Photo from Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
Remember the story about William/ Bill Jenkins? If you don’t you can wander down to the bottom of this story and click on the link of another story a out him.
The “Ford” at Ferguson Falls was one of the toughest places on the Mississippi River. Men fought for love, money, business and just for the enjoyment of brawling. They fought in taverns, yard, village, street and even on floating rafts, old accounts say– and some even fought for love.
Before Bill Jenkins ran a grocery store on High Street in Carleton Place he was a foreman on the log drives coming down the Mississippi River. The boats they used were twenty feet long, four feet wide, and pointed at each end. A man stood in each end steering the boat using long ash paddles defying life as they rode over the strong waters.
Running the rapids was an exciting adventure which provided excitement for both boat man and on-lookers. The rapids at Ferguson’s Falls were particularly boisterous one day when the water was very high. Bill Jenkins was anxious to look his best as a certain young lady of the village of Ferguson Falls would be among the spectators.
So Bill put on his best white shirt even though people would talk– as a shanty man wearing a white shirt was really ‘putting on the dog’ as they used to say. The dapper logger cut one heck of a heroic figure as the boat plunged over and over through the great swells that day. But, as the crowds cheered three-quarters of the way down, Bill’s paddle broke and overboard he went into the Mississippi River.
At the foot of the rapids he swam ashore talking and mumbling to himself. Was his reputation damaged as well as the romance? No, not in the least, as everyone knew there was no river man more skilful and capable than Bill Jenkins- and word was that the young lady from Ferguson Falls soon became his wife.
Ferguson’s Falls was once a thriving village of 500 persons with three mills, three hotels, a post office, a tannery, a meat processing firm, wagon maker and a law authority. The town slowly decayed following the collapse of the timber trade and only the stories remain of the pioneer village and the vain-glorious poems and songs of Wilfred Lawrence Command– and of course the story of love struck Bill Jenkins.