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Stone Canoe

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by JClearwater, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    On the way home from work I stopped in the Cemetery of the Highlands in Highland Mills, NY to take a picture of the headstone of Hiram L. Leonard (1831-1907). On top of the headstone is a canoe. See attached picture. Those of you who are fly fishermen will recognize the name. Hiram L. Leonard is the father of the American bamboo fly rod. He had a shop in Bangor, Maine before he moved his business to Central Valley, NY which is a hamlet adjacent to Highland Mills.

    "Below is a fragment of Hiram's autobiography which his wife Elizabeth wrote at his dictation. Text is taken from an article by the writer "Sparse Grey Hackle" aka Alfred W. Miller, appearing in the Nov. 1942 publication "Pennsylvania Angler".

    "I made my first rod in Bangor, Me. Material used was ash and lancewood. I made it for my own use, not intending to make a business of rod manufacturing. I, however, sent it to Bradford & Anthony of Boston who kept a sporting goods house, being advised to do so by a friend of theirs.

    "Their salesman said, 'The man who made that rod understood the business and ought to be able to make split bamboo rods.'

    "I had never seen one, he showed me two; I examined them; he asked me if I could make them. Answered, 'Yes, and better than those!' I commenced making them from that date — opened my shop in two rooms on Main Street in Bangor — worked alone at first, was there about a year, then moved into Strickland's block on the bridge, hired one man at first. As business increased, 6 or 7.

    "Stayed there three years then moved to Dow's block on Hammond Street. Employed 11 men, 1 woman. In 1877 went in company with Mr. Kidder of Boston, remained with him until 1878. Then he sold out to William Mills & Son, New York.

    "In 1881, removed from Bangor to Central Valley, N. Y., built factory which was moved in 1899 to present site. Am with Mills, yet.

    "The rods I first saw were in four strips but in splitting up the bamboo I found where it was burnt there were weak places, so made the rods in six strips, the first ever made, and from the very commencement the demand has been so great for the Leonard rod that I have not been able to fully supply it.

    "My rods took the first prize at Vienna, London, and at the world's fair, Philadelphia, and in all contests for fly, or bait casting, they lead the world."

    Why he has a canoe on his headstone rather than a fly rod is anyone's guess. IMG_3997A.JPG
    Dave Wermuth and Benson Gray like this.
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Fly casting is often done from a canoe and a fly rod would be difficult to make in stone. Evan Gerrish appears to have alternated between building fly rods and canoes in the early 1880s based on demand. I learned a lot about Gerrish from a fly rod forum many years ago. Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing,


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