When Tom Thomson disappeared on July 8, 1917 he didn’t leave a lot behind. His room was nearly empty and the few items he left behind at Mowat Lodge were of little value. When his canoe was found with its provisions stashed under a rubber sheet in the bow, Tom was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was stranded ashore with a broken leg. But the hope that he was alive and would return quickly dwindled and was dashed eight days later when a submerged body was dislodged by a little girl’s fishing line.
Tom’s disappearance (or death as most would believe) was a mystery to all but a very few. Tom was an enigma, preferring to sit in the corner by the fireplace reading alone. Tom would disappear for days on end. ‘Tom’s gone sketching,’ was the standard answer to his spells of disappearance. Tom came and went as he pleased and he liked it that way. It was freedom. Or it looked like freedom to others.
Many thought Tom couldn’t write. It may be a surprise that he kept a journal. Tom was known as a fisherman, a guide, an artist, not as a writer. As his few letters attest, Tom never had much to say to others, in words that is.
Tom’s journal was unlike his letters. It wasn’t meant to be read by others. It was a record of a sort. His mind was full of images and words but his outward expression was in sketches, canvases and drawings. No one knew Tom was keeping a journal. It was private, recording his thoughts, intending these thoughts to help him with his work. Tom never intended his journal to tell another story, until now. His sketches and paintings expressed what Tom saw, what Tom felt, but his journal captured what he experienced.
This Tom’s daily journal from March 1, 1917 through to his disappearance on that fateful day of July 8, 1917. Never say ‘death’ because despite the rumours, hearsay and evidence, Tom’s ultimate fate was never truly known – until his journal reappeared.
Follow the journey of Tom Thomson’s last days on this earth. Follow Tom’s final days in Toronto, going up North, his time in Algonquin Park, and to that final grey day in July when he met his fate.
P. S. You can follow Tom Thomson on Twitter too. Relive his final days at @TTLastSpring. Ask him a question about his art, the mystery, or life as it was in 1917. He might respond.