Some Little Known Incidents And Characters From Rossland's Golden Age

Ronald A. Shearer

 August 2014

Prepared for the 2014 reunion 
of the classes of 1949 and 1950 
of the old Rossland High School 
(Cook Avenue)

In memory of classmates and friends
 who are no longer with us

We are all part of the history 
of Rossland now.

Full PDF Download


Essay 1: Why Did John (Jack) Kirkup Come To Rossland?

Essay 2: Should You Trust As Mayor Someone Who Is Financially Sophisticated and Well Connected In Financial Circles?

Essay 3: The City’s First Magistrate:  A Failed Law Student And A Vancouver Magisterial Reject

Essay 4: John Ingram, Rossland’s First Police Chief.  A Thug Or An Efficient Policeman?

Essay 5: The Bizarre Story Of Kenneth ffarington Bellairs: An Eccentric (Or Was He Mad?) Stock Promoter, Essayist And Publisher

Essay 6: The City’s Second Magistrate:  An (Almost) Disbarred Lawyer And Another Vancouver Magisterial Reject 

Essay 7: Can A City Gamble Its Way To Solvency?  If You Try, Beware Of A Crusading Baptist Minister  

Essay 8: The Sad Story Of Nellie Lake


These essays are extracted from a longer work on law and order in early Rossland that is still in progress.  I have assembled this collection of stories from the gold-boom days  --  some short, some quite long  --  in the hope that you will find the incidents and characters interesting and perhaps entertaining and that they will give you new insights into the early history of the city that we all called home for so many years.  I know that not everyone is interested in history, particularly in historical minutia, and that some of you may find that these essays are too long and detailed for your interests and tastes.  That is understandable, but such is the nature of my research.  I try to explore people and events that are ignored or glossed over in standard histories and document them in sufficient detail that the story is as accurate as possible given the usually fragmentary historical records. I provide a very brief sketch of the subject of each essay below.  With this as your guide, you may want to dip into the essays here and there to see if there is anything that interests you.  Perhaps you would want to start with the final essay about the unhappy Nellie Lake.  

In preparing this collection of essays I have deleted all of the source notes (but not all of the explanatory footnotes) in the belief that you would not be interested in reading endless pages of references to newspaper stories, documents in archives, genealogical records, etc.  However, if you are interested in the sources of any statements, please let me know and I will send you the relevant information.  Speculations about what might have happened in various circumstances are a different matter.  They are the product of my imagination applied to the known facts and circumstances and should be treated as such  --  as pure speculation. 

With respect to sources an important caveat is in order.  To the extent possible, I have drawn on official documents  --  birth, marriage and death registrations, surviving government papers and other records in archives.  However, official documents account for a very small part of the material underlying these essays.  The primary sources are newspapers, most importantly Rossland newspapers (particularly the Rossland Miner and the Rossland Evening Record, but also the Industrial World, the Evening Worldand the Prospector).  Some other Canadian, American and British newspapers were also important for some aspects of the stories.  In newspaper reports, issues of accuracy and bias always arise, problems that are usually inescapable.  In the case of the Rossland newspapers of the time, the problem is particularly acute because of their intense political alliances, colouring many stories with a political hue. As a result, although I can cite sources for all statements of fact, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of all aspects of the stories.  

If you have supplementary, contrary or better information on any matters addressed in these essays I would be delighted to hear about it  --  as I would be if you find any errors in the essays.   


One of the characters who is very well known to Rosslanders is the subject of 
Essay 1.  John (Jack) Kirkup is revered in the historiography of the city as the man who established law and order in the booming mining camp.  Standard histories probably ascribe too much to this fascinating character and I attempt to correct the balance, but I also think that the accepted story of why he came to Rossland is flawed.  That story is that a vicious murder alarmed the provincial government about an impending breakdown of law and order in the mining camp so they sent in their specialist in disorderly settlements, John Kirkup, to restore order.  On the evidence, I think that this explanation is implausible  What is more plausible is that Kirkup fomented serious troubles that forced him out of Revelstoke, so, when an experienced constable was long overdue in Rossland, Kirkup was under-employed and available. The first essay presents a more complete story of his life before, during and after his brief tenure in Rossland than I have found in the literature.  The abrupt termination of his role as Rossland's policeman is explored in Essay 2. 

Another character, Robert Scott, the first mayor of the newly incorporated city, has also attracted some interest by Rossland’s historians.  Scott’s major accomplishments as mayor were to launch a major capital works program and to upend the Kirkup law and order regime in the name of “some latitude.”  However, usually glossed over is the mess in which he left the city’s finances.  A debenture bylaw, for which he was responsible, was overturned by courts, a decision that was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which summarily rejected the appeal.  This left the city without the means to pay for works for which it had contracted, until a local bank stepped in to fill the void. The Scott regime, which ushered in a period of social and financial turmoil that several subsequent regimes struggled to cope with, is the subject of Essay 2. 

A pivotal person in the law and order system of Rossland was the police magistrate. We all know of the much loved “Judge” Plewman who presided over the police court from 1907 to 1949 (some of us knew him personally), but do we also know that Rossland’s first magistrate (Jordan) was a failed law student and a rejected magistrate from Vancouver and that the second one (Boultbee) was a discredited (almost disbarred) lawyer and also a Vancouver magisterial reject?  Jordan and his rather placid tenure is reviewed in Essay 3.  Boultbee’s regime, which contained some of the most controversial decisions of the time and also the city’s most disturbing corruption scandals, is considered in two essays, 6 and 7.

Rossland’s first police chief was John Ingram, a native of Ontario who had previously been disgraced as police chief in Winnipeg and controversial as police chief in Calgary.  In both of those postings he had been accused of serious moral offences.  Should we be surprised that he was deeply enmeshed in two corruption scandals in Rossland involving side payments by gamblers, saloon keepers and prostitutes and that he also was involved in recruiting strike breakers during the 1901 miners’ strike? (Essay 4)

An eccentric, probably mentally deranged, English stock promoter and his girlfriend created quite a stir in Rossland and Spokane at the turn of the century.  The story of Kenneth ffarington Bellairs is a sad tale of the decline of a brilliant, accomplished man into alcoholism and mental instability, involving a violent confrontation at Rossland’s police station.  He also managed to stir up things in Spokane.  His life in England, Minnesota, Rossland and Spokane is the subject of Essay 5.

The final essay is a tale of a woman, Nellie Lake, who travelled from England to Rossland to be reunited with her lover, but ended up as a witness in a court case about lies, deceit and forgery.  It is a sad story, with no known ending.  (Essay 8)

Rossland’s early history is replete with intriguing characters and interesting stories. This booklet is a sample of what I am finding in my research. 


Each time I have read these essays I have found spelling and grammatical errors and missing words.  For those that remain, I apologize.  





Much has been written about John (Jack) Kirkup and how he established law and order in Rossland after he was appointed as the town’s first regular police constable in 1895.  His methods were idiosyncratic, but effective and, in context, probably appropriate.  Although he was only active as a policeman in Rossland for just over two years, John Kirkup, frontier police officer, had a profound impact on the city  --  in legend, but perhaps not so much in substance.  Any survey of policing in early Rossland must devote considerable attention to John Kirkup.[a]


John Kirkup was born in Kemptville, Ontario, on March 13, 1855, the second oldest of seven children of James and Hannah Kirkup.  His father, James Kirkup, was a carriage maker.  I don’t know if James owned a carriage-making business or worked for others, but in any case carriage making was a family vocation. At least four and probably all five of his sons took up the trade.  Thus, according to the 1881 census of Kemptville, two brothers were carriage makers, one was an apprentice and two others, John and Robert, were “house carpenters.”  We know that John trained as a carriage maker but switched to house building.  Probably Robert did the same.  

The inclusion of John Kirkup in the 1881 census of Kemptville, Ontario, is puzzling.  Although the census placed John Kirkup in Kemptville (his “habitual home”) in early April, 1881, we know that he was in Winnipeg in 1876 building houses and operating a ferry on the Red River, that hemoved to Victoria, perhaps in 1877, “to work at his trade” (house building or carriage making?), that at the beginning of October, 1879, he joined the Victoria city police and that in late May, 1881, he joined the provincial police and was posted to Yale. In other words, when the 1881 census was taken, Kirkup was a policeman, not a “house carpenter,” and an “habitual” resident of British Columbia, not Ontario.  However, he was not recorded in the Census of Victoria or Yale.  Perhaps he had gone home for a visit around census time, after resigning from the Victoria police and before taking up his new post at Yale, worked as a carpenter to make some extra money and was so recorded in the Kemptville census.  


I don’t know what kind of police training Kirkup received in the Victoria city police  --  probably little, if any.  However, he did have an active and varied policing experience that prepared him somewhat for what was to come in Yale and beyond.  He is frequently mentioned in newspaper reports as one of the arresting officers in cases brought before the Police Court in Victoria, often involving members of the Chinese community or inebriated aboriginals or people selling liquor to aboriginals.  On two occasions he narrowly missed serious injury.  In one case, on an all-night mission, he and another officer were searching for deserters from a British naval vessel.  Their motor launch struck a rock “staving her starboard bow.” Stuck on the rock for almost four hours, the two policemen and the one-man crew came close to losing their lives before they managed to attract the attention of a group of aboriginals who rescued them.  On the other occasion, as he was investigating a disturbance complaint, the suspect threw a bottle at his head.  I assume it missed;  no injury was reported.  However, the consequence could have been serious.  The miscreant was convicted of assaulting a police officer.  


John Kirkup transferred to the provincial police (then known as the British Columbia Constabulary) on May 27, 1881, and was posted to Yale as constable and collector of taxes.   He arrived at Yale at the end of May, 1881, described in the local newspaper as a “policeman of experience from Victoria.” As “constable” he was responsible for policing Yale and the surrounding area.  As “collector” he was responsible for collecting provincial taxes. However, as “collector” he was assistant to Walter Dewdney, who was appointed Government Agent and “assessor and collector”at about the same time.  Dewdney was senior to Kirkup and it was Dewdney who determined what taxes were due (as assessor) and issued notices of due dates for payment of taxes (as collector).  Kirkup did the leg work to ensure that the taxes were paid.  

When he was sent to Yale the 26-year-old constable was thrust into a maelstrom  --  an unruly railway construction camp superimposed on vestiges of the canyon town’s former glory as a raucous placer mining camp.  There were communities of aboriginals and Chinese railway workers clinging to the edge of town, in which English was little understood and the tenets of British law were not only foreign but in some respects an outrage. For him, it must have been a second practical police academy where he learned his trade the hard way  --  by doing it. 

Undoubtedly, his imposing stature helped.  One newspaper described him as a “handsome, curly headed, herculean limb of the law … an absolutely fearless man ... (who) stands about six feet four inches in his shoes.”  Another described him as “… strong as an ox, tender as a child, … (with) … a pleasant, smiling countenance. He was a police force all by himself.”  At a time when the average person was much smaller in stature than today, he must have been an intimidating presence  -  particularly with billy club in hand.  However, he also seems to have been compassionate, with a warm demeanour and an endearing sense of humour, overlaying a deep commitment to enforcement of the law.  

When Kirkup went to Yale, the Provincial Constabulary was a small police force, scattered in small detachments over a vast area of the province.  The typical detachment had only one constable, although some more difficult postings would have two.  Indeed, according to the 1880/81 provincial accounts there were then only 12 constables to police the whole province outside of Vancouver and Victoria (which had their own municipal police forces).  However, faced with a difficult situation, the constable could recruit and swear in temporary “special constables” from among reliable local men and sometimes men in other positions such as government agent or gold commissioner did double duty as police officers when required.  

In her history of the Provincial Police, Stonier-Newman states that Kirkup was the only constable in the Fraser Canyon.  That is not correct.  There were two other provincial constables, one, Herbert B Roycraft also at Yale and another, Frederick Hussey, nearby at Lytton.  Both were slightly senior to Kirkup in point of service, Hussey appointed in June, and Roycraft in July, 1880.  Like Kirkup, Roycraft had been a police officer in Victoria, having joined in 1879, before becoming a Provincial Constable.  He joined the Victoria police in June, 1879.  Hussey had been a guard at the provincial gaol in Victoria before being posted to the Fraser Canyon.  I have not found any documentation on their earlier careers. It is possible that both had relevant prior experience.  In any case, although all three were paid the same salary ($80 per month), Hussey and Roycraft had broader responsibilities.  At Lytton, Hussey was government agent as well as constable and at Yale, although Roycraft and Kirkup shared policing duties, Roycraftwas also assistant government agent.  Thus, while Kirkup routinely escorted prisoners to the jail at New Westminster, Roycraft regularly attended magistrate’s, county and assize court sessions, in some cases acting as prosecutor.  When a major expedition was mounted to deal with a serious incident in the Chinese community, it was Roycraft in charge, not Kirkup.  

Roycraft and Hussey rose spectacularly through the ranks, both becoming superintendents of the provincial police force, Roycraft from 1884 to 1889 and Hussey from 1891 to 1911. Kirkup, among several others, applied for the Superintendent’s position in 1889, but was passed over.[b]  He had earlier (1888) applied for the position of Chief of Police of Victoria, but was unsuccessful.  Apparently the Victoria and the provincial authorities appreciated him for his brawn and imposing physical presence, not for subtlety, sagacity and administrative skills.  

Of course, serious crimes were committed at Yale:  burglaries, vicious assaults and, occasionally, murders.  However, most of the incidents calling for police attendance were alcohol-related  -- smuggling and sales of spirits without a license, sales of liquor to aboriginals, drunk and disorderly behaviour in bars and on the streets, drunken brawls and alcohol-fuelled assaults. Many incidents had a cultural or racial element, involving the large Chinese and aboriginal populations on the fringes of the town.  Kirkup seemed adept at developing respectful relations with both communities, but at times the situation could get out of hand.  One day, Dewdney sent Kirkup to the Chinese camp to collect the provincial Revenue Tax, commonly called the poll tax.  It was a flat tax of $3 on every adult male inhabitant of the province, including the Chinese.  For the Chinese workers on the railway, who were paid a pittance, the tax was a very heavy burden.  They resented it and did everything possible to avoid paying.  Trying to collect the tax from individuals, most of whom had little if any English, was hopeless (and, as events proved, dangerous). Instead, Dewdney attempted to collect the tax by payroll deduction.  The contractor, Andrew Onderdonk, said he could not do the collecting.  He did not pay the Chinese directly, but turned a lump sum over to the Chinese labour contractor who made arrangements to pay the men.  However, the labour contractor said he could not do the collecting.  He did not deal with the workers directly, but turned a lump sum over to a Chinese foreman.  When Kirkup entered the Chinese camp and approached the Chinese foreman for the money a virtual riot ensued.  He was surrounded by a host of very angry and menacing Chinese workers.  After knocking down three of them, he was forced the beat an undignified retreat, afraid for his life.  Dewdney concluded that the tax could not be collected from the Chinese workers.  

Kirkup did not advance quickly through the ranks like his contemporaries in the small Fraser Canyon police contingent. Indeed, things started badly. Early in his service, he lost a prisoner whom he was escorting down the river on a ship to serve a 5-year term at the provincial gaol at New Westminster for participation in a riot. The prisoner was not shackled.  He jumped overboard into the Fraser when permitted to visit the toilet and, although seen struggling against the current, he soon disappeared, presumed drowned. Other prisoners being similarly transported from the Kamloops detachment were shackled, but Kirkup said that he believed that the law required that prisoners not be shackled during the dangerous passage down river.  He may have been acting on principle, but nonetheless, he was careless. 

Perhaps because the prisoner was Chinese, Kirkup was not severely disciplined or dismissed from the service. Nonetheless, it must have been a black mark.  Was it just coincidence, or was it a result of the loss of the prisoner that almost immediately thereafter he was transferred from Yale to the quieter position of constable and toll collector at Alexandria where there was a bridge over the Fraser River on the wagon road to the Cariboo?  In early 1883, when Roycraft suffered a debilitating leg injury (a ruptured Achilles tendon) rendering him unfit for active policing, they exchanged positions and Kirkup returned to regular duties at Yale.  

Baptism by booze characterized Kirkup’s early policing career and his mastery of techniques of dealing with drunks propelled him on from Yale to other spots troubled by the abuse of alcohol. As construction activity wound down in the Yale area, he was moved up the line to other construction camps, in 1884 to Savona and in 1885 to Revelstoke, then called Farwell, in the district that included the Eagle Pass through the Monashee Mountains where, in November 1885, the last section of the railway was completed.  I don’t know if he was present at the last spike ceremony, but he might have been.  Because of its strategic location west of the Rockies at the edge of the Selkirk Mountains, on both the railway and the Columbia River, another major transport artery, Revelstoke was becoming not only an important place for railway maintenance, but also the commercial and administrative centre for the northern part of the West Kootenay.  It attracted some very tough characters.  Until John Kirkup arrived, Revelstoke had no regular police presence.  As in other remote locations, laws were enforced by a visiting stipendiary magistrate who appointed special constables as needed. 


In each of Kirkup's postings, the enforcement of laws relating to the distribution and consumption of alcohol was the dominant policing problem.  Thus, it was reported that before Kirkup arrived, 

The town of Farwell is growing and composed partly of a rough class.  There are probably twenty bars in the town selling spirits openly  --  without a shadow of a license.  When the Stipendiary Magistrate makes his visit there all the glasses and decanters are removed and no whiskey selling apparently goes on.  Half an hour after his back is turned the trade opens out in full blast.

Kirkup’s immediate problem was to bring this illicit trade under control, deal with the problems that resulted from easy access to alcohol in a raucous frontier town full of tough railway construction workers and then to maintain law and order on an ongoing basis.  He seems to have been very effective, earning the praise and respect of a broad section of peace-loving residents.  Of course, there were occasionally serious crimes to be dealt with as well.  It was reported, for example, that in August, 1885, “Officer Kirkup came down (to Kamloops) by (the) last boat from Eagle Pass having brought a young man …. suspected of murdering a woman….”  

Because of the isolation of Revelstoke Kirkup was “temporarily” awarded “an allowance of twenty ($20.00) dollars a month … in compensation for the high cost of provisions,”increasing his monthly salary to $100 dollars.  This soon became permanent.  In 1890 and early 1891 he was briefly moved from Revelstoke to provide a government presence in another railway construction camp --  the policing activity in which he had already demonstrated a particular competence.  In this case it was at Sproat’s Landing, a small settlement and transshipment point for river traffic on the Columbia River across from Castlegar. Sproat’s Landing was supposed to be the western terminus of the CPR's Columbia and Kootenay Railway, then under construction, but the terminus was soon moved slightly upstream to Robson. Apart from the Sproat interlude, Kirkup settled into Revelstoke for a long stay.[c]   It proved to be a contentious phase of his career.  

Kirkup’s posting to Revelstoke was as “constable and recorder,” meaning that he was responsible for policing and recording mining claims in the district.  Of course, he also had the usual constable’s role as tax collector. He was in effect the chief constable of the district and given his performance the government soon showed increased confidence in him, assigning him broader responsibilities.  Shortly after he was posted to Revelstoke he was designated Registrar of the County Court of Kootenay when it was sitting in that town.  The County Court was originally established to handle civil suits that involved larger sums than those assigned to a small debt court, but not the very large suits that would be referred to the British Columbia Supreme Court.  However, it also heard lesser criminal cases in which the defendant agreed to have his case tried by a judge alone, without a jury (a so-called “speedy trial”).  Unlike the Magistrate’s (or Police) Court the County Court was presided over by a qualified judge, with experience in legal practice, who travelled a circuit within his assigned county.[d]  The Registrar was the administrative officer for the court when it was sitting in that town, arranging its sittings, issuing summonses and other similar documents, attending to affairs while the court was in session and recording the judgements. 

In mid-1886 Kirkup took on another important duty when he was designated “Assessor” for the Revelstoke district.  That is, he we assigned the task of not only collecting taxes but also determining the value of taxable assets and hence determining taxes to be paid.  Two years later, his remit as assessor was extended to all of the West Kootenay and he was made “Clerk of the Peace” for the County Court of the Kootenay District.  Like the Registrar, the Clerk of the Peace was an administrative officer, but he was concerned with the prisoners brought before the court.  The Sheriff handled the physical custody of the prisoners;  the Clerk of the Peace handled the paper work, arraignment and other administrative matters.  By the late 1880s, John Kirkup had assumed central roles in both government administration and in the justice system in the Revelstoke region.  He was becoming more of a bureaucrat than a police officer.  

Finally, in July, 1892, he was promoted to Government Agent at Revelstoke.  The institution of the Government Agent was a clever invention for providing diverse government services at reasonable cost in widely separated, often semi-isolated, communities.  The agent was the provincial government’s chief factotum for his designated region, responsible for “any … duty the government could conveniently assign.”  In Kirkup’s case he had all of the responsibilities assigned to him before he was promoted and was also named Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and Collector of Voters (responsible for registering voters for provincial elections).  However, the critical new designation was as Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Works. In this capacity, he received government funds provided for work on roads and trails in the district, had considerable discretion in the application of those funds, hired the contractors and supervised the work.  All of these accretions to his responsibilities were not reflected in his salary.  He was still paid $100 a month, although, despite the controversy that then swirled about him, in June, 1894, he benefited from a general raise for government agents and his monthly salary increased to $110.

The Douglas Road Controversy

It was his activities as government agent and the decisions that he made about funding public works that provoked the controversy that was John Kirkup’s undoing in Revelstoke.  In the summer of 1893 the premier visited Revelstoke and at a public meeting was persuaded to provide government money to help improve Douglas Street, a street along the waterfront on the Columbia River. He agreed that the government would match the funds raised by a citizen’s committee.  That committee raised $250, so with the government’s funds $500 was available for the project,a considerable sum in 1893.  The plan was to grade the street right-of–way to its full width of 80 feet.  Kirkup was not in favour of the project, leading one newspaper to wonder if he was piqued that the premier had been approached directly for funding, rather than through him as government agent.  However, he seems to have had more substantial reasons for his objection.   

Douglas Street had two important attributes.  On a practical level, it would be the most direct route from downtown to the cemetery and a nearby sawmill  -- if a crossing could be built over the CPR railway tracks.  The existing road to the cemetery and sawmill was longer, narrow, windy and dangerous.  On an aesthetic level, Douglas Street was the public face of Revelstoke, the first glimpse of the city seen by arrivals by boat from the south.  In its unkempt state it was not a pretty face;  in the words of one editor, it was “A great disfigurement to our town.”  It did not convey an image of Revelstoke as an upbeat, bustling commercial centre --  a place where you might want to live, invest and do business.  It was for these reasons that many businessmen argued that radical improvement of Douglas Street was important to business development in the town.  

Kirkup consulted the responsible officer of the CPR who said that the railway would not permit a crossing on Douglas Street, a position later confirmed publicly, to the dismay of the local newspaper editor.  With few buildings on the street and no railway crossing, Kirkup concluded that traffic would be light.  Grading to the full width (80 feet) would be a waste of government money when a narrower road down the middle of the road allowance would suffice.  Clearly, he was not impressed by the aesthetic argument. Using his discretion, he applied part of the money provided by the government to improve the more heavily used old road to the cemetery.  This infuriated the supporters of Douglas Street improvement.  To them it was a misappropriation of government money, although there was no suggestion that it was for personal gain.  The local committee went ahead and graded part of Douglas Street as planned.  After heated discussion, Kirkup extended the grading, but only as a narrow path down the middle of the road allowance and he refused to use the committee’s preferred contractor who had done the first part of the grading.  The downtown businessmen were not happy campers.  A story printed later in the year suggested that Kirkup may have had merit in his argument.  Weeds were growing wildly on the graded road because “vehicular traffic is unknown there.” However, in his obduracy he had alienated a politically well-connected and well-organized faction in the town.  

In early March, 1894, the Kootenay Star noted that “for a long time past there has been great friction between Mr. Kirkup and many prominent men of the town.” What was at root of the discord? In one newspaper’s interpretation, “Mr. Kirkup has not been too judicious in helping along certain improvements sought for by those who are now backing him and in opposing certain other matters agitated for by those who are making charges against him.”  This probably refers to his opposition to the Douglas Street improvement, but there were other issues.  In broad terms, his critics asserted that instead of furthering the business interests of the city, he was undermining them.  The businessmen expected Revelstoke to become a major mining centre, servicing both the Big Bend camp to the north and the Lardeau camp to the south.  They asserted that Kirkup would not spend government money to improve and extend wagon roads to the Big Bend or Lardeau gold fields and that he publicly disparaged both mining camps.  Thus, the concern expressed in the initial petition for his removal was that “he has no faith in the district and has given very discouraging reports of it to those enquiring for information,” not just of the mining camps but of Revelstoke itself.  His negative comments were reported to have continued while he was on vacation in San Francisco.  The effect, they said, was lost investment, both in the city and in the gold fields. To these basic concerns was added criticism of his policing, that he abused drunks, refused to arrest someone who pointed a revolver at a bar keeper and was overly aggressive in collecting taxes from respectable businessmen.  

One of his most aggressive opponents had a very personal grudge.  P R Peterson, a teamster, charged the owner of a brewery with obstructing a road in front of the brewery.  Apparently the brewery was on a steep hill.  It was mid-winter and Peterson had gone up the road with his team and sleigh, loaded up with wood and started down, only to find that while he was up the hill a ditch had been dug across the road by the brewery owner. The brewery owner objected to him using the road, although he did not own it (and, indeed, he was squatting on the land on which the brewery was located).  The magistrate dismissed the charges on grounds that there was no obstruction  --  the ditch was not as wide or deep as Peterson alleged and could easily have been filled in.  Peterson blamed his loss in court on Kirkup whom, he alleged was “advising the magistrates how to act,” tried to bully witnesses when cross-examining them” and showed “very little respect to the court by whispering and laughing all through the case.”  In Peterson’s words, Kirkup is “prejudiced against me” and “bears me ill-will.”  “I have not had fair play at the hands of the Government Agent and I for one think it would be a good thing if a change were made.”  Occurring in mid-January, 1894, this court case may have been the final straw that precipitated the formal charges against Kirkup.

