Ted Williams’ White Birch Lodge on the Miramichi

by Brad Burns

White Birch Lodge on the Miramichi River

Many of us who fish the Miramichi are fascinated by its history of attracting some remarkable people to its waters. At the top of that list stands Ted Williams who was not only a very high-profile personality, but someone who became much more involved with the river than simply spending a long weekend at an outfitting camp. Ted’s popularity is particularly broad based because he had two appeals. First was the bigger-than-life persona of the Hall of Fame baseball player who hit .400 or better in three seasons for the Red Sox – in spite of a career interrupted by stints as a fighter pilot in both WWII and the Korean wars. Second, though, was his local appeal to the men who worked along the river. My old guide Willy Bacso said that the local men admired him because like many of them who had worked in the woods and guided their whole lives, Ted was rough and tumble. He took no crap, cussed with the best of them, and was physically able enough to back it all up.

This September my wife, myself, and friends from California visited Ted’s camp White Birch Lodge, hosted by Clarence Curtis who is the caretaker and guide for the current owner Joe Walsh. Clarence’s father Roy met Ted as a guide at Doctor’s Island on one of Ted’s first trips to the river in 1958. Ted soon decided that he liked the river enough to have his own fishing water, and he hired Roy as his personal guide. Ted also hired Roy’s wife Edna to cook and do the housekeeping.

The Curtis family found Ted a great spot in the Rapid’s section of the Miramichi on property owned by Johnny Coughlan. Ted had a hand in the design of White Birch which has a big, high-ceilinged, open layout. Sid Travis from Sunny Corner built the camp in 1961, the year after Ted retired from baseball. Ted wanted to be part of the building process and helped by running wheelbarrows of hand poured cement.

Williams used to come up at the end of June and fished virtually every day until the season closed first on September 30, and in later years on October 15. The only guaranteed interruption to his schedule was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Cooperstown. Ted never missed it and drove the 1600-mile round trip each year to attend. At the end of the season Ted packed up and drove to his winter home; first in Islamorada, then after 1989 to Crystal River near Homosassa Springs.

Baseball memorabilia can be fround throughout the lodge.

Roy Curtis died in October of 1988 after guiding Ted every day that season until it closed on September 30. Roy’s son Clarence took over after that, and guided Ted for the next 5 years until the end of the 1993 season. Even though Ted was no longer able to come back to the Miramichi after 1993 he never stopped thinking about the river. He still employed Clarence and Edna to look after the place, and Clarence talked to Ted by phone often during the fishing season keeping Ted abreast of the fish and fishing conditions. Ted passed away in 2002, Edna retired, and her position was filled by Peggy Curtis, wife of Clarence’s brother Arnie.

Ted was one of the first life members of the Miramichi Salmon Association.

Even though Ted is gone the attachment that Clarence still feels to the camp and Ted’s memory is very apparent. When I arrived for my visit, he was picking up twigs from the lawn after a blow the night before. For Clarence, the camp is clearly a shrine to Ted’s memory.

I never knew Ted Williams, and I never watched him play a game of ball. To see the camp that he had built for himself though, with the table at which he ate all his meals – he always sat right in that corner as Clarence pointed out to me – the bed where he slept, the table where he tied flies, the pegs on the side of the house where he hung his rod, and the long row of stones that he had placed in his pool, all amounted to practically a religious experience. It all had a timeless feel, even though certainly Ted’s time has come and gone. It reminded me that the river will always be there, and it is us who get only a few seasons to fish its waters. Instead of making me feel sad, though, the whole scene gave me a warm and comfortable feeling. It was Labor Day, I was on the Miramichi, and about to spend several weeks walking in the footprints of men like Ted Williams, Charlie Wade, Seabury Stanton, Harry Allen, and many others who like me felt that there was nothing more worth doing than standing in this magnificent river and casting to its salmon.

Dr Martyn Vickers taking Ted Williams pulse while Roy Curtis looks on.

The future of White Birch Lodge
The new owner Joe Walsh is an American with roots from the Howard Road in Upper Blackville. Joe recounts his first trip to the Miramichi, spring fishing in the lower Cains River in 1972 when he was 8 years old. The river was full of ice, said Joe, but he was hooked for life. Joe’s mother’s maiden name was Katherine Vickers. His grandfather was Doctor Martyn Vickers of Bangor, who was well known as a fisherman along the river.

Joe says his plans are “to continue Ted’s memory and love of Atlantic Salmon and the Miramichi through the lodge and experiences with my daughters, my family, Clarence Curtis and Peggy Curtis.”

Like Williams, Joe Walsh loves to fish, but with his busy career his time on the river is limited. He has chosen to share White Birch Lodge with members of the public who will appreciate an opportunity to fish at Ted Williams’s camp. Visit the website at www.tedwilliamslodge.com for more information.

Brad Burns fishes frequently for Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River, and is on the boards of both the Miramichi Salmon Association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

Brad is the author of Closing the Season: Salmon Fishing in New Brunswick on the Miramichi and Cains River, and his most recent book, On the Cains: Atlantic Salmon and Sea Run Brook Trout On the Miramichi’s Greatest Tributary.

Visit Brad’s website at www.bradburnsfishing.com to purchase or read excerpts from his books, and stay up to date on local fishing through his Salmon Report.

The article Ted Williams’ White Birch Lodge on the Miramichi by Brad Burns was first featured in the 2020-2021 River Guide

9 Comments

  1. paula underhill on November 29, 2021 at 2:23 am

    My Grandfather Ben TUCKER, spoke of fishing with Ted WILLIAMS.



  2. Giv'er Miramichi on May 25, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    Yes, the Miramichi River does freeze in the winter.



  3. Brett weir on May 21, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    Does it freeze in winter ,? That’s all we care about in Canada , we want to play hockey on the darn thing .
    I imagine it’s to fast to freeze on over , guess would find a local.pond near by



  4. Patrick Walter sweeney on April 9, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    My Dad, Hazen Sweeney, who was a teacher in Chatham, had the summers off to go fishing and he often fished in the grey rapids pool just below Ted’s pool. He brought me one time and I shook hands with Ted, which was a great thrill for me. I remember Ted catching what looked like about a 12 pound salmon that day and then releasing it, which was not very common in that day. My dad always respected Ted for his casting skill and the fact that he released a lot of the fish he caught. My dad always quoted Ted as saying “making history boys” when he caught a fish.



  5. Mark Cornford on January 12, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    I was lucky enough to meet Ted back in 1987 , on my way to Charlie’s Rock crown reserve. We had stopped at Doaks Fish and Tackle as we normally did on our way. While inside ,looking over the great array of flies , I couldn’t help but notice the tall lanky gentleman to my right , dressed in green workwear , both pant and shirt , with dark rimmed spectacles , and a lanyard made of black catgut leader talking to the salesman. I bought my half dozen flies and was climbing back in the truck outside , when it dawned on me who the gentleman was. I hastily went back in and introduced myself and requested a autograph. He asked if I was a Redsox fan and not really thinking said ” actually Blue Jay’s ” since a friend of mine , Paul Hodgson was in their organization. He looked at me and said ” atta boy ” , signed my autograph and I was on my way. Once in a lifetime !



  6. Danielle on January 1, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    My grandfather, Charlie Allen, ran a small hunting and fishing store in Newcastle, just down the road from Blackville. The first time Ted Williams came into his store he tried to “cut in” to the front of the line. My grandfather told him to wait his turn just like everyone else. Rather than be offended, Mr. Williams became a regular customer and a friendship between the 2 men lasted about 25 years, until the death of my grandfather in ‘86. He still came into the store after that, to visit my grandmother and Uncle Stevie, to buy much- needed fishing supplies and hear the “tall tales” that were often told at Allen Brothers, then later at Steve’s Hunting & Fishing Supplies.



  7. Ron McLaughlin on October 18, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    I met Ted through a co-worker back in the early nineties. Winston Coughlan brought me and a few of his co-workers up to the camp to meet Ted. Very nice fellow. That was one handshake I’ll never forget. Great article and a fond memory.



  8. Alyson Coughlan on August 26, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    As a child I have very fond memories of visiting Ted’s camp on several occasions. Roy and Edna were my grandparents that worked for Ted for many years. I remember picking blueberries all day and walking down to the camp, which wasn’t far from where I lived, to sell them. Ted was more than happy to buy them as he knew nanny would make the best blueberry pie on the Miramichi. I was great friends with his son John Henry. I remember swimming in the fishing pool at the camp and Ted would get us to race to see who was the fastest swimmer. I never knew Ted Williams as the famous person that everyone knew him as, I just knew him as John Henry’s dad, guess I was too young to know any different. Even though they have all passed away now….Ted, my grandparents and even John Henry will remain alive in my memories forever.



  9. Kathy Mountain on August 18, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing. My father was also a great fly fishing man and grew up near The White birch Lodge. We always called it Teds Camp. Ted’s son and daughter were about the same age as my daughter and sometimes they got together. I remember as a child Ted William visiting my father. One summer they had a bet on who would hook the most salmon. I dont remember who won but I remember my father talking about it. He purchased my grandfathers land initially further down the river before he bought the land where his lodge sits. He was certainly well known here in Gray Rapids.



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