Thomas Walter Edwin Sowter


number of artifacts relating to the T.W. Edwin Sowter's archaeological passion remain.  By far the most precious relic of this avocational archaeologist's activities must be the manuscript, in his own fine pen, of his 1909 publication "Algonkin and Huron Occupation of the Ottawa Valley".  In looking it over, it is important to remind ourselves that this was written at a time before whiteout liquid not to mention auto-correcting computer programmes.  A parallel reading of the manuscript and the final publication shows virtually no differences with one major exception. 

There are a number of pages, 6 in all, of the manuscript which had been marked in the margin for deletion, or at least omission from the final publication.  The text was in fact left out.  This particular section deals with "relic hunters" and consists of a virtual rant against the wanton and needless destruction of archaeological sites and objects (follow this link to read those un-published pages).  Clearly to T.W. Edwin Sowter, such rare traces of the past were to be cherished and appreciated for their ability to inform us about former times and ways. 

While those pages were never published, Sowter did make his views privately and publicly known.  For example, in a June 1908 letter to David Boyle currently in the Archives of the Royal Ontario Museum, Sowter stated that:

You may be amused at my amateurish work and crude generalizations, but down here I am practically alone in this field of inquiry and have no one with whom to compare notes. So I trust you will be patient with me and give me a little help from time to time as I need it badly. There is a lot of archaeological work to be done down here and I "feel it in my bones" that if I do not do it, nobody else will.

In the following note found in The Citizen of February 22, 1899 readers are told that during a recent lecture given before the Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club Sowter expounded upon his views of the significance of archaeological specimens and the urgency of studying them: 

The first paper was read by Mr. T.W.E. Souter (sic), of the Interior department, on the subject of The Archaeology of Lake Deschenes.  Mr. Souter (sic) gave a description of investigations made on Lighthouse island, the site of seven Algonquin villages.  There, from the redman's burying places were taken hatchets, kettles, knives, and spears of French manufacture, all reminders of the days of New France.  A skull, bones and bone instruments were also exhibited.  The presence there of the Huron Indians after their dispersion by the Iroquois was dwelt upon.  Mr. Souter (sic) impressed upon the society and audience the necessity of pursuing such investigations vigorously ere the connective links with a by-gone race should be wiped out in the march of civilization.
It is thus of considerable irony that Sowter's own collections have long since disappeared.  The late James F. Pendergast (personal communication) had attempted to learn more concerning the whereabouts of this collection from one of Sowter's sons, but was unsuccessful.  A grand-daughter of T.W. Edwin Sowter has since indicated that the collection was sold off well before the 1950's and no amount of sleuthing could relocate it.  Yet, to Sowter's credit, we know much about his discoveries from his well-illustrated publications which remain a major source of information about the ancient history of the Ottawa Valley in general and of Lac Deschênes in particular.

Click on an image below to view T.W.E. Sowter memorabilia

Drawing instruments 1909 manuscript Hand lens