Tag Archives: renfrew county

To Trespass or Not to Trespass??? Ghosts of Al Capone?

To Trespass or Not to Trespass??? Ghosts of Al Capone?

A Hart in ThaiA Hart in Thai –We searched the forest for Al Capone’s Secret Last Hide Out in Canada. After talking to a few locals of the where about, then to go here and there getting lost but after 2 hours driving in circles we found it! Its on Private Property and we did get caught. But after got permission to video and photograph the outside and interior. We didn’t venture into the basement as to dangerous. The cabin is huge many rooms and bedrooms and beautiful fireplace. Low escape windows and suppose to have secret tunnel in basement. Its in the forest no river and lakes near?

At 4:32 in the YouTube video the police show up so please realize that this is Private Property and it chould be respected. IT IS UNSAFE

Renfrew , Ontario. Canada. photo NOT MINE from the site
March 30, 2016  · 

At 4:32 in the YouTube video the police show up so please realize that this is Private Property and it should be respected.

There has always been a rumor that has been circulated around the Ottawa Valley that Al Capone may just have had a secret hideaway deep within the Madawaska Valley. I knew that Al Capone spent some time in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and heck, they even spotted him in Kemptville! The rum runners created a tunnel system in Moose Jaw so the bad folks could shuffle from one building to the other without their derrieres freezing off off in the dead of winter. Of course there was a rumour that he did that in Carleton Place, Ontario at the Queen’s Hotel too.

Mike ToporowskyThe Moose Jaw story is probably correct. The only difference is that the tunnels existed already. They were created during a time when Chinese immigrants were charged a head tax. The Chinese community laboured to create these tunnels to stay out of sight, decades before Al Capone and crew arrived

The legend (and even has been advertised) that some local Lanark County residents have claimed they saw Capone and Jack Demsey frequenting Lake Park Lodge and even the Queen’s Hotel. Seeing the man sold tons of illegal liquour from Canada, there is probably some slight truth to the rumour.


The tunnels were used for gambling, prostitution and warehousing illegal booze. Some tunnels went right under your local CPR stations and opened into a shed in the rail yards. That way it was possible to load and unload rail cars without any risk of being seen by the police. Rotgut whisky was made locally, but all the good stuff came from the Bronfman distillery in Montreal.

So one day I saw a 2016 posting and photo’s about Capone’s Hideway on What’s Up Renfrew, Ontario and decided to share it in my local history groups. It’s not every day that you see things like that right? Five years later (2021) I received quite an angry email from a woman who thought I took the photos. She proceeded to tell me that she was going to call the police because I had been trespassing. She also insisted the log cabin had nothing to do with Al Capone and that I had must have jumped the fence as I seemed to be very close to the building in the photo, and I was in big trouble with her lawyers.


my gangsta cane

Well the day she emailed me was my birthday and I had just turned 70. I have a weak right leg and use a cane. But don’t clock me out just yet, my cane is silver glitter but yes, my fence jumpin’ days are long over. I live through the rest of you, so keep those cards and letters coming as they say LOLOL. It took a couple of emails, but she finally realized I was just a writer, and not Nancy Drew. BUT, let this be a lesson in getting permission first please on unoccupied properties.

So yes, I believe that Capone was in Carleton Place and especially near Casey’s Hill (get this near Letterkenny Road) ( no, this not a typo). Even though these gangsters insisted they did not come to Canada, I am sure they did. Have you ever read about Billy the Boodler who showed up in Carleton Place? read-Billy the Boodler Comes to Carleton Place Or what about the cow shoes?? Read-Did The Bootleggers in Lanark County Wear Cow Shoes? I mean there has to be something there right?

Read-Did The Bootleggers in Lanark County Wear Cow Shoes?

For more than forty years, that reputation alone was enough to keep Capone’s Quadeville hideout a virtual secret from the rest of the world.

The secluded hideout was established in the 1930’s just north of Quadeville. Well hidden off Letterkenny Road, members of Capone’s gang sought sanctuary here from rival gangs and the police.

Quadeville is a short distance east of the small town of Combermere. This secret hideout has become a fascinating story over the years for many local residents and visitors to the area.

