Chatham author bases his novel on the mysterious death of the 1840s

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An author from Chatham gave the full treatment of the novel to a previous short story she wrote based on accounts of the death of a woman in central Dover.

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Sheila Gibbs just released Murder on the Thames: The Mystery of Mary Jacob on the circumstances of the death of a young woman in 1841. Although it contains historical elements, the book is a work of fiction.

Gibbs first heard the story from local historian Jim Gilbert, whose grandmother told him stories about Jacob’s ghost every Halloween. As he grew older he found in the Chatham Daily Planet reports of apparitions on the Thames in the early 1900s, which some residents of the time linked to Jacob.

Gilbert also found information about the real Jacob family and shared this information with Gibbs.

“I was intrigued by this,” Gibbs said. “The Jacob family didn’t seem to be very lucky after this (Mary’s death) and all kinds of things went wrong, so everything seemed to indicate that something very mysterious was going on.”

The author wrote a four page story for her first collection of ghost stories in 2004, but she thought about expanding it because there was “so much detail” to some of her other stories, a- she declared.

The novel presents a theory on how and why Jacob died. It’s also a love story between Jacob and a man named Alex Miller, who is not loved by the Jacob family in the story.

As information on Miller was not available, Gibbs said she had to use her imagination. She decides to turn him into a peddler, a profession that would not have been respected at the time.

“They certainly would not have been held in such high esteem, even though they were very necessary to bring them (family) goods because the roads were so bad and getting around was not easy,” Gibbs said. .

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Miller would have needed a horse, which led Gibbs to include a match race with another peddler on the Raleigh Plains.

Gibbs also decided to use the 1841 framework to include lingering resentment following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837-38.

She worked in a real organization called the Chatham Vigilant Society for the Suppression of Felony, an early police force founded a few years before history. In the novel, the company responds to the rebels.

“I wanted this renewal of all these different attacks,” Gibbs said. “It gave me something to work on. There was not much internal fighting (in Kent County). There was more going on in the Niagara region, but I moved that here a bit. “

Those interested in purchasing Gibbs’ book can contact her at 519-351-2958. She is also holding a book signing at Turns and Tales, 213 King St. W., on December 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.

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