THE MURDER OF ROBERT DONALD DICKIE
Way up in the north east corner of Lake Township, just south of Coe Hill, lies a beautiful and deep lake known as Dickey Lake. While the lake is a picture of serenity, the naming of the lake was based on the violent murder and theft of Mr. Robert Donald Dickie (The spelling changed over the years) on Jan. 10, 1859.
The Archives of Ontario holds the story which was written on January 19, 1859 in the Hastings Chronicle of Bellville,
“The community was last weekstartled by the intelligence that Mr. Robert D. Dickie, a most respectable Scottish settler on the Hastings Road, in this County, was on Monday, 10th, deliberately robbed and murdered, at his premises in the Township of Lake. It was perhaps, one of the most cold-blooded, unprovoked murders that was ever perpetrated in Canada. The facts, for which we are indebted to a leading gentleman of the Village of Hastings (original name of the Village of Madoc), are as follows”.
“Mr. Dickie, a single man, had two shanties on his place, on old one and a new one. A night or two previous to Monday, 10th, the old log house where he was resting caught fire and was burned down. Dickie barely saving his chest and guns. The persons in the house at the time were Dickie, a young man by the name of Barbeau, and a man calling himself Samuel Peter Rock. They then moved to the new building, which was not quite finished. On Monday at 11 o’clock, they were in the house Dickie, Barbeau, Maitland and this Samuel Peter Rock. Dickie and Barbeau left to go to a neighbours for their dinner, Dickie telling Rock and Maitland to go down to a camp near a lake a mile or two off, and get some blankets. Rock was in Dickie’s employ, Maitland was there helping finish the house. After Dickie and Barbeau left, Rock said, “Maitland, you go and get the blankets, and I will stay and chop some wood”, which he consented to.
Barbeau states that after getting their dinner, he and Dickie returned to the house, and on going into the first room, found no one there, but from finding a door of one of the other rooms broken open, Dickie ran into the room, looked around saw his chest broken open, his money (about a hundred dollars) gone, his papers scattered, and exclaiming “I am robbed”, went to the other room, pushed the door open, and was just stepping in, when Barbeau heard the report of a gun, and saw Dickie fall backward to the floor. Glancing into the room, he then saw Samuel Peter Rock leveling the gun at him, with his finger on the trigger; he sprang to the out door, and to elude Rock, ran into the woods, where he wandered about for an hour, and then made his way to the nearest neighbour’s and told his story. They immediately came to the house, found Dickie dead, then immediately started in pursuit of the murderer, and about 7 o’clock the same evening overtook Rock at Jelly’s Tavern, some distance from Dickie’s north on the Hastings Road. Rock had called for his supper, and was hurrying them, as he wanted to get on. He was immediately arrested; he wanted to know what for, and when told for the murder of Dickie, expressed no surprise, only said “I did not do it”. He was then brought back to Beaver Creek, and the indignation of the people was so great that it was with the greatest difficulty they were restrained from taking his life on the spot.
Rock is cool and unconcerned as though no murder had taken place at all; saying there is no use saying anything now, but he will reserve what he knows for his Counsel. He looks like an old offender. He has just been shipped from here to the Belleville jail.
An Inquest was held on the body of Mr. Dickie by Richard Corrigan, Esq., Coroner, and a verdict rendered in accordance with the facts. We have heard it stated that from a subsequent examination of the premises where the murder was committed, it is supposed that the intention of the murder was to set fire to the shanty and burn the body in it, as a quantity of powder and some shavings were found so arranged on the floor, as to lead to such a conclusion”.
MORE DETAILS in 'Shewano, the Dickey lake newsletter,
Dickie had emigrated to Australia but didn’t like it. He arrived in Upper Canada in the early 1850’s. The County of Hastings was being ‘opened up’ at the time, by way of travel (mostly by ox-cart) on what is now known as the ‘Old Hastings Road’. As an inducement, a person or family who cleared 8 acres of land was entitled to it.
Dickie had built a small temporary cabin of about 10′ x 14′ near a southeast bay of what is now Dickey Lake (notice the different spelling). It was a general understanding by people in the area that he was in possession of gold, but whether in nuggets, bars or jewelry is not known. He was regarded favourably by people locally and in Coe Hill.
With the help of a Mr. Barbeau, Dickie was constructing a house, on the east side of Hastings Road opposite the current Thompson property. Returning to the cabin, probably on snowshoes, on January 10th, 1859, he found Rock going through a trunk, and exclaimed “Oh my God, I am being robbed!” Rock produced a muzzle loading flintlock, fired at point blank range, and killed Dickie. Barbeau managed to get out of range unharmed.
Barbeau went to neighbours to recount the event and get help. He was joined by Pat (Paddy) Nugent, Charlie Murphy Sr., and John Thompson (grandfather of George Thompson) and the four went in search of Rock. They found him at a hotel owned by Sandy Menzie, located north of Murphy’s Corners and near Ormsby. He was arrested (citizen’s arrest). Some people wanted to lynch him on the spot. Cooler heads prevailed however, and he was kept overnight in a boarded up room. The next day he was taken to Belleville, where he was imprisoned and eventually tried, convicted and hanged in the Market Square.
Credit :George Thompson.
and Grant Boundy.
The burial of Robert Donald Dickie
Mr. Dickie was laid to rest in the O'Hara Cemetery, located about 1 kilometer west of Highway 62 and north of Highway 7 on the west side of O’Hara Road. The grave plot is surrounded by an iron fence; it and the stone having been sent from overseas by his parents. Evidently the Dickie family was well-to-do, since the engraving is extensive, and the fence an embellishment not often seen.