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Billy Magee

Ober held a deep lifelong respect for this very quiet Ojibwe man. “Of all the Indians I have known in my life, with the single exception of his older sister, Billy was the most wonderful.”

Billy Magee was an Ojibwe trapper and guide who had a reputation for being so skilled he could follow a disused, overgrown Indian trail through the forest by feeling it beneath his feet. Ober first met Billy, then in his late 40s, in 1909, when Ober hired him as one of six Indian guides to accompany him during his “3,000-mile summer” of canoeing. In reference to one of their trips, Ober recalled telling his guide and companion,“Now Billy, I want to see everything. I don't care how hard it is,” and according to Ober, “we went into places through which I could never have found my way.”

On June 26, 1912, Ober and Billy set out at the end of the railroad line at Le Pas, Manitoba, heading “toward magnetic north” on a 2,000-mile, four-month journey to Hudson Bay to explore the Canadian Barrens, an unmapped territory that hadn't been visited by a white man since Samuel Hearne traveled through the area in 1770. It was the most ambitious and challenging of their many canoe trips together.

In the 1930s Ober opened an account with Mine Centre trader Edgar Bliss, known to the Indians as “Iceman,” to provide assistance to Billy and his family. When Billy died on May 1, 1938, Edgar wrote to Ober, “Billy was buried opposite the Headlight Portage. I gave them a nice flag to hang up along side of Grave.”

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