The Very Sad Tale of Cecil Cummings of Carleton Place

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There are a lot of sad stories I could write about Carleton Place, but I try to keep it positive until I come across something I take really personally. That would be the sad life of a young Carleton Place boy called Cecil Cummings.

In 1933 it was reported that there were 17 children in the *Carleton Place Children’s Shelter that were all in good health. Seven of the children were wards of the county, and seven were wards of Smiths Falls. Three of the children were being cared for temporarily with their upkeep aid for by their parents.

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It was reported in the Ottawa Citizen in 1933 that Cecil Cummings, age 13, that resided at the Carleton Place shelter died as a result from a fall from a tree. Cecil had gone out with the other children for their daily walk and crossed over to an opposite field. Cecil climbed a large oak tree and tried to sit on a branch to gather some acorns ( Ottawa Citizen said it was chestnuts). He told his friends he felt dizzy, and within a few moments he fell from the tree. Mr Morphy picked him up and went back to the shelter where Mrs. Morphy called medical aid. Cecil became unconscious and remained so until he died from a fracture at the base of the skull that same day. Cecil was given a small service and was buried in the Auld Kirk Cemetery outside of Almonte.

He was the son of Mr. Ernest Cummings and the late Mrs. Cummings. After the death of his Mother, he was placed in the Children’s Shelter and then adopted by Mr and Mrs Deemer of Carleton Place. Soon after Mrs. Deemer died and he returned to the care of Mrs. Morphy at the shelter. 

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In 1934 there was increasing difficulty in making satisfactory settlements in cases that came under the *Unmarried Parents Act. It was stressed the need of foster homes for the Children’s Shelter was desperately needed. Mrs. Margaret Morphy, matron of the shelter, stated in in her report that the well being in the shelter in 1933 was the best she had. There was little sickness at all and very little trouble of any kind. There were 998 visitors during the year and 15 children lived in the shelter. Cecil Cummings was one of those children and today I tried to find his grave marker at Auld Kirk.

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I had no idea that the cemetery was that large. I had done research online yesterday, and could not find a record of his grave anywhere.That was not a good sign. Because he had no one to take care of him, I assume he was buried pauper style. For two hours I looked and could not turn up his grave site and it saddened me. Everyone deserves to be remembered in some way, no matter how old you were in life. No matter how much I searched no one was listening in Auld Kirk and the tree similar to what Cecil Cummings fell out of just waved slowly at me in the breeze.

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*The Children’s Shelter

Carleton Place, Ontario- now a private home located at 294 William Street as they changed all the numbers at one point.

The first Children’s Aid Society in Ontario was founded in 1891 in Toronto. It was 1920 before a Children’s Aid Society was formed in Lanark County, and this was in Perth. It would be 1924 before a children’s shelter would be established in Carleton Place.

Various members of the extended family of Abraham and Mary Morphy, under the leadership of Mrs John B. Morphy (Margaret), took in hundreds of local children in need over the years. This meant that, not only did these children receive the help and protection they needed, they did so in their own community and were no longer sent away.

Unmarried Parents Act

In 1921, despite the passing of legislation intended to ease the consequences of illegitimacy for children (Children of Unmarried Parents Act), reformers in Ontario made no effort to improve the status of unwed mothers. Furthermore, the reforms that were passed served as models for legislation in other provinces and even in some American states, institutionalizing, in essence, the prejudices evident throughout. Until now, historians have not sufficiently studied these measures, resulting in the marginalization of unwed mothers as historical subjects. InMisconceptions, Lori Chambers seeks to redress this oversight.

By way of analysis and careful critique, Chambers shows that the solutions to unwed pregnancy promoted in the reforms of 1921 were themselves based upon misconceptions. The book also explores the experiences of unwed mothers who were subjected to the legislation of the time, thus shedding an invaluable light on these formerly ignored subjects. Ultimately,Misconceptions argues that child welfare measures which simultaneously seek to rescue children and punish errant women will not, and cannot, succeed in alleviating child or maternal poverty.

When I posted this picture alone my friend Lisa Crandall asked me if those were the ears of gargoyles sitting in the tree.

Photos by Linda Secaspina

Vintage photo- The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

UPDATE- July 20,2015-

Hi Linda,
Sorry I have been so long in getting back to you. we have checked all our records and are unable to find a Cecil Cummings age 13 either in our records or a stone maker.
Regards
Elaine Fulton Auld Kirk Cemetery, Almonte

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

11 responses »

  1. Cecil Cummings’ mother was Carolina Lucinda May “Lucy” Donahue, sister of my grand-uncle William John Wesley Donahue, and therefore a grand aunt of my sister-in-law, Laura May Morrow (née Donahue). Lucy died giving birth to Cecil, and interestingly, two of her half-brothers were pallbearers at Cecil’s funeral. I am not sure if there is a stone for Lucy at the Auld Kirk, but if there is that might be another lead.

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  2. The advertiser at the top of the page, A. P. R. (Adam Percival Roberts “Percy”) Dunlop was a second cousin to my grandmother Effie Ann Robertson (née Dunlop).

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  3. Isn’t that too sad. I assume that his body was burned on an open fire or burn barrel. Don’t know when cremation came to be.
    Or they buried him somewhere. Poor Cecil Cummings!!

    Thanks for an interesting article Linda.

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