hi from Ohio

Canoe Viking

Canoe Viking
Greetings from NE Ohio........

Am new here and thought you may enjoy reading an old canoe story, originally published in Canoe magazine some years back.....will also try to paste some photos here as well........

I am the proud owner of a 1913 B N Morris canoe and 1923 Old Town Otca!

Great site, have a super weekend!



DAD AND HIS CANOE 2 (revised 1/06) by Jerry Welch

It is indeed intriguing what types of things can hold ties to our past…..for me, memories of my father, who died suddenly and sadly of colon cancer in early 1986, more than 20 years ago now, are always made brighter when I gaze upon the apple of his eye, an old wood and canvas canoe. Not just any old, livery abused aluminum or fiberglass or plastic clunker though, but a real canoe with style, grace and elegance.

I grew up paddling fine wood and canvas canoes with my Dad, and thought that these beautiful expressions of Native American form and function were the norm. It was not until I was an adult that I realized that Dad’s canoe was really special, and like him, a rare breed. I was pretty young when our family paid a visit to the home of Donna Cooper, whose father, ‘Pop’ Cooper, had run the Anchor Canoe Livery on the Ohio & Erie Canal north of Summit Lake, for many years. My parents used to rent canoes from Cooper’s Boathouse in the forties and fifties, in the heyday of Summit Beach Park, and paddle all through the Portage Lakes, with Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey tunes coming out of a fine mahogany Victrola up front. Seems like wonderfully simple times now…..in those days, the Lakes were the playground for fine speedboats like Chris Crafts and Hacker Crafts, and lovely wood and canvas canoes from the many liveries in the area then.

Donna Cooper had a canoe of her own, that her father had given to her, that she used to let my Dad rent from her on occasion. This was left over from the days of her father’s livery, and her basement was filled with many things….fine ash paddles, cane backrests, ropes and life jackets. My Dad hoped that Donna would sell it to him, for old time’s sake. She did, only with the provision that it would always be kept in our family or sold back to her if she were still alive if we ever wanted to part with it for any reason. It was obviously a very special canoe that we took home with us that spring day in the late 1960’s…..

The boat, named Venus II (Venus I was an earlier canoe my Dad had bought from Cooper’s which was later stolen) was built in 1913 by the B.N. Morris Canoe Company in Veazie, Maine. This old canoe builder was just a stone’s throw up the fabled Penobscot River from Old Town, Maine, where Old Town Canoe is still located. Morris and Old Town were supposedly competitors many years ago, but my research has shown that the Morris factory burned down in 1920, and their canoes were considered far superior to the more utilitarian Old Town models.

Morris canoes were considered the “Cadillac’s” of the wood / canvas canoeing world, and for good reason. Ours is seventeen feet long, 32 inches wide, with a lovely sweeping shear and beautiful long mahogany decks and gunwale caps and cane seat. She has an exquisite decorative paint job, even mother-of-pearl scroll work on the bow. She is a delight to behold, and now, even though I have paddled a wide variety of canoes (from Old Towns to Peterborough’s to plastic whitewater models and Kevlar / Spectra racing models) over the years, she is still the best canoe I have ever been lucky enough to paddle. There is something ineffable, and “alive” about paddling a handmade wood canoe that is difficult to put into mere words….you have to experience it for yourself. This beautiful boat still turns heads, even though she is now more than 90 years old!

I can remember spending many pleasant hours paddling the Canal with our family….going from Young’s Restaurant on Nesmith Lake down to Summit Lake, or portaging over to Long Lake, East Reservoir, and the rest of the lakes in the system. From an early age, I knew the Portage Lakes and Ohio and Erie Canal system like the back of my hand….these waters were and are my playground. I would never have imagined as a kid that the Ohio & Erie Canal would become a federally designated National Heritage Corridor, and that this canal I was paddling would become more widely known as a recreational resource as I grew older.

As I grew into my early teen years, Dad and I would go alone canoeing, or sometimes my recently deceased older brother Frank would come as well. I enjoyed our trips, just Dad and I, because it was rare to be alone with him for any length of time. Somehow I intuited that these “alone times” were ephemeral and special, and I wanted to savor them if I could. Dad did not speak much during our infrequent outings, but he had a way of making me feel somehow special in that canoe…..me always up front in the bow, trying frantically to keep up with his usually fast rhythmic cadence, him subtly teaching me how to guide a canoe silently through the water. Like all good teachers, Dad had a way of teaching when I did not even know I was being taught. He really knew how to move that canoe beautifully through the water.

My Dad also had an affinity for making that canoe go fast, which I suppose nurtured the love and canoe and kayak racing and fast touring, which I still enjoy today. He used to take delight in pulling alongside a longer (and you would think, faster) rental canoe from Pick’s Boathouse or Dietz’s Landing (two old Portage Lakes rental landmarks sadly now gone), with a couple of muscle bound older teen boys paddling it. He would lean over to them and shout…”Want to race?” Well, seeing me up front, a rather tall skinny kid, and a bold middle-aged guy in the back, they always bought into our little “race” scam! We always won these impromptu races after a hundred or so hard paddling strokes, pulling way ahead of the rival canoe in short order, with my Dad chuckling to himself. Venus II was and still is a fast canoe, despite her age and elegant appearance.

