Written by Harold
This “Bear Tale” comes to us courtesy of the Plummer family. The "old stove" is currently on display, together with the narrative to follow, at Great Bear Lake Lodge.
In the late 1800’s, John Hornby was on Great Bear Lake in search of the Franklin Expedition.
Franklin had disappeared years before while in search of the Northwest Passage, and Fort Confidence was established as a jumping off point for the Hornby expedition.
Around the same time, two priests* in a canoe who were heading to Fort Confidence to stay for the winter, took with them a 200 pound cast iron stove on board.
They journeyed down the Athabasca River, and the Hay River to Great Slave Lake, then down the Mackenzie River to the mouth of the Great Bear River. They portaged upstream to the headwaters of the Great Bear River to Fort Franklin, which is now called Deline. From there the stove was transported 175 miles to the west end of Great Bear to Fort Confidence at Richie Island. This is the place we call “the chimney” which is located 20 miles east of the lodge.
Their journey of 1500 miles took two years to complete.
In the 1960’s, almost 100 years later, Chummy was at these old cabins and saw the cast iron stove, and in the ‘70’s he took some guests to look at the cabins and was shocked to see the stove was missing.
During the 1980’s Chummy took a crew to clean up an exploration camp on the Dease River. He was doing the clean up on the ice late in April with the DC-3 on wheels. To his amazement, here was the old stove sticking out of the snow at this camp, 30 miles away from the original old cabins.
Chummy surmised what had happened – a helicopter pilot found the stove and moved it to “their” camp with the idea of taking it home somewhere south. No doubt upon the camp closing the stove didn’t fit into his luggage, so thankfully there it sat. Chummy was astounded to see this stove again, because he thought it was lost.
Over 100 years after Hornby’s search for Franklin, Chummy brought the old stove back to the lodge to keep it in the north were it belongs.
*The two priests mentioned above may have been Father Jean-Baptiste Rouvière, an Oblate who had served four years among the Dogrib and Hareskin Indians at Fort Good Hope, and Father Guillaume LeRoux, both of whom were subsequently killed near the Coppermine River in November 1913.