Peter Pond newsletter :: February 2005 :: #20

Peter Pond

Peter Pond

Happy Winter

In the interest of overlong waits for longed attachment downloadings (still, if attachments difficult, will email) I will try to keep this short. But once again, in no particular order of importance, enough info exists to warrant another newsletter.


Welcome to number 20, a milestone. At least that's what Pres. Abraham Lincoln thought, this being his birthday month, in citing "four score and seven years ago…" in his famous Gettysburg Address, a score being a measurement of 20. Another milestone is that the society has passed the100-member mark…now at 104. The 100th member is one of you with a Pond connection, Pam Hudak of Milford, president, Capt. Charles Pond Chapter of Children of the American Revolution, Milford. Welcome, Pam. Charles as most Milfordites know was the fourth of Peter Pond's nine siblings, Peter Pond the oldest, who actually fought in the American Revolution as a mariner harassing British shipping in Long Island Sound. His biggest claim to fame is being the captain of the ship that ferried ill-fated spy Nathan Hale across the Sound to his reward on Long Island. Charles lived to age 88 and has a prominent headstone about a hundred yards from his rolling-stone oldest brother. Pam says her group gathers around that stone for a small ceremony every year on his birthday.

Peter Pond ART

You should be aware that among the small photos in Newsletter No. 1 is a color rendering of Peter Pond standing dramatically in a log cabin doorway with several dogs. It comes from a scene in "The Magnificent Adventures of Alexander Mackenzie," by Philip Vail (Dodd, Mead and Co., New York, 1964):

"Pond stalked into the hall, a pack of dogs at his heels. The grey-haired giant had not shaved in weeks, his buckskins were stained, and he was badly in need of a bath. But his natural dignity was overwhelming.
He ate a large venison steak, a platter of bear bacon, and a moose liver. He insisted his dogs be given fresh meat, too."

It is one of the few artistic examples of his unknown likeness I am aware of. Granted, there are several ink drawings done for "The Fur Lodge" by Beverly Butler (see bibliography), a 1959 Dodd, Mead young adult historical novel surrounding his first-time arrival at Athabasca and having to leave part of the large trade returns behind in a fur lodge in safe-keeping of a local Indian boy. There have been several requests over the years for a portrait of Peter Pond and what I have is what I replied with.

As stated in Newsletter No. 1 back in 2000, the art work is by Illona Petrovitz Viehman who did it for my article on Peter Pond that appeared in the March 1984 issue of CANOE Magazine, more recently called CANOE & KAYAK. The Vail excerpt led off the article. The editor then was John Viehman, the artist's husband. As mentioned in other newsletters, John has done his own interesting pieces on fur trade history involving the canoe. As host of "Anyplace Wild" public television series in the mid 1990's he paddled with Che-Mun (see link) editor Michael Peake along the historic fur trade route now called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area to the old Grand Portage post on Lake Superior. They then joined about six other paddlers in a 30-foot Montreal Canoe for a day trip along the shore to Old Fort William in Thunder Bay, Ont. Another AW show has him and Peake hiking the last leg of the Alexander Mackenzie Trail to Bella Coola, B.C. where they transfer to canoes for a long paddle out to solitary Mackenzie Rock. He has also since been editor of BACKPACKER and CLIMBING Magazines and, according to an editor at the latter publication, has since moved to Nevada where his current activity is unknown. The editor also gave me his email address. I contacted him about using Illona's art in the website while he was at BACKPACKER, he said he would pass the message on to Illona, but I never heard from her. With this newsletter being sent to him, I wish to again make sure he is aware that I am using the art work in the nonprofit website and sending it out on request. An enlarged rendition of the Peter Pond art is on the second attachment of this newsletter.

Requests for the art over the years have mainly involved Canadian (never American) school children doing reports on Peter Pond. One notable request was from a concern for the proposed French River Visitor Centre being built by Ontario Parks Dept. on the historic French River that led traders into the Upper Great Lakes. A ,000-square foot structure is proposed to take visitors through sections on the geology, native history, early European exploration, and height of the fur trade to the state of the river today. Will keep you posted on how it develops.


An invitation has been extended to Peter Pond Society by Yale University's Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of North American Frontiers and Borders to join the email list for upcoming events and lectures at the center. The invitation comes from Jay Gitlin, the center's associate director, as stated in the following email:

"I would appreciate it if could ask the Peter Pond Society members if they would like to be on our list (snail mail and/or e-mail).

(If they'd like to do this as individuals, rather than transferring the whole Peter Pond Society list, they might contact our office manager at (203) 432-2328, or Edith Rotkopf directly.

Most of our events would be right up their alley, I would think. Our last lecture was about a Custer expedition. We will be doing things on the fur trade as it is a big interest of mine. This spring, we will be sponsoring a conference on oil frontiers. In the fall, we will be looking at "Pacific World" frontiers--and our featured speaker, John Whitehead has just published a book on Alaska and Hawaii. He's a terrific speaker I've been told. (one of Howard Lamar's early students and now recently retired himself)."

I know it might be hard for Peter Pond Society members living outside of Connecticut to reach these events. But it is still nice of Jay Gitlin, also Peter Pond Society member, to think of us. You might remember his laudatory remarks about Peter Pond in the last newsletter.


The final report on the three-day archeological search for Peter Pond's grave at Milford Cemetery August 2005 has been completed. Connecticut Archeologist Nicholas Bellantoni sent me a draft last fall. I sent back some comments and corrections on historical accuracy. From there he gave the fine tuning job to a graduate assistant, Cindy Trayling of Mississaugua, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. I think it's cool Nick got a Canadian involved. Cindy and I have exchanged several emails to help her in the report. I finally got to meet her when Nick brought her to Milford to see the cemetery and dig site Feb. 25 under four inches of snow. They also got the full Peter Pond tour to several other spots around town. Saying she found the project fascinating and welcomed being added to the email list, she presented me the final report, 27 written pages and 30 pictures all on a compact disc. At the moment, some computer problem prevents me from being able to open the whole report on my screen, though the art is accessible. I hope to rectify the matter within a week and pass as much as I can on to you as part of the next newsletter before it goes on the website.

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald

Au revoir,