THE WANDERING, WAILING GHOST OF POOR JANE RILEY
Waves crash against the jagged rocks at the bottom of the falls. Nerves shaking but feet firmly planted, edging closer and closer to the crumbling precipice that plummets into a shallow pool of despair below.
There she stands, the most beautiful woman you might have ever seen. Her long, auburn hair now disheveled and tangled. Tears cascade past her rosy cheeks and down her cold, quivering lips. A new lace dress now torn and tat- tered catches the bone-chilling breeze as Jane Riley stands there atop Albion Falls, choosing a fate that seems far more appealing than spending the rest of her days without the love of her life, Joseph Rousseau.
It’s a story so romantically tragic that it became a frightening local legend. For it was that one fateful day in September of 1915 when beautiful Jane Riley, heartbroken and distraught, ended her life by jumping off the top of the falls at Albion Mills into the rocky ravine below, forever giving the name to “Lover’s Leap” at Albion Falls.
Albion Mills, or the village of Mount Albion as it was also called, was one of the earliest settlements in the Hamilton area. In 1792, a United Empire Loyalist named William Alexander Davis (1741-1834) was granted 2,300 acres around Barton Township, 500 of those were around Albion Falls. He immediately ordered a grist mill to be built atop the falls as well as three hotels, two blacksmith’s shops, an orchard, a distillery, a general store, a saw mill and even a church called the “Auld Scotch Kirk” to draw in settlers. Gradually, a small town formed and a sense of community grew. The very first owner of the grist mill was John Secord who purchased it somewhere around 1812. The mill continued in operation for around 100 years. It is the flooding ravine at the base of this once- standing mill that poses the dramatic setting for the story of Lover’s Leap at Albion Falls.
JANE RILEY & JOSEPH ROUSSEAU
“Alas, poor Jane Riley, for Joseph she did die
By jumping off that dizzy brink, full sixty cubits high” ~ Slater
What could cause such a lovely young woman to choose her unwritten fate this way? There are only a few things in life that we would give anything up for… family, friends, fortune or fame. But most of all, love.
Jane Riley was a captivating girl who had charmed many young suitors, but won the affection of a local man named Joseph Rousseau, who in every respect was deemed worthy of her love. For a time, their love was reciprocal, and they would meet at the top of Albion Falls for picnics and scenic strolls. However, their love was short lived when Joseph’s mother disapproved of their proposed union. She didn’t like “poor Jane Riley” and felt she belonged to a lower class according to their elite standards and status. Joseph stopped calling on Jane. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Their summer romance faded away as the crisp autumn leaves fell to the ground.
Jane would disappear for days, but then reappear wailing in the woods, distracted and troubled. Weeping over her sorrow in deep despair and raving like a maniac with her hair mangled and hanging loose, she made a decision. At length she resolved to put an end to her suffering and approached the verge of the rapids. With feet bare, bloody and bruised, she threw herself headlong over the preci- pice and sacrificed herself to the memory of her dishonourable lover, Joseph Rousseau.
“JANE’S HAND IS ON MY SHOULDER!”
Feeling guilty in the fact that she lead her son to be so cruel to poor Jane, Joseph Rousseau’s mother was quoted as say- ing, “Let the blame rest on my shoulders”. Some years later, when in apparently good health, she suddenly shrieked: “Jane’s hand is on my shoulder!” and fell dead on the floor.
Jane would disappear for days, but then reappear wailing in the woods, distracted and troubled. Weeping over her sorrow in deep despair and raving like a maniac with her hair mangled and hanging loose … Jane had evidently taken her at her word perhaps?
Some men who were working in the ravine below saw Jane Riley fall. They said that as the unfortunate girl plunged swiftly down, feet first, her clothing formed a parachute and slowed her fall. Finding that she was dropping too slowly to accomplish her suicidal purpose, Jane reached down, collapsed the skirt and went down like a shot upon the rough and broken rocks below.
When the men reached her, they found her poor man- gled body still alive, but she was unconscious. Although she lived an hour, she never spoke again.
They say that on moonlit nights, if you wait patiently you just might catch an ethereal glimpse of the glowing spectre. If you stand there listening quietly, you too may hear the wind carrying the cries of a sorrowful soul named Jane Riley.
A PLACE FOR MOBSTERS & MURDERESSES…
The land around Albion Falls has long been known as a dumping ground for the local mob during the early 1900’s. Hamilton was home to its own “King of Bootleggers”, Rocco Perri, and many bodies were found in the woods around the falls at King’s Forest during those times. There was even an old, abandoned “haunted” house that was hidden in the forest that was well known to mobsters. They talked about the whole area being haunted. The base of Albion Falls was also the location of the gruesome discovery back in March of 1946 when five children playing in the woods found a torso belonging to John Dick, the slain husband of Hamilton’s own infamous murderess, Evelyn Dick. But those eerie stories are for future columns, don’t you think?
Stay spooky Hamilton!