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THE BOOKS: Crime and Investigation


An Interesting Account of... the Markham Gang…, 1846

The Markham Gang is the first documented case of organized crime in what is now Ontario. The gang gained notoriety for its brazen crimes including theft, extortion, blackmail and assault. The gang’s influence was felt throughout the province and as far as upper New York state. This document describes the gang’s activities and how they committed their crimes. The book also includes the transcripts of the trials of some high profile members.


Full Details of the Railway Disaster...of the Great Western Railway…, 1857

In March of 1857, a passenger train plunged off a bridge into the Desjardins Canal in Hamilton, killing 57 people and injuring many more. It was and remains the worst disaster in the city’s history. The book describes the events surrounding the accident and provides a detailed account of the Coroner’s Inquest which includes the use of forensic evidence to examine the causes of the accident. This marked one of the first times forensic science had been used in this type of investigation in Ontario.


[Petition] To the Honorable Sir Allan Napier MacNab…, 1845

Alexander McLeod was arrested at Manchester, Niagara County, State of New York on September 24, 1840, on charges of arson and murder. He published this petition to try to prove that he was not present at the burning of the steamship Caroline during the 1837 Rebellion. The petition details the mistreatment McLeod suffered as a result of his alleged connection with the burning of the ship.


By the early 19th century, Ontario had an established legal system that dealt with crime and criminals swiftly and effectively. Its courts were trusted and its trials respected. A new and growing aspect of the legal system was the use of forensic science as a way of gathering evidence in a case or investigation. This evidence usually comes from the scene of the crime or accident and is most often gathered by police or the coroner’s office. Forensic evidence can reveal information that may not otherwise be obvious. When needed, this evidence is presented in a court of law. The nature of the forensic evidence can alter the course of an investigation or change the outcome of a case.

In early Ontario, the use of forensic science in crimes and investigations was new. The science was not well developed and not often used. However, when employed, it proved to be a valuable way to piece together the fragments of an event.

  1. For each of the documents answer the following questions:
    1. What is the primary source document?
    2. Who wrote the document?
    3. When was the document created?
    4. Where was it published?
    5. Why was the document created? What is its purpose?
  2. Based on the answers for question 1, what can you say about the authenticity of the documents? Which of the three sources provides the most reliable information? Which is least reliable?
  3. AS PART OF THE CLASS MAGAZINE: Write an article for the classroom magazine that outlines what the fields of crime and investigation were like in the 1800s. Your article will contain a description of each of the three events, an explanation of how evidence was used in the investigation, and a summary of the decisions reached in each investigation. Use the Investigation Evidence Organizer to make notes as you research. The final copy submitted to the magazine can be in chart format or paragraph format. In either format, full sentences are required – not simply point-form notes.


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