Mayflower Passengers, Crew And Body In Casket Stories

The sternwheeler steamer “Mayflower”, built in 1903 and launched in 1904, headed out of Barry’s Bay dock at about 7:00 p.m. on it’s second round trip of the same day on Tuesday, November 12, 1912. There was a crew of three men and nine passengers plus a corpse in a casket on the bow deck.

The steamer had just entered the main part of Kamaniskeg Lake on its way to Combermere and a violent snowy storm began. At approximately 9:00 p.m. the boat sank in about 30 seconds. Four passengers survived the sinking of the steamer by hanging onto the casket and floating to a nearby island. One of the men died of exposure upon reaching the island and the other three men were picked up the following day (Wednesday) at about 8:00 p.m. by the steamer “Ruby”. Captain Donald Gates operated that steamer.

This is a story of the individuals who were on the steamer that fateful night.

A search party headed by “Hal” Henry Edward Hudson, brother of Captain “Jack” John Hudson (and co-owner of Mayflower) and divers from Ottawa and Smiths Falls came to Barry’s Bay to find the drowned bodies on Sunday, November 17,1912. The divers found many bodies that day. On the following Monday, November 18, 1912 they had found all of the bodies except one and continued to look for Bothwell but couldn’t find his body. It wasn’t found until the following April 1913.

November 28, 1865 – November 12, 1912

CAPTAIN “JACK” JOHN CHARLES HUDSON – OWNER AND CAPTAIN November 28, 1865 – November 12, 1912

Jack was born November 28, 1865 in Radcliffe Twp., and was the son of “Charles” John Charles Hudson and Elizabeth Dennison. He was one of nine children.

He owned and operated the Hudson House Hotel with his wife “Maggie” the former Margaret Mahon. They married April 27, 1904 in the Bishops residence in Pembroke and had to get special permission due to the fact that he was Anglican and she was Roman Catholic. They lived down the road (now Mill St) from the Hudson House in a two-story red brick building called “Sunset Inn” which was next door to St. Paul’s Anglican Rectory and church. He had one son Edwin born February 27, 1905 who was only 7 years old when his father drowned.

Jack was the first Reeve (Mayor) of Radcliffe Township after the township broke a way from the combined Raglan-Radcliffe Township in January 1902.

Jack owned, with his brother Hal Hudson a navigation company that had several boats. One of the first boats was the Hudson Bros., a side-wheeler but it burned on the shore during the fire of 1911. The other boat was the famous sternwheeler steamer “Mayflower”.

Underwater diver James Scott from Smiths Falls dove around the wreck on November 17, 18 and 19. James found three bodies, that of Captain John Hudson, Mrs. Elizabeth McWhirter, William “Tailor” Boehme and William Murphy but could not find the remaining body of George Bothwell.

He was just shy of his 47th birthday by two weeks when he drowned.

Jack was buried in St. Paul’s Anglican Cemetery in Combermere.

March 13, 1884 – November 12, 1912

AARON PARCHER – PILOT March 13, 1884 – November 12, 1912

Aaron was the pilot of the Mayflower but wasn’t properly licensed for that role at the time of the sinking. The normal licensed pilot had left the employ over a dispute weeks before the incident.

Aaron was born March 13,1884 on his parents home on the east shore of Kamaniskeg Lake near where the boat sank.

He had a life jacket on at the time of the sinking and was a strong swimmer. He swam to the east shore of Kamaniskeg Lake to get a boat from his father’s property, but died of stomach rupture near the shore. His brother Howard and father Cyril found him the next day. Howard was out on the shore hunting ducks when he found Aaron’s hat floating near shore and then saw his body out from shore.

Aaron and his wife Maude married June 10, 1907 and had purchased a farm at Kirkland Lake. He and his wife and two sons Gordon, born April 24, 1908 and Allen, born Oct 18, 1910 intended to move there after the last voyage of the Mayflower for the season. They lived in Barry’s Bay on a hill next to where the Ashgrove Inn is located today. After Aaron’s drowning, Maude and the two boys moved to Kirkland Lake, Ontario where they lived for many years.

He was 28 years, 9 months old when he drowned.

Aaron is buried in St. Paul’s Anglican Cemetery in Combermere, ON.

