The Trial and Execution of  Amédée Chattelle, Stratford 1895   

Portrait of Jessie Keith at the age of 8. Stratford-Perth Archives

Jessie, middle front. Stratford -Perth Archives

William's diary, 1894 Stratford-Perth Archives

Amédée Chattelle

John Idington , Prosecutor

Stratford -Perth Archives

John Murray, Detective

Canadian Encyclopedia

Sheriff Hossie 

Chattelle,hands manacled , (middle) passes Perth County Court House on his way to the train for the coroner's inquest.  Sheriff John Hossie , forground, walks slightly ahead.  Flanking the prisoner is Stratford Constable McCarthy. Stratford -Perth Archives

John Amour, Chief Justice Wikipedia

John Radclive, Executioner

Friday, October 19, 1894:  The Murder

On Friday forenoon October 19, 1884 Jessie, daughter of William Keith, was sent by her mother to Listowel, about two miles distant, for the mail and a pound or two of pot barley. The Stratford and Pt. Dover railway ran alongside of Mr. Keith’s lot into Listowel, and Jessie followed the track into town.

She was met by the section men as they were going to dinner, and upon-returning they observed several papers and a lot of pot barley scattered over the track opposite John Shanks’ farm, and upon further search saw evidences of’ a scuffle and lots of blood on the ground. They then surmised that the little Keith girl whom they had seen on their way to dinner had met foul play, and they hastened to inform Mr. Keith, whose residence is about half a mile distant. Together with Mr. Keith they traced the blood and tracks over the rail fence, across a plowed field into Shanks’ bush, and after diligent search one the section men, Samuel Strain, accidently stepped upon the body. which was covered over with moss and dead leaves. The sight that presented itself will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.  The boy was found nude and her throat was cut and the rest of the body mutilated.

A white petticoat was tied tightly around her throat which must have been furnished by the murderer, for it was much too large for the dead girl.

The body was left in the bush where it was discovered  and a 8:30 the train from Stratford stopped there , County Crown Attorney John Idington, Sheriff Hossie and coroner Rankin from Stratford and viewed the body then came to the house and and opened an inquest.The gathered evidence and ajourned until next Friday at Listowel.

Saturday: The Man Hunt

A Crown Attorney John Idington from Stratford, (see William Street),  issued a public bulletin . On Friday 19th October, Jessie Keith 13 was found foully murdered by a supposed tramp. He described the suspect " as stout, five foot nine inches tall, 190 pounds, a heavy body with a short neck, full chest and a  dark complexion. He was seen carrying a "black valise". Idington  oversaw the collection of physical evidence. The man hunt began.

Sunday: The Funeral and the Search

The remains of Jessie Keith were interred in the new Listowel cemetery Sunday afternoon, the funeral being one of the largest ever witnessed it these parts. Several hundred vehicles, and the funeral procession was almost two miles long. When it passed through the main street. of Listowel a great crowd assembled . At the cemetery the throng was equally dense, and ‘it was with difficulty that the hearse could be forced through to the open grave.

On this day, search parties resumed their work in the wood where the tragedy took pIace. About 9.30 o’clock this morning they were carefully searching the north side of the wood near where the tramp was seen to come out on Friday, and found a black valise that formed a damaging track in the evidence. It was lying under an overhanging rock, covered up with leaves and piles of rotten wood. The valise was half opened, and after carefully tying it together, the searchers brought it in to Mr. John  Idinglon. The first thing that was taken from the black valise when opened was a pair of blood-stained overalls of cotton The pants were greasy looking, and ‘bore the signs of those worn by ‘the tramp in every particular. The pants were handed over to Dr. Rutherford for a report as to the blood stains. Other items were women’s clothes.

A pair of girl’s laced boots were also found and inside them a pair of girl’s black stockings. The stockings and shoes were identified as Jessie Keith’s.

Monday: The Capture

During the three days after the murder, the  police manhunt combed Perth County and questioned several tramps but none were identified by witnesses.

Three days after the murder,  William Travis, a railway hand at Erin Station seventy kilometers from Lisowel, saw  suspicious man approaching along the tracks . He said to his boss, "That is pretty hard looking seed. I'll bet you a quarter that's the murderer of Jessie Keith. " He apprended the man and escorted him to the Cataract Station about 2 kilometers away. Travis telegraphed for help. The prisoner gave his name as   "Amédée Chattelle". Constable Wilson arrived  and the party returned to Erin where Wilson locked up Chattelle for the night.  The next day Charles Walker and Travis loaded Chattelle on to the train to Listowel. Stratford police chief John McCarthy took charge when they arrived. McCarthy ordered Chattelle detained for vagrancy and took him back to the train  bound for Stratford 's jail.

Wednesday: Detective Arrives

John Wilson Murray , the renowned Ontario detective came to Stratford by early morning train. Murry began  to look for witnesses in the area.  He found a man who had seen with a black valise. He traced Chattelle’s movements that placed him near the place were Jesse was killed. He to was able show that  the tramp had been responsible for the Ailsa Craig break-in because of two of the items recovered from the crime scene and from his person.

Thursday October 26  Inquest Lisowel

Chief of Police McCarthy went to the jail in Stratford to get him to bring him to Listowel. Sheriff  John Hossie and Crown Attorney Idlington were on board. Crown Attorney Idlington produced the evidence, handling the great crowd of witnesses with marked skill and dispatch.

A the end of a long day of witness statement and coroner reports, the verdict was that Chattelle should stand trial for murder in the first degree. Chattelle was escorted back to Stratford along with Stratford Detective John Murray, with two witnesses, plus the  the black valise and its contents. They went to County Crown Attorney ldlington’s office. Three important witnesses from Atisa Craig, Mrs. McLeod, Gordon McEwatt and Angus McLean, were already there, having arrived at half-past 5 o’clock. The whole party went over to the jail, and air inspection of the various articles connected with the case was made.

Idington and Murray interrogated the prisoner and interviewed several witnesses. One key witness was Isabell McLeod whose  house had been broken into at Ailsa Craig. Murray showed her the recovered articles from the robbery. The black valise was hers.

Murray showed her two matching white petticoats. One had been found in the valise and one around Jessie's neck .  "Yes that is mine," said McLeod picking up the bloodied one. "It was too short for me so I lengthened it."  McLeod's testimony and McEwan's ( the witness who saw Chattelle carrying the  black valise) linked Chattelle to the house break-in. McLeod's valise, white petticoat and other belongings linked him to both the break-in and the killing. After hearing the testimonies. the jury  met and after 5 minutes and annouced the verdict   that chattelle had killed Jessie Keith thus the defendent could be sent to trial for murder. Chief Constable John Mccarthy  escorted him back to Stratford.

March 28,1895.  The Trial.

The prison guards walked the prisoner from the Stratford jail on St. Andrew Street ( see St. Andrew Street)  to the Perth County Court House (see Huron Street) . By eight o'clock two thousand people were swarming the grounds. 

John Douglas Armour, Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Queen's Bench, read the charge of murder in the first degree. Chattelle pleaded not guilty and defended himself. Crown prosecutor John Idington opened by reviewing the evidence and a number of witnesses were called to give evidence.  At 4:30 p.m. the jury retired and ten minutes later delivered their verdict. "Guilty".  Judge John Armour sentenced Chattelle to death by hanging.

Later Chattelle confessed to the murder describing it in detail. 

May 30 1895. The Execution.

John Radclive, the first professional executioner in the country, was appointed Ontario's hangman in 1892. He was sent to Stratford to oversee the Chattelle's hanging.  

Radclive's  had two posts put  into the ground joined by a crossbeam with one end beyond the post. The rope ran through pulleys to a heavy counterweight hanging from the end of the crossbeam.  When the counterweight was dropped it yanked the rope and flung the prisoner into the air, breaking his neck.

The execution took place in the west jail yard, at the Stratford Jail (Gaol) on St. Andrew Street in the presence of about 40 spectators. At 7:00 o’clock, Father Downey engaged in prayer with the condemned man for an hour.

In the cell, the prisoner's arms were pinioned and then Chattelle was led to the scaffold by Sheriff Hossie along with  a procession of jail officials.  Father Downey followed the jail surgeon Dr. Dunsmore and Turnkey (Jailer) Hugh Nichol.

Execution Timeline of Events . 

At 7:45 the bells of St.James Church began to toll. At 7:55 Chattelle  partook of the sacrament

At the stroke of 8:00,  the door opened and out walked sheriff John Hossie, chief jailer Hugh Nichol,  jail surgeon Dr. Drummond and Father Downey

Everything being in readiness , Father Downey commenced reading the Lord's Prayer and when he reached the part “ thy will be done,” there was a signal from the sheriff, and the drop fell at 8:03. Eleven minutes later, Chattelle was pronounced extinct by the jail surgeon.

