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“Camp Grindstone”

“Camp Grindstone,” written by Henry Eckford and illustrated by William Allen Rogers, appeared in the August 1885 issue of The Century Magazine. The article deals with the fifth annual meet of the American Canoe Association [ACA] held during the summer of 1884. This month’s article will be part one of a two part series and will provide a brief history on the ACA as well as background information on Rogers. His illustrations will be divided between the two articles.

Rogers was born 1854 and while he attended college, he failed to graduate. His artistic prowess was self taught and at the age of nineteen he was hired as an illustrator by the Daily Graphic in New York. Four years later he went to work at Harper’s Weekly to do political cartoons and remained there for the next twenty five years.

After his tenure at Harper’s, he continued to draw cartoons for an additional twenty years primarily at the New York Herald but he also accepted assignments from other publications such as Life, Puck, Century and St. Nicholas. Rogers was well known as political cartoonist but many believe his best cartoons were those associated with World War One.

While cartoon illustrations were Rogers’ specialty, he enjoyed painting with oils and water colors, print making, frontier reporting and engraving.

Somewhere along the line, he and President Teddy Roosevelt became friends. My guess is that Rogers’ political cartoons may have brought the two together. Places fortunate to have Rogers’ art work are the White House, Washington, D. C., the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska and the Newberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N. Y.

Rogers retired in 1926 and five years later passed away at the age of seventy nine.

The ACA had its beginning in 1880 [John Henry Rushton was a founding member]. In 1901 the association purchased the 47 acre island known as Sugar Island, located a couple of miles from Gananoque. In 1903 the ACA held its first encampment there and now Sugar Island is considered the ACA’s original home. Each summer, from late July to early August, the ACA’s “annual encampment” is held at the Island.

Sugar Island has been described as pristine, rustic with few modern improvements. My guess is that the island has seen little change in the last one hundred years. The island is available to all ACA members any time throughout the year. Where else would such a place exist but the Thousand Islands!

The size of the ACA surprised me as its membership now numbers 50,000. There are 4,000 ACA certified instructors, not only for canoeing, but also for kayaking, rafting and sailing. Over 800,000 people a year are taught ACA approved programs not only in the United States but in many countries throughout the world.

In my mind Camp Grindstone is an acronym for the time from 1880, when the ACA began, until the purchase of Sugar Island. While annual meetings were held at other locations than the Thousand Islands, Grindstone Island predominated in the years before 1900. Next month’s “Camp Grindstone – Part Two” will cover these early years.

Until next month -

By: Robert L. Matthews




Robert L. Matthews is the author of two popular books:  Glimpses of St. Lawrence Summer Life: Souvenirs from the Thousand Islands: Robert and Prudence Matthews Collection, and A History of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, published in 2009.  Bob presented five articles last winter.  He and his wife Prudence ( well known River artist whose work was presented in Hooked on Prudence in 2009) have one of the most extensive collections of  Thousand Islands memorabilia.  When not at their beautiful River cottage at Fisher’s Landing, they live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Posted in: Artists, Places
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