Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Last "Official" duel in Canada

The last duel held in Ontario was in 1833. It was also the last fatal duel. The pistols used can be viewed at the local museum in Perth, Lanark County Ontario.

The participants were Robert Lyon and John Wilson accompanied by their respective seconds, Henri Lelievre (probably Lel-ee-vray) and Simon Robertson respectively. The focus of the confrontation was a school teacher Elizabeth Hughes.

Robert Lyon was born in Inverurie, Scotland on December 30, 1812. Along with his family he moved to Canada in 1829.

John Wilson was born February 5, 1807 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland and came to “the colonies” with his family in Perth, Upper Canada about 1823. In 1833 he was studying law under James Boulton.

In early June of 1833 Lyon, also a law student, made disparaging remarks about Elizabeth Hughes. John Wilson heard these remarks and, since he had begun a relationship with the young school teacher, demanded that Lyon retract the remarks which at the instant he did.

Most of us are aware how the passage of a few minutes which then become hours can change the view one might have of events. Apparently this happened with Robert Lyon for, at the urging of a “friend” Henri Lelievre, he challenged Wilson. Due to an ordinance which had recently been passed in one county they arranged for the duel to take place across the Tay River in another jurisdiction.

It was June 13, 1833. The two combatants paced off the distance, turned and fired. Both missed.

Everyone is satisfied, right?

No, not for Lelievre. He insisted that satisfaction had not been achieved and demanded a reload; the pistols where recharged and re-primed.

When they where fired this time Lyon fell. He was rowed back across the river to Perth where he died a short time later.

Wilson and his second, Simon Robertson were arrested by the Sheriff and tried in Brockville for murder where they were acquitted.

Robert Lyon, Dec. 30, 1812June 13, 1833.

John Wilson, Feb. 5, 1807June 3, 1869.

The last official duel, yes. Not the last gun battle. There seems to be one every few monts, usually in an urban area between gang members or with one of the police forces involved.
Most of the gun battles recorded in the late 1800s were between groups with several shooters on each side. Some of the confrontations where exagerated with the telling and some became, "oh, nothing worth talking about."



  1. Off topic here, but I have wondered whether you have any connection with the Hollywood actor/director of the Silent Era, J. P. McGowan.

  2. It's a Scottish name so somewhere back there it's probable that there is a connection. However, it would take far more time than I have to research such a distant past and cut into the writing and research for the same.
    However, thank's for the question since it demonstrates that someone is reading.
    By the way, damn fine post - as most of your are - about lawyers.