vanessa farnsworth's blog

When A Boom Goes Bust

Restored 1853 Cabin Grey County

(Photo: Restored 1853 Grey County cabin located at Moreston Heritage Village in Owen Sound. Courtesy of Grey Roots Museum & Archives.)

When adult males of British heritage were granted 50-acre parcels of rich farmland along Garafraxa Road in the 1850s, they quickly put down roots, building homes, clearing woodlands, growing commercial crops, and establishing communities in the previously under-populated region that stretches from Guelph to Owen Sound. Many of the communities birthed during that time continue to flourish to this day.

Garafraxa Road

Colonization road, Ontario, 1901

(Photo: One of the colonization roads photographed at the turn of the 20th century. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario)

And Nothing But The Truth

Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse c. 1910

Photo: Sault Ste. Marie jail and courthouse c. 1910.

"Upon this evidence I am not clearly satisfied that Charles Bryan was sensible of impending dissolution and I therefore excluded the declaration made to this witness and to the witness Benjamin Boyer. "

Airing Laundry in Public

Arthur Bryan as and adult with his family

(Photo of Arthur Bryan as an adult with his wife Mary Anne and their children.)

"I have known my father and brother to beat my mother but they did not do so a short time before [the murders] as I know of."

Getting Current

Harrrowsmith Winter 2021/2022 magazine cover

I have to confess that during periods when I'm immersed in writing or spending long hours on the road interacting with readers, I have a tendency to not update my website as often as I would like and, despite my best intentions, the information can sometimes get a bit dated.

I'm slowly but persistently catching up.

Memoirs of a (Not So) Great Canadian Detective

Book cover "Memoirs of a Great Detective"

Decades ago, when I was a journalism student in southern Ontario, I was advised by an instructor that it would be perilous to accept something as fact unless it had been corroborated by at least three independent, reliable sources. As it turns out, that level of caution is just as valuable in historical research as it is in journalism.

Pandemic wins another round

oil painting of apples

After more than a year and a half of (more or less) sheltering in place, it looked like the time had finally arrived for me to ditch the Zoom calls and venture out into society once again to do something more meaningful than buying groceries or lumber or hand sanitizer.

Out of the Frying Pan

Beach Day

Heatwaves. Wildfires. Grizzlies. Mudslides. Avalanches. Floods. I came to the conclusion many years ago that there are so many things trying to kill you in the BC Interior that it's foolish to focus too strongly on any one.

In recent weeks, daytime temperatures have demolished all-time records, wildfires are increasingly raging all around me, and dehydrated bears keep stealing my watering can despite my best efforts to thwart them.

Digital Originals: Audio Recordings


I realize that we live in a multimedia world these days and that many people like to "read" books by listening to them in audio formats. So I have recorded excerpts from chapters one and three of The Haweaters as well as a brief introduction to give you an idea what the book is about.

These recordings also help me to deal with the fact that I won't be able to do readings in person for this book the way I have for the previous ones. I can thank COVID-19 and the public health restrictions that brought with it for the unexpected alteration in my promotion activities.


Based on the real-life 1877 killings of William and Charles Bryan by their neighbours, The Haweaters brings to life some of Manitoulin’s earliest European settlers as they struggle against nature, poverty, and each other in a collective quest to leave their dubious pasts behind them and attain prosperity in this rugged wilderness community. Learn more.