Tragedy at the Brady Farm

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on

On the morning of Tuesday, February 28, 1933, Norman Ballantyne noticed something odd. His neighbour’s farm was mysteriously quiet. Not a soul stirred about the place, and as it was getting on 9:30, he took it upon himself to go investigate.

The farm belonged to William Brady. He’d lived in the Moose Mountain district near Carlyle for many years, and in fact had been one of the area’s pioneer homesteaders. He was about sixty five years old. Also living on the farm was Ernest Bradley and his wife, Violet, who both worked for William. Violet had been his housekeeper for about ten years before marrying Ernest just before Christmas.

A gruesome discovery awaited Norman when he visited the farm. He found the bodies of three people, all dead from gunshot wounds. Norman immediately went to a neighbour’s and phoned the mounted police at Carlyle and the coroner.

When the police arrived, they slowly began to put together the pieces of what had happened the night before.

They found William Brady in the farm house, his body close to the kitchen door that led towards the barn. There was a bullet hole in his head.

Gilbert (Bert) Oakes was found some distance behind the barn. It looked as though he’d been trying to run away and been shot. Sources were conflicted on where he was shot. One said a bullet caught him close to the top of his shoulder and brought him down. Another said he was shot in the head. It’s possible they were both right and he was shot first in the shoulder and then in the head.

The last body was found in the stable. Ernest Bradley had a .303 rifle beside him. A bullet had pierced his head under the chin and blown part of his head off. A clear case of suicide.

So, where was Violet? In Carlyle, unaware of the horror that had played out on the Brady farm the night before. She’d gone into town on Monday morning and was staying with Joseph Brady, William Brady’s brother. In a double whammy of grief, Violet had lost more than her husband and employer. Bert Oakes was also her brother.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – February 28, 1933

The entire community was in shock. What caused Ernest to shoot down two people and take his own life?

A Bad Marriage

Ernest Bradley and Violet Oakes were married just before Christmas, a few months before. From the start, neighbours said there’d been a lot of quarreling going on in the house. And when Ernest and Violet would quarrel, which was often, William Brady would always try and smooth matters over. Apparently, Ernest resented this and saw it as unwarranted interference.

As for Violet’s brother, Bert, he owned a farm in the hills about a mile east of Brady’s and visited his sister often.

On the Sunday night before the murders, there was a violent quarrel between Ernest and Violet. In the morning, Violet asked her brother to drive her into Carlyle. They went to town and later in the day Bert returned to the Brady home alone. Violet told her husband she wouldn’t be home because of the storm. It’s unclear if this was a phone call, or if she sent this message through Bert. Either way, this was the excuse she gave for not going home that night.

Violet had an agenda. She was meeting with a lawyer to see about getting separation papers from her husband. She told officers that Ernest had no idea that she was taking steps to separate. Aside from the quarreling, which clearly at times became violent, she said that Ernest was very jealous of William Brady and didn’t want her speaking to him.

On the Monday evening, William Brady’s brother, Joseph, and his nephew, Henry, visited at the home, leaving at about 8:00PM. According to them, everyone was in good humor when they left. Late in the evening, neighbours heard shots at the Brady home, but had paid little attention.

Police believed that Ernest fired on Brady first. Their theory was that he must have been threatening them with the rifle and Oakes had made it out the door first and run for the barn. Ernest killed Brady before he could make it to the door, then went out to the barn where he found Oakes hiding behind it. He shot at him, missed, then, according to the tracks they found, he’d managed to shoot Oakes as he was running away. Finally, he’d gone into the stable and shot himself in the head.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – March 1, 1933

Violet Bradley couldn’t give a reason for the shooting. As far as she knew, Ernest didn’t know about the separation. It’s possible her brother accidentally let something slip that tipped Ernest off and sent him into a rage, or it’s possible his long standing resentment of Brady finally boiled over. No one will ever know what happened that night, what events led to Ernest picking up the rifle and shooting his employer, his brother-in-law and himself.

All three men were given funerals and buried on March 2, 1933. They were buried in the Glen Morris Cemetery.

And that is the story of the murder of William Brady and Gilbert Oakes.

The Regina Leader-Post – February 28, 1933

I found information for this post in the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Regina Leader-Post: Feb 28, 1933, March 1, 1933, March 2, 1933, March 7, 1933 and March 8, 1933.

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The Trial of Mary Charlotte Smith

The Life and Death of Ephraim Jantzen

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