Seasonal resident getting closer to solving mystery of deceased man

A seasonal resident of Manitoulin Island is researching the identity of the man who passed away in 1900 at this gravesite close to Walkhouse Bay Road in Robinson Township.

WESTERN MANITOULIN—A seasonal resident of Western Manitoulin is getting closer to uncovering the mystery and identity of a man who lies at the bottom of a grave site in the Robinson Township area.

As was reported previously, Jim Howlett of Hamilton is researching the identity of the man in the Robinson Township area gravesite. The grave site is dated “1900” with the lettering “Unknown” in place of a family name. He believes the body washed up on the shore in the 1900s and explained that about 20 years ago he and his wife were looking for shipwrecks, timber squares, looking all over the West End of the Island. When they got back to the shore just off Walkhouse Bay the couple came across a fair sized wooden cross. They were not far from the shore on the east side of Walkhouse Bay and came upon a little clearing where they found the gravesite with the marker “1900-Unknown.”

Mr. Howlett said he had been told by the late Whit Blackburn that Mr. Blackburn’s father had found the body when he and another man were cutting timber on the south shore in the late winter and early spring of 1900.

The pair came upon the body of a dark skinned man, apparently a Native, and Mr. Blackburn’s father told him they had contacted the RCMP and it took three to four days for the police to arrive from Little Current. He had authorized the burial of the man’s remains near the scene of his being found.

Mr. Howlett also pointed out a few ships went missing in the area during the same time period, the late fall of 1899 and early 1900. Mr. Howlett noted that through research he has found out that one shipwreck, The Typo, had gone down in the area on October 31, 1889 with several people on board not having been found. “Where the ship was found prevailing winds would direct the body toward the shore where the remains were found.”

“I have received quite a bit of information from Janice Frame, through George Purvis, Arthur Ainslie and Art Harper. All three agreed that they had heard that the body had been on top of something, such as a stove pipe or the roof of a pilot house of a boat, or hatch cover of some kind. Two of their stories indicated that the body found on the shore had been tangled up in some type of rope—which also could have come from a boat,” said Mr. Howlett.

“The Typo had been hit in the bow by the steamer Ketchum,” said Mr. Howlett. “The Typo was a sailing ship and when the Ketchum hit the Typo’s bow was ripped off and the vessel sunk (bow first) with a gigantic hole. When sailboats sink they act like a parachute. So picture the crew members on the boat which had been hit by a gigantic steamer. The boat would be going down fast, and I can see the crew trying to latch on to something, anything that they can, like a pilot house roof. There are no remains of the pilot house on the Typo but the wreck itself is intact.”

Mr. Howlett continued, “it’s missing the hatch covers off the pilot house. There likely was a life raft and maybe it was the final object the man whose body washed up on shore was on, noting the Typo accident occurred on October 31, 1899.”

He said that in looking at videos of the Typo shipwreck, the hatch covers are missing, the stern is intact, but there is no wheelhouse. “The steering gear got all caught up in the ropes.”

“The collision took place on Lake Huron off Presquile, well out on the lake. The prevailing southwest wind direction could very well have driven the deceased crew member and whatever he was on east directly toward Walkhouse Bay,” said Mr. Howlett. He pointed out the mast of the Typo still reaches 80 feet off the bottom of the lake.

Interestingly, Mr. Howlett added, “the Typo had sunk before. It caught fire previously and had been abandoned and later repaired. It had a rough previous history.” He said he will be researching the names of the owners of the ship and trace the insurance records and newspaper clippings about the four guys who had died on it. If he can, he will then get in contact with the next of kin and try to determine whose body lies in the gravesite at the West End of the Island.