New exhibit at Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan barn, summer 2019
Fred Reckards, a master craftsman who lived on the Moose River in Rockwood, became famous for his canoes. He made canoes in his workshop overlooking the river until his death in 1994. Fred was married to well-known fly tier Mabelle “Connie” Comstock, and began building canoes with her father, Merton Comstock, a respected canoe builder from the Moosehead region. Eventually, Fred purchased the 10-ft., 15-ft., and 20-ft. canoes forms from Merton. In a long line of traditional canoe builders on the Moose River, Merton had purchased the canoe forms from Fred Templeton, who in his own day had built hundreds of canoes off of them.
If you happen to own one, they are much revered, and very much in use today. The 20-footers were called “Moose River Taxis” because they could carry two men and 1,000 lbs. of gear, a typical load for packing a long trip. The canoe was known for its wide bottom and was very stable for trips on Moosehead Lake, the West Branch of the Penobscot River, and the Allagash River.
Next fall, a 20-footer built from the form and used for decades by Moosehead resident Roger AuClair, one of the first surveyors of the waters of northern Maine, will be a centerpiece of a new, permanent exhibit to be unveiled at the Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan barn next summer.
Some of the exhibit, titled Moosehead: A Sportsman’s Paradise, will also be on display at the Moosehead Visitor’s Center, in partnership with the Natural Resource Education Center, owner of the center. The exhibits will celebrate our region’s famed outdoor heritage and introduce visitors to the spectacular places, plants, and animals Moosehead is known for. We will tell the stories of the sporting camps and have on display many photographs and items particular to them.
The habits of our wildlife population, including moose, deer and bear, and the native fisheries, including wild brook trout and togue, as well as the landlocked salmon and rare arctic charr will be put on display to educate and inform travelers.
The great river drainages that flow into Moosehead Lake will be shown, when ice-out occurs, and what traditional foods, gear, and equipment that were used will all be part of the display. The stories and photographs of the guides and the skills they were known for will be told. We will have maps and ask that visitors participate in the exhibit by pinpointing where they have been, what mountains and what waters they have been on, and what they have seen while here.
The new exhibit is an important piece of our culture and heritage. We are excited to be sharing this story of our region, especially as we welcome a new century of tourists. Its telling is part of our mission as we go about interpreting and exhibiting the history of the Moosehead Lake region and its watershed, and in perpetuating the contributions that were — and are — being made by area residents, past and present.
Can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s
a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling … let us go.
from The Call of the Wild by Robert W. Service