The Coleman Frog was captured in Killarney lake during the 1800s in Fredericton, New Brunswick. At the time, it weighed a measly 7.3 pounds.
The local folklore states that the Coleman frog was first encountered while Fred Coleman, a fisherman, was spending time fishing on Killary lake, a popular fishing hole and the source of Killarney Creek. The creek flows down through the Nashwaaksis neighbourhood of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Fred Coleman owned a lodge in Fredericton near Killarney, in the 1800s, where he spent the majority of his time peacefully fishing on lake Killarney.
One day, Fred was out on the lake – as usual – fishing for an evening snack. He planned for a quiet morning, spending a couple of hours fishing and collecting food. It was going well, the skies were clear and the water was flat, allowing Fred to relax and enjoy his time. Then, all of a sudden, out of the corner of his eye, he saw it, it was the Coleman frog.
It was an early morning, the sun was just coming up over the horizon. Fred was out in his rowboat, the boat was by no means large, only reaching 15 feet at most. The perch were biting that morning, and Fred could barely keep a worm on his line. All of a sudden, a shiny object seemed to slowly protrude from the water, exposing more and more of itself.
He was now alarmed and confused. He had never, in all his years of fishing, seen something as puzzling and unexplainable as what he saw at that moment on the boat.
The large mass was coming right for the paddle boat – with no plans of stopping.
Growing increasingly alarmed, he started vigorously paddling towards the shore. The water crashed and splashed him as he paddled with everything he had, trying to escape this unknown creature swimming towards his boat.
An eyewitness stated, “Fred was so startled, that he dropped his rod, grabbed for the oars, and started paddling for the shore. The object just kept coming and finally with one large leap, landed in Fred’s boat. I tell you it was some sort of frightening thing but Fred regained his composure, kept the boat from swamping, and made it back to shore with his new-found passenger.”
Paddling with everything, Fred did not have much hope he would make it to shore in time to escape the creature, and, as we now know, he didn’t.
Fred did make it to the shore, but now had a new problem to deal with… this weird, huge, and slimy frog. So, that evening after much deliberation he accepted that the frog was now a part of his life.
He led his new friend back to his lodge – which after all, wasn’t far from Killarney lake and as the frog had a leap of six feet, it was no trouble. Fred introduced his frog to a couple of his friends on the front-yard lawn of his lodge, named it after himself, and even gave him some buttermilk to drink.
Since most of Fred’s food came from the Barker House kitchen, the frog enjoyed a regular menu of baked beans, Junebugs, buttermilk toddies, and whey laced with whiskey.
This was the start of a friendship between the two that would last 8 more years.
The Coleman frog lived out the remainder of its time living in the lake but would hop its way right back to Fred’s lodge upon hearing the dinner bell ring. The often and ever-so-liberal feedings are considered to be one of the reasons that the great hopper grew to such incredible sizes.
Some time had passed, and the Coleman Frog was very recognizable. People would come all across the province just for a peak at the massive amphibian but were only able to see it, when it wasn’t gargling down buttermilk or feeling too shy.
The frog became far more known than many figures at the time and as its popularity grew. Even the premier at the time was considered to live in the shadows of the frog.
How could you blame the people? What’s better, a premier or a singing frog prompted with buttermilk performing on command? We both know the answer.
Despite the lack of formal training, It was noted by the Lewiston Daily Sun that the Coleman frog held a remarkable degree of talent for performing. He sang regularly, mostly on command and always did so when offered a bribe.
Although it seems as if the frog had a voice similar to a choir of 30 angels, it required a trained ear to understand the tune he boasted.
Those who knew the frog well insisted on saying that he could sing every note in the spectrum, but the more unimaginative observers did not show as much appreciation towards the frog’s songs… saying that his croak was no more tuneful than a tin can.
One person mentioned their experience with the lake, leading one to wonder if there is some truth behind this folktale.
“I grew up in Nashwaaksis which is right beside Killarney Lake and I can tell you the frogs in Killarney Lake are already unusually large. When I was a kid I used to love to catch frogs and all other frogs in the area you can fit in one hand. The frogs in Killarney Lake… at least in the 90s, you needed two hands to hold onto their sides and there’s no way you could close your palms around them”
The Coleman Frog was then killed in a freak dynamite accident, and Freds life was turned completely upside down. It was rumoured that someone was aiming for an easy fried-perch dinner–but it was never clear.
After some grieving, Fred took the frog to one of the best taxidermists in all of New Brunswick. He begged – explaining the importance behind this specimen – that it is crucial to get the frog stuffed.
It was his best friend Fred exclaimed,
“We laughed, cried, fished, smoked cigars, even drank.. We spent our time well.”
The taxidermist agreed, he understood just as any other man at the time the value behind smoking, drinking, and fishing with your friends.
When the frog was returned to Fred, he proudly displayed it in the lobby of his “Barker House” lodge where it was later deeded to the York-Sunbury Historical Society in 1959 where it sits proudly.
After it was all said and done, the sun sat over Killarney lake and Fred sat quietly by the water’s edge. With his eyes fixed on the rippling water, he was reminded of when he and the frog had first met. His dearest memories all came back at once, thinking of all the great conversations he shared with the frog, and the adventures they had embarked on.
It caused him to smile.
But, at once, his heart sank, as he was reminded of the tragic day his friend had been blown up by dynamite – but, he was comforted knowing that the frog’s memory would live on. As a testament to both their loyalty, and the friendship they shared it was a friendship that had defied all odds and had brought joy to both of their lives.
Still sitting on the lake’s edge, he rose to his feet, knowing that he would never forget the lessons learned from his now-dead friend.
He walked away from that lake, carrying a sense of peace. He knew that even though his best friend was gone, their bond would never truly be broken.