The Tragedy of Jocelyn Green

On December 2, 1920, the news broke that Jocelyn Green had been sent to the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane for the murder of Bert Cavill in Chesley, Ontario, Canada. It’s a pretty straightforward story, told through brief newspaper accounts. But, the 1921 Canada Census of the Asylum helps paint a picture of Jocelyn Green. Green’s story appears to be a case of serious mental illness. A sad story, indeed.


The story was first captured with the headline “DIES FROM WOUNDS” in the August 3, 1920 edition of The Leader-Post in Regina SK.

(All news articles transcribed below for easier reading.)

“DIES FROM WOUNDS”

“CHESLEY, Ont., Aug. 2. – H. B. Cavill, Chesley drayman, died about three o’clock this afternoon as a result of wounds received in a shooting affair on Thursday, for which Joshua Green, another local man, is held in Walkerton jail.”


At the inquest, held three days later, it was found that Jocelyn Green would stand trial for the murder of Bert Cavill. The news was announced in The Toronto World on August 7, 1920.

“JESLIN GREEN, CHESLEY, IS CHARGED WITH KILLING”

“Chesley, Ont., Aug. 6. – At an inquest held here today by Coroner Dr. Rannie, in connection with the death of the local carter, Bert Cavill, the jury brought in a verdict that Cavill died of wounds on Aug. 2, inflicted by Jeslin Green on July 29. Several eyewitnesses were examined, and they all testified to seeing Green shoot Cavill. Dr. Mair, Morgan and Rannie, who held the post-mortem examination, gave evidence that death was caused by two gunshot wounds. Green was not present at the inquest, but was represented by Lawyer McNabb of Walkerton.”


It took three months to arrange for Green’s murder trial. In the meantime, Green remained in the Walkerton jail. The news was made public on November 12, 1920 in The Windsor Star.

“TO TRY ALLEGED SLAYER”

“Walkerton, Ont., Nov. 12. – Arrangements have been completed for the trial of Joslin Green for the shooting of Bert Cavill, at Chesley, at the fall assizes which open here on Monday before Mr. Justice Merideth. Charles Garrow, of Goderich, will prosecute, and David Robertson will appear for Green.”


At his trial, with the testimony of two doctors – McKay and Clark – Jocelyn Green was “adjudged insane”. With one sentence in The Windsor Star on November 17, 1920, the news was announced.

“Walkerton – Joslin Green, of Chesley, arraigned at Bruce assizes for the shooting of Bert Cavill, of the same town, was yesterday adjudged insane by Mr. Justice Meredith, on the testimony of Dr. McKay and Dr. Clark.”


Jocelyn Green remained in the Walkerton jail until Friday, November 26, 1920, when he was transferred to the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane. He reportedly attempted suicide while “in the cells” in Walkerton, and was in pretty rough shape.  The gruesome news of his transfer to the Asylum appeared in the December 2, 1920 Flesherton Advance in Dundalk ON.

“Jocelyn Green, the slayer of Bert Cavill, drayman of Chesley, was taken by Constable Ferguson to the Hamilton asylum on Friday last. Green, who recovered from the severe wound made in his right temple with his finger nail, in an effort to end his life while in the cells, again tried to reach repeatedly for the wound on the trip to the asylum, and only the fact that he was handcuffed and the officer was on the watch for such manoeuvres (sic) alone prevented him from further injuring himself. Provided he fails to recover his reason he will be incarcerated in the asylum for life, but in the event of his regaining his sanity he will be placed on trial for the murder of Cavill. A local doctor who examined the prisoner says that he is afflicted with a malady that will probably terminate fatally within six months.”


Mr. Green was still alive six months later. His name appears as a patient at the Hamilton Asylum in the 1921 Canada Census taken on June 1st of that year. The Census offers a glimpse into Green’s condition at the time.

What is most unusual about Jocelyn Green’s census entry is how much is “unknown” about the man. While most patient’s census records are filled out in entirety, Green’s entry is not. Marked “unknown” for Mr. Green are marital status, age, birthplace, nationality, religion and occupation. It is noted that he can speak English, but cannot read or write.

One can only imagine that his inability to offer this information to the Asylum says a lot about Jocelyn Green’s condition. While Green can speak, he apparently has no recollection of his history. Or, perhaps he was simply unwilling to share any of it with the Asylum. Either way, this bit of Canadian history holds two tragedies – the murder of Bert Cavill and the life of Jocelyn Green.

I have been unable to locate any record of Green’s death. The 1931 Canadian Census will not be publicly available until 2023. The Archives of Ontario holds his patient records, but a Freedom of Information Act request would be required to access them. So, for now, this is all I know of the tragedy of Jocelyn Green.


If you are interested in the history of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, be sure to check out my other posts on the topic by navigating to the “Categories” section on this site.

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