In July, 1934, Ted Eliot, a high school teacher and writer, was traveling by train from Longlac to Port Arthur. When the train stopped in the bush just south of Beardmore, Ontario, to pick up a prospector, Eliot chatted with him. Eddie Dodd told him about some “French armour or Indian relics” he had found on his claim.
Thus began a saga which is still unfolding.
In September, 1937, the Royal Ontario Museum sent an academic to examine the site of the discovery. ROM had already authenticated the artifacts as genuine Viking relics. Dr. T.F. McIlwraith made an inspection that may have lasted an hour or two. He found Eddie Dodd to be a credible witness.
A controversy erupted, reported in the national media. Dodd’s credibility was vigorously attacked. Another “owner” of the relics stepped up, claiming that Dodd had stolen them from the house he rented to Dodd in Port Arthur. Academics and researchers leapt into the fray.
In the 1940’s, the controversy died down, only to erupt in 1956 when Maclean’s Magazine and the Toronto Globe and Mail revived it.
In 1966 ROM issued a booklet titled The Beardmore Relics: Hoax or History? It reviewed the history and the controversy, and stated that “opinion leans strongly towards the view that it was a hoax”.
However, the last paragraph also allows “the possibility that Norsemen did reach the central area of North America”. It goes on to say, “Perhaps some day unequivocal evidence will be uncovered to support that theory. At present, there is none.”
None had reported visiting the site since the 1930’s.
There were few clues in the historical record to guide Lavoie in his search. At different times, he enlisted people to conduct a grid search pattern. One clue was the fact that Dodd had a cabin in the vicinity. Robert Coté, who had been a key person in the search, reported the ruins of a cabin he had found while hunting. It proved to be Dodd’s cabin.
On November 17th, Lavoie came upon a promising location. It was not the foot of a rocky “knoll” which Dodd had always described as the site of his workings. It was the foot of a small cliff in a long sloping hill.
Lavoie immediately contacted Coté, and together they examined the site. Coté, a prospector, agreed that the site conformed to all available evidence.
In a rather feeble effort to provide some protection for the site, Lavoie staked a claim that day that encompassed the cabin and the site.
Lavoie made some moves to encourage a modern, full-scale archaeological examination of the site, and received little to no encouragement.
Today the relics supposedly repose in the Royal Ontario Museum. When Lavoie asked to see them many years ago, no one knew where they were, exactly. In the case of the sword, it had apparently been co-opted to serve in a generic exhibit of Viking artifacts. No one knew where, exactly.
The Last Re-Discovery
In the summer of 1999, a huge fire swept through the forest east of Lake Nipigon, burning some 30,000 hectares. It wiped out the vegetative landmarks in the area where Dodd claimed he had found the relics.
In the fall of 2009, Lavoie set out to re-discover the site. Using notes he had kept on the searches in 1990, he narrowed down the prospective area. One major clue was a mileage marker on the CN railway. The Kinghorn Subdivision line was slated for demolition, and in 2010, that marker likely disappeared.
The area has re-vegetated with thickly packed bushes and saplings. With the assistance of friend Dave Alcorn, Lavoie cut a trail towards Dodd’s pit and trenches, and with a lot of figuring and a little luck, hit them dead on. Back in 1990, no one had traveled the bush taking GPS readings.
The entrance to the trail is disguised in order to discourage curiosity-seekers. Lavoie’s goal remains the same: a proper archaeological examination of the site in order to determine if the relics once reposed there. Or not.
Replicas of the Beardmore relics are, at this writing, in the custody of the Municipality of Greenstone.