Tag Archives: body snatchers

When Mother Barnes Made a Mistake? Beckwith 6th Line

When Mother Barnes Made a Mistake? Beckwith 6th Line

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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




We Know About the Witch of Plum Hollow — But Have you Heard About Mother Lajeunesse?

Mother Barnes– The Colonel’s Daughter in Plum Hollow

An Interview with the Witch of Plum Hollow–Mother Barnes— The Ottawa Free Press 1891

The Witch of Plum Hollow and the Blacksmith

My Grandmother was Mother Barnes-The Witch of Plum Hollow

A Bewitched Bed in Odessa

The Witch of Plum Hollow – Carleton Place Grandmother

Plum Hollow Witch and The Mountain Man of Pakenham

Different Seasons of Witches in Lanark County

Local Miracle Story– Woken From a Ten Week Coma

The White Witch of Lanark County–Having the Sight


The Witches of Rochester Street

Hocus Pocus –Necromancy at Fitch Bay

The Witch of Plum Hollow – Carleton Place Grandmother

The Witch Hollow of Lanark County

Macabre Jobs of the Past–Resurrectionists


victorian jobs 2

Certainly the most macabre “job” on anyone’s list would be the resurrectionists. (a fancy term for body-snatchers) They earned their living through the gruesome practice of stealing human remains from graveyards under contract of some of the Victorian era’s most celebrated physicians.

Until 1832, the only supply of bodies available was those who had been executed, however physicians were fascinated with human dissection  and as a result there was a constant demand for fresh specimens which led to the heyday of the body snatchers… at least the salaries were quite good…

Resurrectionists were commonly employed by anatomist during the 18th and 19th centuries to exhume the bodies of the recently dead. Between 1506 and 1752 only a very few cadavers were available each year for anatomical research.

Grave robbers, resurrectionists or resurrection men as they were called, were viewed by society as the lowest form of life, and considerable public outrage was directed at them. The subsequent passing of laws during the 18th and 19th centuries brought the grisly business of snatching bodies to an end, but a sufficient supply of bodies for educational reasons remained a problem until the early 20th century. Then, a change in public attitude towards human dissection slowly seemed to occur.

However as the new fascination with anatomy and physiognomy grew, so did the need for corpses, suddenly a few felons a year would not suffice! In 1752 the bodies of all hung felons were granted to anatomists but even this proved insufficient with growing numbers of medical schools spring up around the country. To meet this demand, a black market quickly emerged, trading in the stolen dead. ‘Resurrection Men’ could get an increasingly high price for their wares: human bodies that had been stolen from graveyards, and even deathbeds.

A common trick of the trade was to burrow into the head end of the grave and drag the corpse out with a rope tied around its neck. A more subtle method was to dig a hole at a certain distance from the grave and tunnel the body out without anyone knowing the grave had been disturbed. The shroud and grave goods would often be left in the grave on removal of the body, as court sentences were lighter for body snatching alone.

Without refrigeration, decomposing cadavers needed to be replaced frequently and the curious and profiting surgeons often conveniently failed to question from whence their fresh supplies came. Indeed some, including many in authority, condoned the practice as a necessary evil, allowing research necessary to save lives. For example the operation for removing bladder stones was significantly improved in 1727 with knowledge gained from anatomy. When once the operation took hours, new techniques meant that now could be finished in under a minute, reducing blood loss, distress and the likelihood of infection.

Lanark County Genealogical Society Website

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News


Stairway to Heaven in a Cemetery? Our Haunted Heritage

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers of Lanark County


How Sweet is the Highway to Hell?

Did Samuel Pittard of Ashton Murder His Wife?

How Sweet is the Highway to Hell?

