Vengeance of the Black Donnellys: Canada's Most Feared Family Strikes Back from the Grave

Overview

The Vengeance of the Black Donnellys is a fictionalized tale that picks up where The Black Donnellys left off — at the grim scene of their common grave.

What ever happened to the members of the mob that clubbed, stabbed, shot, and burned the two Donnelly parents, two of their sons, and a visiting niece? Why was no one ever convicted of their brutal murders? Who was the mysterious mastermind behind the mob? What happened to the surviving ...

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Overview

The Vengeance of the Black Donnellys is a fictionalized tale that picks up where The Black Donnellys left off — at the grim scene of their common grave.

What ever happened to the members of the mob that clubbed, stabbed, shot, and burned the two Donnelly parents, two of their sons, and a visiting niece? Why was no one ever convicted of their brutal murders? Who was the mysterious mastermind behind the mob? What happened to the surviving Donnellys?

Find out the answers to these and other (some still unanswered) questions in this spellbinding sequel.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781895565553
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 6/1/1995
  • Pages: 212
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas P. Kelley was a prolific writer of murder mysteries in the 1940s and 50s.

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Read an Excerpt

IntroductionCanada's Most Feared Family Strikes Back from the Grave

It happened, God alone knows why, In Lucan, long ago. Dark clouds were on the moon that night, The fields piled high with snow. As the mob killed old Johannah, She cried out with her last breath: "Your murderin' souls will roast in hell You'll all know a violent death." — Old Song —

It happened during the dark hours before the dawn of February 4, 1880, in an icy cold that would have made a Spartan sob. And only God knows why.

It occurred at a notorious farmhouse on a lonely sideroad, surrounded by fields "piled high with snow," while from afar the baying of a farmer's hound intermingled with whistling winds. One of the mobsters said, "It began in blood, it ended in blood," and it would seem that the Donnellys of Lucan had been none too popular with their neighbors; that an out-raged vigilante committee had finally accomplished its drastic purpose which — according to The Toronto Telegram of February 5, 1880 — had been "to extirpate the vipers."

And how that kill-crazed mob had proceeded to "extirpate!"

Recently I interviewed a very elderly Toronto woman, the former Sadie Frank of Lucan, Ontario, and daughter of the late John Craven Frank. At the age of 15 she had been living in the village when the Donnelly massacre occurred. She told grim stories of midnight fires, mutilated horses, poisoned cattle and bloodshed and, as well as giving the writer a lock of Pat Donnelly's hair, she admitted, "I once had a secret crush on Pat." She told the following story.

"Around eleven in the morning on the day of that awful tragedy (nine hours after it had happened) my eighteen-year-old brother drove County Constable Alfred Brown out to the ruined Donnelly farmhouse. It presented a horrifying spectacle: carnage was everywhere. There were large blood smears on the snow in the yard where Tom Donnelly had been beaten down, slashed and ripped apart by the mob before he was dragged back into the house then mutilated further. My God, it must have been terrible, the work of howling maniacs, and Constable Brown became so sickened by all he saw that he had to throw up.

"By then the house was nothing but ruined and blackened embers, still smoking. The kitchen floor had given way and dropped into the cellar; the butchered bodies of three of the Donnellys had fallen with it into a potato bin. The horrible stench of burnt human flesh and scorched potatoes was such that my brother could never eat another potato in his life."

It had been a slaughter that belonged to the Dark Ages. The sharp knives of the mob had castrated Tom Donnelly before chopping off his head. The kitchen of the house literally swam in blood, where Bridget Donnelly was murdered in a revolting manner; the bodies of four of the Donnellys were so hideously burned and slashed that they were buried in one casket; while the Lucan coroner, Dr. Flock, reported of John Donnelly that, "he had so many shots in his body that he would have had to be cut to mincemeat to get them all out." One story has it that old Johannah Donnelly was scalped, while mob members heated an iron poker until it was a cherry-red. Well, you can guess the rest.

I heard all this years ago from a man whose father had been a member of the mob, and who swore on the Bible that his story was true.

