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Remembering when court was held at the Sheriff's house

Cells were built at the Old Stone House to lock up prisoners awaiting trial

On Nov. 20, 1860, the first court was held in Sault Ste. Marie at the Old Stone House. More than one hundred and fifty years ago, the Old Stone House was the residence of Sheriff Carney, making it an ideal location for ensuring that justice was upheld in the growing community.

The Carneys used the second floor for their personal residence and the first floor was used for carrying out the business of the sheriff. With some renovations to the Old Stone House, a courtroom and cells were created to safely and securely lock up prisoners awaiting trial.

The first money paid into the court was $16 in fines collected by James Bennetts and William Plummer.

Many of the offences that came before the court were minor infractions of the law and with payment of a small fine, the case was concluded without further incident but there are reports of some more serious crimes as well.

In the nineteenth century, without the advanced technology of fingerprint scanning or DNA tests, proper identification was sometimes difficult to ascertain. On June 11, 1861, an unidentified man was accused of committing a felony. Whether out of fear or ignorance, the man refused to speak throughout the trial and was subsequently found guilty by the jury.

Sentenced to serve nine years behind bars, the convict was the first person of the Algoma Court to be transferred to a provincial prison.

Often, sessions were held without any prisoners or accused criminals, but juries were still enrolled, addressed, and dismissed by the court regardless.

When bills of the court were received by the magistrates, an exact total was demanded. One particularly interesting bill from Sheriff Carney clocked in at $122.12 ½. This bill reflected the use of the halfpenny (ha’penny) as a unit of currency.

During one winter, Joseph Boissineau was brought before the court. As one of the Sault’s most respected citizens, he was shockingly charged with committing a “nuisance”.

Boissineau was hauling wood from Sugar Island with the help of a young ox. As he neared the Sault, Colonel Prince approached the road ahead of him. The Colonel shook his baton vigorously at Boissineau, ordering the ox off the road. According to the accused, the Colonel was quite “joggy”.

In response, Boissineau ran up in front of the ox to lead the animal off the road. However, the defiant ox tossed his owner aside and bolted towards the Colonel. The animal forced the officer to jump out of harm’s way, causing him to fall into the snow.

Boissineau rushed up to help the Colonel, but the irate officer retaliated by swearing and swinging his baton at the accused. As Boissineau retreated, the Colonel shouted “What is your name?” When no answer was given, the officer roared “I’ll find out your name, you vagabond!”

Following the trial, Boissineau was fined $5, which with inflation would cost more than $120 today. He was also warned of further punishment if this incident ever happened again!

Court continued to be held at the Old Stone House until the first Court House was built on Queen Street, between Elgin and March Streets in 1866. This building was later torn down in 1919 and replaced with the current Court House.