A History of the Rice Lake Indians by Mary Jane Muskratte Simpson

Tragedy on Rice Lake, 1891

One of the worst tragedies to occur at Rice Lake was a triple drowning on June 16th, 1891 when Oswald Cragg set out with a gay fishing party, on the opening day of fishing, in a sailing vessel of about twenty feet in length.

The party consisted of the merchant and postmaster, Oswald Cragg; his sister Frances; his mother, Mrs. Edward Cragg (wife of the Rev. Edward Cragg). The Misses Margaret Thompson, Agnes Gray and Cecilia Adamson; Robert Cowie; Mr. and Mrs. John Foote, their eighteen-year old daughter Catherine, and another three year old daughter.

Photo

Sugar Island(Indian Territory) on Rice Lake

A fair wind enabled the craft to reach the fishing grounds across the lake. Following a picnic lunch at Idyl Wyld, a peninsula east of Harwood; the party started home, when a sudden squall overturned the boat half way between Idyl Wyld and Paudash Point. The boat completely overturned on a shoal, and the mast was held fast in the mud. A thunder and lightning storm enhanced the horror of the situation. Those clinging to the overturned boat were washed off by huge waves. One of the two lone survivors, Agnes Gray (now Mrs. Russell Thompson) tells an account of seeing people floating about like corks. These were gathered up by Robert Cowie, a hero of the day, who was later awarded a gold medal. Help soon arrived as a farmer of Otonabee, Richard Doris, who was fishing in the vicinity, came in a rowboat and rescued them; but too late to save John Foote and his two daughters, who were drowned.

John Foote, his wife, and oldest daughter had come from England in a sailing vessel which took a month to cross the ocean, and had settled in Hiawatha reserve, renting a farm from Charles Anderson.

The following Poem was penned by one who attended the funeral:

 
"We laid them to rest
With sorrow opprest
So suddenly called from our side;
But hope bye and bye
To meet in the sky,
Where friendship shall ever abide,
Softly we bore them to the grave,
A father, infant, and young maid;
Cut off in life's meridian day,
'Midst light and life and pleasures gay."

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