The Great Restigouche River Basin...
In the course of reading this book you will become acquainted
with several rivers in eastern Canada. One river in particular,
The Restigouche, carries a certain mystique that is hard to explain.
Everyone who experiences her haunting beauty seems captivated by
a magical spell and the memory of this enchantment is imprinted deep within the mind and spirit.. Flowing between lush green mountains with a meandering, almost musical rhythm, and twisting through the dark forests separating Quebec and New Brunswick, the fabulous Restigouche River is probably the world's greatest Atlantic Salmon River and an irreplaceable national treasure of Canada.. Unchanged through countless millennium witnessed only by the annual pilgrimages of Aboriginal Peoples, coinciding with the annual migrations of salmon, and since the early eighteen hundred U.S. financial elite, political leaders and a host of dignitaries.
Just a little bit of Geography and History:
The village of Matapédia is located at the junction of the Matapédia and the Restigouche Rivers. For thousands of years the flow of water from these two rivers has functioned as the environmental heart and center for The Atlantic Salmon species in North America.
Matapédia is part of the immense territory (from St. John River to Temiscouata and the whole Gaspé Peninsula) occupied by the Algonquin Indian culture, primarily Micmac tribal groups, many centuries before the arrival of the white people. Matapédia is a Micmac name meaning ‘’meeting of the waters’’. Truly named because it is here that the Restigouche and the Matapédia Rivers join together forming a flow of water which commands a world-wide reputation for salmon fishing second to none.
It is not surprising the avid practitioners of the Salmon Fishing arts were attracted to our rivers very early on and from far away. Even before the existence of a highway and a railway, they came to enjoy the irresistable thrill
of luring that royal fish, the delight of the most discriminating gourmet, the enchantment of the elite of fishermen. No obstacle could stop them from searching the ‘’silvery treasures’’ of the rivers. They would come by ‘’steamboat’’ to Dalhousie or through the St.John River and would portage through vast sections of forest to their destination.
The Restigouche Salmon Club, the most prestigious private clubs in the world, was founded in 1880. Through the years, the club entertained as members and guests many world-famous people from Canada and the United States. Due to this, Matapédia was known as “The Atlantic Salmon Capital of the World’’. Among our many distinguished visitors were members of the Royal Family: Princess Louise of England; King Edward the VII; the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor; numerous famous athletes Jack Dempsey, Jack Nicklaus; actors Bing Crosby, Robert Redford and more recently George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, General Normand Schwarzkopf and a host of U.S. dignitaries. Fishing camps, some of them very attractive buildings, were built on the banks of our rivers. I guess it was only a matter of a short time before instinct and human nature ran its course causing these individuals to want to own this paradise for themselves and to keep others out. This desire drove them to petition the government for exclusive “rights” to the fishing pools along the river. Over the next century and a half ordinary citizens of Canada would learn a great deal about these so called “Riparian Rights” and in the following chapters the problems caused by the granting of these rights will be discussed in detail. Thus, the decision by the Privy Council in 1880 to grant fishing rights to riparian owners originated our present system of river exploitation. This decision triggered a virtual ‘’treasure hunt’’ for the fishing rights on our rivers.
The Matapedia River . . .
It was then that Lord Mount Stephen acquired all the fishing rights from Causapscal to the Assemetquagan River, building his famous Matamajaw camp at the mouth of the Causapscal River. Son of a Scottish carpenter, Stephen arrived in Montreal in 1850, at the age of twenty-one started a business, got rich and became president of the Bank of Montreal. In 1881, as the McDonald government was looking for funds and a contractor bold enough to build a railway linking Canada from East to West, Stephen took up the challenge and formed a company with Donald A. Smith, his cousin, and James J. Hill. The name of the company was Canadian Pacific Railway and this gigantic project was completed in six years.
