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Myths & Legends

Myths, Legends and Sources

There are many great sources of the myths and legends of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere region. Many take place in the cities of Kingston, Perth, Gananoque and Brockville. Others are set in the countryside—along the Rideau Canal:Kingston Mills, Jones Falls, Davis Lock or Chaffey's Lock. The Thousand Islands have always been mysterious as well. Some of the main references are: James F. Robinson, Amazing Tales from Eastern Ontario, Thaddeus Leavitt, History of Leeds and Grenville and Don Ross, Discovering the Thousand Islands

Witch of Plum Hollow

From a few grains of tea Elizabeth Barnes (1794-1891) was able to read the past, reveal the present and forecast the future. She was born in County Cork Ireland in 1794 and came to the USA with her husband Robert Harrison who died shortly after. She married David Barnes a wandering cobbler and settled in Plum Hollow, north of Athens, west of Frankville. Elizabeth lived there until she died in 1891. 

Many people from all over came to consult Elizabeth. She helped so many people that she bacame affectionately known as 'Mother Barnes'.  She located a drowned man in a lake and knew foul play was involved. When a land owner consulted her about selling his property, she predicted real estate gains if he held it and years later it became a profitable gravel pit. She was consulted by a bookkeeper from Kingston whose job with a major New York company was on the line because the books would not balance. In a trance she saw  knife cuts on page 89 that changed figures and also numbers which had been erased on page 333. With those corrections, the books balanced. She helped the young man keep his job. Her fame spread throughout Canada and the United States. 

People should have asked her about Meyer's Cave.

Meyer's Cave
North of Highway 7 near Mazinaw Lake lies the picturesque village of Meyers' Cave. It was named after Meyers, a merchant from Belleville, who established an outpost on Still House Road. So the story goes, he became friendly with aboriginals who traded with silver. One day he plied several of the people with liquor and talked them into showing where they got the silver. They took him up the Skoot River to a cave. When they sobered up they dumped Meyers in the lake. He swam to shore but died of pneumonia later.

Another version of the story states that Meyers was a counterfeiter who had his equipment hidden in the cave and used silver 'hanging in the cave'. After many years of smuggling silver out with the aid of the aboriginals, Meyers suddenly left the country.

James Robinson was able to uncover some of the mystery by relating events of Meyers Cave to more ancient history.

Jacques Cartier, while near Lake Ontario, met some Natives who gave him 12 quill-like rods of gold to take back to France. They claimed the gold came from the country north of Lake Ontario in caves of gold and silver where metal could be picked up off the ground. 

Later, French explorers and traders found a wild and hilly country north of the Great Lakes. Local Indians wore ornaments of gold and silver.' The French couldn't find the source, but there were hints of a mammoth cave lined and roofed with precious metals. 

In the 1840s there were counterfeiters working a  silver mine in North Frontenac. They were found out because their coins had more silver content than legal tender. The men went to prison but never revealed the location of the silver. The Indians held the secret close and it became part of their oral history. 

John Smith and C.P. Meyers (not the merchant) also counterfeited coins in the 1860s. Smith died in prison but Meyers escaped and was hunted down and shot. A doctor named Young took him in and cared for him, but he died. He apparently revealed the secret of the mine before dying. The doctor's brother,his boss Mr. Poussett, and the doctor formed a mining company and tried to buy the land. The owners refused to sell at first and charged an exorbitant fee. No cave was found but they did find a vein of silver and had a profitable company. 

Then in 1891, just after Christmas, miners were working on a vein and came to a cleft choked with brush in the side of a rocky hill. They found a narrow passage and an incredible cavern. The passage had steps cut in the rock descending 100 feet to a forty foot chamber. There were tools and in a chunk of marble or quartz there was carved C.P. Meyers-John Smith-1863. There were also many Native artifacts. They found a pool of limpid water which extended into a subterranean lake and they rowed 500 feet to another platform where they found another room full of stalactites of silver, nine inches long. They sealed the cave until they could make preparations for mining. It is unclear if that ever happened. Some say Poussett and friends did go back and stripped the cave clean.  

In 1940, Reeve Harry Levers claimed he found the entrance and marked it's location but no one was able to find it again. 

Is there a subterranean lake, a lake under the surface of the earth's crust or a cave with stalactites of silver? Could it be found again or lost forever?

Lost Island

There are many 'Lost Island' stories in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Region. The First Nations people have tales of lost islands. Samuel de Champlain was a great cartographer yet he mapped huge islands where there are none. Do you think they could have sunk in the great earthquake of 1663?

Another ‘Lost Island’ story occurred after the American Civil War. It seems there was once an island near Alexandria Bay which disappeared under 20 feet of water—and no, it was not due to the St Lawrence Seaway but much earlier than that. 

One day in the fall of 1823, an old hunter rowed out to an island where he found a dead man. He didn’t want to be accused of murder so he just buried the body and told no one. About four months later he rowed out to the area again but found no island. It had disappeared. That frightened the man so thoroughly that his son kept the story alive long after his death.

In 1884 a tourist, hearing the story, decided to try to find the island. He saw an old woman paddling a canoe towards him and being the friendly sort, she invited him back to her island for tea. While there she showed him letters and other documents that told this story.

In 1820 she married a young soldier from Ogdensburg and they lived peacefully on one of the Thousand Islands. Later she learned he was a deserter but they were secure and happy on the island for years. Then, when they needed supplies, the man rowed to the mainland and never returned.  

Two weeks later a man came to her island and said he was a friend of her husband’s. He promised to take her to see her husband who was ill in Ogdensburg.  She picked up her one year old son and went with him. Just off Alexandria Bay he stopped for water at a spring on the island. He grabbed her and tried to drag her into a hut. He then tried to kill her and said her husband had been shot by the army as a deserter. But she was in a fury over this and she shot him through the head.

She went on to Ogdensburg and found her husband was indeed caught, tried and executed. Friends of her husband helped restock her boat and she returned to her island home. On her return she went by the island where she killed the man and found it had disappeared.  Was it an earthquake? Did a cave fall in and collapse the island? No one knows.

Old Moss Back
Jake Brennan was a famous fishing guide out of Gananoque Inn. He caught many big muskies some of which you can see on the walls of the Inn. Once he almost caught a fish he named "Old Moss Back". He had him on the line, fighting for hours, but the battle was lost - except for a scale caught on a barb of the lure.  The rings of the scale suggested an ancient fish—but no one has ever caught it again. Old Moss Back is waiting out in the St Lawrence for the next fisherman who thinks he’s able to reel in the big one.

Barrel of Silver Dollars
If all the stories of buried treasure in the FAB region are true the people must have been incredibly rich or incredibly careless. The appeal of buried treasure must have been great in a time when people had difficulty eeking out a living. 

In 1835 workers in a pay boat for the Rideau Canal were crossing Opinicon Lake with the payroll in silver dollars when they were attacked by pirates. Shots were fired. Knowing they were outnumbered, they dumped the barrel overboard so the pirates couldn’t get it. Foiled, the pirates left. Later the crew came back for the barrel but couldn’t find it. The silver remains lost forever.

Westminster Park Gold
During French and Indian Wars the defeated French sought refuge on Wellesley Island near Poplar Bay and the former site of the 1914 Hotel Westminster. They buried a ‘vast sum of gold and other priceless artifacts’.  Only one Frenchman escaped and he handed down a map to his decendents. It was last seen in 1914. (That must have been good publicity for the hotel.) 

Another story has Captain Kidd, the infamous pirate sailing up the St. Lawrence River to Wellesley Island and burying his treasure at the site of two poplar trees.

Main Duck Treasure
To find Main Duck Island, you have to sail into the heart of Lake Ontario off Kingston. It’s a place of many a shipwreck because the shipping channel is on its south side. That side of the island is treacherous because of shallow shelves of limestone holding huge boulders of granite. Incredibly beautiful and very deadly for ships lost in a storm. 

In 1760 two French ships floundered on the shelves off Main Duck. Survivors limped into the natural harbour in the centre of Main Duck. They buried a chest of gold for safekeeping. They knew they had little chance of rescue so they dug graves for the crew and one by one, as they died of cold and starvation, they buried the dead until one man was left standing. His skeleton was found far from the other graves years later. The gold has never been found.

Lockmasters' Treasure

 At Davis, Chaffey's and Jones Falls Locks the paymasters are said to have kept out some of the silver that was the pay of the workers for "safe keeping".  They buried it near the lock stations but had to flee to the U.S. when they were found out.  They never were able to return and the whereabouts of the gold remains a mystery.

At Davis Lock a tale involves Mr. Davis who sold the land for the lock. Landowners were paid in gold coins. Mr. Davis was carrying his sack of gold when he suddenly took ill.  He hid the money but died before he could reveal its hiding place. No one has seen it since and if anyone could find it surely would be the lockmasters. Their family has been lockmasters for generations since the Rideau Canal became a pleasure waterway.

 

Ghost of Cedar Island
In 1840, Robert James worked on the Cathcart Redoubt on Cedar Island. The island workers lived at the site six days a week but had shore leave in Kingston Saturday eve to Monday morning. He met and fell in love with a woman named Elizabeth in Kingston. He died coming to see her one rough weekend eve and she spent the rest of her days watching for him from the promontory at Fort Henry. She has been seen as a ghost on Cedar Island frequently.

On September 12, 1846, a strong wind was blowing as Robert and the other workers headed for shore. The boat became unbalanced and tipped out 23 men into the cold lake. Seventeen drowned including Robert. Elizabeth refused to  believe he was gone and spent the rest of her days watching for him from the promontory at Fort Henry. She passed away one cold day on the Fort Henry promontory. 

After the Martello tower was completed on Cedar Island, soldiers stationed there talked of a beautiful lady, who appeared and disappeared mysteriously. Picnickers and boaters also reported seeing Elizabeth—the Ghost of Cedar Island. Is she still visiting the island waiting for Robert to return?

Ghost of Barriefield

Marks Tree, a beautiful elm tree was in a meadow near St. Mark's Church. Hundreds of local people including the minister saw a ‘tree-dwelling spirit’. It is said to be a funny, malicious ghost who threatened anyone who came near the tree. It was guarding the tree until its namesake, Colonel Marks returned. One night it went from the tree to the belfry, ringing the bell, and back to the tree several times. The people thought it might be someone tricking them so they kept watch all night. There was no one but the bell rang. When Colonel Marks returned, the ghost vanished never to return.


Sea Serpent


Monster eels, giant snakes, dragons and huge fish; every kind of scary sea creature has been spotted in the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. 

in 1805 four local men were fishing between Kingston and Black Lake, now in New York State, when they saw an overturned rowboat. As they neared the boat it started coming towards them. They realized this was a giant snake and they rowed for their lives to the shallow waters along the shore where the snake patrolled the waters daring them to go out again. The men said the snake was 150 feet long with eyes the size of pint basins and a mouth ‘frightfully large and aspect terrible”, and it’s body as big around as a barrel. 

Algonquin and Iroquois people told of a giant race of serpents or dragons in Lake Ontario. French explorers such as Pierre Radisson noted the presence of giant snake-like creatures in his diary. 

In 1835 the crew of the Polyphemus reported seeing an eighty-foot snake in the waters off Kingston. In September 1881 a twenty-foot creature was spotted in the Rideau Canal by the crew and passengers of the steamer Gypsy. 

The one-eyed "Kingstie" seen numerous times by Indians, early explorers and pioneers, basking off Snake and Wolfe Islands, was last seen in 1935.

So what is the explanation—too much ale? Eels migrating from the Atlantic and growing remarkably? Giant hoaxes? Let’s take a look at the last explanation.

In 1934 near Kingston, a quiet, calm evening on Cartwright Bay was shattered by screams of terrified bathers. A strange creature came out of the depths and was spotted for several weeks. Finally a group of adventurers went to do battle in a small boat. The creature reared its ugly head and one man with a rifle tried to shoot it but he forgot to bring ammunition. So the group rammed the creature with their boat and declared it to be dead. Unfortunately, its demise was miscalculated as it appeared again for most of that summer.

Thirty years later, three men who were at school in Kingston at the time confessed that they had made the monster with barrels filled with sealed empty bottles anchored to the lake bottom. They raised and lowered the head with a smaller rope. Perhaps Frosh Week could learn a thing or two from the past. 

