Forty years ago, Susan Goodwin spotted an old canvas-covered wood canoe at a garage sale on Bainbridge Island and instantly fell in love with it.
She asked the owner if it was for sale, but he was reluctant to part with it because it had belonged to his grandmother, who had used it during her honeymoon in 1906 in Montana. He was preparing to go to law school and wasn’t sure what to do with it, so he decided to sell the canoe to Goodwin for $150.
Enamored with the canoe’s origin, Goodwin recanvassed the canoe, and boat-builder husband Andy made some structural repairs. Later, they hung the canoe upside down underneath the rafter in her canvas shop for all to see the inside of the canoe with caned seats. “I used to imagine that after we fixed it up, Chris Vick would come in someday, and he looked up and say, ‘That looks like my grandma’s canoe! Well, it never happened. He never came in,” Goodwin said.
After she closed her canvas shop in 2002, she didn’t have the heart to sell the canoe she’d grown to love so much. “I felt strongly that my canoe needed to be back in her original family.” So, she stored it in a barn, waiting to reunite it with its former owner.
Fourteen years passed before Goodwin started her search, leaving several notes with neighbors on the street where she bought the canoe. She asked if anyone knew the previous owner. When she posted her story on the Bainbridge Islander’s Facebook page, one person connected her with a woman who had lived in one of the houses. Her father was able to provide the owner’s name and suggested she check property records to get more information.
Goodwin went to the Kitsap County records office in Port Orchard, but they could not locate the owner because property records weren’t organized by street address. They referred her to a title company, which eventually gave her the name of another person who lived in the house. Goodwin searched on the MyRelatives.com website and found a list of all the people who had lived at the property. That’s when she saw a familiar name.
After a quick Google search, Goodwin found her man. Vick was an attorney in Seattle. Soon after, she connected with him and explained that she had his grandmother’s canoe and wanted to sell it back to him if he wanted it for the same price of $150.
It would take a few more years to return the canoe to its new home because Vick donated it to the Charles Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell, MT, the family home where his grandmother grew up in the town her father founded. Vick was instrumental in donating the mansion to the city of Kalispell.
COVID added another delay until July 22 when Carrie Nelson, a board member of the Charles Conrad Mansion Museum, arrived at the Goodwin farm on BI with a horse trailer to take the 16-foot canoe back to Montana. Nelson was happy to see that “this key piece of history was coming back to the mansion because this was the canoe that Alicia Conrad used during her honeymoon trip with her husband in 1906.”
“The mansion is a special place. But, it’s kind of fun when these little things come trickling back, and there’s a story to it,” Nelson said.
Goodwin hopes the canoeing community in Flathead Lake can finish the canoe before it goes on display in the museum. “I’d like to be a fly on the wall when Chris Vick sees his grandma’s canoe for the first time because he obviously was very close to his grandmother, and it will mean something to him.”