Charlie Sanford Luckey – The Last Man Hung in Elizabethtown

The Luckey Murders

There are several accounts that have been written about this tragic murder, but rather than quote from those accounts, we are providing you with transcripts from the newspapers that covered the incident. This way you will be getting the first hand account of how the events unfolded.

The Irish Canadian, Thursday, October 13, 1892

A Monstrous Crime

— Charged with murdering Father, Mother and Sister

— A Young man under arrest for one of the most inhuman crimes ever recorded in Canadian Annals- The Butchery of William Lucky and his family.

Smith’s Falls, Oct. 9Th – A small village called New Bliss, about seven miles from here, was the scene of a crime yesterday, the foulest perhaps that has ever taken place in Canada. In brief, it was a terrible triple murder, followed by incendiarism to cover up the traces of the horrible deed, which involved the life of an aged man, his wife and daughter. The names of the victims are William Luckey, Mrs, Luckey (his wife) and their daughter Minnie. To add to horror, if that were possible, to the awful crime, a son of the murdered man named Charles Luckey is in the cells here, held on suspicion of being the author of the outrage. The details of the unhappy affair are as follows: About 2 o’clock in the afternoon a neighbour of the dead man noticed the house to be in flames and immediately started for it, he was quickly joined by a number of other men who were attending a threshing machine at another house close by. The house occupied by the Luckey’s was situated about 50 rods back from the road, on the opposite side of which lived the two nearest neighbours. A number of trees stand in the field in front of the house, and these prevented a very good view of it, so that when the neighbours arrived on the scene the fire had gain considerable headway. The whole interior of the house was enveloped in flames when the first man reached it, and every door and window was shut and fastened. An entrance was quickly forced, when the odour of burning flesh told the awful tale that human life, or lives, were being sacrificed. Water was poured upon the fire about the front door, and as soon as possible one of the men entered to reconnoitre. The floor was burned away, and there in the cellar, on top of the burning timbers and debris, he saw the charred remains of the three occupants of the house, two of them father and daughter, in one corner and mother in another. By means of a pole and wire what was left of them was taken from the burning building, the fire meanwhile raging around the courageous rescuers. The heads and limbs and nearly all the flesh were burned away from the victims, so that they were unrecognizable, and could only be told one from another by the formation of the trunks. The house, a log one, with stone attachment was burned tot he ground, nit a log being left, and when all was over the people stood about, shocked and stunned by the overwhelming evidences of a terrible crime that had occurred in their midst. It was clear that murder had been committed, followed by arson, for on no other hypothesis could be explained that in broad daylight, in a small house, could three people be burned to death. Then there were the facts of all the doors and windows being fastened and the fire starting on the inside of the house, and, to still further establish the fact, two axes were found.


The movements of the family for the day were discussed, and the following generally accepted theory evolved: Mr. Luckey had come to Smith’s Falls to market on Saturday morning, and it is supposed that his wife, who was alone in the house during the afternoon, was murdered first. Mr. Luckey arrived hoe about two o’clock in the afternoon, and was seen driving in by his neighbours. On entering the house it is supposed that he too was dispatched, and just about the same time the daughter, who had been spending the morning at a brother’s house, nearly reached home. It is presumed, from the fact of finding her false teeth in the yard a few feet from the house, that when she reached the house and was about to enter, she saw the dead bodies of her parents, and ran screaming away. The murder, it is thought pursued her, caught her and chocked off her screams where the teeth were found, dragged her back into the house of carnage, and killed her. Then to cover his awful day’s work, he fired the place and fled. The neighbours saw a strange man crossing the fields in the morning toward the Luckey homestead and one neighbour, who had met the same man going from town towards there in the morning, met him returning just after dark that night. Chief McGowan, of this town, was communicated with, and about 2 o’clock this (Sunday) morning arrested a Man in his bed at the Palace Hotel here. The suspect had registered a Charles Kingston, Ottawa, but on being questioned by the chief, admitted that his name was not Kingston, but Charles Luckey, and a son of the murdered man. He has not lived at home for years, and, it is said did not agree with his father when he was there. The murdered woman was his stepmother, and this was the cause of many quarrels in the days when he lived at home. The last year, it is reported, he has spent in the Central Prison for stealing at Ottawa, and he was only liberated on Friday last. He is a young man of about 26 years, and not at all of a criminal appearance. When searched $35 was found upon him, and blood was found upon some of his clothing. He admitted to Chief McGowan that he had been out in the neighbourhood of his old home on Saturday, but said he had not gone into the house or into any house. He shows very little concern about the death of his family, and is not much exercised over his arrest on one of the most heinous, that ever blotted the annals of Canadian history. The murdered man was among the most respectable and well to do farmers of the district, and today thousands of people from all the surrounding country have visited the scene of the crime.

