Members of the Gordon family have been building canoes in and around Lakefield, ON since the mid 1800s. Thomas Gordon started the Thomas Gordon Canoe Co. in the 1850s and he began a family tradition that continues to this day.When we had two Gordon watercraft, one canoe and one skiff, donated to our collection a couple years ago by John Gordon (great grandson of Thomas Gordon) we knew it wouldn’t be long before we would put them on exhibit.
With a Gordon family reunion happening in the area this August we thought we would put together a small exhibit featuring the newly donated skiff and canoe as a tribute the the Gordon family and their contributions to the history of canoe building.
The story of the two Gordon craft in our collection is a pretty interesting one! Both skiff and canoe were made in the Bobcaygeon Gordon Canoe Co. workshop by Gilbert Gordon, Thomas’ son. At the time Gilbert was running the company out of his neighbour, Dr. Thomas Thorne’s, workshop. Both the canoe and skiff were commissioned and made for Dr. Thorne.
Both boats stayed in the Thorne family for decades. They were safely stored in a stable on the original Thorne property in Bobcaygeon with newspapers draped over their hulls to protect them from dirt and dust. Over time (and many hot summers) the newspapers bonded to the varnish on the exterior of the boats. The skiff was eventually stripped in order to undergo refinishing, but the canoe still sports remnants of the old newspapers, some dating as far back as 1918!
It is worthwhile stopping by the Museum to visit these two exquisite craft, now on display on the Grand Portage. Their beautiful butternut construction makes them a rare find and they are truly examples of a boat builder at the pinnacle of his career. It is remarkable that these two boats have managed to stay together and intact for over 100 years. So, whether you’re in town for the Gordon Family Reunion, or you are just looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon, stop by the Museum and visit these beautiful relics from the past.