The Real Sam McGee is from Kawartha Lakes

You’ve probably heard of the poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service. If not, enjoy this version read by Johnny Cash with paintings by Ted Harrison:

Here’s what you might not know: the titular character, “Sam McGee” was from Kawartha Lakes.

Robert Service was a clerk for CIBC in Whitehorse, when a form crossed his desk with Sam McGee’s name on it. The rhythm of the name captured Service, and he knew it would fit a ballad. So he wrote to Sam McGee, a prosperous builder of roads in the Klondike, to ask about using his name. McGee said yes, and the rest is poetry. (

Now here’s the history.

“Sam McGee” was born William Samuel McGee on August 28, 1868 on a farm just outside Lindsay. In fact, that farm was in (at the time) Fenelon Township, just up the road from Cameron, and registered in his mother’s name, Ellen McGee. (

William Samuel McGee married in Peterborough in 1901:

William Samuel McGEE, 32, miner, Cameron – Victoria Co., Whitehorse Yukon, s/o Joseph McGEE & Ellen McCULLOUGH, married Ruth WARNER, 20, Liverpool England, Harvey twp., d/o James WARNER & Betsy JENKINSON, witn: George WARNER & Mrs. Annie EARL, both of Harvey twp., 5 June 1901 at Peterborough (

More about Sam McGee (with photo):


Borrow The Cremation of Sam McGee from the library.