Guelph accountant shot three members of his family

Last week’s column de­scrib­ed the background of Willi­am H. Harvey, an ac­countant who moved to Guelph to take charge of the office of J.W. Lyon’s World Publishing Company, and his arrest for embezzlement on the evening of March 25, 1889.

As far as anyone is aware, Harvey said nothing to his wife, Matilda, or his two daught­ers about his arrest ear­lier that evening, or the fact that Dr. Stephen Lett of the Home­wood Sanitarium had posted $2,000 bail for him. The next morning he left their house, at the corner of Edwin and Wool­wich Streets, and walked to the World’s office on Douglas Street.

J.W. Lyon was already at his desk. Still hopeful that some explanation for the whole affair would come from Harvey’s lips, he asked him to sit down. “No thank you, I will not sit down,” he replied, and walked out of the office. He crossed St. George’s Square and went into the Bond Hardware Store. It was then a little after 9am.

At the store, Harvey struck up a conversation with W.A. Knowles, one of the clerks. He said that he wanted “a good revolver” for the use of one of Lyon’s salesmen who was about to go an a sales trip to Mexico. Knowles showed him a .32 calibre, five-shot Smith & Wesson model. Harvey took it, as well as a box of 50 cart­rid­ges. The cost was to be charged to Lyon’s account.

After Harvey departed, Knowles spoke of the sale to the proprietor of the store, George Bond. A few minutes earlier, Bond had heard the story of Harvey’s arrest. He at once became alarmed. His first fear was that Lyon might be the intended victim.

Bond rushed over to Lyon’s office, reporting the sale. Lyon stated that he had not sent Har­vey to buy a gun, and that he had no salesman bound for Mexico at that time. Lyon at once scribbled a note describ­ing the situation, and request­ing police protection. He had a clerk take it to Police Chief Randall’s office.

The Chief was not in the office, but Constable Kickley decided to go to Harvey’s resi­dence. In his cool way, Harvey explained that he had purchas­ed the gun to use on Lyon, but that their differences had all been settled. He brushed aside Kickley’s demand to be given the gun, stating that he did not want to become involved in a police matter, or to suffer any further public embarrassment. He would bring the gun with him went he returned to the World Publishing office in an hour or so, and would return it personally to Mr. Bond.

Constable Kickley, like every­one else, was taken in by the sincerity that Harvey al­ways conveyed. Kickley left without the gun. He returned to the police station, and tele­phon­ed Lyon that everything had been sorted out.

Meanwhile, Rev. George Harvey, curate of St. George’s Church (and no relation to Wil­liam Harvey), met one of Bond’s clerks on Wyndham Street. The clerk told him of Harvey’s arrest, and his recent purchase of a gun. The minister could hardly believe it, but he went into Petrie’s Drug Store to telephone the police chief. Ran­dall was not at the office, but the minister found him still at home. They agreed to meet at the police station in a few minutes.

Rev. Harvey returned to the rectory. He decided it would be best to meet at William Har­vey’s residence rather than the police station. He telephoned the change in plans, and set off at once for the Harvey house.

Rev. Harvey met with Will­iam and his family in their parlor. He recalled that William seemed a little agitated, but other than that, everyone ap­peared relaxed and normal. The curate did not want to say any­thing with the family present, so he asked William to accom­pany him as far as Douglas Street. Harvey declined, saying he had a few things to do at home before going to his office. Sensing there was noth­ing more he could do, Rev. Harvey returned to the rectory.

A few minutes later Chief Randall was at Harvey’s door. He was determined to get his hands on the revolver, but William Harvey succeeded in putting him off as well.

With the Chief headed back to the police station, Harvey went into his back yard, where two men, Bernard McTague and Tom Pearson, were busy clean­ing out a cistern, and had been since about 7am. He gave them a dollar and sent them away to get some lumber. They recalled that Harvey seemed perfectly calm.

Harvey then sent his elder daughter, Lillian, across the street to Miss Hayward’s pri­vate school to borrow a sheet of music. A few minutes later, Harvey was at the school himself to retrieve Geraldine, the younger daughter, who was a pupil there. Miss Hayward did not detect anything unusual in the manner of either father or daughter.

Meanwhile, Harvey was due for his hearing in magis­trate’s court. When he had not appeared by early afternoon, Chief Randall became alarmed. Accompanied by Constable Ham­mond, he set off for the Harvey residence to see why he had not appeared.

Randall found the house locked, and everything quiet. With no answer to his repeated knocks, he managed to slide open a window. There was no one in the sitting room or parlor, so he went upstairs. There, in the front bedroom, he found 12-year-old Geraldine, face down in a pool of blood with a bullet hole in the back of her head. In a back bedroom was Lillian, the elder daughter, stone dead beside a bed.

Dazed, the Chief stumbled down the stairs. He found Constable Hammond in the bathroom off the rear kitchen, frozen and white as he stared at the body of Matilda. Like the others she had a bullet hole in the back of her head.

By then it was shortly after 3pm. Randall summoned other members of his force to the house, as well as Dr. Herod, the coroner.

The Doctor initially said that an inquest would not be necessary, but he was im­mediately overruled by Crown Attorney Henry Peterson. A half dozen constables made a thorough search of the house and scoured the neighbour­hood, but found no relevant clues.

McTague and Pearson, the two workmen, said they had re­turned to the house about 11am, but found it locked up and no sign of anyone. They had heard of Harvey’s arrest by then, and decided to abandon the job on the cistern since there was little likelihood they would be paid. 

Surprisingly, none of the neighbours heard a shot. The last seen of Harvey were a cou­ple of witnesses who spotted him in late morning in the Exhibition Park area.

Dr. Herod estimated that three women had been dead four or five hours. He decided to leave the bodies in the house until the inquest. Within an hour, a huge crowd assembled around the house, curious for more news or a chance to look inside. Chief Randall ordered the house sealed, and he posted constables to guard the property day and night.

When  news of the triple murder became known, the Guelph Mercury was already on the press. Publisher James Innes ordered a special edition, which hit the streets about 6pm.

All 1,500 copies were snapped up quickly. The rival Guelph Herald was a morning paper. Its publisher, Harold Gummer, ordered his staff in at once. He also had a special edition on the street that night.

The next day the story was on the front page of most of the dailies in Ontario, and wire service reports conveyed it across the continent.

Next week: the flight, cap­ture, and trial of William H. Harvey.

Stephen Thorning