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.

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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

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.

One response »

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

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