Pirate Bill Johnson

Pirate Bill Johnston was a grocer in Kingston but during the war of 1812 he was courting an American girl. The British accused him of spying so he became a U.S. sympathizer and guided their ships through the islands.  During the Patriot War, he burned the Sir Robert Peel, a boat from Brockville and plundered the valuables.  He withdrew to his stronghold on Fort Wallace Island.  In 1838 at the bloody battle of the Windmill, east of Prescott, Bill Johnson escaped but later was tried by the Americans who didn't want to be seen to be involved with the 'patriots'.  He gave himself up rather than starve on an island in winter. He spent a year in Albany jail then he served his sentence in an unlocked cell in Clayton, a folk hero in his own time.  Later he was lighthouse keeper on Rock Island off the south shore of Wellesley Island, New York.  His exploits are commemorated in David Archibald's 'The Pirate's Perilous Daughter', a 2003 musical.

Walt Whitman at Bon Echo
Walt spent his time at a cabin across from Echo Rock. After he died, he appeared to people on the huge chiff face.

The Banshee of Kingston Mills

In June 1930, on a hot summer day, visitors to Kingston Mills Lock were alarmed when they heard banshees groaning and sobbing in the marsh. The sounds happen when the sun is high and the marsh is full of water. Many people heard the sounds over the years but no one could find anything that caused them.

The legend of the Banshee started when the Rideau Canal was being built and Irish people settled near the lock. They brought with them supernatural beliefs and the ‘Bean-Sidhe’ who mourns over the death of a good or holy person was one of those beliefs.

It is possible the marsh clay dried up around the cattail roots and the air burst out of them causing groaning noises.  

Smugglers
Smuggling has taken place in the Thousand Islands since there were borders.  The Horse Thief Trail took horses south and beef north during the war of 1812 and remains of it can be walked on Hill Island. 

In the Prohibition years, fast runabouts with names like Miss Behave stowed bottles in secret compartments. These same boats can be seen as pleasure craft on the river today and in the Clayton Antique Boat Museum in NY. The boats had hollow places under the floorboards to hide liquor. Naturally, if the boat was stopped, bottles would fly over the side. The cottage on Mink Island has a cement closet with a vault door as well as a secret room under the dining table accessed through a trap door under the rug. Smuggling continues to the present and everyone in the area has their own tales of night runs and vices in the woods that say things like, "Just move along, son". 

Black Cattle and Gold

William “Billa” LaRue came to the Thousand Islands as one of many loyal to the British crown. He settled on the banks of a creek that tumbled in a series of falls into the St. Lawrence, about five kilometres west of the landing that served as a port for the village of Mallorytown. LaRue’s income depended largely on the output of the flour and grist milling; the remainder of his land was too hilly and rocky for much more than gardening. He did have, however, a number of nut trees on the grounds near his big, two-story log house and barn.

The LaRue mill was an important part of the community. Farmers would otherwise have to take their grain a considerable distance to have the grinding done. During the War of 1812, the production of the flourmill went to the military for a time, and it was considered necessary to protect the site. Rifle pits were manned where La Rue Creek’s last set of rapids froth into the river.

Billa LaRue’s enterprise netted him a considerable income over the years. Apparently he kept his savings in the form of gold, but hid it away even from his family. When on his deathbed, LaRue’s wife pleaded with him to reveal where the money was, but he would not. Instead he gazed out the window, across the grounds to where his children were buried, and proclaimed that was where his treasure lay.

Some people, and probably Mrs. LaRue included, couldn’t decide whether the treasure was buried on those grounds in a literal or figurative sense, but took up their shovels in efforts to find out. A lot of earth was turned, but nothing was ever found. One evening, however, a group of locals were determined to get to the bottom of the matter. An account of the event is recorded in The History of Leeds And Grenville, published in 1879 by Thaddeus Leavitt, then editor of the Brockville Recorder. The wording is so delightful that it would be a shame not to recount it verbatim.”

