The Witch of Plum Hollow

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.

fortune telling room

(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 Barnes young

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.

tea leaf reading painting

 

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

Loose tea was measured into a tea pot filled with boiling water

 

tea pot

After the tea was consumed, the loose leaves lay at the bottom of the cup

 

holding a cup with leaves

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.

tea leaf 3

tea leaf symbols

The images of the leaves in the cup were often matched with a series of standard symbols, used by many in the trade.

tea leaf symbols 2

 

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.

Jane Barnes old

 

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.

newsclipping about mother barnes

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.

 

news about Mother Barnes

 

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.

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Jane’s little cabin still stands today.

Jane's cabin

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.

obit of Mother Barnes

 

Jane is buried at the Sheldon Cemetery

 

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’

 

Jane's gravestone

 

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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”

LCCalling poster for web png

 

 

 

Book Launch “Lanark County Calling”

Lanark County Calling:  All Roads Lead Home

Travel back in time, through Lanark County, and beyond, in this collection of stories. The adventure begins in Perth, Ontario, where you’ll meet trailblazer, Sophia Haggis, a local confectioner, also known as ‘the Candy Lady’. Next, sample some popcorn at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, while you meet the folks who made sure your night at the movies went off without a hitch. Your next stop is Ferguson Falls, where you may encounter a ghostly apparition, searching for their lost love, along the shores of the Mississippi River.  Join the unforgettable party at one of the most popular country music festivals of our time – the legendary Ompah Stomp.  Meet the Witch of Plum Hollow, an Irish fortune-teller, who helped local police solve crimes. Come along on this captivating journey, through some of the most intriguing places in Eastern Ontario.

Saturday, September 29th,  12 noon – 3 p.m.

at The Book Nook and Other Treasures,

60 Gore St. E., Perth, Ontario

Book launch for blog

 

7th book in the series of Lanark County stories

 

Lanark County Calling - book cover Aug

 

Acknowledgement:

Thanks to those who ‘pulled back the curtain’ for an insider’s glimpse behind the scenes at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, Ontario:  Jan Stepniak, Gordon Evoy, Violet Gariepy, Scott Irvine Jr., and Tammy DeSalvo.

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Special thanks to award-winning country music artist Neville Wells, and also to Marilyn Taylor Dunham for sharing their memories, stories, and special recollections of the legendary Ompah Stomp.

 

for poster

 

The Legendary Ompah Stomp

Visit this unforgettable party through it’s beginnings in 1978, through it’s glory days, up to the year 2000, its final year.

ompah stomp for blog

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A Night at the Movies:  The Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls

Discover the history of this popular destination, and meet the fascinating folks who played key roles in this beloved movie theatre!

soper theatre for blog

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Sophia Haggis – Perth’s Candy Lady

Meet trail-blazer Sophia Haggis  –   take a trip down memory lane and visit Sophia in the pretty town of Perth, and sample some of her mouth-watering confections.

 

haggis candy for blog

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The Ghost of Ferguson Falls

Go back to the early days in Drummond township when the loggers came to town, sang their songs, spent their pay on liquor, and danced ’til they wore out the floorboards at Charlie Hollinger’s Hotel.  Meet local lad Jimmy, whose life ended all too soon.

lumber jacks

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The Witch of Plum Hollow

Visit this pretty hamlet, and meet an interesting Irish lady with some special abilities.  Discover the people she helped, and the crimes she solved.

witch of p h for blog

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Join us at the book launch on Saturday September 29th from noon to 3 p.m.

All are welcome.

See you there!

 

(lots of local names and familiar places in this collection of stories!)