J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

A Mysterious Saber in Guysborough

This is my favorite news story of the week. Though I suppose I should say “favourite.”

Homeowners in Guysborough, Nova Scotia, were having some renovations done when the workers brought down a saber they had found behind a wall.

Specifically, according to experts at the Army Museum at Halifax, it’s a cavalry saber of the sort used by the British army around 1780. It’s got “GR” stamped on the hilt.

The head of the local historical society posits that the saber “belonged to Capt. Joseph Marshall, with the Carolina Rangers, who made his way to Guysborough as a Loyalist after serving in the only British cavalry regiment in the American Revolution.”

That would presumably be the King’s Carolina Rangers, a Loyalist unit listed here on Todd Braisted’s website. There were, to be sure, other mounted regiments fighting for the Crown. Capt. Joseph Marshall, a native of Ireland, settled first at Country Harbour and then moved to Guysborough in 1794. According to the town death records, he died in 1848 at the age of ninety-three.

However, Capt. Marshall never lived in that house, nor did his descendants. The house wasn’t even built until 1939, when a retired sheriff moved in. And that man’s job might explain the source of the saber.

Back in January 1829, a somewhat recent arrival from Ireland, Dr. Henry Inch, was mysteriously murdered in Guysborough, stabbed several times with a sword outside his house one night. The National Post has the details.

Four men were charged with the murder, including Henry Marshall, one of the Loyalist captain’s sons. However, when a local magistrate called witnesses for an inquiry, no one could remember anything pertinent about the night.

Dr. Inch hadn’t made a lot of friends in Guysborough, but he had gotten married—to a rich older widow. People whispered that he was stealing her money. Perhaps he was abusing her. And then he wasn’t. The town buried the doctor and soon after elected three of the four men suspected of killing him to local offices.

And the cavalry saber? The locally favored, or favoured, theory is that it might have been the murder weapon, confiscated from Henry Marshall or his father as part of the murder investigation in 1829, kept in storage by the local sheriffs until the 20th century, and then taken home by the retiring sheriff who built that house.

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