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Scugog's Dark Side

Mother and daughter drown
after boat tips in Lake Scugog

One of the saddest drowning deaths reported during the early development of the area, was that of 30-year old Ann Cornish and her three-year-old child.

Newspapers reported that on Friday, July 22, 1869, Mary Aldridge, Ann Cornish and her child, arranged for a man named Gregson to row them from the village of Caesarea to Scugog Island, a distance of about two miles.

The lake was much rougher than they expected and when they had travelled about one mile from the shore, the young women became alarmed and suddenly rose from their seats. In doing so, the small boat upset sending all occupants into the water.

John Watson and James Demara were in a boat near the shore at the time of the disaster, and hearing the cries coming from the capsized boat, immediately pulled for the spot. They fortunately arrived in time to rescue Miss Aldridge as she rose to the surface for the last time. Mr Gregson was found clinging to the bottom of the capsized boat and was rescued, but Ann Cornish and her child had disappeared under the water and were nowhere to be seen.

The Observer editor editorialized, "Had it not been for the energy displayed by Watson and Demara, chances are that at least one additional name (Aldridge) would have been added to the mournful catalogue of the drowned".

Town in shock after two boys drowned

Wherever there is a body of water, there is the distinct possibility of lives being taken, and Lake Scugog has had its share of drownings over the past century and a half.

One of the first incidents recorded by the local press was published in the July 8, 1863 Ontario Observer, as it recorded the tragic death of two young residents of the community. The two boys, aged 10 and 7 years respectively, residents of the Nonquon (Seagrave) area, the former being a son of Mr. Palmer Car and the Henry William, son of Mr. Jessie Ireland.

It appears that the two boys went down to the Nonquon River on the afternoon of June 30th, unfastened a boat and jumped in. By some means or other the boat must have upset and thrown the young lads into the water. They had only been gone a short time from home, but no one saw them leave or where they had gone.

Someone passing near the river, saw the boat, floating bottom up upon the water. Upon righting it the oars and hat of one of the boys was found. A little further from the shore the two boys were found. The boys were very much thought of by the whole neighbourhood, and their untimely death cast a gloom of sorrow over the whole locality.

Two young men lost when canoe
overturns returning from Caesarea

Probably the worst steamboat related tragedy on Lake Scugog occurred on Friday, May 10, 1892. James Carnegie's steamboat, the Stranger was on the return run from Lindsay to Port Perry when it made a stop at Washburn Island.

James Carnegie, the eldest son of the steamboat owner, and his friend James Roberts were on board. When the boat arrived at Washburn Island the young men went into a canoe to have a spin down to Caesarea, with the intention of returning to Washburn in time to catch the steamer on her return to Port Perry.

But when the steamer was ready to return, the young men had not returned and an alarm was at once raised. It was found that they had left Caesarea in time to catch the boat and it was at once concluded that the parties had gone down. The steamer arrived in Port Perry late on Saturday night and the greatest alarm was created when it became known that the young men were lost.

An active search for the bodies was started with several steamers and smaller boats taking part, but the bodies were not recovered until more than two days later. James Carnegie was only 20 years old and his friend, James Roberts, only 21 at the time of their deaths.

Tragedy on Sunday School excursion

The Raglan Sunday School, with a large number of friends went on an excursion from Port Perry to Lindsay on board the Anglo Saxon on Sunday, June 25, 1870. On the return, two men, Wm. Jamieson and Richard O'Boyle, fell from the steamboat into the water, but by the time a rescue was attempted, only one remained struggling to keep above the water.

After struggling for some time he also sank to rise no more. One of the hands on the steamship jumped in and was able to recover Mr. Jamieson, but could not find O'Boyle. His body was recovered later that night. The accident was blamed on a defect in the fastening of the gangway.

Two Caesarea men drown when
car slips through ice

Three Caesarea men, out on Lake Scugog for a drive, plunged through the ice Sunday, March 5, 1955. Fred Frayer, 51, and Earl Burr, 31, and John Neill, 38, had stopped to let NeillŐs dog out for a run, and later while returning to Caesarea the car went into a crevice in the ice and slid into the water.

