Murder in the Maritimes

One of my favorite exhibits here in the museum has to be the display that focuses on George Stanley, the last person to be executed here in Windsor. It’s a bit of a morbid story, of course, but it has just enough mystery and grisly details to qualify as one of the many strange and interesting happenings from Windsor’s past.

George Stanley, as the locals knew him, was a drifter who had found room and board with a Mr. Freeman Harvey, who’s property was located outside of Ellershouse. Freeman, popular among the locals, was known to be a prominent part of the community and lived alone before Stanley entered the picture.

Stanley had told locals that he was to be installing telephones around the province of Nova Scotia and would need to hire help. He offered 2 dollars a day, enticing several men, one of these men being David Fisher joined the group. Fisher had lent Stanley his jackknife. Little did he know that there would be a deadlier purpose for it.

Shortly after his arrival to Freeman Harvey’s property–a mere two weeks–Stanley announced his recent purchase of Freeman Harvey’s farm and house. When he was questioned about Freeman’s whereabouts, he simply mentioned that Freeman had gone to Halifax to discuss details of the sale with a lawyer. On February 3rd, the same day that Stanley announced his new property, Stanley returned Fisher’s jackknife. Fisher noted that it had been sharpened.

Many locals went over to help Stanley clean and move into his new house; quite a few ended up staying for dinner. Those who were there began to notice that Stanley would not let anyone near the basement. He went down only once during his guests’ stay and that was to fetch some potatoes for dinner. Shortly after, he proceeded to nail the basement door shut. Two days later, residents of the community were beginning to become suspicious of Stanley’s strange behavior and the ongoing absence of Freeman Harvey. Fisher, who had been helping Stanley all weekend, finally pried the basement door open with another concerned local.

There, in the basement, buried within the potato bin, was the headless body of Freeman Harvey. Upon further investigation, Harvey’s head was found underneath a nearby bucket.

After apprehending Stanley, police discovered that he went be several different aliases such as John Ryan and William Kavanagh. They were never certain of Stanley’s real name. While imprisoned here in Windsor, Stanley wrote to the many influential people pleading his innocence and asking them to aid him in his case. His letters were intelligent and civilized; not exactly what one would expect from a killer. In these letters, he would often reference his Irish heritage. An excerpt from one of his many letters reads:

I am an Irishman friendless and alone in this strange land accused of an awful crime of which I am not guilty, surrounded by a chain of circumstances well woven together by my enemies.

His letters were never sent.

Throughout his time in prison, it was noted that he had a “quiet disposition” and was generally a model prisoner.

Stanley was later found guilty of first degree murder and was hung on August 1st, 1906. This was to be the last execution in Windsor and the noose still remains in the museum, along with Stanley’s letters of innocence.

It is a murder of the most odd circumstance…but how much was of his own doing and how much had been “woven by his enemies”?


Acadia, Summer Student

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