Abt 1894 – November 12, 1912

(No photo available. Anyone with a photo please contact the Curator)

Tom was the fireman and engineer of the Mayflower. He was responsible for feeding the firebox with pine slab wood every eight to ten minutes and making sure the two 13.5 H.P. engines were operating properly and well lubricated. His body was found on Sunday, November 17, 1912 on the steamer. Tom was born in England. His mother, several brothers and several sisters still lived in England at the time. He is buried at St. Lawrence O’Toole Cemetery in Barry’s Bay. He had lived in Barry’s Bay for four years.

When the Mayflower went down, Tom ran to the front of the deck and climbed the flagpole. He hung onto it and wouldn’t get down to hold onto the casket from the urging the four men standing on the roof of the pilot house because he couldn’t swim. The four men who clung onto the casket shouted to Tom to join them but wouldn’t jump off the pole.

He was 19 years old when he drowned.

January 4, 1830 – November 12, 1912


Elizabeth Stuart Storie and was born in McNabb Twp., Renfrew Co. on Jan. 4, 1830 and later lived in a house in Fort Stewart, below Combermere.

She married William McCargo McWhirter at Braeside, ON, who was born in the Parish of Dailey, Ayrshire, Scotland on Feb. 25, 1825 and died Sept. 3, 1911. He was a carpenter before sailing to Canada West and then was a storekeeper at Bristol QC.

They eventually settled on Lots 12 and 13 on the 5th Concession of Carlow. William turned his farm over to his son William before he died in 1911. William the son, married Christina Stewart and they raised 12 children. Most of the McWhirters are buried in the Boulter cemetery.

William Jr. house burned in 1892 and two of three children burned. They were Thomas A., born April 1889 and Margaret born March 4, 1890.

Elizabeth had been visiting for some duration her eldest son William and family at Bristol QC. She waited for a stage to take her from Barry’s Bay to Combermere on Nov. 12, 1912 and it was late and the Mayflower was leaving earlier so she boarded the fateful steamer.

She was the only female on the Mayflower when it sank. Her body was found floating inside the cabin by diver James Scott along with William Boehme and she was not wearing a lifejacket. It was later learned at the inquest that she gave hers to Joe Harper, one of the survivors.

She was 82 years old when she drowned.

She is buried in the Carlow United Church Cemetery at Boulter, ON.

Abt. 1885 – November 12, 1912

George Henderson-Bothwell

George came to Canada from the family home in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1906 when he was about 21 years old.

He was a traveling salesman for F. L. Castle Company, a produce company in Ottawa for five years and lived at 103 Nepean St.  He was a member of the Presbyterian Church on Bank St.  Before joining the Castle Company, he was a Sergeant with the Royal Canadian Engineers.

His body wasn’t found until April 24, 1913 near the shore on the east shore rocks of Kamaniskeg Lake opposite the wreck of the boat and near where Aaron Parcher’s body was found earlier. George was a strong swimmer and an all round athlete and was one of Ottawa’s leading bachelors.

He was a Mason and member of an Ottawa Masonic Lodge.

George was 27 years old when he drowned.




Joe Harper
Joe Harper

Joe was in his mid twenties and lived in an older apartment in Ottawa since 1910. He formerly had come from Kinburn and had lived in Ottawa for two years before the Mayflower incident.

Joe was shoe salesman for Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company in Ottawa for the previous two years and had a weekly sales trip through the Barry’s Bay – Combermere area to sell his products. He was newly married for little over a year to Nellie at the time.

He couldn’t swim a stroke but joined the other three men holding onto the casket with deceased John Brown inside. Shortly after landing on the island, it was Joe’s gasoline cigar lighter that enabled the men to start a fire to keep them warm during the night and the next day until they were picked up by the “Ruby”. That lighter saved the three men their lives.

On hearing of the disaster, Nellie went by train to Barry’s Bay to meet her husband Joe to see if he was OK.

He was in his mid 20’s when he survived the sinking.

September 18, 1858 – November 12, 1912

Paddy Obrien
Paddy Obrien

Paddy was born Sept. 18, 1858. He was the owner and operator of the hotel in Combermere called O’Brien House at the west side of the bridge (currently St. Joseph’s, operated by Madonna House). He was well liked and friendly with all the residents of Combermere. He operated the first private telephone service in the area and it was used to notify family of the tragedy on Kamaniskeg Lake.