“On a bright moonlit night, I, in company with three other men, left he Village of Mallorytown and proceeded to the vicinity of the old LaRue Mill, near the upper dam. We had provided ourselves with a witch-hazel diving rod, a goodly supply of shovels and picks; in fact, all that was necessary for an enterprise of such  character. All were in the best of spirits. And as the night was charming, we proceeded to the vicinity of the house, where Billa had resided, determined, if possible, to probe the secret to the bottom. We were under the guidance of an elderly gentleman, who claimed to be an expert in such matters, and had carefully instructed all engaged as to their duties. One command was imperative, viz: that from the moment the spot was indicated by the divining rod, not a word was to be spoken, happen what might. A short distance west of the house is the family cemetery, and in that direction we cautiously proceeded. The moon shone clear and bright through the pines on the overhanging cliff. Suddenly our director paused, the witch-hazel turned slowly in the direction of mother-earth. Retiring a few paces, our leader adjusted the rod and moved forward, with precisely the same result. Evidently the secret had been solved and we were about to become the happy possessors of the long sought gold. Striking a circle, having a radius of about twelve feet, we removed our coats and proceeded to dig. How long we continued I know not, so intent were we upon our task. Gradually the sky became overcast with clouds, one by one the stars faded away, the moon disappeared in the vault of night, the wind sighed mournfully through the pines, yet not a word was spoken; darkness came down upon us like a great pall, our nearest co-labourer was only a spectre in the midnight gloom. Then came a rush of the blast through the overhanging trees, the blast was of icy coldness and penetrated the very marrow of our bones, though our bodies were bathed in sweat from out almost superhuman exertions. There was a trampling upon the earth in the distance, as if the guardian spirit of the treasure-trove was marshaling all his cohorts to hurl back the audacious invaders who had thus dared to desecrate his domains and snatch away the glittering coin confided to his care. The excavation we had made was conical in shape, the centre being at the lowest point. When suddenly there rang out clear and distinct in the night air, a sound which proclaimed that the pick had struck a metallic substance. A few shovels full of earth were thrown off, when with our hands we felt that we had struck upon what appeared to be a smooth flat stone or piece of metal; we have always believed that it was metal from the ringing sound, which it gave forth.

Redoubling our exertions, we removed the earth at one side, where we inserted a crow-bar, the point below resting upon some substance which formed an excellent fulcrum, and which we concluded was the box containing the coveted treasure. With our untited strength we slowly raised the covering, when in an instant we were surrounded by innumerable creatures, trampling up to the very edge of the circle. We could but distinctly distinguish the forms of the new comers, but to my mind they appeared to be black cattle, and judging from the trampling, their number must have been thousands. We hesitated—a great fear came upon us, which I cannot describe—and, with a single impulse, we dropped the crow-bar, and ran for dear life. Beyond the house we came out of the ravine, near the new mill, where we paused. The moon was sailing majestically through an unclouded sky; the stars shone as brightly as when we first entered upon our task. We paused and consulted, and at last decided that imagination had got the better of our senses, and that we would return to our work. This we did. We found the excavation, the coats lying on the ground, the crow-bar, shovels and pick-axes, but not a sign of the flat stone or metallic covering at the bottom of the pit which we had dug. Our leader sorrowfully shook his head, and declared that future efforts would be to no avail, as the treasure had been moved. We gathered our implements, and departed for Mallorytown, fully resolved that in the future other searchers were quite welcome to secure the hidden gold left by Billa LaRue.”

Swimming Car
About 1900, there was farming on many of the Thousand Islands. The people lived there year round and had to last out months of poor weather with sleds or boats.  On Ash Island, a farmer bought a Ford Model A.  There was one road that ran down the middle of the island through the farm. It would have been about one kilometre long.

To pay back misdeeds of the farmer, a group from the mainland drove the car around the island and sent it off the cliff on the west end. It's still swimming with the fishes. 

Fiddler's Elbow
Blind fiddler, Chauncy Patterson and his son rowed from Alexandria Bay, New York to play for Visger's tour boat as it passed the Ivy Lea area in the evening. That would have been about 15 kilometers in rain, wind and dark of night. Chauncy was such an amazing violinist that he charmed the tourists. Visger also arranged light shows at night with lanterns hanging on large wooden shapes. There was one such shape in a shed on Calumet Island off shore from Clayton, NY. Visger also took passengers to the Ivy Lea Inn, which is still there at the Ivy Lea Club. 

Brown's Bay Wreck

For years, local kids swam around and ‘cannon-balled’ into the river from the timber sides of an old wreck that lay on the sandy bottom off Patterson Point, on the west side of Brown’s Bay Park. The hulk had probably lain in those shallows for a century before it came to the attention of archeologists. This proved to be an exciting find! It was raised, soaked in preservative baths and housed in a display building at Mallorytown Landing in St Lawrence Islands National Park—now called Thousand Islands National Park.

