The Darlings of Ireland


Early Puslinch benefited from a tradition of being served by a continuous procession of capable and responsible elected representatives at all levels of government and this is not surprisingly so, for the community minded citizens of Puslinch had a well engrained heritage as keen political observers, readily recognizing those who could be trusted to, generally speaking, lead in the right direction.


Remarkably, in Puslinch Township history there have even been occasions when political fervour has overwhelmed us to the extent that some individuals have considered, at least briefly, armed insurrection against their own country and accordingly, even against their own neighbours, as evidenced in the newspaper articles that follow on the Fenian adventures in Puslinch.  Readers are, however, assured beforehand of a happy outcome, for the individual involved did ultimately regret and fully relinquish support of this endeavour and, with equal enthusiasm redirected, garnered full and publicly conferred redemption through long standing service in his community.










(from the Guelph Mercury newspaper for Wednesday May 6th 1868.)


“Important Revelations about their Organizations in Ontario

“Arrest of two men under suspicion near Guelph

“Full details of their capture”


We referred in yesterday’s paper to several ominous rumours, which were in circulation in Toronto and elsewhere, in regard to some important revelations which had come to the knowledge of the Provincial Government about the movements of Fenians, and their connections with similar organizations in the United States.  The information we had in our possession was such as to lead to the belief that two or more parties in the neighbourhood of Guelph would be arrested, but we were not at liberty yesterday to say anything in regard to it.  Since then, however, the arrests have been made, and we now place before our readers the fullest details regarding these arrests.


Government detectives Follis and Lambert came up to Guelph on the 10:00 a.m. train and placed in Chief Constable Kelly’s hands a warrant for the arrest of Peter Mahon, of Aberfoyle, son of Patrick Mahon, farmer, there.  Mr. Kelly, in company with a constable from the town, proceeded to Aberfoyle and arrested young Mahon and brought him up to Guelph, where he was lodged in gaol on the suspicion of being a Fenian, and acting in concert with the Fenian organization in Canada and the United States.  Mahon is about 28 years of age, and an active, intelligent, and determined young fellow.  Many of our readers will recollect that he took much interest in the Parliamentary elections last fall in Puslinch.  Previous to the election day, however, he left for Cleveland, where business of a more urgent and important character called him, his journey there being to attend the Fenian gathering held at that city about the same time.


The party sent to arrest him reached his house about noon, and found the father with two other men and the sister at dinner.  A long lane led to the house, and to avert suspicion, Follis went the first under the pretext of selling apple trees.  Mahon refused to buy any, but offered to direct the official to a neighbour who would.  At this stage, chief constable Kelly and his assistant made a run for the house.  Mahon’s sister whispered a word in his ear and he made towards a rear window, evidently with the intention of making his escape into the woods.  The detective ordered him to stand, and seeing resistance useless, he complied.   He then demanded the warrant, and on being shown it, he stated that he did not deny being a Fenian at heart, and thought it a shame of any Irishman who would; but that he did not believe in fighting for them; that they had nothing against him and desired to know how much bail would be received.


The Globe’s reporter, in his special dispatch detailing the arrest thus speaks of Mahon: The man Mahon turns out to be one of the most ardent Fenians in Canada and a leading member of the order in this section.  His record is proof of this.


He attended Fenian gatherings lately held at Chicago and Cleveland; and at the former place was once overheard in close conversation with General O’Neill in reference to the invasion of Canada.  O’Neill then spoke in a tone of disapproval of the movement, when Mahon protested at the general’s seeming despondency or indifference, stating that he could guarantee a general rising if a scheme were again attempted.  To elude the detectives, whom he supposed on his track, he assumed the name of McManus, and would undoubtedly have succeeded in returning home without the least suspicion, had not this conversation been overheard before and since that time.  It is now ascertained that his communications with the Brotherhood were regular and connected.  He resides at a lonely locality where he exercises a considerable amount of influence, and through his instrumentality, the feeble foothold the order has obtained here has been gained.


  His family has a bad record.  Of the whole number, he himself perhaps is the most respectable.  His father was arrested some years ago for counterfeiting, but escaped through a flaw in the indictment.  His brother served a term in gaol for robbery.


Mahon was a collector in the Township of Puslinch for the Irish relief fund, a project got up for the wives of the Manchester and other Fenians killed or incarcerated in the United Kingdom.  James O’Neil, a tavern keeper in Guelph was treasurer and gave a receipt for $20.00 in silver, as the amount received from Mahon.  The receipt was found on the prisoner, and at first supposed to have been given by General O’Neill, but a conversation with Mr. O’Neil has satisfied us that the statement made is correct, Mahon’s books show $21.75 collected for the object.  What became of the remainder does not appear.  Mr. O’Neil says he had no acquaintance with Mahon previous to his being appointed collector.  The search of Mahon’s house only revealed three rusty muskets and two fowling pieces, two bullet moulds and some balls.  This appears to be the only property worthy of the attention of the officers.




Another “suspect arrested”—John Murphy in gaol


After the return of the detectives and police from Aberfoyle, they went in search of another “suspect”, in the person of John Murphy, son of _______ Murphy, who works a small farm near Judge MacDonald’s, and peddles milk through town.  Murphy is about 18 years of age, rather swellish in his appearance, and was some time in London last year as a clerk in a store.  When he left that city he came to Guelph, and since that time has been going about idle.  It appears that it was through a slip of this party that the existence of Fenianism in this locality was first ascertained. 


Murphy, while working in London, dropped a letter, which, on being examined, proved to be from a man named McManus, at Aberfoyle, the centre of “Little Ireland”.  This letter, although worded with care, disclosed the fact that McManus, who will be readily recognized as Mahon, was entering into an arrangement to extend the workings of the organization to London.  It was thus ascertained that a correspondence had been regularly kept up between Murphy in London and Mahon, here, the upshot of which was besides the extension of the order, the execution of a number of daring designs, neither creditable to their judgement nor honourable to their positions.  Mahon especially displayed the rascal, and the facts, which for obvious reasons it is as yet injudicious to publish, go to prove him one of the villains yet unconvicted. 


Murphy, in the meantime, was active in his exertions, but although the stipendiary magistrate was aware of these facts, he was for a while baffled to know who the parties were.  Peter McManus was proved to be Mahon but Murphy was unknown in London.  Ultimately, the latter too became known, but then he removed to Guelph and was for a time lost.  About two weeks ago, Government Constable Caldwell saw a man whom he took to be the suspected individual, and yesterday, he and detective Lambert of Toronto were detailed to arrest him while the others proceeded after Mahon.  He was stopping with his father, and this point the detectives visited, but did not find him, his sister stating that he had gone to Mahon’s.  The parties who went there did not recognize him as one of those present at the arrest of Mahon but subsequent developments proved that he was.  After a vain search until evening, and when the officers were giving up the search for the day, he was met coming across the railway station and was at once arrested. On being shown the warrant, he at once stated that if he had known an hour or two before that he was wanted, no one would have been able to find him, and bewailed the fact that he did not take the hint when he saw Mahon taken off.  He was evidently much affected by his novel situation.  His house was subsequently searched and a quantity of old worn out gold lace sewed on red cloth obtained.


The information in possession of the Government clearly points to a fact not generally known but now proved.  For some time Guelph and vicinity has been the central point for Fenian operations in Ontario.  Its emissaries from the other side have here found shelter when denied it elsewhere, from fear of the law or other motives, and the prominent Fenians assumed a boldness of tone and defiant attitude not observable in the suspected ones in any other section of the Province.  In numbers, they are next to Montreal or Quebec, while almost invariably the delegates to the Fenian councils have come from here.  From this, it should not be inferred that they are numerically stronger, but rather that their overt acts are more palpable and their prominence more apparent than in the actions of the same class of misguided men in other sections.  The action of the government has, in no instance, been determined on until full evidence was in their possession to warrant the act, and the extent of this is to involve others in the same difficulty.




Arrest of Suspect Fenians in Toronto


On Monday, Patrick Boyle and Edward Hynes, publishers of the “Irish Canadian” newspaper, with Owen Cosgrove and Jno. Nolan, all for a long time suspected of having strong Fenian proclivities, and one or two at least as being at the head of the organization in this Province, were arrested in Toronto.    The arrest took place while each of the parties named was at his ordinary occupation, and without allowing the lapse of sufficient time  to afford the doomed ones to escape or even to communicate their fate to others who might dread retribution for seditious leanings.


When the detective went to the “Irish Canadian” office, he first addressed himself to Boyle, whom he slightly knew, and no sooner had he done so than the former assumed a colour approaching to death-like whiteness.  His mission was evidently surmised.  Asking for Hynes, Boyle pointed him out as working at a case, when, taking a sudden grasp of the party with whom he was in conversation, “In the Queen’s name,” Boyle sank in a chair.  Hynes retained his composure, and both readily acquiesced to the demand to give their arms to the grasp of the handcuffs.  On taking their prisoner downstairs, Boyle volunteered the statement that the Hibernian Benevolent Society had no connection with Fenianism, and the authorities could not prove that it had.  The letters and papers in the office were seized.  The letters are mainly of a business character, but reveal the tendency of public opinion since the perpetration of the recent assassination in a forcible manner.  From these letters it would appear that the circulation of the “Irish Canadian” must have decreased considerably since the murder of Mr. McGee.  A few, as indicated by the letters opened, refuse the papers any longer in consequence of its expression in reference to the murder and their conviction that Fenianism was the real cause, while a majority of those read express a fear that their subscribing to the paper will lead them into trouble.  Many of the letters remained unopened, and were immediately, after being found, packed in a box and forwarded to Ottawa.  A sufficient number were, however, read, to indicate an active correspondence between Boyle and parties in Malone, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago and other cities in the United States.


When Cosgrove was taken, he changed his clothes, and afterwards attempted to take dinner, but instead burst out crying.  He was ultimately taken to gaol in a cab amid a flood of tears.  His house was subsequently searched, and the coloured saddle cloth, bunches of rosettes, a green sash, etcetera, that have done duty in the cause of Ireland on each succeeding 17th of March, together with a very handsome Colt revolver, were taken possession of.


When Nolan was arrested, he submitted peaceably but, without request, he protested that he was a member of no organization except the Hibernian Benevolent Society, that its by-laws were open to the public, and that they could do nothing to him.


The small, almost totally insignificant value placed on the documents found on the prisoners and the careless use of them leads clearly to the inference that the Government is acting on other than the information expected to be obtained here.  It is a fact that will now bear mentioning that for months a strict surveillance has been placed on the movements of the parties arrested, and that the visits of Boyle to the United States, their objects and results, are as clearly on record as if communicated by himself.  Further investigation has placed in the hands of the Government many documents, among them a subscription list, got up by Boyle for Michael Murphy, and later for the assistance of Whelan too.  Nor can it be too soon to state that detectives have ingratiated themselves into the confidence of solid-looking walls and the bottoms of houses where the brotherhood were wont to assemble.  The information thus acquired is spoken of with confidence as sufficiently strong to warrant the Government in detaining these parties under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act.




More Arrests in Prospect


Mr. Gilbert McMicken, Stipendiary Magistrate, who came to Guelph on Tuesday with the detectives, left town this morning, Wednesday, for the neighbourhood of Hamilton, where it is likely one or more parties implicated in the Fenian movement will be also arrested.  We shall be able to give further particulars in a day or two.




Another Fenian Lodged in Guelph Jail


“John Murphy, No. 2,

 a baggage man on the Great Western Railway arrested at noon today.”


At noon today, Wednesday, Government detective Caldwell made another Fenian arrest, that of a man named John Murphy, who is to be carefully distinguished from the John Murphy who was arrested Tuesday night, and who is an employee on the Great Western Railway.  He is a baggage man and runs on the train between Guelph and Harrisburg.  He is well known by many in town, and his friends familiarly call him “Jack”.  He is 24 or 25 years old and married.  He came up with the train, which reaches Guelph at 11:35 a.m. and was immediately taken into custody, put into the bus of the Anglo-American and conveyed to gaol.  There were some papers of importance found in his pocket book.  One of these was a letter from Mahon, who was arrested on Tuesday, in which Murphy was urged by the former to do his utmost in the cause of Fenianism, to endeavour to infuse vitality into it, so that it might again burst forth with appalling grandeur before its foes.  Besides the letter, was found a notification from some Fenian circle of the change in the password and countersign by which admittance was gained to the dens where villainous plots are hatched, not for the liberation of Ireland, but against the lives and property of loyal British subjects.








An additional historical note…




Honourable Thomas D’Arcy McGee




On April 7, 1868, McGee attended a late-night session in the House of Commons, where he gave a passionate speech in favour of national unity.  McGee was vehemently opposed to Irish Republicanism.  His outspoken criticism of the Irish independence movement and the Fenians alienated large sections of the Irish community, in Canada and elsewhere.  Returning home that night, he was shot and killed as he entered the door of his rooming house on Sparks Street in Ottawa.  It is generally believed that McGee was the victim of a Fenian plot.  However, Patrick James Whelan, who was convicted and hanged for the crime, was never accused of being a Fenian by the Crown prosecutor.  McGee was given a state funeral.








Tyrrell’s Complicity


(from the Guelph Mercury newspaper for Monday May 11th 1868.)


Someone, apparently well informed, sends to the “Ottawa Citizen” the particulars of the arrest of Mahon & Co., and tells plainly, in addition, some incidents connected with Tyrrell’s career, of which many of us were in ignorance.  Writing on the day that the arrests were made he says: Three parties were arrested here today for Fenianism.  One of them is Peter Mahon who resides at Aberfoyle, a place about twelve miles from here, and is a farmer and township councillor.  It is alleged that he was a delegate, under an assumed name, to the Cleveland convention in September last.  A correspondence has been discovered between him and a man named Tyrrell, who is known to be a member of the convention held at Troy, in the fall of 1866, under the assumed name of Turner.  Tyrrell, till a recent period, resided at Guelph, and was for a time employed in the express office.  When last heard of he was engaged with a strolling troupe of minstrels under the management of one Mason.  Further correspondence has also been found between Mahon and Colonel Hoye, who was with the Fenian army at Ridgeway.  Mahon’s letters are written under the assumed name of Peter Farrell Jr., and encouraged Hoye to pay a visit to Guelph and the surrounding country, and referred to Murphy as a man who could be relied on as a Fenian.








At Large


(from the Guelph Mercury newspaper for Wednesday August 12th 1868.)



Peter Mahon was set at liberty on Tuesday afternoon, sureties having been found.  The associates of his incarceration were free before him; they may now return peaceably to their avocations, and we hope that, as the Lady of the Lake remarked, they will “dream of fighting fields no more”.




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