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Witch of Plum Hollow

Elizabeth Jane Barnes (nee Martin), was born in Cork, Ireland, though the year of birth is uncertain, ranging from 1744 to 1800. Her age at death is also uncertain, ranging from 90 to 93 years. Certainly, however, Mother Barnes was a remarkable woman. She is said to have been the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. She rests in an unmarked grave in Sheldons Corners,Ontario. At an early age Elizabeth eloped with Sergeant Robert Harrison, and together they emigrated to Cobourg, Ontario. Sometime after the birth of a son, Sgt. Harrison died, at an early age.

Witch of Plum Hollow Statue

Witch of Plum Hollow

Elizabeth later married David Barnes, and they settled near Plum Hollow, just North of Athens, and South of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Once a thriving agricultural center, with a famous cheese factory, Plum Hollow today is a sleepy crossroads. But, in the mid-1800s, Plum Hollow was known throughout Eastern North America, as the home of the Witch of Plum Hollow.

People traveled hundreds of miles/kilometers to consult Mother Barnes. They came to her simple, one-room log cabin (still standing today; sadly, the historic plaque on the site has been stolen) to consult her. Mother Barnes was known to have solved mysteries, including a murder, and to have located a hidden treasure.

Mother Barnes made no bones about her paranormal powers; she was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. She charged 25 cents for her services, but that was enough in those times to raise her seven children, after her second husband left her to be a shoemaker in nearby Smiths Falls.

Mother Barnes became famous for telling fortunes, and her services were much in demand. One of her clients is reputed to have been Sir John A. MacDonald. Her reputation lives on today. Growing up nearby, I knew the story about the “Witch” of Plum, Hollow, and that “Witch” was a relative term. Even as a child, when I heard of this witch, I had no images of evil.

Why?  Well, in rural Ontario at least, the term “Witch” had a few meanings.  One invoked images of Salem (Mass., not Salem Ontario, which is about 50 Km North-West of Plum Hollow); the image of burning retribution. The other image was benevolent: witching for water was a common practice, and fortune tellers were witches.

Water Witching was, and still is, a method of finding out, or ‘divining’ the location of underground water; the place to drill a well; it involves witching water with a willow wand.

Image of a man Water Witching

Water Witching

So, which Witch is which Witch?

The Witch of Plum Hollow Ontario
Article Name
The Witch of Plum Hollow Ontario
Mother Barnes became famous for telling fortunes, and her services were much in demand. I knew the story about the Witch of Plum Hollow.
Publisher Name
Mysteries of Canada

Written by

Author of Mysteries of Canada

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13 Responses to “Witch of Plum Hollow”

By Supernatural - 13x12 Various & Sundry Villains | Αναφορές στην ποπ-κουλτούρα - 5 February 2018 Reply

[…] Οι μάγισσες αδερφές του επεισοδίου ονομάζονται Jamie & Jennie Plum, πιθανή αναφορά στον καναδικό θρύλο της Μάγισσας του Plum Hollow. Η εν λόγω μάγισσα, γνωστή με το παρατσούκλι «Mother Barnes», λέγεται ότι ήταν η 7η κόρη μιας 7ης κόρης και ότι είχε ισχυρές μαγικές δυνάμεις που χρησιμοποιούσε για να βοηθήσει τους συμπολίτες της, με το αζημίωτο, βέβαια. [πηγή] […]

By Marie G - 2 September 2017 Reply

Well I too am a witch and never had a fear of them Because grandma was one I am old now and have grandchildren and great grandchildren and at least 2 of them follow my path. In my region we have many stories of witches and FYI the word witch is not a dirty word nor is it evil

By C. Ireland - 13 July 2017 Reply

I am related to the Barnes Family. Your depiction of her history is not what I have in my genealogical files.

If you are a serious writer, you require better resources and more research. Which I offer.

‘Grateful you included her in this site. However, there is no mystery about her. Cl.

By Paulie O'Sheaghan - 11 October 2017 Reply

It appears I am a descendant of David and Elizabeth. I would like to connect with you to share information. Please contact me, paulieo@me.com. I appreciate your response.

By Inquiring Mind - 1 April 2016 Reply

Why is this article using a picture of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem, Massachusetts as the supposed picture of the Witch of Plum Hollow?

By Marie G - 2 September 2017 Reply

It is used as a depiction of a water witch Obviously rare were pictures of witches in the 1700’s

By Quintin Macho - 11 March 2016 Reply

Elizabeth was completely devoted to Robert and loved him with all her heart. Early in their marriage they were blessed by the birth of their son, Robert Harrison, Jr.

By Ageres1952 - 13 October 2015 Reply

i also know the secret of the Mother Barnes

By Me awesome - 13 October 2015 Reply

This is a good article but the data provided was not enough unlike the Louis Reille website.

By Ageres1952 - 13 October 2015 Reply

I met Mother Barnes, she predicted my future and i became rich.

By Marie G - 2 September 2017 Reply

How could you this was in the 1700

By Me awesome - 13 October 2015 Reply

The Witch of Plum Hollow was neither a Witch of evil or an witch of benevolent, to be accurate I don’t think she was a witch at all she was but a great mind who solved those mysteries by asking her clients questions, getting clues and then connecting those clues together. She may be a witch in my world but she is still a great mind. Although the idea of her telling a women who she is gonna marry was only influential.

By Marie G - 2 September 2017 Reply

The word witch scares you perhaps it is not a bad word reseach this and you will see