Thriller Thursday ~ Sentenced to Hang

Catch up! Previous posts in this series before you read “Sentences to Hang”:

~Accident or Murder

~The Vanishing

~The Fate of Rhoda

~Dear John

~The Coroner’s Inquest

Reading Gaol

Reading Gaol

The inquest verdict, “Willful murder” and the assize trial upholding this result, there was nothing left for the judge but to pass sentencing.  As was the customary punishment for murder, my great-great grandfather John Carter was sentenced to hang.  Just as the line of a movie, the judge was quoted as saying:

“I have nothing to do but to pass upon you the sentence of the law, and that sentence is, that you be taken to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck till you be dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

Sent to the infamous Reading Gaol to await his fate, John Carter, spent many days in prison to dwell upon his crimes, contemplate his death, and make his peace.

In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called,
And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
The hangman’s hands were near.

Excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s Poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1897)

Tuesday December 5th, 1893 the hangman’s noose was ready.  A hangman of renown and experience in England, James Billington–chief executioner of Great Britain and Ireland from 1891-1901–would be in control of the rope which encircled John’s neck and would soon violently jerk his head backward and sideways, fracture and crush his vertabrae, and soon cause him to cease breathing. 8 am John Carter was dropped!  That long drop through a trap door, a perfect penance for a heinous murder, by Capital Punishment advocate standards. Billington, it was said, had a lifelong fascination with hanging.  Creating model gallows in his yard, using weights and dummies, and rumoured use of neighbourhood strays. Perhaps the pleasure he took in his job was a sign of a psychy as perverse as that of his “clients”.

James Billington, executioner/hangman.

James Billington, executioner/hangman.

And he of the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.

Excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s Poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1897)

John Carter –in an amazing twist of events which opens old wounds– confesses to another crime.  He confesses to the prison chaplain–in his weakest moments and final hours of life–to the murder of his second wife Elizabeth Alder-Carter!  He describes where he had, years prior, unceremoniously and hastily buried her body. Having no reason to offer a confession, perhaps John felt remorse or perhaps he wished to save his soul from damnation–a secret wish for redemption.

John then took the final walk, a walk to the gallows, a walk ending in the swing from a rope!  His body was laid to rest or unrest on the Reading prison grounds. The police however had a new investigation ahead of them, another body to discover.

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Maritime Monday ~ The Lighthouse Keeper

The lighthouse at Victoria Habour, Ontario.  Still standing as a heritage site.

The lighthouse at Victoria Habour, Ontario. Still standing as a heritage site.

Once again I must reiterate how tantalizingly thrilling it can be to find an ancestor with an atypical occupation.  Scanning census after census which lists individuals as farm labourers or just generic labourers can become tedious.  But then one stumbles upon boat builder or light house keeper and the research potential begins to open into a new vista of possibilities!  Yes, a lighthouse keeper!  While researching an making headway climbing out on a branch of my husband’s tree–just newly sprung– I discovered quite by accident, 4th great grand uncle Charles Berger (Burgie).  Born in Penetanguishene, Ontario in 1834, the son of French-Canadian Joseph Burgie and possibly a First Nations (Native) mother, Charles was one of 8 children.  Voyageur and First Nations blood heavy in his veins. Of fishing and hunting/trapping stock he was well suited to the great outdoors by land or sea so employment pursuits such as ship building, and lighthouse keeping in later life seem a natural fit.

Exerpt from the death registry entry for Charles Bergie (Berger/Burgie)

Exerpt from the death registry entry for Charles Bergie (Berger/Burgie)

Listed as a Labourer on census records until 1891 when he was a boat builder and then in 1901 a corker (I have yet to understand this but believe it may also be related to boat building), Charles was married to Angeline Dusumme and had nine children.  His race on Canadian census records was listed as FB (French Breed) a term referring to “Half breed”, a Metis individual of French and Native parentage.  In 1911 he is listed without an occupation on the census.  He was retired and living with his grandchild’s family.  Local history though indicates that he became the first lighthouse keeper in Victoria Harbour, Simcoe, Ontario when the Canadian government built a lighthouse there in 1910.

