Tag Archives: Alexander M. Richey

I Saved the Lives of 29 Men That Day

I Saved the Lives of 29 Men That Day

Perth Courier, April 28, 1911

Reminiscences of Old Perth by Alexander M. Richey

How I came to have 15,000 logs at the time the bridge at Almonte was swept away is easily explained.  I left Fall River with less than 10,000 logs but the firm of Young, Winn and Company of Ottawa purchased all of John Hall’s logs, 6,000 or more and I had agreed to drive them to the mouth of the Mississippi along with my logs.  Hall’s Mills had burned down that spring.  A steam saw mill and a long haul of the lumber to the market could not pay expenses so Hall sold his logs and went back to the square timber trade again.  For the timber trade paid sometimes, the sawed lumber did not at least according to Hall.

Near Old Sly’s 1830


A steam saw mill in those days could not compete with a mill run by water power.  There were nearly a dozen of water rover mills nearer to market then Hall’s was.  His mill was on the north side of the river just above the bridge of the Perth and Lanark Road.  Some 90 years ago a lad named Cameron ran a ferry at this place—they called him the bare foot ferry boy.  But years after he was elected to parliament from the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew and became Hon. Malcolm Cameron.  I found the firm of Young, Winn and Company to be a staunch friend, honest and upright and liberal in every particular.  They were from the state of Maine.  Capt. Young was the practical man of the firm.  An old river driver as well as a sailor and had been owner and captain of a lumber vessel part of the time.

MIKAN 3372563 Log jam  July, 1883. [132 KB, 760 X 605]

Log Jam 1883

Captain Young was with me from the time I left the mouth of the Mississippi until we got the logs separated into booms; mine for Pontiac Mills and his for Ottawa.  He and all the men except for Pat Green and I were at work clearing out what was called the blind soy but at that time we were forced to use it to get the logs past the Shaw rapids.  The soy in times past had been the outlet of the river but got choked up with drift wood, felled trees, etc.  At one time it had been quite a stream and came out in Fitzroy Harbor quite distinct from the Shaw Rapids.



Photo- Mississippi Valley Textile Museum

The high water in the Ottawa River backed up higher than in the smaller one and sent nearly all the logs down the soy and it was a much better route for the logs in every way.  Green and I were getting a few scattered logs off the bank on the other side of the river; he had got the last one afloat and was polling it out of he current.  I was getting a flatted boom out of the crotch of a tree where it had floated during the freshet.  I heard some splashing but had been so busy with the boom stick that I paid no attention to Green until then.  I looked around and saw Green’s hat floating on the other side of the log.  I shouted for a canoe and swam to the hat.  I noticed air bubbles coming up and I dived down for Green.  He was standing straight up with 15 feet of water above him.  I got him up and onto the log before the canoe got to us.  He was filled with water but if his last breathing had not given me a clue to where he was he would have been past recovery before we got to him.  It took twenty or thirty minutes before he drew a long breath and thirty of us wee using our best skill on him.



Early in the summer of 1852 I was running the Shaw Rapids with a raft of timber and had gotten half the raft over in one trip as the water was high.  We landed at the head of the slide and started back for the other half when down came half a raft of Dunlop’s.  Away out of the channel was a high wind from the southwest. They were headed for the horse shoe falls.  Nothing could save the timber from going over.  My canoe a three and a half fathom bark could save the men.  I landed my men, fifteen of them, on the nearest point and I pulled for the raft in haste and not a moment too soon either for the poor fellows were rowing side oars up stream for their lives.  I tell you, when I got along side the canoe 14 men never embarked in a canoe any quicker in ten seconds.



Photo- Mississippi Valley Textile Museum


I heard the timber crashing over the falls of thirty feet or more.  I had hardly got them landed when another raft of thirty cribs and fifteen men came down the rapids but were blown out of the channel by the wind which was by this time almost a hurricane.  I had started to take my men off the point of land when I saw this raft in as great a danger as that of Dunlop’s men so we turned to the rescue but the pilot, a French Canadian thought he could save his raft and bring it to the slide but very soon he had to give up that idea and he and his men jumped for the canoe and listened to the timber crashing over the falls.  The reason for their trying to run at the time was on account of the high wind.  They were afraid the anchors would not hold the whole raft against the wind and strong current. Well, I saved the lives of 29 men that day and only one man Mr. Dunlop returned thanks and he was not one of those rescued either but thanked me for his men’s lives.


Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.



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Your Mississippi River, Ontario Fact of the Day

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