Canadian Taxi Driver Homicides: Elwin Arlington Foster Previous page    Next page • Driver Profiles

Elwin Arlington Foster

Windsor, Ontario / January 3, 1951


In December, 2005, a family member sent Taxi-Library a request for information about Elwin Arlington "Arlie" Foster who she believed died of head injuries from an attack while he was driving a taxi in Windsor, Ontario.

According to her information he died on January 3, 1951. The attack was thought to have occurred at the end of December, 1950.

Thus began a 15-year search for Mr. Foster which, thanks to the number of news archives and other data sources added to the web over the years, resulted in a sizeable collection of facts about his life.

Unfortunately, we still know practically nothing about his death other than a confirmation that he died in January, 1951.

The Ontario Registrar General has no record of Mr. Foster's death, which means either that his death was not registered or that he died outside of Ontario. The Windsor Star, covered in full text by Newspapers.com, does not report either his death or an attack on him in December, 1950.

It is possible that Foster family history is mistaken but it is just as possible that the story of Mr. Foster's death is true. If the attack was not reported to the police it would not likely appear in the newspapers, and if his death occurred some time after the attack (as in the case of Émile Girard), police or news reporters would not likely have made a connection between the two.

As a result, this profile of Arlie Foster differs from the other profiles in Canadian Taxi Driver Homicides. It documents what we know of his life in the hope that someone will be able to supply the final missing piece of the puzzle: How did he die?

Elwin Arlington Foster seems to have been known to family and friends as Arlie Foster from childhood.

He was born in Warden, Quebec, on May 21, 1907 the son of James L. and Effie (Burris) Foster. An image of his baptismal record is on Ancestry.ca. (1)

The Foster family may originally have migrated to Quebec from the U.S. In any case there seem to have been strong ties to New England, especially to New York State. Two of Arlie's three brothers and his two sisters all moved to the U.S. from Warden.

Arlie's older brother Ronald settled in Rome, New York in 1926 (when Ronald was 21) and his two sisters Fern (later Mrs. John Campbell) and Ida (Mrs. Horace Roberts, later Mrs. Carl Mahl) also moved there. Arlie's older brother J. Gordon was a ticket agent for Central Vermont Railway and lived in Bethel and Barre Vermont. (2) (3) (4)

By his own account Arlie lived in the U.S. from 1924 to 1930, between the ages of 17 and 23. He presumably lived in Rome with his brother Ronald and/or his sisters. (13)

It was evidently here that he met his first wife Blanche Mowers. The couple was married in Rome on April 13, 1929. He was 21 and she was 19 or 20. (5)

The couple were still married and living in Rome in 1933 when they paid a visit to Effie Foster in Warden. However, the marriage probably broke up soon after. (6)

In 1934 Arlie was back in Warden by himself. In August and/or September, 1934 he accompanied his parents and aunt Carrie Goddard on a motor trip to Vermont and Rome where they "were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Roberts and Miss Fern Foster and ... also guests of other relatives and friends." (7)

Arlie continued travelling to the U.S., perhaps without caring much how long he stayed there. After all, he had lived there for almost ten years without a problem. However, from the point of view of U.S. Immigration he was an illegal alien. In 1936 he was suddenly arrested and deported.

The question arises: did his arrest have something to do with the breakup of his marriage? Did Blanche blow the whistle on him?

After his arrest Arlie was "examined" at Ogdensburg, NY on May 2, 1936 and again at Richford, VT four days later, on May 6. This suggests that having been evicted from New York State Arlie tried to return to the U.S. via Vermont, where his brother Gordon lived, but got caught again. (12)

Blanche seems to have spent the rest of her life in New York State. She is buried in Carmichael Hill Cemetery, Oneida County, New York as Blanche Mowers La Londe. (8) (9)

Blanche may have become Mrs. La Londe (or Lalonde) in 1940 or earlier. In October, 1940, a Mrs. Blanche Lalonde published a "Card of Thanks" on behalf of the family of Henry Lalonde in the Ogdensburg Journal. (10) (11)

If this Blanche is Blanche Mowers, there is no evident indication of who she was married to in the Lalonde family.

Arlie's border crossing adventures (or some of them) are documented in a pair of "Manifest" documents (form I-448, edition of 1941) dated 1944 and 1947. (12) (13) (14)

These documents surely do not record all the times that Arlie visited the U.S. or how long he stayed there. They must only record the unlucky occasions when he came to the attention of an especially vigilant U.S. Immigration officer, or more likely, ran afoul of a routine spot check.

