As a kid growing up I spent many hours playing with friends on a quiet little street called Hillside Avenue. Little did we know what horror had preceded us. On October 26, 1901 seven your-old Eric Marrotte was brutally stabbed to death and his body was thrown over the fence by the railroad tracks. Eric, whose family lived at 31 Hillside Avenue, was on his way home when he encountered Thorvald Hansen. Hansen was looking for money to buy alcohol with and took his chances on Eric. The boy had all of fifteen cents in his pocket, but that was enough for Hansen. Hansen, although from Denmark was referred to as “The Swede”, turned himself in several hours later. As the Catholic Record reported, blaming the entire thing on drink of course, Hansen was unable to remember much of the ordeal, other than that he had killed the poor boy.
On October 26, 1901 seven your-old Eric Marrotte was brutally stabbed to death and his body was thrown over the fence by the railroad tracks
When I was growing up Hillside had a mixture of residential and commercial buildings along its two blocks. With a few exceptions all were on the north side of the street facing the train tracks. The main establishment on the south side was at the eastern end, Evan’s Brothers Coal and Wood, then Merchant’s coal company that would become an oil company. I assume Merchant’s was eaten up by a larger oil company, but its small office building would be the original home of the Westmount Public Security force in the early 1980s before being razed and replaced with St. Margaret’s Home. The majority of the south side was bushes, trees, overgrown grass and the fence that separated street from tracks. Today that stretch has been developed for use as Community Housing; it was originally built to offer low-cost apartments to people who had been displaced from their homes on Selby Street to make way for the Ville Marie highway.
Eric’s father, Samuel had a business in the Montreal Port that claimed to be the owner of the “Celebrated Windsor Baking Powder”
Across from St. Margaret’s is the Hillside armoury in a building that was originally the Mount Royal Riding Academy. Sidesaddlegirl has a great blog post about this riding club. The photo at left shows the original doorway to number 3 Hillside, although the door itself and the steps are clearly more recent replacements. It was next to this large building that the Marrottes lived at number 31. Eric’s father, Samuel had a business in the Montreal Port that claimed to be the owner of the “Celebrated Windsor Baking Powder”. The house has long since been demolished and replaced first by the Caledonia Curling Club that would become a day care and ultimately with condos.
The hanging was such a public spectacle that not only did people gather on balconies and rooftops to view it, but tickets were being scalped at the door, much like a modern sports event.
Having been found guilty by Judge Jonathan Wurtele KC, Hansen was hanged on Friday, June 13, 1902 in the yard of Montreal’s infamous “New Gaol”. The hanging was such a public spectacle that not only did people gather on balconies and rooftops to view it, but tickets were being scalped at the door, much like a modern sports event. Radcliffe had the dubious honour of being the hangman and according to reports things went off without “a hitch”, although by one account it did take six minutes for Hansen to die. Sounds like a hitch to me!
So the next time you wax nostalgic about a favorite childhood location, give some thought to what may have happened right there before you. Ain’t local history grand?
Related: Robert N. Wilkins: La Prison des patriotes, Article first appeared in the Montreal Gazette on October 3, 2009.