On that long-gone night, all hell had broken loose far out on the Roman Line — the long road that runs by the old Donnelly farm. And the vandal mob had yelled like mad fiends while they fired the house and flames rose over and around the bodies of the annihilated Donnellys.

"Vengeance, by God! Vengeance at last, boys!" the mob's bearded ringleader, Jim Carroll, had shouted. "Damn them to hell, the bastards had it comin' to 'em and now the fire is eating up the bodies of the Black Donnellys while their souls are roastin' in flames a lot hotter."

Carroll, a burly brute with a face that was hard on the furniture had shifty eyes, walked with a sway, could scratch his knees without bending and his black hair snapped combs.

One member of the mob, a half-baked farmhand named Purtell, who rarely washed and stank stronger than a mother's love, kept jumping up and down, tickled as hell, shrieking, "Hear 'em sizzle — hear 'em sizzle!" Only a few minutes earlier, Purtell had been chasing the pretty twenty-one-year-old Bridget Donnelly through the house with an axe, shouting, "I'll bash the young sow's head in." Roaring drunk, as were most of the mob, and aided by several others, screw-ball Purtell finally caught Bridget Donnelly in an upstairs bedroom, struck her to the floor, crashed his axe against her head, dragged her down a flight of stairs by the heels and helped to slaughter and slash her apart. Her young blood was fresh on the filthy moron's work clothes.

Flames from the burning Donnelly farmhouse rose up like a blazing holocaust, amid a mad, inhuman howling from the mob. High overhead in outer space a shooting star swept across the heavens — falling — falling — falling. Dirty clouds scudded across the moon while from afar the mournful baying of a farmer's hound went on and on and on.

On the morning following the Donnelly massacre — Thursday, February 5, 1880 — the Toronto newspaper, The Globe, brought out in huge headlines the appalling facts that were to shock all Canada — and later the United States as well — facts of what was to be described as "the blackest crime ever committed in the Dominion" one that seemingly wrote "finis" to the longest and certainly the most violent feud in the history of North America. The Globe read in part:

HORRIBLE TRAGEDY AT LUCAN Five Persons Murdered by Mob An Entire Household Sacrificed Result of a Family Feud Thirty Men Engaged in the Bloody Work The Story as Told by a Child Witness of the Crime

LUCAN, Feb 4 — Lucan woke this morning to shock the country with intelligence of the blackest crime ever committed in the Dominion.

The crime consisted of the murder, or rather butchery, of a family of five — father, mother, two brothers and a girl. The victims were named Donnelly, a family that has lived in the neighborhood for upwards of thirty years. They resided on Lot 18, 6th Concession of Biddulph. The farm consists of fifty acres. They bore the unenviable reputation of being:

"The Terrors of the Township!"

On the same date The Toronto Telegram informed in part: "The Donnelly family, to a marked degree, bore quarrelsome characteristics — when they were not fighting among their neighbors, they constantly fought among themselves."

This latter information does not come as a surprise, when it is remembered that old Johannah Donnelly frequently said: "From the time they could toddle, I taught me seven sons to be foin fist-and-club fighters. Sure an' 'tis I who taught them how to gouge, bite off an ear and crack a head with a club; I showed them the best way to send a fast punch to the chin and a good hard kick to the — !"

There is no record of any of the Donnellys ever having attended a charm school.

Even today in the Lucan area, as well as in the surrounding districts, you hear stories which tell that every member of the mob that raided the Donnelly farmhouse died a violent death; that old Johannah prophesied as much as life was being clubbed from her body. Nor are all such stories entirely local. That learned Canadian historian, Edwin C. Guillet, in his Famous Canadian Trials, Volume 8, writes of the men that slaughtered the Donnellys: "Some people claim that almost all those men eventually suffered a violent death."

Oddly enough, a surprising number of the thirty or so men suspected of having been members of the mob that murdered the Donnellys actually did have a tragic demise; some almost inexplicable. One man more than a decade after the massacre is said to have groaned as he writhed in his death agonies, after being gored by a bull: "It was her last words, the awful curse of Johannah Donnelly, that brought this upon me." Another, falling over the deck-rail of a freighter, was pulled out of Lake Ontario, "with a look of horror on his dead features."