A long, sturdy, log building was built by local carpenters to the specifications laid down by Capone’s second-in-command; one of Capone’s star gunmen. The building no longer looks like the fortress it once was when Capone’s gang was there. It has since been converted and furnished as a summer home. At one time, it was owned by Harvey and Rene Mesdag of Toronto.

The building and property has since been sold several times. It is presently owned by someone of Pembroke. It’s windows and doors boarded up from the present day vandals. Carved initials can be seen on the log exterior. Anything of value left inside the building is now pretty much ruined.

According to the Mission House Museum, it is also rumored that a former property owner, who also provided the pine logs for the structure, became uneasy over non-payment. He decided to go to Toledo and presented himself at the gangsters’ headquarters. Unexpectedly, he was met by a ‘front’ man.

Once there, the Canadian was grilled by one of Capone’s lieutenants, who happened to be wearing a holstered handgun. “Now we can settle this matter between ourselves in the back office or you can come and take it up directly with the big boss at 10 o’clock sharp.” These were the two choices he was given. The words were loaded with menace. The Canadian replied that he would return and talk to the boss.

Next, he walked quickly to his waiting cab where the nervous driver warned him to get back to Canada as fast as he could. And so he did just that. That Canadian was August Quade and the amount of money owing to him was $1,500 which was a pile of money in the 30’s. It is interesting to note that no one ever saw Capone at the hideaway or in stores in the area. Read the rest here CLICK

National Post
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
25 Oct 2001, Thu  •  Page 6

Canada’s allure as safe haven made famous by Capone Roy MacGregor north of Quadeville, Ont. It’s not hard to see the attraction if you happen to be on the run. The fortress chalet sits on the side of a difficult hill, surrounded below by impossible swamp and beyond by impenetrable bush. The windows now either broken or partially covered by plywood afford a perfect view of the winding laneway and, beyond the Private Property sign, the narrow road that heads south toward the sleepy little village and north to nowhere. The basement windows are kicked in, and the hidden tunnel that some locals claim exits at a secret spot far back in the deep woods may be home now to a family of raccoons.

But once, so they claim, the legendary Chicago gangster Al Capone, hid out here in the deep Canadian forest 180 kilometres east of Ottawa, having fled America until it was safe to go home again. Many Americans honest, law-abiding Americans are said to be looking north once again for safe refuge from everything from hijacked airliners last month to anthrax this month to fears, even, from nuclear terrorism in an increasingly uncertain future. Last week, CBC Radio reported that there has been a significant rise in U.S. inquiries coming into Toronto-area real estate offices, most from large city dwellers looking for condominiums with low-risk addresses. Marinas in the New York City area are besieged by buyers looking for used boats in which they might, if necessary, escape north to the Maritimes.

The Ottawa Citizen reported this past weekend on a new “survival” trend: small-centre Americans making sure they have money and food cached in fully tanked cars, ready to flee for the Canadian border at the first sign of new trouble. “I feel very safe there,” Rhode Island banker Georgina Cormier told the newspaper. “There is a sense of safety and security when I go to Canada. If I had to go somewhere, that’s where I would want to be.” Al Capone may have felt the same even if Old Scarface did once tell a reporter, “I don’t even know what street Canada’s on.” Some Saskatchewan oldtimers have long maintained that, in fact, Capone knew River Street in downtown Moose Jaw as well as he knew the back alleys around Chicago’s infamous Lexington Hotel. According to Moose Jaw leg end, Ca pone’s gangsters moved into an underground maze of tun nels originally built by Chinese immigrants hiding out to avoid pay ing Canada’s notorious “head tax.” Capone is said to have liked Moose Jaw’s proximity to the U.S. border, and with prohibition ending there nine years earlier than it would in the States, the little Prairie city made an excellent centre out of which to run his expanding bootlegging operations.

Laurence Moon Mulhn, an el derly Moose Jaw resident, claimed several years ago that he used to earn 200 tips running errands for the gangsters, and another local said her barber father used to be called down into the tunnels to cut Capone’s hair. Those tunnels, excavated, cleaned up and lighted, are now called “Little Chicago,” and are Moose Jaw’s top tourism draw. There has, however, never been any documented proof that this happened, or even that the notori ous gangster ever visited any part of Canada. Capone, however, despite the best efforts of a 300-man special detective unit to find him, went missing for three months in the summer of 1926. Some said he was in Wisconsin. Others thought Michigan. A few even claimed he’d fled to Italy.

