Hi Linda, I came across your post on Facebook this morning with lots of articles on Mother Barnes, witch of Plum Hollow. My cousin Doug McCarten posted a thank you. One of the articles posted was titled “Witch of Plum Hollow Carleton Place Grandmother “. I should have noted the name of the person who posted this but I didn’t.
There are several errors due to the fact that there are two Amy Buchanans. Mother Barnes granddaughter was Amy Barnes Buchanan, daughter of Sam Barnes. She was born and raised in Smiths Falls. Her father was a blacksmith and carriage maker and the family were quite well off. This Amy was my grandmother, also grandmother of Jan McCarten Sansom and Doug McCarten, my cousins. Amy Barnes Buchanan went to Queens University for a year and then became a teacher. She taught at Snow Road. She met and married George Buchanan, a farmer near Maberly.
They had three daughters, Agnes, Hilda ( my mother ) and Amy ( Jan and Doug’s mother ). When my mother was six ( 1917 ) George sold the farm in Maberly and bought a farm in Appleton ( now owned by Edith Clarke ). He sold that farm in about 1923 or 24 finding it too hard to get labour after WWI. The family moved to Carleton Place and rented at least two different houses, one on Flora opposite the end of McRostie Street and another on High Street. The year they moved to CP, my mother Hilda, started high school on Lake Ave., this school having been built the year before.
George Buchanan became an insurance agent and after all three daughters had left home, he and Amy bought the lovely stone house on Bridge St. opposite the end of High Street. Daughter Agnes married Archie Colvin and lived in Connecticut, daughter Hilda married Lorne MacRostie and lived in Ottawa, and daughter Amy married Vern McCarten and lived in Toronto. Amy and Vern moved to Carleton Place about 1949 to help George Buchanan with the insurance business as George had cancer. They initially rented a house on Joseph Street and later bought the house on Bridge Street from Amy Buchanan. Amy Buchanan lived in several rented apartments, the last one being the top floor of the brick house on Charles St. at the corner of Emily.
So Mother Barnes was the mother of Sam Barnes, Sam was the father of Amy Barnes Buchanan, Amy Barnes Buchanan was the mother of Agnes Colvin, Hilda MacRostie and Amy McCarten. The three sisters were very close and the MacRosties and McCartens had Sunday dinners together often, either in Ottawa or CP. The three families rented cottages together on Hay’s shore for several summers.
My family MacRostie is also related to the McRosties of Carleton Place. My grandfather James was a brother of Fred, Winnie McRostie’s father. At some point, James and at least one other brother changed the spelling from McR to MacR. We don’t know why. I keep in touch with Winnie’s niece Joan, we are second cousins.
My children and Jan’s children are close. Jan and I are five years apart in age, Jan’s daughter Diana and my daughter Stephanie are five years apart and Stephanie was born on Jan’s birthday.
Another coincidence – Mary and Wally Cook’s wedding attendants were Dr. and Mrs. Kendall, the parents of my friend Jane, whom I’ve known since grade seven at Connaught School in Ottawa and our teacher that year was Leta Andison of CP.
Sorry, Linda, I got a little carried away with the family history. My grandmother Amy Buchanan was a teacher, I was a teacher and spent the first six years of my career at Caldwell School in Carleton Place and lived in Mississippi Manor next to the hospital, and my granddaughter is at Queens doing ConEd to become to become a teacher.
I might note: the building at Black’s Corners is the Beckwith Township Municipal Offices; Goulburn is a few kilometres east (I believe), starting at Ashton.
By the way, Linda, you and I met once at a presentation about Mother Barnes at the Goulbourn building at Black’s Corners. I was there with cousin Jan and daughter Stephanie. Sue MacRostie Fulford ( photo above I took)
Ideas concerning witchcraft are rather attenuated at present, although their existence may still be observed.
578. Some people believe that a wish expressed very solemnly or under special circumstances, such as by a dying person, will be effective against supposed wrong-doers. This is somewhat of the nature of a curse. For instance, a man who was dying of consumption wished for a cane belonging to his father. The younger brother, who had possession of it, refused to give it up. The sick man then remarked that the brother might keep the cane, but that he might need it before long.
579. Burning salt will drive witches out of the house. (M.) 579. Burning salt will drive witches out of the house. (M.)
580. A crabbed, sour-dispositioned old woman is still sometimes referred to as an old witch.
581. The seventh son of the seventh son is supposed to be able to tell fortunes and to perform cures of various kinds. This applies equally to the seventh daughter of the seventh son. It is also held that the seventh son or child is supernaturally gifted.
