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Article Published April 24, 1998
EAST COAST KIN (Canada)
By: Sandra Devlin, Biography & Archived Articles
It Happened In The Night...
On the last full day of his life, June 27, 1838, John Clem carried a heavy sack of barley on his back all the way from Pugwash to River Philip, a overland trek of about 25 kilometres through the bush on Nova Scotia’s north shore.
Shortly after supper, nearing home, Clem stopped for a chat at the home of John Winsby. The fellow farmers probably discussed the weather and spring planting. They most certainly talked in less than glowing terms about Clem’s hired hand Maurice Doyle. Doyle had quit that very morning. None too convenient for Clem; the busiest farming season, when a hired hand would have been most needed, had just begun.
Winsby would later recall Clem saying that “Doyle was not faithful and he did not like him.”
After the chat Clem continued his journey a little less burdened. Winsby had agreed to deliver the heavy barley sack upstream the next morning.
Clem hailed John Sentorious’ ferry to cross the River Philip and no doubt reflected on his day as he continued on the last leg of his trek to his two-room shanty at the mouth of a little stream which emptied into the west side of River Philip.
Did he regret hiring Doyle? Probably, given Doyle’s habit of heavy drinking. Doyle most certainly was destined for jail on a charge of fraud, if Clem hadn’t hired him.
It was nearly dark when Clem arrived home. His housekeeper Elizabeth Pipes and her daughter Jane were waiting to report the day’s comings and goings. Perhaps Mrs. Pipe fixed a cup of strong tea and spread some homemade berry jam on biscuits for her employer as she chatted. William Hussey had been by hoping to pick up some seed, she told him. Two other men had paddled up in a canoe and stopped for a while. Another of Mrs. Pipes’ daughters who had been visiting, returned to Amherst with them.
These were the last few hours of Clem’s life. His bed near the fireplace in the kitchen must have looked mighty inviting after such an arduous day.
The next morning, Hussey (the man looking for seed) and Winsby (the Good Samaritan with the barely sack) discovered a grisly sight . Clem, still in his in bed, was near death with axe wounds to his head while Mrs. Pipes and daughter Jane in bed in the other room were badly wounded and bleeding.
A wooden chest near Clem’s bed had been opened and rifled through. Clem died soon after. Mrs. Pipes and Jane survived. Prime suspect in the murder, hired hand Doyle was hunted and found in Sussex, N.B. (about 180 kilometres overland from River Philip) by Joseph Avard Jr. of Westmorland, N.B. and Asa Fillmore of River Philip.
Doyle was soon found guilty of murder and hanged in Amherst, N.S.
This is a thumbnail sketch of one of the intriguing stories on the Family Register web page. Nova Scotia genealogies there include surnames: Clarke, Hunter, Mattinson, Melanson, McCully, Pipes, Rushton and Webb. Family Register webmaster is researcher Scott C. Miller of 6209 Evergreen Ave., Las Vegas, Nevada, 89107
Other sources for genealogy research in northern Nova Scotia:
North Shore Archives Society, Fraser Cultural Centre, Tatamagouche, N.S. B0K 1V0; telephone (902) 657-3262.
Sunrise Trail Museum, RR 2 Tatamagouche, N.S., B0K 1V0; telephone (902) 657-2433.
North Cumberland Historical Society, PO Box 353, Pugwash, N.S., B0K 1L0; telephone (902) 243-2593.
Cumberland County Museum, 150 Church St., Amherst, N.S. , B4H 3C3; telephone (902) 667-2561.
More Atlantic Canada Resources...