Jane Elizabeth Barnes (Mother Barnes) was born around 1794 in County Cork, Ireland. She and her first husband eloped and sailed for Canada, settling near Coburg, Ontario. After the death of her first husband, she remarried and she and her husband moved to Sheldon Corners, near Plum Hollow, Ontario.
Eventually, her husband, who just couldn't make a go of farming, left, taking their youngest son with him. "Mother" Barnes remained on the farm, supporting he family by reading tea leaves for 25¢.
She gained a reputation for the accuracy of her readings, as well as her "psychic gifts" and clients came from far and wide. One of her clients was reputed to be Sir John A. MacDonald.
The appelation "The Witch of Plum Hollow" was a label invented by a reporter, to spice up a story most likely. In fact, Mother Barnes was what would have been called in her day "a wise woman". She apparently knew herbs and cures. and according to her family, took care of the sick.
However, it was her psychic abilities that caught the public's attention. Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell fact from fiction in most of the stories.
Her house is still there, recently restored with plans for a museum.