Tag Archives: booth flume

Went into Torrent at Foot of Chaudiere Falls with Thermometer at 20 Below!!! 1902

Went into Torrent at Foot of Chaudiere Falls with Thermometer at 20 Below!!! 1902

37 Arthur Street Ottawa

Few men have had an experience such as Robert Davis of 37 Arthur street had back In 1902 and lived. Mr. Davis fell from the Booth flume (uncovered at the time) into the icy water of the river, on a day in January when the thermometer registered twenty below zero. He entered the water halfway between the falls and the bridge. A little below the bridge the river was solidly ice covered. Had he not been a strong swimmer and carried as far as the Ice in the rapidly flowing current, his death must have been certain.

But his strength as a swimmer enabled him to swim diagonally across the strong current to the north side of the river, and gain the land just east of the north pier of the bridge, from which point he was hauled to the bridge by a rope provided by the men of Booth’s mill. His escape seemed nothing short of miraculous. To understand properly what a wonderful escape Mr. Davis had it must be remembered that at that time there was no great dam as now and the water tore down under the bridge in a practically unrestricted flow and with mill-tail velocity.



When Mr. Davis came out of the water his cap was gone and he was bareheaded (as well as all wet) with the temperature 20 below. An employee of the mill took off his coat and put It over Mr. Davis’ head. This fact is mentioned to show the fine instincts of generosity which impel the average man in times of stress. Mr. Davis never forgot that act.

Just as the moment when Mr. Davis had been hauled onto the bridge there passed from Hull a hack with a Mr. McNeill (a brother of the late J. R. McNeill, the tailor) as a fare. Mr. McNeill (who was a stranger from the Northwest) He insisted on taking Mr. Davis to his home at 37 Arthur street, which he did.

As soon as Mr. Booth heard that Mr. Davis had come out of the river alive, he made quick arrangements for him to be taken to the boiler room and offer dry clothes,stimulants and a doctor. If ten men fell into the Icy current as Mr. Davis did (with a drop of between 26 and 30 feet, 9 would undoubtedly have been drowned. The chances would have been all against them. Insurance Agent’s Chance Mr. Davis’ experience had a humorous side. There was a certain young insurance agent who used to go around the mill soliciting accident Insurance. Being a good talker and a great hustler he did a land office business.

Lost Ottawa
Booth, Perley and Pattee mills on Chaudiere Island next to the Ottawa River in 1878.

These mills were built over the flume seen in our earlier map (posted at 7.30 am). The water pouring out the side has been used to power turbines that in turn power all the mill machinery in the days before electricity.

J.R. Booth would soon own all these mills.

(CSTM E.B. Eddy Collection, originally LAC PA-012497)

About six months after the Davis Incident the young man was at the mill and he did not know Mr. Davis personally. The young man wore a medal. Mr. Davis asked what it was and the young man proudly told him it was a Humane Society medal given him for saving the life of a man at the bridge about six months before. Mr. Davis looked at the medal and saw his own name on it, as the man who had been saved. He was dumbfounded for the moment.

When he recovered he asked the agent to describe the circumstances of the rescue and the agent told how the man had fallen from the Booth flume and how he had jumped into the river and saved him. Mr. Davis asked him if he would know the man again if he saw him. He replied that he thought he would. Mr. Davis then told him that he was the man who had fallen in the river and that he had got out of the water without help, and demanded to know how the agent had secured the medal.

The young man then caved in, admitted wearing the medal was not right, and begged Mr. Davis not to say anything about It, as he had found it a great aid to getting business. As Mr. Davis was glad to be alive at the time he laughed heartily and let the agent go his way.

WOW!! He said nothing??

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