The murder of George Brown

Did you know that George Brown, who George Brown College is named after, was murdered?

Drawing of George Brown being shot in the leg. Illustration by Henri Julien, the Canadian Illustrated News, April 10, 1880.

Illustration by Henri Julien, the Canadian Illustrated News, April 10, 1880.

George Brown, our college’s namesake, born in 1818 in Scotland, settled in Canada and started two newspapers; one of which, The Globe would become The Globe and Mail.

Brown was one of the fathers of confederation and an anti-slavery activist. He was also remembered for the circumstances around his death, as it was possibly an early incident of workplace rage.

Richard Fiennes-Clinton, operator of The Muddy York tours, writes a blog called Toronto Then and Now  where he collects stories and photos of Toronto’s darker side.

According to Fiennes-Clinton, George Bennett, the person who shot George Brown, was a man with troubles. Bennett had been in trouble with the law having been arrested for beating his partner. He had been employed with The Globe, for five years previous to the incident, but had slowly descended into alcoholism. His being drunk at work led to him being fired from the job.

On the day of the shooting, Bennett was seen hanging around The Globe building, in a state of intoxication. He had been evicted from the press room, but instead of leaving he let himself into George Brown’s office, locking the door behind him. Brown, unaware that Bennett had a pistol on him until he pulled it from his pocket, struggled to point the gun away from himself, but the gun went off and the bullet went into Brown’s thigh.

Bennett was arrested and Brown was given medical care; it originally looked like all was well, but,, the wound became infected and he died weeks later at his home, Lambton Lodge, (later named George Brown House).

The Toronto & Ontario Ghosts and Haunting Research Society  investigated the house in 2010, but results were inconclusive, with noises and technical problems with their equipment being noted.

George Bennett, after expressing remorse for the drunken shooting of Brown, was hanged at Toronto’s Don Jail and his remains were dumped into a mass grave. In 2009, an archaeological exploration of the site turned up many remains, George Bennett is believed to be among them. There is a documentary chronicling the dig called, The Hangman’s Graveyard.

Fiennes-Clinton includes this George Brown story (and many more) in his Bloody York: Crime and Punishment Walking Tour.


The murder of George Brown