Did Samuel Pittard of Ashton Murder His Wife?


Sequel to The invasion of the Body Snatchers of Lanark County

“In 1861 the Carleton Place Herald reported that Mrs. Samuel Pittard of Ashton was to be exhumed as her husband was suspected of foul play due to idle gossip. After poor Jane, age 34, was dug up it was concluded she had died of natural causes. This had been the second body dug up in two weeks in the same cemetery due to the tongues of scandal. A conclusion was concurred that  of everyone followed Psalm 15:3 none of this would be happening.” But were the townsfolk of Ashton right? I started to dig and found some amazing facts.


1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia
NAME: Samuel Pittard
BIRTH: abt 1826 – location
RESIDENCE: township, Lanark County, Canada West (Ontario)
1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia
NAME: Jane Pittard
BIRTH: abt 1827 – location
RESIDENCE: township, Lanark County, Canada West (Ontario)
The Case Against Samuel Pittard of Ashton, Ontario.

Samuel Pittard, a tanner by trade, of Ashton published a petition in Lanark Herald, April 25, 1851 listing the grievances of passengers of the steamship Brother Jonathan.He was one of the many men from Lanark that joined a small group from Carleton Place called Moffat & Co to seek their wealth in the great  California gold rush.  He was also mentioned in a letter written by Nathaniel McCaffrey, located at Mokelumne Hill , California (letter dated Oct 20, 1851 , published in the Carleton Place Herald Dec 18, 1851 ). Mr. Pittard was said to be in Sacramento, Ca. at the time the letter was written. His name found was listed in the book San Francisco Ships Passenger Lists, Vol 2, Rasmussen, page 180 as arriving in San Francisco July 28, 1851 aboard the Steamer Ohio.

During the California Gold Rush Era, many men from Lanark County joined together with others to make the trip to the gold fields. Some of these groups were more formal than others, some even were financed by people in their own hometowns. A notice published in the Carleton Place Herald on Oct 23, 1851 states that a group of 9 men including Pittard left the Lanark County area as part of Moffatt and Company at the beginning of March, 1851.  Even though the men may have had intentions of staying together as a group, many situations would occur along the way that would cause them to go their separate ways.

One situation, for example was that demand was very high for passage to San Francisco and space on the steamships was not always available to accommodate entire groups either in New York or at the Pacific side of Panama. Once they arrived in California, decisions had to be made as to where to dig for the gold. Men moved frequently according to the latest news of large finds of gold. Some men decided against digging for gold and would pursue whatever their trade was at home. Because most men were out at the diggings, tradesmen were in high demand and could garner high prices for their work.


Samuel Pittard,  in April 25, 1851 lists grievances from the passengers of the steamship Brother Jonathan that they took to California. The Steamship Brother Jonathan left on its maiden voyage from New York City on the 19th of March 1851 headed for Chagres, Panama. The ship was advertised as ready to leave on the 15th of that month, which left the anxious men to wait for four days, probably at or near the docks in New York City . Eight days into the voyage the ship was forced to pull into port at Baltimore for repairs on the 27th of March 1851.

images (20)

The passengers were held over in Baltimore until the 3rd of April 1851 . A month or so had passed since they had left Lanark County, and they were only in Baltimore. The trip that was supposed to take 56 days from Lanark County to San Francisco took the group of men almost 150 days. The prices for passage on the Brother Jonathan were $80.00 first class, $70.00 second class, and steerage, $40.00.


Not being successful finding gold Pittard returned to Ashton a few years later. Life was hard in those days. Did Jane nag Samuel about his shortcomings providing for the their children and herself? Was he unhappy how his life had progressed? Did Jane really die of natural causes and were the townsfolk of Ashton right? Only Samuel Pittard knew the truth and he took that to his grave.

More on the gold rush this week.

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

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

One response »

  1. Pingback: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers of Lanark County | lindaseccaspina

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s