In gratitude, Stephen was made a baron with the title of Lord Mount Stephen, and Donald Smith a baron with the title of Lord Strathcona. The three of them became members of the Restigouche Salmon Club and Lord Strathcona had a residence in Matapédia, just in front of the Restigouche Hotel. In 1880, John S. Kennedy, a New York banker, acquired some parcels of land from Lord Mount Stephen and some other rights to the Camp Glenn Emma, named in honour of his wife. During that period, a group of forty financiers and members of the American elite met in New York to establish the official rules and form the original membership of the exclusive and world renowned Restigouche Salmon Club (RSC). In a short period, thanks to unlimited financial resources, these supermen of American business acquired all the fishing rights of any value on both our rivers and most of the land in the Village of Matapédia and surroundings, plus all the properties of Lord Mount Stephen. Who were these “Supermen”? Well, the list of their names can be found in any book on American history because they were the founders of today’s mega-banks and industrial empires. They commanded staggering wealth in the years leading up to the turn of the 20th century and these men, like the magnificent Atlantic Salmon they prized so dearly, began to return year after year to the rivers of their enchantment. Let’s continue:
Another fishing club was formed when J. B. Cobb, president of American Tobacco, and A. H. Cosden bought the rights of Alexander of Matapédia and Mann’s Pool from the Restigouche Salmon Club. They built the superb Cold Spring Camp. Subsequently, this property was owned by W.E. Corey, president of U.S. Steel and then, by George Washington Hill, Cobb’s son-in-law, to whom he succeeded as president of The American Tobacco Company. Incidentally, Mr. Hill was the man who spent fifty million dollars in one year to publicize the Lucky Strike cigarette, serving as real life prototype to the American film ‘’The Hucksters’’.
The subsequent owners of the Cold Spring Camp were Mr. Andrew A. Fraser, well known New York lawyer; John G. Martin, hero of the American Air Force and important financier of Hartford, Connecticut. Now, this property has returned into the hands of the Hill family.
In 1910, Fred K. Barbour acquired from the Restigouche Salmon Club all that is now part of the Tobique Salmon Club, where he built a beautiful lodge. Later on, this property was owned by A. G. Walwyn and Major Hahn.
Later on The Restigouche River . . .
As discussed earlier, the decision by the Privy Council of Canada to grant fishing rights to riparian owners triggered a frantic race to acquire fishing privileges on the Restigouche River. The Restigouche Salmon Club got the lion’s share. But, many other interested parties were also in the running and fishing camps began to appear all along the river. Many of these camps were sumptuous lodges built in harmony with their picturesque surroundings; some were planned by Sanford White, a member of the Restigouche Salmon Club and a famous architect.
One must canoe down the river to really appreciate how large and beautiful the Restigouche is; how picturesque the sites at every curve of the river.
The Restigouche Salmon Club presently owns four camps on the banks of the river; their main camp Indian House built by White (where la crème de la crème of the American elite stay) located 39 miles upstream from Matapedia, then downstream to Pine Island, followed by Red Pine and their headquarters in Matapedia.
The other fishing camps along the Restigouche are listed in order, from the mouth of the Kedgwick River and downstream from there:
First there is Rogers Club, a beautiful camp created by architect White. Next, Downs Gulch owned by the oil magna J D Irving, at Tom’s Brook we find the camp of the McConnell family of Montreal. Mr. J. W. McConnell was a generous philanthropist, giving out more than one hundred million in his lifetime and leaving a foundation valued in 1965 at more than six hundred million. Further down the river, we come to Red Pine, a fishing camp administered by Senator Pirie of Grand Falls.
Toad Brook is owned by the Goelet family of New York, with four generations on the Restigouche River. Their two first camps were burned down by forest fires. The foundations of the last one can be seen next to the brook. It was a lodge of exceptional beauty. After the last fire, Mr. Goelet acquired the superb Camp Albany, which he still owns, besides being a member of the Restigouche Salmon Club.
The magnificent Brandy Brook Camp is another creation of architect White. It is a huge building rising above a gentle slope, featuring a well-groomed lawn landscaped with a great variety of flowers. The Brandy Brook sings gently through the property before flowing into the large and deep pool that faces the camp. It is one of the most picturesque spots on the Restigouche River. Mr. Robert Lehman, the great American financier, (Lehman Bank) is the owner.
A little further down, we find the Deeside Lodge, now deserted, formerly owned by the Strauss family, owners of the famous Macy’s stores in New York.