582. Mrs. Richard Hutchison told of a male relative of hers who was said to have been bewitched by an old woman living in the neighborhood. The old woman was supposed to have had a spite against the man, and made him want to kill his wife, who could not escape him, no matter where she might go. Nothing could be done to rid him of his murder mania. At last it became known that the old woman had bewitched him. So she was sent for and ordered to say, “God bless you!” She kept saying, “My God bless you!” but this did the man no good, as the old woman’s god or deity was the Devil. The people finally threatened to string her up to a tree if she did not say, “God bless you!” When she said it at last, the man became as usual.
583. A woman living in the country, a short distance from Toronto, one day saw a cat coming towards the house through the grass. As she noticed that the cat’s face resembled that of a neighbor woman, she tried to catch it, but was unable to do so. Had she cut its paw, or hurt it in any way, her neighbor – so she believed – would have been injured in a similar manner. The cat after a while went into the stable, and walked in and out of the stalls “just like a soldier.” The people tried to hit it with sticks, but it got out of the way every time. (Informant is said to have been of Highland-Scotch descent.)
584. Another item, presumably of Scotch origin, is to the effect that a woman took sweepings from her steps and threw them on those of her mother-in-law to prevent the latter from doing her an injury.
585. Some people always sweep in, never out of the door.
586. A practice attributed to Irish sources is that of pointing the scissors at people, either when they are looking or when not looking; this is done to injure an enemy
The beliefs under Nos. 587-591 (recorded by the Rev. Solomon Snider of Norwich, Oxford County, Ontario, in “The Globe,” Toronto, 1898-1900, were current between 1840and 1850. 587. “Witches were a terror to old and young, and not without reason when it was found what they could do. What quantities of soap-grease were wasted in the vain attempt to make soap! How many hours were spent over the churn, while the butter wouldn’t come! . . . How much bread sponge had to be thrown into the swill- barrel because it wouldn’t rise! . . . Manes of horses would be found in the morning braided up and fastened together as stirrups for the witches or fairies who had ridden them through the night.
588. “A man’s cows got lean and lost relish for their food and would yield no milk; but when an old woman marked crosses on their horns and foreheads, they were themselves again. They were held to have been ‘witched.’
589. “Again, an old man declared he was taken out every night by the witches and bridled and ridden like a horse; and he would show all the signs of being completely exhausted in the morning, and would exhibit the sores at the corners of his mouth where he had been un- mercifully jerked by the bit. He so fully believed all this, that he walked fifty miles to consult a ‘witch doctor,’ who delivered him from his tormentors.
590. “An old soldier, who lived alone in a little log cabin, died very suddenly in the presence of some young men whom he had just been diverting with tales of his former exploits. One of themran to the house of Mrs. S – , who was found with a pot fiercely boiling, in which were three pigs’ livers all stuck full of pins and needles. In reply to the news that ‘old Uncle Simon was dead,’ she said: ‘Served him right. Why didn’t he let my pigs alone?’ It was a case of ‘tit for tat.’ He had bewitched her pigs, and she, with the help of the murdered pigs’ livers, had compassed his death.
591. ” Once more: An old woman said to her husband one day: ‘The butter won’t come.’ He at once cast a silver bullet for his rifle (lead won’t kill a witch), and fired it into the churn. The butter was all right; but not so an old wife of the neighborhood, who had be- witched the butter. She went hobbling around for months, suffering silently from a concealed bullet wound.” The following story, which confirms some of the notions contributed by the Rev. S. Snider, was obtained from John Jamieson, Jr., an Iroquois residing on the Six-Nation reserve, in Brant County, and deals with beliefs –evidently European –current in that locality some thirty or forty years ago:
592. A blacksmith living along the stone road between Brantford and Langford had an apprentice who gradually began to get very ill. One day he told the blacksmith that he was going away. “What’s the matter?” asked his employer. “Nothing,” he replied, “except that you do not use me very well.” ” How’s that?” asked the blacksmith. “Well, I am kept awake every night working,” said he. The blacksmith decided to take the young man to sleep near him, the wife of the latter sleeping in another room. In the middle of the night the blacksmith heard something knocking. He went to the door, and saw there a man with a fine-looking mare. “I’ll give you five dollars if you will shoe my horse,” said his visitor, “as I have to drive twenty miles.” The blacksmith said, “No! I have worked hard all day, and I want to rest.”-“Shoe the front feet, and I’ll give you five dollars for your trouble,” said the man; “I do not want to drive on the gravel without shoes.” The blacksmith at last consented; but the mare was very restless, and kept following him around, while the thought kept occurring to him that he had seen the mare before. The customer paid his bill and departed. In the morn- ing the blacksmith asked his assistant how he had slept. “Oh! all right,” said he. The hired girl got the breakfast, and went to call the blacksmith’s wife; but the latter remained in her apartment weeping, her hands hidden in her clothes, and would give no answer. The blacksmith finally entered, and asked her what was the matter. She showed him her hands with horseshoes nailed on them, and said, “I did not think you would do such a thing.”
593. I have frequently heard of a red-hot horseshoe being put into the churning when the butter would not come. The avowed reason was to remove the spell which a witch had put on the cream. (Boyle.)
594. An old Irish woman of the neighborhood, when she has any bad luck, such as her hens not laying, or any farm stock not prospering, obtains something belonging to the person she suspects of “evil’ and, after sticking it full of pins, burns it. She claims that she always hears of this person’s illness at once.
Witches were once known as wise women. You couldn’t help staring. Dressed completely in black, her eyes outlined with black, a pentagram dangled from a chain, her presence demanded attention. No, this wasn’t Hollywood — it was NYC years ago when I was on a buying trip for my store in Ottawa. Standing next to me in a check-out line stood Laurie Cabot, the official witch of Salem, Mass. Admittedly disconcerted by the woman in black, I suddenly felt a twinge of fear– or was it admiration? Every Halloween we are confronted by witches. Ugly hags, powerful and evil, handmaids of the devil. Few images are so frightening; few are so completely wrong.
Until the Christianization of Europe, the Old Religion, with its goddesses and gods, marked cycles of time and fertility. Wise women – healers, midwives and counselors – practiced magic and folk arts of ancient earth-based spiritualities. Even as people converted to Christianity, they blended these old mysteries with the new beliefs. Male clerics, however, eventually redefined folk practices as Satan’s work or witchcraft In 1484, Pope Innocent sanctioned witch-hunting. Two years later, two Dominican inquisitors published the Malleus Mallefi-carum (“Hammer of Witches”) as an instruction book for zealous Christians to aid the cause.
An instant best-seller, the Malleus argued that women were more susceptible to the Devil’s wiles than men. By nature, women were feeble-minded, morally and sexually lax, inclined to lie, weak in faith, and prone to evil. Clerics and medical doctors identified women’s ancient arts – contraception, abortion, birthing, healing -as witch’s work. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). Thus armed with the Malleus and the Bible, the medieval church launched one of its most successful crusades – killing women.
Although reliable numbers are difficult to discern, some scholars estimate that from the 15th to 18th centuries, approximately 2 million people were executed for witchcraft- 80 per cent of them women. During the burning times, the church terrorized women suspected of practicing the old religions. In 1585, in the Bishop of Trier, had the entire female population was murdered. Ancient beliefs died by harassment, inquisition, torture and execution. In the midst of this violence, the church – threatened by the rival female spiritual power – constructed the modern image of the witch, a misogynist image haunting our culture still.
Once, before the burning times, people revered old women, wise women – “witches” – as healers and givers of life. Now they are hags. On Halloween, some Christian women commemorate the burning times in what theologian Rosemary Ruether calls a “remembrance of the holocaust of women.” After reciting a litany of women executed as witches, participants pray, “We weep for them. We do not for get them. And as we remember them, we dedi cate ourselves to making a new world where we and our daughters can live free.”
Other women, however, have rejected traditional religion completely and embraced revitalized forms of the old ways – now referred to as wicca, god dess worship or neo-paganism. The re-emergence of witchcraft as a serious religious practice coincided with contemporary feminism. Many women believe Christianity and Judaism to be hopelessly patriarchal and, not surprisingly, violently oppressive to women. Thus, many well-educated, urban professional women have turned to the Goddess as an alternate source for spirituality According to modern witches, “the craft” is not a pact with the Devil (and not to be confused with Satanism, a separate belief.
Rather, it is a set of ritual practices aimed at healing as one connects with the universe – related to other pre-Christian beliefs found in tribal religions around the world. Halloween, or Samhain, is one of witchcraft’s most important ritual festivals. It is the witches’ New Year, the time when the veil dividing the world of the living and the dead is thin. At this time, the witches’ spiral dance celebrates death, fertility and renewal. I don’t fear witches. Rather, I fear the witch hunt – the real work of the Devil.
Pakenham Witches. —Because we are deriving very little and in some cases no butter from our travelling starved cows, many believe the cream is bewitched by a maliciously inclined man or woman, supposed to receive power from the devil. It is astonishing how many Protestants, even church members,believe as strongly in superstition than they do in the Bible. We are inclined to ask what Protestant religion is doing when superstition is cultivated to such an alarming extent, W e must be getting back near the time when the witches were burned, and perhaps in our next we can give you the gratifying news of the capture and burning of this one.–Almonte Gazette Pakenham August 6 1880 read-The White Witch of Lanark County–Having the Sight
Adrienne Jones— I see they missed Mary Rutherford the witch whose head was severed from her body so she didnt come back. Body in Bentink township guarded by 2 white spirit wolves and head up the peninsula around Tobermory.
Yesterday I saw this comment from Adrienne and decided to document it. On Google there are quite a few articles on her but scouring the newspapers sites. not a one.. Just this clipping below that in 1873 one L. Kyder from Montreal dressed up as Mary Rutherford- Witch.
Grey County Cemetery– click here.. ( formerly known as Lamlash Cemtery)
The worst condition I have ever seen in any cemetery, appalling really. Such desecration is completely unwarranted and I wonder at the minds of some people. This sad little cemetery is found down an abandoned “No Maintenance” road, closed in the winter and very rough the remainder of the year. The only visitors are off-roaders, partyers and people dumping garbage. Also those who follow the ghostly legends of the paranormal may also be found visiting here, in curiosity of the Legend of Mary Rutherford. Cults and satanic rituals are common here, and apparitions have also been reported
What is easy to find are the other gravestones, all gathered together on a concrete slab, most damaged and in poor condition, all turned every which way and used as stools for partying idiots.
Mary Rutherford was reportedly the first burial in what was once the West Bentinck Presbyterian Cemetery. She died Christmas day of 1872. The last confirmed burial here was 1922. A visit here is spooky, deep within the forest setting, surrounded by the refuse of society and the uncertainty of the unknown.
The Legend of Isabella ‘Mary’ Rutherford
The legend of Mary Rutherford has always been vague and ambiguous. It tells of an old maid who was finally betrothed to be married, only to be duped at the alter by her husband-to-be. Left shameful and heartbroken, she committed suicide by hanging herself in her wedding dress. If this wasn’t enough, she has since been accused of being a witch, having her head buried separate from her body and her grave placed far from the rest in the cemetery where she now rests.Upon first hearing about this infamous, yet illogical legend, something didn’t seem to fit. The facts didn’t add up so the deeper I dug, the more things began to make sense. The purpose of this article is to help shed some light on the often talked about, yet rarely accurate legend based on a woman who has come to be known as Mary Rutherford.
Bentinck Township, just outside of Hanover, Ontario in the West Grey area was one of the former townships that made up the original city. (the other’s being the Townships of Glenelg and Normanby, the former Village of Neustadt, and the former Town of Durham). During the early 1900’s, the Hanover area became a popular area for immigrants because of its wealth of farm land and hardwood bushes. Many of these immigrants came from Scotland, but for this story, one family stood out in particular.Robert Laidlaw, a farmer from the village of Bedrule in Roxburghshire, Scotland, married a woman from the same town named Isabella Rutherford (born 1800) on May 21 in 1826. Decades later in 1855 their son Walter left Scotland in his late teens with his fiancee Maryanne, and was the first of the clan to come over and settle in Canada, in the Bentinck Township.
Sometime in 1860, Robert and Isabella joined them, and the family lived in a 2-storey log home that had just been built in 1859.Walter and Maryanne married in 1870 and had five children. Walter became quite a prominent man within the Bentinck Township and was elected the deputy reeve. He died in 1895 and Maryanne in 1910. The family’s log home was sold and taken apart, log by log and moved to Lake Rosalind in Hanover to be used as a cottage in 1958.
Isabella ‘Mary’ Rutherford died in 1872 (LAIDLAW, Isabella (Rutherford)) on Christmas day at the age of 72. A few years later her husband Robert Laidlaw passed away in March of 1874. They were both buried in the now abandoned West Bentinck Presbyterian Cemetery (also known to be the Lamlash Cemetery) and Isabella was the very first, or one of the first, to be buried in the 1872 graveyard. According to the burial records in the Bentinck Township book, the last recorded burial was another Mr. Laidlaw in 1939. However, a stone at the graveyard contradicts this saying that the last burial was in 1922.
I think you might be better off not finding her grave and accidentally touching it, so they say.
MYTH Isabella grew up to be a childless old maid who was duped at the alter by her fiancé who had taken her virginity the night before the wedding. Isabella committed suicide by hanging herself while in her wedding dress on her wedding day at the age of 26.
FACTS At least three children (seven total) have been directly connected to Isabella, their names were Walter, Jean and Robert. She was married, successfully, to Robert in 1826.
MYTH Locals claimed she was a witch and so her head was decapitated from her body and both buried separately in the cemetery. Her grave(s) being placed separately from the rest of the group for this reason.
FACTS There is no prevailing evidence to prove she was a witch or practised witchcraft. The “practise” of witchcraft was, in many communities, misconstrued to include everything from botany to herbology to astrology. A well tended gardener who took heed of the seasons and Mother Nature and respected both could be interpreted as practising a type of witchcraft. A confirmed witch would not have been permitted burial on consecrated grounds nor had the symbol of a handshake (a welcoming into the heavenly world) engraved on their gravestone. Both Robert and Isabella have the same symbol on their gravestones.
There are some interesting points to be made about her burial.
As one of the first buried in the cemetery her plot was located over halfway back from the entry to the cemetery on a hillside. This could have simply been the location of a purchased family plot or intentional on the part of the deceased’s wishes or the church. There is no evidence available as to the intent.
Her plot was alleged to have been located next to her husband but witnesses claim the two stones were not located immediately side by side (before, or after, being relocated).
Her plot was separate from other graves, however, only a fraction of the total plots had surviving gravestones on them by the 1970s (when the bulk of rumours commenced). Following the clustering of stones, her stone remained separate on the hillside for some time until it was moved down next to the cluster. No effort was made to locate her stone together with the others in the past or since.
A clarification to what you may have read on websites like geocaching.com, the “clustering” of gravestones was not common practise in cemeteries when they were established or for centuries following. This clustering most likely occurred some time between 1950 to 1990 when this desecration of historical cemeteries, in the name of easy maintenance and alleged vandalism prevention, was performed. It was cheaper than requesting additional police patrols or better lighting. You will not find any untouched cemeteries containing a clustering of gravestones, even the most remote locations deep in forests and the back forty of family farms.
Kevin, Lead Investigator Notes: I know this for a fact because I personally witnessed the clustering of at least a half dozen local cemeteries during the 1980s for these reasons. Stones were being vandalized by drunken idiots and it was thought the only way to protect them was to cluster them closer together restricting access. Since then we have come up with better concrete and steel supports to protect and preserve freestanding stones, too late for the cemeteries already converted. In older cemeteries where records are lost, and stones have been vandalized the clustering of stones together was done out of a lack of information more than common practise. For example, no one wants to place to stone belonging to Mary on top of the grave belonging to John lest they be haunted by the dead or the descendants thereof.
MYTH Anyone who touches the gravestone of Isabella ‘Mary’ Rutherford will befall an injury. Allegedly the ghost of Mary will reach out from the grave and break the arm of the daring individual. The bone may not break right away but will soon after in a mysterious freak accident.
FACTS Obviously false without a need for much explanation. Many people have touched her gravestone and not become injured including our Lead investigator Kevin.
MYTH If you wait near the gravestone or grave, unclear which, at the stroke of midnight it is alleged that the ghost, apparition in mist form, or the witch herself can be seen walking through the cemetery near the trees.
FACTS No one sober has reported seeing this phenomenon that we have found during our research. Due to the conditions of the road back to the cemetery and the lack of nearby public space we have not located anyone who has been back there after sunset in recent years.
Discussion on the Haunting Folklore
Is Isabella’s spirit haunting the cemetery? Not likely. Did Isabella die an unwed childless old maid? No. Was Isabella a witch? Unknown but evidence supports that she was not.
Is there a spirit or spirits, other than Isabella, haunting the cemetery? Inconclusive Is there a malevolent or demonic spirit, other than Isabella, haunting the cemetery? Inconclusive Why are these two points inconclusive?
There has been evidence of witnesses feeling intense sorrow or discomfort while in the cemetery. This is most likely a psychological effect of hearing the rumours and legends concerning the location. However, our lead investigator, Kevin, reported that he felt a uniquely calming presence in the cemetery and noted the reduction of bird and animal sounds in the immediate area of the cemetery. He concluded, based on four visits over several years, that this was simply an anomaly of time of day and use of location versus a prevailing psychic energy in the area.
There is, however, the fact that several, albeit amateurish, rituals have been performed in the graveyard over the last several decades. Whether these rituals were the result of a impulse brought on by alcohol or intent to raise or conjure energies is too varied and undocumented to be dismissed. The toying with such dangerous activities may have created a rift or tear, a portal, allowing for the attraction or entry of inter-dimensional energies into this location. Further paranormal investigation into this location is needed.
Few are aware that near the shore of nearby Lake Eloida the derelict abode of the Witch of Plum Hollow sits empty, ravaged by time and vandals. . However for three generations of Joynt women, descendants of Mother Barnes, a visit to the tiny cabin shortly before Halloween proved a sentimental journey of sorts.
Lera Joynt, daughter Carol, 11-year-old Susan Joynt and Lisa Joynt, 14, had varied reactions to the forlorn cottage. “I recall Grandpa Samuel Barnes telling of hitching up the horses for the long ride from Smiths Falls to Plum Hollow,” Lera reminisced. Sam, one of Barnes’ nine children, was a blacksmith and mayor of Smiths Falls in 1906.
Her daughter Carol felt a strong bond with her famous ancestor. Mother Barnes ‘gift’ to foresee the future appeared in every generation, she said. Lisa and Susan, daughters of Witch of Plum Hollow Painted by Henry Vyfinkel well-known farmer and auctioneer John Joynt, were fascinated. With visions of bats, broomsticks and black cats racing through their heads, they gingerly tip-toed through the debris. “There’s an old piece of wood in here that’s marked made in 1805,” Susan called out excitedly. Lisa reported with disappointment the rickety old stairs were gone. “I’ll come back in my old clothes and climb up there,” she told her grandmother. “I want to see the room where Mother Barnes read the tea leaves for all those people.” Lera Joynt’ disapproves of the dubious title of witch applied to her ancestor. “We don’t like it at all. Her kindly advice and honest predictions helped countless numbers of people.”
Over at Plum Hollow Cheese factory, Claude Flood explains why he and his late wife Ella erected a monument to Mother Barnes in nearby Sheldon Cemetery. “During the 50 years I made cheese here people were always coming in with stories about Mother Barnes.
Lera Joynt and other family members felt the same. Some years ago, they purchased the two acres with its original cabin, its apple trees, tumble-down barn and abandoned well. Lera and husband Percy re-shingled, the roof and cleaned up the grounds when they took over the property but it hasn’t weathered the years very well. Weeds have taken over, the roof sinks in and vandals have removed the original pine doors and smashed the windows.
The Witch of Plum Hollow has. served as title for a book by Thad Leavitt now out of print a musical show produced in Toronto and an oil painting by area artist Henry VyfinkeL The huge painting dominates his studio near Brockville.
“When I read that the last man hung in Brockville had been convicted of murder through her police assistance,” Vyfinkel recalled, “I believed there was something to what they were saying about her.” A seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Mother Barnes was born Jane Elizabeth Martin in the County of Cork, Ireland, in November, 1800. She was the daughter of an Irish landowner of English descent who was a colonel in the British Army, and of an Irish woman of Spanish gypsy descent.
Although her father had arranged a marriage for her to a colonel friend of wealth and distinction, 20-year-old Elizabeth eloped on the night of her wedding with a ‘Canadian army sergeant, Robert Joseph Harrison. Disowned by her parents, the couple sailed to America where Elizabeth bore a son and became a widow at 27.
Several years later, she married shoemaker David Barnes, had six sons and three daughters and moved to Sheldon’s Corners near Plum Hollow in 1843. David left Elizabeth and several of the children to live in Smiths Falls with his son Sam, a blacksmith and Mother Barnes turned to fortune-telling to support the family. No explanation has ever been heard by the family as to why David walked out and his grave has never been located.
Mother Barnes success brought her fame and she moved to the small cabin near Lake Eloida. Countless stories are passed along of her predictions but the one referred to by artist Vyfinkel is perhaps the most famous. A local law enforcement officer consulted her regarding the mysterious disappearance of an English immigrant named Hunter. His friend reported the immigrant drowned, leading a search party to Charleston Lake without success. The story goes that Mother Barnes told the constable the man’s body was hidden under a fallen tree, partly submerged in water. The body was found and the friend charged with murder, found guilty and hanged in Brockville. Elizabeth Barnes was 91 when she died, leaving seven children and a legacy of love.
Plum Hollow was also famous for its Plum Hollow Cheese Factory from 1924 to 1982, which then became a chocolate factory, and was subsequently destroyed by fire in 2015. Known for the nine murals that made Athens famous by the late 1980s, the Township of Athens is rich in hist
An historic homestead
In 1892, local writer Thaddeus William Henry Leavitt published his short novel, The Witch of Plum Hollow, featuring Mother Barnes and her “sixth sense.” Today, her little cabin still stands behind a rail fence along Mother Barnes Road, just west of County Road 29. It’s on private property, and is posted with “No Trespassing” signs. Visitors cannot go inside, but they can park beside the road and have a look at this piece of the past along the back roads of Leeds County.
Could it only have been a co-incidence that the Super Moon was in the sky the weekend of the Mother Barnes presentation in Athens? Re-enactor Elaine Farley began her talk at the Joshua Bates Center on Nov. 13th by refuting a myth about Mother Barnes with a quote from her grandchildren stating, “As far as we know she was an only daughter…but when she became famous, she told people she was a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter to add to her glamour.” It is also important to realize that Jane Elizabeth Barnes was “well read and had a full command of the English language” but there are no letters, diaries, or journals known to exist for public disclosure.
Census records show that she changed her religious affiliations and country of birth various times but it is believed that she was born in 1851 and had Irish origins. She was married several times, her last husband David Barnes left her with 7 children and moved to Smiths Falls with his son, Samuel, who later became the mayor.
In 1891 Mother Barnes was buried from the Methodist church in Farmersville, now Athens United Church. Elaine proposed that this changing information was perhaps “part of the mystery she was trying to create or was she moving from church to church to be accepted?” She also spoke of the “fascination and fear about Mother Barnes’ abilities”, as the Brockville Recorder commented in April 20, 1876, “if she were to take it into her head to exercise her power for evil there is no knowing what mischief she might do.” In 1865 the Herald newspaper of Carleton Place referred to her as “the old hag, who is said to live in Plumb Hollow” and talked of information “pointed out by the witch.” Thaddeus Leavitt, a former Brockville Recorder editor and historian, wrote a book in 1892, one year after she died, which he entitled The Witch of Plum Hollow. The 254 paged book makes only a brief reference to Mother Barnes on 8 pages and “was not at all about her”. Elaine speculated, “Was he counting on the mystery she had started to sell his book? Repeatedly, he was, and still is given credit for the term “Witch of Plum Hollow.”
It seems that she never tried to refute the “witchcraft” interpretation of much of her life’s work. It is interesting to consider how she may have received that label. The 19th century stereo type of witches, included that they were often widowed or deserted by their husbands and without male supervision, lived in rural areas, were of the lower class, cured illness, acted as mid-wives, and were independent. “Using this list, she was easily labeled a witch”, Elaine concluded.
When Upper Canada Village in 1969 and the Ontario Historical Society in 1988 said no to acquiring her property north of Athens because it did not “consider the site to be of historical significance”. Though the family struggled to hold on to it, the property was eventually sold. Her cabin has been restored and has been open to the public from time to time. The present owner has now decided to put it up for sale and, despite any rumors, it remains unsold.
Elaine’s abilities as a re-enactor and the detailed research that she has collected brought new insights and appreciation for this legendary woman. Though she has been called a “witch” it seems that she should be more suitably remembered as a kindly, compassionate and caring mother, neighbor and grandmother, who told fortunes and gave advice to help support her large family. The presence of her wooden table on the stage, where she used to tell her fortunes added further audience appeal and interest. It even has been said that John A. MacDonald came to inquire about where our nation’s new capital should be, adding real significance on the eve of Canada’s 150th birthday.
The event was well attended and proceeds went to the work of AAHS. It is the second in their speaker series for the season with famed Railway Bob coming to the JBC on March 26th to make a presentation on local railway history.
Re-enactor Elaine Farley stands behind Mother Barnes’ table as part of her recent presentation sponsored by the Athens and Area Heritage Society. Photo: Sally Smid — in Athens, Ontario…
This is an actual hands on photo of Mother Barnes- The Witch of Plum Hollow
Mrs. Barnes the so called “witch” of Plum Hollow used to tell people things about their future which was remarkable to them. She had also had a reputation as a fortune teller finding many lost things for the folks in the surrounding area.
In this story from the 1870s the joke was rather on Mrs. Barnes, and yet perhaps not, as it was all focussed on her, but she was certainly right in her forecast. When Mrs. Barnes left Plum Hollow and visited Smiths Falls she always went to the home of Mrs. John Fields, wife of the chief local blacksmith.
One night upon visiting the Fields everyone was invited to spend the evening with Mrs. Barnes who proceeded to tell them all mostly pleasant things that would be happening to them in the near future. Towards the end of the evening she pulled a card and gasped. There would be a death in Smiths Falls that evening. It was said that everyone went to bed that night in a sad mood while the neighbours spread the news.
Everyone woke up at the Field’s home the next morning in a good state of mind as there had not been a death in the household. Mrs. Barnes was set to leave for home soon after breakfast so Mr. Fields went to the stable to feed her horse. The horse was found dead in his stall from no apparent cause. Had the Witch of Plum Hollow been right or wrong about her prediction? It seems the good people from Smiths Falls argued the point for years to come.
Another story about “Mother Barnes, the so-called ‘witch Plum Hollow,” is related by John Murphy, 115 Spadina Avenue. Mr. Murphy tells that in 1870s a certain resident of South March had a considerable amount of money stolen from him. He had kept it in the house been kept in the house and they suspected a certain person.
