The Historic Tragedy of 1807 An Interesting Find forming the Sequel thereto.

The Murder of JOHN SHARP by an INDIAN. The Loss of the SPEEDY.

In the early days of the past century when the front was but sparsely settled and the back townships were in the possession of the roaming red skins, it was the custom of some of the more daring and adventurous spirits of the early frontier settlers to make annual visits into the wilds toward the north during the less busy season of late winter, or early spring, for the purpose of trading with the Indians. They would thus obtain the winter’s capture of furs from the aborigines giving in exchange the necessaries of life such as clothing, knives, utensils, powder, etc., and also luxuries, including “firewater”, the latter though in sparing quantities.

In the winter of early part of 1807 two brothers, William and Moody Farewell, settlers on Oshawa Creek, and progenitors of the present Farewell families of Oshawa and Whitby neighbourhood, accompanied by John Sharp, paid their annual visit of barter to Lake Scugog vicinity.

Pitching their tent on what is now called Washburn Island and leaving Sharp to take care of the camp and incidentally trade, the Farewell brothers pushed on up the Nonquon Creek to barter with a band of Indians encamped in that locality. Having finished their trading they returned to find that Sharp had been murdered by an Indian, his skull having been smashed in.

They buried his remains east of the spring at which they had encamped and proceeded on the trail of the Indian who had gone south. They arrived at Mr. Eleazor Lockwood’s settlement on Ontario’s shore near Oshawa, and narrated to him the story. He had the previous day noticed a party of Indians encamped on the shore near his place and observed one, who was intoxicated engaging the attention of the rest of the band, who were more or less in a similar state, with a pantomimic narration of the killing of a white man and procuring of his whiskey. This was just the clue the Farewell’s wanted. Moody Farewell, accompanied by Lockwood, immediately pursued the Indians up the shore of Ontario and located the band on what is now called Toronto Island, where, with the assistance of Col. Givins, the Indian superintendent, they effected the capture of the whole band. The Indian was brought to trial before Mr. Justice Cochran and Solicitor General Gray. The Counsel, who was assigned the task of defending O-go-tong-nat, raised the question of jurisdiction as the crime was then called the “Newcastle District,” while the court was sitting in the “Home District.” The result was that the Court, witnesses and prisoner, in the following fall embarked on the government schooner “The Speedy” in charge of Capt. Paxton, bound down the lake for the “Town of Newcastle” in the Newcastle district to legally carry on the trial. When out a few miles off the shore at the “Town of Newcastle,” which by the way was only a town on paper, and located at Presque Isle, a fierce gale struck the doomed vessel and in the night she foundered will all on board.

The sole survivors of the case were Lockwood and Farewell, who proceeded down the lakeshore by canoe instead of the government boat. Thus ended the history of the murder of Sharp and the loss of the Speedy.


One afternoon in the first week of August, while Mr. Gilfillan, Headmaster of Bowmanville H.S., and Mr. J. W. Odell, Math Master Cobourg C.I., were strolling along the shore of Washburn Island, where they were spending holidays, the latter noticed the end of a bone protruding from the edge of a bank. His curiosity being aroused he immediately began to satisfy it by excavating. The further he proceeded the more mysterious grew the mystery as the bones proved themselves to be human. At last the whole skeleton was exhumed though in a very decayed condition. It was at first thought to be that of an Indian, but on piecing the fragments of the skull together, Dr. Blewett, of Chicago, Dr. Trebilcock, of Enniskillen and W.H. Elliott, B.T. Vice Principal of Toronto Normal School, unhesitatingly declared it to be that of a white man with a remarkably well “bumped” cranium. Still more mysterious grew the mystery, for on examination, death had evidently resulted from one or more severe blows on the left side of the skull which had been crushed in. The upper and lower jaws were smashed with a tomahawk or hatchet knocking out the front teeth, while all the rest were in an excellent state of preservation without a sign of ante mortem decay.

The body presented the appearance of a hurried burial, as it was only about two feet below the surface of the earth. The grave was situated about twelve rods east of the spring where the traders had encamped, and the crime committed, on Henry Bowen’s farm, from whom the writer obtained the greater portion of the story of this tragedy.

The facts of the murder of Sharp by O-go-tang-nat and his burial east of the spring on Bowen’s farm with the finding of a skeleton of a white man almost in the exact place as narrated, with indication so plainly pointing the manner of death, prove beyond a doubt, that the remains are those of the unfortunate Sharp. --- J.W.O.

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