The Thomas Easby Murders in 1829 — Foulest Ever in Lanark County

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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

historicalnotes

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.

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 “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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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.

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