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Book: Letters to the Granddaughter - The Story of Dillon Wallace of the Labrador Wild by Philip Schubert

Book: Letters to the Granddaughter - The Story of Dillon Wallace of the Labrador Wild by Philip Schubert

categories: Book, Labrador, Naskaupi, Canoe, Wilderness, Dillon Wallace, Leonidas Hubbard, George River, Rapids, Lake Michikamau, Caribou Migration, Biography




Philip Schubert

Author Philip Schubertabout this book: Dillon Wallace was a key figure in the Hubbard and Wallace Saga which took place more than 100 years ago in Labrador and northern Quebec. Approximately 10 books have been published on the saga over the years but this is the first biography on Dillon Wallace.

Wallace ensured that the story would never be forgotten by publishing one of the finest books ever written on the North, 'The Lure of the Labrador Wild', and by taking part in the three canoe trips linked to the saga. To date no one person has been equal to the challenge of fully retracing these trips.

I discovered the joys and dangers of travel in trackless wilderness starting in 1999 after reading Dillon Wallace's 'The Lure of the Labrador Wild'. I spent a decade retracing the routes in Labrador and northern Quebec described in 'The Lure', in Wallace's follow-on book, 'The Long Labrador Trail', and in Mina Hubbard's 'A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador'.

Nothing in Dillon's early life as an impoverished youth on a farm suggested that he would still fascinate people nearly 150 years later. Dillon was blessed in fact with "Grit A'Plenty", which no one would suspect from his unimpressive physique and unsmiling face. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps, rising from gristmill employee, to self-trained telegraph operator, to stenographer, to finally becoming a lawyer. His life from that point on, however, was equal parts tragic and heroic, but continued to be marked by splendid accomplishments. Starting at the age of 40 in 1903, he carried out a series of trips in Labrador and today's northern Quebec covering several thousand miles.

The first trip sadly resulted in the tragic death of his trip leader and best friend, Leonidas Hubbard, and a narrow escape for him. His book on the trip, The 'Lure of the Labrador Wild', published in 1904, became a best seller and is still in print. It would change Dillon's life forever. It told the story of the trip as it was documented in his and Leonidas' trip journals. Leonidas' widow, Mina Hubbard, who would be forever changed also due to the unbearable loss of "her laddie", had commissioned the book. When Dillon refused to rewrite the book and make Leonidas into the larger than life figure she had been expecting, she became Dillon's sworn enemy for life.

There then followed two extraordinary trips in 1905 across Labrador, following the route planned in 1903. Dillon led one. Mina, drawing on skills that no one had realized she had, led the other. She planned hers in secret, and then provoked a life-long estrangement from Leonidas' family by telling the press as she left that she suspected that Dillon played a role in her husband's death and was on her way to investigate it. A third fascinating figure, voyager George Elson, the other survivor of the first trip, safely canoed Mina the length of Labrador down some of the most challenging rivers that George and his crack team of outdoorsmen had ever seen. No one was more impressed than George, or more disappointed than Mina, when Dillon and his only team member, forestry student Clifford Easton, successfully completed the trip as well. The evidence that George, a heroic figure in his own right, had fallen in love with Mina and which may have motivated him to agree to organize the trip at Mina's behest, added another fascinating dimension to the saga. The 1905 trip formed the basis for Dillon's second book and he went on to publish another 25 books, becoming a legend in his time.

This is the story of Dillon Wallace as told by me, with an introduction by Dillon's granddaughter, Amy McKendry. It includes extensively illustrated maps and dozens of my colour photographs of the challenges faced and overcome in the wilds by the saga participants.

TWO REVIEWS ON THE BOOK:

• "Phil's Letters to the Granddaughter takes us with him as he explores the Hubbard and Wallace saga…with authority, having himself been physically over the very terrain that he writes of…"
— Gerard Kenney, author of 3 books on the Arctic including Ships of Wood and Men of Iron

• "Gripping reading, the reader gets caught up in the danger and drama of the multiple canoe trips. The vividness of the account is enhanced by the wonderful photographs and detailed maps which take us right into the heart of Labrador. A grand book…"
— Dr. Roberta Buchanan, Professor Emerita at Memorial University and a co-author of The Woman Who Mapped Labrador, a biography of Mina Hubbard


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