photo by Ken W. Watson
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Many of these tales
and a couple of new ones
are in my book
Tales of the Rideau
Click the image
for more information.
(some short, some tall)

In this section of the Rideau-info website I've tried to compile many of the various stories related to, or taking place on, the Rideau Canal. Some stories are fact, some stories are ... well, you be the judge. Often the backstory is the real tale, the account of the true events that led to the creation of the tale. Where possible I look in detail at the factual backstory (my book Tales of Rideau only has tales with a factual backstory).

If you've heard any good Rideau stories or have variants on the ones included here, send me an email. If suitable, I'll include them on this website.

The Tales

Malaria - The Secret Immigrant - malaria during the building of the Rideau Canal is a mystery to most. If you think it was tropical malaria brought by British soldiers you would be wrong. Malaria was already here, a temperate form, endemic in southern Ontario. What was it, how did it get here and when did it leave?

The Surveyors - from the first survey in 1783 to the final route surveys in 1827, our knowledge of the Rideau Route evolved. Who were these men and what did they do?

The Dead Lock - was a lock really constructed and then abandoned on Opinicon Lake? Was the original route of the Rideau Canal intended to go through Hart Lake? ...

Denis Donovan - was Denis Donovan really a canal worker who ended up being buried on the Rideau "in Irish soil"? ...

The Lost Barrel of Silver - is there really a barrel full of American half-dollar coins lying at the bottom of Opinion Lake, or buried near Davis Lock (or near Jones Falls, or Long Island, etc.). You be the judge (and I'd be happy to take 10% if you find it).

The Sluiced Superintendent - Lockmaster Clark was complaining about the lack of maintenance funding. To prove him wrong, the Superintendent jumped up and down on the wooden grate covering the tunnel sluice manhole and ...

The Blue Edged Bowls - In about 1797, local Merrickville area settler, Thomas McCrea, was tasked with walking to Brockville to buy some items, including a set of white, blue edged bowls.

A Rapid Ride - The Billings Shoot the Hogs Back "Falls" - in 1814, Philemon Wright watched in horror as the canoe carrying the Billings family was swept over the Hogs Back "Falls"

Christmas in the Bush - how surveyor John MacTaggart and crew spent the Christmas of 1826.

Washed Away - the story of the building of the Hogs Back Dam. Why did the dam fail not once, not twice but three times?

The Lake Lock - Narrows Lock sits in an odd location - a spot that used to be the middle of Rideau Lake. It wasn't part of the original design for the Rideau Canal - so why is this lock here?

A Rock For Dinner - It was a nice day in February 1831 at Kingston Mills. Robert Drummond was enjoying his lunch. Then all hell broke loose.

The Grand Non-Opening of the Rideau Canal - a few days before the planned grand opening of the northern Rideau on August 21, 1831, the Rideau River suddenly dropped below navigation level. What happened?

Bye By - on May 25, 1832, as Lt. Colonel John By was receiving the accolades of the enthusiastic villagers of Smiths Falls, back in London, England, the instrument of his demise was being penned.

Skeletons under the floor - the tale of Oliver's Ferry - this is perhaps one of the best known stories on the Rideau. But do you know the real story?

The Wall of Water - in 1832, the construction foreman at Upper Brewers looked upstream to see a strange sight. When he realized what it was he yelled "Run!!"

The Ghost of Watson's Mill - it's said that on a misty day, the ghost of Anne Crosby can be seen looking out the second story windows of the Watson's Mill. What happened to poor Anne?

A Grave Revealing - the gravel pit work crew were busily digging away, blithly unaware that, over a hundred years before, this site was used as the final resting place for dozens of workers that had died during the construction of the Rideau Canal.

The Failed Gates - it was a peaceful evening in July 1869 when, with a horrible cracking noise, a set of lock gates at Jones Falls failed, releasing an avalanche of water that killed one man and mortally wounded another ...

The Last Duel in Upper Canada - after the first shot both men were still standing, so they reloaded and fired again. What led up to this event that took place near Perth in 1833?

The Ghosts of Kilmarnock - did Isaiah Croutch really see his own death?

Davidson's Ghost - David Davidson was brutally murdered in the late 1800s. Does his ghost still paddle Opinicon Lake?

Ghosts of the Opinicon. Whatever happened to poor Samuel Poole, Tom Dennison and Joe Ledway? Do their ghosts still haunt Opinicon Lake?

The Lady in Blue - does the ghost of Kathleen McBride really walk the Burritts Rapids' Tip to Tip trail? What is she looking for?

If you want many of these stories (and a few new ones) in the convenience of a book (to read at the cottage, on your boat or gift to someone) then pick up a copy of Tales of the Rideau. Click here for more information.

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson