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The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson:
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Chronology of Events

Early Life and Career: 1877 to 1905

1877
Tom Thomson was born on 5 August near Claremont, a village a bit east of Toronto; Tom was the sixth of what would come to be ten children; his eldest brother was George.
1877
The Thomson family relocates to Leith, on the eastern shore of Owen Sound Bay, in October of 1877.
1898
Tom receives a sizeable inheritance (worth several hundred thousand in 2017 dollars) from his grandfather, presumably on the occasion of his 21st birthday.
1899
Starts work as a machine apprentice at William Kennedy & Sons, a foundry in Owen Sound, but leaves after eight months, in August, for reasons that are unclear.
1899
Second Boer War begins in October; Tom makes an (unsuccessful) attempt to enlist.
1900
Tom registers at Canada Business College in Chatham in September; studies there for eight months.
1901
Returns to Owen Sound in the spring; then in the summer stops in Winnipeg on his way to Seattle where he studies for six months (1902) at Acme Business College, managed by his eldest brother, George.
1902
In the fall Tom is hired as a pen artist at Maring and Ladd, Engravers, in Seattle.
1903
First published graphic art appears in a newspaper—a display advertisement for Acme Business College.
1904-05
Tom returns to Owen Sound.
1905
In June, Thomson joins the art department of Legg Brothers, a photo-engraving firm in Toronto, as senior artist.
1906
Resident at 34 Elm Street, Toronto; may have enrolled in night classes at the Central Ontario School of Art and Design, then later studied with William Cruikshank.
1908-09
Tom is hired at Grip Ltd. by Albert Robson, either December, 1908 or after the New Year; at Grip Tom works under the supervision of J.E.H. MacDonald, senior artist.
1911
Arthur Lismer joins Grip in February, followed shortly thereafter by Franklin Carmichael, in April.
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Artistic Beginnings: 1911 to 1913

1911
Thomson paints at Lake Scugog (north-east of Toronto) with Ben Jackson, an employee at Grip.
1911
Meets Lawren Harris in November at an exhibition of J.E.H. MacDonald sketches at the Arts and Letters Club.
1912
Central Ontario School of Art and Design (formerly Toronto Art School, 1886–90) is renamed the Ontario College of Art (oca).
1912
Tom travels to Canoe Lake Station, Algonquin Park, with Ben Jackson in May; camps at Tea Lake Dam and Canoe Lake; meets the ranger Harry (Bud) Callighen.
1912
Thomson completes an extended canoe trip with colleague William Broadhead through Mississagi Forest Reserve (west of Sudbury) in August and September; meets Archie Belaney, later known as Grey Owl, who is also working as a Ranger.
1912
Thomson moves to Rous & Mann Press in October, following the lead of Albert Robson, Franklin Carmichael and Arthur Lismer; once there they are joined by Frederick Varley.
1912
Meets Dr James MacCallum, an ophthalmologist and patron of the arts, at J.E.H. MacDonald’s studio in October.
1913
Thomson exhibits and sells A Northern Lake at the Ontario Society of Artists Forty-first annual spring show in April.
1913
Lawren Harris and James MacCallum agree to finance construction of the Studio Building on Severn Street; Harris was an heir to the Massey-Harris farm implements fortune, MacCallum was a wealthy practicing ophthalmologist who specialized in blindness, cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
1913
Tom decides to paint full-time; takes a two-month leave of absence from Rous & Mann for a sketching trip north.
1913
May have worked as a fire ranger on the Metagami Reserve, just south of Timmins, in the spring and summer.
1913
Goes to Algonquin Park in August, where he canoes from Canoe Lake to Manitou and North Tea Lakes in the northern part of the park; meets Tom Wattie, a ranger stationed on North Tea Lake, before returning to Canoe Lake.
1913
Returns to Toronto via Huntsville, in November, possibly to visit Winnifred Trainor; Dr MacCallum introduces Tom to A.Y. Jackson, who is sharing Lawren Harris’s studio.
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Established Painter: 1914 to 1916