Lurking in the background  --  and probably the real root of the objections to Kirkup  --  would have been an unstated, but strongly held, objection of some downtown businessmen to Kirkup’s literal application of legal restrictions on gambling and alcohol distribution and sales, potentially profitable businesses.  Indeed, this may have been the crucial issue  -- as it was later in Rossland.

In March, 1894, about a dozen Revelstoke businessmen, reacting to the smouldering discontent, held a meeting, drew up a petition requesting that he be removed from his position, and delegated two people to carry it to Victoria.  The delegates reported back that the government “found so much fault with Kirkup that they had come to the conclusion to remove him” and “he had been given a hint to go, but had not taken it.”  

The Aborted Posting to Fort Simpson

Soon after, the delegate’s interpretation of the government’s attitude toward Kirkup was given considerable credence by another telling incident.  On April 3, 1894, Superintendent Hussey wrote a “Private and Confidential” letter to John Flewin, who was government agent at Fort Simpson, at the mouth of the Nass River on the north coast of the province, advising him to prepare to exchange positions with John Kirkup “without questioning the cause for your removal which is a present urgency.”  John Kirkup was to be banished to a remote Indian reservation.  Then, on April 16, there was a second letter to Flewin telling him “to take no action” on the previous instruction because “an investigation into the charges made against that officer (Kirkup) is now in progress.”  There is no further correspondence in the records, but the exchange of positions did not occur.  

Did one of them balk at the transfer?  If so, it is not recorded in the surviving records.  It is possible that Flewin refused to move;  he seemed wedded to the remote posting.  Indeed, after the government agency at Port Simpson was closed, sometime between 1905 and 1910, he left government service and remained in the area, acting as a notary public and owner/manager of a saw mill.  It is also possible that Kirkup balked.  He would have regarded the transfer as a clear demonstration that the government had lost confidence in him, accepting the businessmen’s interpretation of events before the criticisms were aired and examined.  The transfer would have been a serious blow to his career as a policeman.[e]  However, in his original letter to Flewin, Hussey noted that “Kirkup is now awaiting instructions to proceed to Fort Simpson as soon as you can be heard from.” The implication is that he had accepted the transfer  --  or at least was resigned to it.  

Most likely, however, it was the government that had second thoughts.  On hearing reports from his man on the ground in Revelstoke the Attorney General probably recognized that the case against Kirkup was not open and shut and decided that peremptory banishment to a northern outpost was not appropriate, at least until the situation had been reviewed carefully.  

The Hearing

The downtown businessmen’s opinion of Kirkup was far from unanimous.  He had many supporters in Revelstoke and surrounding communities who appreciated his success in bringing the rowdy element under control (or evicting it), enjoyed him as a person and favoured his public works decisions.  In early April, they attempted to hold a public meeting at the schoolhouse to endorse the agent, but were rebuffed by the secretary of the school board, because he had not seen evidence that it was widely advertised as a publicmeeting with a clearly stated purpose.  The organizers protested to no avail that appropriate signs had been posted around town, but they had been quickly torn down, probably by Kirkup’s opponents.  After some confusion, a meeting was eventually convened at another hall, but it was dominated by Kirkup’s critics who had occupied the room in advance of the meeting.  After a rancorous debate, Kirkup’s supporters stormed out, having failed in an attempt to adjourn the meeting.  Those remaining passed a resolution calling for the removal of Kirkup and endorsing “the former action of the businessmen of this town” in asking the government to remove Kirkup.

What happened next is not certain. A Kirkup supporter sent a telegram to Victoria, the content of which I have not seen.  However, according to one report, it warned of “serious riots being expected” and requested police protection, an description that was neither confirmed nor denied by its author.  In any case, the provincial authorities took the incident very seriously.  Sergeant John Langleywas sent from headquarters to Revelstoke.  Langley was the most senior police officer in the province, next to the Superintendent (whose trusted deputy he was).  Kirkup’s supporters also asked that a commissioner be sent out to conduct an enquiry. The government responded by sending the Deputy Attorney General to preside over a two-day public meeting at which the charges against Kirkup were aired. 

In the meantime, knowing that he was taking an extended leave from which he might not return, Kirkup’s supporters held another meeting to honour “a prominent and painstaking townsman” and to demonstrate “the estimation and appreciation in which you are held for the fair and impartial manner in which you have discharged your onerous duties and obligations.”  He was presented with a gold topped walking stick.  However, his opponents in the business community were relentless.  

The hearing allowed the business men to air their grievances, with Kirkup cross examining, and Kirkup’s supporters offering their perspectives.  Kirkup also made a long rebuttal.  The two sides were sharply at odds, describing the same incidents, but with diametrically opposed interpretations, as though they described two different policemen.  For example, when they charged that Kirkup abused drunks, his critics referred to an occasion when a drunken man was being a minor nuisance in a hotel bar.  Kirkup suddenly burst through the door and very aggressively upbraided the man, threw him to the floor, kicked him repeatedly while propelling him to the door, picked him up and hurled him out into the street.  With his brother, Kirkup then dragged the man off to the lockup.  Kirkup and his supporters said that the man in question was very drunk and had created a loud disturbance on the street outside another hotel and verbally abused Kirkup in the most obnoxious terms.  When Kirkup suggested that he calm down, he went into the other hotel where he created another disturbance, throwing pool players’ balls round the table.  Kirkup rushed onto the hotel, pushed the man away from the pool table and, dead drunk, he fell down.  Kirkup pushed him toward the door with his foot then picked him up and pushed him out the door because he would not walk.  With his brother, he carried the drunk to the lockup where he spent the night. According to Kirkup’s defenders when the drunken man was released the next day he said “I am ashamed of myself …. Kirkup was not severe enough to me according to the way in which I spoke to him.” 

One group characterized Kirkup as officious, high handed, severe, uncooperative, uncaring, brutal and demeaning to leading citizens and to the city.  The other side saw him as a highly efficient police officer who was respectful, gentle, thoughtful, generous, trustworthy and a community booster. They argued that the alleged offences did not occur and that the objections to Kirkup were malicious, personal and arbitrary.  

What was the poor commissioner to make of all of that?  

Despite the format, it is important to note that the meeting was not a trial or even a formal enquiry.  The Deputy Attorney General, who presided over the meeting, listened patiently, but refused to take evidence under oath.   In the end, “the commissioner smiled, said some pretty things and left everybody gratified, if not satisfied, with his courtesy.”  He quietly returned to Victoria, announcing no decision.  The local newspaper concluded that “the case for the prosecution was not very strong” and, although the defence was faced with the impossible task of proving a negative, it was done “ably.”  One observer concluded that “the charges brought against Kirkup were disproved” and a news reporter noted “the full and honorable discharge from recent charges.”  This clearly misconstrues the outcome of the enquiry.  Although misconduct was not proven, Kirkup’s effectiveness in Revelstoke was seriously impaired.  

The stress of being under attack by the business community of Revelstoke must have worn Kirkup down. It has been reported that he resigned from the police force and was re-recruited when he was posted to Rossland. However, I find no evidence that his service with the police was interrupted and the notion that he was newly recruited to the police force when he was sent to Rossland is clearly false. He was transferred there from Yale. Indeed, the evidence shows that his service in the police was continuous, with two breaks.  Just before the meetings he had taken a three week trip to San Francisco and the west coast.  It seems unlikely that a trip of this length was on Revelstoke-related business.  Rather, it must have been a vacation (and it would not be surprising, under the circumstances, if he was less than enthusiastic in talking to people about Revelstoke).  This was the first break.  Then he was granted a three-month leave of absence, also described as an “extended vacation” and went east with his family to visit his home town in Ontario.  This was a second and more substantial break. 

Although the archival records of the Attorney General and the Superintendent of Police for this period are incomplete, surviving correspondence shows that the typical leave of absence approved in these years for a constable was a week or two, with anything longer requiring special justification and applications were sometimes refused.  Unfortunately, correspondence relating to Kirkup’s leaves has not survived.  In context, however, they seem extraordinary. Before going to Revelstoke he had taken a three-month leave.  This was repeated in December, 1890, when he went east to marry Susan (Sue) Kerr of Kemptville on January 1, 1891.  

Following his wedding he took an extended trip with his bride that included visits to “all of the places of interest in Canada” and a week-long trip to Victoria on their return to Revelstoke. On this occasion it was noted that he had not had a vacation in six years of “continuous service”  --  that is, in a sense he had banked his rights to time off.  The absence of prior short leaves could not explain approval of the 1894 three-month leave.  He had just taken the San Francisco trip, which seems like a normal vacation, although longer than usual.  It is possible that on his return from San Francisco he had submitted his resignation, but the authorities suggested instead that he take an extended leave from his duties in Revelstoke to recuperate and reconsider.  In this regard, it may have helped that the Superintendent of Police was Frederick Hussey, with whom he had served in the Fraser Canyon when he first joined the Constabulary.  Hussey would have had a first-hand understanding of both his strengths and his weaknesses as a constable.  

It is worth noting that despite his difficulties with some elements in Revelstoke and the constraints on him as a police officer (for example, he was not allowed to vote or to engage in politics or to occupy a municipal office), the Kirkups were active in the community.  I don’t know if he played, but John was treasurer of the baseball and lacrosse clubs. Susan was a singer who participated in local concerts as a soloist and a member of a singing group.


At the end of his three-month leave everyone concerned must have recognized that if he was to continue in the police, remaining in Revelstoke was untenable.  He was recalled to Victoria, posted to Duncan on Vancouver Island and in December, 1894, reassigned as Government Agent at Yale. Both Duncan and Yale were temporary assignments;  relatively tame postings where he was unlikely to get into trouble with the locals, but a waste of his particular policing talents.  Kirkup was in a holding pattern.  A much more important assignment was in the offing for a talented officer with a 12-year record of maintaining law and order in difficult circumstances  -- Rossland, the heart of the rich and explosively-growing Trail Creek mining camp.  


The event that is said to have precipitated the dispatch of John Kirkup to Rossland was an assault that ended in a death for which a Rosslander, James Westgate, was tried for murder.  It has been suggested that the provincial authorities were so concerned about the camp disintegrating into a lawless state that they sent in their special weapon  --  John Kirkup. 

Westlake-McLaughlin Manslaughter Case

The incident began on February 27, 1895, with a dispute over the location of a cabin in Sourdough Alley, the old heart of the Rossland mining camp.  James Westgate lived in a cabin with a companion when Hugh McLaughlin decided to build his cabin on an adjoining piece of land.  Westlake did not object to the construction of the cabin, but he did object to it being too close to his cabin, blocking his window. There were no legal property rights in Sourdough Alley.  All residents were squatters, so, as McLaughlin stated, “one man has as much right on this land as another.”  McLaughlin started to set the foundation for his cabin right next to Westlake’s.  That night, Westlake moved the foundation for the new cabin away from his, but on the next day McLaughlin again moved it closer. The dispute escalated.  Westlake, who had only one functioning arm, pushed or hit McLaughlin (depending on whose version is accepted) and McLaughlin struck Westlake on his head with the back of a hatchet.  Initially stunned, with cuts to his head and arm, Westlake retaliated with a board.  After a brief separation McLaughlin charged at Westlake in a very angry manner. Westlake picked up an axe with his one good hand, his left (he was right-handed), swung it a few times to keep McLaughlin at bay.  He hit McLaughlin with the axe (perhaps with the blunt end), then swung again and lost control.  The axe flew out of his hand and struck McLaughlin on the lower leg causing a very deep, serious wound.  Following surgery, under medical attention McLaughlin was sedated and lived for a few days as the doctors contemplated amputation.  However, he contracted blood poisoning and died.  

It was not a cold-blooded, brutal murder with an axe, as the Rossland Minerlater depicted it in a review of Rossland history, an interpretation that has been subsequently repeated.  Indeed, on the basis of the evidence at the trial as summarized in the Nelson Miner and theRossland Miner, the fatal axe-swinging was arguably self-defence. When Westlake was arraigned before Justice Newton for a preliminary hearing, McLaughlin was still alive.  The charge was unlawful wounding with intent to maim.  McLaughlin died while the hearing was in progress;  the charge was revised to “wounding with intent to murder.”  Westlake was committed for trial at the next Assize Court session in Nelson in June, 1895.  The defence lawyer argued self-defence, but the jury concluded otherwise and convicted Westlake of manslaughter.  He was sentenced to 11 months at hard labour.  Having served four months before the trial, he was committed to an additional seven months.  

It is possible, of course, that the Westlake-McLaughlin affair did in fact alarm the provincial authorities. However, whatever the merits of the conviction, the incident was hardly a harbinger of an outbreak of lawlessness and civil disorder.  There was no drunken brawl, no riot in the streets.  It was a type of hot-tempered dispute, with tragic consequences, that could happen in one form or another almost anywhere, at any time.  For this reason, it seems unlikely that there was a perception of an imminent breakdown of law and order as a result of the Westlake-McLaughlin affair or that such a perception precipitated the dispatch of Kirkup to Rossland.  In any case, the assault occurred on February 28, 1895 and the Order in Council mandating Kirkup’s move to Rossland was passed the next day, on March 1, 1895.  At that time, McLaughlin was still alive, under sedation in the care of the physicians and Westlake had not yet been arraigned for his preliminary hearing.  In any case, for the fight to have been what precipitated Kirkup’s transfer to Rossland there would have had to have been almost instantaneous communication to Victoria of the occurrence of the assault and the preparatory work for the order in council would have to have been done impossibly quickly.  The planning for the posting, involving the creation of a Mining Recorder’s office as well as the movement of a constable, must have been done days, if not weeks, before March 1.  Although the posting was approved then, there seems to have been no urgency about the move.  Kirkup did not arrive in Rossland for almost three weeks.  

I am certain that the Westlake-McLaughlin assault and Kirkup’s posting to Rossland were coincidental.  Stationing Kirkup in Rossland was more likely a prosaic recognition that a mining recorder and a detachment of the provincial constabulary were long over-due in the most rapidly growing and soon to become largest mining camp in the province.  There had been neither a regular police detachment nor a regular mining recorder in the town before Kirkup.  

Kirkup and Hooson in Rossland

Kirkup’s transfer to Rossland was approved on March 1, 1895, and he arrived on March 19.  There was no provincial office building in town;  the recorder’s office, which had at first been in a corner of the Customs Department’s warehouse, was moved to a back room of the War Eagle Hotel.  Although he was paid the same salary that he had received in Revelstoke, $110 per month, his responsibilities in Rossland were sharply reduced, limited to mining recorder and constable.  Perhaps most pointedly, he was not the government agent and so did not have responsibility for public works, the part of his portfolio that got him in trouble in Revelstoke.  In that sense, the move to Rossland was a demotion  --  although that may not have been the intention. The government may have been unable, or at least unwilling, to fund a second government agent in the West Kootenay district given that Napoleon Fitzstubbs was already in Nelson, then the main population centre of the district.  As a result, administration of an 1896 special appropriation from the provincial government for unspecified “improvement of the town of Rossland” was divided between the Nelson based Gold Commissioner, Napoleon Fitzstubbs, and William M. Newton, Rossland’s resident Justice of the Peace, with no formal role for Kirkup. When work was done on the wagon road to Trail, or when a new school was planned for Rossland, or, indeed, when, the new courthouse, police office and lockup were built, the responsible official was Fitzstubbs, not Kirkup.  This is not to say that Kirkup would not have been involved in these projects.  As the senior government official on the ground, he would have had responsibility for day-to-day oversight.  When the school house was ready for plastering and painting, for example, it was John Kirkup who called for tenders for the work.  In any case, as mining recorder and constable, Kirkup had more than enough to keep him busy 

Mining Recorder

The office of mining recorder was vital to a mining district and particularly to an exploding district like Trail Creek in the mid- to late-1890s.  The recorders job was to carefully and accurately record all new claims, with all of the details required by law to identify location and ownership, and also to similarly record all subsequent transfers of ownership, often partial.  Accuracy, completeness and timeliness were essential.  Incomplete or inaccurate records could lead to two parties making claim to the same piece of mineral land based on misunderstandings, misinterpretations of technical details, or, in some cases, outright fraud.  Some disputes had the potential for violence; many required legal proceedings to unwind them.  The recorder did not have to adjudicate such disputes.  That was the role of the gold commissioner and failing resolution at that level, of the courts.  However, the recorder had to be prepared to take his records to court and present sworn evidence.  

For a time, at the beginning of the Rossland rush, the recording of claims had to be done in Nelson, a round trip of several days. In 1891 a Recorder’s office was established at Trail Creek Landing, under Colonel Topping, much closer than Nelson, but still a not insignificant trip down the mountain.  The establishment of Kirkup’s office in Rossland, thus came as a great relief to prospectors and mining brokers  --   and it was busy from the outset.  Indeed, so pressing was the work to be done that the Rossland office was opened a few days before Kirkup’s arrival under the supervision of Justice of the Peace Newton. It was a frenetic period in recording new mining claims, as new prospectors poured into the community and spread out over the hillsides.  Mining claims were staked wherever a trace of mineralized rock was found, covering almost every square yard of the land in and around the booming settlement --  including at least one promising claim on what was to become the main commercial street of the city, Columbia Avenue.[f]  Existing claims, or fractions of them, changed hands in a steady flow, many at nominal prices but some for astounding amounts.  Unproductive properties were abandoned, including claims that had been developed to the point that full property rights had been awarded by the government (“crown granted” claims) that were sacrificed to the government for failure to pay property taxes.  All of these transactions had to be recorded.

When Kirkup arrived in Rossland it was reported that the existing records from Nelson and Trail, were in bad shape --  “carelessly kept; perhaps … carelessly made.”  Kirkup had to put the old records in order as well as keep up with the flow of new claims and transactions in existing claims.  He was so busy as recorder that the Superintendent of Police noted in his Annual Report for 1895, “This officer (Kirkup) is fully employed attending to his office duties.”

Law and Order: Gambling, Liquor and Vagrancy

Although disintegration into serious lawlessness was not likely in Rossland before Kirkup arrived, perhaps because there was no regular police presence, laws regarding gambling and selling alcohol were not consistently enforced and potentially troublesome characters had begun to walk the streets of the town and haunt the bars and gambling houses.  Kirkup was not pleased.  He wasted little time placing his stamp on the community, announcing that the period of hit and miss law enforcement was over;  provincial and federal gambling and drinking laws would now be strictly enforced.  At the beginning of April, 1895 it was reported

J. Kirkup, P. O., is rounding up the tinhorns and vags and ordering them out of town. …  Strict orders have been issued the hotel keepers against permitting gambling on the premises; also selling liquor on Sunday.  

Later, it was reported that 

… the warning of Constable Kirkup was sufficient to secure strict compliance with the requirements of the Sunday closing law ….

Kirkup’s policing did not begin with force, but with intimidation, persuasion and diversion  --  with the threat of force held discreetly in the background.  His large physical presence and his reputation for toughness, agility and quickness in a fight provided the intimidation, making persuasion effective.  When they could be identified, potential troublemakers were diverted from the town and those already in town were invited to leave.  The banishment from town of vagrants and troublemakers, actual or potential, was a common practice in early British Columbia.  Normally, it was a penalty imposed by a magistrate after a court proceeding on some offence (often vagrancy).  It was a convenient way of ridding the town of potential troublemakers or minor offenders without imposing uncollectable fines and incurring the cost of incarceration.  Of course, they moved to other towns, but in Rossland's case they were usually in the State of Washington.  John Kirkup adopted the practice on his own authority, as a preventive measure, not necessarily with the cloak of a judicial ruling.  In Revelstoke, it was reported that Kirkup would meet the train and if a known tough disembarked, Kirkup suggested that he get back on the train and keep going  --  and (the intimidation factor) he was generally obeyed. A variant on the theme, widely circulated when it was published in Harper’s Magazine, had a gambler refusing to leave.  The incident was supposed to have occurred at Donald, a camp on the main line of the CPR near Revelstoke.  When Kirkup instructed the gambler to take the train out of town the day after he arrived, the gambler retorted “that both would get along more quietly if each minded his own affairs.”  The next day Kirkup again instructed the gambler, who was said to be armed, to take the train out of town.  “You can’t make me, was the reply.”  According to the Harper’s story 

In two minutes the giant was carrying the limp body of the ruffian to a wagon, in which he drove him to jail. There he washed the blood off the gambler’s face and tidied his collar and scarf.  From there the couple walked to the cars, where they parted amicably. ‘I had to get a little rough,’ said Kirkup[g]

In Rossland, most of the troublesome people were Americans, so he pointed them in the direction of the United States border and suggested that they start walking.  For example, according to a widely circulated anecdote, a known disreputable gambler and trouble maker disembarked from a train as it arrived from Northport in Washington State.  Quizzed by Kirkup about his intentions, the gambler said that he was going downtown to check into a hotel.  Kirkup suggested that that was a waste of time and effort.  If he went down the hill from the station he would just have to climb back up again;  he would be better off not bothering.  The gambler said that did not make sense because he was planning to stay in town for a while;  Kirkup suggested that he think again.  Taking a good look at Kirkup’s size and probably knowing his reputation, the gambler conceded.  He was last seen heading south along the tracks in the direction of Northport. Whether literally true or not, this story, like the others, catches the essence of Kirkup’s policing technique.  

When faced with a troublesome drunk or a disorderly situation, his size, strength and confident presence usually induced rowdy miscreants to back down and depart quietly.  Although gratuitous violence was seldom his opening ploy, the threat of a violent outcome always lurked in the background, a threat that he was not afraid to use, but hoped was unnecessary.  Another anecdote placed him in a bar where three toughs were interfering with people playing billiards.  An eye witness reported that Kirkup 

… quietly advised them to desist. They laughed sardonically and spread themselves in a triangular position to lick him…. John, with lightening rapidity, … stunned them with his baton and before they recovered … he had them handcuffed and kicked them all the way to the skookum house. 

It was tales like this, literally true or not, that burnished the Kirkup legend.  

Law and Order: The Prostitution Exception

It is reported that Kirkup was personally abstemious;  he certainly had a zealot’s passion for strict enforcement of the laws concerning drinking and gambling, but, curiously, not prostitution.  It is not that prostitution was absent in Rossland. There was a flourishing red light district on upper Lincoln Street (later named Queen Street)  --  commonly referred to as the “tenderloin” after a corresponding district in San Francisco and sometimes as the “cigarette” district, for unknown reasons. The tenderloin was tolerated under the otherwise puritanical Kirkup regime and would be similarly tolerated under subsequent regimes.  Like commercial gambling, prostitution and the operation of brothels were offences under the criminal code of Canada and the local police were charged with enforcing the law.  Why did Kirkup, the strict law and order policeman, systematically fail to enforce the law in this instance?  

Rossland was not yet a family town. There were families, of course, and the number was growing as is evidenced by the increasing number of children showing up seeking schooling in successive years.  However, the town was full of hard-working, unattached men, most of them single, some with families elsewhere, living crude, often lonely lives in cabins, rude shelters and rooming houses, and their number was increasing daily.  To attempt to deny them the company of prostitutes would probably have created more law and order problems than would the presence of a well-regulated tenderloin district.  Moreover, as the city soon discovered, although it was not possible legally to issue business licenses to brothels and prostitutes, by regularly taking them to court and assessing a non-punitive fine, the fine would act like a business tax, adding funds to the ever-strapped coffers of the city.  

Not all residents were happy with this solution to an age-old problem.  Part of the concern was the “social evil” of prostitution itself, but a large part was the location of the tenderloin in the midst of what was becoming a respectable residential and business area.  In April, 1900, the City Council received what was described as a “big petition … asking for the removal of the houses of ill-fame from Lincoln street.” Asserting that it had no power to act, the Council referred the matter to the Police Commission, whose control of the police force gave it immense power in such matters.  Rather than suppressing prostitution, the Commission “encouraged” the madams to move their businesses to a section of Kootenay Avenue that was down a steep hillside from the main commercial district, below the railway tracks on the eastern edge of the townsite and astraddle the wagon road to Trail.  It was a well contained area, with dense brush at each end and a steep hillside to the east, that was sufficiently unattractive for residences that the Chinese were also herded into it.  It became not only Rossland’s red light district, but also Rossland’s Chinatown. 

John Hooson

With his campaign to clean up the town by enforcing the gambling and drinking laws on top of his very demanding duties as mining recorder, Kirkup was a very busy man.  At the outset, he was the only regular constable in Rossland, so he must have done most of the police work himself, perhaps with occasional help from special constables.  He appealed to Victoria for assistance  --  an appeal that was echoed by at least one local newspaper  --  and in June he found himself as the town’s chief of police with another reliable constable under him.  Constable Hooson was transferred to Rossland from general duties at headquarters in Victoria.  

Born on December 29, 1868, to a farm family who lived in the Vale of the White Horse, Berkshire County, England, John Edward Hooson immigrated to Canada in 1888 at age 19.  Where he was and what he did for the next five years is a mystery.  However, at some time he headed for Victoria where he had a much older (by 24 years) relative, probably an uncle or a cousin.[h]  The relative, Edward Hooson, was a police officer with the Victoria police department and later a night watchman for the city.  He may have been instrumental in persuading John to apply for a position with the provincial police.  He was accepted in January, 1894, and assigned to the Victoria office.