Still another, shortly after the turn of the century, is reported to have repeatedly shrieked as, hopelessly insane, he died in a madhouse: "I see her; I tell you I can see old Johannah now! She's come from the grave, she's all covered with blood and she's laughing at me!"

A number of these stories, as well as a series of weird developments and a resumption of hostilities after the Donnelly massacre, are the principal themes of this book. There is also the strange appearance of the beauteous Midnight Lady, that mysterious woman who came from nowhere, spurred on the remaining three Donnelly brothers to seek vengeance, led them on night rides, then finally —

A former work by this writer, The Black Donnellys, which appeared in Canada and the U.S. as well as abroad, described the thirty-three-year Donnelly feud in detail. It began with that May day way back in 1847, when Jim Donnelly, as mean an Irishman as ever left County Tipperary, first arrived in Lucan, Ontario. With him was his scowling, mannish-featured and hostile wife, Johannah, who was later to be referred to as "that gravel-voiced old hellion who caused it all." However The Black Donnellys made no mention of the startling aftermath of the Donnelly Massacre; something that the present volume proposes to do.

Anyone who knows the history of the feud cannot try to claim that the Donnellys were victims of a great injustice. That would be both absurd and untrue. At best the Black Donnellys were a cruel, wild and lawless lot. Detective Hugh McKinnon of Criminal Investigation, who was sent to Lucan to study that turbulent area and cleverly managed to spend a week at the Donnelly farmhouse with his identity unknown, later wrote:

"The Donnellys were not humans, only mad dogs that looked like humans — wild things that should have lived before the cave men. Everyone is bettered now that the Donnellys are wiped out!"

Yet, despite all that, the Black Donnellys had at least one friend, one true and loyal friend, who was none other than the parish priest, the Reverend Father Connolly of Lucan's St. Patrick's Church. On a number of occasions he had pleaded with the Donnellys to mend their ways, but it availed the good man nothing. However, that he was heartbroken by the tragic outcome, is evident by the story of a Toronto reporter who was at St. Patrick's Church on the day of the Donnelly funeral. The article can be found in The Toronto Telegram of February 6,1880, under the title of "The Lucan Horror" and describing the arrival of the Donnelly caskets at the church, it reads, in part:

"The melancholy cortège arrived at St. Patrick's Church, and the coffins were deposited in the aisle of the church. At twelve o'clock precisely, mass was celebrated by the Reverend Father Connolly, which occupied his time three-quarters of and hour. The Reverend gentleman then undertook to address the congregation with which the church was crowded to suffocation. At the first attempt His Reverence completely broke down, being overcome by the intensity of his feelings.

"He rallied, however, after a short time, and delivered an address of nearly an hour's duration. He turned and faced the congregation with tears streaming from his eyes, and, in a tremulous voice said: 'Christian friends, we are in the presence of one of the most solemn scenes ever witnessed. I have assisted in many solemn burials, but never one like this.' Here his voice was choked with emotion and after struggling for a minute he said in an agonized tone, 'My heart is broken.' Then with his handkerchief over his eyes, and staggering back against the altar, he threw himself upon it — and wept like a child."

Four days later, January 10, 1880, an interesting article by the same reporter appeared in The Toronto Telegram. Written six days after the massacre, he wrote in part:

"I have just seen two of the Donnelly brothers. One, William Donnelly, is a most extraordinary character of medium height, who walks lame, having a clubfoot. His power lies in his brain. He is as sharp as a steel trap and possesses an iron will; is determined and farseeing. The brothers regard the massacre with remarkable coolness and say little, but their sharp eyes see everything. There is something sinister about their silence."

At the same time a prominent Lucanite predicted coming events when he said: "The remaining Donnelly boys won't take the butchery of their parents and brothers without doing something about it. Even now, you can be sure they are planning retaliation; hellery of some kind. I tell you I know them; they're taking this too calmly, they're too quiet and I can smell trouble coming. Yes, and death, too."

This book, Vengeance of the Black Donnellys, is not a factual account, nor does the writer claim it to be. Instead, it is fiction written around a series of actual happenings; some of which give proof to the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction." Along with some self-created characters, it has been necessary for the writer to change certain dates and give fictitious names to a number of people to avoid embarrassment to relatives near and distant, who still enjoy the warmth of old Sol. This I have tried most faithfully to do.

Vengeance of the Black Donnellys is fiction and meant to be fiction. However, the real truth is that this book is based on so much fact — so many of the occurrences mentioned in it actually did happen — that despite all changes and efforts to fictionalize them, it is possible that a few old-timers around Lucan — who are familiar with the strange aftermath of the Donnelly feud, will be able, in the following pages, by putting two and two together, to read between the lines.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1: The Old Man in the Graveyard
Chapter 2: The Black Donnellys Ride Again
Chapter 3: Kill Every Damn One of Them
Chapter 4: The Midnight Lady
Chapter 5: An Horses Won't Pass the Donnelly Farm
Chapter 6: The Donnellys Have Come Back from the Grave
Chapter 7: The Grim Fate of Dan Dunn
Chapter 8: He Went to Hell in Pieces
Chapter 9: I'll Brand My Initials on Her Rump
Chapter 10: The Coming of the Gypsies
Chapter 11: While the Campfire Burned Low
Chapter 12: You Can't Reason with Rattlesnakes
Chapter 13: The Night the Skeletons Rode
Chapter 14: The Great Chase
Chapter 15: Death Comes to a Monster
Chapter 16: I Loved a Wild Irishman
Chapter 17: What Happened in the Graveyard

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Preface

Introduction
Canada's Most Feared Family Strikes Back from the Grave

It happened, God alone knows why,
In Lucan, long ago.
Dark clouds were on the moon that night,
The fields piled high with snow.
As the mob killed old Johannah,
She cried out with her last breath:
"Your murderin' souls will roast in hell
You'll all know a violent death."

— Old Song —

It happened during the dark hours before the dawn of February 4, 1880, in an icy cold that would have made a Spartan sob. And only God knows why.

It occurred at a notorious farmhouse on a lonely sideroad, surrounded by fields "piled high with snow," while from afar the baying of a farmer's hound intermingled with whistling winds. One of the mobsters said, "It began in blood, it ended in blood," and it would seem that the Donnellys of Lucan had been none too popular with their neighbors; that an out-raged vigilante committee had finally accomplished its drastic purpose which — according to The Toronto Telegram of February 5, 1880 — had been "to extirpate the vipers."

And how that kill-crazed mob had proceeded to "extirpate!"

Recently I interviewed a very elderly Toronto woman, the former Sadie Frank of Lucan, Ontario, and daughter of the late John Craven Frank. At the age of 15 she had been living in the village when the Donnelly massacre occurred. She told grim stories of midnight fires, mutilated horses, poisoned cattle and bloodshed and, as well as giving the writer a lock of Pat Donnelly's hair, she admitted, "I once had a secret crush on Pat." She told the following story.

"Around eleven in the morning on the day of that awful tragedy (nine hours after it had happened) my eighteen-year-old brother drove County Constable Alfred Brown out to the ruined Donnelly farmhouse. It presented a horrifying spectacle: carnage was everywhere. There were large blood smears on the snow in the yard where Tom Donnelly had been beaten down, slashed and ripped apart by the mob before he was dragged back into the house then mutilated further. My God, it must have been terrible, the work of howling maniacs, and Constable Brown became so sickened by all he saw that he had to throw up.

"By then the house was nothing but ruined and blackened embers, still smoking. The kitchen floor had given way and dropped into the cellar; the butchered bodies of three of the Donnellys had fallen with it into a potato bin. The horrible stench of burnt human flesh and scorched potatoes was such that my brother could never eat another potato in his life."

