The Scugog Marshland
The lands south of the Port Perry Causeway, which are often refered to as the Scugog Marsh, have long been a mystery to most people living in the Lake Scugog area. Residents who have lived in and around the lake their entire life, admit the owners are very private, and most have little knowledge of it's ownership and use. Today, most refer to this large tract of land and submerged swamp, simply as the Syndicate.
Early newspaper records suggest that the Scugog marshlands were a favourite spot for local sportsmen. In fact up until the 1880s it was one of the most popular spots around Port Perry for hunting, fishing and trapping. In an effort to uncover some of the mystery, we've researched the property, going back to the 1870s, when it first became newsworthy.
Aerial map shows Port Perry and the extensive marshlands
During the early part of the century, the land was predomenantly swamp and marsh, flooded by the construction of the Purdy's Dam in Lindsay in 1830. It wasn't until almost fifty years later the first indications of changes ahead surfaced. In November 1878, an application was made to build an embankment from a point near Port Perry across the lake to Scugog Island, then drain the marsh to reclaim the land. The application, made by a group of Toronto men to the Parliament of Ontario, was endorsed by local councils, and on March 11, 1879 the Lake Scugog Marsh Lands Drainage Co. was formed and the Act became law. Company members included Metcalfe Thwaite, a merchant; Joseph Fisher Eby, merchant; Patrick George Close, Esquire and Robert Armour, Barrister.
The Lake Scugog Marsh Lands Drainage Company, was given the power to construct a solid roadway or embankement from any point on the shore of Lake Scugog, not more than one hundred feet north of the present Scugog Bridge leading from the Village of Port Perry to Scugog Island, then easterly or southerly across Scugog Island into the Township of Cartwright. The act also provided for the Company to construct a similar enbankment from a point on the shore of Lake Scugog, south or south-west Caesarea to the opposite shore on Scugog Island and to drain all those parts of Lake Scugog and lands lying south of the embankments. When completed all lands drained or reclaimed up to the present high water mark would become the property of the Marsh Lands Drainage Co.
The Company was also instructed to construct a free, public roadway on top of the embankments not less than 16 feet wide, so that wagons and other vehicles could pass safely, and that it must be maintained at that width forever. They would be allowed to cut a drain of sufficient width and depth through the embankment for the purpose of draining the reclaimed area, due to water buildup from natural creeks or rain fall.
An article in the North Ontario Observer in July 1880 reported that The Scugog Marsh Reclaiming Company was about to proceed with the work on the embankment and that steps were being taken to proceed with the work without delay.
At the same time as the Marsh Reclaiming Co. was preparing to begin work on the embankment, work was underway on completing the final 600 feet of the Scugog Bridge. In an effort to avoid duplicating work, the Company attempted to take over work on the bridge from the contractor, Mr. Trennam, with plans to build the new part and repair the old in a permanent manner, so as to suit their purpose in the matter of draining the marsh.
Aerial view of part of the Scugog (Osler) Marshlands showing some of the channels
It would appear this arrangement was unsuccessful, as a report from Ontario County Council in July 1881, indicated that the work had been completed on the Scugog Bridge by Mr. Trennam.
Throughout the next two years, J.W. Codd, president of the Lake Scugog Marsh Lands Drainage Company tried to get support from the Village of Port Perry in constructing the roadway. He argued that it would be far less costly to construct a dam, for drainage purposes, and that he had been induced into a roadway by promises made by village authorities, offering assistance.
In May 1882, Mr. Codd made a proposal to the village fathers, asking that they loan the Company $10,000 by debenture, and he would agree to have the roadway completed and open for traffic by October of that year. If such assistance was not forthcoming, Mr. Codd said, he would apply to Parliament to have the Act amended so that the Company could build a dam and not a roadway.
Instead, the corporation countered Mr. Codd's offer, and suggested that if the Company would deposit $150 in the Ontario Bank, Port Perry, they would prepare a by-law for a bonus of $4,000 towards the construction of a roadway from Scugog Island to Cartwright. The Marsh Land Drainage Company agreed, and advanced the money, but the vote for the by-law, in December 1882, was defeated by 17 votes. The outcome was considered very strange, since for more than 10 years residents and business people of the village had been arguing for such a roadway.
