Friday, December 11, 2009

The Hastings Road Murder of 1862

Selected Documents, I
A reference I recently happened to make on Facebook prompted a certain amount of interest in the story of the Hastings Road Murder in 1862 and a request for mor information. Some recent articles were cited. Perhaps it would be of interest to present some of the original documents of the case, beginning with the first news reports. This first selection ends with the opening remarks of the prosecution at the trial and will continue with the evidence presented.
I have transcribed these pieces from the microfilm records. There are a very few gaps where the material is not legible. I have not corrected the spelling of proper names.

1. Hastings Chronicle: Belleville, Wednesday, June 4th, 1862
"Horible Murder in Monteagle
"To the attention of A. F. Wood Esq we are indebted for the following particulars of a murder on the Hastings Road:
"Madoc, [Friday] May 30, 1862.
"A Mr. Finlayson has just come in from the township of Monteagle after the Coroner, to investigate one of the most outrageous murders that has taken place in this section country. The circumstances of the case as related by Mr. Finlayson (a very respectable man by the way,) are as follows:-- On Tuesday last [May 27th] a Mr. Munro, a resident of Monteagle (a Township on the Hastings Road about 70 miles from this place,) went to his neighbour, a Mr. Elward, to expostulate with him for shooting his hens. Elward told him he would shoot them if they came on his grain again, and took his gun and went out for that purpose. Munro seized hold of the gun to prevent his shooting. Elward drew a pistol from a side pocket and presented it at Munro, who knocked it out of his hand and called on his son to pick it up. While the scuffle was going on, Elward's wife stole up behind Munro and struck him over the head with a scythe, cutting through the skull into the brain!--Munro fell, upon which she struck him again, almost severing his arm from his body. Munro died in a few minutes. Elward then wrenched the pistol from Munro's son and shot him in the back, making a frightful wound. When Finlayson left, young Munro's life was despaired of.
"It was with the greatest exertions that the people in the neighbourhood were prevented from lynching Elward and his wife.
"Munro is a man of very good character, and generally respected. Elward and his wife, on the other hand, have been the cause of much trouble to the settlement since they resided there, and were not only very much disliked, but also very much feared. On his way out Finlayson stopped at Mr. Jelly's (Reeve of Tudor,) who immediately with several of his neighbours, started off to arrest Elward and his wife.
"Dr. Yeomans, Coroner, will leave in the morning for the purpose of holding an inquest, and investigating the matter. Finlayson says the excitement is very great in the immediate neighbourhood. It is a most horrible affair, and it is to be hoped that the guilty parties will be brought to justice."

2. The Intelligencer, Belleville, Friday Morning, October 17th, 1862

"The Fall Assizes

"The Hon. Chief Justice DRAPER opened the Fall Assizes for this County on Monday last. ADAM WILSON, Esq., Sollicitor General, is proseculting for the Crown. There are four important cases to be tried--four for murder, one for maiming cattle, and one for larceny. The civil docket contains but 39 cases. The following gentlemen compose the Grand Jury:--

3. The Globe, Toronto, 21 October, 1862
"The Hastings Road Murder.

"We received the following telegraph last evening from Belleville, relative to the Hastings Road Murder, by which it will be seen that Richard Aylward and his wife were both found guilty of murdering the son of the latter, and sentenced by Mr. Justice Draper to be executed on the 8th of December next:--
"BELLEVILLE, Monday, Oct. 20.-- The trial of Richard Aylward and Mary Ann his wife, for the murder of Munro, and the attempted murder of the son of the latter, on the Hastings road, about six months ago, took place to-day. The trial lasted all day, and appeared from the evidence to have been one of the most revolting murders ever perpetrated in Canada. The jury retired about five in the afternoon, and after three hours' deliberation returned a verdict of guilty against both parties.
"Mr. Justice Draper then addressed the prisoners, stating in the course of his remarks that it was the most atrocious case he had ever presided over, and closed by passing sentence upon them both, to be hanged on the 8th of December next.
"The trial of Mormon, for the murder of Taylor, in this town, about three weeks ago, took place on Friday last, but contrary to all expectation, Mormon was acquitted."

4. The Hastings Chronicle, [Wednesday] October 29, 1862.
"The Assizes.

Trial of Richard and Mary Elward for the Murder of William Munro. Shocking Revelations: Verdict of Guilty.

Sentence of Death Pronounced.

