The Walkerton Tragedy - Psychic Prediction From 100 Years Ago Or Eerie Coincidence?

- jim Young

"'Long past?' inquired Scrooge.

'No, your past,' replied the ghost." - Charles Dickens

As I pulled the fragile 600 page hardcover scrapbook from its shelf, bits and pieces of its brittle pages fell to the floor as leaves gently falling to the ground in the autumn.

The binding had freed many of its pages from the spine. The pages are numbered in the top corner which will help me ensure they at least stay in order, although the scrap book is a random collection of mostly newspaper and magazine articles that don’t really call for any kind of chronological order, save the occasional two or three related clippings that might flow from one page to the next. 

I tried to remember where I had acquired this look into the past. I was pretty certain it wasn’t a garage sale acquisition and initially assumed, and later confirmed, it was among boxes of treasures entrusted to me after my cousin Ross had passed. Ross, my first cousin once removed, to be more precise, was our family historian; the Alex Haley to our Roots, if you will and would have appreciated me taking the time to make that clarification of our relationship. 

Ross could have and often did, take us on a journey of who married whom, whom they begat and where they traveled that would lead us from my father’s birth on the kitchen table on the 10th Line in Craigvale (now Stroud) in 1925 to someone like Warren Jobbit born in New Zealand in 1954 to clearly demonstrate how Warren is my 3rd cousin once removed.

And he did this all from memory and without notes or charts except where the use of them would help to clarify the path for my sake.

But Ross is gone now and we don’t have his exceptional memory to rely on any more so I have undertaken to gather and preserve much of this information before it is lost forever.

I carefully opened this book to a random page and was immediately taken back in time to a weekend in May 2000 in Walkerton, Ontario.

My wife and I were visiting her sister in Walkerton the weekend that e-coli infiltrated the town’s water supply.

The page I had randomly opened the scrapbook to contained a small hand written note entitled “Walkerton”. Immediately beneath it was a newspaper clipping of a poem entitled “Boil The Water”.

One verse in particular stood out.

“And buried in the evening’s news,

   Striving to calm my thought,

I am wrapped about with an ancient dread;

   Each item with fear is fraught.

For across the columns in smug array

   Visions of microbes slink,

While in huge black type the paper screams:

   ‘Fail not to boil your drink!’

A chill went down my spine.

It took me a while to determine the timeline of this scrapbook which I discovered to be in the early 1900s almost a hundred years prior to the Walkerton tragedy. The scrapbook had belonged to my Great-grandaunt Janet (Weir) Maneer 

Although born in Canada near Guelph, Janet Weir was a young single lady in her 30s living in Pennsylvania in the U.S. at the time this scrapbook was kept. Most of the clippings in the scrapbook reflect both the time and place.

So my first thought was that the Walkerton referred to on the page in question was more likely Walkerton, Indiana or Walkerton, Virginia. 

But what a coincidence!

Then, as I researched my Great-grandaunt a little more, I discovered that for a brief time prior to moving to the U.S., Janet had also lived just outside Walkerton, Ontario. Perhaps she did have an interest in this small town in the 1900s.

I returned to the page I had originally opened the scrapbook to and dug a little deeper. The entire page was devoted to the history of the Knox Church in Walkerton and its early reverends. 

Maybe this was more than just a coincidence afterall. Maybe the placement of the poem “Boil The Water” was by design. Very little is known about my Great-grandaunt Janet as she had married into the family. She and my Great-granduncle Wes lived in the U.S and then Toronto and not logistically close to family during a time when travel to visit, or communication with, family was less common than it is today.

Could Janet (Weir) Maneer have been psychic and intentionally left the “Boil The Water” poem on the “Walkerton” page? Was it an advisory for a future event? Or was it all just a coincidence?

If it was the latter it was certainly an eerie coincidence that chilled me to the bone when I first discovered it.

30 -

UPDATE: March 4, 2023

Although I have been unsuccessful in determining precisely when the Walkerton Church information was added to the scrapbook, beyond the general timeline of the early 1900s, I have been able to date the clipping that contained the "Boil The Water" poem to 1902.

The reverse of this clipping contains part of the story of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra opening Parliament which occurred on January 25 1902.

If the 1902 clipping was added to the page around the time it was printed, the Walkerton Church information would have been added in 1902 or earlier. Of course the clipping could have been added to the Walkerton Church information sometime after the fact, but still within the early 1900s time frame.


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