Front page of the North Hastings Review of 5 March 1908.

The Community Archives recently partnered with the Board of the Madoc Public Library to digitize the microfilm of more than two thousand issues of the Madoc Mercury and the North Hastings Review (later known as the Madoc Review). The Review was first established in Madoc in 1877 by John Orr (1858-1938).

The newspapers from 1863 to 1960 are now available online through the Internet Archive. They bring a wealth of information about the families of the central Hastings area, with detailed stories and intriguing mysteries.

One that caught our eyes was the report on the disappearance of Rawdon Township farmer, Fred Thain (1891-1941), who vanished on his way home from a visit to the bank in Campbellford on July 27th, 1937. Fifty neighbouring farmers turned out to scour the area for evidence of the missing man after his horse turned up at home without him.


Police and a posse of 50 farmers Wednesday continued the hunt for Fred Thain, 47-year-old famer of Rawdon township, missing since conducting some business at a bank in Campbellford on Tuesday.

Trailing broken harness, Thain’s horse showed up at his 100 acre farm Tuesday night and a search disclosed the buggy on the side of a concession road in Seymour Township.

Police believed Thain either met foul play or was injured when his horse bolted. Thain is married and the father of three children. Campbellford is 40 miles northwest of Belleville.

“There’s no suggestion of foul play” stated Inspector Frank Gardner, when questioned on the disappearance of Fred Thain. “I have been in touch with Provincial Constable Gordon Campbell of Campbellford,” continued the Inspector, and that officer stated that the spot has been found in Seymour Township, where Thain presumably stopped his horse. A line and a hame strap are the only parts of the harness that were missing when the horse returned to its own home on Tuesday evening without the driver.”

The Inspector further stated that the bush is being thoroughly searched in the area where the hose was allegedly stopped, but the bush at this particular spot is quite heavy and it may require some time for the completion of the search. The police, it is understood, are quite convinced Thain did business in a Campbellford bank and that he was well when he started for his home in Rawdon Township late on Tuesday afternoon.

Stories about the disappearance of Fred Thain in 1937.

In the following week's newspaper, Thain claimed to have been kidnapped and robbed, although the police were unable to find any evidence to support his story.


Fred Thain, Rawdon Township farmer, told Provincial Police he was kidnapped Tuesday night and held prisoner until Wednesday night by four men in an “Old Sedan.” Search of the district nine miles northeast of Campbellford had been made by fifty farmers after Thain disappeared Tuesday and returned home on Friday.

While stating certain angles of the case were still under investigation, Inspector Frank Gardner, chief of District Provincial Police, said at Belleville that police had been “unable to find any evidence” to support Thain’s story. Inspector Gardner received a report from Sergeant Harry Thompson.

Thain, 35-year-old father of three children, told Sergt. Thompson he had gone to a local bank to renew a note around noon Tuesday and was driving back to his home in a horse-drawn buggy when four men in an automobile accosted him on the Eighth Line of Rawdon, a mile from his farm.

One of the men asked him for a jack knife, Thain said, and when he offered it to them they grabbed and bound him, putting a sack over his head and bundling him into their car. They took $3.00 from his pockets but left his watch and thirty-two cents, he said.

Thain said he believed his kidnappers turned east on the Tenth Line and after driving for quite a long time stopped at a farmhouse. He was kept in a cellar and tied up, but was given nothing to eat or drink, he said. He remained there Tuesday night and all day Wednesday until late Wednesday night.

Just three years later, Fred Thain was convicted of the shotgun murder of his elderly neighbours, Arnold and Nancy Wellman. He was the last person to be executed in Belleville, on January 14th, 1941.