Used as a beacon for ships transporting passengers and freight for the Canadian Pacific Railway and to guide ships safely to the Port McNicholl grain terminal and the Victoria Harbour lumber mills, this lighthouse was originally one of a pair.  It was the lighthouse keeper’s important responsibility to keep the wicks to the kerosene lamps of the lighthouses  lit.  The second lighthouse–ironically located on “Bergie Point” quite possibly the name sake of another ancestor–was replaced later by a more modern tower but the other still exists as a heritage site.  The lighthouse was actually in use until 1968, Charles however only worked there from 1910 to 1912.  His time there ended tragically!

29 April 1912 Charles Burgie, at the age of 79, died.  His death certificate reads:

“Accidental death from falling down stairs while intoxicated.  Fell down stairs while lighting the main range light on Bergie point.”

Wow! A prime example of the significance of my seemingly morbid fascination with the details of death registers and documentation! I am not sure if this cause of death is an example of great dedication or glaring incompetence but it definitely makes for an interesting anecdote!

The lighthouse at Bergie Point where Charles Bergie died. His successor, Robert Belcher in the foreground.

The lighthouse at Bergie Point where Charles Bergie died. His successor, Robert Belcher in the foreground.

Sentimental Sunday ~ The Sentiment of Stitchery

"1791 sampler" by Polly Bedford, born 1779 - http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/107913 Art Institute of Chicago. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“1791 sampler” by Polly Bedford, born 1779 – http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/107913 Art Institute of Chicago. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

One of the childhood memories I cherish is that of the sampler my mother helped me to create for the purpose of learning embroidery.  Yes, I did learn to embroider! And while this was once common place, even in my day it had become a very uncommon pastime to teach children the art of stitchery.  My mom held to the tradition perhaps because she knew I had an interest in crafts and art and had recalled her childhood experiences…a form of reminiscence I suppose.  Regardless of her motivation I still dabble at needlework and find it a truly soothing occupation.

The tradition of embroidery and sampler creation can actually be traced back far into the distant past.  The” sampler” has appeared as an art form in primitive cultures as the Nazca of Peru in ca. 200 BC –300 AD and has been found in Egypt in the form of silk samplers from around 400 -500 AD.  Europeans were making samplers at the very least by the 16th century.

Grandma's Needlepoint

Grandma’s Needlepoint

Why talk about stitchery and samplers on a genealogy related blog you may ask?  As you know I like to discuss how I incorporate family keepsakes and artifacts into my daily family life and my home decor. While dusting my occasionally forgotten upstairs shelves I came across a framed needlepoint my grandmother had created which I so hated to stuff in a box.  I lovingly placed it atop a bookshelf and let it fade into the background of the landscape of my home environment.  I thought of grandma, placed it back on the shelf and it set off a chain of events in my mind!  My memories of grandma came flooding back her hands stitching this and then the linens which now adorn my daughters’ dressers; The quilt she made me as an infant–I have a photo of her stitching it as I stood beside her–which has now been passed on to my eldest daughter; The “God Bless..” sampler my mother made which bears my birth date; The wedding samplers my husband and I received from an aunt and family friend bearing our wedding date; And then there are the cross stitched quilts I made for my children when they were born. All these examples of family stitchery, hold memories and many of special life events.  They often bear dates and places, mottos, and family motifs.  It occurred to me that many could be considered documents and sources– I’ll be it secondary ones–not only keepsakes.

Grandma quilting with me looking on in 1975

Grandma quilting with me looking on in 1975

I’ve decided to photograph these items and attach them to my tree as well as include them in a catalogue of family keepsakes and heirlooms.  I’ve also continued my own stitching and have been teaching my children, to maintain tradition and to be sure that my home is not just a house of store bought trinkets but continues to be filled with the beauty and loving touch of family handicrafts and artifacts. “A stitch in time…” can take on an entirely new connotation!

A sampler made by my mother when I was born.

A sampler made by my mother when I was born.

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Thriller Thursday ~ The Coroner’s Inquest

A Coroners Inquest

Previous Installments of this Series:

~ Accident or Murder

~The Vanishing

~Dear John

~The Fate of Rhoda

The suspect, John Carter, arrested–housed at Faringdon Gaol– and the body found, a coroner’s Inquest was held in the Schoolhouse at Watchfield.  In Constable Charles Sparkes’ own words the horror of the scene unfolds:

I got an iron bar and with it I probed the floor of an outbuilding adjoining the house of the husband used as a stable–it was covered with litter.  I tested it all over until I came to one corner where there was a large wheelbarrow stood on its end and propped up against the wall in a corner.  I moved the wheelbarrow and found a tub which I also removed.  I then grubbed the floor and at about the third time I put the bar down I found I was on something.  As I pulled the bar out I smelt a deathly smell.  I at once called to Sgt. Benning who was in an adjoining shed and he brought a four grained fork with him but the earth was shallow and I knelt down and pulled the earth off with my hands.  I then found the body of the deceased with only a chemise on her body, there were only about three inches of earth covering the body.  Sgt. Benning and I then took the body out of the hole and placed i where the jury have seen it.  This morning I examined the hole and found it to be about two feet square and about 18 inches deep.  The body of the deceased was doubled up when we found it and being a small person it took up very little room.  I searched the house but saw no traces of blood and there were no marks of a struggle having taken place.  When I found the body it presented the same appearance as it does now, except that it has become more discoloured.  I saw a black mark round the throttle of the neck of the deceased about four or five inches in length and about three quarters of an inch wide, it appeared to be larger on the left side of the neck than on the right…

From the Coroner’s Report

John’s brother James testifies at the inquest explaining that the had met John in a field as he was returning from a milk run to Shrivenham Station.  John had confessed to his brother that he “did kill his wife”.  He claimed she had died directly after he had hit her and knocked her down.  He then proceeded to drag her into the blacksmith shop to be buried.  He had requested that James return to Watchfield to determine what the gossip might be about his wife Rhoda.  James had instead gone to the police.

James Carter

The testimony of several neighbours recounted the events of the days surrounding Rhoda’s murder but it was the testimony of Faringdon surgeon Coniston Spackman, ordered by the coroner to make a superficial examination of the body, which detailed the truly heinous violence Rhoda had endured and her corpse had been submitted to:

I found the whole of the body was very much discoloured particularly the head and face and the right side of the body–the hair of the head was very nearly off–it was hanging loose, the features were so much discoloured and swollen that they were almost beyond recognition.  On examining the throat I found three distinct marks, one on the right corresponding to the impression of a thumb and two on the left corresponding to the impression of two fingers.  I also found the thyroid cartilage discoloured, it was quite moveable,there was no fracture of the skull but the nose was broken.  The appearance of the head and face would lead to the supposition that it had been beaten severely or trodden upon.  I should say after death.  I found the skin of the whole body was easily removeable–that I attribute to decomposition but it might have been by scorching and there was a distinct smell as though the body had been scorched.  From all the appearances of the body, I am of the opinion that death was caused by strangulation.  The hair of the deceased smelt of fire.  I cannot give any opinion as to the time which has elapsed since the death but I should say about a week…

From The Coroner’s Report

Watchfield School where the inquest took place

Watchfield School where the inquest took place

The inquest results were clear and there was little question John Carter would be stand trial for the murder of his third wife Rhoda Ann!

…that the cause of her death was that she was strangled and killed by her husband John Carter on or about the twenty first of July in the year aforesaid at Watchfield aforesaid and so do further say that he said John Carter did feloniously, wilfully and of malice aforethought murder the said Rhoda Ann Carter

Busy Making Memories!

memories

When I commenced this blog I told myself I would write daily.  And I have been faithful to this for the most part but I also have a family with which I wish to make memories and create family history.  I have promised myself family would come before, and blog after!  This is my explanation for gaps and breaks in my writing!

Sympathy Saturday ~ Uncle Jean-Marie

Jean-Marie Loranger 1947-1963

Jean-Marie Loranger 1947-1963

My father was one of twelve children.  A typical French Canadian family of Northern Ontario, prolific and poor!  What I always found humorous was the symmetry of the family’s composition: a tidy six boys and six girls.  My dad would tell stories of his childhood home.  A room for the boys and one for the girls, children sleeping like match sticks tightly packed in a bed with one or two sleeping perpendicular at their feet.  But that perfect symmetry was disrupted in January of 1963!

It is not enough to say with a dozen who misses just one?  Each child has unique value and as parents it is the greatest of losses losing a child regardless of how many there are “to spare”.  I would venture to say the loss of her son, Jean-Marie, was probably the most difficult trial of my grandmere’s life.

The Loranger Family before the birth of their youngest child.

The Loranger Family before the birth of their youngest child. Jean-Marie appears to the far left (my dad just behind him peeking over his head).

Jean-Marie Loranger, born 31 May 1947, was walking home when he was hit by a car and killed 19 January 1963 in Larder Lake, Ontario.  He was 15 years old! Only two years younger than my father, I think my dad felt the loss in a very real way for it was through him that I learned of Jean-Marie as I was growing up.  Dad had a photo of his brother and had told us of the accident. Similar in age and the eldest of the boys, I imagine they were not just brothers but friends!   My son will be 15 this summer and the thought of such a family tragedy is truly unbearable!

Though I was born over a decade after my uncle’s death and I did not know him I feel a connection.  Perhaps it is  through the stories of my father, perhaps it is the effect of a photograph on an impressionable mind, but I remember Jean-Marie in my soul.  I picture him in my mind’s eye–traipsing through the bush with my dad, skipping rocks in the water, teasing and taunting his sisters.  There is possibly a chemical or biological connection to our ancestors that allows us to know and sense things about them regardless of having never met them!

Jean-Marie's Headstone, Kirkland Lake, Ontario

Jean-Marie’s Headstone, Kirkland Lake, Ontario

Jean-Marie is buried in the cemetery in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.  I am hoping to find a newspaper article detailing the accident from the Temiskaming newspapers in the future.
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Thriller Thursday ~ The Fate of Rhoda

Rhoda Ann Carter (Nee Titcombe)

Rhoda Ann Carter (Nee Titcombe)

Previous posts for this serial:
~ Accident or Murder?

~ The Vanishing

~ Dear John

The community of Watchfield was fraught in suspicion and both relations and neighbours were concerned by the mysterious disappearance of Rhoda Ann Carter (formerly Rhoda Ann Titcombe).  The answers to questions of Rhoda’s whereabouts and the events of the past few days, provided by her husband John Carter were unfathomably bizarre and certifiably untrue. Police Constable Charles Sparkes, of Shrivenham, was called to seek satisfaction in this case!

That Saturday evening, Constable Sparkes called on John Carter to inquire after Rhoda.  John insisted that his wife had left for her sister’s home in Eastleach Friday morning.  He explained that he and Rhoda had argued the evening before.  She had planned to fetch her sister and bring her back to stay with them during her confinement.  “I had told her, you won’t.  I married you to look after my children.  I says to her if you go you stop there; don’t you come back here again!”, Carter claimed. Constable Sparkes had known Rhoda for many years and knew her to be short-tempered, perhaps this explanation bore a resemblance to the truth.  When asked if Carter expected his wife to return, he replied that she was expected to return by carrier on Tuesday.

Map of the Watchfield  area showing East Leach

Map of the Watchfield area showing East Leach

Rhoda’s mother, still concerned, accompanied Cst. Sparkes into the Carter cottage and indicated that her daughter’s belongings were all accounted for beyond one set of clothing.  Rhoda had left with nothing but the clothes on her back!  Cst. Sparkes felt the need to investigate further as Rhoda’s mother accused Carter of “doing her daughter in”!

A trip to East leach revealed that Rhoda’s sister Jane Weatley and her husband David had not been visited by Rhoda. Carter’s story, an obvious concoction, while Sparkes was away, Carter bolted. Found in a meadow outside Watchfield, Carter is arrested.   It was thanks to John Carter’s brother James that the police were able to track him.  James, on a milk run, had encountered his brother John. and upon inquiring what he had been up to was told, “I did kill my wife and bury her in the blacksmith shop.” This statement from James and his direction made John’s arrest possible but it was the gruesome evidence, later discovered by Cst. Sparkes and Sergeant Benning from Uffington, which would soon seal the fate of John Carter and resolve the mystery of Rhoda Ann Carter’s disappearance…the body buried under the out building used as a stable!  This evidence would be detailed at the coroner’s inquest!

John Carter's arrest.

John Carter’s arrest.

The case continued next Thursday!
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St. Patty’s Day ~ My Irish Brick Walls

Ireland

The journey overseas is always fraught with troubled waters.  Genealogical research can so easily stall once one tries to cross the ocean to discover roots in the old country.  When this research takes one back to Ireland the pitfalls can be numerous.  In my personal genealogy and that of my husband I have crashed into many Irish brick walls.  One issue which I cannot seem to get passed is the lack of information regarding these individuals’ home towns and even counties.  On a Canadian census one encounters only the country of origin Ireland, and because Canadian’s were considered British subjects until 1947 those immigrants from Britain and Commonwealth countries (such as Ireland) did not require naturalization.  No naturalization equals less documentation! Without an Irish place name to pinpoint and with such common names…feels like a mission impossible!

Ireland2

Our Brick Wall Irish ancestors:

John  McGinnis (my husband’s 4th Great Grandfather)  ~ Born 1 May 1818 in Ireland.  ~His Immigration year according to the 1901 Canada Census 1832  but could have been anytime between 1832-1857.  Immigrated to Township of Flos, Simcoe  ~Wife Margaret (Maiden Name unknown)

James Sloan(e) (my 3rd Great Grandfather)~Born abt 1811 in Ireland   ~Died 12 May 1871 in Oxford County, Ontario, Canada (in poor house)  ~1851 Canada Census – Living in Brantford, ON, Labourer, religion Church of England  ~Immigration year sometime between 1811 and 1847 (when oldest child was born in Canada)  ~Wife Margaret (maiden name unknown) also born in Ireland; Children: William, Mary Ann, James, Margaret, and George all born in Canada.

Henry Rutledge (my 4th Great Grandfather)~Born abt 1796 in Ireland  ~Immigration year had to have been before 1823                                  ~Wife Ann (Maiden name Unknown). She was born in New Brunswick and died sometime bet 1842 and 1851.   ~1851 Canada Census – Living in Norwich, Ontario, W. Methodist, farme  ~1861 Canada Census – Living in Derham, Ontario, W. Methodist, labourer, Living with his daughter and her family  ~Children: Margaret Ann (born in New Brunswick, Canada), Christopher, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Isabella (all born in Ontario, Canada)

Because of their early immigration years even looking for their immigration to Canada has been challenging.

A few Early Irish Record Sets I’ve searched thus far:

Ancestry.ca

~All Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849

~New Brunswick, Canada Passenger Lists, 1834

~Irish Emigration Lists 1833-1839

Find My Past (Currently $1 for the month special)

(**Link to the Irish research Guide)

~Griffith Valuation (1847-64)

~Poverty Relief Loan Fund Records (1824-)

~Newspaper Collection (1740-)

~Farrar’s Index of Marriages 1771-1812 and Baptisms 1771-1812

So far little success but I will continue to chip away at those Irish Brick Walls, maybe the Luck o’ the Irish will find me and I will find the gold at the end of the research rainbow!