The defeat of the by-law spelled the end for the Lake Scugog Marsh Land Drainage Company's dream of reclaiming the land in the southern most parts of Lake Scugog. The high cost of constructing a roadway, instead of a dam, made it almost impossible for the Company to proceed. The following year, in a final attempt to salvage the project, they applied to Parliament seeking an amendment to the Act which would allow them to build a dam, rather than a roadway, but the request was rejected, effectively bringing the project to an end.
With no further use for the marshland accumulated by the Lake Scugog Drainage Company, it was sold in December 1883 to a group of Toronto men, who had plans to make the Scugog Marsh into a private hunting and fishing area for family and friends.
It wasn't long after they purchased the marsh, the new owners began to post signs warning intruders or poachers to keep out with "Private Property" and "No Hunting or Fishing" signs
News of the land being taken over by a consortium of private "out-of-towners," did not sit well with area residents, in particular those who had hunted and fished in the marsh for much of their lives. In fact some members of the community, defied the posted signs, but would later feel the wrath of the owners when they were hauled into court, prosecuted and fined for trespassing.
The council of the village of Port Perry, in a letter dated October 8, 1890, requested the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario not to grant 'Letters of Patent' to the group, arguing that the effect of granting application would create an unjust monoploy to the applicants - and would exclude all other persons from hunting or shooting over the marshlands.
N. F. Paterson, clerk of the village, wrote that, "in the opinion of this council the said Incorporation is sought solely for the purpose of enabling the said applicants to enjoy an exclusive right to shoot wild ducks over the said marsh as against the public who have equal rights."
But the objections fell on deaf ears and James Baird, editor of the North Ontairo Observer wrote the following, scathing article:
Toronto Swells Buy Marsh
It appears that a syndicate of Toronto Swells have purchased the Scugog Marsh for the purpose of breeding fish and fowl, and for the foolish purpose of hooking the former and shooting the later.
They also propose to protect the game - such protection as the wolf gives the lamb. They certainly have got more money than brains if they expect that by paying a lot of money to somebody they can secure a monopoly of hunting and fishing on the Scugog Marsh.
If these would-be notables are allowed to take part with the public hunting and fishing over the Marsh they may thank their stars, but if they get impertinent over it they will be excluded entirely and serve them right.
But their mightiness are putting it on a little too thick when they put up poster forbidding trespass on the Marsh; such modesty on the part of the syndicate would melt the heart of a stone.
Trespass on the Marsh! O, my country! Will the modern Neros allow us to creep past the Marsh on our hands and knees? It is said that they intend to employ a gameskeeper who will pour all the terror of the law on the head of the unfortunate who may be found on the Marsh or Swamp.
Their bark is perhaps worst than their bite, they may bark away but if ever they attempt to bite we will extract every tooth they have and give them a free and permanent pass to their grab-all home in Toronto
There may be localities where the good natured, broad backed, easily ridden community will smile when they are sat upon, but he that imposes on this community will find he has caught a Tarter.
An article in a Toronto newspaper on October 10, 1890, described the conflict between the owners of the Scugog Game Preserve Company, or "Syndicate" and the residents of Port Perry, suggesting that the thought of losing the rights of shooting over this large tract of marsh, estimated at more than 2,000 acres, had rankled some of the sporting residents, who formulated a plan to frustrate the owners.
Henry Smith Osler, one of the purchasers of the marsh.
The newspaper wrote that an arrangement was made with several hunters to trespass on the grounds and shoot with the hope that they would be brought before the magistrates on the charge in accordance with notices posted on the lands.
It was even implied that some of the magistrates knew of the arrangement and a verdict for the defendants was hinted at. But the trespassers did not consider all the avenues open to the promoters, and a writ was issued against Jonathan Blong of Port Perry, in the High Court instead of before the magistrates, with whom the hunters had allegedly conspired. The writ claimed $500 damage for trespassing on the grounds and also asked for an injuction restraining future trespass.
