Middlesex County Jail, London, Ontario, Canada is the still-active courthouse for Middlesex County in Ontario, Canada. The courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in London, and was built by the same group of judges who built Eldon House, which is not far from Middlesex County Courthouse.
Originally designated London District Courthouse, the courthouse was the district office, court, jail and police office. In the courtyard stood the public gallows, on which 15 people were hanged over time. Today, the Middlesex County Courthouse is still active as the political seat for the county.
It is reported that the ghosts of some of the earlier inhabitants still wander the building.
Marion 'Peg-Leg' BrownEdit
Marion Brown, later known as 'Peg Leg Brown', was a farm-hand and self-professed cowboy who began life hundreds of miles away from Canada in Texas, and was distinguishable by the wooden peg used to replace his left leg from the knee down. The missing limb was the result of a riding accident. Brown also bore distinctive scars over his eye and on his hand. In Texas, Brown had been charged in 1898 with illegal sale of alcohol (he sold beer to Native Americans). Later, he would add murder and jail escape to his record. In fleeing authority, Brown traveled extensively in Canada.
In London, Ontario, 1898, James Ross, a railway watchman, noticed a peg-legged man walking down the railway right of way, which was illegal trespass. Mr. Ross approached the man to warn him of his illegal act but the stranger promptly knocked him unconscious with a single blow to the head. The offender continued on with his walk. James Ross was helped by his colleagues, who also contacted the police.
Constable Michael Toohey was sent to investigate. Toohey spent the rest of the day tracking the man, following the distinctive track of one foot print and one impression of the wooden peg. Eventually, Toohey caught up with the suspect in the town suburb's at a street corner. When Toohey approached the man to complege the arrest, the subject revealed a handgun and shot Officer Toohey twice. The first shot aimed at Toohey's chest struck a pocket watch in his breast pocket. The second bullet aimed at the officer's forehead proved fatal. Toohey's killer escaped, but in doing so dropped his black slouch hat that later would prove to be a major point of identification of the murderer. The search for officer Toohey's killer blanketed the town of London and surrounding area. however the peg legged stranger seemed to disappear. Police released a description of a 5 foot tall, peg legged man the police presuming that because the man was Peg-Legged, he would be easy to find and identify as the killer. Many townsfolk came forward with reports of sightings. However, weeks past, and the police still had no trace of the killer. They search became more intense and soon anyone who had a peg-leg would become a suspect in Michael Toohey's murder. The London Police department telegraphed wanted bulletins across the whole country of Canada, requesting that all police departments arrest any homeless person, with a peg-leg, and send them to London. In a short time, 15 people had been sent to London, detained on suspicion of murder. All had Peg-Legs, but none where found guilty. The publicity of their attempts and seeming failure became a source of embarrassment to the London police department, and the investigation continued with less publicity.
A month later, the search extended to the USA, a further 5 suspects, none of whom could be identified as the killer. The Police frustration grew, fueled by public concern that the lack of results was causing a growing loss of credibility with the London populace.A search of all arrests, across the United States as well as Canada revealed the case of Marion Brown, the Texan Cowboy who had been arrested for selling alcohol to Indians.
Brown, currently, in a prison in Seattle, was also accused of drug offenses because Morphine had been found in his cell. However at London Ontario's request, he was shipped to Canada. Brown unsure of his destination assumed he was being transported to a court setting for his trial on liquor and drug charges. Reports of an arrest and transport of a prisoner to London, fueled public hysteria. Brown, described as having a scar on his hand and above his eye, was an even more likely suspect in Michael Toohey's murder. Unfounded reports spread that 'Peg-Leg Brown' Had already killed 5 times in the USA, and had escaped from prison frequently. In reality, Brown had only been charged as an Alcohol and Morphile smuggler. It wasn't until Brown was in Middlesex County Courthouse that he realized that he was being charged with murder.
The trial was postponed when Brown declared that he was not prepared. More than 50 witnesses from across Ontario, claimed to have seen Brown in the immediate vicinity, although not completely credible these reported sightings became the basis for the prosecution's case. The Defence produced 21 Witness's from Washington State and Texas confirming Brown's whereabouts during the time of the murder. 300 spectators viewed the trial and the defence argued that the trial was an unfair, claiming that the public had been mislead with malicious rumours. The defence argued that all of the prosecution's "Witness's" Had not actually seen Toohey's killer, in fact James Ross, the only witness claiming to have seen Brown at the scene could not be recall accurately, his assailant's appearance. The Defence contended that the police where trying to convict Brown so as to mask the fact that they had not discovered the true murderer of police officer Michael Toohey's.
Although the Prosecution's case seemed insubstantial, a week later the Jury found Marion Brown guilty of the Murder of Michael Toohey. Convicted and led away to the courthouse prison, Marion was quoted as saying, "Another Innocent man has been convicted, the fact that no grass shall grow on my grave shall prove my innocence". Although the trial did not convince some the public, Brown was hung at the Middlesex prison on may 11, 1899. As the trapdoor opened and Marion Brown plunged to eternity, It suddenly started raining in London and a lightning bolt struck the courthouse. A local pastor witnessing the events, cried out for forgiveness for the town.
History proved Brown's Prediction true. In 1985 the unmarked grave of Marion Brown was covered in tarmac,as a parking space for Middlesex County Courthouse. Grass has not grown there, since Brown's hanging. People say his ghost haunt's the courthouse, especially on the anniversary of his trial. Prisoners in neighboring cells, complain that ghostly noises kept them awake during the night, and the apparition of a peg-legged man is reportedly seen walking throughout Middlesex County Courthouse.