For Hooson, the move to Rossland meant a radical change in his policing activities.  In Victoria the daily routine of patrolling the streets and dealing with gambling and drunk and disorderly situations was the responsibility of the Victoria police department, not of the provincial police.  Hooson was not involved.  At the Provincial Police detachment he was very much the junior officer so he was not assigned to the major cases like murder, but to such problems as tracing potential deserters from British warships, searching for bodies of people thought to be drowned at sea, investigating thefts and setting a trap for someone suspected of selling liquor to aboriginals.  In Rossland, he was a complete policeman, engaged in all types of police work, including serious crimes as well as drunken brawls in hotel bars.  Indeed, he did most of the active policing;  in reports on crime and arrests it was Hooson’s name that was mentioned, not Kirkup’s.  From a policing perspective, Rossland became Hooson’s town.  Of course, Chief Constable Kirkup was his mentor and a dominating presence in the background  --  but day-by-day Kirkup was almost fully occupied in the recorder’s office, not patrolling the streets of Rossland.  Soon, two more constables were added to the detachment.

For Kirkup, it was not just the Recorder’s Office that had to be established afresh.  The Town had no police office, no lockup and no court house, essential elements of the law and order commitment of the provincial government. Although decisions about the construction of these facilities were out of his hands, Government Agent Fitzstubbs, who had the responsibility, was based in Nelson and only visited occasionally to approve plans and survey progress.  Once decisions were made, effectively, Kirkup was in charge.  In 1895 the new lockup and police station were opened and the court house that now graces Rossland main street was under construction. It was opened in late May, 1901. 

As in Revelstoke, Kirkup’s responsibilities in Rossland soon increased.  In May, 1896, he was designated a one man Board of Health for the Trail creek Mining District, with a Rossland physician reporting to him.  A far more onerous appointment soon occurred when he was made tax assessor and collector for the Rossland Electoral District, a vast territory that extended east to Boundary country.  Kirkup had to travel to these areas to assess property for provincial taxes, including real estate and  provincially granted mining claims, other personal property and incomes, then to collect the taxes due and finally to seize and auction property on which taxes were not paid.  The most common type of property auctioned for failure to pay taxes was mining claims. Typically these were unremunerative properties;  when put up for auction, few attracted any bidders.  Assessments were subject to review by a court of revision, usually presided over by a Rossland lawyer.  Although not in charge, Kirkup had to be present at the court sittings, involving another round of travels to the main communities of the riding.  I have not seen an official appointment, but somewhere along the way he was designated Government Agent in Rossland.  

After policing was assumed by Rossland’s new city government in 1897, Kirkup become simply an efficient and much respected bureaucrat.  Although his policing skills were occasionally called upon, he was no longer the face of law and order in Rossland.  


The Kirkup-Hooson regime in Rossland received praise at the time.  In 1895 a western tour by the Governor General of Canada, Lord Minto, included the West Kootenays.  He was to visit Rossland and then go on to Nelson.  For some reason, the Rossland leg of the trip was cancelled, but Lord Minto sent a note to Kirkup congratulating him “on the successful manner in which he had kept law and order so highly respected in so new a camp.” Similarly, in the summer of 1895 the American Consul at Vancouver travelled through the district and found in Rossland

A model mining town, of which he would never tire singing the praises.  It was tedious getting there, but when you did get there you were glad you came. …. As for order, no one has been killed yet, and the place is as quiet and as peaceable as any British Columbia city.  The Chief of Police is a Victoria man, and the order he keeps is simply perfect.  He stops a noisy drunk with a warning forefinger the whole town respects, and the would-be lawless fear him.[i]    

The Spokane newspaper, the Spokesman Review, sent a reporter to Rossland to describe “Life as She is Seen in the New Camp of Rossland B.C.”  He noted that “Rossland has a strong resemblance to an American mining camp in full bud, and yet there is a difference made by the law.” Instead of locally controlled law enforcement, 

There is not an elective officer in the camp.  The judiciary and the constabulary are appointed, are answerable only to, their superiors in Victoria and Ottawa, and care not a snap for the influences which are often so potent in mining camps of the United States.”[j]  

He might have mentioned that the laws were also imposed from outside, not made by assemblies in the camp. Although friendly poker games, played for money, were permitted, “percentage games,” i.e. commercial gambling games with the house taking a percentage, were prohibited and dispensing of liquor tightly controlled  -- “and these laws are strictly enforced.” Moreover,

The minute a terrier shows evidence of a troublesome disposition he receives a “warning,” and the law is held in such fine respect that it is not often these warnings are disregarded.  

Capitalists, mining men and miners from the American side never grow weary of sounding the praises of this system. Law and order go hand in hand, and so intelligent are the laws that litigation is seldom resorted to.   

The Spokesman Review reporter depicted the camp as having a strict law and order regime in the spirit of Kirkup’s April, 1895, injunction against Sunday liquor sales.  

Not everyone wanted a strict law and order regime such as that proposed in Kirkup’s 1895 dictum.  The editor of the Rossland Miner gently criticized his policy with respect to drinking in hotel bars on Sunday.  It was unfair to hotel owners, particularly when the law was not enforced in other places in the province.  Moreover, men typically lived in small rooms in rooming houses, of which there were many in Rossland and more were being built every day. They had no amenities.  For these men, the saloon was like an English pub --  in effect, their living room.  They worked six days a week and should have the right to relax in congenial surroundings on Sundays.  

A few months later (November, 1896), a reporter for the Victoria Colonist newspaper visited Rossland and depicted a rather different scene than that described by the Spokesman Review reporter in 1895.  He observed that although, “all things considered, public order is observed to a remarkable degree,” 

Sunday  --  a mere euphonious sound  --  no one thinks of observing it.  Saloons, stores, even the post office are wide open. …  The officers of the law do not seem to consider it necessary to arrest for anything short of theft or murder.

Had the Miner’scampaign had some effect?  Had public pressure forced Kirkup to relent?  Was enforcement of the liquor laws more relaxed by late 1896 than it had been in 1895?  Perhaps, rather than Kirkup’s puritanical edict, the standard by which the observation of public order was being judged were those of the “American gentleman who had large interests across the border,” who suggested that

… if Rossland were situated two hundred miles south it would be hell upon earth, where the rights to life and property would mean nothing.

If that was the alternative, what did it matter if a few saloons were open on Sunday?

This sentiment expressed in the Miner’seditorials soon became a powerful political issue.  Kirkup had been in charge of policing in Rossland for only two years when the winds of change began to blow.  Policing in Rossland was about to undergo a radical change, ushering in a new regime in which Kirkup had (almost) no role.  The transition to the new policing regime is discussed in Essay 2.


When the Rossland municipal police was organized, Kirkup ceased having policing responsibilities in Rossland and settled into steady diet of bureaucratic work.  His other responsibilities steadily increased, as had happened in Revelstoke.  In May, 1898, he was appointed “Collector of Votes” for the Rossland Riding, a vast lightly-populated area that included what is now called the Boundary District (Grand Forks, Greenwood, Midway, Phoenix, etc.).  Late in June that year, he was designated Gold Commissioner for the Trail Creek Mining District and Stipendiary Magistrate for the West Kootenay.  The Gold Commissioner was akin to a judge for disputes relating to mining claims and handled all of the work leading up to the granting of crown grants (in effect absolute title) for claims.  As Stipendiary Magistrate he could preside over courts dealing with routine civil and criminal cases, including preliminary hearings of more serious matters. Thus, in 1906 with another stipendiary magistrate he presided over a preliminary hearing in Greenwood, on a murder charge.  The defendant was committed for trial in mid-November, 1906, found guilty of murder in a brief trial at the end of May, 1907, and hanged at the Kamloops gaol on July 18.  Justice was swift in those days  -- eight months from preliminary hearing to execution!   In August, 1899, Kirkup was also temporarily appointed Police Magistrate for Rossland in the absence of G.A. Jordan, who was ill and about to be replaced by John Boultbee. Because it was in addition to his other duties the appointment was “without salary.”  In this temporary capacity, in addition to the normal petty offences, he presided over at least one important case, the allegation of intimidation and corruption against the Chief of Police, John Ingram and he shared the bench in another, the preliminary hearing of the Daniel-Morgan criminal libel case discussed in Essay 7.  

Not long thereafter, he was elevated to the position of Government Agent and Assessor and Collector of Taxes in the Rossland riding.  As Assessor and Collector he had to travel extensively.  He was a frequent visitor in Grand Forks, Greenwood, Phoenix and Midway, assessing taxable property, holding courts of revision and presiding over the sale of properties for delinquent taxes.  What is interesting is the affection for him, the tax collector, that was held in those places.  

It is not clear if he still had the status of a police constable, but occasionally his policing skills were called upon.  For example, in 1905 when a partially buried body was discovered near a bridge along the Red Mountain Railway, Kirkup investigated.  It was outside the city and so provincial police territory.  I have not noted any resolution of the case. A much more significant excursion occurred in 1911 when the crews of a new railway construction project, the Grand Trunk Pacific, were getting into mischief along the line in northern British Columbia.  John Kirkup was called upon to do what he did best, bring a measure of order to an unruly mob of railway construction workers and establish a police presence in the district.  In July, 1911, he was temporarily posted to the centre of the difficulty, the small settlement of Tête Jaune Cache, on the British Columbia end of the Yellowhead pass.  It is reported that he succeeded admirably, establishing “the machinery of government,” in the Peace River, swearing in justices of the peace to administer the justice system and locating police stations along the railway line while clamping down on illegal activity; “Cleaning out a nest of illicit liquor sellers, the camp followers of the railway building army, collecting approximately $1800 in fines during his short stay….”  As a result, “since John Kirkup took a hand, booze is almost as rare as diamonds in Tête Jaune Cache.” He returned to Rossland at the beginning of January, 1912, after a half-year in the north.  This seems to have been his last hurrah as a policeman.  

Kirkup’s Later History.

John Kirkup remaining time in Rossland was brief.  He was not well, suffering from diabetes at a time when there were no effective treatments for the ailment.  At the beginning of 1913 he was moved from Rossland to Alberni on Vancouver Island, and in August, 1915, from there to Nanaimo, then one of the major centres in the province.  His diabetes made him prone to infections.  In 1916, he was afflicted by a carbuncle that must have been quite serious. It was treated surgically, but he contracted septicemia (blood poisoning), which took his life.  John Kirkup died in Nanaimo on November 2, 1916, at age 61.  

Hooson’s Later History

John Hooson, who had been promoted to mining recorder in Rossland when Kirkup became the gold commissioner, also left Rossland about the time that Kirkup was transferred to Alberni.  I don’t know who initiated the departure, Hooson or the government.  However, it may have been a reaction on his part to the appointment of W. Townsend as the Government Agent in Rossland, a position that Hooson may well have thought that he deserved.  It is also important to note that the work of the Recorder’s Office must have declined sharply, corresponding to the bursting of the mining boom a few years earlier.  What Hooson did for the next several years is a mystery, but by 1927 he had retired from the government service and had returned to the occupation of his childhood:  farming. By then, he had acquired a farm at Chilliwack, the start of a small Hooson colony there that included two of his sons.  His wife, Christina, died in Chilliwack in 1944, of stomach cancer.  John lived on until 1952 when he died of a stroke.  Despite his service to the community, his passing was not noted in the Rossland Miner.


Did Jack Kirkup bring law and order to Rossland?  In one sense, yes;  in a more profound sense, no.  It is undisputed that while he was Chief Constable of the local police detachment an almost puritanical social regime prevailed.  Crime and some illegal “immoral” activities  --  gambling and after-hours and Sunday sales of liquor  --  were brought under control.  Interestingly, prostitution, which was also illegal, was tolerated.  However, the Kirkup regime lasted only a little over 2 years and toward its end his puritanical control was weakening.  After the city assumed responsibility for policing, the Kirkup policies were abandoned  --  deliberately --  and there were serious breakdowns of what Kirkup would have considered law and order.  All of this is discussed in other essays.  

The real Kirkup legacy for Rossland was not a lasting regime of law and order but a wonderful legend.   




As early as May, 1895  -- and perhaps earlier  --  residents of the Rossland mining camp began to discuss incorporation as a city.  


With production at the mines seemingly assured for many years to come, the population growing rapidly and soaring expectations for future growth  --  the number bandied about was at least 10,000 people in the next two or three years  -- the incorporation movement gained momentum.  In 1896 two mass meetings, one reportedly attended by 400 people, discussed the pros and cons.  


The main arguments in favour of incorporation were two.  First, it was asserted that provincial tax collections in Rossland vastly exceeded provincial expenditures in the city.  With incorporation, the large excess sums collected from property and other taxes by the provincial government could be captured by the municipal government and devoted to local needs.  Second, incorporation would allow people, through their locally elected representatives, to manage their own affairs, choosing expenditure priorities, deciding on policies with respect to such matters as policing, fire protection, sanitation, water, electricity and licensing hotels, bars and other businesses and implementing critical public works in a timely fashion.  The opposing concern was the potentially high cost of essential infrastructure, including a water system, sewerage, graded streets and public buildings like schools, a fire hall and civic offices. Unincorporated they could lean on the provincial government for assistance;  once incorporated, they would get little assistance and would have to depend largely on their own resources for major capital expenditures. Examples were cited of places that had experienced financial difficulties after incorporation.  

Early on in the discussion of incorporation, the Rossland Minerexpressed reservations, worrying that incorporation was premature  --  “the pear is not ripe yet.”  However, it soon became an enthusiastic supporter.  The other major daily newspaper, the Evening Record, was an enthusiast from the outset. With the support of the two major daily newspapers the pro-incorporation forces soon dominated the discussion.  

At the first mass meeting, an executive committee under the chairmanship of Justice of the Peace W. M. Newton was elected to shepherd the process, draft a petition, and persuade the provincial government to act on it (the chairmanship later passed to C. O. Lalonde and then to Robert Scott, both of whom would be candidates to be the city’s first mayor).  John Boultbee, a broker and lawyer who had been involved in the incorporation of Vancouver (and later would be Rossland’s police magistrate), was recruited to draft the petition and by early February, 1897, a delegation of two  --  Robert Scott, a real estate investor, and A. H MacNeill, a lawyer  --  was in Victoria, negotiating with the provincial authorities and delegates from other would-be cities on the eve of the opening of the next session of the legislature.  

The incorporation of cities was governed by the Municipalities Incorporation Act, which set out the basic requirements to be met before a city could be incorporated.  For Rossland, two rules were troublesome.  The first prescribed a waiting period of six months between the presentation of the petition and the introduction of the incorporation bill (a standard provision for private member’s bills).  Given the timing of sessions of the legislature, this would have delayed incorporation for at least a year.  The second was the residence requirement for voters.  To be acceptable, the petition had to be signed by registered owners of half (by value) of the land within the proposed boundaries of the city who had been resident there for the previous six months. It was argued that the six month residency condition was impossibly restrictive for a rapidly growing town like Rossland.  The committee successfully persuaded the government of the merits of their arguments and special legislation was enacted  --  “The Speedy Incorporation of Towns Act”  -- applicable to three places whose applications were then before the legislature:  Rossland, Nelson and Grand Forks.  It shortened the minimum period of residence for petitioners to three months, but continued the requirement that they be adult males (age at least 21), land owners and British subjects.[11]  Female opinion  -- even of adult, British, female landowners  --  did not count.  Satisfied that the petition met the requirements, the government then made the waiting period between petition and introduction of the legislation irrelevant by presenting the legislation as a government bill (rather than the normal private member’s bill), for which a waiting period was not required. 

The legislation creating the City of Rossland received Royal Assent on March 4, 1897, and the letters patent, the legal instrument that actually created the city, were approved on March 17 and received in Rossland on March 23.

The First Election: The Issues

The first election for the mayor and council was on April 7, 1897.  Several other names were canvassed,[12]but only two mayoral candidates presented themselves to the electorate:  Charles O. Lalonde and Robert Scott.  This election was characterized as the “old timers” versus the “new comers” --- although, of course, no one had been in Rossland very long.  Both candidates were experienced municipal politicians.  Lalonde, who arrived in Rossland in 1895 and owned a popular boot and shoe store on Columbia Avenue, had been an alderman in Port Arthur, Ontario. He was the candidate of the old timers. Scott, who arrived a year later, in 1896, and had previously been an alderman and mayor of Galt, Ontario, represented the new comers.  The old versus new categorization was turned into a polarizing issue when the Rossland Miner,a Lalonde supporter, characterized the Scott camp as “the floating population  …  largely made up of adventurers,” with the implication that Lalonde represented a more reliable, stable group of established residents with a demonstrated commitment to the city.  The pejorative tone probably worked in Lalonde’s disfavour;  the population had been growing so rapidly that, as the Rossland Recordnoted, eligible newcomers outnumbered the old timers.  

The old versus new distinction had another important dimension.  Perhaps because of the laxer social policies that he advocated, many of Scott’s most diligent supporters were relatively young.  Indeed, one of his campaign committees was referred to as “the kid committee.”   

In important respects the two candidates presented similar platforms, promising vigorous development of essential public works.  Rossland had a serious sanitation problem.  A short sewer had been built by private subscription in 1896, but it serviced only the area in the vicinity of Spokane Street south of First Avenue (said to be the most heavily populated part of the camp).  I don’t know how many hotels, houses and businesses were attached to it or how the effluent was disposed of and later complaints suggest that in part it was an open flume.  The development of a more comprehensive municipal sewerage system was the first priority of both candidates.  The town already had privately owned water and electricity systems;  both candidates proposed, as a longer term objective, that the municipality acquire, improve and expand both.  As more immediate, practical objectives, they promised more effective fire protection, improved streets and sidewalks and a new school.  There was also an issue on which Scott was very aggressive, but Lalonde offered an appearance of agreement that may or may not have been sincere.  

“Good Wages” for the Working Man 

Scott’s campaign slogan was “The People’s Candidate,” with the implication that Lalonde was “The Elite’s Candidate.”  Part of Scott’s people-oriented campaign was repeated emphasis on “good wages” for the working man.  He emphasized that in the Galt area he was known as a good employer who paid good wages and had many long-term employees who would work nowhere else.  He told a rally that “He hoped this (Rossland) would never become a cheap camp, for he believed in good wages for the working men” --  a statement that elicited cheers from the audience.  Wages rates in the mines and shops were beyond the purview of the city, of course, but on various occasions he emphasized that he was in favour of “high wages for men engaged on public works.”  He regularly bandied about the figure of $3 per day as the standard wage in Rossland  --  a very considerable exaggeration.  However, listeners could be excused if they thought that this amounted to a promise to potential city workers

Wage rates were a hot button issue for mining companies and at the root of strife in the industry.  The demand for $3 per day for “muckers,” men who worked as labourers underground, became the central issue in the 1901 miners’ strike.  To the mine managers, Scott’s position on wage rates must have been anathema.  However, it was very popular with working-men voters.  Forced into a corner, the best that Lalonde could do was to offer was a grudging “me too.”

These were points upon which they agreed.  There were two major issues that separated the two camps.  

The Politics of Gambling and Drinking

The first divisive issue, however obliquely stated, was John Kirkup’s policing of the city.  Scott expressed the view that 

Rossland is a mining camp and there should be some latitude allowed which is not expected in other communities. 

“Some latitude” meant a less rigorous enforcement of federal and provincial laws on gambling and drinking.  The mood of his supporters was captured by a workingman who stood up at an election rally and exclaimed:

I hope we shall see Mr. Scott elected, and … we hope that when mayor he won’t close the saloons on Sunday.

The Miner reported that this short speech “evoked more hearty applause than any other” at the meeting.  

Lalonde’s voice, the Miner, exploded:  

We utterly repudiate this sentiment. We repel the idea that a mining town should not be as well ordered as any other town…. The growth and success of Rossland are largely owing to the peaceful and reputable conduct of her people.  This is largely due to the firm and resolute government exercised by a man (Kirkup) peculiarly fitted for such a task.  Now, because we are to become an incorporated city are we to lower the high standard of public morality we have established and give loose rein to the baser elements of the community?  We hope not.

Another Lalonde supporter stated the point bluntly:

This camp had a reputation as the most orderly camp in the world, and …(I do)… not feel inclined to vote for a “Hurrah, boys, let’s have a good time” candidate.

The Lalonde forces attempted to persuade voters that if Scott was elected Rossland would become a “wide open town”  --  in the words of a Spokane newspaper a town in which “drunkenness, gambling, vice and immorality of all sorts … would be winked at,” a policy that “if carried out would (make) Rossland a vertical (sic) Mecca for what are known as the dangerous classes.”  

Was it by accident that in the days leading up to voting the Rossland Minerprinted on its front page  -- side-by-side with information about the election  --  two stories about a blatant crime wave in Spokane, involving daylight robberies in the downtown area?  The crime wave was said to be possible because the police force was restrained by political intervention (for example, officers were not permitted to enter saloons at random to roust out “tough characters”). Was this “some latitude” in action? Did the Miner intend these stories as a caution for Rosslanders as they headed to the polls? 

Not surprisingly, the saloon-keepers considered “some latitude” to be an important issue.  They formed an association and quizzed the mayoral candidates on their policies.  The association may have been satisfied with what it heard;  it did not publicly endorse either candidate for mayor.  What was said privately, however, was another matter, of which we have no record.

Perhaps sensing that his call for “some latitude” could provoke a backlash, Scott temporized, asserting that he did not want “a wide open camp,” and that he was “satisfied with things as they are,” but “there should be places where a working man could enjoy an hour’s recreation.”  There is a big gulf between the American-style “wide open camp” that the Miner was attributing to Scott and a community with “some latitude allowed.”  The Lalonde interpretation was extreme, probably a deliberate misrepresentation of Scott’s intention.  His later actions show that it was just some relaxation in enforcement that was his immediate objective.  However, the elaboration of the policy by later municipal regimes was more extreme and disturbing, as discussed in Essays 4, 6, and 7.  

The Politics of Municipal Finances

The second major difference between the candidates was financial.  Normally, the issuance of debentures to fund public works required the assent of a city’s voters, expressed through a majority vote in a referendum.  In order to allow the city to get started, however -- apparently on the urging of the Rossland delegation in Victoria  --  the government sensibly permitted the new city council to borrow up to $50,000 without reference to the voters.  Members of the Scott camp argued that this was inadequate.  Not only was more money needed for public works, but also funds had to be available to advertise the city and to entertain visiting dignitaries.  $100,000 would be more reasonable.  The Lalonde forces argued that $50,000 was sufficient. They rejected the notion of imposing more debt on the taxpayers of the city without a vote and were repelled by the notion that the city had to advertise (“the way to do that was to make producing mines”) and by the extravagance of spending public funds to entertain visiting dignitaries (“When you came here did anyone meet you at the depot and engage a hack to show you around?”).  According to the Miner, a vote for Scott was avote for extravagance  --  a vote “to encumber the city with useless debt and tarnish the fair name it has so far deservedly enjoyed.”  

Events showed that a sum larger than $50,000 was required to kick-start the city.  In this, Scott was correct.  Of course, more funds could and would be borrowed with the assent of taxpayers in a referendum.  The real issues that the Lalonde forces were attempting to highlight were Scott’s penchant for extravagance and his putative distain for obtaining the consent of the taxpayers.   

It is interesting that prostitution was not a concern trumpeted by either side in the election campaign --  at least in the published reports.  I am sure it was railed against from many pulpits and entered into many conversations, but neither candidate condemned prostitution in public statements, even though it was both commonplace and illegal.  

The First Election: The Campaign

Although the election was lively and sharply contested, the Lalonde forces seemed complacent, confident that their candidate’s record of public service to the city,[13]together with his appeal to moderate, civilized residents, would guarantee his election.  However, they made what proved to be a tactical error at the outset.  There were no political parties, nor civic organizations that looked like political parties.  The accepted methods of choosing candidates were nomination at a public meeting or responding to a petition (called a requisition) imploring the person to be a candidate, signed by a list of eligible voters, the longer and more impressive the better.  The Lalonde committee violated these unwritten rules.  Apparently in the absence of Lalonde, his committee met in secret session and chose a preferred slate of aldermen.[14]  When the slate was announced there was a public explosion and emphatic finger pointing by Scott supporters.  It smelled of party politics, a no-no in municipal affairs.  Some chosen candidates declined to run and at least one joined the other side.  It was not a good advertisement for the competence of the Lalonde team.  The Rossland Record, which supported Scott, was smugly vitriolic.  

The Scott forces were well organized and energetic.  They catered openly to working miners, who, if they were British subjects, had lived in Rossland for three months, owned some real estate or were heads of households who paid rent of at least $60 per year, could vote.  Scott supported calls for a $3 a day minimum wage in the mines as well as on city works and on election day hired a fleet of wagons and sleighs to meet the men as they came off shift and transport them to the polls. He won handily, 586 to 471.  

Neither candidate presented the electorate with a slate of aldermanic candidates committed to his program. Lalonde’s supporters had attempted to organize such a slate, but the effort had blown up in their faces. However, we can identify the leanings of some of the candidates because they had signed the requisition imploring one or the other of the mayoral candidates to run.  The Rossland Record had selected six of the aldermanic candidates that it encouraged the electors to vote for and five of the six were successful.  What is interesting is that three of the Record’spreferred six were Lalonde supporters and only two were known Scott supporters.  The sixth had no known affiliation.  The resulting city council was fragmented  --  two Scott supporters, two Lalonde supporters and two independents.  Scott did not have a council that was committed in advance to his policies.  


