Monday, 17 October 2016

Henry Brothers in the News - Part Three

Now - the final tale of the Henry brothers that were involved in the 1877 shooting of an aboriginal man as detailed in this blog post.  Joseph's (1857-1896) end came with a shotgun blast from a short tempered 20 year old Arthur Gerhold as written about here.  Today's post tells of the death of Charles Henry and resulting legal proceedings as it was reported in the newspapers papers of the time.  Aunt Dodie's notes about him refer to him as " Red Charlie" so as to distinguish him from his cousin Charlie.  

Charlie was born the 24th of October in 1862 in Listowel, Ontario.  He came west with his family at the age of 16 and according to family history, took out several pre-emptions before homesteading on SW 22-14-22 in April of 1892. (This was my Uncle Bob and Aunt Margaret Simms' farm home when I was growing up.)
Interestingly, paperwork for a $500 mortgage with The London and Canadian Loan and Agency Company Limited on the original John Henry farm at W 22-13-21 from September of 1884 was found among some Henry papers. Charles had a handsome signature which I assume indicates an education in Ontario.

On February 25, 1885, Charles had married Fanny Sarah Cleaver (daughter of Thomas Cleaver and Katherine McNeil) at the manse in Oak River.  Charlie and Sarah became parents to Ida Ethel (b 1887), Viola May (1890), Percival Albert (1892), John Thomas (1895), Roy Elmer (1896) and Leslie Hilmger (June 1898).  Another son Harvey Harold Cleaver was born in January of 1899.

The story goes that on July 4th 1898, Charles, Alex Miller, Ab Hayes and  R. Cornborough  went to see the Lemen Brothers Circus in Rapid City. The main attraction at this circus was apparently Rajah, claimed to be the largest elephant that ever walked the earth.  Tom, the boxing kangaroo along with the "Monster Show" made the tour of Gladstone, Birtle, Yorkton, Russell and Neepawa as well as Winnipeg that summer.  The Portage La Prairie Weekly August 11, 1898 edition reported:
Several parties who were to see the Lemen Bros. Circus at Rapid City came back disgusted.  They report swindling and gambling the order of the day.  
Ironically, swindling and gambling would have been much better than the fate that awaited Charlie that day.  Arriving too late to see the circus, the men decided to make the rounds of the local hotels and began drinking.  Newspaper accounts say between 9 and 10 o'clock that night words were exchanged and then fighting began with some Rapid City boys.  Charles was hit on the head with a club or pole as part of the melee.  Thomas Cleaver (perhaps his brother-in-law?) was also stabbed in the back with a penknife while trying to come to the aid of the Oak Riverites.  After the fight broke up, Henry and two of his friends loaded up in the wagon and headed for home.  Somewhere on the road home, his companions noticed he was unresponsive and that Charles died.  They rushed him to Oak River where the Dr Jackson declared him dead and found a blow to the base of his skull to be the cause.

Found on

Investigation into the event began and Charlie's sister Jessie Henry, who worked at a hotel in Rapid City, claimed she overheard a man admit to her boss that he had delivered the fatal blow.  At the Fall Assizes of 1898, Christopher Stewart of Rapid City, the accused, pled not guilty in the death and Miss Henry's boss denied Stewart had ever confessed to her.  In the end, he was found not guilty of manslaughter. Witnesses said the man who struck Henry ran after him into the mill pond but the doctor who treated Stewart that night testified his pant legs were not wet while tending a wound on his knee 30 minutes after the fight.

Thirty-five year old Charles Henry was buried at White Bank Lea Cemetery, not far from his homestead.  In 1907, his widow and her five surviving children moved to Dauphin. The youngest two sons had also died in the meantime, compounding her grief and hardship.  Sarah passed away in Dauphin on August 18, 1926 at age 61.

It has been most interesting to me to research these three stories.  The style of blunt and graphic writing in the local papers in the early days of western Manitoba is fascinating.  Fellow Henry researcher Mary Bole intrigued me about them in her book called the Henry History written in 1998. offers a seven day free trial.  Try it - you never know what you might find...

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Henry Brothers in the News - Part Two

Following his not guilty verdict for manslaughter in November of 1887 as detailed in this blog post, Joseph Cook Henry went about his life out of the newspapers for the next nine years.

He had earlier returned to his former home in Perth, Ontario to wed Mary Purdon on the 2nd of March in 1886.  Joseph was 28 years old at the time of his marriage and Mary was 30. He had come to Manitoba to homestead at the age of 22 and may have finally felt ready to bring a bride to the west at that time.  They had a daughter named Janet Barbara (known as Jennie) in August of 1887, and their lives would have been hard and full of dangers.  The Manitoba Free Press clipping from October 14, 1887 reported from the preliminary trial;
It appears that Joseph Henry's family had been forced for some nights to leave their own home on another section, and take refuge in the home of Mr. Henry, sr., being in constant dread of the Indians.  The evening before the shooting the Indians had endeavored to break into the house of Joseph but could not.  At the first opportunity the family left.  After the shooting, Joseph visited the house and found that it had been ransacked.  There were five witnesses examined and their evidence was corroborative of the above.  
Joseph's father, John Henry Sr., had died in September of 1888 but his sons carried on farming and building up their farms.  In the 1891 census, Joseph's  family of three was living in the Rapid City subdistrict with 22 year old Duncan L. Purdon, maybe Mary's brother. As a homesteader, he would have searched out other sources of cash income to make up for crop failures and lack of markets for what he did produce.  Joseph became the superintendent of local government well boring machine number 4, perhaps like the one pictured below.  In mid August of 1896, fate found the 39 year old drilling a well on a farm belonging to David Jackson on 6-15-20, five miles straight east of present day Cardale on Road 355.