It had been a slaughter that belonged to the Dark Ages. The sharp knives of the mob had castrated Tom Donnelly before chopping off his head. The kitchen of the house literally swam in blood, where Bridget Donnelly was murdered in a revolting manner; the bodies of four of the Donnellys were so hideously burned and slashed that they were buried in one casket; while the Lucan coroner, Dr. Flock, reported of John Donnelly that, "he had so many shots in his body that he would have had to be cut to mincemeat to get them all out." One story has it that old Johannah Donnelly was scalped, while mob members heated an iron poker until it was a cherry-red. Well, you can guess the rest.

I heard all this years ago from a man whose father had been a member of the mob, and who swore on the Bible that his story was true.

On that long-gone night, all hell had broken loose far out on the Roman Line — the long road that runs by the old Donnelly farm. And the vandal mob had yelled like mad fiends while they fired the house and flames rose over and around the bodies of the annihilated Donnellys.

"Vengeance, by God! Vengeance at last, boys!" the mob's bearded ringleader, Jim Carroll, had shouted. "Damn them to hell, the bastards had it comin' to 'em and now the fire is eating up the bodies of the Black Donnellys while their souls are roastin' in flames a lot hotter."

Carroll, a burly brute with a face that was hard on the furniture had shifty eyes, walked with a sway, could scratch his knees without bending and his black hair snapped combs.

One member of the mob, a half-baked farmhand named Purtell, who rarely washed and stank stronger than a mother's love, kept jumping up and down, tickled as hell, shrieking, "Hear 'em sizzle — hear 'em sizzle!" Only a few minutes earlier, Purtell had been chasing the pretty twenty-one-year-old Bridget Donnelly through the house with an axe, shouting, "I'll bash the young sow's head in." Roaring drunk, as were most of the mob, and aided by several others, screw-ball Purtell finally caught Bridget Donnelly in an upstairs bedroom, struck her to the floor, crashed his axe against her head, dragged her down a flight of stairs by the heels and helped to slaughter and slash her apart. Her young blood was fresh on the filthy moron's work clothes.

Flames from the burning Donnelly farmhouse rose up like a blazing holocaust, amid a mad, inhuman howling from the mob. High overhead in outer space a shooting star swept across the heavens — falling — falling — falling. Dirty clouds scudded across the moon while from afar the mournful baying of a farmer's hound went on and on and on.

On the morning following the Donnelly massacre — Thursday, February 5, 1880 — the Toronto newspaper, The
Globe
, brought out in huge headlines the appalling facts that were to shock all Canada — and later the United States as well — facts of what was to be described as "the blackest crime ever committed in the Dominion" one that seemingly wrote "finis" to the longest and certainly the most violent feud in the history of North America. The Globe read in part:

HORRIBLE TRAGEDY AT LUCAN
Five Persons Murdered by Mob
An Entire Household Sacrificed
Result of a Family Feud
Thirty Men Engaged in the Bloody Work
The Story as Told by a Child Witness of the Crime

LUCAN, Feb 4 — Lucan woke this morning to shock the country with intelligence of the blackest crime ever committed in the Dominion.

The crime consisted of the murder, or rather butchery, of a family of five — father, mother, two brothers and a girl. The victims were named Donnelly, a family that has lived in the neighborhood for upwards of thirty years. They resided on Lot 18, 6th Concession of Biddulph. The farm consists of fifty acres. They bore the unenviable reputation of being:

"The Terrors of the Township!"

On the same date The Toronto Telegram informed in part: "The Donnelly family, to a marked degree, bore quarrelsome characteristics — when they were not fighting among their neighbors, they constantly fought among themselves."

This latter information does not come as a surprise, when it is remembered that old Johannah Donnelly frequently said: "From the time they could toddle, I taught me seven sons to be foin fist-and-club fighters. Sure an' 'tis I who taught them how to gouge, bite off an ear and crack a head with a club; I
showed them the best way to send a fast punch to the chin and a good hard kick to the — !"

There is no record of any of the Donnellys ever having attended a charm school.