Lawyers for the Scugog Game Preserve Company, recognizing that relations with the Port Perry "locals" was diminishing rapidly, suggested a letter be written to the local newspaper. A hand written letter, from the law offices of McCarthy, Osler, Hoskins and Creelman, was sent to Mr. S.G. Beatty on October 14, 1890 suggesting that in view of the peculiar nature of the trouble at Port Perry, it might do a great deal of good if a letter were written to the papers there stating the other side of the case, while as much as possible avoiding controversial matter.
They enclosed a draft letter for Mr. Beatty's consideration, which he forwarded to the Ontario Observer in Port Perry. It was printed in its entirety in the Oct. 15, 1890 edition. The letter read as follows:
I have learned with much regret that not a little feeling has been aroused in your town by reason of my recent purchase of marsh lands. I am convinced that when the public fully understand the facts of the case, this will at once come to an end and I therefor ask leave to state my position through your columns.
I am no lawyer but am advised by my solicitors that I have an absolute title to the marsh lands purchased by me and a right to preserve and protect game upon them and to prevent trespassing just as any owner of land can do.
The marsh is not fenced but I am advised that the only result of that fact is to prevent my having recourse to the Ontario Trespass Act under which a cheap way is provided for a land owner to protect his right without putting an unfortunate trespasser to the cost of a law suit.
Now if my rights are as I have stated, I think that all law abiding citizens will agree with me that they should be respected. If there is any doubt about the law and any one wishes to test it in a friendly way, I am willing to join them in bringing it before the Courts in the most inexpensive way possible, consistent with the proper presentment of the case. If however any persons persist in openly defying the law I shall be compelled to take whatever protection the law affords and I think that in so doing I ought to have the approval of the public.
I have no desire to deal hardly with anyone and in proof of this I would point to the fact that although many persons have both trespassed and shot ducks since the notices were posted in the marsh I have hitherto refrained from proceeding under the criminal law as I am advised I have a right to do, and have only instructed civil action to be taken against two gentlemen who are, I have been given to understand, well able to bear the expense. Those who are objecting to the purchase of this marsh by outsiders should also bear in mind that if I had not bought it others would have done so who would perhaps have had more leisure to shoot than myself or my friends.
I feel that I have already taken up too much of your valuable space but perhaps under the circumstances you will permit me to say a word as to the interest of the public in the matter. I have with four other gentlemen applied for a charter incorporating us as a Company but we have not asked for any powers with reference to the marsh which we would not posses as individuals. Only five are not interested and our present intention is to admit only two more, making seven in all who will have the right to shoot in the marsh. At the ouside, the charter applied for will only allow us to issue ten shares altogether.
The membership will be confined to men, who like myself, are in business and consequntly unable to get away for more than a day or two at a time and the number of days shooting to which each member will be entitled during the season will be strictly limited.
I do not know how many citizens of Port Perry have been in the habit of shooting in this marsh or how many ducks they have been as rule able to kill, but I am informed that numbers of outsiders come every year to your town to shoot, and that the ducks have been so continually shot at that they have become scared and wild.
Now, I will venture to say that the result of the protection of this marsh will be, that fewer outsiders will come to your neighborhood to shoot, and that the ducks having a safe and quiet place to breed in the close season and being able to feed in the open season without being banged at from daylight to dark will come more plentiful elsewhere about the lake, and the result will be that the sportsmen of Port Perry will be able to get better shooting than they have had for years.
A caretaker poles his way through the marsh in the early 1900s
The same week the letter appeared, a deputation from Port Perry, consisting of N.F. Peterson, Q.C. and Johathan Blong came before Reach council. Mr. Peterson, was acting on behalf of Messrs. J.B. Blong and J.M. Davis who were being taken to court for trespassing on the marsh by Samuel G. Beatty and members of the Syndicate who purchased the Scugog Marsh.
Mr. Peterson told council he had written to the Hon. John Dryden concerning the charter applied for by the Company and had received an intimation the he would oppose all such legislation.