Toronto Daily Mail, Friday, December 15, 1893

Luckey Hanged

He Expiates his cruel crime on the scaffold

The Execution at Brockville passes off without incident- he walks firmly to the gallows- no confession made- history of Newbliss tragedy- An atrocious crime- convicted of murdering his stepmother

Brockville, Dec.14 – Charles Luckey went to bed last evening at 6:30 and in an hour and a half he was sleeping soundly. He awoke at 11 o’clock, but soon fell sound asleep again, and slept steadily until 4 o’clock this morning, when he was awakened by Gaoler McDougal and Turnkey Downey. He was calm and composed at that time, and at once dressed himself in the prison garb which he has worn since his incarceration. He was escorted to the day-room, where he dressed himself in the suit which he wore to the scaffold. After this he ate a bun and drank part of a cup of tea, then picked up his Bible and read until the Rev. Dr. Sanders arrived at 5:10. Luckey greeted the doctor heartily and at once entered into a religious discussion, expressing the conviction that there was a mansion prepared for him. After reading some time he broke down considerably, remarking as he did so that he would “soon be at home over there.” He then entrusted to Dr. Saunders, to whom Luckey had become devotedly attached, a written statement, which is the last instrument executed by the murderer. He than sang a hymn No.304, one of moody and Sankey’s favourites, and at once took up the march to the scaffold.


Just at present there is very little light before 7 o’clock, but as early as that hour this morning struggling visitors could be seen wending their way toward the county buildings, which, in view of the scene shortly to be enacted within their walls, seemed even more formidable than they appeared on ordinary occasions. The meeting point for the majority of those who held tickets of admission to the gruesome spectacle seemed to be Sheriff Smart’s office. In this small compass by 7 o’clock over a score f people had assembled. Among the number were doctors, lawyers, private citizens, and not a few residents of the outlying country districts and villages, though a canvass of the party would probably have revealed a larger percentage of newspaper men than any other class. The latter were mostly young men, and what talking went on was mostly done in whispers, it was plainly apparent that the scribes had come on business, and were looking closely after any details which might be offered. Additions were constantly being made to the small knot of people gathered, and by 7:30 enough had assembled to necessitate an adjournment on the part of quite a few to the cold corridor. It was a cold vigil outside, but there was not a long wait, and about twenty minutes to 8 o’clock Deputy Sheriff Geo. B. Smart made the announcement which started everyone hurriedly in the direction of the corridor leading to the gaol proper. A policeman was on guard at the main entrance, and as the crowd filed in every ticket was closely scrutinized. Chief Rose assisted in this work, and one or two parties who attempted to pass the close scrutiny without the necessary credentials were promptly turned down and ordered to leave. The passes were hand written, and bore the signature of Deputy Sheriff Smart. Sheriff Smart himself was not present, being almost worn out by the long vigil which he exercised regarding the prisoner.


By the time the crowd of ticket holders had passed inside the gaol through a portion of the long corridor and what appeared to be a large-sized cell, they found themselves in the open air, but surrounded by a massive looking stone wall fully twenty feet in height. This is known as the women’s yard. It did not require very keen powers of perception on the part of every man who made his entry there to see that it had been selected as the place of execution. The yard is about fifty feet in length by twenty five in width, and affords a clear space of that extent with the exception of a small stone structure at the east end. This was formerly a water closet, but has not been used as such for some time. This structure to a certain extent cut off the view of the scaffold, which had been erected at the eastern end of the enclosure. Two of the uprights and the heavy weight could be plainly seen from the door by which the crowd entered the enclosure, but the exact spot where the prisoner stood when the noose was ready to be adjusted was hid from view by the little stone building. It was necessary therefore for those who desired an uninterrupted view to take positions on either side of the yard, and this plan was followed by most of those present.


There was a wait of several minutes in the yard, and when finally at three minutes to eight o’clock the tramp of feet was heard coming from the direction of the main corridor, the expectant sight seers were vigorously engaged in stamping their feet with a view to starting sufficient circulation of the blood to keep from freezing. In a second more however, the dismal view and freezing atmosphere were lost sight of by all as the form of the deputy sheriff appeared in the doorway. He led the small procession, which included Dr. Moore, the regular gaol physician, the Rev. Dr. Saunders, the prisoner’s spiritual adviser with Radcliffe, the executioner. Gaoler McDougal and the condemned man brought up the rear. It was a business like proceeding in every way, and was closely watched by everyone present. The main interest, of course centred in the prisoner himself. He had his arms closely bound to his sides, bit it was apparent to everyone that the wonderful nerve which he had exhibited at his trails and during his long incarceration had not deserted him. His face looked ghastly pale, but he walked with a firm step and seemed to wear a sort of smile as he glanced curiously about at the half hundred or more spectators present. He was side by side with Radcliffe, and the latter’s demeanour was no less remarkable than that of his prisoner. The executioner wore no mask whatever and was dressed in a nice fitting dark coloured frock coat and trousers. He walked Luckey straight tot he far end of the enclosure so that he stood directly under the noose, and then faced him towards the gaol as he did so he grasped Luckey’s hand aand shook it warmly, holding his left hand upon the prisoner’s shoulder. Luckey returned the grasp heartily and in a low tone said: “I forgive you, Radcliffe, and I am an innocent man.” There was apparently not a single tremor in either man and not another word was spoken by the prisoner. Radcliff after positioning Lackey’s legs, motioned to the Rev. Dr. Saunders and the later proceeded to read a passage of Scripture from a Bible which he carried with him. He then repeated the Lord’s prayer, and as he reached the words “Deliver us from evil” a sharp click was heard and Luckey’s body shot into the air. The clock on the Courthouse had struck the hour of eight as the drop fell. There was a convulsive twitching of the whole body for a few seconds, and then the body straightened out and hung rigid. Man had exacted from man the penalty of a foul and atrocious murder, and the whole time occupied in the proceedings had been scarcely five minutes. Those who had been under the impression that Luckey would make a confession were much disappointed. He made no such sign and went to the scaffold protesting his innocence. Drs. Davis and Moore immediately after the drop fell grasped the prisoner’s pulse, and in just 6 1/2 minutes Luckey was pronounced dead.


