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Walking in the Steps of History, with Maggie Wheeler

Meet Maggie Wheeler

Imagine being known as the Seaway Valley's Queen of Crime!

Maggie Wheeler, popular local (and beyond) author, is this person and she is most proud. She has spent the last 15 years writing about the Lost Villages – the nine Ontario communities destroyed through expropriation and construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s.thumbnail_Maggie20Three

Her Farran Mackenzie “Lost Villages” mystery novels, the historical fiction/murder mystery series based on the Lost Villages became regional bestsellers in Eastern Ontario. In fact all four novels are used to teach History and English in both Eastern Ontario and Upstate New York.

On Sunday, November 12, 2017, the Friends of Prescott Library will welcome Maggie to introduce her fifth novel in the series, “All My Worldly Goods.”

maggie-wheeler-all-my-worldly-goodsThe Seaway Valley’s Queen of Crime returns with a sweeping tale of generational secrets and murder.”

When Farran Mackenzie begins a genealogical search into her grandmother Evian’s past, she finds more questions than answers buried in a murky chapter of Canadian history: the British Home Children. A visit from an unexpected family connection shines a new light on Evian’s sudden death in the 1950s, suggesting a disturbing truth. When death arrives on the doorstep, Farran must use all her research skills to piece the past together—from the streets of WWI England, to rural post-war Ontario, to Depression-era Lost Villages and the origins of the St. Lawrence Seaway—before murder strikes again in real time.

St. Andrew’s Church, at Dibble and Centre, Prescott at 2:00 p.m. Sunday November 12, 2017. Free Admission. Donations are welcomed, to cover hall rental and to contribute to the Library.

A review of Maggie Wheeler’s website led me to her blog, and Walking in the Steps of History.  which describes how her research “actually brings present and future center stage and thus we welcome “All My Worldly Goods.” Also, read a  Melanie Robertson-King interview.


Susan W. Smith, Editor, TI Life


After too long away, I am once again walking in the steps of history. And it may surprise you to hear that doing so actually brings the present and future centre stage.

There is an understandable bias among those who do not work with history that those who do—scholar, curator or mystery writer—must work with a rosy vision of the past and an inherent desire to live in bygone eras. But nothing could be further from the truth.

What we do share is an inherent, hard-wired and constant awareness of the spectrum of time. That the present is just a viewing point, and that the past (like the future) actively ebbs and flows around everything we do.

Writing mysteries based on the amazing and poignant history of the St. Lawrence Seaway construction and the Lost Villages history of the 1950s gave me a whole new full-spectrum lens with which to view my own community. I walked in the steps of those who came from “away” to the historic landscape of the Old Fronts on the St. Lawrence River to build the single greatest engineering project on this continent in the 20th century. Their success continues to amaze after almost 60 years. I also walked in the steps of those whose families had come from the American Revolution to rebuild along the river under the British Crown generations ago, and the indigenous communities who called the St. Lawrence River Valley home for a millennium. Their losses of land and economy were swift and complete—as was the loss of history and personal landscape that no amount of government compensation could replace.

And now I’m doing it again.

This time, I’m walking farther back to the early days of the 20th century and the closing years of one of the most amazing untold stories of our Canadian history: the British Home Children. From 1869 to 1939, over 130,000 children from Great Britain left its shores for new lives in the colonies as farm and domestic labourers. Here, in Canada, we took in over 100,000 of them. Some fared well, and some did not. But all British Home Children who survived also thrived and contributed to the development of this country in economy, progeny, culture, military service and national spirit. My grandmother was one of them. Today, over 15% of our population traces its ancestry to these children—and most do not know it.

Each time I walk back in history, I find the same thing: resilience. It is a quiet and relatively unsung human quality, without which we have nothing. As Farran Mackenzie says in the new novel “All My Worldly Goods,”

I sat where my grandmother and great aunt had secretly met to say goodbye as children so long ago and wondered anew how we ever survive what life continues to hand us.” We survive with resilience. Some months ago, in discussion with a family member about some current challenges, my relative said to me, “I think we as people are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.” It is a statement that has resonated with me ever since for its profound truth.

This year marks 150 years of Canada as a nation. We know that 150 years is a blink in the eye of time where the living and dying on this continent is concerned, another viewing point on the spectrum. But our sesquicentennial is a milestone to be celebrated nonetheless. Nations are not countries—they are ideas. The idea of Canada continues to develop on the foundations of all the ideas that came before. In terms of European settlement, Canada was forged by people who came here to be left alone, to live in peace away from old hatreds and ebbing ways of thought. To do it, we had to earn our way through the primal forest and build on the Canadian Shield. We did. And we are still here, looking to live in peace on a turbulent planet. That’s because we are a resilient people, keeping the idea alive.

So it continues. As the last of the novel gathers on the page, I keep rising at 5:00 a.m. to write before my work day. I continue to live three lives—mine, Farran’s and that of her ancestors—all at the same time without bumping into furniture or leaving the door unlocked when I go to work. Despite the constant urge to ask myself “Why am I doing this?” I continue. Because I know why. I’m walking in the steps of history again. It’s a privileged path to follow.

I also continue because I can. Like my grandmother, I am resilient.

And thanks to her journey and her resilience, I am Canadian.

By Maggie Wheeler [Originally published on]

Maggie Wheeler is the author of the best- selling “Lost Villages” historical murder mystery series, which has garnered a nomination for the Ontario Premier’s Awards for the Arts, an Ontario Provincial Hansard, and the “people’s choice” Seeker’s Award for Literary Artist of the Year 2013.  Maggie had completed her fifth Lost Villages novel with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts. In January of 2017, she was named Ottawa’s Favourite Author (female) by FACES Magazine.

A Violent End maggie-wheeler-the-brother-of-sleep-novel-2a All Mortall On a Darkling Plain maggie-wheeler-all-my-worldly-goods
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Brian Johnson
Comment by: Brian Johnson
Left at: 1:31 PM Wednesday, November 8, 2017
If you haven't met Farron Mackenzie yet... you haven't been near the St. Lawrence River!! Like a slippery Muskie lurking in the depths, I was 'hooked' from the first page of 'A Violent End'. Nobody explains the history (mixed with murder and mystery) of the beginnings of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the early 50's better than author Maggie Wheeler! Come and walk once again through the nostalgic streets of the Lost Villages. Listen to the ol' time rock and roll - but - be careful... don't get too lost in your memories. Around the next corner, amidst the confusion and construction... something is lurking...