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July 18, 2008

John B. Smith Welcomed Back to Callander


John B. Smith and his extended family ran a lumber business in Callander from 1885 to 1967 and was the backbone of the Callander economy.  The family recently provided a beautiful larger than life portrait of John B. to the Callander Bay Heritage Museum and it is now on display at the museum.  The painting clearly evokes the power of the lumber baron holding his Globe newspaper and provides a great connection to the history of Callander.  Smith looks remarkably like lumber baron J.R. Booth who shared Callander Bay and Lake Nipissing with Smith in the early days of lumbering on Lake Nipissing.  There is a fine portrait of Booth at the Discovery North Bay Museum. 

Portrait of John B. Smith (with close-up) recently acquired at the Callander Bay Heritage Museum.  Museum photo.

The Callander Museum is fortunate to have acquired this remarkable painting. This painting is interesting as well because it was painted by one of Canada's best known portrait painters John Colin Forbes (1846-1925).  Forbes painted the portraits of King Edward and Queen Alexandra before a long series of portraits in Canada including Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie (1873-78); Sir Oliver Mowat, Ontario Premiere (1872-96); Sir John A. Macdonald Prime Minister  (1867-73, 1879-91) and Sir Wilfred Laurier Prime Minister (1896-1911).  Forbes' son Kenneth was an equally famous painter.  For a look at other Forbes paintings log on to http://cybermuse.galler.ca/cybermuse/search/artist_work_e.jsp?iartistid=1812 

For more information on John B. Smith look at 2 of my early articles (37, 38 - Jan 2001) on my website (at www.pastforward.ca/perspectives) and click on the titles for full articles and photographs.  Number 37 tells about Smith's early operation at Frank's Bay beginning in 1880 on the west end of Lake Nipissing where a small community was established.  Much of Smith's early lumber was used in building the CPR across the north side of Lake Nipissing. 

A Smith 100th anniversary publication commented that they were cutting logs at Frank's Bay for 50 years and were back again in 1950. 

The John B. Smith & Sons Lumber Co, Callander in its heyday.  Museum photo.

A look at the extended family  of John B's family business indicates what a remarkable family it was.  John B. started in the lumber business in 1851 and ran it until he died in 1894.His son W.J. Smith led until 1925 when his brother Robert took over.  When Robert died he was followed by brother Christie.  Two of John B's sons John M. & James H. ran the Callander operation in the early years. 

John B. Smith & Sons is also part of the Lake Nipissing's History because of the wide variety of vessels they used.  The story of their powerful tug the Sparrow is part of the Lake history.  The alligator the Woodchuck was a workhorse as well especially in shallow water.  (For more on Nipissing Alligators see article 49 on my website).  From 1900 to 1930 the 25 metre Seagull I was a popular because it could carry some 40 passengers.  It was replaced by the Seagull II captained by Victor Darling & Mac Mason for years.  See the memorial to the Seagull II and Mac Mason in Memorial Park in Callander. 

Drop in and see John B. Smith resting upstairs at the Museum and while there have a look at the beautiful prints in the current exhibition in the Alex Dufresne Gallery in the Museum. 

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