Ottawa Valley Poltergeist

spooky forest

The Haunting Begins

This eerie tale began in the autumn of 1889, on a farm, owned by George Dagg, and his wife, Susan, located in Clarendon, 10 kilometers from Shawville, Quebec.

George and Susan had three children at that time, Eliza, age 4, Mary, age 3, and baby John.  The Dagg family had also taken in a young girl, 11-year old Dinah.  Like many orphans from the U.K. at that time, she was brought to Canada, and these children were often placed in farm homes, where they could help out.

When Dinah was present, there were often unexplained, spontaneous fires — eight occurring in a single day.  Objects  – a water jug, butter tub and wash basin ‘flew’ around the property controlled by an “invisible agency.” Stones were thrown through windows, a harmonica played on its own, and an empty rocking chair, rocked back and forth.

Family members and neighbours heard a deep gruff voice, sounding like an old man, in the house and outdoors,  and the voice answered questions, and was heard by all.


It all began on September 15, 1889…..

Dagg # 1

“The Philadelphia Inquirer”, Jan. 13, 1890, p.6

Who Broke the Glass?

Dagg # 2


“Oh, Grandmother, see the big black thing pulling off the bedclothes.”


Dagg # 3

“The Philadelphia Inquirer”, Jan. 13, 1890, p.6


The Dagg Family Consulted with The Witch of Plum Hollow

Dagg # 4


Percy Woodcock, of Brockville, a well-known artist, and student of Psychology, began to investigate the strange occurrences at the Dagg home…..


Dagg# 5

Percy Woodcock.pngPercy Woodcock, 1879


Was it the farm-hand, Dean?


Dagg # 6

“The Dunn County News”, Menomonie, Wisconsin, Oct. 25, 1889, p.6


Some claimed it was Dinah…

Dagg # 15

“The Ottawa Journal”, Nov. 29, 1889


Dinah Burden McLean, the adopted orphan from Scotland, taken in by the kindly Dagg family, was blamed for the disturbances, and eventually was sent away to Fairknowe Home, in Brockville.  Fairknowe Home was an orphanage, and at the time Dinah was sent there, it was called The National Orphan Homes of Scotland, and later the building housed a division of the Brockville Children’s Aid.

Fairknowe Home

 Fairknowe Home for Orphans, Brockville, Ontario

Fairknowe children

Children at Fairknowe Home, Brockville, late 1890s

(a section of the Old Brockville cemetery has a large monument with the names of the children who died at Fairknowe Home)


Dagg # 16


“He claims to be a discarnated being who died twenty years ago, aged eighty years; that he gave his name to Mr. George Dagg and to Mr. Willie Dagg, forbidding them to tell it.”


Seventeen farmers and community leaders, including local politicians and clergymen, signed  witness statements to the unusual sightings, and voices heard at the Dagg farm, in the fall of 1889.

Dagg # 18


Seventeen people witnessed the disturbances of the Poltergeist, and signed a statement to that effect…


“To whom it may concern:

We, the undersigned, solemnly declare that the following curious proceedings, which began on the 15th day of September, 1889, and are still going on, on the 17th day of November, 1889, in the home of Mr. George Dagg, a farmer living seven miles from Shawville, Clarendon Township, Pontiac County, Province of Quebec, actually occurred as below described.

1st, That fires have broken out spontaneously through the house, as many as eight occurring on one day, six being in the house and two outside; that the window curtains were burned whilst on the windows, this happening in broad daylight whilst the family and neighbours were in the house.

2nd, That stones were thrown by invisible hands through the windows, as many as eight panes of glass being broken; that articles such as waterjug, milk pitcher, a wash basin, cream jug, butter tub and other articles were thrown about the house by the same invisible agency; a jar of water being thrown in the face of Mrs. John Dagg, also in the face of Mrs. George Dagg, whilst they were busy about their household duties, Mrs. George Dagg being alone in the house at the time it was thrown in her face; that a large shelf was heard distinctly to be played and was seen to move across the room on to the floor; immediately after, a rocking chair began rocking furiously. That a washboard was sent flying down the stairs from the garret, no one being in the garret at the time. That when the child Dinah is present, a deep gruff voice like that of an aged man has been heard at various times, both in the house and outdoors, and when asked questions answered so as to be distinctly heard, showing that he is cognizant of all that has taken place, not only in Mr. Dagg’s family but also in the families of the surrounding neighbourhood. That he claims to be a discarnated being who died twenty years ago, aged eighty years; that he gave his name to Mr. George Dagg and to Mr. Willie Dagg, forbidding them to tell it. That this intelligence is able to make himself visible to Dinah, little Mary and Johnnie, who have seen him under different forms at different times, at one time as a tall thin man with a cow’s head, horns and cloven foot, at another time as a big black dog, and finally as a man with a beautiful face and long white hair, dressed in white, wearing a crown with stars in it.

John Dagg Portage du Fort, PQ.; George Dagg, Portage du Fort, PQ; William Eddes, Radsford, PQ; William H. Dagg Port. du Fort; Arthur Smart, Port. du Fort; Charles A. Dagg, Port. du Fort; Bruno Morrow, Port. du Fort; Benjamin Smart, Shawville, PQ.; William J. Dagg, Shawville, PQ.; Robert F. Peever, Cobden, Ont.; Robert H. Lockhart, Port. du Fort; John Fulfrid, Port. du Fort; George H. Hodgins, Shawville; Richard F. Dagg, Shawville; George Blackwell, Haley’s, Ont.; William Smart, Portage du Fort; John J. Dagg, Portage du Fort.”


Curiosity-seekers came by the wagon-load, from neighbouring towns and villages, along with the media, to witness the Dagg Poltergeist

Dagg # 19

The Dagg house, below, as it appeared before the additions

Dagg # 3


Attested by Scores of Credible Witnesses

Dagg # 13

“The  Times”, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jan. 14, 1891, p.3


“The man left with Dinah, and she was never heard from again….”

Dagg # 4Dagg # 5

Charlie Harris, of R. R. # 2, Shawville,  was hit on the head by the Poltergeist

Dagg poltergeist # 2


“It” threw water in Mrs. Dagg’s face…..

Dagg # 6


The Dagg House 2017


Dagg # 7

Charlene Lombard, lived in the former Dagg home in 2017. Photo: Darren Brown, “The Ottawa Citizen”

Noted by the Lombard family  – a strange sound of crawling and scratching in the attic, solely focused above the original house.

Dagg # 8

Dagg house, with ‘new’ addition (added after George and Susan Dagg occupied the home)


Eliza Jane, age 4, the Dagg’s daughter, died mysteriously, during the time of the poltergeist’s visit.

Dagg # 10


Grave of Eliza Dagg, daughter of George and Susan Dagg.  She passed away in a mysterious accident, during the time of the poltergeist on the family farm.  (local lore is little Eliza was playing near a cauldron of soap, her clothing caught fire, and she burned to death)

Dagg # 11

Protestant Cemetery of Portage du Fort, Outaouais, Quebec


After the Poltergeist

After the disturbances of 1889, the lives of George Dagg and his family returned to normal, for the most part.  George became one of the most prominent farmers in the region, and served as a Councillor for Portage from 1918-1922.  Popular, and well-respected, he ran for Mayor in 1922, and was elected.  He served as Mayor of Portage for 16 years, right up until his death, in 1938.


George Dagg obit May 30 1938 Ottawa Citizen

“The Ottawa Citizen”, May 30, 1938, p.2


Dagg # 9

Protestant Cemetery of Portage du Fort, Outaouais, Quebec


Dagg # 17

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Nov. 18, 2014,
(Venetia Crawford, author and historian, with the Pontiac County, Quebec, Archives)


Dagg # 12

The Dagg house, as it appeared in 2014


Did it vanish for good, or did it return?

The old-timers say that the poltergeist vanished, and appeared like a streaking flame, as it finally left the Dagg farm, after three long months, of troublesome behavior.


Dagg # 14


Dagg # 20

The Dagg House, as it appears today.  Local people and curiosity seekers still drive by this property, and local teens have been known to walk through the yard at night, on a dare.


Would You Dare to Visit at Night?

Dagg # 20

More on the Dagg Poltergeist:

A movie about the Dagg Poltergeist, was produced by the National Film Board, and the story was published in a book by R.S. Lambert in 1955:

Exploring the Supernatural: The Weird in Canadian Folklore

1955. R.S Lambert’s book Exploring The SupernaturalThe Weird In Canadian Folklore was published, which includes a chapter of what took place at the farm in 1889.


