History Corner: Murder In Puslinch

MURDER IN PUSLINCH

By Marjorie Clark

Puslinch has had its share of crime and several of the most horrendous sort over the years.

The earliest documented murder in the township occurred about 1837. Few details survive. Near Aberfoyle, Patrick Allen, who settled on lot 21, rear of the 3 rd concession in Oct. 1833, killed a man from Dundas by the name of Bunting.

In August 1847, Patrick and John McCarty were wrestling. Patrick was thrown against a bedpost and his neck was broken. Although he had fled, a jury convicted John McCarty of manslaughter.

In April 1859, John McCaffrey or perhaps McCafferty or McGafferty, as the reports are varying, about 40 years of age, known to be suffering from what was termed “an unsound mind”, was employed as a casual labourer, cutting firewood in the bush on lot 27, rear of concession 7, provided by Duff’s Church for their minister, Rev. Alexander McLean. John McCaffrey’s wife, Mary, would carry his lunch to him at noon and in the afternoon, help him to pile the wood.

One Saturday, after finishing his mid-day meal, Mr. McCaffrey sent his 14-year- old son, Patrick, to the house to fetch some tea. When the youngster returned, he found his mother lying face down. He spoke to her but there was no answer. His father was nowhere in sight. Alarmed, the young fellow ran about a quarter of a mile, to where a man named Parks was making shingles. At once, Mr. Parks accompanied him back to the scene and found Mary McCaffrey was dead. Meanwhile, Rev. McLean’s sister went to the bush and found that Mary McCaffrey had been stuck on the head with a stick of cordwood, which lay bloodstained beside her body.

Arrested on April 20 th and although initially found responsible and sentenced to hang, John McCaffrey’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in the Rockwood Asylum. What happened to his son, Patrick, is not recorded.

On a Thursday evening, March 23, 1871, Peter Landon, a young man of about 20, the son of Ebenezer and Janet Landon, who were living on lot 21 rear of the 8 th concession, was returning from Kenneth McKenzie’s sale. He stopped in at Thomas Haines’ tavern in Aberfoyle, where he met James Lamb, according to the report at the time, about 55 years of age and a widower.

While I previously thought, that this was James Lamb, son of Walter Lamb of the 7th concession (Puslinch Pioneer, 2015), I now believe that I was wrong. The evidence seems to point to James Campbell Lamb, who was closer to the age estimated in the report, born in Scotland in 1818, a widower, living with Gideon and Ann Lamb in Puslinch in 1871. It is likely that he was Gideon’s uncle and a brother of George Lamb of Nassagewaya. I invite all historical detectives to investigate the identity of the murderer, James Lamb.

James Lamb was reported to have had an unsavoury reputation. Although neither man was inebriated and no loud quarrelling took place, there was clearly a disagreement. After a time, they went outside. Then, Peter Landon partially fell but got up again and walked towards Mr. McLeish, Thomas Amos and Leonard Blain, who were in entrance of the hotel’s driving shed. He said, “He stuck me”, fell at the entrance to the shed and began to bleed profusely, probably from a severed artery in his groin. Although they helped him up, took him inside and set him in a chair, Peter Landon died within a few moments of being brought into the hotel.

When questioned, James Lamb denied stabbing Peter Landon and the murder weapon could not be located. The knife was found hidden in a hole in the bricks of the chimney in the bar-room of the tavern in July 1872, blood hardened on the steel. James Lamb never did face justice for his crime in Puslinch but was left to account to God.

On the evening of July 8, 1885, Donald McLeod, plasterer, of Morriston, was driving south from Nichol Township, where he and his employees, Barney Brown, Jack O’Donnell and Joe Murphy, were working on a newly built Methodist Church. At a stop Donald McLeod made in Guelph to settle some business, the employees had visited a couple of hotels. Around 8 p.m., Joe Murphy, under the influence of alcohol, began to badger Jack O’Donnell, resulting in name-calling. In front of Malcolm McBeath’s place, about six hundred yards south of James McLean’s store in Aberfoyle, Jack O’Donnell, known for his violent temper when angered, pushed Joe Murphy out of the wagon. He jumped out after him and struck Joe Murphy with a hod, a trough on a pole, used for carrying mortar, two blows to the head and another after he was felled to the ground. Donald McLeod and Barney Brown picked up the badly injured Joe Murphy and drove as fast as possible to Morriston, where a doctor was summoned.

Doctors Courtney and Cormack of Morriston found that the frontal, temporal and occipital bones on the left side of his head were all broken, with bleeding placing pressure on the medulla oblongata. Joe Murphy died around 9:30 or 10 p.m.

Joseph Murphy, a single man of 28, was one of the eleven children of Michael and Mary Murphy, who emigrated from Belfast around 1850 and rented a farm at Clair’s Corners in Puslinch for a few years around 1853, before moving to Guelph.

Although he fled, Jack O’Donnell was captured by a force led by Constable Thomas Ingram of Puslinch, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years of hard labour in Kingston Penitentiary.

In June 1996, the Greavette family purchased a 104 acre property on concession 11, Puslinch, with the intent to bottle spring water. About 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, 1996, Wayne Greavette, 42, received a package in his mailbox through Canada Post’s rural mail delivery. It contained a flashlight filled with explosive. When he activated the switch, it blew up, killing him instantly in his home. In twenty years, no suspect has been arrested.

By Marjorie Clark

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