Monday, February 16, 2009

William Massey Paid A Heavy Price

When I found out that the next topic for the Canadian Genealogy Carnival is Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors I thought to myself, "This is a Genealogy Carnival that I can take part in" For if there is one thing that I seem to have an abundance of it's Black Sheep Ancestors. The only hard part about participating in this Blog Carnival is deciding what ancestor to talk about. There is my great grandfather the hard drinking Sunday school teacher who wrote racist poetry as a hobby. Also my ancestor the railway worker who was arrested for stealing Winchester rifles from a boxcar. My bigamist ancestor. The Gambler. The rum runner and his wife who ended up in a penetentiary. And of course we can't forget my ancestors who were mixed up in the massacre of the Donnelly family. Canada's notorious family, the Black Donnellys, were massacred February 4th, 1880 by a vigilante committee.

However my favourite Black Sheep Ancestor is William Massey. William was my 4th Great Grandfather and he lived in the small town of St.Marys Ontario. The details are sketchy but it seams William worked for the Wells Fargo company in the early 1860s as a stage coach driver. One of the things that Wells Fargo did was transport money from place to place. One day for reasons we will never know William decided to help himself to over $888 dollars. This may not seem like much money to us today but back in 1863 it was a lot of cash.

Well I guess William was not the smartest criminal who ever lived as he soon found himself in front of the local magistrate on an indictment of larceny. I do not know much about the workings of the Canadian Justice system in the 1860s but it seems that this Court appearance was some kind of preliminary hearing to see if charges were warranted. Sort of like a Grand Jury in the United States. One interesting little side note is that one of the jurors was Timothy Eaton. Mr Eaton went on to found the Eaton department store chain. For you Americans out there, Eatons was Canada's equivalent of Sears.

Anyhow it would seem that the jury thought there was enough evidence to warrant charges so William was sent home to await his trial. However old William did not want to take his chances in court. He decided to get the heck out of Dodge and head south for the border, and a few weeks later he was in Massachusetts where he enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in the Civil War.

Now it appears William being the crafty criminal mastermind that he was may have enlisted under the alias of John Smith. However William, or John Smith, did not much care for Army life for he soon deserted and made his way back to St.Marys just before his death in November 1865. It is hard to say what William's reasons for going back to St.Marys might have been. One can only speculate. His daughter claimed that he was so broken in body and spirt after the war that he died soon after returning. Whatever the reason it would seem he paid a heavy price for that $888.00 in stolen Wells Fargo money.



Greetings Brian,
It's information like this about our ancestors that makes their lives so interesting to us. Thanks for participating in the Canadian Genealogy Carnival. I hope you will share you other black sheep Canadian ancestors with us in the future.

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

Brian, you inspired me to pull out one of T. Eaton vintage postcards. I've posted on my blog today at: