Thomson's Teeth?
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What three experienced, old medical doctors had to say about the teeth found with the
skeletal remains dug-up by Judge William T. Little in Algonquin Park’s Mowat Cemetery in
1956 is a particularly troubling example of the inconsistency and difficulty of understanding  
historical records, which makes doing research so interesting.
 The condition of the teeth found might be a clue to identifying the skeletal remains if they
matched up with an old photograph or someone’s recorded recollection of the person to
whom they might belong. In this case, the question is whether the teeth are those of Tom
Thomson or someone else.
 If we could question Dr. Noble Sharpe, M.D., Dr. J. C. Borleen Grant, M.D., or Dr. Harry
Ebbs, M.D., today about what they were recorded as having observed about the teeth, we
could certainly resolve the apparent differences between them but they are all dead.
 In 1956, Dr. Sharpe was the ranking medical officer in the crime detection laboratory of the
attorney general’s office of Ontario provincial government. Dr. Grant was a former anatomy
professor of the University of Toronto who was on the staff of the Archaeological
Department of the Royal Ontario Museum and Dr. Ebbs was medical director of the Taylor
Statten camps at Canoe Lake.
 In his recent book,
Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman
Who Loved Him
, Roy MacGregor tells what Dr. Ebbs had to say about the teeth in an
interview made for the Algonquin Park archives on November 26, 1975. What Dr. Ebbs had
to say may deserve added weight because he was one of the first person’s to see the skull.
 “He knew that when he’d cleared off the face of the mud-coated skull, he saw the
upper
right incisor
(the eye tooth) was missing but that all the other teeth were in excellent shape,”
MacGregor wrote from his review of the interview given by Dr. Ebbs for the Park’s oral
history project. (Emphasis added.)
 First, either MacGregor or Dr. Ebbs has confused standard dental terminology. Only four
teeth in each of the upper and lower jaws are referred to as incisors. The eye tooth is one of
the two teeth in the upper jaw called canines. MacGregor verified that was Dr. Ebbs himself
who wrongly described the incisor as  "an eye tooth.”  
  A three-quarter full frontal photograph of the skull before it was washed is reproduced in
MacGregor’s book in black and white made from a full color slide MacGregor has used in
presentations about his book. All of the teeth appear intact including both upper right
incisors. The right canine is not visible due to the angle of the skull.
  A later full frontal photograph of the well-scrubbed skull taken in Dr. Sharpe’s crime lab is
reproduced in Judge Little’s book,
The Tom Thomson Mystery.  It is missing both upper
right incisors as well as most of the lower incisors and canines but the upper right eye
tooth is intact. Obviously, some of the teeth had become detached since the gravesite
photograph in MacGregor’s book was taken and it's beginning to become apparent that Dr.
Ebbs 1975 recollection of what he saw in 1956 is faulty.
   Dr. Sharpe had several things to say about the teeth.
 “The absence of caries in the teeth (
all present except one lower molar which was broken
off
) all suggest an age less than 30. It was not possible to determine if the man was a pipe
smoker,” said Dr. Sharpe’s report dated October 30, 1956. (Emphasis added.) “The
skeleton had exceptionally good teeth with a
characteristic irregularity in the lower jaw.
Pictures were given to Inspector McDermott to see if the relatives recognized this.”
(Emphasis added.)
 Note the first big inconsistency between Dr. Ebbs and Dr. Sharpe arising, perhaps, from
the failed or mixed-up nineteen year old recollection of Dr. Ebbs, who had since the day he
was present when the skull was found concocted a far-fetched theory of Thomson’s death
in which a bullet fired from the boathouse of Martin Blecher, Jr., had entered the skull
precisely dislodging an upper right incisor before emerging from its left temple.
 Later, in a 1970 article published for
Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal, Dr.
Sharpe said:
 “The teeth were in excellent condition. They were the typical shovel-type usually
associated with Mongolians. Photographs of the jaws were shown to the artist’s family but
they were not able to help. Dental charts were not kept in 1917 to the same extent as they
are today.”
  Dr. Sharpe's vague description of a "characteristic irregularity" is frustrating. Personally, I
don’t recognize anything irregular about the teeth remaining in the lower jaw of the skull in
the photographs available today and I am doubtful anyone without years of experience
examining teeth could even try to offer a persuasive explanation for what Dr. Sharpe had to
say about them.
 Before commenting further, this brings us to the report of Dr. Grant, a summary of which is
reproduced by Judge Little in his book. Judge Little is completely unreliable as pointed out
in several essays here but Dr. Grant’s original report is not readily available today from the
Ontario government and may have been routinely destroyed years ago.
  Dr. Grant said:
 “The upper incisors though worn, show that they had the shovel shape of the N. American
Indian tooth.
Upper teeth were all present. Lower teeth were present, except for the two front
teeth (a canine and a bicuspid) which were lost lately. The 2nd right lower molar was
decayed, the others were not.” (Emphasis added.)
 Dr. Grant’s reference to the two front teeth being “lost lately” explains the differences
between the teeth which can be seen in the earlier skull photo at the gravesite that are
missing from the later photograph from the crime lab.
 I have reached several useful conclusions from this detailed comparison of what Dr.
Sharpe, Dr. Grant and Dr. Ebbs had to say about the teeth found in the skull dug-up by
Judge Little in 1956:
 The reports prepared by Dr. Sharpe and Dr. Grant taken together with the photograph
taken of the skull at the gravesite in 1956 demonstrate that Dr. Ebbs was wrong when he
said in 1975 that an upper right incisor was missing. That casts at least some doubt on
everything else Dr. Ebbs had to say about what he saw in 1917.
 Dr. Grant’s statement that the two front teeth were “lost lately” indicates, at least, that they
were missing from the skull he examined and that he inquired about them. His report
began by saying that “on a Friday afternoon in October, 1956, Dr. Noble Sharpe brought me
some bones in a large cardboard box. . . .The bones were a skull with lower jaw, the first
three cervical vertebrae, the sacrum and hip bones, the right and left femora and tibia, the
right and left humerus and radius and the left ulna.”
 That listing is incomplete because elsewhere in his report Dr. Grant says that “from the
appearance and dimensions of the heads of the femora,
the pubic bones, and the sacrum,
there can be no question that the sex was male.” (Emphasis added.)
 Consequently, it is difficult to decide if Did Dr. Sharpe’s crime lab actually lost the skull's
two front teeth between the time the skeletal remains were put into what Dr. Ebbs
described as a “Sunkist Orange box” for transport in the trunk of Provincial Police Corporal
A.E. Rodger’s car back from the Portage Store to Toronto and the time they were delivered
to Dr. Grant.
 Another
essay on this website illustrates the gravesite recklessness of Judge Little and
both Dr. Ebbs and Dr. Sharpe. That essay explains that Judge Little’s crew of three diggers
and others stole some of the casket hardware, and, perhaps, a foot bone covered by part of
an old blue woolen sock before Dr. Ebbs and Dr. Sharpe was called to the scene.
 Both Dr. Ebbs and Dr. Sharpe said they worked carefully, screening the soil for all
evidence and filled-in the hole before they departed. Dr. Sharpe said in his 1970 journal
article:
 “I must add I remember looking back as we departed the scene on that October day in
1956 and I was impressed with the tidiness of the surface. We left very little evidence of the
operation in the sandy soil; nothing in fact that one shower and a slight breeze could not
rectify.”
 If what Judge Little and Graham Matthews said about what they did and didn’t do at the
gravesite is true, both of these respected medical doctors were lying about having carefully
screening the dirt and filling in the gravesite. Judge Little said he and his friends had
covered the skeletal remains with tarpaper and refilled the gravesite before taking a leg
bone to Dr. Ebbs with news of his discovery. It was probably October 1.
 Dr. Ebbs contacted the provincial officials who ordered an investigation by the Ontario
Provincial Police.
 Matthews told me he jumped into a 3-4 foot deep hole still there emphasizing that he did
not do so until after Dr. Ebbs and Dr. Sharpe had been there and gone on October 5. In the
bottom of the hole, he said, he found the casket handle end cap and a blue woolen sock.
 I guess that I believe the two old doctors but wonder who lost at least the two upper right
incisors mentioned by Dr. Grant.
 Dr. Sharpe’s 1970 journal article suggests that Inspector McDermott showed photographs
of the skull to relatives of Tom Thomson in 1956 and that whatever they had to say was not
helpful to identifying the skeletal remains. Evidently, whatever characteristic irregularity he
saw elicited nothing useful from whoever they were shown to by Inspector McDermott.
  MacGregor’s book tries to discredit Dr. Grant’s reliance on the shovel-shaped incisors as
strongly indicative of a North American Indian tooth. While the usefulness of such evidence
appears beyond doubt, it’s certainly not conclusive.
 In other words, in summary, although we can reconcile what was said about the teeth by
Dr. Ebbs, Dr. Sharpe and Dr. Grant, we can only conclude that Thomson’s relatives who
knew him personally and were still alive in 1956 recognized nothing familiar about them.
That may be something worth keeping in mind when considering other evidence that the
skeletal remains found in 1956 belonged to Antoine Chouinard as suggested in another
essay on this website.