A Carleton Place Tale to Send Shivers Up Your Arm — The Sad Tale of Margaret Violet King


It takes mountains to keep any sort of local history intact, and if you knew what Jennifer Fenwick Irwin and her student team of Jane and Gaby at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum did in a day you would be gobsmacked. I easily spend 5-6 hours a day writing and researching, and that is the only the tip of the iceberg of the history of Carleton Place.

So was the tale I wrote about the Carleton Place Mississippi River Dam and the near drowning accident of six-year-old Margaret Violet King in 1936. Had it not been for the rescue by local resident Lionel Bigras, she would have drowned. Yesterday afternoon I got a Facebook PM from local resident Stace Bottema and the story took a wide turn:

” I just read your article about the dam and Margaret Violet King. Did you know that she drowned 10 years later at the age of 16? I sometimes look up what you write in the Google News Archive to see the actual newspaper clippings. When I did so this morning, I came across the article in 1947 stating that she had drowned. I am sure it’s the same girl as they say her father Clifford King drowned in 1936. I can send the article if you want it.”
Stace Bottema


Could it be the same girl?


Photograph courtesy of Carol Nicholson. Circa 1910.–Roy Brown’s father had the first hydroelectric dam and generating station built in 1910 to provide the electricity to power his flour mill, which was located directly across the river from it. It continued to provide power to the town of Carleton Place until the 1970s, when it was demolished.

Original Article

“In July of 1937 Carleton Place resident Wilfred Bigras saved the life of 6-year-old Margaret Violet King, daughter of Mrs. Clifford King. Young Margaret fell into the Mississippi River near the hyrdo plant about 200 yards from the town bridge early in the afternoon. Artificial respiration was practiced by Wilfird Bigras, employee at the Hydro plant, a cousin of the rescuer Lionel Bigras who dived 3 times in 15 feet of water to bring the child to the surface.”

August 1947–Ottawa Citizen-TEN YEARS LATER

On August of 1947, Margaret King, daughter of Mrs. Violet King,  drowned in the Mississippi River a few yards west of the town bridge. Margaret was a poor swimmer and got into difficulties in the channel of the river. Later her body was found near the scene of the mishap. Stirling Weedmark and David Findlay Jr. were working at Findlays at the time. Margaret had been enjoying the summer day with her friends Beth Craig, Reta Loney, Sharon McCreary and Doreen Argue.


Nan Collins, Dorothy Patton, Joyce Kingsbury and Helen Reid tried to rescue her but were not successful. Findlay and Weedmark obtained a boat and dived in for her- but it was too late. Artificial respiration was rendered by Mrs. Erma Burns, the Findlay plant nurse, and Mrs. Leita Andison. In an eerie moment the same doctor who revived her at age 6  by the hydro plant, Dr. Johnson, attended by K. H. Running, did what they could but could not save her.  Margaret was survived by her Mother, and siblings: Billy, James and Shirley.


The article said that her father Clifford King had drowned in the Mississippi May 4th, 1936, and also noted something that was not mentioned in the original newspaper article in 1936. Her father had drowned in the Mississippi River in 1936 with her uncle, James Brooks losing his life in the same river a few years later. Margaret’s body rested at her Mother’s home on Lanark Street in Carleton Place and a service was held at the Salvation Army Hall. No headstone can be found. Today I placed a rose in the Mississippi river from all of us in memory of Margaret Violet King.


Tara Gesner, our beloved reporter from The Carleton Place Canadian, has sent me a picture of the medal that Wilfred Bigras received that day for saving the Margaret King’s life. Linda Gesner, her mother-in-law, still has the medal. Wilfred Bigras was Tara’s husband’s great great grandfather.  Thank you Tara for showing this to me! 


march 1931

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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