Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thriller Thursday: DesGroseilliers Family Held Hostage at Home

It was 60 years ago today – November 26, 1955 – that the "reign of terror" began for Victor DesGroseilliers (a distant cousin of my mother) of Cornwall, Ontario. He and his family were held hostage in their home for five hours during a robbery. [1]
Desgroseilliers family hostages in 1955
"Five Hours of Terror" (

Here’s a timeline of those events.

Victor, a Dominion supermarket manager, and his wife Thérèse are out at friends playing bridge. Eldest son Robert (16) is home, while his brother Roland (15) and his sister Louise (5) are sleeping. A man knocks at the front door of the modest bungalow on Bryden Avenue; he asks if Robert’s father is home. He replies that he is out, but that he will be back about midnight. The man says he’ll return at that time and leaves. Robert tries to telephone his father, but “the telephone wouldn’t work”, Robert later said. (The “thieves had carefully cut the wires”, according to the police.) [2]

About 12:15 a.m.:
The man is back at the house, but Robert’s parents still aren’t home. He asks if he can wait; Robert says yes and the man sits in the living room. Robert notices that the man is “very nervous and uneasy” and that he keeps his left hand in his overcoat pocket. [3]

A few minutes later:
The man says he hears someone at the door and gets up; he lets a man in. Robert sees that this second man has a white handkerchief around his face and carries what looks like a sawed-off shotgun. The first man removes his hand from his coat pocket and holds what appears to be a German Luger. The men tell Robert to go wake his brother.

As Victor and Thérèse drive up to their house, they notice a man entering their home. Concerned, Victor walks into his house and heads toward the kitchen saying, “What is going on here!” [4] Suddenly, the kitchen light goes on and Victor and Thérèse find guns pointed at them.

The family is told to sit on the kitchen floor. The gunmen make them face the wall and tie them up with cords they brought with them. When those aren’t enough to bind them, the gunmen cut more cords from the house’s Venetian blinds. They then tell Victor they want his keys to the grocery store and the combination of its safe.

A short while later:
The gunmen leave, but the family hears someone outside. Soon, the men return telling Victor they could not open the safe. They ask him to repeat the combination number and then one gunman leaves. The other gunman notices a bedroom and asks whose it is. He’s told that it’s Ghislaine’s room, but that she will not be home for a while.

About 3 a.m.:
Ghislaine (20) and her friend Laurent Langlois (23) arrive back home from a dance. As they open the front door, they hear her mother say in French, “Don’t let Laurent in … don’t let Laurent in.” At that moment, Laurent feels a gun at his back; someone tells him, “Shut up or I’ll blast you.” [5]

Laurent and Ghislaine are pulled into the kitchen. A gunman “[ties] a rope from [Laurent’s] neck to the cellar door knob”. [6] He if moves or twists, the rope gets tighter. A handkerchief is stuffed into his mouth and secured with adhesive tape.

The gunmen laugh at “the sight of the captives spread over the kitchen floor”. They talk about how “big a hole the bullets in the gun would make [in the hostages]”. [7]

Sometime later:
The gunmen blindfold Victor and take him to the grocery store, about two miles away from his home. The family is warned that “If anybody moves my friend [outside] will take care of you.” [8]

At the store, the gunmen force Victor to open the safe, which is located “just inside the well-lighted, all glass front” supermarket. The gunmen begin to put the safe’s money ($17,451.00) into carrying cases. [9] Suddenly, they hear the store’s door lock being tested. It is a Cornwall police officer who is on his night rounds. One of the men puts a gun to Victor’s back and threatens him to not make a sound. After the officer leaves, the gunmen re-tie Victor and place him behind a counter. The robbers leave the grocery store.
Victor DesGroseilliers held hostage in 1955
"Five Hours of Terror" (

About 5:20 a.m.:
Victor manages to free an arm and calls the police. Road blocks are set up, but the thieves escape.


Victor and his family could not identify the four gunmen when police showed them pictures of suspects. Laurent thought they sounded Italian when they spoke. He said some were about 5’11” and others over 6’ tall. They wore long overcoats, and white masks and caps over their eyes. Louise said they had “funny faces”. [10] Nevertheless, one of them, 30-year-old Irwin William Stata, was captured the next night in Brantford, west of Toronto. [11] He later pleaded guilty at his trial and was sentenced to ten years in penitentiary. Stata was on parole the night he committed the Cornwall armed robbery. He had served ten years of an 18 year sentence for manslaughter. [12]


1. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 28 November 1955, p. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 23 November 2015), Newspapers & Publications.

2. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 1.

3. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 1.

4. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 1.

5. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 3.

6. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 3.

7. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 3.

8. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 3.

9. “Admits $17,451 Cornwall Robbery”, The Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 14 December 1955, p. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 23 November 2015).

10. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 3.

11. “Five Hours of Terror”, The Journal, 28 November 1955, p. 1.

12. “Cornwall Robber Gets 10 Years”, The Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) Evening Journal, 21 December 1955, p. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 23 November 2015).

