Gordon MacQuarrie - 1900-1956
Gordon MacQuarrie Annual Pilgrimage
This very popular event that we host is our annual “Gordon MacQuarrie Pilgrimage & Canoe Trip”. This event was first held in September 2016 by Dave Thorson, and was well attended by guests from near and far. Dan Small, from Outdoor Wisconsin on PBS, attended and filmed much of this first event and used it as part of two episodes. Unfortunately, Dave passed away in December of that year. It was so successful that we decided to continue what he started and dedicate this annual event to Dave’s memory. We added an optional canoe trip on the Brule River, Gordon’s favorite trout fishing spot that produced many stories he wrote about the escapades of “The Old Duck Hunters Association” on the river.
Our version is a three day outing that begins with check-in on Friday afternoon at The Barnes Town Hall. All meals are provided throughout the weekend. The Town Hall is filled with tables with interesting topics and demonstrations such as decoy carving, fly tying, split bamboo fly rod making, flycasting and MacQuarrie books and memorabilia. The Museum is also open for visiting. Then there is a buffet dinner with an orientation discussion. After dinner we move to the Museum for a guided tour of the MacQuarrie exhibit. Toward sundown, we then gather on the Museum grounds around a campfire for the “Pine Knot Campfire Chat”. We reverently and ceremonially burn pine knots and toast the memory of Gordon, and have a spirited group discussion about anything MacQuarrie.
On the second day, Saturday, we gather at the Town Hall for breakfast, and organize for the two optional tours of locations that served as settings for his many stories. On one tour we travel to the Middle Eau Claire Lake, visiting many of the spots he wrote about such as Blunt Point, The Hole in The Wall, Posey’s Point and The Thoroughfare. Also along the way there is a stop and an on shore visit to Gordon’s cabin and the cabins of his neighboring friends. Lunch is served on board. The second is a road tour of land based hunting and fishing favorite spots that he wrote about such as The Cathedral, The Ice House, The Thoroughfare and Ruprecht’s Sugar Bush. Lunch is on board and served along the way. We then return to the Town Hall from both tours.
Upon return from the tours, on Saturday evening we host a Banquet and Program with a Keynote Speaker, and we call on experts to talk about Gordon and his stories and experiences. You will meet local people who knew Gordon or will relate stories that their parents told to them about MacQuarrie experiences that they had with him. This area and his log cabin were the favorite places that he loved so much. Many of his stories were written about his experiences in this Northern Wisconsin Paradise, as he sometimes called it.
On Sunday, we offer an optional canoe trip down the Brule River, the most favorite place of fly fishing enjoyment of Mac’s. We gather for breakfast at a Café that was called “The Coffee Cup” in Gordon’s days in Barnes. We transport the participants to Stone’s Bridge on the Brule River and put in there for a guided tour and sightings of many favorite spots that Gordon fished and wrote about. This is about a five hour tour with lunch on board. The tour culminates at Winneboujou Landing, and the participants are then transported back to Barnes.
As previously mentioned, all meals from the Friday evening Buffet through the Saturday night Banquet are provided. The MacQuarrie theme and some of the menus contain dishes of his liking. Notices and registration forms are sent out early in the year to ODHA Circle members and are open to anyone who would like to participate and enjoy a historical weekend designed around the life and times of this prolific, nationally known Journalist. Information on local lodging is provided upon registration to attend the event.
Gordon MacQuarrie, was born and raised in Superior, Wisconsin. Following his graduation from UW-Madison in journalism, he became a cub reporter for the Superior Evening Telegram. He became its outdoors sports editor and managing editor until he joined the Milwaukee Journal in 1936. As it’s outdoors sports editor, he wrote popular columns entitled Right Off The Reel and Jack Pine Joe.
He wrote articles on duck hunting, fly fishing and grouse hunting conveying the deeply emotional, lightly humorous, and fundamental philosophical aspects of hunting and fishing. He affecting readers so much his stories shaped their attitudes and lives.
He coined the mythical Old Duck Hunters’ Association, Inc., using fellow hunters and fishermen as characters in his stories while writing from ODHA headquarters at his lake cabin on Middle Eau Claire Lake in Barnes, Wisconsin. His eccentric father-in-law, Al Peck, was his fishing and hunting mentor and entered his stories as “Mister President” and “Hizzonor” of the ODHA, Inc. Lake cabin neighbors became characters in his stories including dentist Dr. Patrick Tierney, best friend Paul Skamser, neighbor Oscar Ruprecht, and work colleague Bill Stewart.
He penned personal outdoors sports stories of trout fishing on the Brule River, Merengo River and Namakagon River, and bass fishing on the St Croix River, duck hunting and grouse hunting on the Eau Claire Lakes, Yellow Lake, Nancy Lake etc., and the whole spectrum of the outdoors.
His second marriage took place in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where Paul Skamser was his best man. Harry Nohr of Mineral Point became MacQuarrie’s second Mister President of the ODHA, Inc. Mineral Point’s pioneer artist Max Fernecke painted MacQuarrie in a skiff typewriting.
Today’s sports writers describe him as one who could take “the type of hunting available to the common man and turn it into a setting of joy and grandeur”
He had an “uncanny ability to make us want to join him in that icy November duck blind watching canvasbacks and bluebills slash into the decoys”.
He “probably could have brought a smile to your face or a tear to your eye if he had written about paneling his basement”. A “masterful storyteller”, he “described his duck blinds and hunting sites in terms of what those places could do for your soul”.
As the first fulltime sports newspaper outdoors writer his award-winning writing style helped raise the level of the entire field.
He authored articles for national outdoor magazines as well as the newspaper, and his collected stories were compiled into books like Stories of the Old Duck Hunters and Other Drivel. MacQuarrie’s contributions were cut short by a fatal heart attack at the age of 56.
He was the first communicator inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame.
In 1993, he was named one of the 100 Distinguished Alumni of the University of Wisconsin- Superior.
In 1998, he was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame..
In 2000, the University of Wisconsin renamed a Douglas County wetlands the Gordon MacQuarrie Memorial Wetlands.
In 2003, he was awarded he Council of Wisconsin Writers Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award, an Outdoor Writing Award
His MacQuarrie Foundation became part of the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters. The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters annually awards the Gordon MacQuarrie Award in his memory for “distinguished contribution to and achievement in environmental communication.”
His biography was published by Keith Crowley : Gordon MacQuarrie: The Story of an Old Duck Hunter .
In a time when it was unpopular, he promoted causes of wildlife management, conservation, and environmental sociology. He was the first journalist to fearlessly write about wildlife conservation issues being influenced by a friend, Also Leopold, author of The Sand County Almanac, and the contemporary writings of Sigurd Olson.
Although MacQuarrie's yarns were written more than a half-century ago, they continue to speak as eloquently of the joys and sorrows of the average duck hunter as any works of American sporting literature