A family feud and the haunted house

Mac's Musings—Claude McIntosh
A family feud and the haunted house
Mac's Musings

The relatives not liked by an eccentric Cornwall spinster got the last laugh, as the saying goes, in an Ontario Supreme Court hearing.

Annie Dingwall cut her brother and several nephews and nieces out of her will, but in June 1967 the Ontario Supreme Court ruled the will invalid.The bulk of her fortune – $450,000 along with large pieces of property –had been left to her Cornwall physician. In today’s dollars, the $450,000 would translate to $4.3 million. There was a lot to fight over.

Annie, who came from ‘old money’, was a shrewd, frugal business person who kept to herself.

The court ruled that the windfall would go to her brother, nephews and nieces, most of whom had little or no contact with her. They had contested the will.

Soon after, her large old home on Gloucester Street near Second was sold and torn down to make room for an apartment complex.

It was a creepy old place – surrounded by an iron fence – right out of an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie. It was left idle when Annie, with her health failing, moved into the Cornwallis Hotel where she was attended to by her faithful family physician.

The rumour mill said the house was haunted. At night, kids would scurry by on the other side. It became spookier on Halloween Night.

“My father always told me the place was haunted,” recalled Billy Bingley. “One day, on the way home from school, myself and a couple of buddies decided, on a dare, to go in through the back door, which wasn’t locked. (Annie had moved out). There was an old style wheelchair parked in the corner of the dusty dimly lit living room. Suddenly, somebody from upstairs yelled at us. We made for the back door. I dropped my school books on the way out. I had to pay my buddy 50 cent to go back in and get them. I was too scared.”

Another lucrative real estate asset was the former training grounds which was part of Dingwall bush – across from what is now Cornwall Community Hospital. (Even the bush was said to be haunted).

Bob Marcotte remembers playing in the old training grounds field with his cousin Wayne Gosselin and being chased off the property by a cane waving Annie, who arrived in her chauffeur-driven car, screaming at them to get off her property.

ALSO IN JUNE 1967: A $5 million housing-commercial development on Second Street East, largest in city history, was started by East Court Development Ltd. Plans called for 352 homes, two apartment buildings, a park, swimming pool and a 700-seat movie theatre. It would feature underground wiring. An enclosed mall would have 25 retail outlets and a grocery store. …. Heavyweight champion Cassius Clay was given a five-year prison sentence for refusing military service. … A horrific crash involving a car and tour bus on Highway 401 three miles east of Morrisburg killed three occupants of the car and injured 22 passengers on the Montreal-bound bus. The accident occurred on a two-lane stretch of uncompleted 401. The west-bound car was passing another vehicle when it hit the bus head-on. One car passenger survived with serious injuries. It was believed the driver of the car didn’t realize he was on a two-lane section. … To make up for a $46,000 shortfall created when an employee stole the money (and received a prison sentence), Charlottenburgh Township had to raise property taxes. ...Joe “Skip” St. Denis, city parks supervisor who joined the town of Cornwall in 1922 as playground supervisor, was honoured. St. Denis founded Our Citizens of Tomorrow (OCOT). A trophy to be given annually to the most valuable athlete in the parks and recreation program was named the Joe St. Denis Trophy. … Cornwall’s population increased by 3,000 to 44,000 between 1962 and 1966. Sault Ste. Marie had one of the largest increases in the province, going to 74,500 from 44,000 in the same period. Six largest cities in the province were Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, London, Windsor and St. Catharines. … A 16-foot bronze sculpture built by students was erected on the front lawn of Cornwall Collegiate. It was the school’s centennial project. A time capsule was part of the sculpture. … Cornwall Fire Fighters’ Association blamed the city for stalled contract talks. It applied for arbitration. The association wanted parity with city police and the work week changed to 42 hours (same as police) from 48. It argued that 92% of fire departments in Ontario had a 42-hour week. Meanwhile, a motion to hire four additional fire fighters was rejected by council. … Next door at the police station, the police association signed a two-year contract that provided increases of $544 and $425 in each year. Salary for a third-class constable would rise to $6,100. … Rick Fawthrop, J. C. Lebrun and Ron Thompson each scored three goals as Cornwall Thunderbirds downed St. Regis 16-5 in a Seaway Valley Junior Lacrosse League game. Dan George had three for St. Regis.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Ryan Gosling was born on Nov. 12, 1980 in London, Ont. However, the family moved to Cornwall soon after and he attended Gladstone Public and Cornwall Collegiate. He was homeschooled by his mother, Donna, for a year when he was 10. He later attended Lester Pearson High School in Burlington, Ont. According to his biography, he dropped out of Lester Pearson High School when he was 17 to concentrate on an acting career.

QUOTED: If you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. – Will Rogers

ONE FINAL THING: Veteran newspaperman Don Brander who died in Prince Edward Island last week spent a three-year tour as publisher of The Standard-Freeholder in the early 1990s. Known for his steady-hand and dry sense of humour, he was one of the best. During his S-F stint, the paper brushed the 20,000 daily circulation mark. He retired in 2015 after 44 years in the biz. Don was 71.

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