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday’s Obituary: Célestin Desgroseilliers

Celestin Desgroseilliers obituary 1957

Célestin Desgroseilliers passed away 58 years ago on 22 November 1957 in Ottawa, Ontario. [1] He was a younger brother of my maternal great-grandfather Albert Desgroseilliers. Célestin was born on 19 November 1881 in Embrun, Russell County, Ontario. He was the ninth child and sixth son of Pierre and Flavie (Lepage) Desgroseilliers.

In January 1904, Célestin married Fabiana Gauthier, by whom he had ten children. He and at least two of his brothers (Prospère and Albert) were tall men. He was a merchant in Sturgeon Falls and in Kapuskasing, Ontario before relocating to Ottawa in the mid-1950s.

Célestin died in hospital after a short illness. He was survived by his wife, 8 children, 16 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.


1. “Ontario, Canada, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage and Death Notices), 1885-1980”, digital images, ( : accessed 21 November 2015), Celestin Desgroseilliers death notice; citing The Ottawa Journal, 23 November 1957, p. 24, col. 1; City of Ottawa Archive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; database created from microfilm copies of the newspaper.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday’s Child: Lina Desgroseilliers (1905-1915)

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Lina Desgroseilliers, my first cousin twice removed. I meant to have this article appear on my blog in April, but didn’t get around to it.

Lina was born on 20 April 1905 in St. Charles, Ontario. [1] She was the sixth child and fifth daughter of Joseph and Azéline (Lemieux) Desgroseilliers. Joseph was the eldest brother of my maternal great-grandfather Albert Desgroseilliers.
Lina Desgroseilliers birth registration 1905
Lina Desgroseilliers' birth registration (

At her baptism on 23 April, Lina received three names: Marie Marguerite Lina. Her godparents were her father’s brother Célestin and his wife Fabiana (Gauthier) Desgroseilliers. [2]

A few years earlier, Lina’s parents and their elder children left Russell County in southeastern Ontario for an area in northeastern Ontario that had recently opened up to colonisation. This settlement, Grand Brûlé, located south of Sudbury, would soon be known as St. Charles. Here, Joseph earned his living as a merchant, one of the first in the region. [3] He and Azéline had nine children: Liliane, Alice, Corinne, Florence, Hormidas, Lina, Léo, Alphège, and Lionel.

Tragedy struck the family in the spring of 1915 when Lina died suddenly a few days after her 10th birthday. [4] She was buried on 29 April 1915 in St. Charles. [5]

Lina Desgroseilliers burial record 1915
Lina Desgroseilliers' burial record (

Neither Lina’s burial record nor her death registration gives a cause of death. Instead, I found that information in her family’s entry in the history of St. Charles published in 1945. According to that source, Lina died accidently “à la suite d’absorption de chlore” (after swallowing chlorine). [6]

A heart-breaking end to a short life. Rest in peace, my cousin.


1. “Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913”, digital images, ( : accessed 16 April 2015), entry for Marie Desgrosillier [sic], 20 April 1905; citing Archives of Ontario, Registrations of Births and Stillbirths – 1869-1913; Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario; microfilm series MS929, reel 180.

2. St-Charles (St-Charles, Ontario), parish register, 1902-1925, p. 8 stamped, no entry no. (1905), Marie Marguerite Lina Desgroseilliers baptism, 23 April 1905; St-Charles parish; digital images, “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967”, ( : accessed 16 April 2015).

3. Lionel Séguin, Historique de la paroisse Saint-Charles (Saint-Charles, Ont., 1945), 231; digital images; Our Roots / Nos Racines ( : accessed 22 July 2014).

4. “Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947”, digital images, ( : accessed 16 April 2015), entry for Lina Desgross[ei]lliers (written as Lina Desgross[ei]lliers, indexed as Lina Desgrawcelliers), 29 April 1915; citing Archives of Ontario, Registrations of Deaths, 1869-1938; Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario; microfilm series MS935, reel 213.

5. St-Charles (St-Charles, Ontario), parish register, 1909-1967, p. 55 stamped, entry no. 4 (1915), Lina Desgroselliers [sic] burial, 29 April 1915; St-Charles parish; digital images, “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967”, ( : accessed 16 April 2015).

6. Séguin, Historique de la paroisse Saint-Charles, 231.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: William Guy Holden

William Holden gravemarker

William Guy Holden, known as William, was born on 2 June 1893 in North Bay, Ontario. Son of Anastasia Holden, he was recruited during World War I in 1917.

William married Cora Gagnon, a first cousin of my grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair, on 26 February 1927 in Ottawa, Ontario. (I wrote about Cora’s burial last month in Tombstone Tuesday: Cora Holden.) Later, William and Cora moved north to Timmins, where he worked as a miner.

William died in 1968. He was interred next to his wife in Whitney Cemetery, Porcupine, near Timmins. My husband photographed their gravemarkers during our visit to my old hometown in May 2014.

William’s gravemarker reads:

Beloved Husband of Cora 
1893 – 1968 
Rest in Peace

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembrance Day 2015


Today, November 11, is Remembrance Day. Let us take time to remember and pay tribute to our Canadian veterans.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.