A British Columbia-based author and science journalist, formerly based in Penticton, has released a new historical novel.
“The Haweaters” is based on a story of murder that has circulated on Northern Ontario’s Manitoulin Island for many generations.
“I first heard the story from my mother who got it from her mother. And my grandmother learned it from her cousin,” said Vanessa Farnsworth.
“It seems like everyone on the island has a slightly different take on the murders, but the version I heard is the one that has grown in popularity with island residents and those fascinated by the early history of European settlement on Manitoulin Island.”
The tale revolves around the brutal killings of William and Charles Bryan by their neighbours George and Laban Amer in the burgeoning community of Tehkummah 1877.
The killings resulted in a sensational murder trial filled with accusations of wrongdoing that ran the gamut from arson, vandalism, and drunkenness to horse rustling, beatings, sexual impropriety and more.
“It may have been an isolated community, but you could hardly call it a sleepy one,” says Farnsworth, who is the great-great-great granddaughter of murder victim William Bryan.
“The fact that it was my own family members who were murdered was definitely part of the appeal of this story for me. But beyond that, it’s just such a compelling tale. There’s a reason why people are still talking about what happened almost 150 years later.”
The Haweather is published by Winnipeg’s Signature Editions and is Farnsworth's first foreay into historical fiction.
Farnsworth lived in Penticton from 2003-06 and was a Summerland-based master gardener. She still returns to the valley on a frequent basis.
Special to Okanagan Newspaper Group