The Story of the Chucalissa Canoe

Visitors often ask about the canoe sitting across from the herb garden behind the C.H. Nash Museum.  Although the vessel has clearly seen its better days, visitors are still intrigued by its presence.  We knew that the canoe was here by 1990 as our current Administrative Assistant Samantha Gibbs was photographed in the vessel at the tender age of three.

Recently, former Museum Director John Hesse filled us in on the history of the canoe.  He reported that the canoe was built “by members of the staff, Bill Hancock, Preparator, Roy Young, and John Hesse. The museum purchased a large cypress log from a local sawmill in Memphis that has closed. We hauled it to the Museum in a University dump truck. We shaped it using chain saws, adzes, axes and drawknives. We cut out the interior using chain saws and then smoothed the interior with hand tools. We based the work on canoes that had been found in Mississippi and Louisiana. We left the bottom thicker to keep visitors from picking it up easily. This was done in 70″s as I remember. There should be some pictures in the files of the work in various stages. After it was completed, we hauled it to a local boat dealer and used the float tank there to see if it would float. It did float but very low in the water and empty of passengers. I think there was only about an inch between the water and the top of the side of the canoe. It took about three or four weeks of steady work to get it completed.”

Well, as John recalls, we did find some photographs of the construction project.  Take a look below!

Robert Connolly is the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Memphis.

The cypress log used to build the canoe.

Hard at work . . .

. . . or hardly working!

The Final Product

Sam Gibbs in the Chucalissa canoe at the age of 3

About robertlfs

Museums, Anthropology, Bicycles, Recovery, Cancer, Retired
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