Upper Canada’s Last DuelOctober 30, 2014 • By Bruce Ricketts
It was June 13, 1833, just east of the small town of Perth, Ontario that a pistol duel was about to begin. The duellers were Robert Lyon and John Wilson, two young lawyers from the town. It is stated that Lyon was sweet on a young local lady named Elizabeth Hughes. Miss Hughes apparently did not share the affection.One day at a pub in Bytown (Ottawa), where both Lyon and Wilson had been sent on business, Wilson overheard a statement made by Lyon that Miss Hughes “in a position which no woman of spirit would permit.” Wilson reported this incident in a letter to Gideon Ackland who in turn showed it to Wilson’s boss in Perth, Mr Boulton. The news leaked out and Lyon was upset.Lyon met Wilson on the steps of the courthouse and, following some deliberation, assaulted Wilson with his fists. A chastened Wilson challenged Lyon to a duel with pistols. Henry La Lievre encouraged Lyon to accept the duel and acted as his second. Wilson chose Simon Fraser Robertson as his second.At 6 PM the men assembled in what is now called Last Duel Park accompanied by Dr. William Hamilton, a surgeon/coroner, (Depending on the outcome of the duel, Hamilton, as surgeon, would tend the wounded or, as coroner, would tend the dead.)
Wilson and Lyon stood back to back and walked 20 paces, turned and fired their first shot… missing each other. Hamilton counseled the two to end the duel and Wilson was apparently ready to stop, but Henry La Lievre argued that the duel must continue. La Lievre convinced Lyon, the pistols were reloaded. This time when they fired Wilson’s bullet struck Lyon in the chest and pierced his heart. He died instantly.
La Lievre fled the scene (In 1842 Le Lievre was known to be living in Canada East.) and Wilson turned himself into authorities. At trial Wilson was acquitted of charges and set free.
Miss Elizabeth Hughes married and became Mrs. John Wilson, in 1835. They had three children. Wilson went on to become a judge and, later, a Member of Parliment. He died June 3rd, 1869 and Elizabeth Hughes followed in 1904. Both are buried in Perth.