This book is about what happened when Tappan Adney travelled from New York City to the small town of Woodstock, New Brunswick in 1887 at the age of 18. The coming of this young man to this town at this particular time is surely one of the most remarkable instances in Canadian history of the convergence of person and place.

It is not unusual for writers, artists, and other historically significant figures to be strongly associated with particular cultural regions from which they draw inspiration. But the coming of Tappan Adney to the central St. John River Valley of New Brunswick was an event of unique and extraordinary importance in Canadian cultural history. It was here at the mouth of Lane’s Creek where it meets the St. John River in Upper Woodstock that Tappan Adney first met Peter Joe and saw him building a Maliseet birchbark canoe. It was here he began to document how these canoes were made. It was here he began to build his 1/5-scale models that preserved every detail of construction using only traditional materials gathered from the forest. All those who have returned to the art of building birchbark canoes in recent times are in debt to Tappan Adney for his devotion to the preservation of this Indigenous heritage.

At the age of 18 Tappan Adney was already a serious student of natural history and a skilled artist. When he came to Woodstock, he was struck by two features of the environment that called out to him for further study: the vast wilderness that lay at his doorstep, and a community of Indigenous people still practicing some of the cultural and material skills that had long enabled their successful adaptation to the region.

 

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Tappan Adney was especially taken by the art and craft of the birchbark canoes that a few older men and their families were still building in the Woodstock area. Over the following decades he devoted himself to documenting every detail of design and construction used by the Maliseet people to build their canoes. He eventually expanded his model building to include every type of Indigenous bark and skin boat of North America. It is no exaggeration to say that Tappan Adney is the man who saved the Indigenous knowledge of how to build birchbark canoes from extinction.

But he also did much more. He documented a wide range of Maliseet cultural knowledge and skills. He worked persistently at documenting the Maliseet language. Although he went on to make significant contributions in other areas of cultural research, art, and journalism, he always returned to his work of preserving the birchbark canoe. By his direct testimony, it all started for him when he came to Woodstock, New Brunswick. This book is about this remarkable convergence – an unusually talented man and an environment rich in cultural and natural history.

About the Author

Keith Helmuth lives in Woodstock, New Brunswick. He is the Publisher and Managing Editor of Chapel Street Editions, a non-profit book publishing company dedicated to the natural history and cultural life of the St. John River Valley.  He is the author of Tracking Down Ecological Guidance and co-author of Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy and Paths of Faith in the Landscape of Science..

Tappan Adney

Keith Helmuth

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Tappan Adney
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword

    Acknowledgements

    Preface

    Introduction

    Chapter 1 – Wolastoq and Meduxnekeag: Woodstock Grows

                             Where Rivers Meet

    Chapter 2 – Tappan Adney Comes to Woodstock

    Chapter 3 – Adopting a Family and Discovering the Wilderness

    Chapter 4 – Tappan Adney Meets Peter Joe Building a Canoe at

                              Lane’s Creek

    Chapter 5 – The Lure of the Wilderness and the Natural History Market

    Chapter 6 – Reporting the Klondike Gold Rush: A Journalistic Coup

    Chapter 7 – Minnie Bell Sharp and Tappan Adney

    Chapter 8 – Between Woodstock and New York

    Chapter 9 – At Home in Upper Woodstock: The Orchard Business

                              and the Music Business

    Chapter 10 – Serving in the Army and Working in Quebec

    Chapter 11 – An Aspiring Politician and a Working Artist

    Chapter 12 – Preservation of the Birchbark Canoe

    Chapter 13 – Home to Woodstock and the St. John River Valley

    Chapter 14 – The Mariners’ Museum Acquires Adney’s Canoes

    Chapter 15 – Maliseet Language Research

    Chapter 16 – Defending the Rights of the Maliseet: The Peter Paul Case

                                and Beyond

    Chapter 17 – Working with the New Brunswick Museum

    Chapter 18 – George Frederick Clarke and Tappan Adney: Cooperation

                                and Conflict over Local Archaeology

    Chapter 19 – The Scholar in the Woods and Befriending Wildlife

    Chapter 20 – The Canoe Book in Limbo and Howard Chapelle

                                to the Rescue

    Epilogue – The Gift that Keeps on Giving

    About the Author

    References

    Appendix: Adney Quotations

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And the Heritage of the St. John River Valley