Once Upon a Time
'Freighting by Team & Sleigh in 1917'
by Bob Johnston

January 18, 2017


Once Upon a Time ...
Bruce County Memories

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Helene Scott wrote this tale just after the Great Blizzard of 1947 and compared that storm to her father’s recollection of an even worse winter in 1917.

Horse & Cutter at Lovat Cemetery in the snow of 1947

About thirty years ago, Kenny Murray, with his trusty team and sleigh, freighted goods from Wiarton to Stokes Bay. He recalled one trip where he and his trusty helper, Henry Wardrop, made a journey that became a battle royal with the elements. When they left Wiarton at 1 pm it had started to snow, and soon a howling blizzard was in progress. At nine o’clock that night they reached Pike Bay, both half frozen, and stopped only to feed their exhausted horses.  

Back outside they went and mushed. In some places the snow was so deep they had to shovel in front of the horses for yards and rods---or maybe miles as the story goes.

By this time, the storm had turned into a sleet and men and horses were covered in ice. Their lantern, the only light they carried, became shrouded in ice which smothered the flame until they found a replacement glass among the freight and relit the lamp.

By three o’clock in the morning, they reached Spry Corner. With their last bit of energy they walked into Frank Steip’s driveway and stabled their heaving horses. They then walked like a pair of icicles into the house. (No, the door wasn’t locked---not in those days when wayfarers were welcomed at any time.) The frozen pair found a good fire roaring away in the box stove and gratefully sat down and dripped. After some yelling on their part, Frank finally awakened and came downstairs. Good friend that he was, he quickly got them something to eat and a strong pot of hot tea. He then arranged a bed for them for the balance of the night.







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They continued on their way in the morning and reached Stokes Bay by noon, none the worse for wear. They made many more trips which tested their skill against Old Man Winter, no matter how mean he was. This was, of course, in the “good old days when men were men, and snapped their braces and chewed tobacco.” Kenny Murray was our Dad.


Helene Scott's article was published in the 1985 yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society and adapted by Bob Johnston for today’s reader.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017