December 1, 1836

Port Hope Murder

On Wednesday evening last, while the steamboat Commodore Barrie was lying at the wharf at Port Hope, Mr. M. C. O’Neill, a clerk in the employ of Mr. Crawford, of that place, was in the act of superintending the shipment of some goods, when he was wantonly and brutally assaulted by two ruffians, named Robert Brown and Samuel McHendry or McAndry, commonly called “the Handy-man.” It appears that Mr. O’Neill was stooping down to examine the letters on a cask, when the fellow Brown came up, and struck him with a club or bludgeon, a violent blow on the head; the “Handy-man” then came to his companion’s assistance, and struck the young man several blows upon his head and body, with a similar kind of weapon. The unfortunate young man, after receiving the first blow was heard to exclaim, “I am killed - I am killed.” Upon being removed to his home, every attention was paid to him, and medical aid was called in both from Port Hope and this town, but in vain; he lingered in a state of almost constant insensibility until Sunday morning, at about ten o’clock, when he expired. The deceased was the unfortunate individual who was thrown off the wharf at Port Hope, a few months since. He was of quiet and inoffensive habits and was deservedly esteemed by his employer, and all who knew him. Upon the inquest which was held on Sunday afternoon last, before David Brodie, Esq. Coroner, three or four witnesses swore positively to the blows, and the identity of the persons who inflicted them. The three medical gentlemen, from the examination, agreed in opinion, and to the cause of death being from external violence. The verdict of the jury was - “That the said Michael Constantine O’Neill, came to his death by wounds inflicted on his head in a premeditated assault made upon him, on the evening of the 9th November, by Robert Brown and Samuel McHendry or McAndry, commonly called “the Handy-man”. It is said that the deceased had had no personal quarrel with either of the authors of his death. From this circumstances, and the cool-blooded manner of the attack, suspicion strongly rests with an individual between whom and the deceased some differences had existed, as being the instigator to the dreadful deed. The man Brown was seen walking with his bludgeon carried behind him, in the neighbourhood of the wharf, for upwards of an hour before he attacked O’Neill. He was taken into custody the same night, and conveyed to the District goal; his accomplice, McAndry was taken on Saturday last, and is now in confinement.

There is another villain who assisted to light the others, while in the execution of their design but he is not yet apprehended. A rumour was current in Port Hope, on Sunday last, that the unhappy wretches now in custody, would be rescued. The Magistrates in consequence, thought proper to take the necessary precautions, in case any attempt of the kind should be meditated. A guard of militiamen has been added to the goal every evening since Sunday last, and will continue to attend until regular assistance shall arrive from Toronto. It is to be hoped, under the circumstances, that a special session will be appointed, in order that the ends of justice may not be defeated.

Yesterday afternoon the remains of poor O’Neill were interred. The number of persons who attended - than which there never was a larger or more respectable assembled on any similar occasion in this neighbourhood - bespoke how much public opinion is against the murderers. As a mark of respect to the deceased, and an expression of opinion, the shops were closed before the funeral, and continued shut until after it. All the Magistrates residing in town, and several from the country, walked in procession next the body.

Next - Letter from John Crawford re Murder

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