Tag Archives: Wild Bob Ferguson

The Story of Wild Bob Ferguson of Dalhousie Township

The Story of Wild Bob Ferguson of Dalhousie Township

Robert “Wild Bob” Ferguson

1866 – 1889

Buried in the Ferguson Cemetery, Dalhousie Township


Friday August 23, 1889 The Perth Courier

Tragedy at Calabogie Lake Fatal Row Between Two River Drivers The Inquest

Kingston Ont., August 15 – “I’ll fight that fellow or I will be in hell tonight.” These were the remarks of an enraged river man in the village of Madawaska on Tuesday night. About eight o’clock he was shot and after great agony died yesterday about 11 o’clock . It was Edward McLaughlin, river driver, who shot Robert Ferguson and killed him.

Madawaska is a small village in the Kingston and Pembroke railway, fourteen miles from Renfrew. Both men were employed at High Falls by E. B. Eddy, Hull Que. On Tuesday Ferguson and McLaughlin went down from High Falls to Madawaska, and were soon intoxicated. Ferguson, ugly when in his cups, interchanged some blows with McLaughlin, but they were speedily separated. Ferguson, however, was not satisfied, he was most violent in his threats. The blustering river driver could not be pacified.

Almost an hour afterwards he found McLaughlin, quietly sitting on a veranda at Burn’s Hotel. Stealthily he approached the sitter, and when close to him struck him, knocking him over. McLaughlin, exasperated, drew his revolver and shot Ferguson in the abdomen. One person says that a fellow named Jack Lee had hold of Ferguson after he knocked McLaughlin over, and the latter put his arms around Lee, and shot Ferguson. Others say that McLaughlin used his weapon in self-defence.

A Brockville commercial traveller named Jamieson is of the latter opinion. After the shooting McLaughlin appealed to Jamieson to know what to do. He was advised to give himself up, but first go to his home at High Falls and see his wife and two children. Jamieson helped him out with his boat and he started up the lake. Ferguson was a native of  Dalhousie, being born on Lot 26 in the 3rd con. of said township in the month of January, 1866, and was consequently about 23 years of ageand was wanted for various offences in Lanark County.

McLaughlin is aged 22 years, and is a quiet fellow. He was afraid of Ferguson and courted his friendship rather than enmity. Ferguson, who was unmarried, had a bad reputation. He was an outlaw, having stabbed a man, and a warrant was out for his arrest. Some years ago, he attacked a peddler and, after a beating terribly, relieved him of some of his goods. For this crime he served a term in the Perth gaol.

An inquest is now in progress. McLaughlin is at his home and ready to surrender when called upon. The character of the deceased was made evident by his conduct before the shooting, he went about the settlement in search of McLaughlin and roaring “I’ll lick that fellow or be in hell to-night.”

Further Details – The Kingston Whig Man Visits The Place  The thriving village of Madawaska, Calabogie Lake, is located on a very romantic and pretty spot on the line of the Kingston & Pembroke R.R. about fifteen miles from Renfrew.

When the wind is high and the log drivers in the employ of E. B. Eddy, Hull, P.Q., cannot work at Calabogie lake they make their head quarters at Madawaska. The gang is composed of fifty-three men, forty-seven of whom work at the head of the log drive about twenty-five miles from the village, and six men are located at the village to urge the logs on their way down the river. Edward McLaughlin, who lives at the head of the lake, and Robert Ferguson, of Dalhousie, were two of the drivers stationed at the village. On Tuesday the weather was not suitable for the drivers to work so they gathered at Madawaska.

While loitering about some of them drank freely and became boisterous. Ferguson drank more freely of liquor than the rest of the men and soon worked himself into a fighting humor. He was quarrelsome and would not be pacified. He made special effort to fight with McLaughlin who seemed peacefully inclined. He and Ferguson were not good friends having fallen out on Monday about the question as who should steer the boat they were using. Ferguson wanted to settle the matter by fighting McLaughlin on Tuesday. They, with others, met in the bar-room of Byrnes’ hotel in the evening.

While there Ferguson began quarrelling with the men. McLaughlin tried to stop the disturbance and Ferguson pitched into him. Both clinched and fell to the floor with Ferguson on top. Then McLaughlin trolled Ferguson over, while in this position they were separated. McLaughlin cut about the face, left the bar-room and went to the verandah. He told the crowd that he would not stand Ferguson’s abuse, and would not be “chewed” by him. Ferguson went away, and failing to secure a revolver, came back to Byrnes; hotel, and seeing McLaughlin sitting on the railing of the verandah struck him a stinging blow in the face without a moment’s warning. McLaughlin was dazed for a second or more and Lee, a county constable, caught hold of Ferguson.