While souvenir hunters and shifting river ice had pried some of the hull timbers free, and the decks were completely gone, enough of the hull remained to track down its origins.

From the dimensions and construction details, it was soon obvious that this was a British gunboat, from the time of the War of 1812. The original planking of the hull, for example had been done with copper nails, as navy specifications would have demanded, but later repairs were done with iron nails, since by 1829 builders knew that this type of fastener would last the life of the hull in fresh water. Although hundreds of ships, of all sizes and types, had been built by both sides for the war effort, very few examples survive, even as wrecks. A search of the records kept by the Royal Navy seemed to narrow the list of possibilities down to the H.M.S.Radcliffe. This was the last boat listed as built at the Kingston naval shipyard, completed March 31, 1817, just a short time before the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817 was signed. The terms of this treaty limited the number of armed ships that both Britain and the United States could operate on the Great Lakes. As it was no secret to either side that such a treaty was being negotiated, shipyards rushed to complete and mothball whatever vessels they could. Fortunately, this turned out to be a lasting peace, and the ships and boats were never needed for service again.

Smaller boats, like the Radcliffe, could be very serviceable workboats in these local waters. They say records show that the Radcliffe was kept and maintained at the naval yard for a few years, with planks and timbers replaced as needed. Interestingly, while other vessels were eventually listed as surplus, sold or destroyed, this particular boat simply disappeared from any list. If this is indeed the Radcliffe, it somehow wound up out on the river to continue its life as a workboat. A few modifications were made to the original structure to make it better suited to its new role. Since the new owner wouldn’t have had a large crew to row the ship to windward, a centerboard truck was cut into the hull, just beside the main keel. This allowed for a centerboard, which would be lowered to keep the ship from side-slipping when sailed upwind, but raised when in shallow water. Deep scars and gouges on the surface of planks inside the hull suggest that this boat saw rugged use, probably carrying cargoes of lumber, rock, barrels and livestock as it was worked through the islands on the river.

 

Murder on Maple Island

 For the people of  Clayton, the incident had all the ingredients of a good mystery. It was the early part of the month of June in 1865, and there were as yet few people living in the region, let alone spending summers on islands. A stranger was sure to be noticed right away. The man rowed over from Gananoque in a skiff and took a room at a hotel in Fisher’s Landing. He spent a few days exploring the Islands and fishing, keeping pretty much to himself. Recalled one local man in the sleuthing of the events that were to follow, “He was about 30 years of age, with black hair, eyes and beard, well dressed, very uncommunicative, dark as a Spaniard, and very restless.”

No doubt there were some that warmed to the stranger when he employed a few carpenters to help put up a cabin on Maple Island, a little to the north and east of the village of Clayton. The cottage was built on a bluff and had a good view over the river, but was itself screened from view from the water by bushes. The work was done in short order, and again the man kept to himself, with just his books and a violin for company.

One night, there was an orange glow across the water over the island. People in the area assumed there was a fire, but figured that the man would have escaped and that he would show up at the village the next morning. When he didn’t arrive, a party went out to see what had happened. What they saw set the whole village to talking. The man had been murdered. His throat had been slashed and there were cross-shaped knife cuts in a triangular pattern on his chest.

Now as it happened, a week before the murder several men, assumed to be southerners by their accents, had been seen around various hotels in Clayton. Interestingly enough, they had set out by skiff supposedly for Alexandria Bay, the evening of the murder.

The cuts on the dead man were recognized as a sign for the secret society, the Knights of the Golden Circle. The most popular theory floated in the Islands was that the stranger was none other than the Treasurer of the society, a man named John A. Payne, who had made off with $100,000 of the blood money paid to the society for the assassination of President Lincoln. It appeared that Payne had been hunted down and killed for running out on the society. The murder was never solved and exactly what transpired that night on Maple Island will never be known.

This story was recorded in The Picturesque St. Lawrence, written as a souvenir of the Thousand Islands by J.A. Haddock in 1895.

Chimney Island

In 1799, a handsome Frenchman, possibly a nobleman, and his beautiful Indian wife, some say a princess of a tribe to the west, moved to the island east of  Mallorytown Landing where a lone chimney now stands. They built a log cabin and offered hospitality to passers-by on The River. Their cabin hosted a wealth of furnishings in an otherwise rustic environment. 

