Thriller Thursday ~ Dear John

Update yourself with the sorted tale by reading my previous posts regarding John Carter and his crimes:

~ Thriller Thursday ~ First Installment ~ Accident or Murder?

~ Thriller Thursday ~ Second Installment ~ The Vanishing

Other stories related to John Carter: Black Sheep Sunday: My Darkest Black Sheep , A Foundling Found , Travel Tuesday | Walking in Their Footsteps , and Military Monday ~ Lost Great-Uncle Nelson

Rhoda Ann Titcombe.  John Carter's third wife.

Rhoda Ann Titcombe. John Carter’s third wife.

It was 1889 and John Carter once again found himself the single father of now seven children– 6 from his first marriage and a son, John Nelson Carter, from his second.  He continued to spread the tale of his wife’s desertion; Her foray with another man, the so called “chap from Swindon”.  He continued to carouse the local pubs, his love or need for drink sustained. He had moved the family to his home town of Watchfield from Longcot and now frequented the “Eagle Inn”, an establishment owned by Joseph Pocock, the same man who had run John’s favourite Longcot haunt, the “King and Queen”.

The Eagle Inn, Watchfield, Berkshire, England

The Eagle Inn, Watchfield, Berkshire, England

It was in 1893 at the “Eagle Inn” that John Carter announced in a drunken state that he was to marry bar maid Rhoda Ann Titcombe–once again a member of the enterprising Mr. Pocock’s staff. Questioned regarding how he could possibly marry when his previous wife was alive and living in Swindon, John cajoled and offered them five pounds to find his wife “Dead or Alive”.  In April of that year John and Rhoda were wed, John listed as a “widower” on the registry.

It seems the short marriage may have been a bumpy one!  John was quite obviously a jealous man with a hot temper.  Two months after they were wed John was heard at a local feast saying that Rhoda was to dance with no other man.  “Should she want another man I will be the death of her”, a witness had later recalled him saying.  This was to be a foreshadowing of the events to come!

July 20th 1893, late into the night John’s 9 year old son Thomas Carter (my Great-Grandfather), was roused in the night by dreadful noise, “a banging from the next room”, his step-mother’s cry ” Lord have mercy upon us”, and then from the stairs a “knock, knock, knock”, much heavier than anyone’s walking.  The following morning Thomas was told his step-mother had gone to East leach and that he was to go fetch the cows.  John was to be busy in the smithy attached to the cottage all day and Thomas was warned off going near the forge and the wash house.

The friendly walk John and Rhoda took the day of July 20th was the last neighbours saw Rhoda alive and well.  And when Rhoda’s mother came in search of her the next day, John informed her that her daughter had gone to her confined sister in Eastleach.  Her mother left filled with suspicions and doubt!

Thomas, my great-grandpa age 8 or 9

Thomas, my great-grandpa age 8 or 9

Later that day, John sent his son Thomas on another errand.  He wanted a quarter hundredweight of coal and had sent Thomas to a local farmer and dealer to fetch it.  Soon after, a thick and noxious smoke coming from the Carter wash house disturbed a curious neighbour, Ann Butler, from across the lane.  Over she wandered, it was a hot evening and there seemed no reasonable explanation for the billowing smoke of a substantial fire.  Pushing open the door, Ann Butler, peered in to see a large tub surrounded by kindling and coal, but she was suddenly pushed out of the wash house by John, He abruptly slammed and latched the door behind them.  |i’m burning rubbish.” he explained but Mrs. Butler was hardly convinced.

Suspicions swirling, a small village soon embroiled in rumour and concerned chatter, neighbours and family were hyper vigilant.  Rhoda’s brother, David, aware of his mother’s worry and alerted by the wafting smoke came running to the house from a nearby cricket field and burnt his hand trying to enter the wash-house.  Eventually John opened the door for him so he could see what looked like a large tub boiling over with water.  John’s unfathomable response to David’s questioning, “I am boiling water to shave with.”

John maintained that Rhoda had run off to her sister’s in East Leach when he was bombarded questioning relations and two days later the local police constable Charles Sparkes was informed that Rhoda Titcombe had gone missing, her husband suspected. Cst. Sparkes set out to investigate this mysterious disappearance.

Another disappearance, another wife run off!  Was John Carter a rough, but pathetic “Dear John” always being deserted because of his hot headed disposition? Or was something more sinister afoot?  Certainly most of Watchfield believed something was most definitely amiss!

Questions stack one a top another as fieldstones on a wall the truth not yet laid bare, revelation still hovers in a fog of disconnected facts…
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Those Places Thursday ~~ The Plains of Abraham, New France

"The Death of General Wolfe" by Benjamin West (1770)

“The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West (1770)

My French-Canadian ancestors arrived in New France in the 1500s and 1600s. As I traced my paternal ancestors back further and further I admittedly felt my Canadian patriotism kick into high gear. Discovering that my ancestors were among the founding families of New France, clearing land, trading furs and establishing trading companies, in a harsh new environment has instilled in me a sense of pride in their fortitude and endurance.

As a Canadian student I remember studying the tireless travel of the Coureur de bois through endless wilderness, the arduous journey across the ocean to New France to establish settlements where only forest existed before, and the battles for territory in this new country between the French and the British but at the time I had no idea how attached my family had been to all these experiences, events, and places! Pivotal places as the Plains of Abraham are tied indelibly to the French- Canadian roots of my paternal family tree!

A depiction of my 9th Great-Grandfather Abraham Martin by artist Charles Huet

A depiction of my 9th Great-Grandfather Abraham Martin by artist Charles Huet

The battle of the Plains of Abraham was a defining battle in the Seven Years’ War.  It was the 13th of September 1759, and British Troops, lead by General Wolfe, ascended upon Marquis de Montcalm’s French forces upon the Plains of Abraham after scaling the cliffs at L’Anse-au-Foulon (near Quebec City).  The Plains of Abraham were on a plateau at the summit of Cap Diamants.  A force of 4500, the British stretched across the great expanse of the Plains of Abraham.  Montcalm rushed a response in a battle which meant a defeat for the French and resulted in the death of both leaders–Montcalm and Wolfe!

Named for my 9th Great Grandfather, Abraham Martin, the Plains of Abraham are today recognized as a key battleground in the history of New France and marked a turning point for British control in North America.  Abraham Martin was born in France in 1589.  One of the earliest settlers in New France he arrived with his wife Marguerite Langlois and her family in 1620. He and Marguerite had 9 children together. He was a ship’s pilot on the St. Lawrence and a deep sea fisherman, known as “Pilote du Roi” (the King’s Pilot).  He was granted 12 acres of land on the outskirts of Quebec City in 1635 by the Company of New France, and was then gifted another 20 acres ten years later by Sieur Adrien Du Chesne, a naval surgeon.

The intriguing and somewhat contradictory story of Abraham Martin is one I shall reserve for a future post!  Many French-Canadian’s can boast of him as an ancestor of their own!
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