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Who is Nessmuk?

Nessmuk was born George Washington Sears in Massachusetts on December 2nd, 1821. He took the pen name “Nessmuk” from his childhood mentor, a Narraganset man whose name meant “wood drake.” Sears learned woodsmanship and a spirit of conservation from the Native man while he was still a child. At 19, Sears left the same port headed for the same whaling grounds in the same year as Herman Melville. While Mr. Melville gained his writing inspiration, Nessmuk was only inspired to move inland! Upon his return, he and his family moved to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. He called Wellsboro his home for the rest of his life, even though he spent most of his time off on adventures.

Nessmuk’s wanderlust lead him as far as the Amazon basin, to the Midwest where he helped a slave escape into Canada, to join a Company of Bucktails in the Civil War, and to Florida where he caught malaria and never recovered. He is well-known for his adventures in the Adirondacks, writing a series of articles detailing not only his use of a lightweight canoe of his own design (against the advice of the boat builder) but also destruction of the natural resources he observed.

An early and vocal conservationist, he preached about the finite nature of, well, nature before most had considered the consequences of unfettered consumption.

He gained his fame as a writer for Forest & Stream Magazine, decades before it was purchased and merged to become Field & Stream. The articles written for the publication were compiled into his book Woodcraft, which has been in continuous print since 1884. His book advocated for people to spend time in nature as a form of recreation. This was a new concept to the world at large, who saw the out-of-doors as a place for rough men and hard families to carve out a living. Nessmuk spoke of outdoor minimalism, while still enjoying comforts, a concept he referred to as “smoothing it.” His philosophy was that comfort was in simplicity. A crackling fire, fresh coffee, and a warm meal being the apex of comfort.

While his admonition of destructive use of the environment did not always garner him friends, he was so well-loved and respected that upon his passing, his readers raised the money for the headstone that still marks his final resting place.

The man who had become Nessmuk left footprints all over the region where our store resides, a few short miles downstream from the site of his famed “Winter Camp.”

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