He then referred to the action brought about by the company against his clients, and quoted from the Statues, in support of his contention, that in order to be successful in a prosecution for petty trespass the property must be fenced. Mr. Peterson also requested council lease, for a nominal sum, to Mr. Blong and those associated with him, the road allowances vituated in the marsh land, so as to give the public an inlet to the shooting grounds.
Council agreed to memorialize the Lieut. Governor not to grant a Charter to the group for the marshlands, and also agreed to lease portions of the road allowance in the 4th and 5th concession of the township running through the marshlands, and also Reach's interest in that portion of the boundary line between Reach and Cartwright Twp. to Mr. Blong at $1 per year.
Martin Luther Crandell, the Osler's caretaker, puts out decoys for the annual fall hunt
The following spring, Mr. H. S. Osler, representing the Scugog Game Reserve Co. attended a meeting of Reach council, requesting a by-law be passed to allow the Company to fence their marshland, and also to lease the untraveled road allowances adjacent to the Company's property.
Over the next few months, Mr. Osler appeared before council on a number of occasions, urging them to pass the required by-laws. Finally in September 1890, the by-laws were introduced, passing their first and second readings, but Mr. F.M. Yarnold, acting on behalf of about sixty ratepayers, petitioned council not to pass the by-laws.
A motion, moved by councillor Leonard Burnett, agreed to lease parts of unopened road in the Scugog Marsh, adjoining the property of the Scugog Game Preserve Co. at a rent of $20 per year, providing the Company granted the public free right of way over their property in the winter, in addition to the rent to be paid; and that the lease be for a period of 10 years and renewable for further periods at the option of the council.
Mr. Osler returned to council in September, once again urging the by-law be passed. He said that members of the Company had invested a good deal of money in the marsh property, and spent a considerable amount within the community, and while they are willing to do everything to accommodate the public as far as possible, it was unfair to expect them to allow a few people to take advantage of them and injure their property.
He reminded council that the assessment had been increased five times the amount it was a year earlier plus the rent offered for parts of the roads to be leased was most generous. Still no action was taken.
Finally, in November 1890, with Mr. Osler once again in the chambers, council voted on the motion to lease, with two amendments. The first was to strike the words "for a term of 10 years" and substitute "annual lease", and the second was to ad "any person may at any time graze cattle on the property of the Company and are also permitted to enter the property and recover their stock."
Voting for the by-law were Messrs. Allin and Gregg; and against the by-law Messrs. Burnett and Munro. Reeve D. McKay voted 'yea' and declared the motion carried. The By-law was read a third time and passed, and the reeve signed the same and affixed the seal of the corporation.
The passing of the by-law by Reach council came just one month before Mr. S.G. Beatty, owner of the marshland, confronted J.W. Davis and Johnathan Blong in a Toronto court with charges of trespassing and shooting on his lands.
Caretaker John Murray with retrievers bringing back ducks
THE CASE - BEATTY vs DAVIS & BLONG
The case of S.G. Beatty of Toronto, against J. W. Davis and Jonathan Blong, of Port Perry, claiming damages for trespass on Mr. Beatty's lands, and injuries to his right of sporting over said lands, took place at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, before Chancellor C. Boyd, on December 13, 1890.
The plaintiff (Beatty) alleged that he was the owner of the Scugog Marsh, consisting of lots 20 and 21, in the 4th and 5th concessions of Reach Township, and as such owned the right of hunting, shooting, fishing and otherwise sporting over the same, and that on various days the defendants, while trespassing thereon, killed and took wild duck and other game, and refused to leave or desist, though requested so to do.
Mr. N.F. Paterson, Q.C. acting on behalf of the defendents, Messrs. Davis and Blong, denied allegations of wrongdoing, and argued that the lands were, and always had been, wholly unenclosed, and wholly covered by the waters of Lake Scugog, which waters were navigable, and the lands formed part of what is known as the marsh lands of Lake Scugog, which cover over 2,000 acres. He submitted that they in common with all Her Majesty's subjects had a right to enter on or pass over the said lands for the purpose of shooting, hunting, or fishing, doing no damage to the said lands.