At the confluence of the Upsulquitch and the Restigouche Rivers, sitting on the hillside, architect Stanford White designed a superb Lodge, with a fantastic view as far as the eye can reach upstream and downstream on both rivers. This is Camp Harmony, founded by Dean Sage, who wrote in 1887: ‘’The Restigouche and its Salmon Fishing’’, a book in great request, valued at $2,500.00. A new edition now sells at $500.00 a copy. The author died at Camp Harmony in 1902 and so did his son, Dean Sage Jr., while fishing there in 1943. Four generations of the Sage family have owned that camp.
The next camp is Runnymede Lodge, for a long time the property of Alan Lehman, member of the aforementioned family of investment bankers, it is now the property of Joseph Cullman the 3rd, of The Philip Morris Tobacco Company and Kraft Foods.
At Moore’s Settlement, we find Grog Island Camp, for many years the property of Jos. Pulitzer of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, donator of the famous Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, Literature and Arts.
Further down the river, at Flatlands, is located The Brunswick Lodge, for a long time the property of I. W. Killiam of Montreal, member of the Restigouche Salmon Club. President of Royal Securities, he died while fishing nearby on the Grand Cascapedia River. Mr. Killam was immensely rich but rather austere. However his wife knew what to do with that money. She died in 1965 in a villa on the French Riviera, acquired from Count Giovani Angelli, owner of the Fiat Company, for three million dollars. Her personal jewelry alone was valued at four million. A baseball enthusiast, she offered, in 1956, the extravagant sum of six million dollars to prevent the Dodgers from moving to Los Angeles.
One very wealthy American president, Chester A. Arthur, was also a salmon fishing enthusiast. After leaving the White House in 1886 he became President of the Restigouche Salmon Club in 1887 and died the same year from complications of pneumonia caught while on a fishing trip. His dear friend and fellow New Yorker, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the foremost art designer of his day and founder of the most prestigious glass and jewelry studio in the world, was also a member of the Club. Chester A. Arthur was so extravagant that when he assumed occupancy of the White House, he had most of the original furniture (some of it dating back to Washington and Adams) hauled out and burned. It was replaced by furniture purchased from and designed and created by his friend Tiffany.
We also have stories about other Presidents, Secretaries of State, great novelists, war heroes, and great inventors among others. We could go on and on with stories about the rich and famous RSC members but this is supposed to be only a brief history, so we will limit the gossip to one more really good story, an interesting event concerning two members of the Restigouche Salmon Club, and the death of the great architect Stanford White (who built most fishing camps on the Restigouche River), killed by Harry K. Thaw on June the 25th 1906 at the First Madison Square Garden in the Rooftop Theatre.
Mr. Harry K. Thaw an extremely rich man, was married to Evelyn Nesbit one of the most popular American actress and model at the time. She was also involved in a love affaire with Stanford White. Architect White was well known as a ‘’Ladies Man’’ and had an apartment in the First Madison Square Garden. The bedroom was equipped with mirrors on the ceiling above the bed, an open bathtub, a bar and a red velvet swing. It served as the real life prototype for the American film produced in 1955 ‘’The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing’’. Mr. White even had a salmon fly designed for him, it was named: ‘’The Night Hawk’’.
While Mr. Thaw was fishing up river at Indian House (camp of the RSC) on the Restigouche at the end of the day on June the 23rd, 1906, Mr. Thaw received a telegram by the mail boat postal service, (two men poling a 26 foot canoe by river to Indian House, 39 miles upstream from Matapedia.) No one to this day knows what was written on the telegram, but early the next morning Mr. Thaw and his two Indians guides headed down river in their canoe to Matapedia. Mr. Thaw wanted to be on time to take the evening train to Montreal. On the 25th of June he arrived in New York City and that evening he went to the First Madison Square Garden where an evening was held in the Rooftop Theatre. Mr. White was present accompanied by Thaw’s stunningly beautiful wife Evelyn. Insane from jealousy, Mr. Thaw approached Stanford White from behind and shot him three times in the head.
This incident became one of the longest and most expensive court cases of the century. Mr. Thaw pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and after having spent millions on his defense he was freed. A year later he was charged of having sexually assaulted and ‘’horsewhipped’’ Freed B. Gubby Jr. a teen-age boy and was sent to asylum for 7 years.
There is no question that the list of present members and former members of the RSC shows the enormous power, influence and wealth that these famous American families brought to the area.
Find out more by reading “Stolen Treasure” at www.stolentreasure.info