Visit to Campbell’s Island Home

Loons in the early morning fog

As the sun peaked over the forest canopy a golden pathway began to take shape across the still waters of Four Mile Lake. A Loon called from the morning mist and as the echo quickly faded, other bird songs filled the vacancy of the lone caller.

Standing on the shore of the little deserted island once called “Campbell Island” just over 100 yards from Sam Campbell’s island home, the peace and tranquility of the Northwoods was over whelming. I had longed for this morning for many months and to finally be here, was almost too good to be true. Yes, I had been here before, but this time I would have almost a week of un-interrupted access to the place Sam called home. The Sanctuary of Wegimind was a place he went to find himself from the rat race of city life and to film the animals he so loved so dearly.

The “Campbell Island”

Cabin on the Mainland

This first morning we visited the original Campbell cabin on the main land, as well as to see the door frame where the famous “Inky” the porcupine had chewed away at the door post. The only adjustment to his art work is that it has been painted over to preserve the wood.

In the early afternoon we did some filming on the island and as the sun lit up the cabin to warm glow our camera caught the mood and setting near the original main door of the cabin. While we were there several types of birds came to the feeders that were placed near the cabin for enjoyment. Although the campfire location on the east side of the island Sam mentions in his books is gone, it is not hard to imagine them all around the fire singing songs into the middle of the night.

Sam’s Desk

As the week slipped by, we filmed the outside of the cabin, film studio, tool shed, boathouse and inside the cabin. We were given permission to move Sam’s sturdy pinewood circular desk back to its original location. It took 4 of us to move the solid and sturdy desk. As you can see from the pictures it really looks good there.

The Three Lakes Historical Society allowed us to borrow several of Sam’s items they have on display to make our shooting more authentic. On Monday afternoon after we were finished filming then main room and Sam’s desk, I took a few moments to sit in his chair, to look out the windows and to imagine what it must have been like to live there. The birds flitting to and from the feeders and the saucy chatter of the red squirrels filled the air. Never before had I felt so home sick for a place like this. It was during this time I began to realize how much Sam must have really loved this place and how much it truly meant to him.

Closing Moments at the Island

Our days were filled with filming the rest of the cabin. Evenings & morning brought sunsets and sunrises. As I left the island for the last time Thursday morning to head home a slight ache crept into my heart. I didn’t want to leave the Northwoods and come back to reality. I could almost sense what Sam and Giny went through each winter as they packed up their belongings and headed for Chicago and how eager they must have been to return each spring.

Let Life Begin

In a little booklet written around the summer of 1934, Sam wrote sharing about his programs this quote from “Let Life Begin”

“The Sanctuary of Wegimind, where God seems close and the truculent world but a bad dream, nestles deep in the grand forest of the North. Here silence and solitude are so profound as to be almost visible, beauty extravagantly lines the trail-sides, and the tranquility of eternity rides the breeze that sways the pines. I call it ‘My Sanctuary.’ Yet, I know that man’s true sanctuary is not a place, but that state of mind afore mentioned. And while I am sure that mental state, of peace, receptiveness, patience, free of hatred and vain striving, can be attained anywhere where one will honestly seek it. I know that the contemplation of natural beauty and grandeur is of tremendous aid.

It is to this end that I must direct all things. If I can gather on plate and film the beauty of forest and fen for the edifying of those who cannot see it personally, I want to use photography; if I can tell the sweet confidences whispered by nature to me as I glide along the silent shores of northern lakes in a canoe, I want to lecture; if I can record the tranquility and soulful joy that flows over me as I walk through the moss-carpeted forest halls, I want to write; if I can help preserve from extermination the creatures of the wildwood, that they may inspire others with their grace and beauty, and not merely become targets, then I want to practice conservation. I wish to appropriate these things to a grand central purpose, yet not be enslaved by any one of them.”

Sunrise over the lake

It is to this end that we strive to create a book and film that will not only embody the spirit by which Sam Campbell lived but also share his vision and the importance of the natural places he loved so much with others.

More Pictures

We’ve shared a number of pictures from our time at the island on our Media Page – enjoy!