Last week, I shared that I had found ‘new-to-me’ information about one of my wife’s cousins, Dr. James Albert Faulkner. James is Ellen’s second cousin, twice removed and was, in addition to being a noted physician in the Belleville, Ontario region, the Ontario Minister of Health in the provincial government Cabinet from 1934 – 1937.
I got an additional surprise when checking information available on the Find-A-Grave site about the James Faulkner family when I found that James’ mother-in-law, Catharine Aurelia Vermilyea (nee Farley) had been murdered. Mrs. Vermilyea suffered a violent and untimely death on the evening of October 4th, 1934, on Bridge Street in Belleville, Ontario. Although I would not usually pursue research into a family that is not directly related to either Ellen or myself, I will often at least record any vital record type information about a relation’s in-laws to complete ‘the picture’ and for future reference. It was through this that I discovered the note on Mrs. Vermilyea’s Find-A-Grave ‘memorial’ page that referenced the manner in which she died.
Thirty-six hours after the murder, her son, Harold W. Vermilyea, was arrested in Ontario, San Bernardino, California (Harold is pictured above with the arresting officer William Hammond of the Ontario, California police department). And so began a story that competed on the front pages of newspapers in Canada and the United States with the Linbergh baby kidnapping and the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the crime as well as the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany. The Vermilyea murder story was gripping as there were no witnesses to the crime, the son of an affluent Belleville family was accused of matricide, and everyone wanted to know how someone, in 1934, who lived in Ontario, California could murder someone in Belleville, Ontario and be back home in California thirty-six hours later.
In the next couple of posts, I will re-tell what many pages of newspaper articles from the Toronto Star’s Pages of the Past told captive southern Ontario communities about Harold, the Vermilyea family, the crime and the punishment.