Although he professed a long-term commitment to the city “if what was claimed for the new mining town proved correct,” Robert Scott’s sojourn in Rossland was an aberrant interlude in and otherwise settled life in manufacturing, finance and civic politics in Galt, Ontario (now part of the city of Cambridge).  Located on the rolling countryside of southwestern Ontario, Galt was similar in size but otherwise as unlike the frontier mining town of Rossland as a town could be.  With a population of about 7500 in 1891 and 7900 in 1901, Galt was a stable industrial and marketing centre, commonly called the “Manchester of Canada.”  Scott was born in Galt in 1839 and was raised there. In the census of 1871 he listed his occupation as “tinsmith,” but he later made his fortune in manufacturing, owning firms that fabricated wheels, hubs and axles for wagons.  He was active in civic affairs, was one of the organizers of the Board of Trade and served several terms as alderman and three as mayor of Galt and several terms on the council of the County of Waterloo.  An active member of the militia, he rose to the rank of colonel, a title that he carried proudly through the rest of his life. 

Robert Scott did not confine his business interests to manufacturing.  He also became involved in the world of finance as a board member of the Gore Mutual Fire Insurance Company and later as its president.  About the time that he moved west, he combined his interest in finance with a new interest in mining, as vice president of the Great Western Mutual Exploration and Development Corporation of British Columbia.  This company offered to fund prospectors on a partnership basis;  the prospector would provide the claim and his work, the company would provide the money to develop the claim to a saleable condition (and receive 50-75% of the returns).  I don’t know how many prospectors signed up or if the company was a financial success. 

Scott also entered directly into the mining business as a financier. He was one of the organizers and vice president of the British American Prospecting & Development Company that had as its purpose “ exploring, locating and working mining lands” in the Yukon.  In 1900 the company was peripherally involved in a controversy over dredging claims on some Yukon rivers, so it apparently succeeded in raising money and furnishing an expedition to the Yukon.  I don’t know how successful it was at the mining business.  

At Rossland, Scott invested in urban real estate and mining properties. He was identified in particular, as a shareholder and director, with two mining ventures, the Germania Gold Mining Company, with two properties on Green Mountain north of the city and the Alf Gold Mining Company with properties in the south belt and at Ymir.  Both companies were formed by residents of Waterloo and nearby counties and sold shares in eastern Canada. They conducted considerable exploration and development work and one of the Germania prospects was reported by the developers to have great potential, but none resulted in a producing mine.  I am sure the investors lost their money (the common outcome for mining prospects).  

From his life story, Robert Scott, a man with extensive experience in municipal government and success in business and finance, would appear to have been an ideal mayor for a new city in the mountains.  How deceptive perceptions can be!


1897 was an unfortunate year in which to launch the new city.  The mines were booming, but more men were swarming in looking for jobs than there were jobs available.  Unemployed men roamed the streets.  Rossland had been overbuilt in the frenzy of 1896 and as a result many houses and buildings sat empty, while unemployed men lived in makeshift shacks.  Construction had slackened; 1897 was a year of relative stagnant business activity in the mountain town and municipal revenues were not buoyant.  Nonetheless, there was much to be done.  There was a civic administration and fire department to be organized, staff to be hired and offices to be rented, including a place to hold magistrates court and accommodation for police and prisoners.  A start had to be made on laying out the city, grading existing streets and sidewalks and opening new streets, thus improving on the roads and trails laid out by Ross Thompson’s townsite company, and building roads and improving on trails in the areas added to the city at incorporation, particularly the railway lands north of the old townsite.  All of this required money  -- lots of money.  

Implementing The Mayor’s Wage Rate Agenda

The mayor kept his promise to pay high wages on public works.  As the first important policy decision of the new city government the wage rate for workers on the city’s public works was set at $3 per day or $.30 per hour.  What is fascinating, however, is that the resolution was presented not by Mayor Scott or his cronies, but by independent alderman Wallace.  Indeed, it was suggested that Mayor Scott opposed the motion in discussions, although no dissent was reported in the newspaper account of the council meeting. In the next mayoral election, Wallace played up his role in the $3-wage policy in a blatant appeal for support from organized labour.  

Setting the wage rate for labourers at $3 per day had symbolic, if not substantive, significance in the Rossland labour market of the day.  This was the miners’ union’s objective as the base wage for muckers (underground labourers) who were then paid $2.50 per day and the union would eventually go on strike in an attempt to achieve it.  It was undoubtedly higher than required to obtain the labour needed for public works, particularly in the economic situation of 1897.  Indeed, given the number of unemployed men in the Rossland, the city could probably have filled its labour requirement by offering less than $2.50, although undoubtedly that would have provoked a union backlash.  

The $3 wage may have made the workers happy, but the euphoria was short lived.  The high wage policy had the obvious side effect of aggravating the financial problems that the city soon faced.  By early June, 1897  -- barely two months after the election --  the Public Works Board was laying off men because of a shortage of money and deciding “to reduce the wages for common labor from $3 to $2.50 per day,” on the principle “that the city should pay the going wages, which was not $3 per day.”  

Scott’s commitment to high wages for the workingman did not extend to other, more highly paid civic employees:  the bureaucrats.  It is telling that when Magistrate Jordan applied for an increase in his salary  --  which was a surprisingly low $75 per month  -- Scott not only opposed the increase but delivered a lecture on “the follies of paying high salaries to city officials.”  He then got into a dispute with the aldermen when he abruptly suspended the city solicitor because his salary was too high  --  a salary that had been agreed upon only two-and-a-half months earlier.  The mayor argued that money could be saved by having a solicitor work on a fee-for-service basis rather than a fixed salary.  The incident had serious repercussions, turning the solicitor, MacNeill, into a political adversary, placing the city in a critical financial situation and undermining Scott’s tenuous hold on the mayor’s chair (see below, p. 45).  

As the city’s financial situation became more desperate, Scott’s endlessly repeated his theme that the city was paying too much in salaries for officials.  He advocated reductions in salaries and sought to combine offices at the salary of one of them.  He opposed hiring a professional fire chief because of the expense and similarly opposed having foremen on some road works.  He also suggested that the city engineer could be dismissed after the sewer contract was signed.  In most cases, the council successfully blocked the mayor’s initiatives. However, when it was proposed to end the Rossland Record’s monopoly over city printing jobs and put the contract out to tender, the mayor objected that the printing would be done by low cost, non-union labour, and won.  He successfully protected the newspaper that had supported him so assiduously in the election (at least until near the very end of his tenure).[15]  Similarly, when an independent councillor proposed that the salaries of members of the council  -- aldermen and mayor  --  be stopped for the duration of their term, the mayor balked  --  “our salaries are not high. … the laborer is worthy of his hire, and … we are entitled to our pay.”  The proposal was defeated.   

Implementing The Mayor’s Social Agenda

As soon as the city council was organized, it began drafting bylaws for the city.  Among the first were bylaws governing hotels and licenses for the dispensing of alcoholic beverages  --  and, of course, the hotel owners took a particular interest.  How many licensed hotels should there be?  Given that the city was expected to soon have at least 10,000 people, the council thought that a maximum of 40 was appropriate.  The hotel owners wanted less competition and proposed 35, but the council view prevailed.  How large should a hotel be?  The hotel owners wanted a smaller number of rooms, but the city solicitor noted that provincial legislation set a minimum of 30 rooms for a licensed hotel.  However, upon reflection it was decided that the provincial standard of 30 rooms “actually furnished and used for hotel purposes” could be interpreted to include all rooms, not just guest rooms. This made it easier to qualify for a hotel license provided there was a sympathetic licensing commission, which there would be.[16]  In principle, the council rejected the concept of free standing saloons, but agreed that a special “retail liquor license” could be issued to hotels that did not meet the 30-room standard  --  a license “for hotels as they are now.”  The hotel operators had lost on the numbers issue, but they clearly won an important victory on licensing requirements.  A major step was taken toward “some latitude,” but the important step was yet to come.  

To complete the mayor’s social agenda, after intense debate, a provision requiring Sunday closing of bars was deleted from the city’s licensing bylaw, a decision that the city solicitor said meant that the bars could open during normal hours on Sundays.  The Minerheaded its story about the meeting “No Sunday Closing.”  Only one alderman voted against the bylaw.  Attempts to reverse the decision were rebuffed, including a petition from the Young Men’s Society for the Prevention of Vice.  No bylaw was introduced to permit gambling, but it was understood that enforcement would be lax.  When, late in the mayor’s term, a roundup of gamblers was made by the police, the mayor objected to prosecuting them  -- until he was informed that a crap game was involved.  He was “opposed to any kind of board games.”  In the event, the gamblers pleaded guilty and received nominal penalties (although a $270 roll of cash was confiscated).  Prostitution received the usual lax treatment.  The mayor insisted that lenient enforcement did not mean that Rossland was a wide open town.  It was to be a city in which a workingman could have a good time, with the police and the police magistrate not letting things get out of control.  

For the mayor’s social agenda to work the city had to have a compliant magistrate, police chief and police force.  That opportunity now presented itself.  As an incorporated city, Rossland could organize its own municipal police force.  

Finding a Compatible Police Chief: Could There Be A Smooth Transition From Kirkup to Scott?

The management of the municipal police force, including the appointment of policemen, would be the responsibility of the municipal Police Commission.  Under the law in force in 1897, the commission consisted of the mayor, as chairman, the police magistrate and a third member appointed by the provincial government.  The provincial government had not yet announced its appointee, but on June 18, Mayor Scott met with Magistrate Jordan and agreed that the local provincial police detachment would become the Rossland municipal police force, subject to confirmation when the third commissioner was appointed.  The policemen were effective and well respected and they knew the city, its people and its problems.  Constable Hooson, who had applied for the position, would be chief and constables Pyper and Henry would be his patrolmen.  The three accepted, planning to resign from the provincial police once the third commissioner was appointed and their Rossland appointments were confirmed.  There was a public announcement of the decision, which was lauded in the press. It looked like Rossland would have a smooth transition from the provincial police to its municipal police force. 

Then, there was an unseemly confrontation between the new mayor and Kirkup that precipitated a stunning reversal of the decision on the municipal police force. 

The Scott-Kirkup Confrontation

Under the Municipal Clauses Act, the governing legislation for most cities, the city council could issue licenses for bars and set “the days and hours upon which the authority to sell liquor may be exercised.”  However, another provincial law prohibited Sunday opening.  I will leave it to those trained in law to determine which legislation took precedence, but the city solicitor offered the opinion that the city could permit Sunday opening.  There could be no confusion about gambling and prostitution, however.  It was explicit in provincial legislation governing municipalities that it was the “duty” of the municipal authorities (council, police commission, police) to enforce “not only municipal by-laws but also the criminal law (of Canada) and the general laws of the Province.”  Gambling or watching gambling in what was defined as a “common gaming house” and the operation of such a house were offences under the Criminal Code of Canada,[17] as were prostitution and keeping a “common bawdy house.”  However, Mayor Scott saw a loophole through which he planned to crawl. Unless there was strict provincial oversight  -- which was impractical  --  municipal enforcement of the liquor, gambling and prostitution laws could be strict, in the Kirkup mode, or it could be done with “some latitude,” in the Scott vision. To carry out his agenda Mayor Scott needed a compliant police force that was directly responsible to him.  In late May or June, Scott made his first move.  

In the interregnum between the election of the mayor and council and the appointment of the third police commissioner, John Kirkup and his provincial constables continued to police Rossland.  However, Mayor Scott, champing at the bit, issued a challenge.  By virtue of his office, the mayor  --  often referred to as the city’s chief magistrate  --  had the status of a justice of the peace.  This status gave him the authority to preside over the police court in the absence of the police magistrate and to appoint special constables if he deemed that necessary.  It seems unlikely that it was the intention of the government that he would appoint special constables when there was already a functioning provincial police detachment in place.  Nonetheless, he appointed two specials for the celebration of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria on June 22.   These special constables became Rossland’s first   --  if rather irregular  --  municipal police force and, for a brief time, Rossland was patrolled by two police forces, the special constables reporting to the mayor and the provincial police detachment reporting to John Kirkup.  Kirkup refused to recognize the mayor’s men as police because they were not responsible to him, but they had legal standing.  A touchy issue was access to the provincial lockup.  The city had no facility of its own for holding prisoners.

In late June, three major Rossland cases were to be heard at the British Columbia Supreme Court’s Assize session in Nelson, including a murder and a serious assault.  They required the presence of two of Rossland’s constables, leaving the town with only one provincial police officer and he was in charge of the lockup.  The standard procedure was for Kirkup to appoint special constables.  However, mayor had already placed two specials on the streets.   

Kirkup’s position was that the Police Commission that was to appoint and manage the municipal police was not yet fully constituted so he was still in charge of policing in the city. Kirkup would only recognize the special constables if they were responsible to him.  The mayor demurred.  They had a shouting match in which Kirkup towered menacingly over the mayor, but, unlike ordinary miscreants, the mayor was not intimidated.  Kirkup said that he did not know the municipal constables and would not trust them with the key to the lockup.  It was a difficult situation, but Kirkup was again on the wrong side of a political issue.  He was facing a feisty new city, with a feisty new mayor who was determined to set his mark on events.  Discretion would have called for acceptance of the mayor’s nominees, not a squaring off in a very public manner, but that would not have been Kirkup.  He stood on principle as he defined it.  

Whether he came because of the Scott-Kirkup dispute or just stopped by for a visit on his way to the Assizes is not known, but Police Superintendent Hussey arrived on the scene to diffuse the conflict.  Kirkup was instructed to back off.  I don’t know whose special policemen patrolled the city for those few days in mid-June, but I suspect that it was the mayor’s.  

The city did not have to wait much longer for the third police commissioner.  On July 3, the City Council was notified that a local lawyer, T Mayne Daly, was appointed.  

The Third Police Commissioner: T Mayne Daly

Born in Ontario in 1852 and educated and called to the bar there, T Mayne Daly moved west to Brandon, Manitoba in 1881, where he practiced law and engaged in politics, local and national. Elected to the federal parliament as a conservative, he served as Minister of the Interior from 1892-96. In deep trouble with his electorate because of his support for the establishment of separate Catholic schools in Manitoba and perceptions that the immigration policy that he administered was ineffective, he would almost certainly have been defeated in the election of 1896 (which, in any case, resulted in a Laurier Liberal landslide). He did not stand for re-election. Instead, he dissolved his law practice and at the beginning of 1897 joined the flow of lawyers to Rossland where he opened a law office.  Daly quickly became involved in mining enterprises, the Board of Trade and Conservative politics in Rossland.  He featured as attorney in several major cases and became the lawyer for the Le Roi Mining Company, playing a leading role for the company during the miners’ strike of 1901 and related legal cases.  Daly had a strong conservative, pro-business predisposition.  

Reconsideration: A Different Municipal Police Chief

It is reported that Daly was Mayor Scott’s personal choice for police commissioner.  Presumably, they shared politics and a vision for Rossland. Bruised by his confrontation with Kirkup and not on speaking terms with the provincial constable, Scott was no longer willing to accept the Kirkup police detachment as his municipal police force.  The constables might well be loyal to Kirkup and his policies rather than to Scott and his vision of a much more relaxed policing of drinking and gambling.  A more compliant alternative to the Kirkup team was called for.  Daly was happy to accommodate; Magistrate Jordan was not.  The mayor must have been astonished at the independence asserted by the magistrate.  

The full police commission met for the first time on July 5, 1897, when the constitution of the police force was reconsidered.  For chief, Hooson got only one vote, Jordan’s, while Scott and Daly had a different candidate.  In Hooson’s place they appointed John S. Ingram, an experienced policeman, with no prior exposure to Rossland and, to put it mildly, a checkered past. However, from his record, he fit perfectly into Mayor Scott’s vision for the city.  Along with Ingram the Commission appointed three policemen, at least two of whom were former acquaintances of 

With his own Ingram-led police force in place, Scott was ready to implement his agenda of “some latitude” in enforcing gambling and drinking laws.  That story and its subsequent iterations are the subjects of Essays 4 and 6.  

Implementing the Mayor’s Public Works Agenda

Several major public works projects were essential if Rossland was to develop as a city of 10,000+ people, as was confidently projected.  Both candidates for mayor at the first election made extravagant and essentially identical promises for the development of the city’s capital infrastructure.  

What The City Needed

Abundant fresh water was essential for the development of the city --  for personal consumption, for sanitation and for fire protection  --  and it was also important to the mining industry.  Water was not abundant in the Rossland area.  Serious issues would soon arise about the adequacy of the water supply for all of the essential uses and conflicts would occur between the demands of the city and the demands of industry.  However, in 1897 water was not an urgent priority of the civic government.  Although some people and laundries still drew water from a badly polluted Trail Creek, large parts of the city obtained fresh water from a private waterworks company that had been established prior to the incorporation of the city, with rights to draw water from Stoney Creek, 3 miles north of the city.  It built a wooden flume from Stoney Creek to Rossland, constructed two large wooden tanks north of the city to serve as reservoirs and installed pipes to service Rossland’s commercial district and some residential neighbourhoods.  Rossland had all important fire hydrants in the downtown area, with substantial water pressure.  The system’s adequacy for the longer term was in serious question and it would soon become a serious issue for the city, but for the moment the company provided water for fire protection, commercial needs and household consumption in important parts of the city.  It was other public works that preoccupied the city council in the first year. 

Sanitation was the urgent problem, with the threat of epidemics of diseases spread by unsanitary living conditions.  The provincial health authorities repeatedly nagged at Rossland to clean up the townsite, provide clean water for home consumption and develop a sanitary means of waste disposal.  The short, private sewer that serviced only part of the business district was wholly inadequate.  A more comprehensive system of sewerage had to be a top priority for the new civic regime --  and it would be expensive.  Many residents dumped refuse in Trail Creek, which flowed through part of the town and was used as a source of water by some residents and laundries. No wonder the health authorities issued a bitter condemnation of the creek.  For the typical resident, the toilet was an outhouse  --  a pit toilet --  and other household waste was often simply dumped on the ground outside the house (and sometimes in the street).  The provincial health authorities had made some progress in attempting to eliminate pit toilets in favour of dry-earth closets  --  toilets with a removable compartment full of dry earth that would be emptied periodically by a licensed “scavenger” (after incorporation an official scavenger was hired by the city).  Kirkup had designated a suitable dumping place for the soiled earth, but apparently the scavengers were not always diligent about using it.  

An early experience with an epidemic of typhoid fever demonstrated to all that sanitation was an urgent concern.  Later, Dr. Bowes, the medical officer, attempted to discount the threat of typhoid in a letter to newspapers.  Since the first case in early August, 1897, only “about twenty additional cases have been reported (by September 20) … (and) … the disease has been in a light form, only three fatal cases having occurred.”  Because of cooler weather and rain “we are not likely to have the disease in anything like an epidemic form.”  By any reasonable standard, twenty cases would be considered an epidemic and three deaths would not be considered “light.”  

Also essential was an efficient system for fire protection. Rossland was a wooden community, with wooden houses and commercial buildings heated with wood burning stoves. Chimneys were often poorly constructed and fires starting from chimneys were, sadly, not uncommon.  A volunteer fire department had been organized before incorporation and it succeeded in bringing down insurance rates somewhat. However, insurance rates were perceived to be high compared to other cities (I have seen no data) and were a repeated object of complaint.  The volunteer fire department had to be better housed, better equipped and made more professional.  

Finally, a city had to have graded streets and sidewalks for people and commerce to get around.  

What The City Did 

The mayor’s program posed a daunting fiscal challenge and the city had almost no money.  What would be the main sources of municipal revenue were not yet available  --  the liquor, hotel and general business license by-laws were still being drafted, the provincial government was still collecting property taxes (the city would subsequently get a partial refund) and police court fines (the provincial police were still policing the city)  -- and a plan had not been developed to sell the debentures authorized at incorporation.  

Streets and Sidewalks

Although sewerage was the most important item in the mayor’s agenda, it required careful planning, both for the layout of the system of sewers and for the disposal of the waste, and planning took time.  In the meantime, there were streets to be cleared and graded.

The company that owned the original townsite had laid out streets on a rectangular grid and, in association with adjacent landowners, had cleared and graded some of them, particularly along Columbia Avenue and in the southwest section of the city where many lots had been sold.  However, the work was incomplete;  much grading remained to be done.  Moreover, the incorporated city included much more than the old townsite. The Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway Company, which had built a railway from Waneta to Nelson, connecting with a railway to Spokane, Washington, had received a very generous land grant from the British Columbia government.  One of the blocks of land selected by the company virtually encircled Rossland.  There were other small “additions” to the south and west, but a major part of the present city north of Columbia Avenue was in the “railway addition,” a large area to be developed and serviced.  The problem of development was complicated by uncertainty and legal disputes over ownership  --  the railway’s claim to the land was questioned in general and vigorously disputed in specific locations  --  and by the ubiquitous presence of squatters, in tents, shacks, and more substantial houses.  This created a murky legal and humanitarian environment in which the city had to operate.  

Road right-of-ways had to be cleared of trees, stumps, rocks and debris and in some cases the police had to be sent in to clear squatters’ cabins from the street right-of-way.  Then the streets had to be graded, to transform “the rugged bluffs with heaps, hills and hollows into gently sloping streets.”  Among the obstacles was a pile of rocks on the eastern part of Columbia Avenue, the removal of which cost about $1,000.[18]  The mayor wanted to concentrate public works on the downtown area, including streets leading to the railway station, but public pressure forced a broader range of work.  Two months into the life of the new city the Board of Works had already substantially overspent its budget.  


By late April, a city engineer, C. S. Long, was appointed and possible consultants from Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and Spokane were canvassed regarding the cost of developing plans for the sewer system.  When it was clear that an outside expert would be expensive (one quoted $500), it was decided that the city engineer could do the job.  Long developed plans for a simple system for the centre of the city, to which private connections could be made and which could be extended as funds became available. The Long plan had a main 12” sewer pipe along Columbia Avenue from Spokane Street to St Paul Street, an 8 “ line from Spokane Street along First Avenue  to Washington Street, then down to Columbia, and short lines from Columbia Avenue north on Washington Street to Second Avenue and on St. Paul Street to First Avenue.  A line from Columbia Avenue, south along St. Paul Street to the city limit was to drain the system. 

Serious doubts were expressed about the capacity of the water system to provide sufficient water to regularly flush the sewerage system without impairing the provision of water to businesses and homes and leaving sufficient reserve in the reservoirs for fire protection.  This led to serious discussion of the possibility of developing a parallel city-owned water system to add to capacity, but no action was taken. There was no money.  Further development of the water system was a job for the future.  

A major issue was the disposal of the sewage.  Mine waste, laundry waste and some sewage had long been dumped into Trail Creek, turning it into a virtual sewer.  The people of Trail objected vociferously to this practice. Trail Creek flowed through their town and was alleged to have been the source of an outbreak of typhoid.  The Long plan finessed this problem, envisaging a long, wooden flume, connecting with the sewer at the city limit and discharging the effluent directly into the Columbia River somewhere near Trail.  

The mayor was skeptical about the flume plan, partly because of cost, but more fundamentally because experience elsewhere showed that a wooden sewage flume would quickly rot, leak and collapse.  It was at best a band-aid solution.  

City Council commissioned a review by another engineer who submitted a favourable report on the Long plan, but suggested one amendment, an additional line in the lane south of Columbia Avenue to better drain the properties on the south side of the street.  With this amendment, the Long plan was adopted  --  but could the city afford it?  The debentures had not yet been sold, but, assured by the mayor that “there would be plenty of money available soon,” the council called for tenders.  Then the council got cold feet.  When the tenders were presented, they refused to open them, preferring to reconsider their plans.  

The council decided to call for new tenders, each in three parts. One part would be for the complete Long system, a second an attenuated system that ended at the city limits and the third a further attenuated system that eliminated feeder sewers on Washington Street from First to Second Avenue and on St. Paul Street from First Avenue to Columbia Avenue.  When the tenders were opened they revealed bids for the complete system ranging between $43,000 and $57,000 and for the attenuated systems between $33,000 and $36,000.  On July 23, the council chose the most limited system and awarded the contract to W.B. Davey for $32,774.  Workmen began digging a trench 10 feet deep along the centre of Columbia Avenue on August 4.  It was a mad rush to get as much work as possible done before the arrival of snow and ice.  

The termination of the sewerage system at the city limit left open the question of the disposal of the effluent.  The simple solution would be to dump it all in Trail Creek, as in the past. However, there was Trail’s objection and the even more formidable requirement of approval from the provincial government.  

However, the mayor had a plan.  Citing British precedents, the mayor proposed the adoption of a dry land “field” system of waste disposal said to be particularly suitable to cities built on a mountainside.  It involved the dispersal of the effluent over a vast area of suitable dry land, land with good absorptive capacity and that was not boggy or subject to flooding. In the mayor’s opinion, Rossland was ideally suited for such field disposal  --  and, following the offer of some Chinese farmers, the “field” that he proposed to use was the Chinese gardens on the southern outskirts of the city.  These gardens were the source of much of the fresh produce consumed by residents of Rossland.  It was proposed that the sewer have three outlets that could be used in rotation, allowing each area to absorb the effluent before being deluged again. 

The contractor completed his work by early October.  The first sewer project was completed, but no one was connected to it and it led nowhere.  The disposal problem would not be resolved for some time.  Dumping the city’s sewage on the Chinese gardens was not approved by the health authorities.  An alternative plan to develop a field in the area that eventually became the Rossland-Trail golf course was developed in Victoria (the plans are in the Provincial Archives), but not adopted.  Eventually, after much wrangling and negotiations with the provincial government, the effluent was directed into Trail Creek and hence through Trail to the Columbia River.   

Financial Machinations: The Debentures Debacle

As it began its public works program, the city needed money urgently.  In late April the city consulted with the chartered banks in the city. Both the Bank of Montreal and the Bank of British North America agreed to lend up to $50,000, the amount of the debenture issue approved by the legislation that incorporated the city. The council chose the Bank of British North America to provide its first loan.  This was a British bank that had long been active in British Columbia and was the first bank to open an office in Rossland.  

