Friday 24 March 2017

The Shot Heard Round the City

On March 25th, 1880, news quickly spread through the city that George Brown, politician and editor of the Globe had been shot in his office on King Street. A former employee, George Bennett, who was distressed by legal trouble and unemployment and under the influence of alcohol scuffled with Brown when the newspaperman gave an unfavourable reply to his request. When the assailant pulled his pistol, Brown was able to overpower him push his arm down. A shot was fired, and instead of hitting his chest, the bullet passed through Brown's thigh.

The next day, the Globe explained, "The shock to the community was very great. The news spread so rapidly that in a few minutes it had travelled over not merely the whole extent of the city, but - as return telegraphic despatches showed - over the whole Province, and far beyond its confines. Within half an hour from the firing of the shot, urgent messages began to come in from Ottawa and elsewhere asking for a correct statement of the facts, and a trustworthy account of Mr. Brown's condition. Amongst these was one from Rideau Hall, which showed that the perturbation caused by the incident had reached even the vice-regal residence."

Despite their many disagreements, Archbishop Lynch must have sent a message to Brown when he heard the news, because in the Archives we have the reply:

My dear Archbishop,

I have had read to me your very kind note of congratulations on my narrow escape from assassination and I have asked my little daughter to write you a little note expressing my heart-felt appreciation of your Grace's kindly sympathy. Congratulations is indeed the only word applicable to the case, coupled with hearty gratitude to the Almighty for preservation from so imminent a danger. 

The wound caused by the bullet passing through my limb is a very simple affair. I am getting on as comfortably as could be desired and hope to be astir again very soon.

Believe me
my dear Archbishop
Truly Yours 
Geo. Brown
Per G.E.B.

Lambton Lodge
26th March

L AE12.85
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

Despite his hopes, Brown was not soon again astir. At first he seemed to be on the mend, but his wound became infected. Even with the best available care, he died six weeks later on May 9th, 1880. The loss of the prominent statesman and publisher was keenly felt, and funeral was attended by dignitaries from across Canada. The streets were packed for his final walk from his home at the corner of Beverly and Baldwin Streets to the Toronto Necropolis cemetery.

For more information about George Brown and his family, check out the Archives of Ontario's online exhibit, Meet the Browns: A Confederation Family. Using this exhibit we were able to determine that the penmanship in the letter above probably belongs to Catherine Elizabeth, Brown's younger daughter.

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