Dalton McCarthy, Q.C. and Henry S. Osler, acting on behalf of the plaintiff, Mr. S.G. Beatty, denied that the water was navigable, and alleged that it was for the most part shallow and marshy and was cut off and divided from Lake Scugog by a solid embankment (Cartwright Causeway) built along the road allowance between the 5th and 6th concessions of Reach Twp. They argued that the only link between Lake Scugog and the marshland by boat was by means of a culvert under the embankment in which it was possible to pass in a small skiff or pleasure boat.
Caretaker Tony Bloeman with his retriever dog "Mote"
McCarthy contended that when the level of Lake Scugog was raised about 1844 by a dam erected across the Scugog River near Lindsay, the land formerly above the lake level, was overflowed. He suggested that even if the waters covering the said lands are now navigable, it was non-navigable in its natural condition and the defendants had no right to enter upon or pass through or over the same for the purpose of shooting or fishing, or for other purposes of pleasure.
After listening to all the arguments, Justice C. Boyd reserved his decision until January 6, 1891 when he handed down his judgement stating that the defendents Messrs. Davis and Blong were wrong. He said, "the defendents (Davis and Blong) are in the wrong; they came upon the place, not for purposes of navigation, but to shoot ducks against the protest of the plaintiff (Beatty). The custom relied upon of persons or of the public going to shoot or fish in that locality year after year does not afford any defence in law agains the private rights of the owner. The fact of the place being to some extent navigable water, does not justify any interference with private rights of fishing and fowling.
Having regard to the novelty of the action, and the fact that the plaintiff has not entirely succeeded because of the issue as to navigable or non-navigable water I give judgement against the defendents, with $40, which I access for damages and costs."
The judgement is interpreted as follows:
Ownership of land or water, though not enclosed, gives to the proprietor under the common law, the sole and exclusive right to fish, fowl, hunt, or shoot within the precincts of that private property, subject to game laws, if any; and this exclusive right is not diminished by the fact that the land may be covered by navigable water. In such case the public can use the water solely for bona fide purposes of navigation, and must not unnecessarily disturb or interfere with the private rights of fishing and shooting.
Where such waters have become navigable owing to artificial public works, the private right to fishing and fowling of the owner of the soil must be exerciesed concurrently with the public servitude for passage.
View over the marshland towards Port Perry from the clubhouse taken in 2002
With the law now firmly on the side of the marshland syndicate, local hunters resisted any further urge to challenge the owners of the property, realizing trespassers would be delt with harshly. The results of the case appears to have brought an end to the two-year conflict between town residents and the owners of the Scugog Game Preserve, although the fact that the land was being monopolized by a group of non-residents wasn't entirely forgotten by locals, as the subject of hunting in the marsh surfaced occasionally.
Despite the animosity felt toward them, by some local residents, the owners settled in and began improving the property for their private hunting concerns.
In October 1892, H.S. Osler called for tenders to construct a clubhouse. Port Perry contractor Chas. Powers, tendered to do the work for $890. and was awarded the contract.
Construction of the 30'x40' two-storey clubhouse began in Dec. 1892. The house was located on a rising piece of land on the east shore of the lake, just south of the causeway, known as Hemlock Island. The building featured a third-storey tower, surrounded by windows, which provided a perfect vantage point to keep lookout across the marshlands for intruders or poachers.
The clubhouse as it looks from the lake during the winter
The original piece of property purchased by the Scugog Game Preserve Co., was about 2,000 acres, but over the years has grown substantially. It is estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 acres of land and marsh was amassed by Henry S. Osler before he died. The land stretches from the Port Perry Causeway south to the Shirley Road, and winds its way along the shoreline of Lake Scugog back to the Cartwright Causeway, then north, to just south of Caesarea on the east side, and south of Pine Point on the Scugog Island side of the lake.
