James Oliver Curwood, born June 12, 1878 - died August 13, 1927, was an American novelist and conservationist.
Born in Owosso, Michigan he left high school without graduating but was able to pass the entrance exams to the University of Michigan where he studied journalism. In 1900, Curwood sold his first story while working for the Detroit News-Tribune. By 1909 he had saved enough money to travel to the Canadian northwest, a trip that provided the inspiration for his wilderness adventure stories. The success of his novels afforded him the opportunity to return to the Yukon and Alaska for several months each year that allowed him to write more than thirty such books. A great number of his works were turned into movies, several of which starred Nell Shipman as a brave and adventurous woman in the wilds of the north. Many films from Curwood's writings were made during his lifetime, as well as after his passing through to the 1950s. In 1988 French director Jean-Jacques Annaud used his 1916 novel, "The Grizzly King" to make the film The Bear (movie). Annaud's success generated a renewed interest in Curwood's stories that resulted in five more films being produced in 1994 and 1995.
By 1922, Curwood's writings had made him a very wealthy man and he fulfilled a childhood fantasy by building Curwood Castle in Owosso. Constructed in the style of an 18th century French chateau, the estate overlooked the Shiawassee River. In one of the home's two large turrets, Curwood set up his writing studio. Curwood also owned a camp in a remote area in Baraga County, Michigan, near the Huron Mountains.
An advocate of environmentalism, Curwood was appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission in 1926. The following year, while on a Florida fishing trip, Curwood was bitten on the thigh by what was believed to have been a spider and had an immediate allergic reaction. Health problems related to the bite escalated over the next few months and infection set in that led to his death from blood poisoning.
Interred in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Owosso, his Curwood Castle is now a museum. During the first full weekend in June of each year, the city of Owosso holds the Curwood Festival to celebrate the city's heritage . Also in his honor, a mountain in L'Anse Township, Michigan was given the name Mount Curwood, and the L'Anse Township Park was renamed Curwood Park.
"Nature is my religion. And my desire...my ambition...the great goal I wish to achieve is to take my readers with me into the heart of this Nature. I love it, and I feel that they must love it......if I can only get the two acquainted." J.O. Curwood