Harvey arrested in Toronto after shooting wife, kids

Last week’s column de­scrib­ed the actions of William H. Harvey on the morning of March 26, 1889, after his arrest the night before on charges of embezzlement from his em­ployer, J.W. Lyon, owner of the World Publishing Company of Guelph.
Harvey purchased a pistol from Bond Hardware, shot his wife, Matilda, and daughters Geraldine and Lillian, and then fled the city.
Police Chief F.W. Randall thought that Harvey might be hid­ing out somewhere in the city, intent on shooting his em­ployer. Alternately, he might try to get to Toronto and shoot his son, Willie, the only re­maining member of his family. Willie was 17, and had begun an apprenticeship as an engrav­er with a printing firm there.
The curate of St. George’s Church, Rev. George Harvey (who was no relation to Willi­am) believed that the latter was the most likely course. The cur­ate knew the family as well as anyone. When he learned of the homicides, he sent a telegram to Willie’s employer in Toron­to, stating that Willie should return to Guelph on the evening train for a very urgent family matter.
William Harvey could be found nowhere in Guelph. Chief Randall posted consta­bles at the railway stations, and used his favourite tool, the long-distance telephone, to call his counterparts in the cities in the immediate area.
Harvey had already left town, bound for Toronto by a roundabout route, but Randall was soon aware of his move­ments. Using rented carriages, the fugitive went first to Hes­peler, then Galt, where he rent­ed a second carriage and driver. He asked to be taken to Harris­burg, about 12 miles away, where he planned to catch a train. The driver recalled that Harvey said little during the ride, but seemed calm. He smok­ed cigars and consulted vari­ous railway timetables in his pocket. The driver left him at the platform of the Harris­burg station.
Soon after Harvey arrived in Toronto the police there were looking for him, after receiving a telegram from Chief Randall about 5pm. As soon as he arriv­ed in Toronto, Harvey had sent a telegram to his Willie, who lived uptown at 25 Grosvenor Street, just west of Yonge Street, to meet him. He would walk up Yonge Street from his King Street hotel, he stated, and meet Willie on his way down­town.
Willie, though, had already received the telegram from the curate, and was on his way to Guelph. In fact, father and son barely missed each other at the station.
The Toronto officers who dealt with the case were astute men. One went up to Willie’s boarding house, where his land­lady handed him the telegram sent by Harvey a short time before. The constable tele­phoned down to headquarters from a police call box, alerting his superior of the situation, and then started walking down Yonge, watching for Harvey. He spotted Harvey at the corner of King Street, leaning against a post and casually smoking a cigar. The officer hailed one of his fellow officers nearby and quickly filled him in. The pair came up behind Harvey and grabbed him by the arms.
Harvey showed no sign of surprise and did not protest. The two led Harvey to the pol­ice station, where he was arrested, still smoking his cigar. It was then a few minutes be­fore 10pm.
At the station, Inspector Stark took charge. He found the revolver in Harvey’s pocket, with three shots fired and two bullets remaining, along with a partial box of cartridges. He also had about $30 in cash. Harvey acted dazed at the pol­ice station, and would not answer any questions.
The Inspector sent a message to Guelph, and Police Chief Randall replied that he would leave Guelph at 8am the next morning to pick up the pris­oner.
Meanwhile, young Willie Harvey arrived at the Guelph station, where the curate met him and later told him the tragic news of his family. Willie remained at the rectory for the next few days.
The day following the shoot­ings the city of Guelph was gripped by the news, aug­mented by much rumour and speculation. Many people voiced strong criticism of Chief Randall and his officers. They had had ample opportunity to take Harvey into custody, or at least follow him and confiscate the gun.
The chief left for Toronto the next morning as promised. A report circulated that he would return  from Toronto with the prisoner on the 11:30am train. A crowd of more than 2,000 congregated at the Grand Trunk station, filling the platforms and spilling into the streets.
Those familiar with the rail­way timetable realized that it was impossible for the chief to leave Guelph at 8am and return on the 11:30am train. Never­the­less, the crowd continued to linger, and grew much greater as 3pm approached, the time of the next train from Toronto. March 27 had become a virtual holiday in Guelph.
The station agent, alarmed at the size of the crowd, sent a message ahead to be delivered to the train crew and Chief Ran­dall at Acton, advising them of the situation. To avoid an ugly scene, the crew agreed to pass the station and proceed to the rear of the police station at the Wyndham Street cross­ing, where Harvey could be spirited quickly through the back door. The plan worked well, though some in the crowd caught on. Police had difficulty closing and bolting the door against the press of humanity trying to get in.
Immediately on arrival Har­vey appeared before police magis­trate Thomas Saunders. He seemed totally dejected, pulling his hat down over his face, as he heard the charges. Dr. Lett, of Homewood Sanita­rium, who had posted the origi­nal bail of $2,000, was present, and asked to have his money returned.
Meanwhile, coroner Dr. Her­od and crown attorney Henry Peterson had been con­sulting. The Doctor called his inquest for 4pm, a mere hour after the arrival of Randall and Harvey. They already had a list of prospective jurors. The in­quest was held at City Hall, next door to the police station. Much of the crowd lingered on Carden Street, hopeful of claiming a seat for the hearing.
Hundreds surged into the building when the doors were un­locked, jamming the council chamber and all the stairways and halls. Dr. Herod insisted that decorum prevail, but soon the crowd was so noisy that no one could hear his comments. Ex­asperated, the Doctor ord­er­ed the building cleared, and told the disappointed spectators that they could read all about the proceedings in tomorrow’s Herald and Mercury.
After the preliminary for­mali­ties, Dr. Herod escorted the jury to the Harvey residence at the corner of Woolwich and Ed­win Streets to view the bod­ies, which had not been moved since they were discovered two days earlier. An immense mob followed the carriages to the house and back, but constables allowed only jurors and re­port­ers to enter. The inquest resumed an hour later back at City Hall. It was clear that this would be more like a preliminary hearing than the usual coroner’s in­quest. Chief Randall was the first witness. He described his involvement with the case, be­gin­ning with William Harvey’s arrest for embezzlement the previous Monday evening.
George Murton, a Wynd­ham Street tailor, was foreman of the jury.
Next week: conclusion of the inquest, and the trial.

Stephen Thorning