One of the Most Baffling Mysteries of Eastern Canada
This is a story of the tragic and mysterious fate of the 8-year-old son of Thomas McGilton, of Ottawa, who was supposed to have been lost in the stoney swamp west of Bell’s Corners in the year 1870. Thomas McGilton was a bootmaker, whose store was on Mosgrove street, a well known and respected citizen. One day in the early summer of 1870, during some sort of a celebration in Ottawa, his eight-year-old son disappeared.
A search began in Ottawa and as it proved fruitless and was widened to take in the roads out of the city. The only clue was found at Bell’s Corners, where the toll-gate keeper distinctly remembered seeing a few days previously: a boy of his age and appearance pass through the gate and turn up the road toward Richmond. At once a searching party of sympathetic villagers was organized. They travelled as far as Richmond, but neither sight nor sign of the boy could be had.
It occurred to some that the McGilton boy might have wandered into the great stoney swamp a couple of miles southwest of the village. It was decided to scour the swamp, and volunteers were called for. The whole male part of the village and scores of farmers turned out and the searchers kept growing till some fifty men and many boys were in the hunt. The search was kept up for days but without avail. Every bit of the dreary swamp was ransacked, but the boy was not found, nor was there the slightest indication that he had fallen a victim to wild animals of any sort of natives.
As a last resort, someone came to Ottawa and engaged a native woodsman who had a reputation as a guide and trapper. But he was not able to throw any light on the disappearance. Sadly the searchers returned to their homes and confessed that they were beaten. Then a theory gained credence that the boy bad been picked up by some passing farmer and that he would be later returned to his home.
But whatever the facts of the disappearance were, the boy was never found. This became one of the most mysterious of the unexplained mysteries of Eastern Canada. It should be told that this happening was just a couple of months prior to the great fire of 1870 which swept Bell’s Corners.
1872 Deaths - from the Ottawa Free Press Thomas McGilton
Oct 19, John George, and on Oct 21, Arthur, the 2 youngest sons of Thomas MCGILTON(?)
of Mosgrove Street.
Dec 7, Mary Jane, 24, wife of William John JOYCE and daughter of Thomas MCGILTON.
- Memphis Daily Appeal,
- 19 Aug 1870, Fri,
- First Edition,
- Page 1
The great fire of 1870– Leona Kidd
Ten died as flames swept 60-mile swath through Valley
By Kathy McPerson-Fox, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park
Kathy McPerson-Fox, who worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources at Murphy’s Point Park last summer, did a great deal of research through old Perth Couriers to dig out old stories of “The Great Fire”.
The following is an introduction by Kathy as well as stories about the fire written in 1870. During the summer of 1870, as a result of dry weather and high winds, a great fire swept through this region destroying land and property from Westport to Ottawa, a distance of approximately 60 miles.
Bells Corners and Ironsides, near Ottawa were completely devastated. An estimated ten people lost their lives.
The fire travelled along fences, corduroy roads and railway lines. During the peak of the fire in August, 1870, the great portion of the Canada Central Railway Line was on fire, with many station houses lost. North Burgess Township in which Murphy’s Point is situated, was one of the areas hardest hit by the fire. The absence of many softwoods throughout the hardwood stands is one loss that is evident today.
The Stony Swamp Conservation Area offers the greatest diversity of trails and activities, including: interpretive exhibits on geology and natural history; wetland boardwalks; a winter bird-feeding station; historic sites such as the Lime Kiln; and portions of the Rideau and Trans Canada trails.
Trails in the area include:
Bell Park, Bruce Pit, Jack Pine, Lime Kiln and Old Quarry trails.