When McLaughlin came to himself he pulled a Smith & Wesson revolver and discharged a bullet into Ferguson’s body, while he was being held by Lee. Lee’s hand was scorched by the blaze. He had a narrow escape from receiving the lead himself.  Ferguson was carried upstairs into Byrne’s hotel where he died at 9:30 o’clock Wednesday morning. McLaughlin was quite sober when he shot Ferguson, and expressed sorrow for what he had done. He asked Mr. Jamieson, a commercial traveller, if he thought Ferguson was fatally shot. Mr. Jamieson said he was sure he (McLaughlin) had killed Ferguson. Then McLaughlin exclaimed: “My God, I did not mean to kill him. I pointed the revolver at his legs.” You should not have used the revolver,” said Jamieson.”What shall I do,” enquired McLaughlin. Jamieson said: “Go home and tell your wife about the affair and then surrender to the authorities boldly.”

At ten o’clock McLaughlin rowed up to the head of the lake and had not been seen since. It is said he is still at his  home and that he is afraid to come to the village. He labours under the idea that if he comes down he will be lynched. No efforts have been made as yet to arrest him, notwithstanding that a warrant has been issued for his capture. He is a hunter, and the constable holding the warrant thinks it would be useless to try to arrest McLaughlin where he lives.

Mr. Nicholson, Clyde Forks, married to one of Ferguson’s sisters, laid the charge of murder against McLaughlin before magistrate Eddy, of Renfrew. McGuire, agent for Eddy, says since McLaughlin has been in his employ he has been a steady, peaceable man. Ferguson was not an agreeable character. He had a very cranky disposition and had to be discharged from the river gang last year for bad conduct. He was only employed, latterly, in a temporary capacity.

Dr. Galligan and Mann, Renfrew, were called to attend Ferguson after he was shot. They found it was impossible to save his life. Dr. Galligan remained with him until he died. Before he expired he prayed frequently. The doctor drew up his will. In it he left property worth $500 in Dalhousie, to a brother, Allan Ferguson. After the post mortem examination was made by Dr McCormack, Renfrew, Dr Galligan order the remains to be buried.  The affair caused great excitement in Madawaska and Renfrew. The residence of these places talked freely about the participants in the affray. A great deal of sympathy was expressed both for the murderer and his victim.

Yesterday when the Whig reporter arrived at Madawaska he saw the hotel, on the verandah of which Ferguson was shot by McLaughlin. The hotel is a large frame building and is conducted by Mr. Byrnes. The house stands prominently on a hill and faces the railroad, it can be seen a long distance away. It was crowed yesterday with river man, who discussed, in a vigorous way, matters pertaining to the murder. The streets were crowded with people while the inquest was being held in the hotel.  The enquiry into the cause of Ferguson death was not concluded yesterday. It was resumed to day at 12:30 o’clock . The principal part of the evidence was however, submitted yesterday. Dr. Galligan corner, says he will not charge McLaughlin before the jury with will full murder.

E. McKay, of Thistle Carswell & McKay, mill owners, knew McLaughlin well and considers him a quiet decent man.  Many people are indignant at the position which County Constable Lee took during the process of the disturbance which led up to the murder of Ferguson. They consider that Lee did not do his duty when he failed to arrest the men who were acting disorderly. If he had done this at the beginning of the quarrel, Ferguson would not have been killed.  This morning about 2:30 o’clock the coffin, containing the corpse of Ferguson, was placed on board a K.& P.R. train and carried to Clyde Forks where it was transferred to a hand car and carried away. The remains were accompanied by friends of Ferguson, including two brother-in-law, Robert Craig and W. Nicholson. Two ladies were in the party and seemed to be in great grief. The corpse was interred to-day at Dalhousie in St. James church cemetery.


The Evidence Presented

The coroner’s inquest, conducted by Dr Galligan, of Renfrew, began at 12:30 on Thursday. The following Jurors were empanelled: S. Dempsey, foreman; Robert Box, J. McAdam, A. S. Bradford, John McPherson, James Strong, G. Legre, A. Proux, W. Ramsay, John Mahon, A. McPherson, S. Hunter, W. Hawley and P. Barry.  After the jurors had been sworn evidence was submitted. G. Armstrong said he lived at Quio.

He saw Robert Ferguson and others on Tuesday on a street in Madawaska with their coats off. Lee was holding Ferguson. A short time afterward McLaughlin appeared with a revolver cocked and pointed downwards. McFarlane, a river driver, went towards McLaughlin. He (McLaughlin) told him to keep back because he would shoot any man who would lay hands on him. Lee, foreman over the river drivers, was seen conducting McLaughlin to a stable on Tuesday afternoon.

