July 12, 1878
August 13, 1927
Curwood Castle....a romantic reproduction
of a Norman chateau.
Located at 224 Curwood Castle Dr. Owosso, MI
This photo was taken of Mr. Curwood and the castle, shortly after he built it in 1922 as a studio. James Oliver Curwood's home is on the northeast corner of Williams and Shiawassee Streets. The castle contains many of his original furnishings, copies of all his popular adventure novels and several oil paintings which serve as illustrations for his adventure stories set in the Canadian North. Many of his novels were later made into movies. One recent film that was produced from one of his novels was "The Bear", which had its U.S. Premier in Owosso.
The photo above was taken during construction of the Castle.
Jim Curwood was born in Owosso in 1878. He built this replica of Norman chateau along the banks of the Shiawassee River near his home in Owosso in 1922 and 1923. The exterior is made of yellow stucco containing fieldstones he chose himself. The roof is slate with copper trim and the structure does not contain any eating or sleeping areas. He used the great room to entertain guests, including movie producers, and the largest turret as his writing studio.
A hunter in his early years, he later became a zealous conservationist, appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission in 1926. A year later he died. He stated in his will that the Castle was to be given to the City of Owosso. It has served in various capacities over the years and is now a museum operated by the city. The Castle is open to the public Tuesday - Sunday from 1 - 5.
According to Helen Harrelson:
He was a press agent and propagandist for Canadas Department of Immigration for three years around 1908, and he did it for very low pay.
One time he got into trouble because in one novel he had portrayed a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman as not being an honest, upstanding man. There is no writing about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after 1922. They are quoted as saying, Our records contain no information whatsoever about James Oliver Curwood.
From 1908 to 1926 Curwood spent at least nine months each year in the woods. He built fifteen log cabins. His personal popularity abroad was never matched in Owosso during his lifetime.
He died August 13, 1927 of blood poisoning. Ethel, his wife, moved to California.
Jimmie Jr. was killed in a plane crash at Owosso Airport in May 1930. He had married Helen Wood of White Sulphur Springs. She lived with Ethel for a short time in Owosso.
James Sr.'s daughter Carlotta died July 23, 1990, age 87.
Curwood made nearly $1 million with only his pen...and a little imagination!
1908 The Courage of Captain Plum
1908 The Wolf Hunters
1909 The Great Lakes
1909 The Gold Hunters
1910 The Danger Trail
1911 The Honor of the Big Snows
1911 Philip Steele (Steele of the Royal Mounted)
1912 The Flower of the North
1915 God's Country and the Woman
1916 The Hunted Woman
1916 The Grizzly King
1917 Baree, Son of Kazan
1918 The Courage of Marge O'Doone
1919 Nomads of the North
1919 The River's End
1920 Back to God's Country
1921 God's Country - The Trail to Happiness
1921 The Golden Snare
1921 The Flaming Forest
1922 The Country Beyond
1923 The Alaskan
1924 A Gentleman of Courage
1925 The Ancient Highway
1926 Swift Lightning
1926 The Black Hunter
1928 The Plains of Abraham
1929 The Crippled Lady of Peribonka
1930 Green Timber
1930 Son of the Forests - (Edited version of Curwood's Autobiography)
1931 Falkner of the Inland Seas
1983 The Glory of the Living (Autobiography reprinted as written and published in England in the late 1920s)
Back to God's Country (1953) (novel)
Blood of the Hunter (1995) (novel)
Call of the Klondike (1950) (story)
Call of the Yukon (1938) (novel Swift Lightning)
The Country Beyond (1936) (story)
Nikki, Wild Dog of the North (1961) (novel)
Ours, L' (1989) (novel The Grizzly King) ... aka The Bear (1989)
River's End (1930) (story)
River's End, The (1920) (story)
Rough Ridin' Rhythm (1938)
Silver Trail, The (1938)
Snow Dog (1950)
Song of the Trail (1936)
Timber War (1936)
The Trail Beyond, (1934) (novel The Wolf Hunters)
Trails of the Wild (1936)
J.O. Curwood is buried in the Curwood Family Plot at Oak Hill Cemetery
At this time the family moved to a farm in Erie County, Ohio. He began to write stories at the age of nine and in 1891 the family returned to Owosso.
Curwood attended Owosso's Central High School until he was in the tenth grade. He was expelled at that time. However, in spite of never completing high school, he passed the entrance exam and enrolled in the University of Michigan's English department to study journalism in 1898. Today it is much more difficult to be accepted at U of M.
Two years later he left Ann Arbor to become a reporter for the Detroit News-Tribune, to cover funerals, in which he was paid $8 per week. Six months later he was fired when he incorrectly reported a name in a story about a peeping Tom.
Curwood joined a pharmaceutical manufacturer in which he was paid $50 per month.
In 1902 he was re-hired by the Detroit News-Tribune for $18 per week and remained there until 1907. He left this position in order to devote more time to his writing.
A few of his short stories were published while he was a teen, but he was not paid for these works. His first story to be sold was "Across the Range" for $5 to Gray Goose magazine.
River's End was the first book to sell more than 100,000 copies in its first edition.
In 1909, Curwood took his first trip into the Canadian Northwest. These trips would continue during the next 18 years, spending up to six months of each year in the wilderness, exploring, writing, and building log cabins.
Drawing from his experience as a reporter following the Northwest Mounted Police through the icy regions of Alaska and Canada, he wrote in the woods, under a tree in Owosso's Harmon-Partridge Park, in his log cabins (including one built along the Ausable River near Roscommon which was eventually built into a lodge), at home, and at his studio castle.
Upon his death, it was willed to the City of Owosso. During World War II, Curwood Castle was used as a youth center; the Owosso Board of Education had its offices there until about 1969 and since November 1970 has been used as museum to house Curwood memorabilia.
In 1900 Curwood married Cora Leon Johnson. They had two children--Carlotta and Viola before they divorced eight years later. In September 1909 he married Ethel Greenwood and they had a son, James, Jr. Cora was given custody of their two daughters although Carlotta lived in Owosso with her father.
Curwood was an avid hunter until about ten years before his death. While on a hunting trip in the Rockies, he saw a large bear he called Thor. He tried to shoot him three times in three weeks. One day as Thor approached him, he slipped and fell, breaking his gun. The bear reared up before walking away. Curwood turned from hunting for trophies to championing the cause of wild things.
His philosophy was to lead to his active campaigning for the preservation of Michigan's natural resources. He wanted to limit or even close hunting seasons, including the season for spikehorn deer and was always interested in stocking streams and game preserves, as well as reforestation. On January 1, 1927 he was appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission. He was also instrumental in planning and building the Shiawassee Conservation Club. Unfortunately, after his death most of the measures he had fought for were revoked.
Curwood had planned to live to be 100 by eating little meat, drinking no coffee, tea, or liquor, and exercising regularly. Instead, he died at the age of 49 on August 13, 1927 at his home.
While fishing near Venice, Florida, something bit or stung him on his thigh, in or through his rubber boots. It was first thought to have been a spider, but was never verified. According to a letter from his daughter, "He had an immediate reaction to this and was given different antitoxin in an effort to offset the reaction".
These treatments did not seem to work so Curwood had his driver take him back to Michigan. The spot where he was stung formed something similar to a carbuncle. This was lanced and treated eight times.
He called in Dr. J. J. Haviland, as he was suffering from a severe sore throat. Dr. Haviland called in Dr. Harold A. Hume as a consulting physician later when his illness became more severe. Dr. Haviland ordered complete bed rest, but Curwood, who was scheduled to testify before the State Legislature on behalf of conservation, said that his thirty years of efforts in this regard was "culminating in the hearings and that he had to go".
The infection had spread throughout his blood stream and he died a few days later.
James Oliver Curwood is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery at Owosso, Michigan.
Dorothea A. Bryant was not one of JOC's secretaries and he probably never even knew her. She was hired after his death by the Estate to finish up some things, "Green Timber" being one of them. She lived on Long Island, NY.
Green Timber was completed and published, but originally it was known as Whip-Poor-Will or A Poet--And a Sinner.
The James Oliver Curwood Cabin.
Some of the above information is from the Shiawassee District Library