Our story begins during the days of Caledonia’s second bridge. Since a toll was required to cross, many winter travellers used the ice as a road to avoid paying the toll to cross using the bridge.
On a beautiful spring morning, Miss Jessie Macgregor was sent across the river by her mother to buy a loaf of bread from A.E. Jones Bakery. Her mother, hoping to get Jessie out of the house for some fresh spring air following a bitterly cold winter, sent Jessie off with enough money to pay the toll on the bridge and buy the loaf of bread. As Jessie was making her way down Dumfries Street (Currently Argyle Street South) she thought about the bakery. She had a craving for a sweet treat. She pictured the display window; it was always full of cinnamon buns, butter tarts and the bakeries famous butterfly buns. She licked her lips at the thought of all the yummy treats. She approached the river and made a quick decision to go across the ice which had not yet broken. With the 15 cents she would have used to cross the bridge she could buy a butterfly bun and satisfy her craving! She made it safely across the river and tied her horse to the hitching-post in front of the bakery. She bought the loaf of bread and her sweet treat and left the bakery, mounted her horse, and started back towards home.
She got to the river and noticed some cracks in the ice farther downstream. Nevertheless, she did not have enough money to cross the bridge, so she started across the ice. When she got about half-way across the river, the ice beneath her began to shift and gave way underneath the weight of the horse. The horse fell into the cold waters of the river. At that time Jessie had no idea of what was about to happen. All around her the ice started to crack, there was an ear-splitting noise and Jessie realized that the ice above the dam had broken! The ice-cold water came rushing over the dam towards her and she was pulled under.
At the time a contest was being held by the Caledonia Volunteer Fire Brigade and the person who guessed the exact date and time that the ice broke would win a prize. A member of the fire Department was always out watching so that they could determine precisely when the ice broke. This day was no exception, and a member of the fire department saw the ice break, and a young girl go down the river with it. He quickly called the rest of the fire brigade. Despite their best-efforts Jessie drowned in the river that day, just under the South end of the bridge, three meters short of the riverbank.
To this day those who walk under the bridge claim to hear screams. Some even say they can feel the touch of someone grabbing at their ankles, as if trying to get out of the river. Is this a coincidence, or is it the spirit of Jessie Macgregor attempting to warn people to stay away from the river’s edge?