The Thomas Easby Murders in 1829 Foulest Ever in Lanark County- Perth Courier
In Perth, 1829 has a heinous ring to its history for it was the year that one of the county’s foulest murders was committed. The late W.B. Hart of Perth is responsible for the tale of Thomas Easby being told. Mr. Hart in (date illegible) gave the Perth Municipal Museum a copy of the Bathurst Independent Examiner—Perth’s pioneer paper. Between the pages of the 1829 Examiner the story of the murders unfolds.
Thomas Easby was a pioneer who, with his wife and five children, lived in a log cabin on the 9th Concession of Drummond—on the main highway between Perth and Lanark Village. There, on an early December night in 1829 the tale begins.
What exactly transpired within the walls of that house on that night is not known. But it was discovered the next day that Easby’s wife and four children were dead and the log cabin was burned to the ground.
Although many neighbors suspected Easby of murdering the five and then burning down the house, nothing could be proved. The only surviving Easby child, however, added fuel to the already growing flames.
The survivor—a four year old boy—was adopted by a neighboring family, a Mr. and Mrs. Richardson. On one occasion when Mrs. Richardson was building a fire under a soap cooler (kettle), the child remarked: “That is what daddy did to mommy”.
Eventually local authorities had the bodies disinterred and Dr. James Wilson examined the remains—apparently something seemed a little fishy. He had a warrant issued for Easby’s arrest and on Feb. 2 the soon to be convicted murderer was lodged in the Perth jail to await trial.
The trial began on August 21. Easby, however, was only charged with one murder….that of his wife. This deed was all the more deplorable because Ann was pregnant at the time of her death.
The chief crown witness (of the eight called) was John Tullis, a neighboring farmer. Tullis testified that he had awakened about midnight on the night in question by a loud shriek. His mother saw the Easby cabin on fire and another son, Sinclair, went over to investigate. On approaching the hut, Sinclair Tullis was told by Easby that the fire was extinguished and that everything was alright. As a result, the Tullis boy went home.
However, at day break, as the Examiner article recalled, “he (Sinclair Tullis) returned to the miserable hovel—when Easby informed him that all the family except himself and little Joseph were burned up in the cellar”.
Mrs. Richardson, Joseph’s adopted mother, also took the stand. She testified that while “at first she did not suspect Easby, the child’s prattle worried her and she finally consulted their neighbor John Balderson regarding her fears.”
Dr. Wilson—another Crown witness, stated that he found four distinct head wounds “on the wife’s head—one or two of which could have caused immediate death.” Then the nail was really driven into the coffin. John Balderson swore that the suspect had admitted while in jail to the murder. The jailer, James Young, also testified “that Easby had frequently confessed to him and stated that he was about to murder the remaining child also and had taken him in his arms for that purpose but the youngster smiled and laughter in his face and that he had not the heart to execute him”.
With such a preponderance of evidence the jury had little difficulty in reaching a verdict. They returned from the jury room in a matter of minutes and the foreman intoned the guilty verdict on Easby. Easby was sent to death and hanged less than one week later.
But the post script to the case is worth noting. As revealed in the Examiner “the body of this felon had been buried in the English Church Cemetery but owing to the excitement and strong feeling evinced by the crowd which witnessed the execution and the fear of reprisals the remains were exhumed that night and handed over to Dr. Wilson and two medical students for dissection”.
The gruesome account continues: “they first skinned the body and the hide was tanned in a local tannery and cut up into small squares which were sold to the public bringing as much as $2. Talk about your early murder memorabilia! The skeleton remained in the possession of Dr. Wilson till after his death and sold to a local Perth lad who took it west with him.
That was the end of Thomas Easby—one of Canada’s first convicted multiple murderers.
Also read-Fame and Murder Came to Balderson in 1828
First Execution for Murder – Thomas Easby, of Drummond township, 1829; found to have killed his wife and four children, publicly hanged at Perth after rejection of defence of insanity.
“Tell me dad how did you meet mom ? Was it a church social, a wedding, were you school sweethearts ? No son, I met your dear mother at a public hanging ” – Maybe true romance is dead after all ?
Source: Mrs Clayton Hilker – The Bancroft Times
Date: unknown. Photo from Dan Kehoe-Bancroft and Area History
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