Museum seminars start next week

The first presentation in the St. Marys Museum’s 2015-2016 seminars series is Thursday evening, Sept. 17 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the museum. Titled Murder & Mayhem: Crime in 19th century St. Marys, this seminar will start the new season in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.
Those attending will be amazed at the information about historic crimes that the seminar research team has been able to find. Some details come from old newspaper items, genealogical records, local history books, census and gravestone information – all part of the resource materials at the St. Marys Museum. Various government and legal websites also published historic statistics of crimes and their punishments.
Most crimes were not amusing but reflected the dark and perhaps desperate aspects of life in early St. Marys when law enforcement was often arbitrary and uneven. Many of the criminals were victims themselves, leading lives of poverty and struggle. The seminar will present this dark side as fairly as possible but will also offer a lighter side. For instance, in the 1890s, “Jack the Peeper” stalked the streets of St. Marys in the night, alarming ladies by looking at them through their windows. His nickname was chosen as a nod to the much more gruesome “Jack the Ripper” and his violent career in London, England.
Some famous local and area crimes will be presented. For example, the story of Phoebe Campbell from West Nissouri Township, hanged in 1872 for murdering her husband, will be highlighted as well as the story of Dr. Adam Ford, accused in 1878 of poisoning a young man who had been drinking with him in his office. These were major events but a surprising number of crimes are hidden in our town’s history. These include arson, theft, forgery, fraud, and criminal exploitation of women.
This seminar is expected to be popular and pre-registration is required. The seminars are fundraisers for Museum activities and cost $12 per person or $10 for museum members. Contact the St. Marys Museum (519-284-3556 or museum@town.stmarys.on.ca) for information and to reserve a place for next Thursday evening’s presentation.