On the 26th of November 1897 a vigilant detective in Smith’s Falls frustrated a ‘Love’s Young Dream’ and a would be groom landed himself in prison. His lady love was said to be pining at home overseen by what was called a stern parent on the 6th line of Goulburn.
The elopers, Helen Purdy age 17, and married man, with a family no less, James Lenahan, age 37, tried to catch the C.P.R. train from Smiths Falls to Ottawa to get married. How on earth they were going to do that one has to ask themselves–but there were no computers in those days, and a birth certificate, if that, I am sure was suffice.
It seems one of Miss Purdy’s parents seemed to have sense wrong was about to become about and caught them in due time with the help of Smiths Falls baggage man J. Stewart. May I mention that Stewart was also a policeman for Smiths Falls at the time. So Detective, and baggage man, Stewart soon had captured both of the wood-be elopers. I imagine if we were sitting in a movie theatre right now we would either hear some cheers or boos at this moment in time.
Tears and protests from the couple were in vain while the father went to get the Chief of Police of Smiths Falls involved. I assume the detective and baggage man did not have enough authority and the Chief took young Lenahan take to jail. Young Miss Purdy was last seen heading off into the sunset with her father in the speeding family carriage and bigamist Lenahan was soon to be tried by County Magistrate Smith. There was no further word what happened to either, but I assume Lenahan felt the wrath from the judge and his current wife.
The popular image of bigamists involve family men juggling two wives, a few children, and two homes, each family not knowing of the existence of the other. If we do not imagine this kind of “double life”, at the very least, the first impulse is to picture a male villain, a scoundrel. This hardly corresponds to the reality. A systematic study of bigamy cases brought to legal authorities in a number of Canadian local jurisdictions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries reveals that very few of the prosecuted bigamists led a “double life”. Now that must have really been a full time job!!!
One thing is certain: Mrs. Lenahan died in 1925 still married to her adulterous James. Even though James was still alive she was living with her daughter in Montague and had been an invalid for most of her years. I imagine any of the cheers in a theatre right now watching this film would most certainly turn into boos. For shame!
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