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Can Someone Identify This Canoe?

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by Old_Paddler, May 9, 2018.

  1. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Agreed... I have been drooling over the alligatored varnish and the gold flourish on the thwarts. That's a beauty.
    The thwarts are shaped on the bottom much like they are in the top but in the center they are flat, not rounded like the tops... You can easily tell top from bottom.
  2. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

  3. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    By George I think you've got it.... it's good to have someone with a decent memory posting on this site.
    Kudos to Gil.......
  4. OP

    Old_Paddler Canoe nut


    Somehow I missed the 2nd page of the posts and did some searching tonight after re-reading your email tonight...then I saw that you posted the answer last Friday.
    Sorry I didn't catch it earlier.

    Thank you Dan.
  5. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Yes, Kudos to Gill and Dan. That's why they deserve the big bucks!
  6. OP

    Old_Paddler Canoe nut

    Now that I know that this is a rare canoe I need to find the right person to be the next caretaker.
    I am neither a collector nor a craftsman - I am a paddler.

    To me the restoration process is an unpleasant means to the ends and I am not skilled nor patient.
    A rare boat like this deserves what my friend Jim refers to as a "top notch" restoration.

    I will stick with my one wooden canoe and my fleet of Royalex boats and be happy.
    After speaking with the person I got the canoe from on Wednesday I will start the process of finding the right person for this boat - it ain't me.

    Thank you all for your help.
  7. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Mystery solved.....Russ and I looked this boat over yesterday and the answer jumped out. In one of the earlier posts Russ included a picture of a small piece of stem band. Note that it is stamped with very small was typical of Rushton... the name eluded me until I had the part in my hand. It's clearly marked Brown. N.W. Brown worked for Rushton and is known to have built canoes after (and before in Rushton's employ) the Canton factory closed. I vaguely remember discussing Brown with Atwood Manley years ago when we were noodling over how my form came to live in Potsdam.
    This boat is not a Whistle Wing, it's a one of the local St. Lawrence County builders that carried on on the Rushton forms.
    If anyone has any information about Brown send it along....
  8. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Note corrected name...thanks Dan
  9. OP

    Old_Paddler Canoe nut

    Where do you get CJ?
    Were there TWO Browns working there?
    From the research done by Jim:
    His full name was Nelson W. Brown, born Sept 1851.
    He is listed in several census enumerations with his wife and two sons.
    The Rushton book only mentions him as one of the master craftsmen working for Rushton.
    Link to his grave Nelson W Brown (1851-1932) -

    BROWN stemband.jpg
  10. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Nelson W. Brown's listed occupation in the Canton census enumerations is "Boatbuilder". Now if we were not so intent on wanting the stem band to read "Rushton" and simply turned it 180 maybe we would have come up with Brown at the start. Oh well.
  11. OP

    Old_Paddler Canoe nut

    Sometimes we don't see the obvious and stick to our perceptions because we don't look at things the way we should...

    When Mike pointed out that it said "Brown" I had one of those "moments."
    At least the mystery is solved and the canoe is in the hands of someone who can do right by it.

    Thanks to everyone for your help with this.

  12. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    But which Brown was it?? That may forever remain a mystery. Nelson Brown, Rushton's trusted shop foreman of whom Atwood spoke was reputedly a very skilled craftsman. He may have been the builder. These massive decks so well joined at the rails show the hand of a craftsman. The torpedo stems are a special touch that was not common to any of the boats from the Rushton forms...but here it possibly him... or is it CJ (Cyce) Brown who's obituary describes him as a Rushton employee who built canoes after the closing of the Rushton shop, a job he did for a while before turning to farming....
    If you were a betting man you would probably pick the former, not the latter..reputedly a bit of a carouser by reputation. Who knows?
    So as pure speculation, is it possible that Brown was the builder of the torpedo shaped Whistle Wings that were offered in the Spaulding catalog? Given that these builders and shops were all working within 20 miles (or less) of each other it seems like a possibility. Either way, the boat is another small piece of the history of canoes build St. Lawrence County.
  13. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Nelson Brown was indeed a highly skilled workman and built the all-wood canoes.

    The Indian Girl canoes were built under contract, first to Melvin Roundy, and after JHR died, to Frank Fox. Cyce (short for Cyclone), also worked for Rushton, and is shown in the same group photo of the Rushton workers as Melvin Roundy.

    There is a sketch of the floor plan (three story) of the factory. On it is written Mr. Brown [Nelson] was master boat builder here. (with arrow tpointing to the all-wood shop. In a separate room was the canvas canoe forms with the notation "Mr. Roundy, Contractor, all "rag" boats were made on contract. The contractor hirting the help to making the canoes except for filler and painting. Sykey [sic] Brown was later a small time contractor or many a worker on hourly pay.

    I have notes from an article that Atwood wrote titled "Rushton Boat Shop Spawned Many Craftsmen." in it he says Cyce Brown built IG canoes on Dekalb Road after Rushton shop closed. (Also that Brown liked liquor...).

    Finally, there is a handwritten note from (presumably Frank Fox) that reads in part "Here is the canoe filling receipe [sic] you wanted me to get from "Cyc" Brown.

    To further confuse things, there was also a Judson Brown, who was brother of Cyc.

    I have seen no evidence Nelson Brown ever worked on rag canoes. My money is on Cyc as the builder.

    I have also see an Indian Girl canoe with the Clarence Wells builder mark - Wells was head painter in the Rushton shop.
  14. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    That is pretty convincing as you said to me yesterday, Cyclone must have been the's been so many years since Atwood and I last spoke that I have zero recollection of which Brown he mentioned, only that he mentioned the name Brown. To be honest about it, despite the very nice work on the decks and the very tight joinery around the rails, the interesting torpedo ends...there are a couple real head scratchers on this boat that really make you wonder about how it was built (an impression I've had few times while working on other "rag" Rushtons). There is one planking board that was cut too short at a splice and the gap was filled (nicely) with a 1/4 inch's original and puzzling...someone that built to the standard of the Rushton wood boats should not have made a mistake like that. One of the wide shear planks also is made from a pretty crappy looking piece of wood...again, it's a bit of a head scratcher...I know I would have tried to find a better board rather than fit it in and canvas over it. But perhaps a guy three sheets to the wind working on his front porch might not care too much.
  15. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    Not much of a head scratcher - its the 'whiskey plank' lol. Cyclone - never heard that one, but with the recent apparent trend and popularity of olde timey names, that one is awesome.
    MGC likes this.
  16. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Cyc was his nickname - his given name appears to have been Carlton, but I've also seen it as simply Carl. Sort of like calling Andre "Firestarter" Clouter "Fire" for short. (Speaking of which, why weren't you at assembly in your own backyard, Fire?)

    A couple of scenarios - first is it was built "on the side" while the factory was still running. Warning - dream sequence coming up! Imagine Judd Rushton saying to Cyc - "sure you can build an Indian Girl on your own after hours. Just work after hours and use wood from the reject pile."

    or, after the factory closes in 1917, at some point assets are liquidated. Leyare in O'burg ends up with rights to the IG name and some arrangement to continue building IG canoes under the Whistle Wing name (and based on styles, with former Rushton contractors). Cyc ends up with a mold, (begs, borrows, salvages, steals), and without a factory in town, has to rely on second quality lumber. (All of the Good Wood is Gone, it's all sapwood and checks for now on" - Sung to the tune of "All of the Hard Days are Gone" )

    We do know that for anyone who had been hanging around a canvas canoe shop back in the day, the skills aren't all that hard to learn. Heck, how many current WCHA members build canoes as good or better as amateurs?

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