Barkway (Black Bill Tragedy)

Muskoka, Ontario

Location Owner timo explorer
Creation Date Jul 16 2011
Status Abandoned
Category Ghost Town
Location Muskoka, Ontario
Site number #2938

The small village of Barkway is located south of the ghost town of Germania. Families still live there, most of the old buildings have been renovated to keep their original heritage, but remain much as they were long ago. A few abandoned gems still exist. Barkway was established as part of Ryde Township in 1879. The first settler in the area was James Housey in 1871. The three main villages of Ryde Township where Houseys Rapids(named after James), Lewisham (a ghost town, which appears in another entry on this site), and finally Barkway. The Barkway family was the first to settle in this village, named after them in 1879. Ryde was later incorporated into the town of Gravenhusrt in 1971. Barkway had two churches, a school, a few residences and an Orange Lodge. All still exist, the Orange Lodge being the only one left abandoned. The United Church sits restored but unused, in very good condition. The Holy Manger Anglican Church still has regular services, and welcomes all comers. The school is now a residence, but the owners have kept the exterior in the original condition, although they have humorously renamed it the University of Barkway. A few farms and cottages in the vicinity also sit abandoned. A quiet village, Barkway does not see much traffic during the weekdays, but comes alive every weekend with cottagers. _______________________________________________________________________ <u>Murder Story (courtesy C Fraser):</u> " The Truth and the Legend of Black Bill Ruttan To say that I was surprised when I came across two murders in Ryde township in 1914 is putting it mildly. Suddenly there it was in glaring headlines "DOUBLE MURDER AT HOUSEY(a)S RAPIDS", May 21, 1914 and "RUTTAN IS COMMITTED FOR TRIAL" , June 4, 1914. Like all incidents of this nature, they do not just happen in a vacuum. An interesting story lies hidden behind it. A bad seed planted in early in life, perhaps? A soul that has been made cynical over the years? We might be able to understand more, if we go back over the life of such a man. William Christopher Ruttan was born March 6th 1865 in Norwood Ontario to Emily Corneill (or Canille or O(a)Neil her name being written like this on three different certificates) and Jesse Norman Ruttan. Emily was of very normal Ontario stock born in Belmont, but Jesse came from a long line of Ruttan(a)s loyal to the crown. Their name can be traced back to the 15th Century in middle Europe. They were U.E.L(a)s and arrived at Adolphustown on Prince Edward County in the 1700(a)s after many years in the U.S. and there, made a considerable contribution to the County(a)s history, with Captain Peter Ruttan as the family patriarch. Some say that William Brant gave his pair of silver handled pistols to Peter Ruttan Jr. From there the family seems to have moved to Storrington, then Loughborough and into Peterborough and then when Ryde Township was opening up for Free Land Grant settlement, on they came, three brothers, John Wesley, Christopher, Jesse and a nephew Michael, among them. They came with their families and settled into Ryde about 1872. Jesse coming with two children Bill and Minnie born in Dummer Township and John Henry was born after they settled in Housey(a)s Rapids on April 14, 1873. Jesse located lot 26 Con. 9 right in the Rapids one lot north of James Housey, whom the Rapids were named after. He built a house as required in order to qualify, in time, for the deeds to his property and began to clear the land. Just when it seemed that life was wonderful, Jesse began to feel ill. The racking cough of Consumption began to sap his strength along with the loss of blood that this cough released. It was soon apparent that the family was watching its sole bread winner slowly losing ground until in August of 1874 he died. Somehow in all of this confusion an exact date of death was never recorded. We do know from the Ontario Death # 094332 that he was 34 years of age and that he was attended by no less than two doctors, that the date the death was registered the 28th of August and that Christopher Ruttan [his brother]was the informant. Emily found herself a widow with 3 small children. Bill was 9, Minnie, 5 and Johnny just 1. For a woman alone back in the days when you chopped wood for fuel and carried water from the well and the back breaking work of clearing your property hadn(a)t been finished...the only solution was to marry again. Written down in the settlers homesteading act there was a provision for widows..They were to inherit the claim while still in widowhood. When Emily remarried, Jesse(a)s claim went to her new husband Robert Williamson Brass. Robert was the son of Robert John Brass and Caroline Roushorn. It just so happened that Robert(a)s father Robert John, died in Aug of 1874 like Jesse, but on the 11th. He was 61 years of age and had been born in the township of Kingston and the county of Frontenac. He died of an absess or a "gathering in the side which broke inwardly after 9 days", according to his death record # 904329, a painful death indeed in a time without antibiotics or pain killers. The Brasses were of German stock like the Ruttan(a)s and Robert(a)s widowed mother lived just two lots east of her son and just a lot west of her other son Allen. In a short time Emily gave birth to two more