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Heaven and Hell on Earth: the Massacre of the "Black" Donnellys

Heaven and Hell on Earth: the Massacre of the "Black" Donnellys

This site about an Irish family that emigrated to Canada includes a complete collection of historical documents and images, and two animations. The notorious Donnellys emigrated from Ireland in the 1840s with the hope of finding success in what would later become Canada. Yet, in 1880 the Donnelly farm was burned to the ground. The bodies of James, his beloved Johannah, their son Tom and niece Bridget were in the ashes, the victims of a vicious mob. Another son lay dead in a separate murder the same night. To this day, despite a great deal of evidence (including an eye witness), no one has been found guilty of the crime. Many had no doubt “who done it”, but two trials ended without any guilty verdict. Was this a community taking justice into their own hands when the justice system failed, or was it mob rule terrorizing rural Ontario? Did the Donnellys deserve their fate? Why was there no justice for the Donnellys? Visitors can look at the collection of archival materials and develop their critical thinking skills by analyzing the evidence provided. Students are encouraged to come up with their own interpretations of primary documents, rather than relying on other people’s analyses. Educators have access to a Teachers' Guide and experts’ interpretations of the mystery. The site is available in English and French.


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