One of his sons went to Plum Hollow to see Mrs. Barnes. Mrs. Barnes refused to tell the chap who had stolen the money, but said the owner would would find it in a hole in a log at a certain comer of the house. The son went home and told his father what Mrs. Barnes had said. and sure enough, the money was there. The next day the owner of the money took a trip to Ottawa put the money In a bank. I don’t blame him– and all that it cost him was 25 cents paid to Mother Barnes for her fee.
On any day of the week a motley cavalcade of saints and sinners waited on this remarkable woman. Politicians and peddlers, rich and poor, the great, the near-great and the not-great, lovelorn maidens and dames in crinolines — all consulted the “Witch of Plum Hollow”.
An odd thing in the way of a family heirloom was brought here a few days ago by a woman who came to spend the holidays with relatives. It was a pair of handcuffs said to have been used in confining an ancestor of hers who was put in jail in Salem, Massachusetts during the witchcraft persecutions in the latter part of the seventeenth century.
The elderly woman was proud of her descent from early Massachusetts ancestors and she was not at all ashamed that one of them was persecuted as a witch. “As far as I have ever been able to learn,” she said, “the only thing against my ancestor was that she was hump-backed and had a wart on the end of her nose”. Of course this did not make her a beautiful woman to look at, but neither did it make her a friend of the Devil. Yet she was charged with being a witch and was confined for several weeks in the Salem jail.
A number of others who were also charged with witchcraft were executed, but she escaped with a few weeks imprisonment. The handcuffs had been in her family for several generations and the family was rather proud of them. They were rudely constructed of wood, bound together by iron clamps with a padlock attached. The key had long been lost but the whole thing showed evidence of use.
I found it sad that the little humpbacked woman with a wart on her nose did not keep a journal and tell what the handcuffs did for her. At present they were simply mute reminders of an era which, however, we may laugh at it now, was once very real.
Among the interesting things which witches, with the assistance of the Devil, were supposed to do were not only to foretell events but to raise storms, etc., to change themselves into cats and other beasts. At their supposed annual general meetings they were said to come long distances riding on broomsticks, pokers, goats, hogs, etc. The Devil always presided at these meetings.
As to the power of witches, renowned New England Puritan minister *Cotton Mather said: “They are the doors of strange things. They cannot indeed perform any proper miracles; those are things to he done only by the favourites and ambassadors of the Lord.”
In 1830, William Morphy deeded 1/13 of an acre of the land on 223 Bridge Street in Carleton Place. The James Bell house was probably built later on in the decade and remained in the Bell family until 1870’s. The elder members of this family emigrated from Scotland to Perth in 1817. John, Robert, William, and James were among the sons of Reverend William Bell the first Presbyterian minister of the Perth district. Robert and John established the mercantile business in Carleton Place in association with the business of William and John in Perth, which had started the previous year. Robert owned the property in question from 1846-60. According to Howard Brown, local historian, if one man were to be selected as the father or chief public figure of Carleton Place through its first generation of growth it would be Robert Bell. He established himself as a merchant, mill owner, magistrate, postmaster, and district council warden in Carleton Place. He was also elected in 1848 as a member of the legislative assembly of Canada for Lanark and Renfrew Counties and was returned to the legislature for some fifteen years. Later owners and residents at 233 Bridge Street were Newman, McDiarmid, and Union Bank Managers. According to Marj Whyte, in her era, the stone house was usually occupied by a bank manager. In 1919, the Canadian Bank of Commerce bought this property and the house was occupied by the bank’s manager until 1941 when George Buchanan took over possession. Mr. Scoggie of the old Union Bank and Mr. Kent of the Bank of Commerce were a few of the residents.
In 1951 Mr. And Mrs. Vernon McCarten, the daughter and son in law of George, bought the house and property and carried on an insurance business. In 1997, the house was transferred to Barbara Couch. A rare Ginko tree sits on this property in the front and has an unusual story. Read more The McCarten House of Carleton Place.
Linda, the Witch of Plum Hollow had a Carleton Place connection! She was the grandmother of Amy Buchanan who was brought up in the brick house on the south corner of the Charles and Emily Street intersection. I have heard from good sources that the house is haunted!
Amy’s family ran the Buchanan Insurance Company and when she married Vern McCarten, it later became the Buchanan-McCarten Insurance Company. The family lived and ran the business from the lovely home on Bridge Street across from the end of High Street – now a real estate office. A well-known, community-minded family! Their children, Janet and Doug, live in the Toronto area, I believe, and if they read this, I hope they’ll correct anything I got wrong. Wendy LeBlanc