The readings always began the same way, with her visitors climbing the rickety wooden stairs to her cramped attic reading room. She motioned her guests to sit across from her, at a small pine table. A fresh pot of tea sat on the table, along with two cups. She’d pick up the pot, shake it vigorously, and pour a cup, watching as the leaves slowly sank to the bottom. Next, she swirled the tea around, poured the liquid back into the pot, then instructed her visitor to do the same.
(the attic in Jane Barnes’ cabin)
Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes was a beautiful, young, woman when she arrived in North America. She left her home in England after refusing to marry a man twice her age. Her father, a Colonel had instructed her to wed his friend, a middle-aged soldier, and Jane would have no part of it. Instead, she fell in love with a handsome young man, Robert Harrison, and they left Britain together, married, and had a son.
Sadly, Robert died shortly after, and Jane was left alone to raise their baby.
Jane had a lovely slim frame, fair complexion, and bright eyes. It wasn’t long before she began to date again, and a young shoemaker, David Barnes, won her heart. They married and settled near Lake Eloida, not far from Plum Hollow, about fifteen miles south of Smiths Falls, in Leeds & Grenville, Ontario. Jane and David had a large family – six sons, three daughters, and Jane took in three neighbourhood orphans after their mother passed.
Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes
Jane’s husband David, was a bit of a wanderer, and he left her, abandoned the children, and moved to Smiths Falls.
Jane, in need of an income to raise all of their children, began to read tea leaves.
In the late 1800s, telling one’s fortune by reading tea leaves became very popular.
In those days, loose tea was used, and so the leaves at the bottom of the cup often formed shapes or patterns, and these were interpreted by the fortune-teller, to predict future events.
Loose tea was measured into a tea pot filled with boiling water
After the tea was consumed, the loose leaves lay at the bottom of the cup
Then, the fortune-teller, or tea-leaf-reader, would interpret the meaning of the individual’s leaves.
Many believed that the position of the leaves in the cup itself, had meaning.
The images of the leaves in the cup were often matched with a series of standard symbols, used by many in the trade.
News of Jane’s accuracy in her predictions spread quickly, and she had visitors from neighbouring towns, cities, provinces, and even visitors from the northern states.
During Jane’s time telling fortunes she was able to find missing objects, missing farm animals, and even missing people. Jane’s predictions were so accurate that even the police called on her to assist them from time to time. She even had a few very famous customers, in the many decades of her practice, in that little cabin in the country.
As the decades passed, news about Jane’s gift for predicting continued to spread far and wide, and there were often carriages lined up down the road near her little cabin.
Young people went to Jane to ask advice on their love lives and she was able to predict who they would marry. If any of the neighbours misplaced anything, they walked to Jane’s little cabin and she would tell them exactly where to look. Farmers went to Jane when their cattle or horses wandered off, and she always directed them to precisely the right spot. Business people consulted Jane for advice on their professions, and politicians sought her advice on elections and policies.
Jane’s little cabin still stands today.
Mother Barnes, as she was affectionately referred to in Leeds, lived a long life, and passed away in that same little cabin, where she had shared her predictions over the years.
Jane is buried at the Sheldon Cemetery
When Jane passed, she was buried in an unmarked grave.
Plum Hollow cheese-makers from 1924-1974, Claude and Ella Flood, erected a stone in memory of ‘Mother Barnes’
Discover the fascinating story of Jane Barnes, and her years as a local fortune-teller. Find out about some of Jane’s most prominent and famous customers. Who were the high-profile movers and shakers who sought Jane’s advice on a regular basis? Read about a grisly murder case that perplexed police, and was finally solved by Jane. Who was the famous and controversial newspaper publisher who sent his wife to ask Jane’s predictions because he didn’t want to be seen visiting a ‘fortune-teller’. Learn about the case of a poltergeist in Quebec, where the family seeks Jane’s help in solving the violent and frightening haunting of their house. Discover these stories and more, in the book “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”, the complete story of Jane Barnes, a gifted lady, also known as – ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow”