The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 29, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Cross symbolized freakish triply-fatal lightning strike

foreword by Louise Schwartz

In the late 1920s, the Ottawa Citizen ran a regular column called "Old-Time Stuff," compiled by George Wilson. A column from September 1928 included the following reminiscence of an event that occurred in 1891, on the same day a thirty-foot-high cedar cross was erected on King Mountain in Chelsea. Apparently the cross could be seen for miles around until it eventually rotted and fell over the cliff. The cross had been built by Martin Welsh, who lived at "The Hollow" along the Mountain Road.

The Way We Were
Here's a still-recognizable view of Old Chelsea Road from around 1900, looking west. The former Edmond's Post Office is seen on the left, and beyond is the barely visible Dunn's Hotel. The second house on the right is Dean's Hotel, now the Chelsea Pub. Jack Cameron and his family lived somewhere on this road before he lost his life in the story recounted below. Photo courtesy of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

The story of putting up the big cross on King's Mountain in 1891, recalls to mind the killing by lightning of Jack Cameron of New Chelsea.

The one story calls to mind the other because it was on the day the cross was erected that poor Cameron was killed. Mr. James Padden, who was present when the cross was placed in position, tells about the Cameron fatality.

He and the others were on King's Mountain when the storm broke and they saw the bolt of fork lightning which struck Mr. Cameron. Mr Padden says that bolt was the greatest bolt in size and range that he ever saw.

The bolt had three distinct forks. One seemed to hit on the Meach Lake Road, another at Chelsea where Jack Cameron and his team of horses were killed, and a third struck across in Cantley.

Being on top of the mountain, the men who were putting up the cross had a very clear and full view of the storm.

Before proceeding with Mr. Padden's story of the storm it should be said that Jack Cameron was a resident of the road that runs between New and Old Chelsea, was a married man and in his thirties.

On the day he was killed he was hauling stone from the mountain from the property owned by Mr. Church of Chelsea.

On a prior load three children of the victim had travelled to the stone pit with him but on the last trip he had made, fearing that a storm was coming, he made the little ones stay behind.

He sent them to the home of the Anglican minister.

Had the three children remained on the load they would have probably met the fate of their father.

When Mr. Cameron got to the stone field he told the man who was with him that a very bad storm was coming up and he intended to start for home without a load.

Standing up on the wagon, instead of sitting, he drove the horses at a gallop across the field. His companion lay on the bottom of the wagon and held onto Mr. Cameron's foot.

Suddenly, according to the story told by the other man in the wagon, there was a blinding flash of lightning and a terrific crash of thunder at the same moment.

Some time later he recovered consciousness to find that Mr. Cameron and the horses were dead. In his opinion the lightning had struck the horses and then run up the lines and killed Mr. Cameron. The theory was based on the fact that the lines were badly scorched. The other man in the wagon had been shocked because he had hold of Mr. Cameron's leg.

Mr. Padden, who saw the storm over Chelsea from the mountain top says the cloud from which the lightning came that killed Mr. Cameron was of the widest spread and blackest clouds he ever saw.

Before that low-lying cloud came over Chelsea, the village was laid out in a panorama below them. When the cloud went over not a house was visible. It was if the whole village had been blotted out.

Mr. Padden says that as soon as the three-forked bolt of lightning came the men on the mountain ran down to Kingsmere as fast as they could run They had hardly reached Larry Dunn's house when the rain came down in torrents.

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