The following jury was empanelled: Messrs. F.W. Lord, forema; Geo. Rynolds, Wm. A. Edgers, Jas. Window, John Davis, John Young, Wm. J. Bussell, Chas. H. Brigginshaw, Wm. Buchanan, Jas. A. Clapp, Wm. S. Lloyd, James Cooper, Herb Smart, Nelson Lacasse. The body was allowed to remain hanging until 8:25, when Hangman Radcliffe cut it down. It was view by the coroner’s jury, which at once retired, in accordance with the requirements of the law, and a verdict was returned that Charles Sanford Luckey came to his death by being hanged by the neck. The neck was dislocated. When the black cap was removed the features of the dead man were as calm as when he last faced the crowd. In accordance with the wishes of the goal surgeon, a post-mortem examination was conducted. No word having been received from Ottawa in reference to the disposal of the body, it was buried this afternoon within the gaol walls.

Just as the executioner was leaving the hotel this morning for the gaol, he was met by three men, who used very strong language, calling him murderer. Radcliffe laid an information with the Chief of Police, with the result that some arrests followed, and it is understood that the executioner will prosecute.

The condemned man handed several pages of closely written manuscript to the Re. Dr. Saunders just before his execution, dealing altogether with spiritual matters, in which he emphasized the fact that there was only one kind of sinners, and Christ came to save them. It was a religious exhortation, and had no bearing on the case.


The Luckey farm is situated near the village of Newbliss, about half a dozen miles from Smith’s Falls, and in the homestead the old father and his wife, with the daughter, lived happily. The four sons were away. Charles, the youngest, being a ne’er-do-well who was for years a source of much trouble to his parents. Time and again did they assist him out of his many scrapes, but when he was sent to the Central Prison in November, 1891, for the theft of a cap and coat in Ottawa, the father regarded it as the last straw, and there-upon determined to let the boy go his own way, and never more assist him. This resolve seems to have rankled in the young man’s breast, and the fancied injury grew until to him it assumed the proportions of being “disowned and accursed.” Then Charles Luckey made a vow to be avenged on his father. How he kept that vow furnishes a dark page in the annals of that country. In his release from the Central on the 7th of October 1892, he at once turned his face homewards, not as a prodigal son, but with the full intention of doing an injury to those he should have honoured and respected. The following afternoon neighbours observed the Luckey homestead in flames. They found the house securely fastened, and the interior a furnace. No one appeared about the premises, but a repellent odour apprised the horrified farmers that they were in the vicinity of an awful tragedy. In the ruins of the house they found the charred remains of the three occupants, father, stepmother, and daughter. Next day Charles was arrested in a Smith’s Falls hotel, and went so far as to admit that he had been to the farm the previous day and had seen the house on fire, but did not consider that he was called on to go to the assistance of his parents. On his feet were a pair of boots which were identified as belonging to his father, and some spots of blood on his clothing were also regarded as damnatory evidence to stamp him as a parricide. The money in his possession was not satisfactorily accounted for either. Link by link the chain of circumstances that finally condemned him were slowly put together, but when in April last he was tried at Brockville the witnesses were conflicting, and a verdict of not guilty was returned. The prosecution then laid the capital charge against him for murdering his stepmother, and in October he was again placed on trial, and under the new law was permitted to testify in his own behalf. He did this in such a fashion that, assisted by the evidence of an old man named Whiting, the jury had no hesitation in finding him guilty, and on the night of November 3rd he was condemned to death by Mr. Justice Rose. An appeal for executive clemency proved futile.


The three Luckey Family members are buried in the St. Andrews Church Cemetery in Toledo. Their Headstone is a tall red granite column with a shrouded draped Vase at its top. Other family members are also buried here.