There are people around Quadeville who think he came here but not until the early 1940s when Capone was finally released from the prison where he’d been serving time for income tax invasion. According to local legend, the cabin on the side of the hill was built, to specifications, out of huge squared pine timber in 1942. The man who built it travelled to the States to collect on an outstanding construction bill for $1,500, only to be threatened by a gun-carrying henchman and told that “Da Boss” would deal directly with him later, in the day. The builder turned tail, ran back to Quadeville, and the outstanding account was never again mentioned.

Madawaska Valley historian Harry Walker wrote about the cabin and the Capone connection decades ago, but could quote no sources, since area oldtimers refused to speak on the record about what they’d seen and heard of the cabin. They did talk to him, however even when Walker showed up with a former county warden to serve as witness and he came to believe that there was indeed something to the Capone legend. “Even today,” Walker wrote in the early 1970s, “the memory of the event instills fear in those who came in contact with the gangsters.” But other investigations by the Eganville Leader and The Toronto Star not surprisingly produced no concrete evidence. After his release from prison, Capone was seriously debilitated by the effects of syphilis and was often hospitalized.

He died after a long illness in 1947. It is hard to imagine him roughing it in the Canadian bush during those years, far from the comforts of electricity and running water. But historical fact seems to matter little to those who say they remember big limousines heading out Letterkenny Road, beautiful women, big men in fancy suits and a particular man the local kids were told to call “Uncle Al.” A few kilometres down Highway 15 at Latchford Bridge, the nearest village to Quadeville, 79-year-old Leonard Moysey stops raking his leaves and offers a unique perspective on it all.

Moysey grew up in Moose Jaw and would have been a youngster there in the very years Capone was supposedly hiding out in the tunnels beneath River Street “When we were kids,” he says, “we never knew anything about that. Never heard a word about Al Capone. It was all talk that developed later, way after the war.” Moysey believes that the stories of Moose Jaw and Quadeville are both seriously flawed, made up by wishful thinkers and over-extended imaginations. The abandoned cabin may merely be a northern version of the infamous “Secret Vault” of Capone’s that was found during a Chicago excavation 15 years ago and ceremoniously opened by Geraldo Rivera on national television only to discover there was nothing inside.

Back in Quadeville, the men gathered over morning coffee at Kauffeldt’s little rural post office are more interested in talking about the current state of the world the news on television, the moose hunt than they are in going on the record about any possibility that Al Capone ever lived up the road. “We used to go up there when we were young lads,” says one coffee drinker, “but we never saw nothin’. “Once the rumours started about it being Al Capone’s place, people started breaking in. But I don’t know what they thought they might find there’s nothing there.” But that, of course, in fall of 2001, is precisely the attraction. National Post

Did You Ever Hear About the Hole in the Wall? Prohibition 1920s

Johnny J. McGregor — Still Buster and Mayor

Constable Frank Rose – Moonshine, Indians, Raids, Drunks and Dances –The Buchanan Scrapbooks

Bathtub Gin Makes Mr. Bubble Go Flat

Did You Know Where Happy Valley was in Carleton Place?

So Where Was Slabtown?

So Where Was Slabtown?
Several early Ontario mill towns went by the name of “Slabtown.” This Slabtown that is mentioned is in Renfrew County.

North Algona Wilberforce is a township in Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada. It has a … Golden Lake, Green Lake, Higginson’s Hill, Lake Dore, Lett’s Corners, Mink Lake, Mud Lake, Rankin, Slabtown, Trevor Ouellette Lake and Woito
Ottawa Daily Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
19 Dec 1894, Wed  •  Page 3
Munster news-Ottawa Daily Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
14 Dec 1893, Thu  •  Page 6
Map of Slabtown, ON K8A 6W4

Why did I write about Slabtown? Because of my fascination of Slab City

Acollection of unlikely characters is standing around a fire in the middle of the California desert. There’s an older woman who introduces herself only as Tomahawk, kindly offering to give away a handful of colorful gems she bartered at a recent “trade circle.” Next to her is a bearded man—a former banker, he says—who’s currently staying at the rag-tag community’s hostel for the season. 

