A Wilderness Station
A Wilderness Station
In “A Wilderness Station” the character of Annie Herron is presented through a series of letters and memoirs. These documents tell us some of the events surrounding the death of her husband, Simon. These letters and memoirs are written by different people in Annie’s life, such as George Herron (Simon’s brother), Reverend McBain, James Mullen, Christena Mullen and by Annie herself. In a memoir published in the Carstairs Argus newspaper Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, George Herron wrote his version of the circumstances of his arrival to Carstairs and he also gives his version surrounding the accidental death of his brother. Annie, on the other hand, gives conflicting stories of the day her husband died. She tells two different versions of what occurred on the day her husband died. She tells Mr. Mullen that she killed her husband when she first arrives at the Gaol and then tells her friend Sadie Johnstone in a letter that her brother-in-law killed Simon. Given these conflicting stories we are unable to determine what really happened to Simon Herron.
In George’s memoir we get the impression that George didn’t really want to go to Carstairs with Simon. After the death of their parents, George went to live with a schoolteacher and his wife where he had a very happy home. Simon, was not so lucky, he lived with his mother’s cousin Archie Frame and was never sent to school. Simons upbringing was not as comfortable as George’s, so when he was nineteen, he and George left Halton and went towards Huron and Bruce to find their fortune.
Soon after the leave Halton, Simon marries Annie and a few months later he is killed in what seems like an accident. According to George, in April of 1852, he and his brother were chopping down trees on the far corner of their property when a branch mysteriously falls and his Simon on the back of the head, killing him instantly. George then drags his brother’s body towards the house. Since there was a really bad storm passing, he and Annie are unable to call the Reverend to give Simon proper funeral, the pair bury him near the house. Soon after, George leaves the shanty and he eventually marries his neighbor’s daughter, Jenny Treece.
Five months later Annie leaves the shanty and heads towards Walley Gaol. In a letter responding to Reverend McBain’s initial letter, James Mullen reports to him that Annie Herron had indeed arrived at the Gaol. He writes that her story “all accords pretty well with what you told me. Events in her account begin to differ only with her husband’s death”(200). In her first version, she claims that she “picked up a rock and threw it at him (Simon), hitting him on the head”(200) ultimately killing him. When Mr. Mullen disputed her story she changed it, saying that she did not throw a rock but picked up a large rock smashing it down on his head. Mr. Mullen decided to admit her to the Gaol pending her getting charged with insanity.
After trying to write to her friend Sadie Johnstone several times, Annie sews a final letter in a curtain, posted to find Sadie in Toronto. In this letter Annie gives a different account of the death of her husband. Again the story is similar to that of George’s except for the way Simon is killed. According to Annie, she says that George told her the story of the branch falling and hitting Simon, but notices when she is cleaning his body “where the axe had cut”(209). She goes on to tell her about how they buried him and about the dreams she had of Simon or George chasing her with an axe.
The facts in the story are distorted several times and we are not really sure how Simon is killed. It is difficult to believe Annie because she doesn’t seem stable and has changed her story several times after her arrival at the Gaol. It is much easier to believe George Herron, because his state of mind was never in question and after all, his entire memoir was published in a newspaper. The final letter that Annie writes to Sadie makes me believe that this is the true account of Simon’s death. Annie has no reason to lie to Sadie because she probably fells that Sadie will never actually receive the letter, making her feel safe in revealing the truth.