Once he was fingered Arlie would be questioned and a "Manifest" would be filled out with his answers and pertinent facts from his growing U.S. Immigration file.

Getting stopped at the border was probably more of a nuisance than a real burden. Despite having been deported in 1936, Arlie claimed to have lived in Detroit for almost the whole year of 1943. (13)

On April 27, 1943 Arlie married his second wife, Fay. In May Effie Foster hosted a reception for the couple at the family farm home (Arlie's father, James L. Foster, had died in 1939). A week or so after the reception there was also a surprise party attended by 60 family and friends who presented Arlie and Fay with a "well filled purse" among other gifts. (15) (16)

It was announced at the party that the couple would be living on the family farm with Effie. Fay actually did live there in 1943 but Arlie apparently went to Detroit to work.

Arlie likely visited Warden as often as he could. It must have been on his return from one of these visits in December, 1943, that he was stopped at the border and refused entry. (12) [Next column]

694 Victoria Avenue, Windsor, where Arlie and Fay Foster probably lived in 1947 and 1948 (Google Street View, May 2012)


Undaunted, Arlie probably waited for a shift change at the border crossing and tried his luck again. Presumably he continued working in Detroit until he was stopped on his return from another visit to Warden in February, 1944.

The two Manifests provide some interesting incidental information, notably a description of Arlie (5'11" in 1944, 6'0 in 1947, brown hair, hazel eyes, damage to his right-hand knuckles).

In his 1944 Manifest Arlie was a bit cagey about his previous visits to the U.S., saying that he was only there from May 29, 1924 to December, 1924. On his 1947 Manifest he acknowledges his stay from 1924 to 1930 as well as three months in 1936 (prior to his deportation) and "about all 1943."

On his 1944 Manifest he also claimed that his purpose in entering the U.S. was an "occ[asional?] visit in Detroit Mich." lasting "several hours" (probably the story that he handed to immigration officers every time he crossed the border).

His 1947 manifest notes his arrival in Detroit by "D&CT Bus". The abbreviation stands for "Detroit and Canada Tunnel" (otherwise known as the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel). The tunnel company operated a shuttle bus service between Windsor and Detroit.

Searching for the company name on the web retrieves several pictures of the bus tokens that the company issued over the years and which are now collectors' items. (17)

Both manifests contain the initials BSI which stands for "Board of Special Inquiry," a routine procedure for anyone stopped by an Immigration officer.

This officer's initial refusal to admit an applicant for entry into the U.S. would be reviewed by the Board, an ad-hoc panel of three other Immigration officers. The system allowed the front-line officer to identify a possible issue and then move on to the next customer while the BSI carried out any needed investigation.

In the early 1900s, when the U.S. and Canada were both experiencing an inundation of immigrants, the BSIs more often than not overturned the initial refusals and admitted applicants rather than putting them back on a ship bound for home. (18)

Possibly because Canadian rejects at Detroit only had to take a bus back through the tunnel to Windsor, the BSIs may have felt less guilty about refusing them. Especially since the next bus might bring them back to Detroit.

In 1945 Effie sold the Warden farm to John Fox and moved to Rome to live with her son Ronald and her daughters Fern and Ida. Arlie and Fay moved to Windsor. (19)

From the 1947 Manifest it seems as though Arlie continued his practice of working in Detroit while Fay stayed in Windsor. This arrangement makes sense: a residence in Detroit could be uprooted by U.S. Immigration at any time.

It would be interesting to know their routine. Did Arlie go home to Windsor every night, or did he only go back every so often to minimize the risk of getting stopped?

Did U.S. Immigration start watching for him at the border? The reverse side of the 1947 Manifest is hard to read but the notation at the top is loud and clear: "Previously deported - No permission to re-apply."

The 1947 Manifest lists Fay at 694 Victoria Avenue, and both Fay and Arlie are listed at the same address in the Windsor street directories for 1947 and 1948. (20) (21)

The house is evidently still standing; at least the house now located at 694 Victoria is clearly much older than 1947-48 vintage.

Two Windsor Star references also place Arlie at 694 Victoria. Arlie was fined $20 for speeding in June, 1948 (no mention of a taxi) and in September, 1947 he advertised for "a middle-aged woman to work in a general store and cook for two. In the country." (22) (23)

The disappearance of Arlie and Fay from the directory after 1948 and their advertisement for a woman to cook for two and help out in a rural general store suggests that they may have left Windsor.

