Dark name that recalled gruesome deed slips into town’s history.
WINNIPEGOSIS — If life is a highway, Murder Hill Road is where it ends.
Or so it did for Peter Demschyzn in a sensational murder case here 74 years ago. Local residents shrug when asked about the uncommon road name. Modern street names, usually dreamed up by developers, tend to promote happy thoughts, not tragic footnotes.
“It was stating a fact. The local council didn’t know what else to call it,” said Edna Medd, who runs the local museum in Winnipegosis, 380 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. It was also a case of a fatal mix-up of Model T Fords. On Oct. 14, 1930, Demschyzn travelled to town to see Dr. Alfred Medd, Edna’s father.
“Peter Demschyzn had five dollars in his pocket. He’d borrowed the five dollars from his brother.
“He came here to get a boil lanced, and dad did it in his office. He had a couple pieces of adhesive on his face when he left,” said Medd.
Demschyzn came from a prosperous farm family. He and his two brothers farmed with their father. They were one of the few families to own a motor vehicle, a Model T Ford. Demschyzn’s family thought he had gone to Dauphin for the boil removal. So when they didn’t hear from Peter, they assumed he had stayed the night in Dauphin.
It was also before telephones, and electricity hadn’t even arrived yet. “We didn’t have electricity until 1939,” explained Medd.
Several days later, a farmer, out looking for his cattle, stumbled upon Demschyzn’s car hidden in some bushes. A search party was organized and found Peter’s body buried just off what became Murder Hill Road, about five kilometres south of Winnipegosis.
“The body had been dragged 25 feet, and covered with brush and a rock to hold the brush,” said Medd.
Demschyzn had been killed by a shotgun blast to his left chest at close range. The murder shocked the small community on the south basin of Lake Winnipegosis. “My dad carried a revolver after that for quite a long time,” said Medd.
“Winnipegosis was always a peaceful town,” she said. At its peak, the village on the south basin of Lake Winnipegosis had about 1,200 residents, compared to 770 today.
“My parents left their doors unlocked until after the Second World War,” said Medd.
Manitoba Provincial Police patrolled rural Manitoba at the time. Eight months later, the police arrested Joseph Verhosky of George Street in Winnipegosis. The key piece of evidence was an empty shotgun shell at the murder scene. The distinctive markings on the spent shell led police to Verhosky’s weapon. It was the first case in Manitoba in which ballistics were used to solve a crime.
Verhosky’s plan was to rob a cattle buyer as he left an auction in Winnipegosis, figuring he would have at least $100.
“The cattle buyer had a lot of money, and he was flashing it around town,” said local resident Ray Snyder. The cattle buyer also had a motor vehicle, a Model T Ford, one of the few vehicles in the area. Verhosky cut down some trees, laid them across the road, and waited in the bush. It is the oldest trick in the book by today’s standards, but not very old back then when there were few motor vehicles. Neither did Verhosky anticipate someone else with a vehicle coming along.
When Demschyzn drove up in his Model T, and got out of his car to move the tree, Verhosky assumed he was the cattle buyer. He let him have it with a shotgun blast from close range, killing Demschyzn so there wouldn’t be any witnesses. But all Verhosky got was three dollars. Demschyzn had spent two dollars in town filling up his vehicle. Verhosky was captured and hanged.
Known for over half a century as Murder Hill Road, the road sign finally came down last month.
The RM of Mossey, in which the road is situated, has converted to the numbered road system recently recommended by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. Murder Hill Road is now Road 180 N. That indicates it is a east-west road 180 miles from the American border. The murder was at the fork of Road 180 N and Road 107 West.