Even today in the Lucan area, as well as in the surrounding districts, you hear stories which tell that every member of the mob that raided the Donnelly farmhouse died a violent death; that old Johannah prophesied as much as life was being clubbed from her body. Nor are all such stories entirely local. That learned Canadian historian, Edwin C. Guillet, in his Famous Canadian Trials, Volume 8, writes of the men that slaughtered the Donnellys: "Some people claim that almost all those men eventually suffered a violent death."

Oddly enough, a surprisin

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Introduction

Canada's Most Feared Family Strikes Back from the Grave

It happened, God alone knows why,
In Lucan, long ago.
Dark clouds were on the moon that night,
The fields piled high with snow.
As the mob killed old Johannah,
She cried out with her last breath:
"Your murderin' souls will roast in hell
You'll all know a violent death."

-- Old Song --

It happened during the dark hours before the dawn of February 4, 1880, in an icy cold that would have made a Spartan sob. And only God knows why.

It occurred at a notorious farmhouse on a lonely sideroad, surrounded by fields "piled high with snow," while from afar the baying of a farmer's hound intermingled with whistling winds. One of the mobsters said, "It began in blood, it ended in blood," and it would seem that the Donnellys of Lucan had been none too popular with their neighbors; that an out-raged vigilante committee had finally accomplished its drastic purpose which -- according to The Toronto Telegram of February 5, 1880 -- had been "to extirpate the vipers."

And how that kill-crazed mob had proceeded to "extirpate!"

Recently I interviewed a very elderly Toronto woman, the former Sadie Frank of Lucan, Ontario, and daughter of the late John Craven Frank. At the age of 15 she had been living in the village when the Donnelly massacre occurred. She told grim stories of midnight fires, mutilated horses, poisoned cattle and bloodshed and, as well as giving the writer a lock of Pat Donnelly's hair, she admitted, "I once had a secret crush on Pat." She told the followingstory.

"Around eleven in the morning on the day of that awful tragedy (nine hours after it had happened) my eighteen-year-old brother drove County Constable Alfred Brown out to the ruined Donnelly farmhouse. It presented a horrifying spectacle: carnage was everywhere. There were large blood smears on the snow in the yard where Tom Donnelly had been beaten down, slashed and ripped apart by the mob before he was dragged back into the house then mutilated further. My God, it must have been terrible, the work of howling maniacs, and Constable Brown became so sickened by all he saw that he had to throw up.

"By then the house was nothing but ruined and blackened embers, still smoking. The kitchen floor had given way and dropped into the cellar; the butchered bodies of three of the Donnellys had fallen with it into a potato bin. The horrible stench of burnt human flesh and scorched potatoes was such that my brother could never eat another potato in his life."

It had been a slaughter that belonged to the Dark Ages. The sharp knives of the mob had castrated Tom Donnelly before chopping off his head. The kitchen of the house literally swam in blood, where Bridget Donnelly was murdered in a revolting manner; the bodies of four of the Donnellys were so hideously burned and slashed that they were buried in one casket; while the Lucan coroner, Dr. Flock, reported of John Donnelly that, "he had so many shots in his body that he would have had to be cut to mincemeat to get them all out." One story has it that old Johannah Donnelly was scalped, while mob members heated an iron poker until it was a cherry-red. Well, you can guess the rest.

I heard all this years ago from a man whose father had been a member of the mob, and who swore on the Bible that his story was true.

On that long-gone night, all hell had broken loose far out on the Roman Line -- the long road that runs by the old Donnelly farm. And the vandal mob had yelled like mad fiends while they fired the house and flames rose over and around the bodies of the annihilated Donnellys.

"Vengeance, by God! Vengeance at last, boys!" the mob's bearded ringleader, Jim Carroll, had shouted. "Damn them to hell, the bastards had it comin' to 'em and now the fire is eating up the bodies of the Black Donnellys while their souls are roastin' in flames a lot hotter."

Carroll, a burly brute with a face that was hard on the furniture had shifty eyes, walked with a sway, could scratch his knees without bending and his black hair snapped combs.