Of course it is also possible that they simply moved elsewhere in Windsor Whatever the case, we may not find out where they went until the nominal Canadian Census data for 1941, 1946 and 1951 become publicly available.

In December, 1949 Arlie's brother Ivan and sister-in-law were killed when their car was hit by a freight train at a level crossing. The couple lived in West Brome, Quebec. Arlie is not listed in their obituary as attending the funeral. (24) (25)

On January 20, 1951 the Sherbrooke Daily Record published this note: "Mr. John Fox has received word of the death of Mr. Arlie Foster, a former resident of this place. As yet no particulars of the accident are known." John Fox was the man who bought the Foster family farm at Warden. (26)

Arlie's mother Effie Foster died in Rome in 1965, just short of her 90th birthday. Her remains were brought home to Warden and she was buried with her husband James. (27)

Notes

(1) Ancestry.ca, "Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968."

(2) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Wednesday, January 4, 1939, p. 6. References to the Sherbrooke Daily Record, Sherbrooke Record and Le Devoir are from Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BANQ).

(3) Sherbrooke Record, Monday, April 12, 1982, p. 7.

(4) Sherbrooke Record, Wednesday, February 4, 1987, p. 10.

(5) New York State, Marriage Index, 1881-1967 (AncestryLibrary).

(6) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Tuesday, January 10, 1933, p. 3.

(7) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Thursday, September 20, 1934, p. 3

(8) Find a Grave, Blanche Mowers La Londe.

(9) Descendants of George Maurer: Working file of Mary Lou Cook, updated 3 September 2017

(10) "Card of Thanks," Ogdensburg Journal, October 9, 1940, p. 5, image 5. (New York State Historic Newspapers).

(11) "Lalonde Rites Will Be Held Here Thursday," Ogdensburg Journal, October 1, 1940, p. 5, via New York State Historic Newspapers. Mr. Lalonde was killed when his grocery truck went out of control on a notorious bend on the road to Syracuse near Amboy, NY. Mr. Lalonde, who weighed 350 pounds, was well known locally as a wrestler in his younger days. (New York State Historic Newspapers)

(12) Manifest, 1944 (Ancestry.ca, "Detroit Border Crossings and Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905-1963.")

(13) Manifest, 1947. Same source as (12).

(14) Manifest, 1947, reverse side. Same source as (12). [Next column]

(15) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Friday, May 14, 1943, p. 6.

(16) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Wednesday, May 26, 1943, p. 9.

(17) Detroit and Canada Tunnel Co. tokens (Coins AndCanada.com).

(18) Marian L. Smith, "By Way of Canada: U.S. Records of Immigration Across the U.S.-Canadian Border, 1895-1954 (St. Albans Lists). Prologue Magazine (U.S. National Archives), Fall, 2000, vol. 32 no. 3. Information on border crossing manifests and Boards of Special Inquiry.

(19) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Saturday, March 17, 1945, p. 5.

(20) "Foster Arlie (Faith) h 694 Victoria." (Windsor City Directory, 1947, p. 227 via Internet Archive. ) "Faith" is no doubt a mistake for "Fay." The "h" means "householder."

(21) "Foster Arlie (Fay) hlpr Windsor Metal Fabricators h 694 Victoria av" (Windsor City Directory, 1948, p. 215 via Internet Archive.)

(22) "Gerald G. Bailey, who pleaded guilty to exceeding the 30 mile-an-hour speed limit in Riverside. He was assessed $50 and costs by Magistrate J. A. Hanrahan. Arlie Foster, 694 Victoria ave., was fined $20 and costs on a similar charge." (Windsor Star, June 9, 1948, p. 6, via Newspapers.com.)

(23) "MIDDLE-AGED woman to work in general store and cook for two. In the country. Apply in person to Mr. A. Foster, 694 Victoria Ave. between 6 and 8 p.m." (Windsor Star, September 3, 1947 p. 28, via Newspapers.com.)

(24) Le Devoir, Friday, December 2, 1949, p. 12.

(25) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Tuesday, December 20, 1949, p. 13.

(26) Sherbrooke Daily Record, Saturday, January 20, 1951, p. 10.

(27) Find a Grave, "James L. Foster; Effie S. Bullis Foster."