While I was browsing the internet the other day, I came across ‘A Big Game and Fishing Guide to Northeastern Maine‘, one of two books that I thought I would never see by my great grandfather, James Churchward. It had been scanned by the folks at Google and is part of their online repository of old books at: books.google.com. A great many old books are available and can be downloaded in either plain text or pdf format. This particular work from 1897 has nothing to do with old legends, ancient history, or lost continents, but does provide a glimpse of how well acquainted James was with hunting and fishing.
The book was issued under the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad banner and credit is given to James Churchward as author. The work was produced in support of Maine tourism (and riding the B&A Railroad) and targets the hunting and fishing sportsmen of the northeast US. James did work on the railroad as a salesman as mentioned in the 1936 biography, “My Friend Churchey” by Percy Tate Griffith and he also designed and patented railroad hardware between 1889 and 1893 as can be seen in the seven patents he was issued during that time. P.T. Griffith also mentions on a number of occasions that James was a great fisherman and this work is confirmation of that fact. Also mentioned in the work is James’ past as a hunter in India. In the introduction on page 8, he says:
“We have hunted tigers, elephants, buffalo and other big game in India, but nothing in our experience surpasses the ugliness and wickedness of a wounded bull-moose when he turns on you, which fortunately does not often happen, for, like most other large animals, they will try to get off, even when wounded.”
The rustic images portrayed in the photographs from the book and the written text bring alive a different era, one that has disappeared except through the pages of this book and books like it. It was an era where a broad segment of the population knew how to use guns and fishing tackle, something that the urbanization of the United States over the past 110 years has diminished considerably. While the use of firearms throughout the history of the United States has sometimes been contested, the written text provides the reader a look inside the mind of a 19th century sportsman and his thoughts on the subject. (As a point of reference, a table provided in the book [page 120] details the ‘Game Record.’ In the four year period between 1894 and 1898, 7,767 deer were shot and transported via the railroad, either to be stuffed or brought home for sustenance. This number did not count the number of animals brought down for food in the hunting camps or for the local population. This number does not include the Caribou or Moose that were transported via the railway.)
Although primarily a vehicle for advertising, James treats the reader to his heart-felt ideas on how to bring down big game in the woods or carefully hook and land the biggest fish. The reader will also enjoy the drawings of wildlife and their habitats that accompany the photographs and written instructions and for those that have read any of James’ other works, they will recognize the characteristics of his illustrations. First, he sets the stage by introducing the reader to the various locales and what might be expected there. With this discussion, he introduces the reader to guides and camps to be contacted, distances to traverse and special areas to keep in mind. The descriptions provided in the book leave the reader with no doubts that the author travelled to these places and undertook the activities he so vividly describes. This chapter ends with a list of Taxidermists and places to stay.
The next chapter details fishing. James covers the species, their habits and where they might be found. Illustrations of each variety are also produced for easy identification. James also provides an in-depth discussion about tackle, rods, reels, and even the clothes to bring along. He also engages in a discussion of the best way to sink the hook and land the biggest fish. Special sections are devoted to the “Science of Trolling” and “Hints to Young Fishermen.” In the later, he states:
Bear in mind that you are fishing with a rod and a flimsy thread, not with a telegraph pole and a clothes line.
Your line should be a rein to guide the fish to you, not a hawser to haul it there.
The next chapter details the species of game and hints to bring them down. James discusses different places to shoot the game, with the final admonishment to ‘whenever the opportunity offers, take the shoulder shot, and make it well down and forward.’ Also, James describes the best outfit to obtain, from footwear to hats. In addition to a hunting knife (not double-edged), he suggests a holstered revolver (38 or 44 caliber) and has a whole section on selecting rifles and shooting them. Just before the chapter is completed by a list of registered guides, the author suggests the latest in bedding for sleep comfort.
The next chapter is devoted to the game laws of Maine, followed by the aforementioned ‘Game Record’, rates for the B&A Railroad to various points, and stage (coach) connections.
This book adds another dimension to the life of James Churchward and shows that he was a man of his times. Remembering that he was born in 1851, this book was researched and authored while he was in his late forties and from all appearances, he had the energy, drive, and stamina to negotiate the uncharted wilderness. These characteristics would be needed later when he had settled his lawsuits with ‘Big Steel’ and had the time and finances to pursue his study of old legends, ancient history, and lost continents.
btw, the title of the other book that I thought I would never see is “Copies of Stone Tablets Found by William Niven at Santiago Ahuizoctla Near Mexico City” published in 1927 and that volume is also listed in the same Google repository, although no scanned copies are available, nor do any of the book sources listed have a copy for sale, nor do any libraries show a copy available. This book would be an invaluable addition to any research library engaged in studying Niven’s tablets as mentioned in James books after 1930.
Another book by James Churchward has also been revealed during recent research:
“Fishing Among the 1,000 Islands of the St. Lawrence” by James Churchward (New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company; 56 pages; 4 track series. Printed by American Bank Note Co (1894))
This book is also listed by Google Books, however there are no copies available.