With the passing years I had a
growing desire to visit again the scene of Hubbard’s last camp at the
head of the Susan River Valley. I wished to permanently and
appropriately mark the spot where he so heroically met death.
Such conscientious devotion to duty, such unwavering faith in God in
the hour of trial, and such noble, self-sacrificing heroism
as Hubbard displayed are too rare in the world to go
unrecognized. I felt that somewhere a memorial should be
erected to him, a tribute to these qualities, and there seemed no more
appropriate spot upon which to erect it than the place where he so
bravely met his death.
No year has passed since my return
from Labrador in 1904 in which I have not received numerous letters
from men and women who have been inspired to nobler ideals of life by
Hubbard’s example. Judge William J. Malone, of Bristol,
Connecticut, was one of these. Through a letter which he
wrote me some five years ago I made his acquaintance, and our
acquaintance ripened into friendship.
It became possible for me to return
to Labrador in the summer of 1913, and I decided to take advantage of
this opportunity to carry into execution my wish to mark the spot where
Hubbard died. I mentioned this one day to Judge
Malone. He not only expressed his hearty sympathy with the
undertaking, but volunteered to accompany me.
Malone is an experienced wilderness traveler. He had already
made several journeys into remote regions of the Hudson Bay country,
was a good canoeman, a good packer, and thoroughly familiar with the
discomforts and hardships of sub-arctic trails. I have never
tramped a wilderness trail or sat by a campfire at the end of a hard
day’s work with a more companionable man. I was, indeed,
fortunate in securing his cooperation.
In discussing our route it was
decided that we should explore the lower Beaver River, between Grand
Lake and the point where Hubbard discovered and entered it on his
inland journey, and where we abandoned our canoe on our retreat, to
re-cross to the Susan River valley. Nothing was known of this
section of the Beaver River, nor of its characteristics. The
route that Judge Malone and I were to take, therefore, as we outlined
it, was to be up the Beaver until we came upon Hubbard’s old trail,
then over Hubbard’s portage trail to Goose Creek, and thence down Goose
Creek to the Susan River.
We made our plans known at once to
some of Hubbard’s most intimate friends. A committee was
appointed, and under the supervision of this committee a beautiful
bronze tablet was designed and cast, inscribed
with the following words:
tablet marks the scene of the tragic death from exhaustion on October
18, 1903, of Leonidas Hubbard, Jr., intrepid explorer and
practical Christian. Erected by loving friends June,
1913. John XIV.-4: And whither I go ye know, and
the way ye know.
This was to be erected on the big
rock at Hubbard’s last camp.
Hubbard’s only sister, Mrs. Arthur
C. Williams, of Detroit Michigan, who was deeply interested in our
undertaking, also contributed a silk flag, and a college pennant which
had belonged to Hubbard when he was a student in the University of
Michigan. These were to be draped upon the tablet when it was
finally fixed upon the rock, and left with it in the wilderness.
We were provided with necessary
drills, cold chisels, hammers, lugs and cement to properly and firmly
set the tablet. A canoe, camp equipment and other
outfit were purchased, and on June 21, 1913, I sailed from New York on
the Red Cross Line steamship Stephano. Judge Malone joined me
in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the
Stephano touched, and on June 26 we reached
St. John’s, Newfoundland, where we were to transship to the northward
bound Labrador mail boat, the
Invermore, on June 27.
Beset by wind and rain and fog, our
voyage northward was an unpleasant one, until, on July 1, the weather
cleared sharp and cold, and as we steamed across the Strait of Belle,
the low, rock-bound coast of Labrador, still harboring many snow
drifts, and stretching away in lonely desolation, loomed into view.
The rediscovery of Hubbard’s camp in 1973 created a renewed interest in
the bronze plaque lost in the Beaver River, including the question of
its weight. This detail is nowhere to be found in Wallace’s accounts of
the 1913 journey. The New York Times reported on 23 October 1913 that
friends of Wallace had expressed concern at not hearing from him since
early September, when he set out alone up the Labrador coast. The
report went on to say that Judge Malone and Gilbert Blake, who returned
to civilization two months previously, had described the lost tablet as
weighing sixty pounds.
VI: Will The Ice Turn Us