On the 17th of August in 1896, Joseph again makes the newspapers in this graphic account of his violent death.

Found on

This website has gathered all the newspaper accounts of the day and says that Arthur Gerhold had come to Canada from England with the "Sailing Alone" program in June of 1893 at he age of 17 and worked on the Jackson farm for $135/year.  Although some accounts of the time call him a Bernardo boy, this does not appear to be the case but the Sailing Alone program seems similar in nature - giving a new start in Canada to poor boys and girls from England.  Arthur was said to have made a full confession of killing Joseph to the police constable who transported him from Rapid City to Brandon and did the same in a letter to his parents back in England.  This letter was intercepted by the prison guards and although challenged, it was admitted as evidence against him at his trial.
Dear mother and father--Just a few lines to let you know of the trouble I am in now. Last Monday morning I had a quarrel with a man that has been at Mr. Jackson's boring for water in which I shot him. We had another last Saturday afternoon in which he was pretty near laying me out and he started again at me yesterday morning in which I settled him.
Do not be down-hearted to hear of this news. I am here waiting a trial, forty miles from Jackson, my late boss. I will let you know the verdict if you don't happen to hear it through the papers. It will be a case of manslaughter in which it depends upon the juries verdict whether I get off easy or not.
It is a bad thing to happen, but I could not help it. I was in a bad temper when it happened. Do not worry. I thought I had better let you know. I will write again if possible, so cheer up. With kind love to all and yourselves, good-bye. From your faraway son, (Arthur.)
The trial of Arthur Gerhold took place in front of a judge and jury in Brandon a few months later at the Fall Assizes.
Winnipeg Free Press - November 19, 1896

This afternoon Dr. Crookshank, of Rapid City, a practitioner of medicine of that place, was the first witness called, and he testified to having been called to view the body just after the murder. He said that he had examined the wound which caused Henry's death. ... The deceased was personally known to him and he was of the opinion that deceased would be a true friend, or if antagonized he could be, and would be, a bitter enemy. He was the coroner who sat on the inquest, which inquired into the death of the Indian that Henry had been arrested and acquitted on the charge of murdering.
The jury failed to agree on a verdict and a new one was called. (I presume their difficulty was whether this was a case of murder or manslaughter, not whether he was the one responsible.) The second jury found Gerhold guilty of manslaughter and the judge sentenced him to 20 years at Stony Mountain.  He was released from prison in 1911 and moved to Massachusetts where Arthur Gerhold married and had a family.

Joseph was buried in the Henry family plot at the Rapid City Cemetery.  His widow Mary and daughter Jennie were living in Brandon according to the 1901 census and in 1916, Mary was with Jennie and her husband George Abra in Neepawa.  She later moved east with them where they were in Kitchener on the 1921 Canadian census.  Mary died in Niagara Falls in 1942.

There is one more tragic chapter in this tale concerning Charles Henry, not this one but his cousin Charles.  To be continued...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Henry Brothers in the News - Part One

My great grandmother Elizabeth Henry Sinclair, grew up with 10 siblings and 11 other Henry cousins in the Perth area of Ontario in the 1860's and 70's. As the boys grew and were looking to acquire land of their own, her Uncle John and Aunt Jennet and family made the move west to Blanshard Manitoba in 1879 and the Widow Mary and her brood followed in 1881.  Times were tough by all accounts but newspaper articles from the time I've recently found bring home that point even more.  Rather than judge the Henry boys for a wild and rough lifestyle, I prefer to marvel at their resilience and be thankful my life and times are so much kinder and gentler.

In October of 1887, the Manitoba newspapers are full of stories about so called "Indian Troubles" in the west. The Northwest Rebellion was a short 2 years past and the following article was found in the Manitoba Free Press on Monday, October 10, 1887.