The only piece of acquired lands known to have been sold, was a 50 acre parcel of Henry S. Osler's Pine Point property, which he sold to a syndicate of gentlemen in May 1915. Subsequently it was developed into a series of cabins along Pine Point Rd., most of which still exist today.
There are two separate hunting clubs which have exclusive use of the marshlands for hunting, the 'Duck Island Club' and the 'Long Bog Club'.
The Duck Island Club, leases hunting rights to approximately 1,500 acres of marsh north of the Cartwright causeway.
In addition to the marshlands actually owned by the family, they also control the "sporting rights" to another 400-500 acres of land, which is actually owned by private individuals. This "sporting right" gives them the exclusive right to hunt or fish on these properties, despite the property being owned by others.
A second branch of the family, operates a hunting group known as the 'Long Bog Club,' which controls about 700 acres of land north of the Osler property on the east arm of Lake Scugog. This land, orginally owned by Henry S. Olser, was given to his younger brother Glen Osler many years ago, and is now controlled by members of his family.
One of the more than 20 miles of man-made channels throughout the marsh
In August 1827, O.F. Cummins & Wm. H. Robinson, dredging contractors from Toronto, began digging the channels through the marsh with a specially constructed steam dredging machine, mounted on a large wooden barge.
The contract specified, all channels were to be dug out to a depth of six feet, with a width of 20' on the top and eight feet at the bottom. It took four years to complete amost 20 miles of channel, at a contracted price of $2,000 per mile.
After the work was completed, the machinery was removed and the stripped-down barge was pulled into an isolated spot in the lake, north of the Cartwright Causeway, where it still lies today rotting under the water.
The many channels throughout the marsh were dredged for the private use of the owner's family and friends, making the most remote areas of the marshland accessible for hunting ducks.
Today, the channels are still cleared each season, using much the same method and machinery they have used for decades. An old steel barge is pulled to sections of the marsh which need to be cleared, where it is secured by inserting three heavy wooden poles through holes in the bow and stern of the craft. The poles are driven into the mud, to hold it from moving, and an old wooden, v-shaped plough attached to 300' of cable, is winched back towards the barge. In the early 1900s, it took six men to turn the winch by hand, but this method was changed when Mr. Murray installed a single piston engine on the barge. As the blade drags along the bottom of the channel, it pulls the rice, lilly pads and other plants out by the roots, freeing the channel for easy navigation throughout the remainder of the season.
The old dredger powered by a single piston engine is still used for clearing channels
Henry Smith Osler was 71 years old when he passed away on Dec. 8, 1933 at his son's residence in Montreal
In June 1939, the name of the Scugog Game Preserve Co. was changed to the Cartwright Land & Investment Company and about May 1958, it was transferrred to Philip F. Osler (son of Henry Osler) and other members of the Osler family.
Philip Osler controlled the company until his death in 1992, at the age of 91 years, at which time the shares in the company transferred into the names of his children and grandchildren.
Present day caretaker Peter Overgoor patrols the channels for treaspassers
Over the past century, the Scugog marshlands have been shrouded in mystery, due to the private nature of the owners. In fact, the land has been off-limits to all but a few local people who either know, or have worked for the Osler family.
Former Port Perry mayor, Howard Hall, says he remembers delivering groceries and supplies from McKee's grocery store in town, to the clubhouse when he was a teenager. On occasion he was invited inside by the caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Murray, and recalls being told that Mr. Osler, was an avid hunter who travelled around the world in quest of game. Many of the exotic trophies from his hunts were mounted on the walls.
In an interview with Mrs. Eve Hampson, Henry Osler's granddaughter, she said that Mr. Osler didn't really travel the world hunting. In fact, he only spent a couple of years in the Sudan. His hunting consisted mainly of collecting animals and birds for the Royal Ontario Museum, which were used for display and research purposes. She says, that after a couple of years of hunting, he turned in his gun for a movie camera, and much of his footage of wild animals he shot is now stored at the Ontario Archives in Toronto.
Mr. Hall also remembers, when he was 12 or 13 years old, his great-uncle, Adolphus Wheler owned about 40 acres of land on the south-west side of the causeway, where Cashway Lumber is today. The property was partially submerged, so they often went out fishing for mudcat at night, and on more than one occassion witnessed a large spot light, located in the tower of the clubhouse, sweeping over the marshlands to keep poachers out. He said he remembers, when the light fell upon anyone who had strayed into the marsh, the trespassers would receive a stern warning they were on private property and told to get out.
Ian Beare, a grandson of John Murray, remembers the house had clubroom, which overlooked the marshland, and a large dining room on the main floor where Mr. Osler and his guests would enjoy great feasts at the end of a day, often with duck on the menu. There was also other smaller storage rooms, and a kitchen with a wood stove, from which dinners were cooked. Upstairs there were a number of rooms for their guests.
Mr. Murray and his wife Lorena, lived in an apartment connected to the north side of the original clubhouse. This was their home for about 40 years before they purchasing a house at 279 Queen St., and moved into town, after retiring as estate managers in 1961.
John and Lorena Murray outside the clubhouse
During the 1930s and 1940s many of Philip Osler's business friends, from Toronto and Montreal, would travel to the marsh for a weekend of hunting and fishing. Following a hearty breakfast, they were taken out in punts to the duck blinds set up in the marsh for the morning hunt. The blinds consisted of large boxes with marsh grass woven into the treated canvas sides, which could be easily lowered or raised for shooting or camouflage. When the sides were raised the blind looked like a clump of marsh grass. They also had single person boats called "pups," in which a hunter would stand in a small square metal box, about two feet deep. A similar woven grass camouflaged was used on these small boats
Also taken along to the blind would be the decoys, a lunch and sometimes they even took their dogs to retrieve the ducks. But most often, the gameskeeper or his helpers would collect the ducks at the end of the day with the help of their retreiver dogs. Often, Mrs. Murray would prepare a dinner of roast duck for them that evening, served in the diningroom.
During the early part of the century, the marshland would be invaded by thousands of carp each spring, which rooted in the mud and ate the roots of the wild rice growing in the water. The carp destroyed so many rice plants, there was concern for the future of the duck population, which relied on the rice for feed. John Murray constructed a carp barrier, by driving wooden poles side-by-side across some the channels to keep the carp out. About 1950, Ministry officials placed a heavy steel grill in the culverts under the Port Perry causeway, which effectively kept the carp out for many years, although these no longer exist.
Mrs. Eve Hampson, one of the grandchildren of Henry Olser says, that until about 15 or 20 years ago the family used to lease out trapping rights for both beaver and muskrat in the marsh. But when the price of pelts plummeted, trapping was no longer viable, and the practice was discontinued.
Tony and Nera Bloemen, caretakers from 1961 to 1996
A number of local men have held the position of gameskeeper, or estate manager as they are called today, over the past century. John S. McKenzie was the first to hold the position for the Lake Scugog Game Preserve Co. in 1891, and the following year, Martin Luther Crandell took over the the job, for which he was responsible for keeping poachers off the property and ensuring the channels were kept open for hunting. It is believed Mr. Crandell managed the property until John Murray assumed the roll of gameskeeper about 1911. Mr. Murray held the job for approximatly 50 years. When he retired from the duties at the Osler property in 1961, the job was taken over by Tony Bloemen and his wife Nera, who lived on the property and tended to the needs of the entire estate until Oct. 1996. Although the Bloemens no longer live on the property, Mr. Bloemen continues to oversee the management of the Osler's extensive logging operations.
Peter Overgoor and Ann Julia Bajema the current cartakers
When Mr. Bloemen retired as the full-time caretaker in the fall of 1996, the duties pertaining to the marshlands was turned over to his apprentice, Peter Overgoor and Ann Julia Bajema, who continue the traditions of the caretakers of the past century.
The Scugog Marsh, or more accurately, the Cartwright Land and Investment Company lands are currently owned by Mrs. Eve Hampson, Ottawa, who is the daughter of the late Philip F. Osler, her son Philip of Toronto, and other members of the Osler family.