SINKING OF THE MAYFLOWER
This is the story of a dead man saving three people from drowning. The sinking of the sternwheeler Mayflower near Combermere marked the worst inland maritime disaster in Canada at the time the ship sank on November 12, 1912. Nine people died when the 77-foot-long flat-bottomed boat sank in Kamaniskeg Lake. But three survived – in a bizarre coincidence that made the news in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. “Dead Man Saves Three!” The dead man was in a casket on the deck that floated to shore while three desperate passengers clung to it.
The boat was making one last run of the season, at night, to accommodate a request to deliver the body to Combermere. The plaque marking the scene stands high on a hill in Lookout Park, just east of Purdy on Highway 62, near the Renfrew County border. Eighty meters below the hilltop, Kamaniskeg Lake spreads out in a panorama worth viewing in it own right.
Unfortunately, the text of the plaque has been obscured by some vandal who poured paint over it. However, a complete story is available in the on-line archives of the Pembroke Observer.
Renfrew County claims this disaster as its own, since the towns involved (Barry’s Bay and Combermere) are both in the county. However, the plaque is in Hastings County and the county border meanders down the middle of Kamaniskeg Lake, so we presenting the story here. GPS co-ordinates: 45° 21’ 48.77” N, 77° 41’ 19.96” W (45.36333333, 77.68861111) Street address: Lookout Point Road, off Highway 62, between Combermere and Purdy.
Illustration: The Mayflower