As a signal to the public. the bells of St. Joseph church rang again and a black flag flew at half mask for one hour outsidde the jail. The same morning Amédée Chattelle was buried in the prison yard.

Source: Material provided by the Stratford- Perth Archives

Jessie Keith Memorial erected May 24, 1806 Wikipedia

The Aftermath

The podium and statue to mark Jessie's grave in Listowel went up in 1896 after fundraising around Southwestern Ontario. Enough money was raised to buy the marble from the Carrara quarry in Italy, the same place Michelangelo sourced the marble for his "David." An Italian sculptor was hired to carve the Roman goddess of flowers, springtime and youth that sits on top of a column of polished granite.

The photo to the left shows the statue that was erected in the cemetery in Listowel to mark Jessie Keith's grave, and the five word entry her father made in his daily log when Jessie was killed.

The granite column came from Aberdeen Scotland to support the statue William had commissioned to be carved with the words: "We miss her at home."

William Keith lived to 90 outliving his wife and children. He died in 1928. He gave himself time to morn  and when he was ready, re-engaged in community service roles such as councllor and justice of the peace.

 One hundred and fifteen years later, in 2010, workers upgrading the prison foundations in the  jail yard on St. Andrew Street discovered the bones of two executed prisoners. One was Frank Roughmond, hanged in 1909 for rape of a farm wife, Mary Peake. The other was Amédée Chattelle . The remains of both were reinterred in unmarked grave in section 25-C of Avondale Cemetary.

The Cast

John Idington was one of the most prominent citizens of Stratford. He was later named as a Judge to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Idlington Block and Idlington Creek were named for him. See: William St. where he lived.

John Wilson Murray was one of the country's most famous police figures. He was a rare law enforcement celebrity. Crime novelist Maureen Jenning used him as the inspiration for her charcter  in the CBC TV series Murdoch Mysteries. He wrote the above memoir. see Interent Archives

Amédée Chattelle recounted a cruel and loveless childhood. He ran away from home when he was eleven. In his early twenties he went to sea on various mechant ships. Over three decades, he wandered Eastern Canada and all over the USA doing labour work.  Near the end, he heard of a job in Michigan which led him for the first time  to travel through Ontario.

John Hossie  was among those who boarded the train to the swampy wood on the night of the murder. He severely restricted press access. He also escorted the prisoner to the trail and gallows. Hossie Terrace was named in his honour

Thomas McCarthy, Constable, and his brother John, Chief Constable, were both involved in the search and interrogation of the murderer.  John escorted the suspect from Listowel to Stratford by train

McCarthy Road was named for their father, one of first settlers in Stratford.

John Radclive, was Canada's first professional hangman, serving from 1892 until the early 20th century. He trained under British hangman William Marwood. He is known to have hanged at least 69 people in Canada, although his life total was probably around 150.

John Douglas Armour practised law for 25 years in Cobourg, Ontario. In 1877, he was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench of Ontario. In November 1902, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Hugn Nichol, moved in as head jailer with his family when the new jail was built and worked until he died age 79 in 1921 Stratford- Perth Archives

The Settings

Erin Station (1900) was 40 km east of Guelph .  This is where Travis first spotted Chattelle. Chattelle was locked up in Erin before being transferred to Listowel and later to Stratford. Erin Insite

Cataract Junction is 10 km from Erin Station.  This is where Travis escorted Chattelle and telegraphed for help. Erin Insite

Original home of Isabella  and Donald McLeod in Ailsa Craig where on October 3, 1894,  Chattelle entered through a window and stole a black valise and women's clothing. This was 16 days before the murder.

The Jail (Gaol) at 30 St. Andrew Street. Picture was taken about the turn of the century and shows Warden Hugh Nichol, with his family. Source: Stratford-Perth Archives's Collection

Note: Route starts at Ailsa Craig where Chattelle  breaks-into McLeod's house and ends where he is caputred in Erin.

John Goddard wrote  "The Man with the Black Valise" Tracking  the Killer of Jessie Keith.  A full story of the events.

Fun Fact:    Nancy Musselman did carriage rides of Stratford . She said "when John  Goddard went on the carriage ride tour he asked me if I was going to write a book and I laughed and said no, but he certainly could. He said my information on the tour so inspired him he was going to write a book. I think he did an exceptional job. He did contact me while writing it for bits of history".    (Nancy Musselman is one of the contributors to the Street of Stratford site). Thank you Nancy.

John Goddard , Book signing at the Queen's Inn,Stratford.      Photo Fred Gonder