The following story which concerns some exciting happenings in Smiths Falls, and on the sixth line of Beckwith township in the forties of last century, is related by Mr. H. F. McLachlin of Franktown.
The story brings in the once famous Mrs. Barnes of Plum Hollow, near Brockville, who used to be known as the “Witch of Plum Hollow.” The story opens with the death of a girl in Smiths Falls under peculiar circumstances. The girl, it appears, had grown to an abnormal size and had been affected with an enormous appetite. The doctors could not tell what had caused the girl to grow as she had done, and in medical circles her death caused quite an amount of talk.
Soon after the girl had been buried it was discovered that her grave had been opened and the body removed. A few days later her remains were found in a bog near the bank of the Rideau river. Many people were inclined to blame medical students for the outrage. Friends of the deceased girl decided to consult Mrs. Barnes at Plum Hollow. Mrs. Barnes had had a reputation for finding lost articles and giving information on a variety of topics. Whether by coincidence or by occult powers, Mrs. Barnes had prior to that produced results which seemed weird in the extreme and led to her being called a “witch.”.
When the relatives of the girl, accompanied by the sheriff, told Mrs. Barnes their story, and asked her to tell who had done the act, she told the sheriff to ride north from Smiths Falls till he would meet a man in the bush. This man who turned to the right would be the man.
The sheriff followed the directions and in the bush he met Mr. James Stewart of the sixth line of Beckwith who was out in the bush looking for a couple of calves which had been lost. Soon after the sheriff saw Mr. Stewart, he (Mr. Stewart) turned to the right onto the sixth line road, which was then, (as it is today) little more than a lane.
On the strength of what Mrs. Barnes had said the sheriff arrested Mr. Stewart and took him to the Perth jail. Things might have gone badly for Mr. Stewart, but it appeared that the morning after the girl’s body had been dug up three men had called at a farm house near the Rideau river (where the remains had been found). The farm house was in a lonesome place. In those days most farm children were ultra-shy and used to run and hide when strangers appeared. When the three children (little girls) of this family saw the strangers approach, they ran and hid under an old four-poster bed which stood in the ground floor bedroom. The strangers asked for a drink. The farmer’s wife asked if they would drink buttermilk. They said they would and the farmer’s wife went out to the milk-house to get it.
The men not knowing of the presence of the children under the bed, talked about the dissection they had performed the previous night. When the news of Mr. Stewart’s arrest spread, the children told their parents about what the strangers had said. They were taken to Perth and gave evidence. As a result of their evidence Mr. Stewart was honourably acquitted. After that Mrs. Barnes’ reputation was somewhat eclipsed.
Author’s Note: I don’t think Mother Barnes reputation was ‘eclipsed’ as in essence she directed the sheriff to the right spot where they could learn more about the incident. But, I guess if you don’t get it bang on people talk LOL
where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USACome and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.