children, Amelia 1877, and Catherine Ellen 1879. They seemed to have been your normal every day family with all three Ruttan children listed as Brass(a)s in the 1881 Census for Draper/Ryde and Oakley. By Christmas of 1885 however, Emily was in poor health and on July 2nd 1886 at age 39 years she died of complicated diseases after 6 mths. So we have William, Minnie and John now completely orphaned. We can only surmize about what went on during this time. We do know that Robert sold the Land Grant to Philetus J. Brace, an American businessman who owned the store in the Rapids and was the village money lender. He in turn sold it to Henry Cook. So in a short time Bill saw his father die a gruesome death, his mother remarry..a stepfather take over the land his father died clearing..his mother(a)s death...and then the selling of the beloved land. I was surprised to learn that on September 20th of 1890 Robert W. Brass was accidently shot and killed. He was 42 years old. Try as I might I was never able to find out more details about this shooting. In light of what was to happen in years to come, this death lies uneasy in my mind. Bill and John Henry disappear from the scene here after being listed as Brasses on the 1881 Census..in 1891 we find only Minnie Ruttan in Ryde, and we would have had to look closely since she had married a local boy George Chalker, who(a)s family lived right on Bass Lake, in the Rapids, and where the name Chalker(a)s landing came from at that exact spot. They have adopted a child, a girl names Alice Truesdale. Minnie married George, Aug 11 1886 just a month after her mother(a)s death. Even though she was 18 one has to wonder why so soon and why not wait for the mourning period to end. I can only surmize that she did not want to live in the house with Robert Brass. After this shooting in 1890 we find all the remaining Brass(a)s have moved to Hamilton Ontario, Caroline having died in Dec 20 1881 of Jaundice and Catherine Ellen, Bill(a)s baby half-sister, having died Mar 9 1889 at the young age of 10 . Death seemed to be all around Bill. It could also mean that with the loss of wife and daughter Robert Brass dove into a depression with the resulting loss of life..and it could be that like the death record said he lost his life by accident, perhaps a gun misfired while cleaning it.. Perhaps one day we will know. Since I came from a long line of Ruttan(a)s here begins the legend or family lore that has come down by word of mouth. We find Bill living alone in Housey(a)s Rapids in his late 20(a)s. He has grown into a short stature and has black hair and a dark complexion. Just down the road lived the Johnston family with a 15 year old daughter Catherine Sarepta. The parents are not a young couple and Catherine is their 7th child. Most of the other girls are now married so we can sympatize with Hannah when she is trying to get the last one out of the house before they die (as Bill Cosby puts it). According to family legend she bakes all kinds of nice things and sends them down to bachelor, Bill saying Catherine has made them for him. Shortly, the inevitable happens and Bill asks Catherine to marry him and on Oct 2, 1895 when Catherine or Kate as she became known, was just 15 they were married. Bill gave her a doll for a wedding present but then her birthday was coming up on Oct 6th. Catherine having had little education and being quite young and naive was happy about all the attention she was receiving. They manage to have in short duration 8 children, Mina Adeline, Norman Lesley, Amos Morley, Ellen Lena, Elijah Jesse, George Henry, Effie Flossie, and Louise Jane known as Ruth. It was with surprise I found this little item in the Orillia Library. More interesting to me too because Henry Nichols was the father of husband(a)s grandmother. Orillia Packet Dec. 26 1901 "Ryde Council met here on the 14 instant...The following orders issued since the last meeting were confirmed...Henry Nichols constable(a)s fees for arrest of Mrs. Chalker as a dangerous lunatic $7.13." December the 26th 1901 Henry Nichols, the constable of Ryde Township had to arrest and have Minnie Chalker declared a dangerous lunatic. Did she get the diagnosis of Consumption at this time and flip out? Her adopted daughter is not on the 1901 Census for Muskoka..what happened to her? Right after the new year on February 6th 1902 George Chalker was out felling a tree when it lodged in another on the way down. In an effort to extricate it from the other tree it suddenly slipped and striking him on the instep, it badly fractured the bone. Dr. Williams could only dress the wound as it was so severe and the Housey(a)s Rapids minister took George down to the General Hospital in Toronto to have it seen by a specialist. On Jan 25th of 1908 Bill lost his sister Minnie from the same dreaded disease as his father, consumption, and he signed the death certificate, so it would seem that Minnie is being taken care of, at Bill and Kates home. Another loved one, of Bill(a)s, gone before her time. She was just in her thirty(a)s like her mother. Apparently life went on normally until Bill(a)s daughter, Mina married Alfred Coutremanche in April of 1914. At this time the boys, Norman and Morley 16 and 17, were arrested for stealing Joshua Short(a)s favorite cow. Joshua loved all his animals and couldn(a)t abide any ill treatment of any animal on his farm. This cow was the friendliest one in his herd and he wouldn(a)t let anyone milk her but himself. It