On October 25,1800, Enoch Malloy and Joseph Buck were hunting along the river and found the island in a mass of flames. As they came around the south side of the island they found a half burnt canoe adrift carrying the body of the Frenchman with a tomahawk in his skull. There was no sign of his wife. 

When the fire died, the only thing left was the blackened chimney. That’s when the island earned its name.  

Thomas Sherwood, Magistrate of Brockville and Major-General Hunter, Lieuntenant-Governor of Upper Canada investigated but found no answers. 

During the War of 1812-1814 it was a British Blockhouse. A garrison of soldiers were stationed on the mainland just over the hill on the present day River Road. A causeway led to the island where there was a blockhouse similar to Fort Wellington in Prescott. The blockhouse had a terribly poor and smokey chimney, but it stood for many decades after the blockhouse was gone.  The islands present chimney was build from rubble of the other two by a Chicago steel magnate.

Ghost Light in Newboro


Just before 1700, Jesuit missionaries established missions along the St. Lawrence and converted many Algonquins and Hurons. One mission was at Morristown. The Iroquois broke treaty with the French and raided the Morristown mission and carried off a French woman named Hendry. They took her through Brockville and on to present day Newboro where they settled for the night unaware they were pursued by Algonquins and Hurons. 

“As the night breeze moaned through the tall hemlocks and the pale moon hid behind a dark cloud, the air was rent with hideous screams, as the pursuers, decked out in warpaint and tomahawks raised high, rushed in to attack the camp.” (James F. Robinson) The Iroquois killed the French woman and were in turn killed.  

All were buried in the morning with Mrs. Hendry in a separate grave. Local legend is that a bright light guards her grave. The light was seen from her grave between 8 and 9 p.m each night thereafter. The ghostly light started at the earth, the size of an apple and grew to about three feet across, went up in the air then diminished and descended back into the earth. After about 1900 the light was not seen again.

Duels

Kingston's 1st duel was in 1795 when Peter Clark, Chief Clerk of Upper Canada Legislative Council, was killed by Captain Sutherland of the 25th Regiment of the British Army.  

The last duel in Upper Canada was June 13, 1833 near Perth on the banks of the Tay River.  Robert Lyons called out fellow law student John Wilson who made derogatory remarks about Lyons to his fiancee Elizabeth Hughes who then broke off the engagement. The men fought with fists to a stand still but Lyons, unsatisfied demanded to settle the issue on the ‘field of honour’. They fought back to back with loaded pistols. They turned and missed. When they tried again, Lyons was shot through the heart.  

Wilson and his second gave themselves up to the authorities in Brockville. They were found not guilty on the grounds of self-defense. Wilson was called to the bar in 1835. It is uncertain if Elizabeth Hughes married Wilson or she became a nun. 

Today, you can visit Last Duel Park and see the pistols in the Perth Museum.

The Lost Channel

In 1760, during the England/French Seven Year War, the English were in control of most of the territory except Fort De Levis on an island near present day Prescott. The English had the upper hand and went in for the kill, with a three pronged attack from the Quebec, Lake Champlain and Oswego. The force from Oswego was 10,000 men with two war ships,the Onondaga and the Mohawk and a few hundred bateaux and small boats. 

However, on their way, the Onondaga went in a more northern channel and as the sun set, the wind died, the French and allies ambushed them from the islands. The Onondaga was lost in the islands and under fire near the present day Thousand Islands Bridge.  The captain sent a bateaux to ask the Mohawk for help in finding a passage then opened fire on the French and the Mohawk drifted into safety. The French and Huron withdrew but the bateaux was never seen again. 

Several years later a small sunken craft, with Onondaga painted on the stern, and thereafter the passage was called 'The Lost Channel'. 

Elizabeth Barnett-Heroine


In 1838, Elizabeth was visiting friends in Clayton when she overheard plans to attack Gananoque.  She bravely crossed the frozen St. Lawrence River to warn the town.  The town prepared with liquor, guns, men and horses scouting out the American's progress.  It was bitter cold but the ice was unreliable and some men and horses were lost.  The scouts concentrated their efforts at Hickey Island, close to Grindstone and found there that the Americans abandoned their plans.  Two towns full of friends were saved by a heroine.

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