Many years ago, in the early days of the Grand River Navigation Company, a fishing boat capsized with a crew of fourteen men. Three of the men managed to crawl onto the Keel of the vessel and call for help. A crowd gathered by the shore of the river. However, the river was moving too quickly, and it was determined that it would be impossible to reach the boat.
When the crew had all drowned, the ship righted itself and came ashore as if it were steered. It grounded and stuck fast, and no-one touched it until the following winter. It was dragged across the winter ice and placed alongside a line of pine trees along Forfar Street, near where the present-day railroad bridge is located. This area was known as Sunnyside Village. No-one wanted to take it out on the river, for all were afraid of it.
While the boat was being pulled over the ice up to the line of trees, some Millers from Balmoral Mills (Present Day Caledonia Mill), swear that they saw all the dead crew following behind, and it was a gruesome sight to see. After this the boat lay in the field next to the pine trees, barely visible from the roadway.
A little later, a farmer named Thomas happened to ride by. He was on his way back home from dropping his grain off at Ranald McKinnon’s Grist Mill (Burned Sept. 3rd, 1969). When Thomas came nearer to the field where the boat lay, he met a man unknown to him who said, “Give Us a Hand.”
Thomas did not suspect anything, for the boat was not seen from the roadway, and said he would help. The man did not say another word but turned and signed to Thomas to follow him. Thomas rode after him but thought it strange that his horse kept whinnying and seemed most unwilling to go that way.
Then they came to the line of pine trees where the boat lay, and Thomas saw thirteen men standing around it, and they all looked ghastly. Now, for the first time, Thomas remembered the wreck last autumn, and it seemed to him that he recognized all the men who had drowned.
He was terrified and whipped his horse. The horse set off at a gallop. As he rode away from the line of pine trees, he heard this chant called after him by the ghosts:
“Idle stands the stranded ship,
deep the darkness red;
The fellow freely wields his whip,
few are friends of the dead.
Few are friends of the dead.”
Thomas remembered this rhyme as long as he lived. After the incident he never rode that way alone again. He always had someone ride with him, even by broad daylight.