By John Goddard
St. Marys Museum has helped locate the exact shop on Queen Street East where a crazed killer bought his murder weapon in 1894.
The site might surprise you.
Toronto crime writer John Goddard stopped in town last week while retracing the route the killer took from Ailsa Craig to Listowel, where he attacked 13-year-old Jessie Keith on the railway tracks in a never-explained fit of rage.
“I knew from court records that the killer, Amédée Chattelle, worked for a week outside Lucan and came to St. Marys with $5 in his pocket,” Goddard told the Independent. “He got a shave and a haircut at Crozier’s Barber Shop, bought a pair of overalls from A.H. Lofft & Co., and somewhere from a clerk named Ernest Sparling bought a well-made IXL jackknife with a long, sharp blade.”
At the museum, chief archivist Amy Cubberley helped the writer scroll through microfilm copies of old newspapers. A report in the St. Marys Argus from Oct. 22, 1894, gave a partial answer.
“A clerk in Mr. J.O. Gilpin’s hardware store sold a stranger… an IXL pocket knife, for which was paid 28 cents,” the account said.
Crosschecking with card files, Cubberley established that Gilpin’s shop in 1894 was located in the Guest Block, now a historic building at the southeast corner of Queen and Wellington Sts.
The Guest Block includes three storefronts. A plaque on the wall says the easternmost one belonged to the Eedy publishing company in 1895, when Gilpin’s was still in the building. The westernmost unit was a bank.
By deduction, Mr. J.O. Gilpin occupied the middle shop — now the administration offices of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.
Goddard easily found the former A.H. Lofft & Co. at 151-153 Queen St. E., across from the Guest Block. Cubberley said Crozier’s Barber Shop moved around and in 1894 stood at Queen and Water Sts., in a frame building long since burned down.
Outside Listowel, Chattelle tried to assault the girl. When she resisted he slit her throat with the knife, and seven months later was hanged at Stratford Jail, the first of three executions in Perth County history.
Goddard said he expects his book, The Man With the Black Valise, to be released in 2018. He is the author of Inside the Museums: Toronto’s Historic Sites and Their Most Prized Objects, and Inside Hamilton’s Museums.