Mike Brandy Boss emailed me today with the following information:
The hair salon across he way from the town hall used to be the old fur trading post this is a story from wandering Wayne from when I was around 13 years old. If you go on the bridge and look down at the side of the building get you will see a door down there it was used for the natives to enter and trade there furs and pelts that about as much about I can remember.
Author’s Note-I wrote about the Natives and I can’t seem to find the post- so if anyone has information to add please comment. Here is a story I wrote a few years ago and the small door is mentioned.
George Dummert arrived in Carleton Place, Ontario with his wife and children from England around the year of 1872.  Dummert was a baker and built a home and shop on the land that would later house Patterson’s Furniture and Robbie Probert’s building. Bread was delivered from the Dummert’s Bakery Shop to Ashton and Franktown one day a week. Those deliveries alone would take up the entire day.
Constantly worried about the possibility of his children drowning,  he chose to tie ropes around their waists when they went out to play. Whenever the natives would come to knock at the small door by the water’s edge to trade items for baked goods, George locked his children away for fear they might be taken.
One of George’s specialties was “Bulls Eye” toffee.  For many years it was offered at the St. James Anglican Church’s yearly Christmas bazaar. Extremely popular with the local crowd,  it was hand pulled, and took a lot of time and skill to make.
The baker retired in the late 1880’s and chose to live in Ottawa as their son Albert lived there, working for the Canadian Pacific Railway. George died in Ottawa on October 20, 1902 and was buried at St. James Cemetery just outside Carleton Place.
The day after his funeral, a family member went to the cemetery to check the grave. What he found drove him to fright! Pieces of clothing were strewn near his grave, and also on another nearby. The places of rest had been recently opened and the bodies had been removed.
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That very same day, James Dolan, a close family friend of the Dummerts, was driving visitors along  Highway 15 to Smiths Falls. In Numogate, he overtook a wagon traveling in the same direction with two body size Traveller’s Trunks on it. Upon seeing Dolan, the wagon drivers got off the wagon and walked their horses along the side of the road until Dolan was out of sight.
Later, it was presumed that this very same wagon was carrying the two freshly dug up corpses to Queen’s University in Kingston, to be used in the training of future doctors. Unfortunatly, it was a somewhat common practice at the time and noted later by the townsfolk that the crime had not occurred to keep his Bullseye candy recipe sacred for evermore.
Gluten Free-Bulls Eye Candy
2 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Condensed Milk
2 cups Light Corn Syrup
1/2 cup Water
2 cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Butter, softened
Cream Filling:
1/8 oz unflavored Gelatin (1/2 an envelope)
2 tbsp Cold Water
1/2 cup Shortening
2 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Powdered Sugar, for dusting
1. Prepare a 9×9 pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine the cream and condensed milk in a small saucepan and place the saucepan on a burner set to the lowest heat setting. Do not allow to boil, just keep warm.
3. In a medium-large saucepan combine the corn syrup, water, and granulated sugar over medium-high heat.
4. Stir the candy until the sugar dissolves, then use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pan to prevent sugar crystals from forming and making the candy grainy.
5. Insert a candy thermometer and reduce the heat to medium. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and cook until the thermometer reads 250°F.
6. Add the softened butter and the warm milk-cream mixture. The temperature should decrease about 30°F.
7. Continue to cook the caramel, stirring constantly so that the bottom does not scorch. Cook it until the thermometer reads 244F, and the caramel is a beautiful dark golden brown.
8. Remove the caramel from the heat and immediately pour into the prepared pan. Do not scrape candy from the bottom of the saucepan. Allow the candy to sit overnight to set up and develop a smooth, silky texture.
9. When you are ready to cut the caramel, place a piece of waxed paper on the counter and lift the caramel from the pan using the foil as handles. Flip the top of the caramel onto the waxed paper and peel the foil layer from the bottom of the caramel.
Cream Filling:
1. Dissolve unflavored gelatin in cold water.
2. Set in heat proof cup in pan; Simmer until clear.
3. Let cool.
Related reading-

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers of Lanark County

The Natives of Carleton Place — Violins and Deer

A Tale From the Patterson Funeral Home — Carleton Place


Mike Brandy Boss–If I remember correctly Wayne told me that native used that door and where only allowed in the basement because of the towns people didn’t want them on the streets or something along those lines.

John Stinson–Little door by the river at the Patterson store was called the”Indian Door” It was also used to put stuff on boats for people to take up lake…groceries, furniture and so on. I am pretty sure there was a piece in the Then Canadian sometime, likely in the 80’s (I lived in C Place b/w 69 and 94 and remember reading it Susan Fisher may have written it.)

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers of Lanark County


George Dummert, the owner of  a Carleton Place bakery situated in the old Patterson Funeral home on Bridge Street disappeared one day. The day after his funeral, a family member went to the cemetery to check his grave. What he found drove him to fright! Pieces of clothing were strewn near his grave, and also on another nearby. His place of rest had been recently opened and the body had been removed.

18 July ILN

That very same day, James Dolan, a close family friend of the Dummerts, was driving visitors along  Highway 15 to Smiths Falls. In Numogate, he overtook a wagon traveling in the same direction with two body size Traveller’s Trunks on it. Upon seeing Dolan, the wagon drivers got off the wagon and walked their horses along the side of the road until Dolan was out of sight. Body snatching became so prevalent that it was not unusual for relatives and friends of someone who had just died to watch over the body until burial, and then to keep watch over the grave after burial, to stop it being violated.
Later, it was presumed that this very same wagon was carrying the two freshly dug up corpses to Queen’s University in Kingston, to be used in the training of future doctors. Unfortunately, it was a somewhat common practice at the time to be moving bodies one way or another. In 1861 the Carleton Place Herald reported that the body of 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 not be happening.
“He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour”.
I do not like to desecrate scriptures,  but I think in today’s current culture we would stay:
Dr. Dan ‘Danny’ Kauffman: The mind is a strange and wonderful thing. I’m not sure it will ever be able to figure itself out. Everything else maybe, from the atom to the universe. Everything except itself. – Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
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