Our Mission is: "To continue the over 100-year presence of family heritage, culture and rich human tradition on Isle Royale; to assure the preservation of historic family dwellings; to enhance the experience of NPS staff and Park visitors by serving as authentic links to Isle Royale's rich human history."

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By David C. Barnum

Westy Farmer and the lapstrake given to him by his grand father

Westy Farmer once said “I’ve had the loveliest boyhood any fellow could want”. He was referring to growing up on Isle Royale during the summer and working at his families resort, Rock Harbor Lodge, formerly known as Park Place. Westy’s grand father was Kneut Kneutson who came to the island in 1901 and built some cabins in Snug Harbor. These cabins soon became the resort complex that is now Rock Harbor Lodge and Marina. The resort was owned and managed, first is grandfather then later his mother, Bertha Farmer. The family eventually lost ownership of the resort to NPS, but continued to manage the property until the late 1940’s.

Naturally while growing up in the water world of Isle Royale and Lake Superior Westy became fascinated with boats. He also loved to write. In 1919 at age 16 he had his first article published on propellers. In 1928 Westy started and was the editor of Modern Mechanics and Inventions, which became Mechanics Illustrated. Westy became a talented naval architect. Here is an example of one of  his designs. Westy also became fascinated airplanes and designed popular home built airplane.

I can remember my dad, George G. Barnum III, speaking about Westy, who was on the other side of the island. I don’t recall if I ever met him. I do recall my dad selling the old Scout to him in 1970 for $1.00. The Scout was my great-grandfathers boat which he used for sport fishing. While growing up, I remember the Scout well. We had it stored in our big boathouse. Some how Westy managed to get the Scout down to Rock Harbor. It ended up on Mott Island for a few years. Eventually it was purchased and beautifully restored by the Bayfield Marine Museum  where it is currently on display. 

Old Scout in action and prior to restoration

I came across the book “From My Old Boat Shop” written by Westy in 1979. Displayed below are the front and back covers and the inside sleeves. 


There have been many fascinating characters on Isle Royale. Westy once said “It seems as though everybody who drew their spiritual nourishment from Isle Royale’s early days as become an achiever”.  Westy was truly an achiever who loved and cherished his island history.



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Last modified: June 28, 2007