He married “Tillie” Matilda Price about 1874 and they had nine children.

He was Councilor of Radcliife Town Council and a good friend of Captain Hudson.

Paddy was sitting on the top of the casket on the trip from the sunken Mayflower to the island but died of exposure upon reaching the shore of the island. The other three men pulled his body out of the water onto the island.

He was 54 years old when he survived the sinking but died of exposure at the shore of the island.

Paddy was buried in the Old Methodist Cemetery in Combermere.


September 18, 1858 – November 12, 1912

No photo available.
Anyone with a photo please contact the Curator

William was born Sept 18, 1858 and resided in Rockingham with his sister.

He hung onto the flagpole with Tom Delaney when the Mayflower sunk and his body was found floating near the wreck by Hal Hudson the next day after the sinking.

He was 54 years old when he drowned.

He is buried in the St. Leonard’s Anglican Cemetery, Rockingham

Abt. 1852


Gordon was born about 1852 in Montreal and had come to Ottawa in 1909 and worked as a traveling salesman for the Curticle Silk Company of Ottawa and made frequent sales trips to the Barry’s Bay and Combermere areas. Gordon and his wife lived at 56 Second St. in Ottawa.

He was the only swimmer pushing the casket while Harper and Imlach held both sides of the casket with Gordon’s tie stretched across the casket. Together they pushed the casket to the closest island. It took them about two hours to make the trip as snow was blowing hard and it was very dark and they thought they were swimming to shore. His wife also went by train to Barry’s Bay to meet with her husband.

He was 56 years old when he was on the Mayflower and survived.

Abt. 1885 – November 7, 1912


John was born about 1885 and raised in Palmer Rapids near Schutt. He was the oldest son of a large family of 6 sisters and 5 brothers. He left home in 1911 and went west to Saskatchewan near Yorkton to help his sister Elizabeth Anne Brown and brother-in-law Robert Pachal with their dairy operation. He had taken on another part time job to help make ends meet as a transporter of equipment. One day when he was crossing a slough, he wanted to shoot prairie dogs. When he didn’t arrive back at the shop, employees went looking for him and found him sitting in the field with his gun across his knees with a bullet hole in his head. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

His body in a casket was transported and accompanied by Robert Pachal by train to Barry’s Bay and was placed on the bow deck of the Mayflower for supposed transport to the cemetery in Schutt.

John was about 27 years old when he was accidentally shot in Saskatchewan.

His body is buried in the Schutt Cemetery toe to toe with Robert Pachal.


Abt. 1883 – November 12, 1912



John was born about 1883 in Renfrew, ON and was a bachelor living in Ottawa with his parents Andrew Imlach and Mary MacKenzie in an apartment at 29 ½ Thornton Street in the Glebe. He was five years old when the family moved to Ottawa.

He worked as a traveling salesman for the General Supply Company, Ottawa and was his first trip since taking the job.

His parents owned and operated Victoria Foundry Company and were members of the industrial establishment in the capital city. Previously,

John had worked with his brother Andrew who operated Victoria Garage on Duke St., Ottawa, a Division of Victoria Foundry.

Andrew went by train to Barry’s Bay to meet with John.

John was 29 years old when the Ruby picked him up the next day.


Abt. 1885 – November 12, 1912


Robert’s body was found by a search party headed by Hal Hudson, brother to Captain Hudson on Friday, November 15 floating near the island where the survivors swam to with the casket. He was a brother-in-law of John Brown and had accompanied the body from Yorkton, Saskatchewan to Barry’s Bay by train and then onto the Mayflower. He and his wife Elizabeth Anne had moved from Fort Stewart below Combermere to Yorkton several years earlier to operate a dairy farm.

Robert was about 27 years old when he died.

He is buried in the Schutt Cemetery toe to toe with John Brown.


December 17, 1853 – November 12, 1912


William was born December 17, 1853 in Tauer, Province of Brandenburg, Prussia (now Germany). He was married to Louisa Frederick on March 10, 1886. They had three children, Annie, Herman and Bertha.

He was a local tailor in Combermere and had a shop added to his house where he practiced his trade. The house is still stands in Combermere today and occupied. He was well liked by everyone in the area and quite an astute businessman.

He was 58 years old when he drowned.

His body is buried in the Old Methodist Cemetery in Combermere.