Bank Loans

On May 12, the council approved Bylaw #6, which authorized the first loan of $20,000 from the Bank of British North America, secured by a promissory note “payable on demand.”  The purpose of the loan was to fund street improvements ($10,000), the acquisition of fire-fighting equipment ($5,000) and construction of sewers ($5,000).  The bylaw also authorized the issuance of $20,000 of city debentures for the same purposes.  A literal reading of the bylaw implied that the city was to borrow $40,000, but the intention seems to have been to issue the debentures to repay the bank loan. Whether they were to be sold in the market or paid directly to the bank as a replacement for the promissory note is not clear.  The bylaw was not carefully crafted.  The debentures were not issued.  

A month later, a new bylaw repealed bylaw #6 (with the approval of the BBNA) and authorized borrowing $25,000, again on the city’s promissory note, in this case maturing on December 28, 1897.  No mention was made of debentures.  The BBNA advanced the money at 6% interest.  This exercise was repeated in mid-August, again borrowing $25,000 for street improvements, acquisition of fire-fighting equipment, street improvements and the purchase of land for civic buildings.  This time the Bank of Montreal provided the funds on a 6% promissory note that matured on December 28, 1897 (apparently the manager of the BBNA was annoyed that his bank had been frozen out of the $50,000 debenture issue). In other words, by mid-August, 1897, the city had borrowed $50,000 from local banks, secured by promissory notes that matured at the end of the year, but had not yet issued any long-term debentures that would stabilize the financial situation.  

Toronto Agreement to Sell the Debentures

How to sell the debentures on the best terms possible?  Mayor Scott portrayed himself as a sophisticated man of affairs with extensive connections in the eastern financial world.  Entrusted with the task, he scorned local offers and, at the end of July, 1897, went east  --  the trip apparently paid for by the city --  in part on private business, in part to sell the city’s debentures.  The debentures were advertised for sale in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, but attracted no interest.  A report from a Toronto financial firm that concluded that “the expenditures of the corporation of Rossland are enormously greater in proportion than any other city in Canada, especially as regards salaries” may have helped sour the market for the debentures.  However, Scott negotiated an agreement with a new trust company, the Trusts and Guarantee Company of Toronto,  to purchase the debentures.  The debentures were to bear interest at 6% per annum and they would be taken by the trust company at par, meaning that the effective interest rate was 6%.  There would be a sinking fund to systematically retire the debt and that fund would be deposited with the Trust and Guarantee Company at 4% interest.  As additional security, the trust company would have “a first charge upon all assessable real estate and improvements of or within the Municipality.”  

The City Council approved the agreement on September 15, 1897.  It was assumed that the funds from the sale of the debentures would be used to repay the bank loans, but the bylaw approving the agreement with the trust company did not specify that this was the purpose, and this defect, among others, would prove fatal.  

Quashing the Bylaw 

There were a number of people on the sidelines who also had financial and legal sophistication and who were dedicated political opponents of Mayor Scott.  They organized a public meeting that then focused on the $50,000 debenture bylaw instead of the mayor’s agenda.  They argued that the agreement with the Toronto trust company was not a good deal for the city and indeed that some of its provisions were illegal.  Included in that group of dissenters was a lawyer, A H MacNeill, who had been the city’s first solicitor and who had a very personal grudge against the mayor.  With Ross Thompson and others, he instituted legal proceedings to quash the bylaw.  

MacNeill had played a central role in the incorporation of Rossland, as a member of the committee and as one of the two delegates (the other was Scott) who went to Victoria to negotiate arrangements for the incorporation act (a service for which MacNeill absorbed his own expenses rather than billing the city).  He worked assiduously for Scott’s election and, probably as a reward for his loyalty, when the first city council took office he was appointed city solicitor. MacNeill worked tirelessly to draft by laws, offer legal advice and arrange other city business.  He was paid $200 a month, at that time the highest salary among civic employees.  The mayor voted in favour of the salary when it was set by the city council.  

In late June, two months after MacNeillwas appointed, the mayor used his powers under the Municipal Act to suspend him as city solicitor.  What went on behind the scenes is not known, but neither the mayor nor MacNeill suggested that the performance of the lawyer was as the reason for the suspension or that there had been any misconduct.  The mayor simply said that the solicitor’s salary was too high and that “it would be a great saving to the city to pay the city solicitor for his services as they were needed.”  MacNeill had strong support on council and an attempt was made to overturn the mayor’s decision, but the motion was ruled out of order on a technicality.  However, when the mayor went east in July the council re-appointed MacNeill as city solicitor, this time on the fee-for-service basis that the mayor had demanded.  Thinking that they had achieved what the mayor wanted and in deference to the mayor, the acting mayor had not signed the ordinance appointing MacNeill.  However, on his return, the mayor was furious. He refused to sign it, in effect vetoing the appointment, with the assertion “there are plenty of good attorneys in the city …(and)… when I want legal advice I will go to some other party.”  This suggests that there may have been more involved in the incident than simply saving money.  In October, MacNeill was replaced as city solicitor by another attorney.  The mayor had won the battle but had succeeded in converting a loyal supporter into a devoted opponent with serious consequences.  The agreement with the Toronto trust company provided a ready battle ground.  

More Debentures

By then, the city's financial situation had become even more confused.  More money was needed.  Some $7,500 was still owed on the sewer contract, the contractor was preparing to sue the city and funds were short for other activities, including meeting the payroll.  To meet the crisis the council decided on two more debenture issues, one for sewer construction ($7,500) and the other for general expenses ($7,500) and the Bank of British North America agreed to lend the city $14,000 providing the debentures were sold to it.  The mayor objected.  He wanted the debentures sold to the Toronto trust company, but eventually conceded.  

These debentures required the assent of the electors.  It was decided to hold a public meeting to discuss the city's finances and to promote the impending debenture referendum, but the meeting was pre-empted.  A group of the mayor’s opponents organized their own public meeting on November 13, but, although the mayor was invited and participated vigorously, it was turned into a debate on the agreement with the Toronto trust company, not on the impending public vote on the smaller issues of debentures.  It was a raucous meeting at which the mayor was roundly berated and the legitimacy of the agreement vigorously challenged.  However, a few days after the public meeting, the two new debenture issues were approved by public vote.  Surprisingly, given the controversy swirling around the city's financial position, the turnout was very light.  Perhaps people were confused by it all.  However, the conduct of the vote gave new grounds to the MacNeill forces to further challenge Scott in court.  

The Court Challenges

Three court actions followed. 

With the assistance of a Vancouver lawyer, MacNeill took the Toronto debenture agreement to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver.  The case was heard in early December and the result was an order quashing the city bylaw that authorized the sale of the debentures to the Toronto trust company. I have not found a copy of Justice McColl’s judgement, but from newspaper reports of his comments in the courtroom at the end of the hearing it appears that he accepted MacNeill’s analysis. The agreement to sell the debentures was deemed illegal because:

·      The debentures were to be, in effect, a first mortgage “upon citizens’ property.”  (“a first charge upon all assessable real estate and improvements of or within the Municipality”).  

·      A municipal sinking fund could only be invested in a specified list of securities or in deposits with a chartered bank and the Trust and Guarantee Company was not a chartered bank. 

·      The stated purpose of the debenture issue was not to repay the bank loans, but to fund a list of public works.  For this reason, in effect the bylaw permitted borrowing an additional $50,000 for a total of $100,000, which was beyond the city’s authority without an affirmative vote of the electors.  

The bylaw was quashed. 

Rather than appealing the decision through the British Columbia courts, the trust company attempted to start the legal process anew in Ontario courts, seeking to have the agreement enforced.  However, upon learning of the order of the British Columbia Supreme Court, the Ontario court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction.  The trust company appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the Supreme Court summarily rejected the appeal.  

MacNeill and company won their case, but it left the city with a large legal bill and a potential financial crisis.  Large sums of money had been borrowed on short-term temporary loans to fund sewer construction and street work and the notes were coming due.  

The mayor’s opponents then turned their attention to the vote on the sewers and expenses debentures.  They went to court to have the vote declared null and void on two grounds: a voters list had not been published before the vote and the opponents were not permitted to designate scrutineers to ensure a fair vote.  Rather than fight another court case with an uncertain outcome, the city capitulated. It agreed not to issue the debentures and to publish a list of voters before the next election (and the sewer contractor agreed not to pursue his law suit).  Two of the mayor’s pet projects had been frustrated  --  but then there was more.  

So bitter was MacNeill about his treatment at the hands of Scott that in November, 1897, he sought --  and obtained  --  an injunction in county court prohibiting the city from paying the mayor’s salary on grounds that the Municipal Act only permitted paying the salary out of current revenue and the city was running such a deficit that it was being paid out of borrowed funds.  MacNeill’s very personal intention was obvious  --  he did not seek the same injunction against the salaries of the aldermen.  I haven’t discovered a resolution, but I am sure the injunction was soon dissolved.  

Authority to issue $50,000 of debentures without a vote expired at the end of the year, which was fast approaching.  Then common sense prevailed (probably nudged along by the bank).  A new, more carefully drafted by-law was enacted, combining the $50,000 issues with the sewer and expenses issues and authorizing the sale of $65,000 of debentures.  This was put to a vote of the electors on election day in January 1898. It was approved.  The Bank of British North America then agreed to purchase the debentures on more favourable terms than had been offered by the trust company, 5 ½% interest rather than 6%, and the temporary loans were repaid.  Not only had MacNeill won the legal cases, the city had benefitted and Mayor Scott’s reputation for fiscal astuteness and administrative probity was seriously blemished.  


Confident in the popularity of his role in launching the city and his management of Rossland’s affairs for the previous ten months, Robert Scott announced that he would run for a second term as mayor in January, 1898.  In unilaterally announcing his candidacy without a “requisition” from a group of voters, he departed from what the Rossland Minercalled “the time-honored practice of receiving from his supporters a formal invitation to sacrifice himself for the welfare of the community.” The editor regarded this as insufferable arrogance, although, of course, it was not a matter of substance but simply missing a step in a ritual dance.  A requisition revealed the names of prominent supporters, but his supporters would reveal themselves in any case during the campaign (perhaps the lack of a requisition implied that few eminent citizens supported him).  Scott attempted to assemble a slate of Scott-committed aldermanic candidates, but could only persuade three to put their names forward. The other candidate for mayor was Alderman Howard S. Wallace, who was nominated by a requisition and who, as an independent alderman, frequently had been in opposition to the mayor’s policies during the previous year.  Wallace had no difficulty is assembling a full slate of six friendly aldermanic candidates. 

The Rossland Minerstrongly opposed Scott’s re-election, accusing him of financial mismanagement over the debenture debacle and the budget deficit and of operating a “spoils to the victor” system of awarding positions in the city’s administration.  Then the Minerplayed a dirty trick on him.  The Rossland Recordhad supported Scott in his 1897 election campaign and the paper had been rewarded with a monopoly over city printing jobs.  This time, Scott approached a senior executive of the Minerand offered the newspaper an exclusive printing contract if it supported him in the election campaign.  The executive sent Scott to the newspaper’s solicitor to make a written statement of the offer and then manoeuvred him into making the offer in front of witnesses who swore affidavits testifying to it. Rather than agreeing to support Scott, the editor made public the attempted bribe, supported by witnesses and the legal document.  Scott became the laughing stock of the city.  All of his major supporters backed off and his slate of aldermen withdrew. Probably recognizing that he would go down to a devastating defeat, Scott then also withdrew (his excuse: without the support of friendly aldermen, he would not be able to implement his program). Wallace was elected by acclamation. This was the end of Scott in Rossland politics. 


What can we conclude about Robert Scott as mayor of Rossland?  

Although he invested in real estate and nearby mining prospects, Robert Scott did not own and operate a business in Rossland that would embed him in the city and it is not clear that he ever understood or felt comfortable in the community.  Nonetheless, his social policy of “some latitude” was probably realistic in the situation, although his method of reaching for it was seriously flawed and would have serious repercussions in the future. Moreover, his regime made a bold start in carving a city out of a rocky mountain side, clearing and grading a grid of streets and installing the basic elements of a sewerage system.  The work was incomplete, but prepared the ground for future developments.  He was correct in his assessment of the inadequacy of the funds provided by the initial debenture issue and, of course, fuller development would require not just more money but also more time.  Despite all of the controversy, his regime made a good start.  

Scott was encumbered by a divided city council.  He did not have sufficient committed support to carry through on many of his initiatives. However, he showed no skill at negotiation and compromise, essential qualities for a mayor to be successful faced with a fractious council.  Scott’s failing was his sense of his infallible superiority  --  as a civic administrator and above all as a civic politician.  He would brook no opposition, could see no merit in opposing views and succeeded in alienating loyal supporters with his arrogance and intemperate behaviour.  He was his own nemesis.  

A couple of years after his term as mayor, Robert Scott returned to Galt.  When he went to Rossland, he had not severed his Ontario business interests --  indeed, he admitted that initially that he “had come here without any intention of staying,” simply "to make money" --  so on his return to Galt, he just hung up his carpet bag and carried on with his career in manufacturing and finance.  He must have been rather bitter about his Rossland experience.  Robert Scott died in Galt on June 26, 1926. 




The position of police magistrate for Rossland was inaugurated by George, Albert Jordan.  

Jordan was born in Ontario about 1861 and was still there, working on his father’s farm, in 1881.  It is reported that he later studied law at a law firm in Lindsay, Ontario, but apparently he did not complete his studies. He went west to Vancouver, probably in 1888, and became a law clerk in the practice of John Boultbee --  a law student in an apprenticeship program leading to admission as a barrister and solicitor (if prescribed examinations were completed successfully).[19]  An articling law clerk program was normally five years long (three years if the student had a degree from a Canadian or British university), but given his Ontario training it would probably have been shorter for Jordan.  He was recorded in the 1901 census as a lodger in the Victoria home of D. Withrow.  I don’t know why he was in Victoria, but it is possible that he was there to sit examinations (oral and written) that were required at various stages of progress through the articling program and were only held in Victoria.  If so, he was probably not successful.  He did not complete his legal studies with Boultbee and he was never called to the bar or admitted as a solicitor by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.  One way or the other, he was a failed law student.  

Although his legal education was incomplete, legal talent was scarce in British Columbia at this time.  In July, 1889, he was appointed a notary public, able to take oaths, attest to signatures on various documents, and in December, 1891, he was appointed Justice of the Peace “within and for the County of New Westminster,” which included Vancouver.  Justice of the Peace was the lowest rung on the ladder of judicial appointments, permitted to preside over court proceedings on minor offences or small civil claims. Standing as a barrister or solicitor was not necessary.  Normally, appointees were well respected, successful lay people, but they could be lawyers and, in any case, some legal understanding would be a great asset. Two Justices sitting together could preside over cases such as those handled by magistrates, the next step up the ladder.  I don’t know if Jordan presided over any hearings as Justice or sat with another Justice as a surrogate Magistrate, but the appointment as a Justice of the Peace carried another perquisite.  Under 1891 legislation, status as a Justice of the Peace was required for appointment as a police magistrate.  A police magistrate presided over a municipality’s police court, which was responsible for enforcing the city’s bylaws, had jurisdiction over minor offences and small-scale civil suits and could hold preliminary hearings on more serious civil and criminal cases, deciding whether they should be sent on to a higher court for trial.  Interestingly, as in the case of a justice of the peace, qualification as a barrister or solicitor and related experience were not required for appointment as a police magistrate.  Nonetheless, it was a very responsible position at the municipal level.  

An 1891 scandal, the basis of which was not made public, led to an investigation of Vancouver’s incumbent police magistrate by the provincial Deputy Attorney General.  The result of that investigation led the provincial government to cancel his appointment over the vehement protests of the Vancouver City Council.  Jordan was appointed in his place.  Why he was chosen was not revealed.  

What happened to undermine his tenure as police magistrate for Vancouver is not on the public record. However, both the legal profession and the city council became disillusioned by his performance.  On August 12, 1895, the Police Committee recommended to City Council that the appointment of Jordan as Police Magistrate be cancelled and that recommendation was published in local newspapers.  The only minuted explanation was that “it is in the interests of the City of Vancouver.”  A clue may be in a court case involving an alderman charged and found guilty by Jordan of not maintaining safe conditions in a rooming house that he owned.  The alderman alleged that Jordan was drunk when he took his seat on the bench and drunk when he delivered his verdict.  Moreover, the alderman said that he could not get Jordan to issue a written judgement that could be used as the basis of an appeal.  It is possible that the allegation of drunkenness was simply vindictiveness;  the allegation was denied by the city solicitor and another alderman.  In any case, his conduct in this case alienated some city councillors.  Whether or not he had a problem with alcohol, Jordan’s decision in this case was not politically astute.  

Perhaps there were more fundamental concerns over Jordan’s judgements.  Cancellation of the appointment of a municipal police magistrate was the prerogative of the Attorney General.  No specific cases were cited in the Jordan dismissal, but it is significant that not only the city council but also the Vancouver Bar Association petitioned the Attorney General to have him dismissed.  The Bar Association also asserted that in a city with complex commercial business it was vital that a lawyer be appointed to this position. Jordan had studied law but his studies had been aborted and he had not been called to the bar.  In effect, the Vancouver Bar Association was saying that Jordan was not a competent magistrate for the city.  The Bar Association had a candidate who had previously served in that post.  The city nominated him and the Attorney General approved.  Jordan’s appointment was cancelled on October 31, 1895. 

One did not have to be a registered barrister to represent clients in what were called the “inferior courts” of the province (up to the County Court).  However, it was illegal to advertise oneself as a barrister if you had not been called to the Bar.  After he vacated the magistrate’s position, Jordan advertised himself ambiguously as a “lawyer.”  However, given the innuendo surrounding his dismissal as magistrate he must have had difficulty attracting clients.  Perhaps that is why he moved to Rossland, where he arrived in late January, 1897. I don’t know if he attempted to practice law in Rossland, or if he had been promised a magistrate’s position if he moved there, but at one of its first meetings, the city council received a letter from Jordan asking that he be recommended for the position of police magistrate.  Apparently he had friends on council;  such a recommendation was immediately sent to the provincial government[20]and three weeks later (April 29, 1897) he was so appointed.  Vancouver’s reject became Rossland’s first police magistrate.  

From the beginning, Jordan’s tenure as police magistrate was busy but in legal terms uneventful.  It was reported at the end of May, 1897, that in the month since his appointment he had dealt with 29 cases.  The list is incomplete, but it provides an insight into the daily concerns of the police and the magistrate:  drunk and disorderly (9), assault and battery (4), vagrancy (3), larceny (2), violation of the health act (1), damage to property (1), disturbing a religious meeting (1), selling liquor to an Indian (1), and obtaining money under false pretences (1).  Six cases are missing from the list.  At least one (perhaps all six) involved keeping a brothel;  $50 in fines were collected for an unstated number of cases. The charge of selling liquor to an Indian attracted a fine of $50, the highest assessed.  All of the charges were treated as relatively minor offences; none was regarded as serious enough to merit a gaol sentence  --  but perhaps the magistrate was deterred by the cost and logistical difficulty of sending a prisoner to Kamloops, the nearest provincial gaol, to serve his sentence.[21]  In its report, the Rossland Record commented on the competence and experience shown by the judge, noting favourably that he was “stern and inflexible as steel when the case demands it” but “otherwise … he can be merciful.”

One case handled by Jordan merits note.  Toward the end of his tenure he presided over a drunk and disorderly trial that involved allegations of physical assault by the chief of police.  The complainant, Kenneth ffarington Bellairs, was an eccentric recent arrival from England who published a newspaper in Rossland, led an emphatically unconventional life and was probably mentally deranged.  Jordan brushed the allegations against the chief aside and convicted the man as charged.  This was the first of three allegations of misconduct on the part of the Rossland’s chief of police.  The others, discussed in Essays 4 and 7, were more substantive. The whole Bellairs episode had an element of melodrama.  It is the subject of Essay 5 

G. A. Jordan’s tenure as Rossland’s police magistrate ended in September, 1899, apparently because of illness. In late August the government took the unusual step of designating the Gold Commissioner, John Kirkup, as police magistrate for Rossland, “without salary,” “during the illness of the salaried Police Magistrate for the said city.”  Jordan resigned soon after.  The nature of the illness was not reported, but that fact of his resignation suggests that it was serious and prolonged.  I know of no reasons other than illness for Jordan’s resignation, although the mayor suggested that he had been dismissed, without giving reasons.  Thinking back to his troubles in Vancouver, was alcohol involved?  It is possible, of course, that the new government wanted a magistrate of its own choosing in a potential trouble spot and so dismissed Jordan, but there is no evidence of discontent with his performance by authorities either in Rossland or in Victoria.  He left Rossland soon after his appointment was cancelled and returned to his roots in Ontario.  Jordan was replaced by his former mentor, John Boultbee, who had an even more checkered past and became the centre of swirling controversies (Essay 7).



Born into a large Ontario family in 1853, John Ingram went to Manitoba about 1870, where he found work on farms and ranches in the vicinity of Winnipeg. He was not particularly tall, but was a strong man, of uneven temper, with quick fists, who liked to drink and liked to fight.  Indeed, according to a contemporary report, “… he was perhaps the greatest rowdy in Winnipeg at the time.”  An example of his impetuousness and belligerence occurred in 1872 during a contentious court trial of men who had rioted, trying to disrupt a federal election. The rioters were vocal anti-French agitators, of whom one was a friend of Ingram.  Part way through the trial, the prosecutor, who was French Canadian, was assaulted by Ingram as he was leaving the courthouse.  Ingram was indicted for the assault and fled to St. Paul, Minnesota, but soon returned and pleaded guilty.  Drunkenness, immaturity of youth (he was 19) and bad advice from older men were offered as excuses.  He apologized, but I don’t know if any penalty was assessed.  

Despite his bad temper and bad behaviour, Ingram soon became a provincial policeman.  I know nothing about his policing activities until in his capacity as a deputy sheriff he was the point man in the arrest of Ambroise Lepine, the accused murderer of Thomas Scott.  Scott had been a member of an Anglophone group that, in mid-winter, 1870, attempted to capture Fort Garry, then occupied by the Métis “provisional government” of Louis Riel.  Scott was captured by the Métis, court-martialed and executed by firing squad. When the government regained control, Lepine, who had been the chair of the tribunal that tried Scott, was charged with murder.  The execution of Scott had created outrage in the protestant community, particularly in Ontario whose government offered a $5,000 reward “to such person or persons as might be instrumental in bringing to trial the murderers of the late Thomas Scott.”  Lepine had left the country, but in May, 1873, returned to his Manitoba farm and in September, Ingram, and another officer were sent to arrest him.  According to a newspaper report, the arrest was made without incident. A later report states that Ingram reached out to Lepine as if to shake his hand in a friendly greeting and then hit him with his fist, knocking him unconscious.  Although such an assault would have been in character, I find no contemporary evidence to support this story.  However, if it is correct, I suppose the arrest occurred “without incident”;  the unconscious suspect could not resist. After Lepine was successfully prosecuted, Ingram was awarded $330 as his share of the $5,000 reward.  This arrest must have been the highlight of his early policing career in Manitoba.   


When the Winnipeg police force was organized in early 1874, Ingram was one of six applicants judged to be “qualified” to be the first Chief of Policy for the city. I know nothing about the characteristics and experience of the other applicants, but it is surprising that the City Council chose a 21-year old man who had less than two years of policing experience and who had two years before shown such disrespect for the law that he assaulted a crown prosecutor during a trial.  That Frank Cornish, his former superior on the Manitoba Police Force, was mayor undoubtedly helped.  Cornish had shared in the reward for capturing Lepine, was one of the court-house rioters and had defended Ingram in the assault case.  Ingram’s success in capturing Lepine had given him a certain cachet in the city and may have swayed the other councillors.  Perhaps a strong undercurrent of anti-francophone and anti-Catholic sentiment also helped the councillors to overlook (and some to applaud) the assault.  It is also likely that the councillors thought that they needed a strong, belligerent man to tame a tumultuous city.  Whatever the reason, Ingram became Chief of police of Winnipeg in February, 1874, only 21 years of age and hardly a seasoned and mature policeman.

Ingram’s short tenure as head of the small Winnipeg police force (it had only two or three constables) was not distinguished.  Indeed, he was described by one contemporary commentator as someone “who under the cloak of authority engaged in all kinds of dissipation,” whose eventual departure from the post occurred “to the delight of every respectable citizen.”  There was concern about the lax enforcement of laws under his direction.  Thus, the Manitoba Free Pressnoted, “The saloon-closing regulation is subject very much to the stretching operation” and a prominent citizen and city councillor denounced him for operating a “protection racket” for prostitutes.  This allegation led to the threat of a law suit for defamation, the resolution of which (if it occurred) I could not find.  

Already in June, 1874, four or five months after he was appointed, complaints about him led to an investigation by the city council and a resolution by one councillor that he be suspended pending the outcome of the review. The resolution was withdrawn at the next meeting and Ingram carried on.  Later, another unhappy citizen lodged a complaint with the City Council about his conduct, demanding his dismissal.  I don’t know the substance of the complaint, but nothing seems to have happened and Ingram carried on.  In mid-May, 1875, he was charged with assaulting one of his own constables. The charges were dismissed, but that does not mean that a physical altercation had not occurred.  These were not happy times on the Winnipeg Police Force. About the same time a committee of the City Council proposed combining the office of Chief of Police with a number of other civic offices.  The combined offices were not necessarily to be under the present Chief, but under “a competent person …(to)… be appointed to the joint position.”  I doubt that that person would have been Ingram.  In any case, the recommendation was not adopted. 

