Lakefield Canoe Company

The history of the Lakefield Canoe Company, and its various incarnations, is a bit twisted. Dick Persson has been researching many Canadian canoe manufacturers, and has assembled this timeline for the Lakefield area builders.

  • 1858 Thomas Gordon starts building canoes in Lakefield.
  • 1870's J.G. Brown (former foreman for T. Gordon) starts his own canoe company, the Brown Boat Co., across the street from T. Gordon.
  • 1892 Strickland & Co. - Lakefield Canoe Works established.
  • 1904 T. Gordon Canoe Co. merges with Strickland & Co. The new company is called Lakefield Canoe Building & Mfg. Co.
  • 1909 T. Gordon's youngest son, Gilbert Gordon, forms Gordon Canoe Co. in the nearby town of Bobcaygeon.
  • 1919 The Lakefield Canoe Building & Mfg. Co. is reorganized after several years of struggle. It reemerges under the name Lakefield Canoe & Boat Co.
  • 1926 Charles Gordon, older brother of Gilbert Gordon, takes over the Gordon Canoe Co. in Bobcaygeon. The company is now called Gordon Boat Works & Co.
  • 1938 The Brown Boat Co. closes its doors.
    • The Brown Boat Co. which closed its doors in 1938 was purchased by George Cook who started "Sailcraft". This company was partly closed during the war. They built sailboats up to 1956 and later also tried their hand at building fiberglass boats.
  • 1938 The Lakefield Canoe & Boat Co. declares bankruptcy.
  • 1939 R.T. Bell purchases the company and its assets. The company emerged as the Lakefield Boat Factory.
  • 1942 The Risher brothers purchase the Lakefield Boat Factory and it emerges as Lakefield Boat Co.
  • 1950s The Gordon Boat Works & Co. in Bobcaygeon becomes Midway Marinasometime in the 1950's
  • 1961 Stuart Peel who had worked for Peterborough Canoe Co starts his own business Peel Marine with Walter Walker as foreman/builder.
  • 1962 Jack Richardson, the former General Manager of the now defunct Peterborough Canoe Co. purchases the Lakefield Boat Co and renames it Richardson Aquacraft, also called Rilco Industries. The company closed down around 1969.

Identification:

  • All-Wood Canoes: Nearly all Lakefield area builders marked the canoes with a model number. It would be found stamped on a thwart block or inside stem.
  • Canvas Canoes: At least for Richardson-era wood canvas canoes, the best identifying feature is the planking. The planking is unique for a wood canvas canoe in that it is full-length and tapered such that no goring is required. This is reminiscent of the manner in which all-wood cedar strip canoes are also built. So far, I have not seen this feature on any other make of wood canvas canoe.
Lakefield All-Wood Canoe Models
 Model Number
DimensionsORBIORBVFBIFBVCRMJICRMJVLSILSVLDS
14'6" x 28" x 11"020406080100120140160
15' x 29" x 11"121416181101121141161
15'6" x 30" x 11½"222426282102122142162
16' x 31" x 12"323436383103123143163
16'6" x 32" x 12"424446484104124144164
17' x 33" x 12½"525456585105125145165
17'6" x 35" x 12½"No #No #No #No #     
18' x 36" x 13"No #No #No #No #     
  • ORBI - Open Rib and Batten Canoes, Basswood, Iron Fastened, Painted
  • ORBV - Open Rib and Batten Canoes, Basswood, Copper Fastened, Varnished or Painted
  • FBI - Flush Batten Canoes, Basswood, Iron Fastened, Painted
  • FBV - Flush Batten Canoes, Basswood, Copper Fastened, Varnished or Painted
  • CRMJI - Close Rib and Metallic Joint Canoes, Basswood, Iron Fastened, Painted
  • CRMJV - Close Rib and Metallic Joint Canoes, Basswood, Varnished or Painted
  • LSI - Longitudinal Strip Canoes, Basswood, Iron Fastened, Painted
  • LSV - Longitudinal Strip Canoes, Cedar, Varnished or Painted
  • LDS - Light and Dark Strip Canoes, Copper Fastened, Varnished
    • Butternut and Pine or other Canadian woods
    • Walnut or Redwood and Cedar
Data from undated catalog marked "Lakefield Canoe Building and Manufacturing Company, Limited"

Other All-Wood Canoe Models
ModelDimensionsNotes
Canuck16' x 36" x 11"Flush batten basswood or cedar, painted outside, varnished inside
Pioneervarious lengthsWider, deeper, and more tumblehome
Trapper's Special10' x 29" x 12
12' x 31" x 12½"
14' x 33" x 13"
Painted in dull colors
KlondikeLength 14' to 23'
Beam 35 to 52"
Depth 17 to 19"
Longitudinal Strip basswood or cedar
Racer16 x 30" x 11"Custom built

Lakefield et al. wood & canvas models
ModelLength x Beam x DepthWeight (lbs)Other
Richardson Aquacraft
Tripper15 x 35 x 12572 seats, 1 thwart
Lightweight15 x 35 x 12652 seats, 1 thwart
Voyageur16 x 34 x 12702 seats, 3 thwarts
Camper16 x 34 x 13752 seats, 2 thwarts
Rilco Industries (ca. 1966)
Kiowa15 x 35 x 12572 seats, 1 thwart
Cree15 x 35 x 12652 seats, 1 thwart
Tecumseh16 x 34 x 12702 seats, 2 thwarts
Iroquois16 x 34 x 13752 seats 2 thwarts

See also:

A Real Runabouts Review of Canoes by Bob Speltz