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Little bottles: Part 1 (4 photos)

In this week's Remember This, Mary Harris begins a tale of suspected death by strychnine poisoning

It was about the year 1850 when Bernard Hinds Sr. arrived in Barrie from County Tyrone, Ireland. He brought with him his wife, the former Alice McBride, and three very energetic sons. The boys, Edward, Bernard and Charles, all went into business for themselves while merely teenagers.

The eager young men became merchants in the booming frontier town and made their money by selling groceries and provisions, shoemaking, and tavern keeping. The Hinds name was attached to such ventures as the Wildcat Store, Dominion House and the London House Hotel. Over the years, they prospered, married locally, and were burned out multiple times by Barrie’s famously frequent fires. The Hinds brothers rebuilt and carried on.

Indeed, Edward lost his London House hotel to a blaze in 1879 only to have its partially built brick replacement burn in the so-called ‘rookery’ fire of 1880 that destroyed the last block of old wood and roughcast buildings on the north side of Dunlop Street from Owen to Mulcaster Street.

Tragically though, not one of these men saw their 50th birthday.

Edward was the first to pass away. He was 49 years old when he suddenly expired at the breakfast table one cold January morning in 1883. The doctor pronounced that some kind of stroke had overtaken the unfortunate man.

Four years later, his 45-year-old younger brother, Bernard, died. One year earlier, a cold had turned into a chronic lung condition, which resulted in the kidney failure that eventually ended his life in June of 1887.

The death of the last brother, Charles Hinds, was by far the most sudden and strange of all. The 49-year-old shopkeeper died on Jan. 15, 1889. His physician, Dr. W.A. Ross, stated that the cause of death was by strychnine poisoning!

The ‘Northern Advance’ of Jan. 24 reported that “in consequence of a report that the doctors who attended Charles Hinds in his illness considered there was evidence of poisoning by strychnine it was considered necessary to hold an inquest. It was considered the more necessary as the deceased’s life was insured by C.M.B.A. for $2,000.”

The first indication of any trouble at the Hinds’ Elizabeth Street house came about 9:30 p.m. when Charles Hinds’ son called upon Dr. Ross to ask for help. He said that his father was very ill at home and described some specific symptoms that immediately suggested to the doctor that strychnine poisoning may be the underlying cause.

Dr. Ross felt as if he might need some assistance with this case and sent for Dr. McCarthy to accompany him to the Hinds household. Hinds’ priest, Very Reverend Dean O’Connor, was also summoned.

Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.


Mary Harris

About the Author: Mary Harris

Mary Harris is the Director of History and Research at the Barrie Historical Archive. The Barrie Historical Archive is a free, online archive that centralizes Barrie's historical content.
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