|"Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans" was a CBC/ Hollywood tv show production from 1957, which starred John Hart as Hawkeye and Lon Chaney Jr. as Chingachgook.
Living in Durham Region and being a classic tv buff, I had heard that the show was filmed somewhere up Duffin's Creek at the north end of the City of Pickering, just east of Toronto.
I was put in touch with a man named Phil Ionadiss, who supplied the show's crew with food and who also appeared as an extra in three episodes. When he gave me the exact filming location I had a hard time believing it was true. The show was actually shot close to the heart of Pickering and not further out as I had been told. These days the area is a densely populated residential area.
Phil was nice enough to take me over to this location where all the show's action took place- on the old Gottlieb Farm and at Ganatsekiagon Creek, which are both located between Valley Farm Rd. and Brock Rd. on Concession 3.
I took some modern photos of the area, as well as some off the tv screen from the show's dvd release, and have compared them at this link here, which is run by fellow Hawkeye (John Hart) fan Steve Jensen. The photos are captioned so you can tell what you are looking at. The change from then to now is unbelievable. Go to Steve's site at the above link as you will love what he has done.
Most of the show was shot at 2 locations- one being at the trading post village/fort exteriors (built right on Arthur Gottlieb's farmstead), and the other being at the exact spot where Ganatsekiagon Creek crosses under Concession 3 (this area was slightly dammed up to make a pond where all the canoe scenes and Indian village scenes were shot). A few scenes were also shot down in the Duffin's Creek valley beside the local landfill site just down the road a bit. Fellow fan, Ian Macpherson, found these articles from The Toronto Star archives back in 1956 about the show and the filming location. Click here to read them.
Mr. Ionadiss told of another interesting tidbit regarding the filming site, "In the 1970's someone was digging around in the bush and found an old sacred native burial ground adjacent to the pond, about 200 metres into the forest. They filmed some scenes from the show at this spot as well." I thought that was an amazing coincidence- a tv show about Indian history in the colonization days was filmed in the exact location where actual Indian history took place.
After I learned about all this stuff I contacted some other local fans of the show and we all came up with a plan. We thought it would be cool to get an historical plaque erected at Concession 3, where the creek passed under, to commemorate the show and also the Indian burial site. We also would like to see the city change the name of the road from "Concession 3" to "Hawkeye Drive". I think this is a wonderful idea because nobody in the area even knows that the show- which is based on a classic American novel- was even filmed there, right in Canada's most densely populated area.
Soon I came up with an idea of contacting cast and crew from the series. This was no easy task, since most of them have passed away by now. I did reach Phil Hirsch (the assistant director), Sigmund Neufeld (the son and nephew of the show's Hollywood creators) and Martin Lager (a local actor who was hired in many episodes to play Indians and do stunt work).
Phil Hirsch told me about his memories of the fort and its general location in relation to Gottlieb's farmhouse. He also gave me good info. about Mr. Gottlieb. Arthur was a rich man, who not only owned the farm, but also owned the Lakeshore Studios in Toronto, where all the series' interiors were shot (they spent three days on exteriors to one day on interiors), and also did wrestling promotion.
I found Sigmund in Las Vegas. He was a nice man who gave me a true piece of Canadianna trivia. We in Ontario have all heard of "Hollywood North" (aka Toronto). Well, would you believe that his father and uncle were the progenerators of our province's capital as a movie making giant? "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans" was Hollywood's first joint effort done north of the border. They saw they could save a buck, as well as hire local talent here. The American's have been flocking here ever since.
Martin Lager told me that it was hard to find real Indian actors at the time, so they hired Jewish, Italian and Greek kids to play native roles. He recalls how all the extras were bused to Pickering from Toronto.
Another popular Canadian actor at the time was Don Garrard. He appeared in five episodes and recounts his time on the show and the Pickering set at this link from Jeff Wilson's Wolf Dog movie site.
I also thought it would be a good idea to get an aerial photo of the area as it looked back in the 1950's. I knew I could do this because I had ordered a map of Kleinburg a while back to use on my "Forest Rangers Tv Show" site. The best the National Air Photo Library could get me was an aerial photo from 1960. It clearly shows the Gottlieb farm and homestead, the fort, the roads, the creek, the pond and the dump. You can even see where Ontario Hydro cut through the treeline to prepare for the giant hydro line towers, which were erected a year later in 1961. This map photo appears on Steve Jensen's web site.
Now with all this info gathered we are asking both the City of Pickering and Ontario's Heritage Plaque Foundation to a) use names like Mohican Way and Hawkeye Drive in the naming of some streets in a new proposed residential area just north of the filming site and b) put up an historical plaque about both the show and Indian burial site on Concession 3. If you are a fan or think this is a good idea please go to each web site and email them about our requests. After all, 2007 will be the 50th anniversary of the show's release.
Visit Clayton's"The Forest Rangers Television Series" web site.
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