So far, Ingram had sufficient support on Council that he survived these attacks.  Then theclimax came at the end of May, 1875,when two constables raided a suspected brothel and discovered their Chief in bed with one of the inmates (had they known that he would be there before they raided the house?).  He was arrested and charged as a found-in.  Having completely lost respect for their Chief and obviously attempting to spur the City Council into finally taking action in an untenable situation, the two constables submitted their resignations.  The Council refused to accept them and instead ordered an investigation into Ingram.  When he appeared in court, Ingram was convicted and fined $8.  A week later, under severe pressure, he resigned.  

He soon left for Ontario to visit his relatives, but he was back in Winnipeg in September, 1875, in court again, “charged … with being drunk and pugilistic” and fined $10 and costs. What he did next is a mystery.  One report states that he was a boxer in Winnipeg, but that seems unlikely to have sustained him financially until he was appointed the first chief of Calgary’s new police force in 1884.  Somehow, he made a living in the interim.


In 1884 Calgary was a small frontier town.  Why the Town Council selected Ingram to organize and preside over their new police force is not apparent.  I don’t know how many other candidates there were or their qualifications, but Ingram had a seriously blemished record in Winnipeg and I find no evidence that he had been an active policeman in the intervening nine years. He was not an obvious choice for police chief.  However, he was appointed in February, 1884, and he had more success at this position than he had in Winnipeg.

It is difficult to interpret the limited evidence about Ingram’s performance as police chief in Calgary.  The two available contemporary newspapers paint very different pictures. The Calgary Tribunerepeatedly printed comments that cast Ingram in a negative light  --  as lazy, self-indulgent and not attentive to his duties  -- but  I have found no evidence of incidents of assault and consorting with prostitutes in Calgary such as those that marred Ingram’s career in Winnipeg. Rather, the comments suggest a general unhappiness about the performance of the police force.  One city councillor expressed frustration about frequent leaves of absence taken by Ingram.  In September, 1885, the Tribunebemoaned the number of prostitutes walking the streets who “brazenly solicit citizens” and “the police do not appear to trouble their heads about the matter.”  

In November, 1885, the saloon owned by one of the City Councillors was raided by the officers of the Northwest Mounted Police searching for illegal liquor.  What is now Alberta was still part of the Northwest Territories, under federal jurisdiction, and as the federal police force the Mounted Police had responsibility for policing, including the enforcement of the strict federal liquor regulations.  Ingram was in the saloon (on duty?) when the Mounted Police raided it in plain clothes, without police identification and without a warrant.  Councillor Clarke ordered Ingram to arrest one of the officers for trespassing, but Ingram demurred, asserting that he knew the man to be a police officer and that the law under which we was operating permitted search without a warrant.  The Councillor was furious and at the next City Council meeting, perhaps reflecting a longer running animosity, asked to have the Chief’s duties defined, “if he had any duties.”  Councillor Clarke was charged with “resisting and assaulting the Police,” found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison.  The case became a cause celebre in Calgary, but Ingram carried on as usual. 

Pique at the police force and its efficiency took another form in 1887. A city councillor proposed reducing the police force by one constable, from the chief and two men to the chief and one man.  The recommendation was not adopted at that time, but a year later, as part of an austerity move, the reduction was implemented.  Kirkup’s tenure was not affected, but he clearly regarded it as a vote of confidence.  Two weeks later he resigned.  There were no expressions of regret or “thank you for services rendered” in the Calgary Tribune, but in what was a thinly veiled comment on Ingram, in a bold statement in large print at the head of a column, the editor gave advice to the city council on the characteristics of a suitable new chief: 

He should be a man of unquestioned character and habits, and who will not spend his time playing billiards, smoking cigars on the street while on duty or other matters which we might mention.  He should certainly have experience and ability and be above suspicion of accepting bribes to hush affairs which should be ventilated in the courts. 

By contrast, the Weekly Heraldsaw Ingram in a very positive light, as a constable doing a very demanding job with diverse requirements and doing it in exemplary fashion. When Ingram requested an increase in salary, commensurate with salaries paid to police chiefs in eastern centres, the Heraldstrongly supported him. On two other occasions, the editor offered gushing complements about his superior detective work in finding and arresting dangerous fugitives.  The only sour note in the Herald’scoverage of Ingram’s policing of Calgary was a report that a judge accused him of conspiracy in a case of theft “and hinted at hush money from liquor dealers….”  The judge, however, was himself the subject of an investigation over his handling of a controversial court case.  Perhaps his comments should be downplayed.  

Wherein lays the truth?  With the Tribune or with the Herald?  Perhaps it involves a bit of both.  Perhaps Ingram, a man with considerable talent for police work, recognized that to keep the peace in a fragile frontier town, full of young men looking for a good time, he had to tolerate a low level of what purists would regard as vice, while taking steps to make sure it did not get out of hand.  There was no point in working too vigorously;  life was to be enjoyed.  He would conduct occasional raids on brothels and saloons dealing illegal liquor, but would not mount the determined campaign of suppression of vice demanded by the purity faction.  Then, on occasion, his true talents in police work would be revealed in cases of serious crime.  

At some time, probably in 1888 or 1889, he married a young, English widow, Edith Oake (or Oke), who had a young child, Robert, from a previous marriage. Edith and John had three children, two of them born in Alberta (Edith Bernice 1890 and John in 1893) and one in Elgin County, Ontario (Leslie in 1895).  

After he resigned, Ingram became an hotelier, operating the Palace Hotel at Pine Creek, south of Calgary, and then the Royal Hotel in Calgary. What he did after he sold the Royal Hotel was not reported in Calgary newspapers.  That his son Leslie was born in Ontario, in Elgin County, for which John’s brother was the Conservative Member of Parliament, suggests that he spent some time in that province.  It is also said that for a time he was a policeman in Montana.  A Jack Ingram was a police officer in Butte Montana in 1896 and early 1897 and was involved in several cases that were noted in local newspapers.  I have been unable to confirm that it was our Jack Ingram, but it seems likely.  The timing is right.  The first time I found him in a Montana news report was in August, 1895, and the last time in April, 1897.  His appointment as the first Chief of Police of the City of Rossland occurred at the beginning of July, 1897.   

It is almost certain that Ingram was in Rossland when the Police Commission met.  He took up his duties immediately thereafter.  Had he arrived on his own volition or had Mayor Scott or Police Commissioner Daly summoned him from Montana?  From his years in Manitoba, Daly would have known Ingram, certainly by reputation and probably personally.  Ingram had resigned as chief of police in Calgary before Daly became Minister of the Interior, but he operated the major hotel in Calgary where the Minister may well have stayed on his visits to the city.  Moreover, Ingram was active in Conservative party politics in the Calgary area and his brother was a Conservative MP from an Ontario riding and a minister in the same cabinet as Daly.  The possible connections between the Daly and Ingram were too many not to have been important in Ingram going to Rossland.  In any case, Ingram was appointed chief, with three constables of his choosing.  


If Rossland’s Police Commission knew of his troubled background in Winnipeg and his uncertain record in Calgary, why would they select Ingram as Chief to organize the new police force of Rossland?  Why did they push aside Constable Hooson of the Rossland detachment of the provincial constabulary, a popular policeman with a sterling record, accompanied by two experienced constables, also of good reputation?  Politics must have played an important role.  Like Daly and Scott, Ingram was a died-in-the-wool Conservative.  However, the strongest factor was probably the mayor’s determination to rid the city of Kirkup’s puritanical regime, with which Hooson, as Kirkup’s loyal deputy, was closely associated.  Ingram represented the type of policing that Scott thought appropriate, offering “a degree of latitude”.  He had extensive experience, although none in Rossland or elsewhere in British Columbia.  It is reported that he had “letters by the score from city councilmen from each of the cities he has served.”  Most importantly, like Kirkup, he was strong and would not back down from a fight --  just the type of person needed to keep the potentially rowdy element under control.  However, from his record, unlike Kirkup, Ingram did not have a strong independent compulsion to maintain a puritanical regime when it came to gambling and drinking. 


Rumours that “members of the (police) force had accepted bribes and had received money for improper purposes” circulated in Rossland in the summer of 1899, enlivening the political climate.  The Chief of Police vigorously denied the rumours and asked the City Council for an official investigation to exonerate him and his officers and quell the simmering discontent in the populace.  The Council felt that it could not act;  this was a matter properly dealt with by the Police Commission, not the City Council.  Unfortunately, the provincial government had not yet appointed its two members of the Police Commission.[22]  Nothing could be done until the Commission was constituted, so the Council petitioned the provincial government to appoint the commissioners urgently.  

An additional consideration militated against a formal enquiry at that time.  No complainant had come forward with specific charges. There were only vague, if virile, rumours.  In the words of the editor of the Rossland Miner, “unspecified accusations and veiled innuendos are impossible of being met and refuted.”

Resignation of Billy Mitchell

The controversy was heightened by the resignation of one of the policemen who was implicated by the rumours:  William (Billy) Mitchell, who was in charge of the City’s lock-up.  Was the timing coincidental, as Mitchell vigorously proclaimed, or was it a response to the rumours?  Apparently Mitchell had attempted to resign in early June, he said not because of the rumours, but “because he wished to look after his mineral claims.”  He was dissuaded from doing so by Chief Ingram who argued that in face of the rumours it would look like an admission of guilt.  However, after further consideration, Mitchell submitted his resignation to the first meeting of the newly constituted Police Commission on August 15.  It was accepted, effective October 1.  In the meantime, he remained in charge of the lock-up --  but the Mitchell saga was not over.    

The Police Commission Enquiry

By mid-August, both barriers to a formal investigation had been overcome.  The government appointed the requisite two Police Commissioners, W. F. McNeill, a boot and shoe merchant, and John S. Clute, a lawyer and politician, who would be the city’s fourth mayor.  In the event, Clute stepped aside during the enquiry to avoid the appearance of conflict because his legal partner, J. A Macdonald, had been retained by the police. This left the Commission without a legal mind, which may partly explain the puzzling report on the enquiry.

The other concern was also overcome when the Trades and Labour Council stepped forward as the complainant, with specific accusations supported by affidavits from witnesses.  The TLC may have been sincere in advancing the charges, but undoubtedly it also had a political agenda.  Labor unrest  --  what Mouat called “class tensions”  --  was festering, culminating in the miners’ strike that began in July, 1901.  Part of the festering unhappiness of the labour movement related to the wages of city workers.  The TLC may have seen the corruption stories as an opportunity to embarrass and intimidate the civic administration by impugning its police force. In any case, the corruption charges provoked a formal enquiry. 

The most serious allegation was that John Ingram and William Mitchell accepted money “from Chinamen and others” to permit “gambling and other criminal offences (presumably prostitution) to be carried on … during the years 1898 and 1899.”  Equally serious was the assertion that Ingram had intimidated a Chinese witness who had made a written statement in support of these allegations.  The lesser charge was that Mitchell had presented false accounts for the lock up and had misappropriated some of the supplies for his own use.   There were also suggestions of drunkenness and frequenting houses of ill repute on the part of Chief Ingram.  Echoes of Winnipeg!  

Three investigations followed:  an enquiry by the Police Commission and two hearings in Police Court.  The Police Commission held several meetings, interviewed 64 witnesses and recorded 586 pages of testimony.  Apparently the case against Constable Mitchell was weak.  Indeed, the editor of the Minernoted, “The finding (of the Commission) utterly discredits the evidence against Mitchell.”  Nonetheless, his resignation, which had been accepted at an earlier meeting, was rescinded; he was found guilty of “irregular conduct” and formally dismissed from the police force.  The Minerobserved

A stranger … who knew nothing of local conditions would be considerable amazed, if he were not amused, at the manner in which jailer Mitchell is dealt with.  

The editor does not explain what “local conditions” justified the abuse of Mitchell, but paradoxically concludes that nonetheless “we think that the services of Mitchell are very properly dispensed with.”  Was he a sacrificial lamb to assuage public outrage? He was, after all, leaving the police force anyway!   

Two Trialsin Police Court

The report of the Police Commission did not end Mitchell’s troubles. In October, after the new police magistrate was in place, a citizen (possibly a representative of the Trade and Labour Council) went to police court in an attempt to have Mitchell charged under the criminal code for accepting bribes from Chinese businessmen. The magistrate presiding over the preliminary hearing found the evidence internally contradictory and concluded that if “committed for trial no jury would convict him”  The charges were dropped and Mitchell was discharged, free to attend to his mining claims (or whatever).  I don’t know what became of Mitchell.   

The Police Commission found the evidence against Chief Ingram to be “of a most contradictory character” and it “failed to prove any of the charges.” In the end, the Commissioners concluded that “the investigation has shown Chief Ingram to be “exceptionally free from the charges made.”  They accepted the defence argument that the charges were advanced by people with personal grievances who sought to bring the chief down.  The Commissioners made it clear that they did not believe the testimony of the Chinese witnesses, which was, they claimed, internally contradictory.  Was the evidence rejected because the witnesses were Chinese?  Or, was something lost in translation? Unfortunately, the evidence is not available for scrutiny.

Ingram’s alleged offences were of a criminal nature so there was also a hearing before the Police Magistrate to determine if the evidence was sufficient to warrant a criminal trial.  Paradoxically, it was John Kirkup, the provincial constable whom Ingram replaced as Rossland’s police chief who presided over the court because of the illness of the regular police magistrate, George Jordan.  On the first day of the hearing the prosecutor attempted to establish that Ingram had frequented brothels and was often drunk. On both charges, his witnesses failed him.  The prostitutes who were called asserted that the only times Ingram visited their houses were to “collect fines and issue warnings.”  Also, “none of the witnesses remembered seeing the chief under the influence of liquor, nor any unseemly conduct on his part.”  It was not noted that normal procedure would have been for the fines to be paid into the court, not to the police chief.  Ex-mayor Wallace then testified that to his knowledge there were “irregular” payments made to the chief by “keepers and inmates of disorderly houses” who had been fined, but that the chief had explained that the funds were to pay for special constables employed in the investigation, as if that justified the non-judicial “fines.”  Perhaps they set a precedent in Ingram’s mind for a later scheme involving gamblers.  There had been no official approval of such payments and no evidence was cited to show that the funds were paid to the city treasury.  Moreover, there was agreement on the police commission that “ordinary poker games were not to be interfered with, while … there was no machinery of the law by which slot machines could be done away with.”  In other words, a measure of gambling was to be tolerated. The prosecutor’s case had collapsed. When the second day of the hearing convened, he did not even show up.  The case was abandoned.

In effect, Ingram had been exonerated.  Was this a fair outcome?  I doubt it, but without the benefit of the evidence and lacking legal training, it is impossible for me to make an informed judgement.  However, it is clear that under Ingram Rossland was not the pure town that Kirkup had aimed for.  Was there intimidation of witnesses who testified in court  --  particularly vulnerable prostitutes?  Was the evidence from the Chinese men rejected simply because they were Chinese and hence inherently untrustworthy?  Questions abound, but Ingram carried on  --  for a time. 

Craving the Old Regime

There were important factions in the community who were not enthralled by the regime of lax enforcement of the morality laws.  

The banks were the bastions of respectability and the bank managers were among the unhappy leading citizens of the city.  In August of 1899, as the corruption case was unfolding, the managers of the five banks in Rossland wrote to the Attorney General expressing their pleasure that Jack Kirkup had been appointed police magistrate pro temin the absence of magistrate Jordan. 

Believing that it would be highly conducive to the undoubted maintenance of law and order, and to the discouragement of all acts of violence that the appointment of Mr. Kirkup be made permanent, we respectively request that this be done with as little delay as possible.   

…the moral effect on the community of the appointment of a man of Mr. Kirkup’s well known character will be such as it is very desirable to have at the present time  

The bankers’ request was not to be.  Whether Kirkup would have accepted the appointment is not known. However, the selection of the next magistrate was in the hands of the local member of the provincial legislature, Mr. James Martin, and he had a different agenda (see below, p. 92).   

A little over a year later, in early December, 1900, a group of concerned citizens (the “Citizens’ Municipal League”), in dismay about the state of their city, wrote to the Attorney General expressing “doubt if there is a town in Canada that can compare with (Rossland) in points of gambling, prostitution and prevalence of excessive use of intoxicating liquors.” They placed the blame squarely on the mayor and the city council.  Government officials like constables and government agents were not permitted to engage in politics  --  indeed, they were not even permitted to vote. However, the group asked that an exception be made and that John Kirkup be allowed to run for mayor.  They were certain that he would be elected and that he would then clean up the town, returning to the puritanical regime in place just before Rossland became a city.  The concerned citizens thus echoed the earlier appeal of bankers asking that Kirkup be made police magistrate, with the same end in view.  

I did not find the response of the government to either request, but Kirkup was neither regular police magistrate nor mayoral candidate. Nonetheless, the two campaigns show that puritanism was not dead in Rossland  --  but it was not in power. 


The election of January, 1901, was interesting and eventful.  It became part of the awakening of the labour movement in the mines and elsewhere in the city as organized labour played a significant role in the election for the first time.  It was also an election characterized by a remarkable level of vitriol and the object of much of that vitriol was a young (32) candidate for mayor, Henry Daniel. 

Henry (Harry) Daniel was a single man with a house painting and decorating business who was disturbed about how municipal business was conducted and decided to do something about it by running for mayor.  He listed all of the usual concerns  --  streets, sewers, water, fire protection, etc.  -- but laid particular stress on the elimination of waste in civic administration and on fairness of treatment for all section of the city in matters like street improvements, “eliminating to a great extent ward politics.”  His promise to the electors:

… if elected I guarantee that city affairs will be conducted in an open, businesslike manner and with fairness to every person and interest.  

Daniel had no prior record of involvement in civic affairs  --  he was the quintessential outsider.  

Daniel’s opponent, Charles O. Lalonde, was ten years older and a long-time resident with a deep background in municipal affairs, including a failed campaign for mayor in the city’s first election, two terms as alderman and involvement in almost every civic project undertaken in the previous five years, including the nascent school board.  Lalonde made the usual promises about improvements to the city and careful management if the city’s finances, but essentially ran on his record of involvement in civic affairs. 

The Rossland Miner enthusiastically supported Lalonde and viciously attacked Daniel as young, inexperienced and ignorant of municipal affairs --  

a young man who had never sat as a member of a public body, who has had no acquaintance with municipal affairs and who has hitherto shown no interest in the camp outside of his own private business.”  

Electing Daniel would be a danger to the orderly development of the city. He “would simply get our affairs into an inextricable muddle should he attempt to mend them.”     

For the first time, the labour movement took an active role in the election.  Several workingmen, promoted by the union, ran for alderman and Daniel was endorsed by the labour movement’s newspaper, the Industrial World, as “our candidate.”  It is not clear that the unions had induced Daniel to run. Rather, it seems likely that the Industrial Worldsaw the independent candidate as an acceptable alternative to Lalonde, a representative of the ruling elite and supported by the business interests.  Of course, the Minerwas outraged that the Industrial Worldpresumed to speak for all workingmen “without having obtained their consent.”

The Miner’scharacterizations of Daniel were very personal and very negative, but they may have added to his appeal among voters disenchanted with the rule of the insiders.  Then the campaign got nasty.  Daniel’s supporters spread the story that Lalonde was the candidate of the bankers and that the bankers had raised a fund to promote his candidacy.  The Minervigorously denied the accusation and intimated that “it will be found that it is Mr. Daniel and not Mr. Lalonde who is the candidate of a clique, ” a clique that “does not include in its numbers one workingman.”  Moreover, people will not find out about the membership of the clique until after the election “if Mr. Daniel’s ardent supporters can keep them in ignorance.” In the next issue of the paper the Miner noted ominously that “the impression exists, whether rightly or wrongly” that Daniel was “the nominee” of a section of the population “which is looking for merely temporary advantage and which does not consider the general interests of the citizens.”  On the same page, it published an anonymous letter from a “ratepayer” that posed the question bluntly:  

… is it true that Mr. Daniel is the candidate of the liquor interest? Has a fund been raised to defray his expenses by the element which is opposed to a respectable city and which wants a wide open town? Is it true that the police force are hostile to Mr. Lalonde and are working ardently for Mr. Daniel?  Is it true that the chief of police one Saturday evening went into Mr. Lalonde’s store and abused him in the vilest manner, warning him that it was impossible for him to be elected?  Is, in short, the inference justified that Mr. Daniel is the representative in this campaign of the men who want, not a condition of things such as we have at present but a condition which would lay us open to the charge of having an immoral town?  

Ratepayer also asked if it was true that Lalonde was the candidate of the bankers and that they had raised a fund in his support, an allegation already vigorously denied by the Miner. However, it is clear that the focus of ratepayer’s concern was Daniels putative alliance with gamblers and saloon keepers.  

Daniel lost the election; C O Lalonde became Rossland’s next mayor. However, the victory was not overwhelming.  Daniel lost by 29 votes out of 815 ballots cast, a margin of 3.5%.  He was out of city government for a year, but in 1902 he was elected as an alderman, was appointed to the police commission to replace a member who had resigned, and played a major role in the corruption scandal that erupted in late 1902 and early 1903.  He became an important, but overlooked, figure in the history of law and order in early Rossland, as is discussed in Essay 7.  

A New Police Chief

The confrontation between Ingram and Lalonde in Lalonde’s store during the election campaign proved to be fateful.  Ingram asserted that it was a result of a disagreement about a mining claim in which they were both involved, but it seems more likely that it was about the activities of Ingram and the police in the election campaign.  In any case, as soon as the police commission was appointed, the new mayor saw to it that Ingram was dismissed as police chief.  A viable local candidate, Sergeant McPhee, was passed over (perhaps because of his association with Ingram) in favour of an outsider, Frank Vaughan, recruited from Montreal, with a distinguished background in police work, there and in Britain.  


What does a former police chief do to make a living?  Rather than leave the city, he went to work in the mining industry.  The Rossland miners went out on strike in 1901, a strike that was broken through the employment of strike breakers.  Importing strike breakers from the US potentially ran afoul of the Alien Workers Act --  but it was done, on a large scale.  The Alien Workers Act was federal legislation that made it an offence to recruit foreign workers (British subjects were exempt) in the United States to fill jobs in Canada.  Although it was regularly violated and little enforced, the Alien Workers Act put a premium on strike breakers who were already in Canada.  For this reason, the mining companies had men riding the CPR looking for potential strike breakers.  Ingram was one of those men.  He was given a contract by the Le Roi mining company to recruit strike breakers from the Canadian prairies, the region that he knew so well.  

It is not clear if Ingram was less than honest with the workers that he recruited or if they, like many other strike breakers, were met at the train by members of the striking union and vigorously dissuaded from continuing to the Rossland mines.  In any case, they were quoted (in a labour-friendly newspaper) as saying that they had been assured that labour peace prevailed in Rossland again and that they would be regular workers, not strike-breakers.  When they learned that the strike was still on some stopped at Robson, on the Columbia River, and refused to get on the special train that Ingram had arranged to take them to Rossland, and some others got to Rossland but refused to go underground.  I don’t know how important Ingram’s recruits were in breaking the strike.  However, whatever their source, sufficient workers were recruited that the mines were able to operate until the union exhausted its funds and the strike was broken.  

Ingram was again out of work.  However, he had friends in high places.  When J Stilwell Clute was elected mayor in January, 1902, the entire police force was dismissed and Ingram became the chief of police again. The repercussions of this are the subject of Essay 7.  




The Chief of Police of a frontier mining town that had lax enforcement of drinking laws, widespread, if surreptitious, gambling and a flagrant tenderloin district, was vulnerable to allegations of misbehaviour and corruption  --  and John Ingram, with his background, was an inviting target.  However, one incident, early in 1899, was probably the product of a disturbed mind rather than a deliberate plot or misbehaviour by the police  --  although it is possible that the allegations were true, at least in part.  

The complainant, Kenneth ffarington Bellairs, was a recent immigrant from England who had had a long career in London’s financial markets as a broker, dealer, investor and financial journalist.  He was a remarkably talented man, if eccentric, whose life involved adventures on three continents.  That life briefly intersected in a dramatic way with Rossland and ended tragically at Spokane and Medical Lake in Washington State.  


Kenneth ffarington Bellairs was born in Somerset County, England, in early 1846, to Reverend Henry W Bellairs and Mary Hannah Kendrick.  I have discovered nothing about his early life and education, but, as one of fourteen offspring of an Anglican clergyman, it seems unlikely that he received much financial help to launch him in life.  He probably had a sound education, but beyond that what he achieved in his career, he must have achieved on his own merits.  Sometime in the 1860s he must have obtained a position as a clerk in a brokerage firm in the City and learned the trade.  In January, 1870, his name appeared on the list of brokers on the London Stock Exchange suggesting that he began trading on the Exchange in his own right sometime in 1869.

Two years later he had his first foreign adventure. He departed Liverpool on the Oceanic, bound for New York, in mid-August, 1871.  In America he crossed the continent on the first transcontinental railway that had finally been completed a year earlier, seeing for himself the vastness of the western plains which he would revisit in a few years, stopping at Salt Lake City along the way and ending up in San Francisco.   He returned to Liverpool in mid-October.  He probably made a second trip across the Atlantic a year or two later and became involved with the New York Stock Exchange.  One result was his first book Analysis of American and Canadian Securities for the Use of English Investors, published in London in 1874.  It provided basic information for British investors about the characteristics, yields and security of American and Canadian federal, municipal and railway bonds  -- standard broker’s fare.

With his career effectively launched, on December 17, 1872 he married Minnie Balfour, the daughter of a wealthy Scottish-born wine merchant.  She was several years younger than Kenneth, born in London in 1854.  They had eight children, but only six survived infancy. At some time their relationship deteriorated.  It was reported in 1895 that Minnie was an invalid, but I could not discover either the nature of her ailment, whether physical or psychological, or when and how she became incapacitated.  However, she was described very crassly by Bellairs as “a millstone around my neck for exactly twenty-five years.”  Despite the “millstone,” the family showed every sign of affluence.  In 1881 they lived in Chelsea with two live-in nurses and a housemaid and in 1891, in Westminster with four servants.  On weekends he had trips with male companions --  sailing on his expensive yacht, hunting at his remote hunting lodge or perhaps fishing in Scotland.  Kenneth Bellairs lived and worked in the city, but on the weekends he played the role of a prosperous country gentleman.

