I am excited to be kicking off the next season of the Oshawa Historical Society’s Speaker Series to discuss my upcoming book project, My Dearest Mina: A Tale of Love and Death in Victorian Toronto. Inspired by a visit to Oshawa’s Union Cemetery the story of the death of William Wells in 1893 has all the earmarks of a fascinating thriller; love, death, betrayal and more than enough mystery. And the best part of the story is it’s true! Read more about the book below.
Dates carved into a tombstone in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery memorialize the short and tragic life of William Wells, whose untimely death in the 1890s was the subject of a sensational murder trial in Toronto. Was William’s death a case of pre-meditated murder or merely a tragic accident? Well, that all depends on who you ask.
Harry Hyams and Martha Wells met in 1889 at a summer resort in Northern Ontario, and eventually married in 1893. By 1895 the marriage was over and Harry and twin brother Dallas were both on trial for the murder of Martha’s brother William in an alleged insurance scam. The trial captivated Victorian Toronto and made newspaper headlines in Canada and around the world. The twins were referred to in the media as “moral and physical degenerates” and the case so captivated the people of Toronto that the court room was overflowing daily with spectators.
There were allegations of jury tampering, suspicions of judicial influence and bribery and the spectacle of a body disinterred. The personalities on both sides of the courtroom further sensationalized the case to the point that fifty years later the case was still referred to as a gross miscarriage of justice by the media and by many directly involved. The question remains – was William Wells murdered?
The 2019-2020 season of the Oshawa Historical Society Speaker Series begins on Tuesday September 17, 2019. Meetings take place at the Arts Resource Center, 45 Queen Street, Oshawa, Ontario.