In the evening witness heard the discharge of a revolver and looking about saw McLaughlin with his hands on his face as if drying blood on it. Matthew Tracy, driver, lived in North Onslow. He saw Lee and Ferguson clinched in the afternoon. Ferguson appeared to be under the influence of liquor, and says he wanted to fight. Tracy heard a shot fired, then saw Ferguson stumbling around Byrne’s hotel, he said another river driver, saw McLaughlin with his revolver pointed downwards. Witness said he did not understand enough of the English language to know what McLaughlin said.

Dalphes parent saw Ferguson and McLaughlin on August 13th in the bar of Byrne’s hotel. There Ferguson hit a man named McPherson twice. McLaughlin tried to stop the quarrel. Ferguson struck him. Then McLaughlin gave Ferguson a kick. The men clinched and McLaughlin threw Ferguson. McLaughlin said he would not hit him. Afterward McLaughlin had a revolver in his hands.  Gideon Labelle came from Hull, P.Q. He saw Ferguson trying to fight with McLaughlin. Byrnes told McLaughlin if he wanted to fight to go outside. McLaughlin went out of the hotel and said: “If Ferguson comes near me I’ll shoot him.” Then McLaughlin flourished his revolver.  George Sylar, of Gatineau Point, saw McLaughlin holding Ferguson down in the bar-room. McLaughlin did not hit Ferguson.

Witness saw McLaughlin outside the hotel with a revolver and heard him say he would shoot the first man who laid a hand on him. McFarlane tried to take the revolver from McLaughlin.  Peter Kane, of Pontiac, Que., saw Ferguson strike McLaughlin in the face. Then McLaughlin pulled a revolver. He aimed it a Ferguson and fired. When the ball entered Ferguson’s body he exclaimed “I’m shot.” The men were twelve feet apart when the shot was fired.  Michael Foran, Maynooth, saw Ferguson strike McPherson. McLaughlin stepped up and said it was too bad for Ferguson to strike McPherson. Then Ferguson struck McLaughlin in the face. McLaughlin kicked Ferguson. They clinched and both fell, with McLaughlin on top. Both men had been drinking.

When Ferguson was on top on McLaughlin he said, “I will not hit you.” McLaughlin said he did not want to fight. Ferguson tried to force the quarrel. McLaughlin was seen by witness in the yard at the back of the hotel with a pistol in his hand. McLaughlin went to a store to get a shirt, and Ferguson followed him and asked him to fight, he refused to fight. When McLaughlin was sitting on the railing of Bryne’s hotel Ferguson struck him in the face, and then McLaughlin fired at Ferguson. David Milligan, Quio, Que., saw McLaughlin and Ferguson clinched on the floor of Bryne’s hotel, McLaughlin was on top of Ferguson held one of McLaughlin’s legs with his teeth. McLaughlin yelled that Ferguson was biting him. Byrnes ordered the men outside.

McLaughlin had a revolver in his hand at this time.  He told McFarlane he would shoot any man that would lay a hand on him. Witness saw men carrying Ferguson upstairs after he was shot.  John Lee, constable, Madawaska, knew McLaughlin and Ferguson. On August 12th Ferguson was angry at McLaughlin because he did not take an oar and row the boat they were in on crossing Calabogie lake. On the morning of August 13th Ferguson said he would break McLaughlin mouth before night.

About 3 o’clock in the afternoon witness saw Ferguson at his pump. Ferguson was furious. He swore by his Maker he would fight, then he went to Byrne’s hotel and witness went after him. Ferguson struck McPherson. McLaughlin told Ferguson not to bother the old man because he was the worse of liquor. Ferguson then hit McLaughlin and broke one of his teeth. Connors caught Ferguson and told him to be quiet. McLaughlin kicked at Ferguson, they clinched and fell on the bar floor. Ferguson was biting McLaughlin on the thigh when one Dillon separated them. McLaughlin turned Ferguson over on his back and said if Ferguson kept quiet he would not strike him. McLaughlin went to the door and Ferguson followed him and they clinched again.

Witness caught Ferguson and some other person seized McLaughlin. Witness advised Ferguson to leave McLaughlin alone. McLaughlin then drew a revolver and said: “The first man that lays a hand on me I will put a hole in him.” Witness called McLaughlin aside and asked him to give up the revolver. He refused saying, “I’m alone here and the crowd is against me.” He would have surrendered the revolver if Joe Varneau had not told him to keep it. McLaughlin went to Harris’ store to buy a shirt. Ferguson went to look for him. When Ferguson could not find McLaughlin he returned to the hotel and swore “By the red roaring Irish – either McLaughlin or I will be a corpse before morning.” He said he would go and get a revolver.

