Winter-Freezing to Death in Lanark County



Those who attempted to walk home in the winter found themselves struggling for hours through drifts up to their armpits and suffered frostbite. Sometimes travelling by sleigh found the drifts impassable, and many were abandoned by their drivers.

People came across horses that had frozen solid in their harnesses and whose heads stuck up out of the drifting snow.  Sometimes the winds were so strong that some of the unlucky were blown into the drifts and found they couldn’t dig themselves out. 

Women, in billowing dresses and skirts were particularly susceptible.  Sometimes the bodies of men and women who had been pushed by the wind into drifts were discovered hours or days later by an arm or leg protruding from the snow.

Perth Courier, Feb. 13, 1874 and Almonte Gazette

Shocking Occurrence—Young Woman Frozen to Death

An occurrence of a melancholy and somewhat shocking character took place in this vicinity in the past week, which calls for a close and scrutinizing examination by authorities and court officials.  We will briefly narrate the details.

On Saturday morning last the body of a young woman named Elizabeth Murphy was found dead by the roadside in North Burgess, almost twelve miles from Perth, the unfortunate creature having apparently frozen to death.

The story of the sad affair is something like this:  It seems that she and her brother, Terence Murphy, came to Perth on Friday forenoon and started for their home again in Burgess in the evening—it is believed somewhat intoxicated.  The next morning the body of the girl was found on the road, lifeless, with marks of violence about the face and head.

Her brother professes total ignorance about what occurred before and after this had transpired, pleading an excess of intoxication, which deprived him of the power of observing what took place around him or in fact to himself, save in one thing—he has, he says, in indistinct recollection of the horses running away.

To those who are charitable enough to take cognizance of this fact, only, and leave out other circumstances bearing on the case, the running away of the team may sufficiently account for the bruises that appeared on the body of the girl.  But it appears that the brother was not so drunk as he endeavoured to make it appear.

Parties giving evidence at the inquest swore that they saw him looking for his horses after they had run away, very far from being so far gone in his intoxication, as his testimony made it appear, and his own mother testified that when he got home, before commencing the search for the runaway animals, he was sober enough to make his own tea.

Though this does not establish anything of itself, still it convicts him of falsifying his evidence and goes to prove at least an amount of cold-blooded indifference as to his sister’s fate after she was thrown out of the sleigh, which confounds our ideas of humanity and fraternal affection.

It is possible that the change in humanity of not taking care of his sister instead of searching for his horses on that freezing night, when, by the best of evidence, he knew her to be injured, is all that will be brought home to Murphy.  Still, it is an affair which demands investigation.

On Sunday last, upon proper representation of the affair having been made, Dr. Howden, of Perth, Coroner, set out for the place and proceeded to hold an inquest on the remains.  After hearing evidence of several witnesses knowing more or less the circumstances we have given above, indicating that Terence Murphy, himself, the jury, through their foreman, Mr. Patrick Dooher, returned the following verdict:  The jury, upon oath find that the deceased came to death on the 6th Feb., through injury and exposure, the result of having been left on the road by her brother, Terence on the aforesaid night and the jury are further of the opinion that the said Terence Murphy was guilty of culpable negligence in not looking after the deceased, inasmuch as opportunity afforded and evidence shows that he was not incapable through intoxication.

On the Wednesday following Coroner Howden issued a warrant for Murphy’s arrest in order that the case might go before the grand jury at the approaching Assizes and having been taken in charge by the constable is now in jail awaiting the final disposition of the suit.



Perth Courier, December 30, 1870

Kellock—Died, on Thursday morning, 20th Dec., Robert B. Kellock, Esq., Lanark, aged 30 years.

Further information in the same paper:  Sad Event:  It is seldom that we record any event, sad or distressing with more real sorrow than in chronicling the death of one of our younger townsmen, Mr. Robert B. Kellock, son of R. Kellock, Esq., gaoler.  On Thursday morning, 29th December, Mr. Kellock was found in a dying state partly frozen on the railway track near Campbell’s Crossing, about two and a half miles from Perth. He was taken into a farmhouse contiguous and died soon afterward. The sad intelligence was at once sent to his friends in Perth who had his body conveyed home.  Deceased had been down to Smith’s Falls that afternoon, and returning had missed the regular train and took instead a wood-train that was going into Perth late at night.  There is some mystery connected to his passage on this train, some affirming that he came all the way to Perth.  This is very unlikely and it is probable that he may by some means or other have fallen off the open cars, and stunned by the fall was frozen into helplessness and beyond recovery in the bitter cold of that night.  This sad occurrence has cast a gloom over the whole town and the bereaved family have the sympathy of the community generally.


We are informed on good authority that nothing is better for withdrawing the frost without injury to the frozen ears, cheeks, fingers, than the immediate application of kerosene.  Rub it in gently a few times.  In one instant both cheeks were frozen and this remedy gave immediate relief without the usual inflammation.  It is indispensable that the application be made before the thaw.  This remedy is the more valuable because it is always at hand in every house.  Country Gentleman


Perth Courier, Jan. 29, 1875

Shocking Occurrence—On the morning of the 29th inst., the body of James Drummond of Beckwith Township was found in the yard of Moore ’s Hotel in Franktown, frozen stiff.  The unfortunate man, we understand, was somewhat addicted to drink; it is supposed he had strayed into the hotel yard, and lying down had perished.  He leaves a wife and young family to mourn his fate.

Perth Courier, Feb. 19, 1875

Frozen to Death—Last Tuesday night a woman named Mrs. Geloesh, living in the Township of Bathurst , on the edge of Christy’s Lake , was frozen to death.  Deceased was somewhat deranged in her intellect, and had been accustomed to wander through the adjacent country and it was on one of these rambling tours that her life was cut short by undue exposure to the bitter cold of this freezing night.  She leaves a family behind her, we believe.  Dr. Howden, Coroner, yesterday proceeded to hold an inquest on her remains

Sarah Ferguson

On Monday last the body of Sarah Ferguson found frozen in bush near Drummond 2nd Concession. She had left her brother in Montague Dec 14 for friends in Dalhousie. Aged about 40. Unmarried.  Family story says that Sarah was going home for Christmas after a visit with her brother John in Numogate. She was found sitting on a stump with her bag on the ground beside her, frozen as she had died.

1887-Perth Courier

A thick crust has been formed on on the snow in the woods by the recent soft and hard weather. It is very hard on horses engaged in the shanties, and many of them have been completely used up with sore legs. The deep snow has also caused an unusual number of accidents to men by rendering it difficult for them to get out of the way of falling trees.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

Related reading:

Withered Family Found– Almonte Gazette– A Media Mystery



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.

2 responses »

    • Not all history was roses.. sometimes it was pretty tragic.. and I heard a story yesterday after someone read it that her father used to have to tie a rope from the house to the barn in the winter.. it shocked me..:(

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