The Great Ingersoll Pond Hoax of 1857

In May of 1857, Ingersoll was the scene of one of the biggest hoaxes in the life of the young village. Partlo’s Pond (Memorial Park) was the scene of muchactivity.  Day and night, men could be seen, some armed with shotguns, patrolling the pond. It was said their vigil was caused by a monster in the pond. At times, the quiet surface of water could be seen in violent turmoil as though some unseen force was stirring up a witch’s cauldron. For a brief period, the pond would be very still, only to be repeated in some other part. This gave the impression of something, a creature, moving under the water, but not revealing itself. Hence, the mystery of Partlo’s Pond.  In a matter of course, imagination and superstition filled the hearts of the people of Ingersoll who saw all the commotion. In fact, the matter spread over the whole countryside. This turmoil kept up   for months, almost everyone claimed to have seen the monster. Events became so interesting that several leading newspapers from several towns vied for the privilege of witnessing the capture or destruction of the mysterious monster.  It was decided that a public holiday would be appropriate, so a day was set aside to drain the pond and see what the monster was like. May 24, 1857 was the day set aside for the mystery and was looked forward to by thousands of people.  As the day drew near, strangers flocked to the village. Representatives of Canadian museums and a professor from a scientific institution in the United States came. The professor was prepared with literature and drawings of all known prehistoric creatures. He stayed at the Royal Exchange Hotel. He claimed the churning of the water was not the action of the supposed creature, but caused by the prey of the monster when attacked and devoured.  On the day before the draining of the pond, May 23, 1857, it seemed as if Ingersoll would burst at the seams. The professor and the press were given a special site in which to view the event. There were many field glasses and telescopes in the crowd lining around the pond. As the gates were opened, certain men stood ready should a live capture not be possible. A heavy raft with plenty of rope, piked poles and anything deemed necessary was made ready.  Finally the gates were slowly opened. The water slowly receded. The people became nervous and many of the women fainted from the expectation of what they would see. The gates were finally opened wide and the rush of water resembled a miniature waterfall. It was some time before the lowering of the pond water was diminished. Binoculars and telescopes were trained on the scene. The raft, armed by two young men got under way. At length, the water subsided, then an object came into view.  The professor had spotted it through his binoculars and declared it to be a hairy creature. The boys on the raft also saw the creature and steered their raft toward it. When they were close enough, they plunged the pike into it. One of them was getting the noose ready on the heavy rope, lost his balance and fell into the water. However, he hurriedly scrambled back on the raft, then with the help of his friend, succeeded in getting the noose over the monster. After some difficulty, they towed their victim toward shore. It was soon evident, the boys on the raft needed help and willing hands were ready to lend assistance. A heavy team was backed to the water’s edge and a heavy logging chain attached to the object and pulled from the water.  The professor took one look at it and turned deathly pale. A man nearby exclaimed “tis’ a hoax”. The hide of a two-year-old cow, stuffed with straw and filled with bricks to keep it under water emerged. “It is more than a hoax”, the professor exploded. “It is an outrage on the people here and in half of America”.  The representatives of the press sent here from great distances and expense agreed that this was an outrage by a contemptible Canadian town.  The professor wanted to lodge a protest and immediately embarked in a tirade of outrage and insults. Said the professor, “I intend to gather enough of my fellow scientists and compel you to make amends”. The councillor told the professor, “If you don’t take the first train out of our town, l will have you locked up”. Just as they had finished talking, the team of horses drove past, dragging the monster behind them. The professor took one look and walked away.  The explanation for all this excitement went like this: When the late John Stuart began making oatmeal in the mill, known as Stuart’s Mill, on Canterbury Street, opposite Centre Street, a certain amount of oat hulls and oat dust was swept out of the rear door. This went into the stream, which leads to the village pond. In the pond, these sweepings congealed in lumps, which formed a gas and rose to the surface causing large bubbles and disturbances in various places. This led to some of our local practical jokers to turn the event into a feature May 24th celebration.

The above is an excerpt from Ingersoll Tribune Centennial Edition by Byron G. Jenvey

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