Unfeeling Conduct of the Prisoners.
"(Reported expressly for the Chronicle by our own Reporter)

Monday Morning, Oct 20, 1862
"This trial, the most important one of the last Assizes, and in fact the most important that has ever been tried in this County, came off on Monday last [October 20]. Owing to a pressure of other matters we were unable to give a full report in our last; we will now endeavour to atone for the delay by giving a more detailed statement than we could possibly have given last week. The appearance of the prisoners in the dock created quite a sensation, and prepossessed those present strongly in their favor,--but as the Hon. Solicitor General unravelled link after link in their chain of guilt, this feeling gave way, and one of horror at the manner in which they compassed the death of Munro took its place. The prisoners were ably defended by Jas. O'Reilly Esq. and John Finn Esq., but the eloquence of the former and the ingenuity of the latter was of no avail; the record was too black,--the evidence too plain and uncontradicted, to be shaken. Few persons besides Mr. O'Reilly would have been able to make even a tolerable defence out of the material at his command, and vigorously did he labour to save his clients from the penalties of a capital conviction, but without efect. He exhausted every means in his power,--took advantage of every quirk and qibble of the law. The prisoners appeared to be above the ordinary standard of intelligence, but presented a perfectly stolid appearance,--a seeming indifference to the result,--and only at one time during the whole of the horrid recital did the female prisoner appear moved, and that was when the learned Counsel for the defence made any unusually eloquent appeal to the sympathies of the Jury on behalf of the three little children,--one a mere infant not many months old, left to the bitter mercies of a cold world, to bear the obloquy which the ignominious death of their parents would entail upon them. Of the character of the prisoners previous to their removal to the township of Wicklow we know nothing beyond mere rumor, and the witnesses were not asked by the defence in relation thereto, since their residence in that part, being under the impression no doubt that it would not bear investigation.
"Mr. O'Reilly challenged fifteen Jurors; the Crown did not exercise the right of challenge. The following are the names of the Jurors empanelled:--
"Charles English, Thomas Conlan, Edward Walsh, William B---, Ja--- Baragan, Baltis Baragan, John W. Keeler, John Hawkins, John Cl---, Francis Robertson, Robert Clare, Sidney Banagar.
"The prisoners were then arragned for the murder of William Munron, of the Township of Monteagle, on the 16th of May last, and pleaded 'Not Guilty'.
"The Hon. Adam Wilson, Solicitor General, then briefly stated the facts as to the murder, as he proposed to establish. It appeared that in May 1861, the deceased moved on to one of the Government free grants of land in the township of Monteagle, and in a short time after, prisoners moved and settled on the lot directly opposite, but in the township of Wicklow,--the township road merely dividing the two premises. For a time the families lived in friendly intercourse, but afterwards several little differences arose, and latterly they were not on speaking terms. Some complaints had been made by prisoners that deceased's hens were on his property destroying his grain, but nothing was done about the matter until the 16th of May last. While the deceased and son were working in their own clearings, about 4 o'clock on the day in question, they heard a gun fired in the direction of prisoner's house, and it being nearly tea-time, the proceeded home to enquire the reason. Arrived there, they were informed by Mrs. Munro that the hens had come from the direction of Elward's in great fright, and on counting them she found there was one missing. Munro went over to Elward's to see what he had done with the hen; the son Alexander followed, and arrived in time to hear the prisoner tell Munro to go away.--Munro replied that he did not care how much prisoner would shoot the hens, so long as he did not take them away with him. Prisoner answered that he had not shot the hen, but wished he had; the deceased replied, Perhaps they are there now. Deceased then took up a gun, and the three proceeded to the wheat field; on the way there, prisoner turned rapidly round to Munro, pointing the gun at him. Deceased caught hold of the gun, and they struggled for its possession, during which prisoner drew a pistol, which was knocked out of his hand. Munro desired his son to pick it up; he did so, and in turning found prisoner standing over him with the gun pointing at him. Young Munro threw himself on the ground at his feet, when prisoner stepped back and fired, the charge taking effect in his left shoulder. And here the female prisoner first appears on the scene; just as the boy rose with the pistol, he observed Mrs. Elward standing about 11 or 12 yards from him, about the same place where he left his father and Elward scuffling; he did not see his father; it is supposed he was lying on the ground, with the female prisoner standing over him. These are the facts, as will be told you by the witnesses. The other testimony consists of admissions made by the prisoners, or either of them, before and after the occurrence; the sharpening of the scythe with which the fatal blow was struck, and the manner in which the prisoners spoke of the occurrence after it had taken place. If, gentlemen of the Jury, you find the facts as I have stated them to you, you will bring in a verdict against the prisoner. If, on the contrary, you deem the evidence justifies you in arriving at an opposite conclusion, you will of course acquit the prisoner. The object of going over the testimony in advance is to enable you to note the particular bearing of the evidence, as adduced, and consequently give a more intelligent verdict. The learned Counsel for the Crown then referred to the law bearing upon the case and the difference in the crimes of wilful murder and manslaughter.

NOTE: The life of Justice W. H.Draper, CB., may be read at

1 comment:

Felicity Pickup said...

re "For a time the families lived in friendly intercourse, but afterwards several little differences arose, and latterly they were not on speaking terms."

How very hot-off-the-press actual this strikes the ear among all the antiquated phrasing! And still serving as a proximate cause of murders.