Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Canoes and Romance V - What happened to the old Pratt family canoe?

Follow-up after the "Wooden Canoe" article: 
In my 2001 article in "Wooden Canoe" I said that the pictures and text in the 1908 Morris Canoes catalog resulted in a positive identification of the old Pratt family canoe. It happened this way:
After months of correspondence back and forth I traveled to Bainbridge Township of Berrien County to the home of my cousin (Phil Shane) who had inherited the canoe. He took me upstairs in a building behind his house and there it was! The old Pratt family canoe. He rigged a light so that I could examine the canoe and consult the catalog reprint. Within minutes we had it and all the accessories identified. It was in remarkably good shape considering its age (probably built in 1906 or 1907), had its original canvas and the only major flaw was a stem split part way down the stern. Also there was the like-new canoe seat that my Mother sat on and the spruce-wood paddles my Dad used to propel the canoe during their honeymoon at Paw Paw Lake back in 1921. The cousin also had some good photographs in an old family album showing Pratt aunts and uncles and others in and by the canoe both on the water and on shore.
My visit and identification of the canoe apparently inspired the cousin for he joined the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and enrolled in a class in wood and canvas canoe restoration at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. The class was taught by Scott Barkdoll, proprietor of Skywoods Canoe, an expert canoe restorer who has since moved his shop to Vermont. Under Scott's tutelage he repaired the split stem and re-canvased the old Morris. What else he did I do not know. So far as I can tell, the job was not finished when he died unexpectedly..
He and I had planned on co-authoring an article for "Wooden Canoe", as a sequel to the Eisenhower article, telling the story of its restoration. A planned feature of the article was to be a photograph of the restored Morris floating on Paw Paw Lake again after nearly a century. Out of concerns for his widow's feelings I didn't make a direct contact after I learned of his death but eventually I raised the question of the fate of the canoe with other cousins. All I really learned was that the canoe had gone to an adopted son. My current hope is to someday see the restoration finished and to see it float again on Paw Paw Lake with family members paddling it with those Style 2 Morris spruce-wood paddles.
I have offered to pay for transportation of the canoe to and from a professional canoe restorer and pay whatever it costs to finish the restoration, so far with zero response.

Jim Woodruff 
On the Grand River 
in Delta Township

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