by Doug Hendry and David Shanahan
Kemptville only got its first newspaper in 1855, and it only lasted a few years. A second paper arrived in 1862, but folded soon after, and only one copy of each of these pioneer papers still exists. So, for news of Kemptville in the 1860’s, we are dependant on a Merrickville publication, the Chronicle, which has some interesting titbits of news about their neighbouring village.
On May 16, 1865, the Chronicle reported on an “Extensive Burglary in Kemptville”:
“One of the most daring and successful burglaries ever perpetrated in this section of the country was effected last Thursday night, on the premises of Messrs Bower, Porter and Blackburn, Merchants of Kemptville. An entrance was effected through a back window, the safe blown open and the sum of about $1,100 abstracted. This is evidently the work of professional hands and we believe no suspicions whatever rest on any person or persons in the neighbourhood.
From statements made by a livery stable keeper in Prescott, it appears that a person, who we regret to say is very respectfully connected, engaged a team on the evening previous to the robbery to drive to Spencerville and returned with it, in a very jaded condition, early next morning in company with three other suspicious looking characters who appeared to be in possession of a large amount of silver. They all made haste to cross the river in a row boat, since when they have not been heard from.”
The location of this robbery is now the Oddfellows Hall on Clothier Street, which was for decades the site of Joseph Bower’s store.
The June 13 issue of that year reported on a “Marvelous Escape From Drowning” in Burritt’s Rapids.
“On Thursday last as Mr Fulker of Burritt’s Rapids was engaged in making some repairs on the dam of Mr Andrews, he was precipitated into the bywash and remained under water for a period of ten or fifteen minutes. His restoration after this lengthy submersion is most extraordinary.”
The Fulchers lived on 5 acres on Lot 5 Concession 2. Edward would have been about 55 at this point. Charles, his son, would have been about 27. Which of them had the lucky escape is a mystery to be solved.
Another accident in August, 1865, had a less happy result. “Fatal Accident Near Kemptville”:
“On Friday last a sad accident occurred close by the village of Kemptville by which a woman named McCafferty, belonging to the township of Oxford, lost her life. It seems that she and her husband were driving in a sulky to the village when the horse took fright and commenced to run. Mrs McCafferty, with the intention of aiding her husband to hold the horse, caught at the lines, but only caught one, thereby drawing the horse into the ditch, upsetting the sulky and throwing out the occupants. Both were taken to the residence of Rev Mr. Harty and medical assistance promptly procured. McCafferty was found badly injured, his wife fatally and two hours after the accident, she breathed her last.”
Archibald and Margaret McCafferty lived on lot 24, concession 6, according to the 1861 census. Both were born in Ireland and arrived in Canada by 1837, possibly as early as 1831. Archibald makes an appearance on the 1841 census of Oxford. They had at least six children. Archibald lived well into his 80’s. Margaret was around 60 when she died.
This region seems to have been a rather dangerous place in the 1860’s. In November, 1865, the paper gives a fascinating glimpse of life in Burritt’s Rapids, where there seems to have been “a high state of excitement” over an “Attempted Murder”:
“As Captain Sheppard of the Burritt’s Rapids Infantry Company was passing along, on Monday evening last, between Col Burritt’s and Mr Adams’ on his way home from the post office, he was fired at by some wretch, who lay concealed behind the fence, but unfortunately the shot did not take effect. The individual must possess but little skill with fire-arms or he would have been more successful, as the manly proportions of the Captain present rather a broad surface for a marksman. We are informed a high state of excitement exists in the ‘Rapids’ and we trust no pains will be spared to bring the miscreant to justice.”
George Shepard/Shepherd lived with his wife Mary or Maryann in Burritt’s Rapids for many years. Both were born in England and were in Burritt’s by 1851. At the time of this murder attempt, he was around 60 and his wife around 39. They had two daughters, Catherine, around 5, and Caroline who was an infant. Why there was an attempt on his life, however inept, is not known.