Snake Island in Osgoode Township
by Michael Daley
March 7, 2006:
THIS NAME WAS BECAUSE OF LARGE POPULATION OF SNAKES OF VARIOUS SIZES , SOME
MEASURING FIVE FEET IN LENGTH , AND TWELVE INCHES IN
CIRCUMFERENCE. STRANGE TO SAY , THE IRISH HAD NOT BEEN LONG IN THE AREA BEFORE
THE SNAKES TOOK THEIR DEPARTURE .
IN CONCESSION FOUR THERE WERE - D, O'CONNOR , T., DEVEREAUX ,, J, MANTLE
IN CONCESSION , 5 THERE WERE THOMAS CANGLEY REV, THOS, O'BOYLE AND HIS FAMILY
[ FATHER OR BROTHER ] ALSO WILLIAM OTTO AND J, BRADLEY - LOT 19
BY 1879 THE POPULATION OF SNAKE ISLAND HAD INCREASED CONSIDERABLY WITH NAMES SUCH
AS MINOGUE , COLEMAN , DOOLEY , HERBERT , LEAHY , McMAHON , BRENNAN , KEOUGH ,
TOBIN , SHEA , McEVOY , AND McCABE , ALL FROM IRELAND
THE AREA WAS COVERED WITH WATER AND WILD GRASSES and marshy hay .in the early days ,
tragedy struck Snake Island . A Story is told of a poor family living in the
settlement by the name of John and Sally ------- they kept a cow , John ,
knowing that winter was coming on, and not wanting the cow to go hungry , decided
to cut some marsh hay for feed , for the cow over the winter . He sharpened his
scythe , got his lunch , old clay pipe and tobacco, and off he went to the meadow .
He looked over the field and picked out the best spot, as He thought , and set work. .
He had not been long mowing when one of those big black snakes bit him on the leg .
Luckily there was a man passing by who came to his aide and bound up His wounds ,
but John died of the snake bite.
... Michael Daley
Today, the Snake Island Road begins at Bank Street just west of the village of
Metcalfe and runs as far as the River Road near the Kars Bridge.
The snakes were likely a now almost extinct snake called the Black Rat Snake.
There is a small rocky island located off the north shore of the Big
Rideau Lake, about sixty miles southwest of the city of Ottawa. There, the snakes
are a protected species (part of Murphy's Point Provincial Park). As kids, we
used to visit the island in a twelve foot, flat-bottomed wooden boat and there
would be hundreds of these snakes, many were more than six feet long.
According to the Murphy's Point web site,
The park is home to five species of turtles, eight species of frogs and toads
and eight species of snakes, including Canada's largest, the black rat snake.
April 29, 2008
Thanks to Michael Daley for an interesting story taken from an 0ttawa Paper dated 1920's.
A strange incident out in the Township of Osgoode in the 1880's as told by Michael
McEvoy of lot 17 con. 3.
When some neighbor digging a grave in the winter for a Mister Brannick in St.
John's cemetery. Digging down through the frost with picks and shovels, a pick
suddenly penetrated deep into the ground. When the pick was pulled out there was
impaled upon it a small green snake, with each additional pull-up there came up a
green snake, suddenly a lift of a chunk of earth revealed a whole mass of snakes
curled into a ball shape. The mass moved slightly showing that the snakes were not
dead, but merely moribund, with shovels the ball of snakes was lifted to the surface
and pulled apart by picks. It was found by actual count there were 183 snakes in the
ball, of all sizes from 9 inches to 22-23 inches long. The spectator's were greatly
surprised at the discovery, they tried find some hole in the soil by which the snakes
had reached what was evidently their winter resting place but could not find any.
There was no evidence of a runway or decent channel by which they could have got down.
Among those who were present when the snakes were pulled out were Johnny Devereaux,
Tom Prendergast, James McEvoy, Tom Welsh, Moses Doyle, Michael McEvoy and Father
McGoey, the parish priest. There were no other graves near where Mr. Brannick's
grave was being dug. It was dug in virgin soil and there was neither apparent nor
suppositions explanation of how the snakes came to be in a cavity nearly three feet
under the surface. Somebody went for an ax and the snakes were cut up and their bodies
were buried under the snow. In the spring the men who dug them up buried them for
sanitary reasons in a corner of a field.
1st- How did snakes get three feet under ground without any appearance of a
2nd -- How did so many snakes get into one place? Is it the custom of snakes
to thus hibernate together in large numbers?
3rd - Did the snakes themselves dig the descent path. If there was one?
Do snakes dig?
AN EXPERT'S VIEW
The Editor of the paper contacted Mr. Clyde L. Patch of the Government Museum staff
who was an export on, among other things the habits of snakes. Mr. Patch, stated it
is common for snakes to hibernate in colonies, but he had never heard of such a large
number in one place. He could quite understand that the people who found so many snakes
would be startled, but snakes for the most part are both harmless to man and beneficial
NOTE, perhaps the name "Snake Island" may have just came to you mind. You may recall
how "Snake Island" got its name. It was a section of high land surrounded by swamp.
When the Irish families came to Island 1830-40's they found the Island overpopulated
with snakes of varying sizes, needless to say the Irish had not been long on the Island
when the snakes took their departure.
Now do you suppose, "Well just maybe" those snakes in there were in a hurry to leave
the Island, and some stopped off to rest in St John's Cemetery?
... Michael Daley
May 26, 2012:
Michael Daley talked about a lumber shanty in Snake Island in Osgoode Township and stated that he had a photograph of it.
Now, we usually associate shanties and lumber camps in the bush with the Gatineau Valley or in Renfrew County from an earlier period.
Here is Michael's photograph, dated 1907. It appears on page 4 in his book 150th Anniversary, 1854-2004, which commemorates the
parishes of St. John the Evangelist at Enniskerry and St, Brigid's on the River Road.
Copies of the book are available from the Osgoode Township Historical Society.
The men in the photograph are George Levine, David James, Bill Mullins, George Morris, Howard Morris, Bill Bradshaw,
Peter Gillissie, Jack Hurley, Charlie Cummings, Jim Hurley, Andrew Doyle, Charlie Clark,
John Dowser (the camp cook) and Jim McLaurin.
November 14, 2014:
Surnames in the above newspaper article: Brannick, Coleman, Dooley, Lahey, Kehoe, Costello, Tobin, Mantle, Devereaux,
McCabe, Herbert, Sullivan and Jordan.
Keywords: Rideau Canal
E-mail Michael Daley, Mary Quinn and Al Lewis
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