The Moosehead region has for many years attracted eccentric, strong-willed individuals who preferred living in the remote woodlands. Generations ago, the title “hermit” had a different connotation than it does today. Now it is used more to denote “strange” people who have problems living in society. In a bygone era, “hermit” was used for those people who preferred nature and had decided to live by themselves, and the more remote the setting, the better.
Early guides around the Moosehead Lake region and to the north were sometimes hermits, sometimes eccentric, but always dedicated to their own individualistic way of life. For some, guiding sportsmen was a way of earning a living and providing the necessities they couldn’t provide for themselves in the woods.
Two of the well known guides of the late 1800s and early 1900s were Edward Masterman and his son, Richard. Edward was one of the early settlers in the region, taking up a track of forest a dozen miles north of Greenville and clearing it for a farm. His father, John Masterman, had earlier purchased Sandbar Tract, which is located between the East and West Outlets on the west side of Moosehead Lake.
Long before Richard was born, Edward Masterman was famed as a hunter, trapper, guide, and almost as soon as he could walk, Richard went into the woods with his father, learning at an early age the habits and characteristics of the wild animals that inhabited the area. He became an expert with the canoe, a crack shot with the rifle, and few could equal his prowess as a trapper. He started guiding at age 17. He was once quoted in a newspaper article as saying when he started guiding, his equipment consisted of a canoe, tent, paddles, pole, and cooking kit. It cost him $40 to get into the business. In those days, Masterman found that guiding wasn’t a good way of making money, especially when he started work at 4 a.m. and frequently did not retire until 9 or 10 p.m.
“When I started guiding, my work had to do mostly with real sportsmen who went into the woods for the sole purpose of catching fish or shooting game. We would pick out a location deep in the woods and remain there for a couple of weeks. The hunters would live mostly on the fish they caught or the game they shot, and get a thrill from eating their own kills,” Masterman said in a 1936 newspaper article by Henry Buxton.
The Mastermans represent three generations of guiding in the North Woods. Richard Vaughn Masterman was born in Sandbar Tract in 1870. He died in 1945 and is buried in Greenville Cemetery.