Read here

Was Frelighsburg Really Slab City?

Merchants, Manufacturers, Etc. 1850 Bytown, Carleton, Lanark, Renfrew

Merchants of Lanark and Renfrew Counties 1850 – Directory Names Names — Genealogy

Renfrew The Creamery Town 1900

Stace Bottema’s Ghostly Trip to Balaclava





90618176_10163238610335707_3409022195463094272_o90700870_10163238610595707_8402355516004630528_oAll Photos by Stace Bottema


Balaclava is a near ghost town today, a come-down from the bustling lumber town of its heyday. It started as a small community named for battle in the Crimean war. Shortly after its founding a dam and sawmill were built and by the 1860s the small hamlet had acquired a blacksmith shop and hotel to go with its permanent residents. In 1903 a sawdust burner was built so that sawdust from the mill would not be dumped in the local river, thereby polluting it. The water-powered sawmill was rebuilt in 1939 after a fire destroyed the mill that had previously occupied the space and continued to [7] operate until 1959. At that time the depletion of available timber had reduced production to uneconomically small amounts. With the loss of the mill the viability of Balaclava as a residential town was also lost. The sawmill was the last water-powered mill to operate in the Province of Ontario.

Balaclava was listed in a book on ghost towns by Ron Brown. Although it makes Balaclava sound like a pristine, deserted ghost town, actually it still has a few residents

Balaclava fits the Hollywood version of the ‘picture perfect’ ghost town; a row of ramshackle buildings with sagging roofs, huddled along a narrow road, while doors and windows creak in the wind. The only thing missing are the tumbleweeds rolling down the middle of the road.

The remains of Balaclava also include an impressive old water powered sawmill, one of the last to operate in Ontario. If you look closely, you can still see pieces of machinery and wagon wheels inside the building.

The sawmill was built in 1855 and purchased by the Richards family in 1868. Interestingly, the Richards were taken to court in 1903, on an early piece of anti-pollution legislation. Apparently, they found the stream to be a handy and convenient place to dispose of all their sawdust. After the stream became clogged, another mill, further downstream, complained. The Richards had their day in court and lost. Shortly after that, they added the huge burner, which still stands today. The Richards family operated the mill until 1957, when they sold it to Donald (aka Dave) Dick.

Although Balaclava had been a busy industrial and farming centre throughout the latter part of the 19th century, for some reason it was bypassed by the railways. That, along with failing farms and dwindling lumber supplies, signalled it’s demise. Stubbornly, the mill continued to operate on water power until 1967. When it shut down, Balaclava became a ghost town. The store, also owned by Mr. Dick, operated until the mid 1970s. A few of farms in the area remain occupied.


You Can Explore This Haunted Ghost Town For A Creepy Adventure In Ontario

Are you brave enough to visit after dark?


Kingdon Mine Led Galetta Area from a Boomtown to a Ghost Town

The Ghost Towns of Eastern Ontario

Halls Mills Ghost Town- Another W. H. Wylie Connection

The Gillies Home in the Ghost Town of Herron’s Mills

Did you Know Old Burnside has a Ghostly Horse?

Photographer Finds Money in a Local Abandoned Home

Gold in Dem Dar Hills of Lanark

Have you Ever Heard about Doran? Here Come da’ Judge!

When the Middleville Folks Went to Jackfish — Ontario Ghost Town

The Witch of Plum Hollow and the Blacksmith

The Witch of Plum Hollow and the Blacksmith

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This is an actual hands on photo of Mother Barnes- The Witch of Plum Hollow we were shown at the last Lanark County Genealogical Society meeting,

Sunday was a dull day in Raglan township  (Renfrew County)and no one appeared to be going to church. There was no church, and the only religious services were held in the school house, the minister being a student from the Lutheran College, who made his headquarters at Mr. Yurt’s. When Sunday morning came the blacksmith’s friend  inquired the distance to a church, and a man in a joking mood, told me that it was fifteen miles, and he learned later it was about ten.