Minnie died in Caen, France, on June 26, 1899. I don’t know what she was doing in Caen. Perhaps, as an invalid, she was en route to somewhere in Europe to “take the waters,” or she may have been living there. I also don’t know what her financial situation was.  She may have had an inheritance from her father, who had died in 1876, or Bellairs may have been supporting her financially.  If the latter, when Bellairs left for Canada she may have had a financial crisis.  When his bankruptcy case was before the court she was listed as one of his larger creditors, for £200, probably related to a business arrangement for the publication of the Weekly Bulletin.  It seems unlikely that Bellairs paid his creditors, including Minnie, before he departed.  In any case, Minnie was alive in a foreign country, but fragile, abandoned and possibly impoverished, when Bellairs departed for Canada in late 1897. 

The ffarington Name

Bellairs was inordinately pleased with his distinctive ffarington middle name.  Where did it come from?  

His father, Henry W. Bellairs, was an Oxford educated clergyman in Somerset and later Warwick counties.  That Kenneth came from a clerical family and that his father presided at his marriage is paradoxical in that he later became a biting, atheistic critic of Christianity.  In 1839, the Reverend Henry W Bellairs had married Mary Hannah Albina Kenrick, Kenneth’s mother.  Going back a generation, her mother  --  the second wife of her father, George W Kenrick --  was Mary Isabella ffarington, providing the link between the Bellairs and the ffarington family.  

The ffarington name was probably of Welsh origin, but, although far from common, it was also an old family name in England. Searches of the internet and two genealogical websites, reveal ffarington records back at least to the 1640s when a ffarington member of the country gentry was a captain on the Royalist side in the English civil war.  Thus, through his mother, Kenneth descended from a distinguished family, not of the aristocracy, but of country gentlemen.  

For Kenneth the ffarington name was an important embellishment of his off-beat personality.  He embraced it enthusiastically, seldom referring to himself simply as Kenneth Bellairs, but almost always as Kenneth ffarington Bellairs, sometimes as Kenneth ff Bellairs or K ff Bellairs, and occasionally as ffarington Bellairs.  He gave the same middle name to four of his children, male and female.  


Tragedies:  A Fateful Train Wreck and Deaths of Babies

On Christmas Eve, 1874, Bellairs was involved in a very serious train accident, described by one newspaper as “perhaps the most appalling that is yet to be found in the history of English railway casualties.”  Shortly after leaving Oxford, a wheel on the first carriage of a Great Western train to Birmingham and points north, froze.  Railway cars were scattered across adjoining fields;  some 30 people were killed and at least 70 more were seriously injured.  Bellairs was badly shaken and may have suffered a leg injury, but was not seriously injured.  He joined others in attempting to help rescue and console the serious casualties.  Soon after, he wrote a letter to the London Times, describing his experience and concluding “A more appalling accident has seldom happened, and it will be long before the survivors will forget it.”  It seems to have had a searing effect on him;  he attributed his decision to stop being a broker on the London Stock Exchange to the accident (although he was still listed as a broker until 1878). 

Although infant deaths were still unfortunately common at that time, a pair of infant deaths was probably even more devastating to Bellairs and his wife than the train wreck.  A baby boy (Eyre ffarington Bellairs) was born in September, 1875, but died shortly after birth.  This sad event was repeated in 1876, when a newborn baby girl (Olive Argemone Bellairs) similarly died.  Tragedy seemed to be stalking the Bellairs family.  How to escape its clutches?  

Seeking a radical change in his life and fortunes, Bellairs took his family to America where he settled in Minnesota as a gentleman farmer. 


In the mid- to late-1870s Bellairs was a member of an English colony at Fairmont, in Martin County, on the southern boundary of Minnesota.  This was an agricultural colony, initially dedicated to growing beans, but it was organized on an unusual principle.  It was not a colony of farmers, but “on the whole, a colony of gentlemen,” each of whom was relatively affluent.  They were investors who bought land and hired local people to do the farm work while they lived the leisure-filled life of English country gentry.  They presided over the farming operations, but they also had a pack of hunting dogs with which they “rode to the hounds” (they chased wolves as well as foxes), wearing bright red coats made by a local seamstress, held English style steeplechases at county fairs, and in general conducted themselves like regular members of English country society.  Indeed, it was anticipated that some of them would return to London each year for the social season.  They did not have the persistence of normal settlers.  Within a few years, most had returned to England. However, a few remained, some in farming and some in other businesses.

After preliminary work by Henry F Shearman (an American) in 1872, the first band of English settlers arrived in 1873 and immediately planted a crop of beans.  Their bean crops were wiped out for two years in succession (1873 and 1874) by locusts and some dispirited colonists departed.  Others diversified their activities into non-farming pursuits --  milling, banking and retailing.  The Bellairs family arrived in 1875 and took up farming.  I don’t know if Bellairs grew beans when he first arrived, but he became well known for raising sheep (and possibly growing wheat). Thus, the author of an early book on the colony noted that

One of the most enterprising sheep farmers, and a luminary of the Prairie Farmer, was a London stockbroker, who, true to the instincts of his kind, went in heavily year after year, on the prospect of a European war, or some other eventuality, for a rise in wheat or wool.  

That stockbroker was Bellairs.  The Prairie Farmer was (and still is) a newspaper for farmers.  Bellairs became so accomplished at raising sheep that he was invited to write articles for the paper on sheep farming in the region.  He must have returned to England over the winter, 1875-76, because he was listed as a first class passenger (occupation “none”) on the ship “Labrador” returning to Philadelphia on March 26, 1876.  

Two children were born in Martin County, a daughter, Emilinde, in 1878 and a son, Guy, in 1879.  Bellairs operated on a large scale.  He reported that he owned 1340 acres of farm land, 30 acres of timber land and an unspecified number of lots in the town of Fairmont.   What happened to the land when he returned to England is not reported.  

According to one report, the Bellairs were among those that remained in the area after the large exodus of English colonists in the late 1870s.  However, there was another Bellairs in the colony who stayed on and founded a Bellairs family in the region.  Kenneth and family returned to England in 1879.  Quite in character, ever the speculator and the humourist, he sent a postcard to the Fairmont newspaper from New York on his way home, “Tell your famers to hang on to their wheat. It will bring big money.”  On his return to England he resumed his brokerage business. He was admitted to the list of persons permitted to act as brokers on the London Stock Exchange on December 7, 1880.

Back In England

I don’t know if the Minnesota venture was profitable for Kenneth Bellairs, but he soon proclaimed himself an expert on agriculture in the American mid-west, writing letters to the Times extolling its virtues in comparison to British agriculture.  He reported, from personal experience, on the price of land in Minnesota; entered into a discussion about the cost of growing and marketing wheat; praised the American practice of cultivating inland fish populations as a food source whereas in Britain “our waters are kept for the amusement of the rich;” found fault with the timing of the British harvest (too late) and with the lack of appropriate machinery; and asserted that the reservation of fishing rights and vast acres of farmable land for the shooting parties of the lairds were important reasons for poverty in the Scottish Highlands.  He must have angered some of his friends (and others) with his tirades. 


Upon his return to England in 1879 he rejoined the Stock Exchange, only to resign again in 1882 in order to deal in unlisted, speculative securities, particularly shares of offshore mining companies.  Initially he traded in a wide variety of securities, but he soon focused on shares of companies engaged in gold mining in the State of Mysore, India, and the Witwatersrand district of the Transvaal in South Africa.  In both his Mysore and his South African ventures, Bellairs was hailed by some people as a financial prophet because of his early forecasts of great futures for the mining camps.  As much a publicity-seeking stock promotion as fact-finding, he made a dramatic trip to Transvaal in 1889 to investigate the gold fields, travelling there and back in 62 days, which, under the transport conditions of the time, was a considerable achievement (although it meant that he spent a suspiciously short period of time in Witwatersrand).  In his typical self-promotional way, Bellairs announced that it was a new world record for long distance travel.  He wrote about his adventures in the Weekly Bulletin,a financial magazine that he owned and edited, and quickly collected his essays in a book, Witwatersrandt: To Johannesburg and Back, which went through at least four editions in 1889 and was later reprinted by the State Library of South Africa.  

The Stock and Share Auction and Banking Company

To develop his independent brokerage and investment business, specializing in unlisted and foreign, securities, a financial institution that he controlled would be most useful.  Rather than starting from scratch by organizing a new company, in 1882 he purchased 77 shares of a small firm, the Stock and Share Auction Company. Through a series of bold manipulations he gained control of the company and then transformed it into another, much larger concern, the Stock and Share Auction and Advance Company.  

This company provided Bellairs with a springboard into investment banking, but its capitalization was still too small for his more ambitious plans.  In a mischievous and audacious move, he launched a new scheme.  In early 1886, in an issue of his Weekly Bulletin, under the heading “Our Baby,” Bellairs announced that he was organizing a new company with shares of par value £1 (20 shillings) and invited people to subscribe by sending in a 1 shilling deposit, sight unseen.  This deposit would commit them to purchasing the shares when issued.  Neither the name nor the object of the company was revealed, let alone its prospectus.  All that was known was that Bellairs was promoting it.  As the astonished writer of an article in the financial magazine, Capital and Interest, noted, “the most extraordinary part is that he actually found babies who did subscribe.”  They had blind trust in Bellairs as a “jolly good fellow …  a gentleman and an honest man” and, of course, as a successful investor. Only a week later were the name and purpose revealed:  to create a new company, the Stock and Share Auction and Banking Company, that would acquire the old company and have a much larger capital with the same broad powers to act as an investment bank.  The name emphasized continuity with the past, while placing increased emphasis on the firm’s banking activities.  Advertisements offered attractive rates for deposits;  they also included the fateful words ”Special information on Mysore and Transvaal Companies.”  The new bank had nominal capital of £500,000, ten-times that of the old one, and shares accounting for about a quarter of that (£138,221) were issued.  There was ample capacity to expand.  Needless to say, Bellairs had established unquestioned control.  It was his company.  It was the centre of his financial ventures, but it was also his publishing house.  

The Weekly Bulletin

For several years Bellairs circulated “Weekly Notes” to his clients, then in March, 1885, he undertook a much more ambitious publishing programme with his Weekly Bulletin, a financial magazine described as “a weekly record of unquoted miscellaneous shares and mining stocks.”  It was a substantial magazine intended for broad, public circulation by subscription and newsagent sales around the country.  The first issue appeared on March 14, 1885.  

The early issues of the WeeklyBulletinprovided information and advice on companies in a wide range of industries --  commentary that often had a sharp edge.  Thus, among his favourite descriptors were words like “stupid” and “idiotic,” applied to both management and investors.  As time passed, the information and advice focused more and more on mining companies, particularly in Mysore, India, and Transvaal, South Africa. These companies became an obsession with Bellairs, dominated his investment business and eventually proved to be his undoing.  In the process, the Bulletinbecame primarily an instrument to promote the Indian and South African securities that the Stock and Share Auction and Banking Companyheld in its portfolio.  

However, there was another side to the Bulletin; it was, for Bellairs, a personal journal. Most issues included essays by Bellairs that were entertainingly written, and often irreverent and amusing --  and not all were about stocks and bonds.  He made a practice of leaving London on weekends for country or ocean adventures, fishing, boating and hunting in and about England and Scotland and occasionally on the continent, with male companions (there was no role for women in Bellairs’ weekends, except occasionally cooking a meal).  These were regular outings, regardless of weather. Indeed, when in June,1893, business forced him to spent a weekend in London, he noted that he had not done so “for about 12 years.”  He found the heat and noise unbearable and swore that he would never do it again. He wrote about his weekend adventures in a column called “Saturdays to Mondays” that appeared frequently, but not in every issue, and published some of the essays in a short book “Saturdays to Mondays, Being Jottings from the Note Books of Kenneth ffarington Bellairs on Some Phases of Country Life.[23]  ”  The one contemporary review of the book that I have found was very favourable, finding it “a very entertaining companion, and one, moreover, from which several useful wrinkles may be obtained.” 

The Bellairs Rants

There was also a second personal component of the WeeklyBulletinthat we can refer to as has rants  -- attacks on institutions and on historical scholarship.  When the Indian and South African mining booms collapsed and financial pressures on Bellairs and his company mounted, the frequency and intensity of his rants increased until they became almost all consuming.  Such investment advice as he then offered was dominated by one theme. South African investments have had their day.  The Boers and their Jewish financial allies are evil.  Sell everything you have and shift your portfolios to Australian securities. 

The subjects of his rants varied.  He attacked the Bank of England and other major banks for issuing paper currency not backed 100% by gold in their vaults. He regarded this as fraud (he was into gold mining, after all).  Early on, he displayed admiration for English Jews, for their intelligence and dedication to work.  However, after his experience in South Africa where he singled them out as dominating business on the stock exchange, he began castigating them unmercifully.  He claimed to understand why it was happening --  the Jews were so intelligent and worked with such dedication  --  but he expressed alarm about the extent to which English land, resources and industries were falling under non-Christian control.  Other concerns received passing objections, including the aristocracy, but it was the interaction between historical research and the Christian church that he attacked most ferociously.  

Bellairs argued vehemently that William the Conqueror had never existed, and if he had he could not have assembled his massive army in the harbours around Caen and transported it across the English Channel. One of William’s signal achievements, the Domesday Book  --  a comprehensive record of land holdings and wealth in 12thcentury England  --  was a fraud. It could not have been compiled with the technology and transport facilities of the day.  While visiting Caen, he examined the famous Bayeux tapestry that famously chronicled William’s conquest of England and concluded that it was a fake, woven much later than claimed.  All of the established history was a fabrication of the Benedictine monks, part of a plot to give the church control of all of the best land in England. The Catholic Church became the focus of his most virulent attacks  --  but he did not exempt the Church of England or other churches from his bitter ire.  

As the Bulletinbecame almost exclusively a vehicle for his rants, circulation fell and advertisers disappeared.  The last issue in the British Library collection, published in 1896, was a mere shadow of its former glory.  It was reduced to four pages with no advertisements.  It was not financially viable.  After repeated requests from the Board of Trade for the required reports, with no response, his company was struck off the register of companies in 1906.   

His Critics

Given the nature of his business it was inevitable that Bellairs would have severe critics  --  and they were vocal.. A case in point was the reaction to his Witwatersrand book.  One reviewer complained about all of the details of the trip there and back included in the book  --  “trivial details concerning his sleeping, his washing, his eating, and, most of all, his drinking.”  In the same vein, an editorial in the Financial Times, noting that he was “naturally of a luxurious temperament,” mocked his complaints about primitive and expensive Johannesburg hotels, at which

… he had to black his own boots --  boots which some of his acquaintances think are many sizes too small for him  -- (and) he had to pay four shillings a bottle for his beer and eight shillings for his whisky. 

Some readers probably found these segments of Bellairs’ book charming, but a London magazine took the criticism a step farther, referring to the book as “the largest amount of rubbish we remember to have had thrust upon us at one time.”  I am sure Bellairs brushed such comments aside with a biting comment about the editor and his parentage.  

I don’t have a record of Bellairs’ successes and failures as an investment adviser, but he must have been correct often enough to satisfy enough of his clients to maintain him in the investment business for several years.  However, his financial practices, like his literary efforts, also came under attack, particularly  --  but not exclusively   -- from a magazine called London and Brighton (“an unconventional weekly journal of business and pleasure for men”).  On one occasion the editor complained that “Mr. Bellairs manages to foist upon the public, in too many instances, utterly worthless properties.”  Indeed, on another occasion Bellair’s investment company was labelled “Bellairs ‘Rubbish’ Auction Show.”  On another occasion it was noted that when the market was developing interest in a particular stock, Bellairs advised his clients not to purchase it.  The reason, the critic asserted, had nothing to do with the likely outcome but was simply that his investment company held none of the stock and could not make a profit by purchasing shares in the market and reselling them.  Under the heading “Conspiracy Against the Stock Exchange,” it was noted that a group of outside (i.e., non-member) brokers who dealt largely in mining shares were meeting to organize a new “Mining Exchange” independent of the official Stock Exchange.  

The Great Bellairs was one of the party.  He gassed, of course, he swaggered, as of necessity; but he planked down and was therefore harmless.  In fact, we understand, he was positively amusing, but this time at nobody’s expense unless at his own.  Had he been at a Balkis meeting[24]the position would have been reversed, as too many know to their cost. 

The meeting was serious business;  Bellairs had “planked down” at least £1,000 as a deposit to help get the organization going and because of that “Bellairs … has given hostages not only to fortune but also to good behaviour.”  He hoped to dominate the new market, but it was later observed that he withdrew from the group when the other members refused to elect him president.  Summing up its attitude to Bellairs the mining promoter, another critic, the City Couriermagazine, expressed a willingness to “bet our bottom dollars” that readers “who have dropped their hard earnings in Mr. Kenneth ffarington Bellairs and Share Auction and Banking Company … could not repeat ‘Kenneth ffarington Bellairs’ without commencing with a little word that begins with ‘D’.”  Despite the biting criticisms, Bellairs was confident, brash and persuasive and he had a loyal following.  

A note published in a British periodical early in 1886 provides some insights into the man.  The writer of the article thought that Bellairs would not be known to many of its (presumably conservative) readers:

Many of my readers … will probably ask themselves  --  Who is Bellairs?  ….  Those of our readers in the habit of frequenting Lombard Street may have observed a gentleman with an eyeglass.  That gentleman is not Chamberlain, but Bellairs.

The Chamberlain referred to is Joseph Chamberlain, an important British politician of the 19thand early 20thcenturies, who also wore a monocle.  The author went on to note,

Any of our readers who go to his office will find him extremely courteous and will also have the pleasure of going into one of the very few City offices where there are lady clerks. 

Was he an early social progressive (probably) or did he simply enjoy the company of young women (probably also)?  There is a sketch of Bellairs in his book Saturdays toMondays.  It shows a tall, bearded man with a monocle on the deck of his yacht.

It seems entirely fitting that Bellairs was also something of a magician  --  in the entertainment sense.  The editor of the London and Brightonmagazine was amused that he put on a magic show for a party of children of aristocrats;  “Every little girl present was a titled lady and the only boy was the heir of the House of Grosvenor.”  Apparently he “delighted (his) juvenile audience.”  The editor of the same magazine, who was one of his staunchest critics, also testified admiringly of Bellairs’ abilities as a public speaker. He held the shareholders of a mining company in rapt attention, as he dominated the meeting and gave life to a session of otherwise dull and monotonous talks.[25]

Bellairs was a self-confident, loud-mouthed, wise-cracking opportunist who was easy to lampoon.  One magazine went so far as to print a demeaning song about him (see below, p.87).  He was not completely insensible to criticism.  On one occasion he threatened to sue a magazine that was a persistent, caustic critic.  The magazine’s responses was, in effect, go ahead and sue --  our lawyers are as good as yours.   I have found no evidence that the suit happened. 


Inevitably, the speculative bubbles in the gold mining shares of Mysore and Transvaal burst and Bellairs’ investment company was left holding a large portfolio of unsalable Indian and South African shares. The company could not meet the claims of its creditors and was declared bankrupt in 1893.  Bellairs himself had large debts and the investment company had been his major asset.  He fended off his creditors for over a year, but in 1895 one of them petitioned to have him declared bankrupt.  The bankruptcy hearing dragged on, as Bellairs declared liabilities of £11,000, assets “nil” and virtually no income.  However, the Official Receiver in charge of investigating bankruptcy claims was unconvinced by Bellairs’ assertions;  he persuaded the presiding judge that Bellairs was being dishonest and was hiding assets.  The judge did not discharge his debt, but “suspended” the discharge for three years. 

The Receiver must have been correct.  Some assets must have been secreted, otherwise how did Bellairs have the funds to publish another book, Is Christianity a Fake? Is English History a Fraud?, and for him and his companion to travel to Rossland, live for several months without any visible means of support and purchase a newspaper?  However, the judge’s refusal to discharge his debts left Bellairs at the mercy of his creditors.  


Bellairs’ financial empire and personal life had fallen apart;  he resolved to leave England for Canada.  Why? Was he escaping his unhappy family situation?  Was he attempting to hide from his creditors?  Was he attempting to re-enact his earlier spectacular oversea stock promotions in Canada?  Had he become so obsessed with his own brilliance as a stock promoter that faced with calamitous setbacks he became somewhat unhinged mentally, making inexplicable decisions?  

Whatever the reason, this is the man who landed in Rossland in 1898 and who created a minor tempest in the police station, in the city and later in Spokane.  


Bellairs, accompanied by a female companion, Andrea Woodford, who was not his wife, sailed from Liverpool in mid-December, 1897, on the steamship Lake Huron.  Late in the month they landed at one of Canada’s few the ice-free ports, St. John, New Brunswick, where their ship connected with the Canadian Pacific Railway.[26]  The couple travelled across Canada by train.  

When he decided to come to Canada, Bellairs’ destination was the Klondike and after landing in Canada he made the outrageous claim that

Within one month from today (January 1, 1898) I shall practically have the control of any new gold discoveries that may be made between the seaboard and Skagway, and later, when the rivers open, say by June, the control of every ditto between Skagway and Klondike, besides say a radius of 50 to 100 miles, round Klondike, whether in Canadian territory or U.S. Alaska. 

The absurdity of this claim was never tested because the stories that he heard along the way drew him to Rossland instead. He then announced that from there 

I can now control any amount of properties throughout the province and will, with outside financial assistance, work them very carefully, entirely by contract labour and supervise them myself …

His ambitions knew no rational bounds.  Of course, he was inviting people to invest in his delusions, but he instructed them that they “must follow me ‘blind’ and do exactly what I tell them to do.”  I wonder how many people still had that kind of trust in him.  The Rossland Miner welcomed him to the city in glowing terms --  although with a touch of incredulity  --  under the heading “A Man of Millions.” 

A true English eccentric, Bellairs was described by a Spokane newspaper as  

… tall, pompous and corpulent, with his big figure clothed in tweed knickers and golf stockings, and a little tourist cap perched airily on his grizzled head, (he) was a man not to be overlooked in the most conglomerate crowd that ever assembled.  Add to that the big, round monocle which he invariably kept carefully tucked into his right eye, and the effect was unique.  

He was an atheist, and, as reflected in his choice of travelling companion, he also had moral and social attitudes that many Rosslanders would also have thought “unique”  --  or, more likely, objectionable.  Before he left London he published a controversial short critique of religion entitled Is Christianity a Forgery?  Is English History a Fraud? and it was reported that shortly after arriving in Rossland he wrote letters to the editors of local papers extolling vice as a virtue and virtue as a vice.  These letters 

… were so shockingly original that the Rosslanders gasped, looked horrified, and then accepted the fact that a character of more than ordinary interest was making his headquarters in the mining camp.

I have been unable to find the letters in question and so cannot verify this story.  

Sometime after arriving, he purchased the Rossland Times, a weekly newspaper of which no copies seem to have survived.  He was said to be “a talker of remarkable fluency and power, and he wrote just as entertainingly.”  Indeed, the Miner described him as “an epistolary genius, a “humorist (who) occupies a unique field.”  Pushing the point a bit further, a London newspaper described him as “the chartered buffoon of financial journalism” and a newspaper in Greenwood commented on the Rossland Times, “The paper sells like hot cakes, more on account of the racy imbecility of the sheet than for any other reason.”  The Miner said that the paper “was interesting, though eccentric,” but as time passed it began to reflect “the morbid, reckless condition of its manager’s mind.” 

In his short stay in Rossland, Bellairs made quite an impression on the community, not entirely favourable.  Later, as he lay on a hospital bed in Spokane, the Miner observed that.

It was evident from his interesting conversation that he had seen much of life in all its phases (and that his paper would have been a success) but for Mr. Bellair’s conviviality, and this was the rock on which the paper and its proprietor’s prospects were wrecked in this city.  

“Conviviality” was a code word for excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages.  He drank heavily, which is interesting in that on his way to Rossland he announced to his followers in England 

The only thing that I implore is that every Englishman who puts himself in my hands do what I have done, turn rigid teetotaller. 

The injunction to his clients to be a teetotaller like him is fantastic, given his later behaviour.  At the end of a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, Rossland’s police magistrate noted:

I may add that the conduct of these people (Bellairs and Woodford) has for a long time been a public scandal. Bellairs has made himself most obnoxious to everyone, and the citizens in general would be pleased if he would take his departure.  Only last week Mr. Justice Martin had to order his removal from the Supreme Court here.

If we can believe his own testimony, Bellairs must have pushed beyond the boundaries of acceptable journalism into potentially slanderous commentary, for which direct, rather than legal, recourse was taken.  Thus he asserted that one night he was “knocked on the head and evidently left for dead on the roadway at 10 p.m.”  He blamed agents for C.A. Macintosh of the British America Corporation, with whom he was having a dispute over payment for work that he had done for the company, a dispute that he threatened to expose in the Times.  However, if the incident occurred, it could equally have been other people, seriously offended by his writing and his actions.  Toward the end of his life, in a state of paranoia, he accused Macintosh of having placed a lead plate in his chest!  The assumed purpose is not obvious (and, of course, a physician could not find it).  He also claimed that a complete stranger, in the presence of the Chief of Police, stated that he had seen him fornicating with a prostitute on one of the streets of Rossland and that he had been the victim of four violent assaults on Rossland’s streets.  What is an historian of the events to believe? 

Police Misbehaviour or Drunk and Disorderly?

