Every summer, from 1889 to 1900, he and his wife Eva visited friends on Cranberry Lake. He completed sketches for the first illustrated edition of Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha during visits to the lake, where he also enjoyed hunting, fishing and relaxing. Modern artists and art lovers enjoy re-tracing Remington's footsteps in "the Great South Woods", as it was called.
Since 2000, Allen and Marilyn Splete have been seasonal residents of Cranberry Lake. They love the lake, local history and Remington's art. Earlier this month they invited Todd Moe along for a boat ride to explore a little-known facet of Remington's life.
Slideshow of Remington at Cranberry Lake images from the Frederic Remington Art Musem in Ogdensburg.
This summary only contains a portion of what’s in the audio interview. For the full interview, click “listen with NCPR player”.
While on a Pontoon boat on Cranberry Lake—the 3rd largest lake in the Adirondacks—Allen and Marilyn Splete talk about Remington’s visits to Witch Bay, “the head of the lake.” Remington and his wife, Eva, visited friends here once a year, never owning their own place on the lake. Marilyn points out that this is where he did the illustrations for the first illustrated volume of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.
Allan Splete says while Remington was here to work and sketch, “he was here to hunt and fish just like anybody else was in the very beginning. But the nice thing is, this is one location that we can document the fact that he worked from here, and actually some of the things in the book probably come from along this shore line. And certainly the distant mountains and panorama do.”
Marilyn Splete says people say Remington came as early as his teens from Canton for recreation, and “it was only after that that when he came down to visit friends as opposed to just going hunting and fishing, which Eva was not involved in—when he came down to visit friends and brought his wife, Eva, that was when he was beginning to be known as an illustrator. He had sold paintings and sketches to Harper’s and some of the other magazines in New York. And they were beginning to give him commissions, and he was beginning to get other commissions like the one to do the Longfellow book, and so he thought, ‘why not?’
“In his letters he often said, ‘I can’t wait to get back to Cranberry…I can’t wait to get back to Canton.’ Because he was living in New York City, and he would say, ‘Who would think that Canton air would be so pleasant?’…He loved it up here, and much as he is associated with the west, and as much as he is associated with the west, and as much as he lived much of his life in New York City and its environs, this to him was where he wanted to be.”
The Spletes are longtime volunteers of the Remington art museum in Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence county Historical Association. They applied for and received the John Ben Snow foundation grant, which funds research in the North Country. They research Remington’s letters and work.
The Remington Art Festival is in Canton Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23.