I do not paddle the canoe so much these days, but I still savor the times I do get to enjoy her. Even though Dad told me before he died that he wanted me to have and care for Venus II, and he has been gone 20 years now, she is still his canoe. Always will be. I feel strange and nostalgic when I use her. I have been fortunate to enter this beautiful craft in several local Antique & Classic Boat Shows, and she has won many different awards over the years, and evoking memories for others as well, I am sure.

But now, at least I have a child of my own to whom I can pass on Dad’s canoeing legacy. My daughter Chloe was born 6 years after Dad died……..hopefully she has picked up some subtle life lessons as I did with my Dad, while enjoying a day out on the water….watching the ducks and geese, turtles on log stumps, and being awed by the simple pleasure of moving a canoe through the water with grace and ease. Although she is now a teenager, and likely not so much interested in boats as her Dad was at her age, she knows already the value that this canoe has for our family. I remember telling her a few years ago that this canoe would be hers someday, and that she must always keep it in our family, not matter what! After she looked thoughtfully at me for a moment, she replied….” But Daddy, what if I had no money and was hungry, could I sell the canoe then if I needed to?” I told her that “no, then you sell rides in this special canoe!”

Chloe was out with me on the water before she was a year old; in fact her first outing was the same Ohio & Erie Canal waters where I first got my feet wet many years ago. The look on her face was one of sheer delight – as a father, it was a priceless moment for me. I could not help but feel Dad’s presence watching over me, and I think he would be proud.
(Note: this article was originally published in July 1994 issue of Canoe & Kayak)

Greetings to you, too...

Thanks for posting your canoe story. As with many stories involving wooden boats and canoes, appreciation for the boat involves pleasant family memories.

I'm jumping in to request more information about your Morris canoe for our database, which now has information on nearly 200 Morris and Morris/Veazie canoes. If you're a WCHA member, you can find additional information on the database in Wooden Canoe issues 144, 146, and 148.

Here's the information we'd like to have... this was written for anyone, and not specifically for you-- I realize some answers are obvious from the story and pictures you've already provided. To log your canoe into the database, we'll need to begin with the serial number (if there is one). The database contains several Morris canoes that have no serial number, and these are of particular interest to us.

B.N. Morris Database Information Request

While any Morris-- with or without a serial number-- can be plugged into the database, the more information we get, the greater the opportunity for discoveries!

We would like to know the following, if possible:

Length of canoe.

Model-- or measurements so we can figure that out.

Serial number-- including location of serial number (on stem or inwale or elsewhere) and type of serial number plate (oval, or rectangle with rounded corners, or anything else).

Deck style-- see the section of Forums at www.wcha.org titled "canoe photo index" for examples of known short-deck types.

Wood species. Bert Morris liked mahogany trim-- for decks and seat frames. But other wood species are seen on both B.N. Morris canoes (birdseye maple for example) and on the "second grade" Veazie model.

Color of the canoe's interior--- if the canoe has been refinished, we may not know if the original stain was "light" or "dark". Interior stain-color is something we've only recently begun looking at, as a result of the database. It seems most Morris canoes were originally stained a dark mahogany to match the mahogany trim... but some are lighter. At first, it seemed the canoes with lighter interiors had high serial numbers, as though this was a change that happened late in Morris production; however, recent submissions included a couple of canoes dating to the first decade of the 20th Century which have light interiors which appear to be original to the boat.

Cant rib count. Cant ribs are those "half ribs" waaaaay up under the decks at each end, which are canted into the stem. The splayed stem of the Morris "bites into" the first full rib... and above that will either be two pairs of cants or three pairs--- it seems that earlier Morris canoes have two pairs. The change to three pairs appears to have happened with canoes in the three thousand series.


Profile of canoe. The Morris canoe profile changed over time... and in the later years of production "special ends" were offered as an option--- this was a "torpedo" look. We hope to learn when changes in the profile happened, which would help date those canoes where the serial number plate is missing.

The stem. Morris canoes have a very unusual stem.

Serial number plate. If no plate, picture of bow stem clearly showing presence or absence of four holes that would indicate presence or absence of rectangular s/n plate... and picture of inwale on the left side, at the bow-end, just above the first full rib-- showing presence or absence of two holes which would have held the oval s/n plate.

Decks. With long-decked canoes, indicate length of each deck.

Interior shot, showing seats and thwarts. On some Morris canoes, the center thwart was attached with wing-nuts so it could be removed easily and it often went missing for that reason.... so, having a middle thwart "is a gift".

Pictures (or descriptions) of anything unusual or which seem "extra"... a decal, flag sockets, fancy outwales, half-ribs or a floor rack, oar locks, spotlights... any accessories, such as back rests or paddles.

Additionally, please include any known history-- where it was paddled, and by whom.

Thanks for any info-- from anyone reading this. We appreciate greatly getting any scraps of information, even if it isn't your canoe. Folks have emailed us about canoes seen in museums or in a neighbor's garage... and it all helps, even if it's just a verbal description-- a deck style with a serial number is a big help.

Kathy Klos and Denis Kallery
WCHA Morris Database Project
kathrynklos@gmail.com; dkallery@att.net