One member of the mob, a half-baked farmhand named Purtell, who rarely washed and stank stronger than a mother's love, kept jumping up and down, tickled as hell, shrieking, "Hear 'em sizzle -- hear 'em sizzle!" Only a few minutes earlier, Purtell had been chasing the pretty twenty-one-year-old Bridget Donnelly through the house with an axe, shouting, "I'll bash the young sow's head in." Roaring drunk, as were most of the mob, and aided by several others, screw-ball Purtell finally caught Bridget Donnelly in an upstairs bedroom, struck her to the floor, crashed his axe against her head, dragged her down a flight of stairs by the heels and helped to slaughter and slash her apart. Her young blood was fresh on the filthy moron's work clothes.

Flames from the burning Donnelly farmhouse rose up like a blazing holocaust, amid a mad, inhuman howling from the mob. High overhead in outer space a shooting star swept across the heavens -- falling -- falling -- falling. Dirty clouds scudded across the moon while from afar the mournful baying of a farmer's hound went on and on and on.

On the morning following the Donnelly massacre -- Thursday, February 5, 1880 -- the Toronto newspaper, The Globe, brought out in huge headlines the appalling facts that were to shock all Canada -- and later the United States as well -- facts of what was to be described as "the blackest crime ever committed in the Dominion" one that seemingly wrote "finis" to the longest and certainly the most violent feud in the history of North America. The Globe read in part:

HORRIBLE TRAGEDY AT LUCAN
Five Persons Murdered by Mob
An Entire Household Sacrificed
Result of a Family Feud
Thirty Men Engaged in the Bloody Work
The Story as Told by a Child Witness of the Crime

LUCAN, Feb 4 -- Lucan woke this morning to shock the country with intelligence of the blackest crime ever committed in the Dominion.

The crime consisted of the murder, or rather butchery, of a family of five -- father, mother, two brothers and a girl. The victims were named Donnelly, a family that has lived in the neighborhood for upwards of thirty years. They resided on Lot 18, 6th Concession of Biddulph. The farm consists of fifty acres. They bore the unenviable reputation of being:

"The Terrors of the Township!"

On the same date The Toronto Telegram informed in part: "The Donnelly family, to a marked degree, bore quarrelsome characteristics -- when they were not fighting among their neighbors, they constantly fought among themselves."

This latter information does not come as a surprise, when it is remembered that old Johannah Donnelly frequently said: "From the time they could toddle, I taught me seven sons to be foin fist-and-club fighters. Sure an' 'tis I who taught them how to gouge, bite off an ear and crack a head with a club; I showed them the best way to send a fast punch to the chin and a good hard kick to the -- !"

There is no record of any of the Donnellys ever having attended a charm school.

Even today in the Lucan area, as well as in the surrounding districts, you hear stories which tell that every member of the mob that raided the Donnelly farmhouse died a violent death; that old Johannah prophesied as much as life was being clubbed from her body. Nor are all such stories entirely local. That learned Canadian historian, Edwin C. Guillet, in his Famous Canadian Trials, Volume 8, writes of the men that slaughtered the Donnellys: "Some people claim that almost all those men eventually suffered a violent death."

Oddly enough, a surprising number of the thirty or so men suspected of having been members of the mob that murdered the Donnellys actually did have a tragic demise; some almost inexplicable. One man more than a decade after the massacre is said to have groaned as he writhed in his death agonies, after being gored by a bull: "It was her last words, the awful curse of Johannah Donnelly, that brought this upon me." Another, falling over the deck-rail of a freighter, was pulled out of Lake Ontario, "with a look of horror on his dead features."

Still another, shortly after the turn of the century, is reported to have repeatedly shrieked as, hopelessly insane, he died in a madhouse: "I see her; I tell you I can see old Johannah now! She's come from the grave, she's all covered with blood and she's laughing at me!"

