February 6, 2020: Black Donnelly Family Funeral
I today is Thursday February. Sixth Twenty Twenty on this day in eighteen eighty five members. The Irish Canadian family known as the Black Donnelley's were laid to rest and the priest presiding over the funeral may have been involved loved in their murders. Welcome today in true crime apart. CAST original channel due to the graphic nature of today's crimes listener discretion is advised extreme. Caution is advised for listeners under thirteen. Today we're covering the funeral of one of Canada's most notorious families the black Donnelley's let's go back to the bill township in Ontario on February very sixth eighteen eighty precisely at noon Sitting in the front row of Saint Patrick's Church Jenny Donnelley's sobbed uncontrollably. Her Brothers Patrick Robert Art and William stoically stared forward. Their eyes glued to the alter the parish priest Father John Connolly solemnly solemnly stood before them as the pallbearers carried two coffins down the aisle one of the coffins contain the body of the Donnelley's brother John. The other was full of bits of bone and ashes. That used to be their father James. Their mother Joanna their brother Thomas Thomas and their cousin bridget. The donnelley's were one of the most well-known families in biddle township in the wake of such a tragic event the church was packed to the Gills. But it's hard to say. How many were there to mourn? And how many were there to celebrate operate James and Joanna Donnelly immigrated to Ontario from Ireland sometime between eighteen. Forty two you and eighteen forty-six like many of their compatriots. Life had been hard for the Donnelley's though never wants to back down from a fight they were known as Black Feet Irish Catholics. Who Refuse to fight against Protestants? The stigma of being black feet long with a devastating famine was enough to to Dr James and Joanna to Canada. They hoped that life in their new country would provide them with better opportunities by eighteen. Forty seven they had settled in Ontario's biddle township with their two young sons James Junior. And and William over the next decade the Donnelly clan continued to grow as Joanna gave birth to five more sons and one daughter. Farming was hard unglamorous work but it paid off by the mid eighteen fifties. The Donnelly farm was truly prospering. But things took a turn for the worse in eighteen. Fifty Seven Patriarch James. James Donnelly killed his neighbor. Patrick Farrell the two men had become bitter enemies after a land dispute during a community. Barn raising things got heated and James fatally struck feral with a hand spike. He spent the next seven years in the Kingston Penitentiary. While James was behind bars. Joanna Donnelly taught her sons how to fend for themselves that education included fighting drinking and stealing. They they burned down. Barnes killed neighbor's cattle and constantly found themselves on the wrong side of the law when their father was released from prison in eighteen. Sixty five. The boys behavior didn't change move. Anything James encouraged it within hours of his release James and his Suns Burn Down The barn belonging to one of the men who had testified against him as the years passed. Donnelly's settled down a bit in the early eighteen seventies. Many of the boys started families and settled into more respectable careers but but they continued to feud with neighbors drawing more and more of them into their chaos. Finally in June of eighteen seventy nine father John Connolly of Saint Patrick's church decided the violence had to stop to that end end. He established the biddle peace society. Every family that joined the group agreed to have their house searched for stolen items and illegal contraband turbanned the Black Donnelley's refused the invitation. The society didn't take kindly to the SNOB. Two months later a splinter linter group of Peace Society members called the vigilance committee was formed. Most of them blamed the Donnelly family for the areas problems and on February be wary fourth eighteen eighty. The vigilance committee decided to eradicate the problem. Once and for all shortly after midnight a mob descended on the Donnelly. Homestead James Senior. Joanna Thomas and Bridget Donnelly were all brutally murdered for good measure. The vigilance committee burned down their house. As well and the violence wasn't done yet around around two thirty a M. The mob stormed William Donnelly's home when William's brother. John went outside to confront them. The armed men killed him thinking they had killed. William Day ended the massacre two days later. Many of the men who had murdered the Donnelley's attended attended the funeral but so far little if any action had been taken against them the town constable himself was believed to have been a perpetrator betrayer. Some even suspected that Father Connolly had taken part in the violence or at the very least encouraged it but there was one one thing. They hadn't accounted for a witness to the massacre and he wanted to make sure the murderers were held accountable. Coming up. Law Enforcement Descends upon the bill township. Now back to the story. For decades the so-called Black Donnelley's had feuded with their neighbors and Ontario's Bill Township and on February fourth eighteen eighty. A local group called the vigilance committee burnt down the Donnelly farm killing five members of the family in the process. US Two days later the murder Donnelley's were laid to rest in Saint Patrick's church many members of the vigilance committee including the local constable constable attended the service but so far no action had been taken against them however someone had survived the fiery fiery attack a thirteen year. Old Farmhand named Johnny O'Connor was staying at the Donnelley's farm on the night of the massacre. He had promised to take care care of their animals when they went into the town the next day he had seen the constable James Carroll during the attack along with several other members of the vigilance Angela Committee but even with an eye witness none of the townspeople were brave enough to accuse the town constable of multiple homicides besides however that didn't mean the law wasn't coming for him. The violent murder of five people attracted the attention attention of Canada's national law enforcement most likely coming from the Larger City of London Ontario detectives arrived on the scene shortly after the funeral general after the police interviewed. Johnny O'connor they arrested Constable Carol and other members of the vigilance committee. After a brief inquest quest. It was determined that Carol and five other men would stand trial for the murders. The main Ayn trial was slated for October of eighteen eighty constable carol would be tried separately presumably because he was considered to be the ringleader as the sole eyewitness young Johnny O'Connor was a key cog in the prosecution's case and he proved up to the task. Johnny Johnny described the night of the massacre in excruciating detail from his hiding place under a bed. Johnny had seen almost every single murder her take place. Unfortunately the prosecution hadn't come up with any concrete evidence to support Janis account ultimately eh because the trial was held so close to bid off township. The jurors decision came down to which side of the Donnelly feud they were on. In both cases the jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict with the proceedings at a standstill. A new round of trials was set for January twenty fourth eighteen eighty one the separate case for constable constable. Carol was tried I. There was little if any difference from the first time around in terms of evidence however this time around the jury was Zabell to come to a verdict not guilty. The prosecutor knew that if he couldn't get carol convicted there there was no way the other members of the mob would be found guilty rather than waste any more time he decided to let the others out on bail the second trial Never took place. The township had clearly made up their minds. They didn't want justice for the Black Donnelley's as the years passed. The Black Donnelley's story became something of a local legend. One particularly imaginative tale claims that Joanna Alanna Donnelley's ghost roams the bid of townships back roads on horseback today. The Black Donnelly. Homestead is a popular tourist destination destination offering tours of the preserved farmhouse and property. Visitors might not see a shrieking ghost galloping on a ghoulish horse but they will certainly feel the echoes of one of Canada's most famous crimes. Thanks for listening today in true crime. I'm Vanessa Richardson. If you enjoyed this episode checkout are episodes of unsolved murders true crime crime stories on the Black Donnelly murders today in true crime is a podcast original. You can find more episodes of today in true crime and all other podcast originals for free on spotify. Not only to spotify already. 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