The Ghost that Talked

The Dagg poltergeist was the subject of 1957 National Film Board movie, “The Ghost That Talked.”

“In the fall of 1889 a mysterious presence took up residence in the Dagg farmhouse in Pontiac county, Québec. This dramatization based on the first-hand report by Canadian artist Percy Woodcock shows that ghosts and poltergeists are as common in Canada as in the Old World.”

March 10th, 195730 min.


Fairknowe Home

For more information on Fairknowe Home, orphanage in Brockville:  “The Village, A History of Quarriers” , by Anna Magnusson, 1984.



‘Genealogy & DNA’ – with the LCGS

After a long, cold, winter, and many weeks of cloudy skies and rain, the warm sunshine arrived, just in time, for the May meeting of the Lanark County Genealogical Society.

LCGS logo


It’s always a pleasure to exchange ideas with fellow LCGS members, learn about new genealogy  projects, and ongoing efforts to preserve our history and heritage, and helping distant families around the world, reconnect with their pioneer roots.

Arlene Shirley and Jayne

(l to r –  long-time LCGS member, and member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, center- Shirley Somerville, Librarian and Director of Genealogical Resources, and Jayne Munro-Ouimet, LCGS President, and recipient of 2018 Award of Excellence for her outstanding contributions to Lanark County)

Also present, Helen Gillan, historian, tireless volunteer, and one of the founding members of the LCGS.

Arlene and Helen


My presentation included a brief overview of  the stories included in “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home:

Lanark County Calling book summary poster


The main topic of the afternoon was a presentation and discussion of “Genealogy and DNA”.

Genealogy and DNA

In the presentation, I compared three of the most popular DNA Home Test Kits:  ‘My Heritage’,  ’23 and Me’, and ‘Ancestry’.

Slideshow DNA

A contrast of the many varying price ranges for the DNA test kits was discussed, how each test is done, which tests are easier to use, and how soon the DNA results will be returned to the consumer.

Next, we examined some of the main features of each kit.  Some DNA kit companies provide maps of the world, with a numerical breakdown of where your DNA match ‘cousins’ may be found, and how many are in each country.

Slideshow 2 LCGS

Other kits focus more on the medical aspects of DNA, and will provide the consumer with specific information on whether they are a carrier for a variety of diseases, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, blood-sugar disorders, cancers, macular degeneration, gluten-related disorders, nerve, heart, and blood disorders.

Some of the DNA test kits provide more comprehensive information on family connections, and will show how many cousins/DNA matches are in a particular part of the world, displayed on a map, and if you choose to build a family tree, these DNA tests will provide you with matches to the people in your tree, so that you may expand your family history through cousin connections.

The presentation included the different types of family-tree building software that comes as part of the kit, the ease of use of each of these, and also the ability to upload or download your DNA results into genetic ‘pools’, like those in GEDmatch, to provide you with an even wider search capability.

I also discussed some of the issues with privacy and DNA, how some DNA test providers share our DNA results with insurance companies, drug companies, and law enforcement. We also examined many of the newest features available to the consumer.

The presentation concluded with a question and answer session, and many interesting points of discussion took place, among those attending.  Some had already taken one or more home tests, and they shared their personal views on the pros and cons of each type of test.

Arlene and Janet

Following the presentation, the book table was busy, and many stopped by to discuss the stories in ‘Lanark County Calling’, and have a copy or two signed for themselves, and signed as gifts for others.

Book signing May 2019

Karen Prytula, LCGS Director of Communications and Marketing, was busy throughout the day, coordinating the audio-visuals, and sharing updates with members. Karen very kindly presented me with a jar of Polk Honey, as thanks for the presentation.

Arlene and Karen

Arlene Stafford-Wilson with Karen Prytula, LCGS Director of Communications and Marketing.

Polk honey


Polk Honey is produced in Pakenham, by Arnold Polk, and is one of the county’s most sought-after treats.  If you’d like to try some yourself, it is available at the Pakenham General Store, 2524 County Rd 29, Pakenham, Ontario.