Mr. Neill was able to push Burr out of the car and managed to escape himself, but Mr. Frayer, who was driving the car, and Neill's dog went down with the car. All the efforts by Mr. Neill to hold Burr out of the water failed as he slipped out of his grasp and went down in about 20 feet of water.

The next day, a special diver from the Department of Transport arrived and descended into the frigid water of Lake Scugog to recover the bodies of Frayer and Burr. Mr. Frayer was well know in Caesarea as the owner of FrayerŐs Pavilion and boathouse.

Four men drown in tragic boating
accident on Lake Scugog

The chance finding of a gasoline tank on the west shore of Scugog Island Saturday, June 14 touched off an investigation which revealed the worst boating accident on Lake Scugog in the past quarter of a century. Four youths from Toronto, the oldest only 20, drowned when their rented outboard motorboat capsized about noon.

Cedar Shores Beach cottager Howard Stacey was out walking along the shore of the island came across a red gas tank washed up on shore on and realized something must be wrong. He ran back to his cottage and with the hand of neighbour Don MacMillan, they took their boat out into the lake where they found the first body.

John Orde, who had rented the boat earlier in the day arrived to help, and while attempting to remove the motor from the overturned boat, found a second youth under the boat, entangled in the gasoline feeding line. Members of the OPP and Port Perry Fire Department began dragging the area but had to call off the search for the other two missing men due to the rough lake and darkness.

Early the next morning the search began again with skin divers from the Underwater Club of Canada and members of the Port Perry Yacht Club. The other victims were found later in the day. Drowned were Michael Madden, 16, Robert Walker, 18, Larry OŐConnor, 17 and Douglas Mortson, 20, all of Toronto.

Mr. Orde said that if the youths had held onto the boat, which would have floated even if filled with water, the could have remained there indefinitely until help arrived. Port Perry Star Thurs., June 19, 1958

Lake Scugog's Death Toll

March 1877 - Mr. Wm. Lee was driving across the ice of Scugog, when near the Caesarea shore his horse broke through and was drowned. The ice is not now to be trusted and parties will do well to avoid it.
July 1885 - Thos. McBrien, Isaac Vipond and Martin Hardy, all of Brooklin, were out on Lake Scugog this morning in a small boat. When near Scugog Island one of them made a mistroke of the oar and the boat capsized. Vipond and McBrien clung to the boat and drifted ashore, but Hardy, being unable to swim, was drowned.
June 1891 - Mr. John McKenzie, games keeper of the Lake Scugog Game Preserve Co. located the body of James Donaldson, after he fell from his boat and drowned in Lake Scugog.
April 1895 - The body of Cassie Burk, who was drowned while skating on the lake last fall, was found floating near Washburn Island by Inspector Watson.
August 1901 - Joseph Hood, eldest son of Paul and Lydia Hood, aged 20, drowned while bathing with friends in Lake Scugog.
August 1910 - Herbert Sweetman, son of the late Wm. Sweetman of Scugog Island, drowned after falling from a canoe while out fishing with friends on Lake Scugog.
July 1912 - Seventeen year old Karl Ross drowned near the dock at the foot of Queen St. when he got stuck in the mud while playing with friends.
May 1962 - The first fatal accident in Lake Scugog off Pine Point in 100 years occurred when Bill Healey drowned while out fishing for mudcat with Ted Leahy of Scugog Island.
July 1980 - A 19-year-old Oshawa man drowned in Lake Scugog Monday afternoon when he fell from a high-powered motor boat about 100 yards off the north shore of Seven Mile Island.
October 1989 - Two Toronto area men, out for a days fishing, drowned in Lake Scugog when their small boat capsized.
January 1998 - Firefighters and police recover the bodies of four men from Lake Scugog that drowned in two separate snowmobiling accidents when their machines went through the ice not far from Caesarea.

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By: Paul Arculus &
J. Peter Hvidsten

By: J. Peter Hvidsten

The History Of The
Markham Gang
By: Paul Arculus