How an Urban Carleton Place Legend Traveled Through Time – 147 Years to be Exact!


For a long time I have been hearing about the body of a child-or bodies of children that were buried in a back yard on High Street. This is a story that has grown though the years, and who knew if it was really true. Each time the story changed it grew an inch or two—even three. It was supposedly one of the top 10 scandals of Carleton Place that had been carried down through the years. Someone heard it from their Grandfather, who in turn heard it from his Father, and well, you know how it goes.

Last night I found an article from April 29th 1868 in the Montreal Daily Witness that can confirm some of the story is true. How this particular story stayed with us through the years is incredible, but the story was titled “Mysterious Circumstance”. In the end really wasn’t a mystery after all –it was just a sign of the times.

There is no official police report, but the newspaper said they had been given the story by “a person of Carleton Place”. No names, address, nor real official response.

We are informed that on the evening of of Tuesday last, the dear body of an infant was found buried under the floor of a barn or stable belonging to a man called Charles Tooley. It is said this man has also been allowed for a long time to keep an unlicensed rum-hole in Carleton Place. Where such a car-case, thither will be a certain class of eagles be gathered, and where there are such fruits as it will follow. The case is in the hands of Dr. Wilson, coroner. We have, as yet, heard no particulars.”


After I poured through some genealogy records it is pretty simple to find out what really happened, as there were no other newspaper reports that follow. Tooley, who was a machinist, was running an illegal business from his home.The police probably found the infant’s body while they were searching for booze.  A rum-hole is– a grog-shop; a gin-mill: so called in opprobrium.

Digging some more digging I also found a few more death notices for the poor Tooley family. They just did not have an easy time keeping a family alive with miscarriages and early deaths.

I found one death notice ( see below) for one of their children that died at just over  a year’s old. In those days with the increase in the living, there came also an increase in the dying. With outbreaks of Measles, Smallpox and Cholera some chose not to be public with the burying of their dead. Plus a lot of infants were just buried in the family’s back yard in those days. Add that to the fact that Dad was running an illegal rum-hole, and you most certainly didn’t want a death to become public.

But, I am sure the Tooley family wasn’t the first nor the last. As with the story of our poor Cecil Cummings, many of our past dead will never be found as their deaths were never recorded.

Perth Courier, December 31, 1869

Tooley—Died, at Carleton Place, on Dec. 28th, William (Tooley), youngest son of Mr. Charles Tooley, aged one year, five (?) months and five days.

A son who lived:

Charles Tooley
mentioned in the record of Tooley
Name: Charles Tooley
Son: Tooley
Other information in the record of Tooley
from Ontario Births
Name: Tooley
Event Type: Birth
Event Date: 26 Mar 1871
Event Place: Carleton Place, Lanark, Ontario, Canada
Registration Year: 1871
Gender: Male
Father’s Name: Charles Tooley


Records about the Wilson family (Dr. Wilson, coroner.) hand recorded at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.

Medical Accounts

Notice – As medical accounts are too exorbitant for many families who live several miles from the village, I have resolved to reduce my charge.  In future I will for half the usual fee visit any person who lives more than one mile from my office.  Henceforward my motto shall be, Sempter Paratus, ever ready.

William Wilson, surgeon, July 12, 1867.

House on Bell Street is that of the Carleton Place coroner in those days: Dr. Wilson.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s