A number of these stories, as well as a series of weird developments and a resumption of hostilities after the Donnelly massacre, are the principal themes of this book. There is also the strange appearance of the beauteous Midnight Lady, that mysterious woman who came from nowhere, spurred on the remaining three Donnelly brothers to seek vengeance, led them on night rides, then finally --

A former work by this writer, The Black Donnellys, which appeared in Canada and the U.S. as well as abroad, described the thirty-three-year Donnelly feud in detail. It began with that May day way back in 1847, when Jim Donnelly, as mean an Irishman as ever left County Tipperary, first arrived in Lucan, Ontario. With him was his scowling, mannish-featured and hostile wife, Johannah, who was later to be referred to as "that gravel-voiced old hellion who caused it all." However The Black Donnellys made no mention of the startling aftermath of the Donnelly Massacre; something that the present volume proposes to do.

Anyone who knows the history of the feud cannot try to claim that the Donnellys were victims of a great injustice. That would be both absurd and untrue. At best the Black Donnellys were a cruel, wild and lawless lot. Detective Hugh McKinnon of Criminal Investigation, who was sent to Lucan to study that turbulent area and cleverly managed to spend a week at the Donnelly farmhouse with his identity unknown, later wrote:

"The Donnellys were not humans, only mad dogs that looked like humans -- wild things that should have lived before the cave men. Everyone is bettered now that the Donnellys are wiped out!"

Yet, despite all that, the Black Donnellys had at least one friend, one true and loyal friend, who was none other than the parish priest, the Reverend Father Connolly of Lucan's St. Patrick's Church. On a number of occasions he had pleaded with the Donnellys to mend their ways, but it availed the good man nothing. However, that he was heartbroken by the tragic outcome, is evident by the story of a Toronto reporter who was at St. Patrick's Church on the day of the Donnelly funeral. The article can be found in The Toronto Telegram of February 6,1880, under the title of "The Lucan Horror" and describing the arrival of the Donnelly caskets at the church, it reads, in part:

"The melancholy cortège arrived at St. Patrick's Church, and the coffins were deposited in the aisle of the church. At twelve o'clock precisely, mass was celebrated by the Reverend Father Connolly, which occupied his time three-quarters of and hour. The Reverend gentleman then undertook to address the congregation with which the church was crowded to suffocation. At the first attempt His Reverence completely broke down, being overcome by the intensity of his feelings.

"He rallied, however, after a short time, and delivered an address of nearly an hour's duration. He turned and faced the congregation with tears streaming from his eyes, and, in a tremulous voice said: 'Christian friends, we are in the presence of one of the most solemn scenes ever witnessed. I have assisted in many solemn burials, but never one like this.' Here his voice was choked with emotion and after struggling for a minute he said in an agonized tone, 'My heart is broken.' Then with his handkerchief over his eyes, and staggering back against the altar, he threw himself upon it -- and wept like a child."

Four days later, January 10, 1880, an interesting article by the same reporter appeared in The Toronto Telegram. Written six days after the massacre, he wrote in part:

"I have just seen two of the Donnelly brothers. One, William Donnelly, is a most extraordinary character of medium height, who walks lame, having a clubfoot. His power lies in his brain. He is as sharp as a steel trap and possesses an iron will; is determined and farseeing. The brothers regard the massacre with remarkable coolness and say little, but their sharp eyes see everything. There is something sinister about their silence."

At the same time a prominent Lucanite predicted coming events when he said: "The remaining Donnelly boys won't take the butchery of their parents and brothers without doing something about it. Even now, you can be sure they are planning retaliation; hellery of some kind. I tell you I know them; they're taking this too calmly, they're too quiet and I can smell trouble coming. Yes, and death, too."

This book, Vengeance of the Black Donnellys, is not a factual account, nor does the writer claim it to be. Instead, it is fiction written around a series of actual happenings; some of which give proof to the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction." Along with some self-created characters, it has been necessary for the writer to change certain dates and give fictitious names to a number of people to avoid embarrassment to relatives near and distant, who still enjoy the warmth of old Sol. This I have tried most faithfully to do.

Vengeance of the Black Donnellys is fiction and meant to be fiction. However, the real truth is that this book is based on so much fact -- so many of the occurrences mentioned in it actually did happen -- that despite all changes and efforts to fictionalize them, it is possible that a few old-timers around Lucan -- who are familiar with the strange aftermath of the Donnelly feud, will be able, in the following pages, by putting two and two together, to read between the lines.

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