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September 5, 2008

Fatal Footnotes From Mattawa History


In planning for a trip to Snake Creek, Quebec, I ran across a fascinating story of crime in the wilds.  On August 9, 1917 on the Paul Morin farm on Snake Creek, Quebec, across the Ottawa River from Snake Creek, Ontario (12 miles north of Mattawa) things went wrong.  Forty year old Paul Morin had a small farm, a wife, a 6 year old son and a 15 year daughter.  The daughter attracted the attention of an 18 year old who worked at the nearby Morel farm.  The farm was owned by Henri Morel the MPP for the area for 22 years. 

The Morin farmhouse in Snake Creek, Quebec

Paul Morin did not like the strange attitude of the 18 year old and told him to stay away.  Morin also told the father of another young lady, that the 18 year old was interested in, that he was a problem.  The unstable young man heard about this and wanted revenge. 

The story of what happened was reported in the North Bay Nugget on August 17, 1917.  Apparently the suitor was seen with a gun by Mr. Morin and he wondered out loud to his wife what he was up to but was not unduly concerned.  His daughter was at a friend’s.  A few minutes later while working in his garden a shot rang out from the loft in his barn.  Morin died instantly.  His 5 year old son ran over to see what was happening and was shot in the head and died instantly too.  The mother ran out to help and was shot in the shoulder. 

Headline in the North Bay Nugget, August 17, 1917.

The shooter appeared back at the Morel farm with no gun and was quite agitated saying that some soldiers had shot at him and the Morins.  He then ran around telling others this tale.  People rushed to the Morin farm and found the distraught mother covered in blood and carrying her dead baby. 

They soon realized who had done the shooting and cornered him and handcuffed him.  He was taken to Mattawa when the next train went through.  He apparently was cheerfully singing “Tipperary” on the train.  The young man was tried in April and given 25 years in prison.  When he was released with orders to not go near Mattawa he showed up immediately and was taken into custody. 

The farm changed hands several times over the years and was owned by Vic Tremblay for 16 years until recently.  Vic provided the photo and information on this story.  I hope to see the site when our excursion goes to the area next week. 

The Mad Trapper of Cahill Lake 

When writing the above story I recalled another strange Mattawa case from another era.  The story took place on Cahill Lake on the Mattawa Rivernorth of Talon Lake in November 1901.  There were rumours that a Mattawa man was living as a hermit trapper in the bush and was shooting at people on the lake. 

Sam Tongue and William Bell, two well known Mattawa businessmen , did not know the story and went hunting on the lake with a group of friends  The two men  were searching in a canoe for some lost dogs from their larger hunting group.  They found one dog and were returning to camp in their birch bark canoe. 

The canoe was well loaded with the dog, supplies, and rifles.  They suddenly heard a shot and saw a man paddling toward them about a quarter mile away.  Unsuspectingly they approached the man to inquire about the other missing dogs . Suddenly the man put his paddle down, aimed his gun at the men and fired.  Tongue and Bell turned and ran for shore.  Another shot rang out and splashed nearby.  Fortunately the men got to shore before another shot was fired.  When they got to shore they took out  their guns and prepared for the shooter.  He came ashore and climbed a rock carrying his rifle.  Sam Tongue shot first and all was quiet.  Finally, they approached the rock and found the shooter dead in three feet of water with his gun on the bottom. 

Sam Tongue was found in court to have shot in self defence and that ended the story of the Mad Trapper of Cahill Lake.

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