Murder on Romeo by Vince Gratton

John Gamble Hut

Murder on Romeo

The victims: John Gamble born December 06 1885 a resident of Stratford Perth County. Adam Seneca born May 23 1886 a Chippewa native from Middlesex County.

John Gamble was a well-known young farmer around town. He owned his own farm located on the eastern outskirts of Stratford on Romeo Street South. It was here that he lived during the summer months of 1905 in a small shack to look after his seasonal crop of Flax. In late August when it was time to harvest, he brought in 8 indigenous men of the Chippewa tribe from the Delaware area to work the field and pull Flax. They set up their encampment on the north-west corner of the Gamble farm and proceeded to harvest the flax and gather it ready for shipment.

At the end of the work day on August 23 Gamble invited one of his workers Adam Seneca to join him at the Dominion House for some cold beer. After a short walk alongside the railway tracks, they arrived and settled into enjoying some comradery. They where soon joined for drinks by two other local fellows know to Gamble, Caleb Poynar and Harry Cornfield. Later in the evening the four men decided to leave the hotel and head back to Gamble’s Hut for more merriment.

It was here that they drank themselves into a frenzied state and as a result a brawl broke out. Gamble received a serious blow to the head by a table leg swung by Seneca. At this point Seneca also hurt in the brawl and having knocked Gamble to the ground started to crawl back to his tribe’s encampment. For reasons that remained unknown he passed out while crossing the railway tracks and was run over by the late-night train leaving for Toronto. The engineer did not see the body and carried on as scheduled. The engineer of an early morning train did see the body but was unable to stop in time to avoid striking the body a second time. After getting the locomotive stopped he went back to find Seneca with both his legs cut off and his head badly mangled to a pulp.

At the inquest a few days later, Poynar after being arrested stated that Gamble and Seneca got into an argument over the beer and whiskey that was left. He stated that Seneca hit Gamble with a hard blow to the head. At this point Poynar himself quite drunk decided he had enough revelry and walked back to town. Cornfield then stated that he had passed out inside the hut after hitting his head on the door frame when he attempted to go outside. When Cornfield did awaken in the morning, he saw Gamble outside lying on the ground and realised that he was dead. It was then that he proceeded to town to report what he could remember of the situation.

The inquest was told by the investigating officers that it was a gruesome and disgusting scene both at the Gamble’s hut and at the death site at the railway tracks. It was decided that Seneca had died by being hit by an earlier train as his body was cold when the second engineer checked on him lying on the track in the early morning dawn. Without proper evidence or a reliable witness, the inquest ordered that Seneca’s body be returned to his tribe and that the murder be filed as unsolved and the case closed.  Source: Vince Gratton