning after the winter as it made a proper Christian hymn sound like a saloon standard. It was rather comical, but I think I was the only one who saw the humour in the situation. We had some tea afterwards, chatted some, and I walked back to Mowat with Annie.

“Tom, I’m worried about you. Are you worried about this conscription?”


We arrived at Mowat without saying another word.

After lunch, I went fishing on the lake. It’s warmer now, so I have to go deeper and troll with copper. The fishing I did it as much to get away from the black flies as I did to seek solitude. Fishing is more restorative than any religious service I’ve gone to. As well, Shannon’s plans for a day-long pageant tomorrow turned out to be a bust, so I wasn’t needed for the preparations. Nobody was interested after George Bartlett put a damper on things. It wasn’t like in the US, where the Americans just joined the War and people still wanted celebrated sending their boys to War. That would change soon enough. Here, we didn’t celebrate that any more  Now we were just relieved and thankful when somebody came back. That was  the feeling around Canoe Lake when we heard that Mark Robinson was coming back.

When I got back Shannon said received a telegram in the late afternoon. Two guests were coming in from Ottawa. They’d be on the First Class train arriving at 3:30pm tomorrow. The instructions were to have them set up for a short canoe trip complete with guide and supplies.

“Tom, you got a guiding job, tomorrow.”

Indeed I did. But I had a funny feeling that these weren’t just any ordinary tourists coming in from Ottawa. I was wondering why they didn’t go to the Highland Inn instead. My guess was they wanted to be more discreet than rustic. I’d find out tomorrow.

June 3, 1917 Militum Sigillum

June 3, 1917

Militum Sigillum

I finished my first sketch for George Bartlett this morning. I decided to use several design elements of the secret society seals that I’ve seen. There’s a lot of them out there. As a finishing touch, I added the phrase from the Knights Templar “Sigillum Militum.” It means the “The Seal of the Soldier of Christ.” I switched the order of the words and I’ll let him catch the error if he sees it. I also figured he’d like the All Seeing Eye on top of pine tree along with Sun, Moon and Stars. It gives the seal an omniscient flair and I’m sure he’ll like that too. I’ll get this to Mark in the next day or two. I’ll hide it in my sketch box between my sketching papers and boards. Annie knows enough not to open the box, because it’s difficult to close again. I purposely left it that way so I would know if anyone was snooping. I have letters from Florence and Winnie in there too.

I decided to visit Taylor Statten on Little Wapomeo Island. I needed a better explanation of what happened yesterday. He had arrived with his family a couple of weeks ago. He’s staying until the better part of June and then he’s going to a YMCA course in the States for a month. He’s been coming up every month since 1912, and once he got the leasehold on the Island he had visions of setting up a summer camp for boys. He isn’t quite there yet. That’s why he was going down to the States to get some training on how to set up a boy’s camp. I was surprised that he had some boys there already.

I got to Taylor’s around noon. I timed my visit so I would get a lunch out of the deal. They were always very gracious hosts and I returned the favour by giving them catches of trout. Taylor greeted me as I pulled up to shore.

“Morning, Tom.”

“Morning, Taylor”

Taylor helped me pull the canoe onto the shore and, just as I had anticipated, invited me for lunch with Edith and Taylor Junior or “TJ”, as I called him. TJ insisted on sitting on my lap during lunch pulling at my hair and grabbing my pipe. I didn’t mind, but Ethel, seeing my distraction, swept TJ away and disappeared into the other room of the cabin. I didn’t ask her to do that, but most wives of the day automatically follow the “out of sight, out of mind” rule when the men start talking seriously.

“Annie wants to have an Ecumenical Service tomorrow. It’ll be at the Algonquin Hotel. Part of Ed’s lay service.”

“That’s fine. We can be there. It’s at 11?”

“Yep, Annie’ll be happy if you can come”

“OK, I can bring a reading from the Institutes of Calvin, that should be a real barnburner.”

“Annie was also wondering if Edith will be coming to the Bible study on Wednesday.” I was just the messenger.

“Don’t know,” Taylor replied.

I knew not to pursue it further. It was social convention in the small communities for the women to have a weekly Bible study, usually on Wednesday nights. The Bible study was the least important item on the agenda. More important was the sharing of baked goods and gossip. The study also served to ensure that everyone stayed on the straight and narrow. If a woman displayed a wayward thought or intention, the others were sure to detect it and provide friendly advice or genteel corrective action.

With the formal business dispensed with, we got on to other topics. Sims Pit, to be exact. When I asked him about what was going on there, he gave me an odd look.

“There’s a camp there, you know. An internment camp or a prison labour camp. I’m not sure which. But I do know there’s several kids there, not older than sixteen or eighteen. And they can’t speak English.”

The news of the kids at the camp was surprising, but still didn’t count for the strange look he gave me. There was something more.

“Bartlett’s asked me to teach English to these boys, a couple of times a week.” Taylor looked at me sheepishly, ” I decided to bring them back with me yesterday. I didn’t expect they’d get in trouble with the canoe.”

I was surprised by Bartlett’s request by. But upon reflection, it wasn’t that too far out of order. Despite his stern measures, Bartlett considered everyone under his watch to be his charges and he was ultimately responsible for their welfare. He made sure everyone was treated fairly. There was a scandal with the shanty men a few years back and he had to retrieve some British home children and send them to the Children’s Aid Society in Huntsville.  Whenever there was a death in the Park, Bartlett made sure that things were wrapped up tight. He didn’t like loose-hanging ends, and he would make sure that lumber companies paid the families for their loss but also to keep them quiet. Death wasn’t good for tourism.

Convict labour camps didn’t help the tourist trade either. Bartlett didn’t like them but he had no choice to follow orders from the Dominion Government and the Province. But when he found out there were kids in the camp, he went through the roof. He called his friend Sam Hughes to fix the situation, but with with Hughes diminished influence in the Government he could do nothing. Bartlett, on his own authority, order reduced work for the kids and an allowance for English lessons. Since Taylor was closest to the Sims Pit, Bartlett asked Mark Robinson to approach him for the job and he and he accepted. I was surprised the Mark never mentioned this arrangement to me. Mark and I talked about everything else, but then again Mark was a man who followed orders and gave his unquestioned loyalty. You couldn’t fault him for that.

I went back to Mowat Lodge and told Annie the outcome of my chat with Taylor. He would do a reading at the service tomorrow. Annie was happy. I could see that this was important to her. Despite the different religions, she wanted some demonstration of harmony in the community. None of the anti-Catholic nonsense from the Orangemen. She was glad there was no Orange Lode around these parts. I didn’t tell her what was going through George Bartlett’s mind.

Afterwards, I walked up to Hotel Algonquin to relay the successful liturgical addition to Ed, but I saw Molly first. Molly was outside by the linens and she had her whistle in her mouth. She blew a three short tweets followed by a long warblish one. Ed showed up a minute later. Molly had a summoning system that had a different whistle for each employee, including one for her husband. I could tell she was proud in showing that could  summon up any one of her staff at a moment’s notice. I’m sure the guests can’t stand hearing the whistles. I know I can’t.

I went to back to Mowat Lodge. The poor weather (rain drizzle) and Annie’s good cooking was too much of a draw to leave the Lodge and stay the night at the campsite. Besides, I was planning to write some letters and it would be better to write it by the lamplight.

Saturday night was games night at Mowat Lodge. The crokinole board was out and so was the chessboard. After some convincing, Shannon hauled out the shuffleboard from out back and put it on the dining room table (he didn’t like heavy labour. That’s why it took convincing.) We played late into the evening, and when the quests trickled back to their rooms I sat down and wrote my letters. I was thinking about Winnie. Still no news from her. The next mail wouldn’t be until Tuesday, so that would be the soonest I’d hear anything. She wouldn’t dare send a telegram.

June 3, 1917 Letter to Florence McGillivray

Mowat P.O.  Algonquin Park

June 3, 1917

Dear Florence,

I’m hoping this letter gets to you before your exhibition. I want to wish you the best. Your calling card stays in my sketch box for my good luck. Weather here has been poor. I put in the garden for the Fraser’s. The time for good sketching is over. I’m at the Lodge but have set up my camp across the lake. I’m staying close to the Lodge in case of guiding work

Are you going to Ottawa later this summer? I may go later this summer.I would like to visit Mr. Brown at the Gallery but I hear that the Government has taken over the building. Charlie Scrim plans to be back later, I can stay with him. I am going to the eastern part of the park in early August. If you are there, I can stay for a few days because this might be my last stopping point in Ontario before I go west. I could stop in Toronto, but I don’t think I will.

With all that’s going on and the black flies, I haven’t had a mind for sketching. I have some guiding work, but it will be scarce this summer. The summer tourists don’t seem to be coming. With the war, I can see that.

I’m glad we learned something more than what Cruikshank taught. Van Gogh seems to be the better to follow along with the other French schools.  We seem to be doing the same thing here

All the best,

Tom Thomson