Following the presentation, a delicious lunch was provided, and one of the highlights of the afternoon was a lovely display of some of Lanark County’s Heritage Quilts:

quilt collage

Brian holding quilt

Brian and others holding quilt



Many thanks to the Lanark County Genealogical Society for inviting me to be with you, and present ‘Genealogy and DNA‘.  It was a wonderful afternoon, a chance to catch up with old friends, and to learn about ongoing projects, as the LCGS continues their work to preserve our heritage and history.


For more information on the Lanark County heritage quilts, please contact the LCGS:  Lanark County Genealogical Society


If  you missed the talk on ‘Genealogy and DNA’, I will be presenting this to the Smiths Falls Historical Society, September 19th, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.   All are welcome.  For details, call 613-283-6311.



The Witch of Plum Hollow

“Though the appellation of “witch”

may have a sinister sound,

her name is honoured and revered

in the district in which she lived.”   

“The Ottawa Journal”, May 14, 1953


witch at Hallow'en


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, an unattractive 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 they settled in Ontario, 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. After her husband left, Jane’s son Williston ‘Ton’, and his family, moved into the little cabin with Jane, to offer her support.

Williston Barnes

Jane’s son, Williston Barnes, and his wife Lydia Compo

Williston Barnes and friends at cabin

L to R:  Williston ‘Ton’ Barnes , two visitors (unknown), and Lydia Compo Barnes in front of Jane’s tiny cabin, where they all lived.

David Barnes, Jane’s estranged husband,  moved in with their son Samuel Barnes, who had a home in Smiths Falls, and who later became Mayor.

Samuel Barnes son of Jane Barnes

Samuel Martin Barnes, son of Jane Barnes, and Mayor of Smiths Falls – 1897 & 1898


Samuel Barnes was among several other prominent business leaders who brought about the incorporation of the ‘Smiths Falls, Rideau, and Southern Railway Company‘, in January of 1898.  The purpose of the incorporation was to construct and operate railways in, through and from the Town of Smiths Falls, in the County of Lanark.

The other members were James Maitland Clark, John Reeve Lavell, Alpheus Patterson, Richard Alexander Bennett, Matthew Ryan, Robert J. Brodie, Adam Foster, Robert Hawkins, George T. Martin, and Alexander Gray Farrell, all of the Town of Smiths Falls.

Samuel married Agnes Chalmers, and they had a large family of 10 children.  Their youngest was Roy Barnes.

Roy Barnes in 1947, Grandson of Mother Barnes (Witch of Plum Hollow)

Roy Barnes

Roy Barnes, son of Samuel Barnes, grandson of Mother Barnes, he moved to Copper Cliff, and was an Inco employee beginning in 1910.  “Inco Triangle”, Volume 6, Number 11, February 1947 page 12, (part one of two-part article)

Part 2 of Roy Barnes article

Roy Barnes story part 2

“Inco Triangle”, Volume 6, Number 11, February 1947, page 13, (part two of two-part article)

Jane, in need of an income to raise all of their children, began to read tea leaves.

Witch of Plum Hollow # 4

“The Ottawa Journal”, Aug. 7, 1943, p. 14


“This week, we present a story related by David Farmer, of Cumberland, who had actual contact with Mother Barnes, in his youth, and says her fortune telling was positively uncanny.”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 16Witch of Plum Hollow # 17

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Feb. 9, 1935


“He was a sound man, a solid man, a man who declared he couldn’t be carried away by the foolish capers of an old women; no sir, not he.”


Witch of Plum Hollow Michael Fizmaurice

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Dec. 9, 1933


Connections to the Joynt Family

“Three generations of Joynt women, descendants of Mother Barnes – Lera Joynt, her daughter Carol, with Susan Joynt and Lisa Joynt, daughters of well-known farmer and auctioneer John Joynt.

“I recall Grampa Samuel Barnes telling of hitching up the horses for the long ride from Smiths Falls to Plum Hollow.”, Lera reminisced.

Witch of Plum Hollow Joynt family

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Oct. 28, 1982


She predicted the return of a stolen wallet

Witch of Plum Hollow # 18

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Jan. 3, 1951


The Ancient Art of Fortune-Telling

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.  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.

One of her most famous customers was the future Prime Minister of Canada, John A. MacDonald.

John A Macdonald

John A. Macdonald, 1st Canadian Prime Minister, client of Jane Barnes

He asked Mother Barnes where Queen Victoria would locate the capital of Canada…

Witch of Plum Hollow # 9

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Aug. 6, 1989, p. 39


She located a lost deed, for the Jackson family


Witch of Plum Hollow # 5

“The Ottawa Journal”, June 3, 1933, p. 16


Albert Hudson, C.P.R. Engineer, was driving through the country, near Plum Hollow, and out of curiosity called upon the witch, and had his fortune told….

“After I am dead”, said the witch, “you will lose a hand and part of your arm”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 1

“The Ottawa Journal”, Oct. 11, 1895, p. 5

“She always wore a dark dress, with a cape or a shawl, and her fee was twenty-five cents.”  If a customer couldn’t afford her fee, she would accept dried apples, or tea, as payment.”

Jane Barnes old


Interesting Career of Mother Barnes –  ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow’

By: Harry D.  Blanchard, “The Athens Reporter”, Feb. 1936

“As promised, we shall, here and now endeavor to do justice to the memory of a lady of the old school, who truly had as keen and as well trained and as thoroughly disciplined an intellect as anyone of our day and generation in our beloved native county.  We refer to our long ago departed and much respected fellow citizen, who was early known as “Mother Barnes”, who as her years increased was usually designated as “Old Mother Barnes” and who was unjustly, and with crude irreverence, spoken of by those who knew her least as “The Witch of Plum Hollow.”  The Old Farmersville folk never called her by such a name, nor did any of her neighbours who knew her best, for all who were intimate with her respected her and treated her with deference.  It is true that she had a sharp tongue, but the only folk who ever felt its stinging lash were those from far distant parts who at times came into her presence with boisterous demeanor.  She was pre-eminently fitted to handle just such a case and in a few crisp quietly spoken, even gentle words, she promptly put the culprit in his place and engendered in his heart and mind an infinitesimally small estimate of his own worth and importance in affairs terrestrial and in divine matters of the spirit world.  Such a smart visitor went away dazed and with a deep realization of the fact that here in the backwoods of Canada was a personality which dominated everyone and everything in a manner far transcending that of any of the national orators, preachers, politicians, lecturers, phrenologists and other celebrities then the vogue in New York, London, Paris.  This characteristic, and her native ability to see right through everyone, and even turn their  minds and thoughts inside out, after a few moments’ conversation: these two God-given attributes made Mother Barnes famous and compelled the people to beat a track to her door to her little tea studio up under the eaves, for many long years.

If anyone wishes to make a shrine of the old home of Mother Barnes, which would be a fitting way to perpetuate her memory, he can easily locate the house by turning north from Main Street, Athens, at Sydney Taplin’s old corner, now owned by Mrs. Avis Daniels Harte.  He should then proceed along Elgin Street, past the Area Parish Memorial Park on his right, and so along Livingstone Avenue, past the Villa to the Guide-board corner.  Here, he should turn neither to the left along Wright Avenue to Plum Hollow, nor to the left along Robeson Avenue to Hard Island.  He should keep straight ahead north along Eliada Parish Avenue to Mother Barnes Avenue, which is the town-line between Yonge and Kitley.  There, on the southwest corner is Mother Barnes’ old home, Lot 13, Concession 11 Yonge.  Mother Barnes Avenue runs from Atkins Lake, north of Rockspring, through Eloida, all the way to Soperton.

Mother Barnes was born Elizabeth Martin. She was a dearly loved daughter of Col. Martin, of the British Army, but when she came of age, she ran away with the man of her choice, Sergeant Robert Harrison, coming to America in a sailing ship which took six weeks in crossing.  Thus, having disobeyed the wishes of her parents, she was a stranger to them during the rest of her pilgrimage below, true to the then prevailing mode in English families of the military, clergy, and gentry class.  Elizabeth ‘Jane’ Martin, and her husband settled in Cobourg, Upper Canada, where one son, Robert Harrison Jr., was born to them, who in later life became Colonel Robert Harrison, commanding officer of a regiment from Kansas in the American Civil War.  Col. Robert Harrison died in Kansas, and his mother in her home, at the corner of Mother Barnes and Eliada Parish Avenues, had his pictures in full regimentals.  After the death of her husband, Robert Harrison, the elder, Mother Barnes, then known as Mrs. Elizabeth Martin Harrison, married David Barnes, an American, by whom she had nine children.  John and Thomas died in youth.  Next came Lucy, born in 1837, who married Joseph Haskin, of Plum Hollow.  They moved to Modale, Iowa, travelling in a covered wagon.  After the death of her husband, Lucy married a cousin of our dear old neighbour, Horace Brown, of Farmersville.  She last visited her Athens cousins in 1906 but died some years ago.  Next, came Samuel Barnes, a blacksmith, who married Agnes Chalmers of Montague, near Smiths Falls, a cousin of our old chum, Will Chalmers.  Their daughter, Mrs. Lily Barnes, still resided in Smiths Falls when the record was made a few years ago.  It was in the home of Mrs. And Mrs. Samuel Barnes, Smiths Falls, that David Barnes, husband of Mother Barnes, died.  The next child was David Barnes, also a blacksmith.  He went to Iowa in early life and died there.  Next came Margaret, who married Arthur Robeson, of Sharbot Lake, where she died. Next came George of Athens, who married Clare Kyo, of Watertown, N.Y., and died young. Next, came Williston Barnes, of Eloida, who married Lydia Compo.  Last came Jane Elizabeth Barnes, (Janie) born March 1st, 1847, who was the wife of our very popular old neighbour, Charlie Wing, of Farmersville.  Mrs. Wing died Nov. 10, 1910.  In one of our stories we described the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wing, on Elgin Street, which was one of the neatest, best kept and most attractive in the village.  An adopted daughter of Mother Barnes and her husband David was Bella Sheldon, who was the wife of our cheerful old neighbour, Erastus Livingston.

And now we feel better, for we have completed a pleasant task, which has confronted me for a long time.  We wanted to do justice to Mother Barnes, but it is not until now that we have been able to get around to it.  We think that our good friend, Prof. Fred Lawdon, of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board, should see to it that the site of the old home of Mother Barnes is suitably marked for the enlightenment of posterity.  Canada has never had as one of its citizens a lady of stronger character or keener intellect than Mother Barnes and this brief story of her life, which will be permanently preserved in the Canadian Archives, should be called to the attention of posterity by a suitable marking of the place of her residence and the centre of her activity, her old home near Lake Loyada (Eloida).  Thus, Elizabeth Martin, a daughter of the gentry of England, lived among us for three-quarters of a century.  What did she think of us?  If she had put her impressions in the form of a book, it would now have an enormous sale.”


She predicted the location of money stolen from a resident of South March

Witch of Plum Hollow # 10

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Aug. 12, 1939, p. 26


“She helped local police solve a murder.”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 2

“The Ottawa Journal”, Aug. 31, 1940, p. 15

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.


“It was alleged by many, that Mrs. Barnes could tell all about a person, a hair from whose head was presented to her.”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 15

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Dec. 12, 1925, p.2

“They said Mother Barnes seemed to have eyes that could penetrate the very inmost soul…”


news about Mother Barnes


“Kelly’s grandmother took his father to visit the witch in 1883.  The cabin was guarded by ferocious dogs, and he climbed a rickety ladder to the second floor…..”

Witch of Plum Hollow Thomas P. Kelly Jr. 1968

“The Ottawa Citizen”, June 20, 1968


“Mother Barnes predicted deposits of silver on the farm of Lupton Wrathall, Lot 15, Con. 6”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 19

“A geological survey conducted by J. Dugas, Department of Mines, Ottawa, 1948-1949, made no reference to silver, but the department admits the possibility of silver outcroppings in the Harper area, although anything found would likely be of a small quantity.”   (an excerpt from an article in ‘The Perth Courier’, “Harper, a Hamlet Steeped in Folklore”, December 12, 1963.


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.


“The walls in the little room downstairs, were closely covered with the names of people from Canada and the United States, who had come to have their fortunes told.”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 3

“The Montreal Gazette”, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 9


She predicted her own horse’s death

Witch of Plum Hollow predicts horse dying

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Dec. 19, 1932

 “Her fame spread all over this continent, and on any week-day, a motley cavalcade of saints and sinners waited on this remarkable women. Politicians, and peddlers, rich and poor, all consulted the Witch of Plum Hollow”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 7

“The Ottawa Journal”, May 14, 1953, p. 12


“After paying a nominal fee to the old lady, McLaughlin told his story, then sat back, while she consulted her cards.”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 20Witch of Plum Hollow # 21

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Feb. 8, 1936


“Why do they come to see her?

What do they seek?


Witch of Plum Hollow what do they seek

“The Ottawa Journal”, Nov. 10, 1945, p.19.


 Jane’s tiny cabin fell into disrepair over the years, and was listed for sale in 2004

Witch of Plum Hollow # 13

Mother Barnes’ cabin, for sale in 2004


Eloda Wachsmuth Buys and Repairs Jane’s Little Cabin

Eloda Wachsmuth, of Navan, Ontario, purchased the cabin in 2005, and invested $35,000 to restore the home, using much of the original logs and lumber in the restoration.  Eloda wanted to preserve the history of Jane Barnes, so that she would be remembered.

Witch of Plum Hollow # 12

After Restoration:    Photo of cabin of Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes, Amy Mackie, Brockville Museum, Brockville, Ontario

By the fall of 2007, the cabin was restored, and it was Eloda’s intention that it would be open to the public, so they could learn about Jane Barnes and her years spent as a well-known fortune-teller.

Jane's cabin

Mother Barnes, as she was affectionately referred to in Leeds, lived a long life, and passed away, at the age of 90,  in that same little cabin, where she had shared her predictions over the years.

Jane Barnes' death certificate

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes, fell ill with pneumonia, and died on Feb. 4th, 1891, at the age of 90.    (Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 61)


Witch of Plum Hollow # 14

329 Mother Barnes Road – Google Maps


Witch of Plum Hollow # 8

Illustration by: Dallyn Lynde, “The Ottawa Citizen”, 1989


Mother Barnes drawing 1889

obit of Mother Barnes

“Winnipeg Tribune”, Feb. 17, 1891, p.1

Witch of Plum Hollow # 11

“The Smiths Falls Recorder”, Feb. 6, 1891


Mother Barnes Ottawa Free Press 1891 Perth Museum

(first line should read, “Mrs. David Barnes…” (Samuel was her son).  This is a transcript of an article published in “The Ottawa Free Press”, March 16, 1891, and is from the collection housed at the Perth Museum, Perth, Ontario)


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’. (note: the dates on the stone are incorrect)

Claude Flood, Plum Hollow Cheese Factory

Claude Flood, Cheesemaker, Plum Hollow Cheesefactory, and admirer of Mother Barnes. He and his wife, Ella, paid for a headstone to mark her grave. (dates on stone incorrect)  Claude Flood came to Plum Hollow in 1924 and worked as the Cheesemaker until 1960, when he sold it to a Co-Op.

Plum Hollow cheese factory 2015

Sadly, the Plum Hollow Cheese Factory burned down in 2015


Jane's gravestone

Dates on headstone should be 1801-1891 as per Jane’s death provincial registration (Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 61)

Children of Jane Barnes:

Robert J. Harrison Jr.        1829-

John Barnes                        1831-1832

Margaret Barnes               1832-1891

Thomas Barnes                  1833-1857

Lucy Barnes                       1836-1929

Samuel Barnes                   1837-1922

David Barnes                      1840-1923

Williston Barnes                1845-1920

George Barnes                   1846-1906

Jane ‘Janie’ Barnes            1847-1910

Bella Sheldon                     1853-1935

Descendants of Mother Barnes:

Jane had a large family, including three adopted children.

Her son David Barnes died in infancy, age 1,  and her son Thomas Barnes lived only until age 24.

Her eldest daughter, Margaret ‘Maggie’ Barnes, at the age of 52, married James Robinson.

Her daughter, Lucy Barnes married Metcalfe Peer,  Joseph Haskin,  and Alva Brown

Her son, Samuel Martin Barnes married Agnes Chalmers

Her son, David Barnes married Fannie Ryel

Her son, Williston ‘Ton’ Barnes, married Lydia Compo

Her son, George W. Barnes married Clarissa ‘Clara’ Kio  

Her daughter, Jane, married Charles Wing

Other surnames in ‘Mother’ Barnes family:   Bell,  Joynt,  Cooper, Goodwin, Williams, Buchanan




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”  ISBN 978-0-987-702661

lanark County Calling for blog