Francis Wharton, often referred to as “Canada’s Backwoods Wizard,” was a different kind of mountain man. He lived near Little Fort, British Columbia, in the mid-20th century, but that didn’t mean he was modern. He, too, lived off the land, taking from nature the things he couldn’t afford in town.
For instance, Wharton is credited with killing a deer and, without any upper teeth of his own, fashioning a denture out of the deer’s teeth in order to eat the venison. He reportedly filed the teeth down, put them in plastic wood, and used house cement to finish the design. It was simple, expedient, and, most importantly, cheaper than trekking back to civilization for “real” dentures.
Wharton’s invention landed him in the pages of Guns magazine in March of 1960.
“[H]e has used the denture for nearly three years now, and only one tooth has broken,” Bert Stent wrote. “That was when eating a particularly tough piece of bear meat, probably the first time in history that deer teeth have been broken eating bear.”
Wharton is best remembered for his teeth, but his ingenuity went far beyond the gumline. After scaring off a grizzly with a .22 Colt Woodsman, he decided he needed a true bear-stopping weapon for any future encounters. This led to the development of his .38 Wharton Magnum, a .45 ACP necked down to .38 that required a special barrel for 1911s to handle the pressure.
He took on virtually any odd job he was offered, including fixing an expensive self-winding watch that the local jeweler had failed to repair. Wharton could and would do anything, save take one of the countless jobs offered to him from “outside”—the city.
Listen to this interview from Radio West and CBC News in which Kathy Karkut, collections manager at the Museum of Health Care in Kingston—where Wharton’s dentures are on display as part of an antique dentures collection—discusses his tale.