The man appeared very jovial concerning church affairs and informed the gentleman that all the ‘bairns were goot’ and did not go “zu Kirche.‘ Then he added that “my bairn vent vonce a year.”

In the afternoon the gentleman found his friend the blacksmith who was working at something and apparently putting his whole soul and consideration into the work. In another place Andy, the older blacksmith was making a whippletree or mending harness which was a difficult task.

He watched his friend for awhile and then asked what he was making. “I am trying to invent perpetual motion,” said he.  A very difficult thing to do, I should think said his friend.

‘Well.‘ said the smithy, “I think I can do it.” Then he added, in a joking way, I had Mrs. Barnes tell my fortune, and she told me I would not be successful. But she don’t know anything! She Is fraud! Just a minute, I will show you a letter that came from her.

Running upstairs, he got the letter, and. with an air of disgust at the contents, he carelessly tossed It over with the remark, ‘Read that. You will see she knows nothing.’ Then, indignantly, he added’ “Look what she says about my marriage. I never asked her any thing about marriage. I have as much notion of getting married as I have of hanging myself. I can hardly keep myself. I am here living with my sisters. I was hoping of getting into McLachlan’s shanty as a shoer but did not succeed.”

After he had finished his explanation his friend opened the letter and read it. He remembers the style of the handwriting which was fine and even indicating the writer was in a pensive mood. The ink was of old fashioned black ink.


The letter said:

Dear sir,

I received your letter asking for information about your present undertaking. You will not be successful in your present work which is too difficult for you. You are working hard, but your surroundings afford you no opportunities to combine your work in order to be successful. You will be married to a young lady whom you have never seen.

Your marriage will take place in the early part of the present year. The first part of the letter is true, but I have my doubts of the second part.

Mrs. Barnes

The blacksmith seemed to be indignant about the matrimonial part and added that it was *money thrown away when he wrote her. She knows nothing, he said.

This incident was in February and about a month later Mr. McPhee, storekeeper for McLachlin’s and stationed at Palmer Rapids two miles distant was in need of a housekeeper. A pretty young “Gretchen” of nineteen came from Killaloe to apply for the housekeeper job. She was neat and tidy and generally wore high-coloured dresses, sometimes profusely frilled. The young blacksmith was captivated and it needed no prophet to sea that Cupid’s darts were flying thick and fast. Finally the climax came and they were married in May.

Everyone was asked to the wedding, and as his friend congratulated the young blacksmith he remarked,

“Mrs. Barnes evidently knew what she was talking about.”

” It looks that way now.” he said, “but then I could not believe it.”


*Mrs. Barnes Fees were 25 cents



This was posted on the Tales of Carleton Place yesterday by Jim Hicks and Doug B. McCarten said Jim Hicks it was extensively restored by the previous owner who just (I guess) sold it! She did a remarkable job! My family is very grateful to her for it had previously fallen into disrepair! She ran it as a museum dedicated to Granny Barnes memory. I wonder what will happen to it now? (home of the Witch of Plum Hollow)

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come 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.


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

My Grandmother was Mother Barnes-The Witch of Plum Hollow

A Bewitched Bed in Odessa

The Witch of Plum Hollow – Carleton Place Grandmother

Different Seasons of Witches in Lanark County

Plum Hollow Witch and The Mountain Man of Pakenham

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

Who was Mother Barnes? Find Out About the Witch of Plum Hollow April 7

Local Miracle Story– Woken From a Ten Week Coma

The White Witch of Lanark County–Having the Sight


Regina Public Library Needs Our Help– James McFarlane Fergusson




Warren James from the Prairie History Room, Regina Public Library has a patron who is looking for information on a James McFarlane Fergusson who was living in Renfrew Co. and who apparently was ambushed and killed during the early 1890s. They can find no record of such an event;  and wonder if we might have any information that might help them?

Can we all put our thinking caps on and see if we can help the Regina Public Library?

Seems those Fergusson’s were a wild bunch if you remember the story below:

The Story of Wild Bob Ferguson of Dalhousie Township



Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun