Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Henry Brothers in the News - Part One

My great grandmother Elizabeth Henry Sinclair, grew up with 10 siblings and 11 other Henry cousins in the Perth area of Ontario in the 1860's and 70's. As the boys grew and were looking to acquire land of their own, her Uncle John and Aunt Jennet and family made the move west to Blanshard Manitoba in 1879 and the Widow Mary and her brood followed in 1881.  Times were tough by all accounts but newspaper articles from the time I've recently found bring home that point even more.  Rather than judge the Henry boys for a wild and rough lifestyle, I prefer to marvel at their resilience and be thankful my life and times are so much kinder and gentler.

In October of 1887, the Manitoba newspapers are full of stories about so called "Indian Troubles" in the west. The Northwest Rebellion was a short 2 years past and the following article was found in the Manitoba Free Press on Monday, October 10, 1887.

Found on Newspapers.com
Four days later the same paper has more details about the incident under the understated heading "A Little Unpleasantness Between the Indians and the Settlers at Rapid City"
The Henry family, comprising of father, mother and several sons, live on adjoining sections some miles west of Rapid City and are among the most peaceable and law abiding citizens in that country.  Last year the Henry's had all their crop destroyed by fires, started they were almost certain by Indians.  They had not enough left to keep them in food during the winter. This year a large crop was put in and harvested, and a considerable quantity of hay put up.  Fire guards were run around the stacks, and every precaution taken to prevent fire.  On Tuesday of last week, however a 40 ton hay stack some distance from the house was seen to be on fire and an Indian (the one subsequently shot) passing in its neighborhood. That the stack was not burned by prairie fires was evident from the fact that outside the fire guards the prairie was unburned.  This gave the Henry's reason for being alarmed and at once they set out to defend themselves and their crops.  The following day, Wednesday, fire was seen approaching their wheat stacks from the neighborhood of the Indians' camp.   Mr. Henry Sr immediately started for the endangered stacks and on reaching them found an Indian seated at the base of one, scratching something as if about to strike a match. On the arrival of Mr. Henry, the Indian ran, sprang over a fence and left the vicinity.The next morning, Thursday, Joseph, son of Mr. Henry, started out on his pony and had not gone far before he met the Indian that they had suspected was in a ravine near the house, causing them so much trouble.  He ordered the Indian away but he would not go. Hearing the conversation the old man told Charles to go down and take the gun with him to frighten the Indian.....
Of course you know much more resulted than his being frightened and the body was taken charge of by the reeve of the municipality, a Mr McCallum, and placed in a granary on a Henry cousin's farm.  An inquest was to be held but the granary and body were set fire to and destroyed by unknown persons.  Joseph and Charles were then arrested and taken to Brandon.  An old friend of their father's, Mr. Martin from Portage La Prairie, was sent for to defend them.  Some courtroom drama ensued and the charge against the brothers was changed from murder to manslaughter.  After paying bail of $1000 each, they were home that evening to await their trail at the Fall Assizes in a month's time.
It is incredible to think the name of the victim was never known, or at least reported.  The language used showed the reporter's bias toward the settlers The brothers were acquitted of the crime by jury as you can read about in this link.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/6827037/henry_brothers_aquitted/

It is an incredible story on its own but the ironic part is both Henry brothers involved - Joseph and Charles - will come to their own unexpected and violent deaths within the next 11 years.  Stay tuned dear readers...

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