The last person to receive a public hanging in Canada, Nicholas Mellady was charged with the murder of his father and his stepmother, and was executed on December 7th, 1869. Before his hanging he made a full confession in the form of a letter, which he then sent to a local newspaper. The text of the letter follows.
Sir, - As various rumors have gone about as to unkind treatment I received since being in gaol, I beg to certify that I have been treated with the utmost kindness and civility by all with whom I have had any intercourse, but particularly so by Mr. Campaigne and lady. While Mr. Campaigne has been diligent to an extraordinary degree in the discharge of his duty, he has used every effort to render my imprisonment as cheerful as possible; and for the few moments I have yet to live, I will ever remember with gratitude his kindness towards me. And to my counsel, Mr. Squire, who has made such extraordinary exertions in my defence, I can but express my most profound acknowledgements. My gratitude also to those kind persons who have endeavored to obtain my reprieve. God will give them a merited reward.
Now Mr. Editor, as I wish to make no public speech, permit me through the medium of your columns to make a last atonement to an outraged sociedy. I confess to be guilty of the horrible crime laid to my charge, and wish therefore to express my exceedingly sorrow thereat. I entreat all true Christians, in their charity, to pray the terrible Judge of the living and of the dead, that he may forgive me the horrible deed, as also perjuries of which I became guilty in my endeavors to free myself from the accusation. The evidence on which I was found guilty was weak, and almost insufficient, it is true, but notwithstanding in that conviction I percieived the judgment of a just and holy God who has commanded us to honor father and mother, and whose name is never to be taken in vain. In connection with this however, I believe it is my duty to society, and to the rights of innocent parties to state that the principal portion of Mrs. Cooke's evidence was simply a fabrication. I neither admitted my guilt to her, nor did I state that the murder was committed between the hours of eleven and twelve at night, or any other hour. However, I forgive her and all others, as I hope myself to be forgiven. Futhermore, I hereby retract all public or private conversation wherby I may have intimated directly or indirectly that any other person but myself had actually killed both my father and his wife or either of them. I do also wish to express my sincere attachment to and belief in the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church in whose only saving faith it is my firm purpose to live and die.
May God comfort my poor sisters and my brother. Such affliction was not merited by them. And may the Lord Jesus Christ mercifully forgive my sins and receieve my poor soul into heaven.
Goderich, Dec. 7th. 1869
The night before his execution, Nicholas Mellady received the last rites of the Church from the Rev. Father Baubett. At six in the morning of the day of the execution, he spoke one final time with his brother Thomas and his sister Alice, and bid them farewell. At 8:42 AM, the sheriff, the officials of the county and of the gaol, and the hangman took their in the park. Nicholas Mellady was hanged from the neck until dead at approximately 8:50 AM, outside the Huron County Gaol.
Although this was the last public hanging in Canada, the attendance was relatively low, not exceeding three hundred. It was assumed by the public that the execution would occur in the afternoon, as was standard at the time for that sort of event. Instead, hoping to minimize difficulties with the crowd, the execution took place in the early morning. Over one thousand people arrived in the afternoon, only to find that they had missed the hanging by several hours.
All subsequent executions in Canada were private, and only family members, clergy, state officials, and other specific invitees were eligable to attend.
No sources are cited here, as I am an employee at the Huron Historic Gaol, and have access to the relevant records.