Research Days at Woodland

Good afternoon everyone,

It’s raining in London today, and as much as our team enjoys playing in the mud, we also have some research to be done as we finalize our various tours and videos. For the sake of convenience, we schedule visits to Western University and the London Public Library on such days. On such days we work to uncover more information on the history of our findings in addition to researching several other names interned at Woodland.

We use days like this to pour over old census, marriage, death records, and basically anything else we can get our hands on. We use this information to piece together stories of life in Confederation Era London, to be used for our tour bookings and for any mobile tour presentations we will offer this summer. Mackenzie Microfilm

Occasionally, when looking for more details on a certain person or event, or when something merely piques our curiosity, we turn to old newspapers. This was the case today, when we were searching for more information on a certain Thomas Francis. Francis had been a stone cutter in London around the time of Confederation. Our attention was brought to him by a local historian, Catherine McEwen, who asked we keep an eye out for any further gravestones bearing his signature.

The interest around Mr. Francis was because in addition to being responsible for carving gravestones for many of the city’s deceased, his story also had a dark and grisly ending. Using the information provided to us by Ms. McEwen, and an article from the London Free Press, we were able to piece together his tale.

Born in Ireland, Francis emigrated to Canada at an unknown date, living in Nova Scotia with his wife and several children. Some time around 1842, his family moved to London Ontario, where he worked as a stone and marble cutter. Following the death of his first wife, Francis remarried to a women 20 years his junior, in what was described as an unhappy marriage. After he suffered a stroke, rendering him unable to work as a stone carver, he opened the Ivy Green Hotel in 1861, but the marriage continued to falter due to Francis’ jealous attitude and hot temper. His wife successfully separated with him in 1866, purchasing the hotel he had since put up for sale and running it with her family. Throughout this time period, Francis tried desperately to reconcile with his former wife. On September 24th, 1867, he brought a pistol with him to the hotel, and attempted to shoot her when she refused to take him back once again. Due to the scuffle that ensued, his shot missed, allowing his former wife to escape. Thomas Francis was later found dead inside the hotel, having shot himself in the head.

According to our records at the cemetery, Francis is buried somewhere at Woodland in a single grave. However, the records do not indicate exactly where, nor do they indicate whether his headstone was also transferred here. Despite this, Francis remains an excellent example of the kinds of stories our headstones at Woodland are capable of telling.

Anyone interested in hearing more on life in London during Confederation is encouraged to come on one of the tours we are offering on Saturday June 24th, at 1 and 3 PM.

As always, follow our adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, @woodlandcemeteryhistory!

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