I’m a big fan of the Canadian tv show ” The Murdoch Mysteries ” The Murdoch mysteries take place in Ontario, Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century and the TV show has a touch of the Steampunk vibe about it.
I have a story about a ( now ) cold case file from Ottawa that may have tickled William Murdoch’s curiosity:
The mystery begins in 1925 Ottawa Canada and it involves a gentleman named William McDowall who was found floating in Rideau Canal. It was reported he had been in the water for some time, he had been found with his papers and ID and there was no obvious signs for the cause of his death or how he ended up in the canal.
William had been in town for his Mother’s funeral and he had been her only son.
What made things even more complicated was that the authorities and William’s family were never able to find a single person, they could never turn up a single rumor about what William did while he was Ottawa after his Mother’s funeral up to the day he died.
I know this for a fact because William is my Great-Great Grandfather and his daughter was my Great Grandmother.
Williams death haunts me because my family are a group of people who were gifted with amazing story telling abilities and were as collective the most fearless people I have ever known. They would have not been shy about painting a less then flattering picture about anybody- including one of their own, and in the end they could not come up with an idea, a story about how William ended up in the canal.
That to me is the greatest mystery of all.
Where is Detective Murdoch when you need him?
1925, Friday September 4, The Almonte Gazette front page
Body At Ottawa Of Almonte Man
Body Found In Rideau Canal Is Identified By Papers As W.R. McDowall
Mystery As To Cause of Accident, Inquest Held on Thursday Afternoon
But Particulars Not Yet Available.
Shortly after noon on Thursday a telegram reached Almonte stating that a body, which papers found on it identified as W.R. McDowall of Almonte, had been found floating in the Rideau Canal at Ottawa. The telegram was sent to Chief of Police Watchorn, who received it at the noon hour. The communications stated that papers in the clothes contained building plans and bore the name of W.R. McDowall. Other descriptions concurred with characteristics of Mr. McDowall.
It is not yet known how the accident happened. As the body was found floating, it must have been in the water some time, probably since Wednesday. An inquest was held on Thursday afternoon, the results of which had not reached Almonte at the time of going to press. A soon as possible after the news arrived, Mr McDowall’s father, Mr W.J. McDowall, his son-in-law Mr Black, and Mr. W.E. Scott left for Ottawa by motor to attend the inquest and ascertain further particulars.
Recently Mr McDowall had been working near Ashton. He came to Almonte on Friday to be here for his mother’s funeral on Saturday. He left Almonte during the weekend, supposedly to return to his work. Evidently he went right on to Ottawa, as it stated that he had not been in Ashton since the funeral. What occurred while he was in Ottawa is not known.
Very Sad Case.
The case is particularly sad as this is the second break in the McDowall family within a week, Mrs W.J. McDowall, died on Thursday August 27. Mr W.R. McDowall was an only son. Besides his father and one sister, he leaves his wife and seven children. Three daughters are married and three live at home in Almonte. The son is the youngest of the family, a boy of about ten years.
Below is the obituary for William’s Father- he outlived his son by 14 years and had a very interesting life:
1939, Thursday March 23, The Almonte Gazette front page
W.J. McDowall Former Mayor Is Called By Death
Well known Former Businessman Was Prominent Orangeman — Died on Sunday
There was a large attendance at the funeral of William John McDowall, a former mayor of Almonte, on Tuesday afternoon, from the family home, Union Street, to the Auld Kirk Cemetery vault. Mr McDowall passed away on Sunday, in his 91st year, after being in ill-health for upwards of a year. Although suffering from failing eyesight and other complications associated with old age, he was able to be about until this past winter.
Previous to his retirement in 1920 he had conducted a successful flour and feed store for many years on Bridge street. He served for some time as a councillor and was Mayor on two different occasions. As a tribute to his municipal service the town hall flag was set at half mast until after the funeral. In his younger days he was a stone contractor and worked for a time for the C.P.R. when the line was being built from Montreal to North Bay.
Rev William Aird of the Baptist church, who is a member of the Orange fraternity, officiated. The funeral was under the direction of Almonte Lodge 378 of the Loyal Orange Order. The pallbearers, all members of the local L.O.L., were L.W. Shipman, Edward James, Glenson Kirk, David Phillips, Wilbert Fulton and Mayor W.W. Watchorn. Numerous floral tributes were received.
Until failing eyesight in recent years forced him to give up reading, he kept in touch with affairs, both at home and abroad. From his early youth, Mr McDowall was an ardent follower of the Orange Order. He was master of the local Orange Order for a great many years.
Since the death of his wife in 1925, he had made his home with his daughter-in-law, Mrs William McDowall.
He was a member of the Baptist Church here. Born at Lochans, Stranraer, Scotland, deceased was the son of John McDowall and his wife, Susanna Shanks. He was married in Scotland to Mary Espie and the youthful couple came to Canada some 70 years ago.
Of a family of four only one daughter survives, Mrs Albert Hartrick of Winnipeg. There are also nine grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.