About 7:30 p.m. McLaughlin came to witness house. Witness advised McLaughlin to keep out of Ferguson way. McLaughlin said he would, that he was a married man and had a wife and family, and it would not suit him to fight. He said he and Ferguson came to Madawaska together to get men to work in the mine. Witness and McLaughlin went to the hotel and sat on the railing. Ferguson came along with a panel in his hand and walked up to McLaughlin swearing that he would settle the row now. Witness stepped between them and told Ferguson to stop fighting for McLaughlin did not want to fight. Ferguson acted as if he was not going to fight, but suddenly struck McLaughlin in the face. Witness caught Ferguson and pushed him back against the wall, saying that he would have to stop. Instantly the pistol was discharged. Witness let go of Ferguson and he shout “I’m shot,” and walked into the kitchen.

Witness saw McLaughlin afterward. He said he was sorry for shooting Ferguson, but he could not help it as he was afraid of him.  Dr. Norman McCormack, Renfrew, performed the post-mortem examination on the body of Robert Ferguson. The doctor found slight bruises about the elbows, and a slight bruise on the left shin. A small wound was discovered on the left side between the seventh and eighth ribs.

On the body being turned over on its side blood came out of the wound. When examining the wound in the chest he could not get the probe to enter, he made very slight attempts to enter the wound. On opening the abdomen blood issued. On laying the abdominal cavity open he found it full of blood, and a perforation was in the diaphragm. The right side of the heart filled with clotted blood. The doctor could not trace the bullet any further than the diaphragm. The bullet went first through the chest at the junction of the diaphragm and thorax, then from the thoracic cavity into the abdominal cavity. All the organs examined were healthy. The death of Ferguson was caused by internal hemorrhage from a wound caused by a bullet, it was found in the abdominal cavity. The inquest was then adjourned until to-day at 12:30 o’clock .

The Verdict

The following is the verdict of the Coroner’s inquest: – “That Robert Ferguson came to his death from the effect of a pistol shot, fired by Edward McLaughlin, and we find Edward McLaughlin guilty of manslaughter in the third degree.” This verdict rendered in the above case – manslaughter in the third degree against McLaughlin. The Kingston News says is tantamount to acquittal because there is no law dealing with such a charge. There is manslaughter in the second degree, but not the third.



Dear Editor

1889, September 6   The Calabogie Tragedy  Lavant, August 28th, 1889 To The Editor of The Courier.

Dear Sir, – . Your correspondent says he was an outlaw, having stabbed a man. I would like to know who the party was, and where it happened, as such a thing never occurred in the county of Lanark . Your correspondent also says that some years ago he attacked a peddler and, after beating him terribly, relieved him of his goods, For this crime you say he served a term in the Perth gaol. Well, Mr. Editor, Robert Ferguson was never in Perth gaol in his lifetime, that I can testify to.

I have known him from infancy, and for the last 12 years lived within a mile of his parents residence. I must also state that here were several charges laid against him there was no truth in. I must admit that he had lived rather a wild life, although he had a very respectable parents.

His funeral was one of the largest that ever passed through Lavant township. The corpse was interred at Dalhousie, in St James’ church cemetery, where the funeral service was conducted by Rev Mr. Mcllroy, Presbyterian Minister of Poland, Dalhousie. After the burial there was a floral wreath placed on his grave by a young lady whose name I withhold, I am Sir, Yours & C A Friend.

[Note. – Our esteemed correspondent is in error in thinking the narrative first published in our columns of the Calabogie tragedy was written by a COURIER correspondent. The account was taken from The British Whig and The Toronto city dailies, we have no reporter at the place to write upon the event. Upon enquiry we learn that the deceased, Robert Ferguson, never was in Perth gaol, and it seems that other stories going about in reference to the unfortunate young man were equally without foundation. But the assault, etc., told in our columns last week appears to be true enough. One thing is quite clear – if he had never touched whiskey, young Ferguson would be alive and well to-day, and probably a good citizen. – Ed. Cour.]


Ferguson Cemetery-

St. James Church & Cemetery at Hood.

Lot 16, Con. 3, Dalhousie Township

Burials – 1861 to 1904

Click here to see headstones

Related reading

Madawaska Village, Ontario, Canada
A Nineteenth Century Murder in a Missing Ghost Town-Bytown.net

For the Love of Money-Gillies Gilmours and the McLarens

The Church On the Hill in the Middle of Hood


Thanks to Melanie Johnston Mason and her research on the Ferguson family we now have a geat photo of Wild Bob Ferguson with an unknown lady, killed in Calabogie in a bar room brawl

Robert “Wild Bob” Ferguson
1866 – 1889
Buried in the Ferguson Cemetery, Dalhousie TownshipThe Church On the Hill in the Middle of Hood