1914
Completion of the Studio Building on Severn Street in January; Thomson shares Studio One with A. Y. Jackson, January–February.
1914
Thomson exhibits Moonlight, Early Evening in the Ontario Society of Artists Forty-second annual spring exhibition; the painting is sold to the National Gallery of Canada.
1914
Tom is elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in March.
1914
Thomson meets up with Arthur Lismer at Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park for two weeks early in May.
1914
Thomson travels by canoe to MacCallum’s cottage at Go Home Bay on Georgian Bay at the end of May, then back to Algonquin Park in early August via the French River.
1914
World War One was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by the Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip; the war began on 28 July, 1914 when the Austro-Hungarian empire declared was on Serbia.
1914
Thomson paints with A.Y. Jackson in Algonquin Park in the fall; then later they are joined by Frederick Varley and Arthur Lismer.
1914
Tom returns to Toronto in early November.
1914
Thomson exhibits A Lake, Early Spring at the Royal Canadian Academy Thirty-Sixth annual exhibition in Montreal in November.
1914
Thomson contributes In Algonquin Park to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts Patriotic Fund Sale.
1914
Late in the year shares space in the Studio Building with Franklin Carmichael.
1915
Thomson exhibits Northern River and Split Rock, Georgian Bay in the spring Ontario Society of Artists exhibition; Northern River is purchased by the National Gallery of Canada.
1915
Travels to Algonquin Park in mid-March via Huntsville, where he visits Winnie Trainor for a few days.
1915
In May Thomson and George Rowe guide the Johnston Brothers of Pittsburgh to Pine River; on their return, Thomson and Rowe paddle to Big Bear Lake.
1915
Later in the summer Tom buys a new Chestnut canoe, tent and other camping supplies and sets out from Canoe Lake on a long trip, likely to the Magnetawan River, coming out at South River around Labour Day.
1915
In September Tom paddles back up South River, crosses into North Tea Lake and Cauchon Lake, travelling perhaps as far as Mattawa.
1915
End of September to mid-October at Mowat Lodge on Canoe Lake.
1915
At first snow, travels to Huntsville for a brief stay with Winnifred Trainor before returning to Toronto; to save on rent, moves into the shack, formerly used by a cabinet maker, behind the Studio Building on Severn Street, which he shares with Arthur Lismer; over the winter paints a number of decorative panels for the MacCallum cottage at Go Home Bay.
1915
One-man exhibition at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, December.
1916
Stops, again, in Huntsville to visit Winnifred Trainor for a few days on his way north in March.
1916
Thomson exhibits Spring Ice in the Forty-fourth annual Ontario Society of Artists spring exhibition; Spring Ice is bought by the National Gallery.
1916
Takes a job as a fire ranger in late May and reports to Achray, a park station at Grand Lake on the south branch of the Petawawa (now Barron) River, where he works with Edward Godin; Tom paints the sign that reads ‘Out-Side-In’ for the facade of the rangers’ cabin.
1916
In August Thomson and Edward Godin canoe down the south branch of the Petawawa River to the Barron Canyon, then continue up the north branch of the river to Lake Traverse.
1916
Returns to Toronto in late October / early November; exhibits The Hardwoods at the Thirty-eighth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in Montreal.
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Final Days: 1917

1917
Thomson returns to Algonquin Park in March; acquires a guide’s licence; fishes with James MacCallum in May.
1917
July 8. Park Ranger Mark Robinson, Mrs Thomas (wife of the local railway section head) and Mrs Colson (wife of the owner of the Hotel Algonquin on Joe Lake) see Thomson and Shannon Fraser walking down to Joe Lake Dam in the morning; Tom is not seen alive again.
1917
Tom’s body is recovered from Canoe Lake eight days later, on July 16.
1917
July 21. An undertaker from Huntsville supposedly arrives at Canoe Lake to exhume the body for shipment to Owen Sound for re-burial on the instructions of George Thomson; this may, or may not, have happened; the body may rest in the family plot at Leith, or, perhaps just as likely, may still be at Canoe Lake where it was buried by Roy Dixon and Mark Robinson.
1917
Memorial cairn with a bronze tablet designed by J.E.H. MacDonald is erected at Hayhurst Point in September, by MacDonald, J. W. Beatty, Shannon Fraser and George Rowe.
1917
Memorial exhibition of Thomson’s work organized by James MacCallum at the Arts and Letters Club in December.

Note

The Chronology as it appears is not based on original research and does not pretend to be particularly authoritative. Some of the events described herein are verifiable, some are admittedly based on conjecture and still others are subject to empassioned debate by any number of commentators. Adapted in part from The Silence and the Storm, Harold Town and David P. Silcox, McClelland & Stewart, 1977; from Tom Thomson, Joan Murray, Douglas & McIntyre, 2010 and from Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him, Roy MacGregor, Random House Canada, 2010.

This Study Guide is available as a free download in Pdf format to anyone interested in using it as an aid to teaching George A. Walker's The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson (2012). The Guide may not be copied and offered for sale by any third party. This Study Guide is produced with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation and the Ontario Ministry of Education.

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.