Salem man concocted tale of kidnap and robbery

After Sem Wissler, James Gladstone ranks as the second most significant businessman in Salem’s history.
He began his career operat­ing a factory that made wooden shoe pegs.
Later he branched out with a woolens factory, and by the 1870s had investments in a half dozen other businesses in Salem and Elora. His fortunes declined steadily from the late 1870s, but he remained a re­spected resident, and served as the local Justice of the Peace.
In the 1860s, Gladstone took in a nephew, William Rose, and raised him like a son. Rose worked for his uncle in various capacities, and lived with him until he married, to a daughter of Pilkington farmer James Ross.
Like his uncle, William Rose enjoyed an excellent rep­u­tation in the neighbourhood. Initially, no one doubted the authenticity of a tale of robbery and kidnaping he told on May 15, 1894.
On the morning of May 14, Rose told his wife that he was taking the horse and buggy for a visit to John Maitland, of Pon­sonby, who held the mort­gage on their house. He stuffed a bulky envelope into his coat pocket. It contained, he told his wife, $1,610 in banknotes to cover $1,500 of principal the accumulated interest on the debt. He drove out the lane and down the road about 8am. His wife did not see him again until late the following day, and the tale he told her and newspaper reporters was an incredible one.
A couple of miles above Ponsonby, William said, he drove a short distance down a sideroad for what can deli­cate­ly be called a “comfort stop.” When he stepped out of the buggy a dark-complexioned man, with a black moustache, came up to him, pointed a re­volver, and mumbled some­thing.
Then a second man grab­bed him from behind and put a cloth over his head. William caught a glimpse of a black beard on this man. The two wrestled him to the ground and then rifled his pockets, taking the envelope and another $4.75 in change in his trouser pocket. He heard one of them tear open the envelope, but neither said any­thing.
They then stripped off his clothes, put some other gar­ments on him, and marched him into a nearby bush. He plead­ed with them not to hurt him for the sake of his wife and young child. They assured him that no harm would come to him if he co-operated.
In the bush, they sat him on a log. Looking at him closely, one of the said, “That’s not the man.” The other replied that he did not care, in view of the parcel of money they found. After a while they marched him out of the bush.
Through a slit in the cloth that had been plac­ed over his head he saw that they were approaching a wagon, drawn by a dark horse. They put him in the back, with his head under the seats and the rest of his body covered with a piece of carpet.
William said that he believ­ed they were heading toward Orangeville. Making small talk, one of the men asked what William did for a living. He said he had been working in the bush all winter, felling and saw­ing lumber.
After driving a couple of hours they stopped at another bush. In a few minutes, a third man appeared. “Well, you’ve got here,” one of the two ab­ductors greeted him. William was certain they were about to finish him off. William said he was in tears as he pleaded for his life. He choked up again when he related that part of the story the next day.
After that second stop the men drove rapidly for a long time. William could hear speech from neither man. He thought it was about midnight when they stopped beside a large swamp. They untied his hands and removed his cloth­ing. One of the captors hissed that he would find his clothes in the neighbourhood. As they left, they told William to stay where he was for two hours “or we will blow your brains out.”
When he heard them drive off, William started rooting around. The moon was nearly full that night. He found his coat and shoes nearby, and the remainder of his clothing about 50 yards away. The watch and a pocketknife were still in the trouser pocket, but every penny of money was gone.
Fully clothed, he set off on foot. After a couple of miles, he came to a main road with tele­graph poles along it.
The morning sun was now rising. He turned his back to it, and kept walking. He was under the impression that he was near Orangeville, he said later, and was trying to get closer to Elora. Eventually he met a man, who told him he was four miles from Tavistock.
He reached that village about 7am, and then was able to hitch a ride to Stratford. There he looked up Rev. Leitch, who had been the Pres­byterian minister at Elora. The minister gave him a meal and loaned him a little money. William sent a telegram to his wife, saying he was alright, and another to his father-in-law, with a request to meet him at the station in Berlin (now Kitch­ener). With the help of Ross, William said, he intended to return to Tavistock in search of his captors.
Before boarding the train, William spoke to Stratford pol­ice and reporters for the two Stratford dailies, who soon had the incredible story on the news wire. Later that day, provincial detective Greer heard the tale. He got on the next train for Guelph.
James Ross was waiting for Rose at the Berlin station, but they decided to drive home in­stead of going to Tavistock.
After reading the press accounts and mulling over the story, Detective Greer conclud­ed there was something fishy about the whole business. He intended to get to the bottom of it. Using telegraph and tele­phone, he contacted other pol­ice forces in the area, with a descriptions of Rose, the bug­gy, and his horse. Several wit­nesses in Waterloo County reported seeing a man answer­ing the description on the after­noon of May 15.
On May 18, that Friday, Greer had Rose brought to Guelph for questioning. The detective began about noon, and continued the grilling almost non-stop through the night and the following morn­ing. Rose finally broke down about 3pm the next afternoon. Greer called in Crown Attorney Henry Peterson, who took down a confession that the whole story was concocted.
In his statement, William Rose revealed that he had borrowed $1,900 from his father-in-law, James Ross, three years earlier, promising to apply it to the mortgage on his house. But he lost it all in “a business transaction,” he said. There was no $1,610 in that envelope when he left home, only about $7 in his pocket.
On the way to Ponsonby he turned off the highway, and head­ed for Breslau. There he had dinner, then went to Fahn­er’s Hotel to feed the horse. Greer already had a witness to verify that. About 8pm, Rose said, he started to drive toward Stratford, and continued on through the night. He stopped to rest at a church shed near Tavistock. Leaving the horse and buggy there, he walked to Tavistock, where he hired a liveryman to take him to Strat­ford. There he told the fictitious story of the kidnaping and robbery to Rev. Leitch, the Strat­ford police, and the report­ers.
William Rose said that he could not explain the motive for the grand deception. He had led his wife to believe that he had $1,600 to pay down the mortgage. He had concealed the loss of the $1,900 borrowed from his father-in-law. At pres­ent he had no money saved, he ad­mitted, and only enough income to meet immediate needs.
He ended his statement by stating that Detective Greer had shown him that a full confes­sion would be in the public interest, and also his duty under the circumstances. “I felt that the concealment of the truth any longer was absurd, and I re­peat my regret at my indefen­sible and wicked conduct.”
Legally, it appears that Crown Attorney Peterson be­lieved there was nothing to be gained with a criminal prosecu­tion. William Rose would carry the embarrassment and humili­a­tion of the escapade with him for the rest of his life.

Stephen Thorning