was because she was so friendly that the Ruttan boys were able to walk off with her. Joshua noticed she was missing and he thought she must have fallen over a rock or a downed tree and broken her leg since she always came home for milking time. A few days later on Sunday, Jim and Jack Lowe who had been taking a short cut through the bush to pay a call on a new neighbour came across Joshua(a)s cow laying dead beside Ben(a)s Creek near Tingey bridge. They walked over to Joshua(a)s to give him the sad tidings. Being offered some Sunday supper they stayed and ate with the family and then lead Joshua to his dead animal. It would seem the Ruttan boys had driven her along the creek , tied her to a tree, then tried to cut her and she kicked out, hitting Norman. Norman was known for his bad temper and he got mad and cut off her milk bag leaving her to die a horrible death. The Bracebridge Gazette says May 28 1914, Boys Sentenced "After his Honor Judge Mahaffy had cordially considered the condition of the Ruttan lads, who had pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing and killing a cow, he committed them to an industrial school. From a window in the district jail these little fellows watched with great interest the display of fireworks on the streets Monday evening, they never having seen anything of the kind before, even a fire cracker." So the boys were sent off to juvenile jail. Family lore tells us that Mina and Alfred conspired to take Bill(a)s land. Whether she got the idea from another incidence in Draper Township of a daughter claiming incest..she told her father she was going to have him committed by telling everyone that she was pregnant and the baby was his. His sister having been committed before she died..the people of the community would believe the apple hadn(a)t fallen far from the tree...He went berzerk. The Toronto Star May 21 1914 "The whole country surrounding the Ruttan tragedy are so terrorized that hopes of capturing Wm Ruttan who yesterday is alleged to have shot down three members of his family, alive, are not bright. During last night a store and a dwelling in the vicinity of the murders were burned and Ruttan is suspected, the motive being to check the pursuit and to terrorize the pursuers. Chief Constable Sloan of Gravenhurst went out again today and is directing the efforts at capture. Ruttan, who is an old hunter and traveller knows every foot of country in the neighbourhood and it is believed he will resist arrest to every extent. May 21st, "The barn of Henry Cook, nearest neighbour of William Ruttan, was set on fire last night. It was destroyed along with a team of horses. At Housey(a)s Rapids fire was applied to J. P. Brace(a)s general store and it was devoured by flames. It is now reported that another barn was burned. In the district it is alleged that William Ruttan was responsible for these fires. Ruttan ventured to his house yesterday and had dinner, so Reeve McKay of the Township of Muskoka was told by the murderer(a)s wife. McKay took the big risk of trying to meet Ruttan because he had known him for years and hoped to get him to surrender peaceably. Mrs. Coutremanche is being brought to Bracebridge for medical treatment her maiden name was Eva Tryon and she has lived most of her life in the township. She was married to George Coutremanche 10 years ago." This is the testimony of Eva May Coutremanche (nee Eva Tryon) on the witness stand, of the events as they happened in her own memory. Eva May Courtermanche, wife of the murdered man (George), testified that her husband was shot May 20th. She had gone out to do the milking and heard a shot. She returned to the house for some bran and her husband came out with her to show her some fish he had caught the night before. As they were looking at the fish she saw her husband slip down and blood gush from his breast. She then heard a shot and saw the prisoner who was working at the gun. She thought he was getting ready to fire again. She ran into the house and called to him not to shoot her husband. She heard another shot as she ran for the door. She called to her sister-in-law (Mina Ruttan) that her father had shot her husband. He came to the door and got in after a bit into the kitchen. She and her sister-in-law and Alfred were in a bedroom trying to hold the door shut. Eva(a)s three little children were hiding under the bed. The Prisoner pushed the door and asked to be let in. "We did not let him in and he shot through the door. " (In this shot he killed his own daughter). Eva and Alfred escaped out the window and when Bill saw her running away he shot her in the leg and she dropped down as if she were dead. Alfred ran to the nearest neighbour who was Henry Cook. Bill took off. When it was explained to the prisoner who had no council, that he might ask the witness any questions he said, "What did you keep Mina over night for?" "I did not keep her." answered Eva. (a)You kept her several nights. She came home with a livery rig from Gravenhurst and you kept her. You were always lugging her off. We hunted till eleven one night because she was out with a gun and we thought she might have shot herself." Prisoner was told he might give evidence himself or have witnesses. "I would l

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avatar of kylesparling79
kylesparling79 This isn't really a good location for people who want to walk about the area. It's right at a crossroad with houses all around.
May 08 2012