Lake contains former premier’s remains

by Claude McIntosh
Lake contains former premier’s remains


While officiating at the July, 1958 opening of the new St. Lawrence Valley Union Cemetery between the new towns of Long Sault and Ingleside, Ontario Premier Leslie Frost mentioned that the bodies of many pioneers remained below the new lake.

What Frost didn’t know was that a former premier of Ontario rested in one of the water-covered graves, said to number in the hundreds.

James Pliny Whitney, the Williamsburg Township lawyer who became the sixth premier of Ontario, and the only premier to die in office (1914), might be the only Canadian politician buried at the bottom of a lake.

It wasn’t a case of the graves being overlooked. Like many families, the Whitneys decided to leave their kin in the graveyard near Morrisburg that was flooded to create Lake St. Lawrence. Just the gravestone were moved.

In fact, some members of the clergy urged families not to disturb the graves of their loved ones and to just move the grave stones.

(On a personal note: The remains of my grandparents are at the bottom of the lake. Just the headstone was moved to the Union Cemetery).

An estimate 5,000 graves in dozens of graveyards were flooded to create the lake. It was the greatest flood since Noah set sail.


As 100 ships waited their turn on July 4, 1958. many of them carrying the American flag, Allan Cutt, a native of Wales and resident of Ingleside, captained the first ship through the new Snell and Eisenhower Locks on the U.S. side of the Seaway. The Canadian registered Humberdoc was transporting 2,000 tons of newsprint to Chicago. The crew also included Chief Engineer David Ford Sr. of Cornwall and Ronald McLean of Morrisburg.

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The provincial government on July 12, 1958 put its stamp of approval on the purchase of Charlottenburgh Park from the township for $50,000.

The park would be rebranded Charlottenburgh Provincial Park and would come under control of the new St. Lawrence Parks Commission.

Described as one of the most scenic parks along the St. Lawrence River, the 233-acre property was purchased by the township from the Fraser family in 1951. It paid $40,000. At the time, it included a large marsh and forest with the park taking up 3.5 acres.

The property was part of a 6,000-acre land grant given to Sir John Johnson by King George III.

Decades later, the Fraser family occupied a large piece of the land grant.

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One of the founders of St. Joseph’s Training Centre (for boys) in Alfred, east of Ottawa, on July 20, 1958 told a Cornwall service club that one of the goals of the institution staffed by a religious order brothers was to instil discipline and a good work ethic.

Brother Urban said in most cases, derelict parents were to blame for their child being sent to the institution by the juvenile court system.

On a positive note, he claimed most of the young offenders under the brothers’ care were well treated and went on to become good citizens.

Of course, it was a big lie.

Decades later the institution was shut down after stories of sadistic sexual abuse by the brothers surfaced.

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ALSO THIS MONTH IN 1958 – Cities Service was expanding its gas station network in Ontario with 58 new dealers, four of them in Cornwall: Racine’s, 11th and McConnell; R. Major, Highway 2 and 11th; D. Campbell, Eamer’s Corners; and Milton Matheson, Long Sault. … A landmark at the foot of Pitt Street for 44 years, the Canadian Steamship Lines warehouse closed. The Seaway was diverting traffic from Cornwall Canal. … The country’s oldest train – The Moccasin – would make its last run between Montreal and Brockville on Aug. 9. CNR said the line was no longer profitable. It was the quintessential “milk run” with numerous stops, among them Riviere Beaudette, Bainsville, Lancaster, Cornwall, Long Sault, Ingleside, Morrisburg and Iroquois. … Cornwall native and former Stormont MP Lionel Chevrier, MP for Laurier, said the Diefenbaker government should pick up the cost of establishing an airport in Cornwall. Dief wondered why Chevrier wasn’t suggesting that when he was representing the riding. … A Cornwall resident was home after being held for six days by Cuban rebels led by Fidel Castro. Edward Cannon was working for a North American company in Cuban when the revolutionaries took him prisoner and held him at a mountain camp. He told the media that he had been well-treated by the rebels. … The new man-made Lake St. Lawrence claimed its first two drowning victims. Divers recovered the bodies of the 23-year-old man and 18-year-old woman, both Cornwall residents, in 10 feet of water six miles west of Cornwall.

TRIVIA ANSWER Two choices: Ron Martelle and Bob Kilger both worked as a playground supervisors when they were young students at St. Lawrence High School.

TRIVIA In the 1950s and 60s, he was the beloved theatre cop at the Palace, logging time during the Saturday morning kids’ shows.

THIS AND THAT Who thought a few months ago that $1.78.9 a litre would be a bargain. …. Latest shortage: qualified lifeguards. … When he was working the booth at U.S. customs, my old pal Bob Johnson (retired U.S. Army major) loved to work on Canada Day. His opening line when a car with Canadian plates pulled up was, “Well, where (in the U.S.) are you patriotic Canadians headed?” His parents were from the Brockville area. … Standard-Freeholder dodged the PostMedia bullet in latest round of slash and burn. Only cut was the weekly comp. A company-wide hiring freeze remains, for now, at most papers. … U.S. Supreme Court got it all wrong on the Roe vs Wade decision. Should have made the call in January or February. Protesters don’t take to the streets in northern states during the coldest months of the year. … First Black female (long overdue) appointed to the Supreme Court. That must have the old segregationists rolling in their graves. .. . If the Conservatives turn the leadership reins over to Pierre Poilievre they will have their most eloquent orator since John Diefenbaker. … New York Rangers selected Zakary Karpa in last week’s draft. His father Dave played a season in Cornwall with the AHL Aces before a 12-season NHL career.

QUOTED “He is the only man I ever knew who could get money from the rich and votes from the poor with the promise that he would protect them from each other.” – Tommy Douglas

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