Canadian History for Kids!
1917, July 8 – Tom Thomson drowns on about this day in Canoe Lake in his beloved Algonquin Park.
This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at Canadian legend, Tom Thomson.
No one can be certain what happened on Sunday, July 8th, 1917, the day that Tom Thomson disappeared. He died sometime between July 8, when he was last seen, and July 16, 1917, when his body was found floating in Canoe Lake. The cause of death was recorded as accidental drowning. This Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of Canada, looks at the amazing life of one of Canada’s most influential artist’s.
This Canadian History for Kids article begins with Thomas John “Tom” Thomson being born near Claremont, Ontario to John and Margaret Thomson. He grew up in Rose Hill, Ontario, near Owen Sound. In 1899, he entered a machine shop apprenticeship at an iron foundry owned by William Kennedy, a close friend of his father. In 1901, he enrolled in a business college in Chatham, Ontario, but dropped out eight months later to join his older brother, George Thomson, who was operating a business school in Seattle. In 1904, he returned to Canada joined Grip Ltd., an artistic design firm in Toronto, where many of the future members of the Group of Seven also worked.
This Canadian History for Kids article continues when Thomson first visited Algonquin Park in 1912. Thereafter he often traveled around Ontario with his colleagues, especially to the wilderness of Ontario, which was to be a major source of inspiration for him. In 1912 he began working, along with other artists who would go on to form the Group of Seven after his death. This Canadian History for Kids article continues when he first exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists in 1913, and he became a member in 1914 when the National Gallery of Canada purchased one of his paintings. For several years he shared a studio and living quarters with fellow artists, before taking up residence on Canoe Lake. Beginning in 1914 he worked now and then as a fire fighter, ranger, and guide in Algonquin Park, but found that such work did not allow enough time for painting. This Canadian History for Kids article continues during the next three years when he produced many of his most famous works, including The Jack Pine, The West Wind and The Northern River.
This Canadian History for Kids article continues when Thomson disappeared during a canoeing trip on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on July 8, 1917, and his body was discovered in the lake eight days later. The official cause of death was accidental drowning, but there were questions about how he actually died. Thomson’s body was examined by Dr. Goldwin Howland, and interred in Mowat Cemetery, near Canoe Lake, the day after his body was discovered. Under the direction of his older brother, George Thomson, the body was exhumed two days later and re-interred in the family plot beside the Leith Presbyterian Church on July 21.
This Canadian History for Kids article continues in 1970 when Judge William Little published a book, The Tom Thomson Mystery, recounting how – during 1956 – he and three friends dug up Thomson’s original gravesite, in Mowat Cemetery on Canoe Lake. They believed that remains they found were Thomson’s. In the fall of 1956, medical investigators determined that the body was that of an unidentified Aboriginal.
Since the publication of The Tom Thomson Mystery, there have been many theories regarding Thomson’s cause of death, including suicide and murder. Many suggest that Thomson may have committed suicide over a woman who holidayed at Canoe Lake being pregnant with his child. Others have suggested that Thomson was in a fatal fight with one of two men who were living at Canoe Lake, or killed by poachers in the park.
And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!