Found on
Four days later the same paper has more details about the incident under the understated heading "A Little Unpleasantness Between the Indians and the Settlers at Rapid City"
The Henry family, comprising of father, mother and several sons, live on adjoining sections some miles west of Rapid City and are among the most peaceable and law abiding citizens in that country.  Last year the Henry's had all their crop destroyed by fires, started they were almost certain by Indians.  They had not enough left to keep them in food during the winter. This year a large crop was put in and harvested, and a considerable quantity of hay put up.  Fire guards were run around the stacks, and every precaution taken to prevent fire.  On Tuesday of last week, however a 40 ton hay stack some distance from the house was seen to be on fire and an Indian (the one subsequently shot) passing in its neighborhood. That the stack was not burned by prairie fires was evident from the fact that outside the fire guards the prairie was unburned.  This gave the Henry's reason for being alarmed and at once they set out to defend themselves and their crops.  The following day, Wednesday, fire was seen approaching their wheat stacks from the neighborhood of the Indians' camp.   Mr. Henry Sr immediately started for the endangered stacks and on reaching them found an Indian seated at the base of one, scratching something as if about to strike a match. On the arrival of Mr. Henry, the Indian ran, sprang over a fence and left the vicinity.The next morning, Thursday, Joseph, son of Mr. Henry, started out on his pony and had not gone far before he met the Indian that they had suspected was in a ravine near the house, causing them so much trouble.  He ordered the Indian away but he would not go. Hearing the conversation the old man told Charles to go down and take the gun with him to frighten the Indian.....
Of course you know much more resulted than his being frightened and the body was taken charge of by the reeve of the municipality, a Mr McCallum, and placed in a granary on a Henry cousin's farm.  An inquest was to be held but the granary and body were set fire to and destroyed by unknown persons.  Joseph and Charles were then arrested and taken to Brandon.  An old friend of their father's, Mr. Martin from Portage La Prairie, was sent for to defend them.  Some courtroom drama ensued and the charge against the brothers was changed from murder to manslaughter.  After paying bail of $1000 each, they were home that evening to await their trail at the Fall Assizes in a month's time.
It is incredible to think the name of the victim was never known, or at least reported.  The language used showed the reporter's bias toward the settlers The brothers were acquitted of the crime by jury as you can read about in this link.

It is an incredible story on its own but the ironic part is both Henry brothers involved - Joseph and Charles - will come to their own unexpected and violent deaths within the next 11 years.  Stay tuned dear readers...

Friday, 16 September 2016

Our People

The phrase "Our People" reminds me of my Aunt Dodie and Great Aunt Nannie. It is an expression I remember them using when they talked about anyone connected to the Widow Henry's connections. I don't suppose they were the type of people to intend to exclude others but it reminds me of another description of theirs for the Henry's - we come from "Good Stock".   It was 35 years ago this past summer when a Henry Reunion (program below) was held in Oak River which included over 250 descendants of Mary Tait Henry.

It is amazing to think that 3 generations back, all but 2 of Mary's 10 surviving children lived in Blanshard Manitoba within a few short miles of her.  Daughter Ellen Turriff lived at Rapid City,  some 30 kilometres away with her family and Mary Wilson was further afield at Gilbert Plains.  Her sons Ned, Charles, ThomasWilliam and Jack homesteaded adjacent quarters and daughters Elizabeth and Janet and Joanna married neighbouring farmers and raised their families close to home. Keeping up on the lives of "Our People" was important to them with many hours spent visiting and no doubt writing letters back and forth.

My recent connection with one of "Our People" makes me realize how far the Henry descendants are spread across the world today.  At his home in Nagasaki, Japan while searching his mother's name, Brian Burke-Gaffney came across my blog page here about his maternal grandparents.  Their young tragic deaths is one of the saddest stories I've uncovered in my family history research.  The post included a photo of Hubert and Janet Sparling's gravestone at White Bank Lea Cemetery, just across the road from the original home of his 2nd great grandmother Mary Henry, also the resting place of his McKenzie great grandparents. After his comment on the blog, my sister Donna remarked how small the Internet has made the world today and I must agree. 

Brian was kind enough to send along the picture below of his mother Elizabeth Jane (Beth) and her older sister Leila Sparling, orphan daughters of Janet and Hubert Sparling.  Beth was raised by her Mother's sister Elizabeth Ismay McKenzie - known as "Bessie" and her husband Frank McDonald.  Frank and Bessie married in 1925 and farmed just south of Oak River on 22-13-22.  They had one daughter of their own, Thelma. After leaving Oak River in the late 30's, Beth went to business college in Winnipeg and began working for the CBC.  She met John Burke-Gaffney and had three sons before succumbing to cancer in 1981 at the age of 58.

Beth and John's middle son Brian had never been to Oak River before taking a detour into town in 2002.  With the help of a friendly storekeeper and relatives including his mother's cousin Gerry, Brian was shown around his grandparents' former neck of the woods.  I hope he left with the feeling that he is one of Our People and always will be.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

180 and 160 Years Ago Today

The Ancestry app on my phone came in very handy again when it told me that it was 180 years ago today - July 12, 1836 - that Mary Tait, my 2nd great grandmother was born in Scotland.


What I did not realize before was that her daughter, my great grandmother Elizabeth was born the same day, exactly 20 years later in 1856 in Troqueer, Scotland.  Mary and her husband William Henry left Scotland with baby Elizabeth for a new life in  Canada two years later. The photo below of William and Mary was taken in Perth County Ontario in the mid 1800's.


After the birth of 11 children and the death of her husband, Mary and her family left Ontario to homestead on the open land in Manitoba in 1881.  Elizabeth went on to marry local homesteader James Sinclair and have a large family of their own.  


July 12 - a date to remember in my family tree!