The climactic incident that ended his stay in Rossland began on a bitterly cold evening in early February, 1899, when a distraught Andrea Woodford appeared in the office of the Rossland Times, alleging that she had been verbally abused and threatened with arrest by Police Chief Ingram.  His lady’s honour besmirched, Bellairs stormed into the police station in high dudgeon.  He was probably intoxicated, although he took pains to relate how little alcohol he had consumed before the incident. 

There are two version of what happened next. According to Bellairs, following an angry confrontation, he was arrested on a charge of “living with a woman who was not his wife.”  In the process he was physically assaulted, his clothes were torn and he was knocked insensible with a weapon, probably a knuckleduster.  Unconscious, wounded and bleeding he was kicked into a jail cell where he remained until he was taken before Justice Jordan in the morning.  He was charged with being drunk and disorderly (which was not part of the original charge) and fined $15.  Andrea was similarly charged and fined $10.  

The Chief of Police asserted that the charge of living with a woman not his wife had never been made, and that the assault asserted by Bellairs did not occur.  Both Bellairs and Woodford were inebriated when they arrived at the police station and created an unacceptable disturbance.  Bellairs’ injuries occurred when he fell over a chair in his drunken state. Both were arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly and dealt with by Magistrate Jordan.  The magistrate corroborated the official story in so far as he was aware of what happened and stated that Bellairs injuries amounted to a scrape on the nose which was consistent with tripping over a chair.  

Bellairs not only complained in his newspaper, but also by letter to the Premier of the province, to the Prime Minister of Britain with a copy to the Prime Minister of Canada and belatedly to the Attorney General of British Columbia, demanding from each an investigation (in the English case, a Royal Commission).  From the city he demanded $100,000 in compensation.  Some enquiries were made, but I have found no evidence that the complaint was taken seriously at any level.[27]


According to the Rossland Miner,the Rossland Timesgot into financial difficulties and closed, probably in March, 1899.  Bellairs and Woodford then left Rossland for Spokane, where he planned to resume his occupation of mine promoter.  His sad saga continued.  Bellairs wrote a much more coherent letter to the Attorney General of British Columbia and presumably entertained people around the city with tales of the iniquities of the Rossland justice system. He was interviewed by a newspaper reporter who also did some digging into English sources and labelled him “the chartered buffoon of financial journalism.” Apparently, the story so upset Bellairs that he took up drinking again after having sworn off it.  One night at the beginning of April, 1899, he returned to his lodging house, seriously inebriated and without the key to his dwelling. Unable to get into his rooms, he opened a door at the end of the corridor that faced nothing but the night air and leaned out to reach around the corner to open a window so that he could crawl through. The rooms were on the second floor. Instead of gaining access to his lodgings, he broke through a simple wooden barrier and fell to the street below, seriously injuring his head. He was taken to hospital in critical condition.

As he recovered in hospital he became so disruptive (“boisterous, profane and obscene”) that he was moved to the jail where he was examined by two physicians.  Declared “hopelessly insane,” he was committed to the state insane asylum at Medical Lake, Washington.  In December, 1899, he had been there seven or eight months when he wrote to friends in Rossland that he was now cured, mentally and physically and that he expected to be released imminently.  He then wrote a letter to the Spokesman Review announcing that he was writing a new letter to Lord Salisbury asking the British Prime Minister "to instantly institute an action at law against those sapients who make the laws for or run Washington State for $5,000,000." He was prepared to sell a copy of the letter to the highest bidder and expected to receive very large sum because it contained information about the "lunacy ring in America, which I alone can and will divulge."  He also announced that he had ready for the press a book entitled "The Most Infamous Fraud Ever Perpetrated by the Brain of Man, the Lunacy Asylums of America."

He was released from the asylum sometime in May or June and returned to Spokane.  Still unbalanced mentally, he began haranguing people about his grievances including the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce to whom he announced that he should be appointed "the state emigration commissioner."  In a letter to newspapers and others he announced "I am now living literally on dry bread and my next course is suicide."  In a letter to the City Council, he threatened to sue Spokane for $6 million, because of his incarceration in the Medical Lake asylum.  At some point his erratic behaviour in public must have become intolerable; he was again committed to the asylum.  

Kenneth ffarington Bellairs died in the Medicine Lake mental hospital in 1914.  He was playing whist with other inmates when he had a massive stroke and fell over dead. At the time, the director said that Bellairs’ “was one of the most interesting cases ever confined under his charge” and that “His command of the English language was about the best ever heard at Medical Lake.”  Rossland and Spokane had many, many kinds of interaction in this period.  However, this comic-tragic event must have been the most curious.


There is a perplexing, if somewhat amusing, after note to the Bellairs story.  In 1918 a woman called Constance Beatrice Zoccolo (or Soccolo) cabled the authorities in Fairmont, Minnesota, requesting a copy of her birth certificate.  She claimed to have been born in Fairmont in 1878, the daughter of Kenneth and Minnie Bellairs, but she required proof so that she could claim a share of her paternal grandfather’s estate.  The authorities found a birth certificate for a girl born in 1878  --  but the baby girl was unnamed.  

Constance’s claim is puzzling.  According to the 1881 and 1891 censuses of England, the baby girl born to Kenneth and Minnie Bellairs in Minnesota in 1878 was named Emilinde f Bellairs, not Constance Beatrice Bellairs.  Indeed, I have found no evidence of a child by that name in Kenneth and Marie’s family.  However, a girl named Sybil Constance Bellairs was born in London in 1874, one of a pair of twins.[28]  Was this the woman who called herself Constance Beatrice?  If so, she was not born in Fairmont, Minnesota.  Or, did Emilinde change her name?  Or, was Constance Beatrice an imposter?  I don’t know if she succeeded in getting a share of the estate or how much money was involved.  

Sometime before Kenneth’s death, Constance married Pietro Guiseppe Zoccolo, about whom I have found no information.  Some years later, in 1923, Constance Zoccolo claimed to be “Viscountess Bellairs of Colorado.”  She said that “My father was always known as Kenneth Bellairs, Viscount of Colorado,” a title conferred on the family in 1166 by “Prince Bellairs,” and that when Kenneth was in his last years at the Medicine Lake asylum he had written to her leaving the peerage to her “and at your death to your son.”  If he wrote such a letter, undoubtedly the title was another of Kenneth’s delusions.  I have found no other reference to it.  The inclusion of “Colorado” in the fictional title could have been an allusion to his claim to have been the original English promoter of the shares of Colorado’s famous Cripple Creek Mines, or, more likely, it may have reflected a memory of a companion from his yachting and hunting days whom he knew by the name “Captain Colorado.”  Constance also said that her father had left an estate worth half a million dollars.  I wonder if that was a delusion as well.  The Viscountess reappeared six years later, planning a visit to Fairmont.  I have discovered nothing more about her.  


Which is the correct version of the events of that cold February night in 1900 at the Rossland police station, that of Bellairs or that of Ingram?  I have found no reports by independent witnesses that might answer the question. However, given what I know about the backgrounds and characters of the protagonists, I am prepared to believe either story, or some combination of the two.  Given Bellairs’ compromised mental state, the balance of probabilities rests with the Ingram version  --  but I retain significant doubts that his is the whole story.  


Song of Kenneth ffarington Bellairs 


I’ll sing you a song of a Lombardy merchant

Who went into goldmines and diamond shares;

Who leapt without looking, and so came a cropper,

And was hoist with a petard --  his own – unawares.

A trip to Afric he made in a jiffy. 

Salmon he caught in turbid old Liffey.

He’d have swum the Atlantic – that is if he

Had found warm water, Sweet Kenneth Bellairs!


In “Lone Connemara” he went then a touring. 

Our hero’s a man who anything dares  --

So in Old Ardennes’ forest he tried awhile hunting;

A shooting of guinea pigs, bulls and of bears. 

Then out to the Danube he went in a hurry,

To seek for asbestos, in no end of a flurry.

But home with a coal mine instead did he scurry.

A leaping with joy was – Sweet Kenneth Bellairs!


But alas and alack, pride always is falling;

There’s nothing to be done with the nestings of mares;

And now he announces he’s ready to deal in 

Anything from a poet to stocks and shares.

He’ll sell you a railway, a house, a reversion, 

A company float, or complete a conversion

Secure you concessions, Yankee or Persian –

“I’m the Divil’s own dealer” says Sweet Kenneth Bellairs!



[London Man of the World , April 19, 1890]





John Boultbee, late of Vancouver, Manitoba and Ontario, was Rossland’s second and most controversial magistrate.  The controversy began with his appointment, which resulted from a political upheaval in Victoria, and continued through his most important judicial decisions and actions.  


In 1898 the conservative government of John H Turner had been in power for a long time.  There were no formal political parties in provincial elections, but the Turner regime was small c conservative, dominated by representatives from Vancouver Island and described by Margaret Ormsby, the dean of British Columbia historians, as a “government of special interests  --  of railway industrialists, coal barons, wholesalers and importers, and lumber and canning capitalists.”  The rag-tag collection of dissidents in the legislature, mostly from the mainland, was fragmented into bickering factions.  Most were liberals of some variety and some were more radical labour supporters. In general, they opposed special favours for capitalists  -- such as generous land grants for railway construction  --  and placed considerable emphasis on issues promoted by the labour movement.

The liberals were not in a strong position in the legislature, but two developments signalled a change.  First, at the federal level the Laurier Liberals had swept the Conservatives out of power in the election of 1896.  In British Columbia, the federal Conservatives held onto two seats in Victoria, but the rest of the province (four ridings) voted Liberal, including the vast Yale-Cariboo riding that included Rossland. This result provided encouragement for liberal-leaning members of the opposition in the provincial parliament. Much more important, however, and critical to the outcome of the 1898 election, was a redistribution of seats in the legislature, forced on a reluctant Premier Turner by vocal public and newspaper criticism of the gross discrepancies between the distribution of population and the distribution of seats in the legislature.  Although the discrepancies were not fully corrected by the redistribution, the mainland, where the liberals had considerable strength, gained seats relative to the more conservative Vancouver Island.  The Kootenay region received two additional members, one of the new ridings being Rossland.  Geographically, the Rossland riding was extensive, including not only Rossland proper but also Trail and the important mining camps in the Boundary district (Grand Forks, Greenwood, Midway, Cascade City, Phoenix). This was mining country;  the electorate had a large labour component and active labour unions.[29]  

James Martin, Member of the Legislative Assembly

The liberals selected a Rossland hardware merchant, James Martin (not to be confused with Joseph Martin, of whom more later), as their candidate in an intensely contested convention.  I don’t know the nature of the internal opposition to him, but I suspect that Martin  --  apparently a gentle, moderate Liberal  --  was not radical enough for the more extreme labour-union faction at the convention.  Some supporters of a labour-activist candidate refused to make Martin’s nomination unanimous.  Perhaps because of the less than wholehearted support for him at the convention and the indication of a split in the liberal camp, the foremost newspaper in the city, the conservative Rossland Miner (then owned by F. Augustus Heinze, the American proprietor of the smelter at Trail) proclaimed that Martin could be defeated.  Despite the fact that before coming to Rossland, he had been a successful businessman, active local politician, mayor of Vernon and an effective behind-the-scenes operator in that region’s provincial politics, the Minerdepicted him as a “weak candidate,” an opinion also shared by some other editors in the riding.  The Minerstrongly supported the “independent government,” i.e., conservative, candidate and confidently predicted his victory.  However, the voters thought otherwise and elected James Martin with a substantial majority (see Table 1, below).  Indeed, Martin won in every precinct in the riding, a result that surprised even his ardent supporters.

Table 1

Results of the 1898 Provincial Election

Rossland Riding 

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 1.39.57 PM.png

Following the election, the situation in Victoria was confused  -- almost chaotic.  The house was about evenly divided between conservatives and liberals, but there were some members whose loyalty to the governing conservative faction was uncertain. The Lieutenant Governor did not think that Turner could command a majority in the house and dismissed him.  He then made a futile attempt to have a moderate former leader of the opposition, who did not win a seat in the election, form a government.  When this failed he called upon Charles Semlin, liberal leader of the opposition in the previous legislature.  By including in his cabinet leaders of the two disputatious liberal factions, Joseph Martin and F.L. Carter-Cotton, Semlin was able to form a liberal government, but it was a government in a very fragile state in a fractious legislature. It lasted less than two years. 

Joseph Martin:  Attorney General

Despite being a very recent arrival (early March, 1897) to the province, Joseph Martin had developed a considerable following. Described by one historian as “brilliant but egocentric, headstrong and brusque” and by another as a “fire-brand orator, master of vituperation and populist opponent of the grasping companies,” wherever he went, he stirred up intense controversy.  Before coming to British Columbia he had been a provocative and divisive Attorney General in the Liberal government of Manitoba.  He had ambitions to be Attorney General in the Laurier government in Ottawa, but his vehement opposition to separate state-funded Catholic schools in Manitoba killed that possibility.  Shunned by the federal Liberals and having worn out his welcome in provincial politics he left Manitoba for British Columbia, arriving in Vancouver in early March, 1897.  

Martin immediately entered provincial politics on the liberal side and quickly gathered dedicated followers and equally dedicated opponents, among liberals as well as among conservatives.  Elected in a Vancouver riding in 1898, he became part of the Semlin government.  As the only lawyer in the caucus and with experience in the position in Manitoba, he was named Attorney General of British Columbia in mid-August, 1898, wielding considerable power in the new government.  Martin was closely identified with much of the controversial legislation of the Semlin regime, including a law setting the maximum work day in metal mines at eight hours that had been vigorously promoted by labour unions. Wages in the mines were quoted as so many dollars per day, so the assumption was that a worker’s take home pay would not be reduced proportionately with the reduction in working hours from ten to eight.  The law was strongly supported by labour unions, of course, but bitterly opposed by mine owners and managers who saw it as significantly increasing mining costs. This was a significant factor in a serious deterioration of industrial relations at the mine head in Rossland, which in turn gave rise to several highly controversial legal cases that soon faced Rossland’s second police magistrate.  Labour strife, mine shutdowns and an outflow of miners seeking employment elsewhere depressed business activity in the city;  stunted tax revenues haunted Rossland’s municipal government for several years and led to compromises with provisions of the criminal code of Canada.  

Having set the stage for turmoil in Rossland, Joseph Martin was then forced out of office.  While visiting Rossland he attended a dinner in honour of Charles Macintosh, former Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and then the local representative of the British America Corporation, which owned the Le Roi and other major mines.  Martin was the object of barbed comments about the eight-hour-day law and fuelled by alcohol got into a verbal and physical altercation with the honoured guests. Had the participants not been the Attorney General, the Mayor and the local head of the city’s largest mining company, I am sure all would have spent the night in the local lock-up and appeared before the police magistrate in the morning to face drunk and disorderly charges. Needless to say, the Rossland affair gained wide publicity, contributing to the woes of the Semlin administration. For Premier Semlin, already exasperated by Martin’s conduct in office, the Rossland incident was a step too far. Martin was dismissed as Attorney General in July, 1899, succeeded by Alexander Henderson, a lawyer who was a political turncoat, joining the liberal Semlin administration from the back benches of the conservatives.  


As the liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Rossland riding, James Martin dispensed political patronage in Rossland.  A local broker cum lawyer, John Boultbee, was also a Liberal.  Boultbee and James Martin would have been associated in the Rossland Liberal Association, of which Martin was president, and undoubtedly Boultbee supported Martin for the nomination.  In any case, Boultbee was Martin’s nominee to succeed Jordan as police magistrate in Rossland.  

The nomination of Boultbee was a political statement, a clear signal that new boys were now in charge  --  and it was controversial.  The editor of the Rossland Miner  --  who despised everything “liberal”  --  was outraged. Although “with the gentlemen who is his nominee the Miner had no personal quarrel,“ the nomination was made without appropriate consultation and “without the countenance or approval of any influential portion of the citizens” of Rossland.  Indeed, the nomination was made “in contempt of the protests of the police commission, the Mayor and of the most prominent men of the community and in defiance of public sentiment generally.”  There was also a suggestion in another newspaper that some of Martin’s liberal colleagues were also upset because they had not been consulted in advance.  

It is clear that the editor of the Rossland Miner did not know Boultbee well, if at all.  When it was reported that some lawyers had endorsed the nomination, the editor was incredulous, because, he stated, lawyers would prefer someone “of their own profession.”  The editor thought that Boultbee was not a lawyer and so was innocent of the law and its fine points.  It was a hasty judgement that revealed the editor’s lack of knowledge of Boultbee and his background as a lawyer in Ontario and Manitoba and a lawyer and magistrate in Vancouver  --  but obviously he was soon educated.  When the appointment was approved by the government, the editor dramatically reversed his view on Boultbee’s qualifications, noting that “Mr. Boultbee is a man of ability and possesses, perhaps, a larger knowledge of the law than any barrister in the city,” but the appointment was nonetheless inappropriate because the process of appointing him was serious flawed.  In my interpretation, the editor was obliquely expressing his pique that the liberal Martin had defeated his preferred conservative candidate in the 1898 election, that the wrong group was in power in Victoria and that that group had the prerogative of choosing the next magistrate.  

But Boultbee had such a checkered past that one wonders at his appointment as police magistrate for reasons quite independent of the views of the editor of the Rossland Miner.  


Born on a farm near Hamilton, Ontario, in 1852, John Boultbee trained as a lawyer, married and practiced law there before heading west and settling in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.  Called to the Manitoba Bar, he established a flourishing practice with another lawyer from Hamilton.  Although successful as a lawyer, at the end of April, 1884, he left Portage in a hurry, accused of misappropriation of the funds of two clients.  He fled to the United States.  One report placed him in Portland, Oregon, and another in Tacoma, Washington, practicing law.  I can confirm neither.  

The Manitoba allegations were that Boultbee had collected funds for payment of mortgages but failed to deliver them in full to his clients.  Convinced of the validity of the allegations, the Law Society of Manitoba disqualified John Boultbee from practicing either as a barrister or a solicitor.  No longer able to practice law in Manitoba. Boultbee took the issue to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Manitoba (the equivalent of British Columbia’s Supreme Court).  He did not dispute the facts of the misappropriation, but argued that in this case he was acting as a scrivener, someone who copies documents or acts as a notary, rather than a lawyer and so the Law Society did not have the authority to deprive him of the right to practice law in the province.  Moreover, he asserted that he had partially repaid one claim and was negotiating on the other.  The court was not impressed with his arguments and ruled in June, 1889, that the Society had the right to cancel his license as a solicitor, but by a quirk in the law, because he had performed the misconduct while acting as a solicitor not as a barrister, the Society could not cancel his right to practice as a barrister.  However, the judges made it perfectly clear that in their judgement this was a technical escape clause;  on the merits of the case, he ought to be disbarred.  

Boultbee later appealed to the Manitoba Law Society for reinstatement, asserting that one of the clients had died and he had reached a settlement with the other one involving partial payment of the debt. The Law Society was not impressed; these actions did not expunge the misconduct.  As the Chief Justice had said, “His conduct has been highly reprehensible.”  This Manitoba judgement was like a sign that hung around Boultbee’s legal neck  -- “damaged goods; a lawyer with questionable ethics.”  This characterization was reemphasized when the Law Society of British Columbia rejected his application to be licensed as a barrister and a solicitor in this province, presumably because of the Manitoba affair.  


In late 1885 or the beginning of 1886 Boultbee returned to Canada, to the booming town of Vancouver.  He was in the new city in early 1886, when the civic government was first being organized, practicing law and advertising himself as a barrister although he had not been called to the bar in British Columbia. According to a family historian, Boultbee prepared the petition to incorporate Vancouver as a city and took it to Victoria to be presented to the provincial government.  The source of this information is not cited (probably family legend) and I have been unable to verify it.  It is possible that it is true, at least in part, but when a committee was struck “for the purpose of promoting the incorporation of Vancouver,” Boultbee was not a member.  He may have been added later, or he may have been retained as an attorney to assist the committee.  In any case, when the petition was presented in the legislature by the MLA representing Vancouver on February 15, 1886, Boultbee was in Victoria, suggesting that he may have been delegated to carry the petition to the legislature.[30]  

Vancouver’s First Police Magistrate

At the first meeting of the Vancouver City Council in May, 1886, John Boultbee, then 34 years old, volunteered to serve as police magistrate “without salary”.  He was an experienced lawyer and the price was right so the City Council jumped at the opportunity, appointing him for the rest of the year without considering any other potential applicants, or, apparently, the Manitoba affair.  As magistrate, Boultbee was also on the city’s first police commission and so was involved in the organization of Vancouver’s municipal police force.  Soon after, according to the Vancouver historian Alan Morley, he earned a special place in the legends of the city as one of those who was caught in the great fire that levelled Vancouver in June 1886  -- and survived.  According the Morley story, trapped while trying to battle the flames at a hotel, Boultbee fought his way through the fire to find refuge in False Creek.  An alternative story is that he was trapped in the fire with his brother-in-law and 

They felt its choking influence, shook hands in good-bye and laid themselves down to die, though still making an effort to live. They scraped a hole in the dirt and placing their faces in this scant breathing place, … for an hour and a half they remained thus, until enabled to return through the smoke.

By either version, he had a miraculous escape.

Boultbee presumably volunteered as magistrate in order to become better established in the legal community of Vancouver as well as to ingratiate himself to the city council, with an eye to a regular, longer-term appointment.  In February, 1887, he was approved as a notary public able to practice anywhere in the province and at the end of the year he advertised his intention to apply for admission to the British Columbia Bar.  He was not admitted, presumably because of his Manitoba escapades.  Under the Canadian Inferior Courts Act he did not have to be a barrister in order to appear as attorney in a small debts court, a magistrate court or a county court, but he could not so appear before the Supreme Court.  Despite not being recognized as a British Columbia barrister, while he presided over the police court he carried on his legal practice. His appearances as attorney in cases in small debts and county courts were occasionally noted in the press.  

In February, 1887, after he had been magistrate for 10 months, Boultbee recommended to the city council that the positions of police magistrate and solicitor be combined, at a regular salary, presumably to save money by eliminating one position.  When his recommendation was accepted, he resigned as police magistrate and applied for the new position.  He must have thought that it was a foregone conclusion that he would be selected.  If so, he was sorely disappointed.  There were three applicants, and the rule was that the winning candidate had to receive a clear majority of the votes, the councillors continuing to vote until one of the candidates received a clear majority.  It took three ballots, but on the final ballot Boultbee received no votes.  His career as a police magistrate in Vancouver was at an end.[31]  I don’t know why he did not have more support on council given his service to the city (the long shadow of Manitoba?).

Practicing Law in Vancouver:   Professional Embarrassments

Boultbee continued to practice law in Vancouver. Two of his cases must have been professional embarrassments to him and may have precipitated his move to Rossland. 

The first case, in the fall of 1894, was potentially serious;  both Boultbee’s freedom and his professional status were at risk.  In September, 1894, in an echo of what had happened in Portage La Prairie, Boultbee was charged with misappropriation of funds that he had collected on behalf of a client, a Chinese merchant.  Two separate charges were involved and the judge who conducted the preliminary hearing in New Westminster bound him over for trial at the fall session of the Assize Court on both charges.  At that time, British Columbia Assize Courts still used the grand jury system of assessing the evidence supporting charges.  The grand jury heard the case in mid-November, 1894, and returned a “true bill.”  That is, the jury concluded that there was sufficient evidence supporting the allegations that the case should be heard by the court.  When his name was called, Boultbee failed to appear.  His bail was forfeit and a warrant was issued for his arrest (although, when he later appeared in the courtroom, he was not arrested and following a plea that his failure to appear was accidental and an apology was proffered, his bail was returned).  The trial for larceny was held the next day.  The principals presenting evidence against Boultbee were a Vancouver solicitor and Chinese merchants.  The description of the case in the newspaper is cryptic, but it seems clear that the judge preferred the testimony of Boultbee that he had a counter claim against his client to the testimony of his Chinese client.  The judge suggested that the case did not belong in criminal court but as private litigation in civil court and, without leaving the court room, the jury found Boultbee not guilty. The other related charge against Boultbee was then withdrawn and he was released from custody to carry on with his legal practice.  Was the critical factor in these decisions the fact that the principal on the other side was Chinese?   

At the time that the charges were initially proffered, it was observed that they “excited considerable comment in legal circles.”  Although Boultbee was acquitted of one criminal charge and the other was not prosecuted, it is significant for our story that the case moved through the justice system from the District Court, through a Grand Jury to the Assize Court where it was found not that the evidence was false but that the venue was inappropriate.  Apparently, the case had substance.  Although he was not found guilty of a criminal offence, Boultbee’s reputation must have been damaged and his legal practice adversely affected.  If a civil proceeding followed, I have not found a report.

The second case, which reached the Appeal Court in the fall of 1895, involved a pharmacist, James Rolls.  Boultbee designed a method by which Rolls could transfer ownership of his business to a cousin but continue to operate it, effecting the transfer in a manner that protected Rolls from creditors. Apparently Rolls did not pay Boultbee’s fee so Boultbee, himself, claimed to be a creditor (paradoxically, the only creditor) to the extent of $250.  He was successful in his claim for payment at the District court level, but Rolls appealed.  The appeal court judge, the province’s chief justice, found no certain evidence of the debt; the appeal was allowed.  The judge concluded his reasons for allowing the appeal with the observation: 

Boultbee comes into court and tells us that the primary object of the bill of sale was to protect James F. Rolls from his creditors.  …. But there is no creditor, nor anyone to complain, save Boultbee, the man who drew up the deed, advised upon it, and understood perfectly, as he tells us, what was its primary object.  

If then it was intended to be a fraud, as he now claims, … he was party to, or the agent to effect such fraud. Can he now that he finds himself the victim of his own fraud, place himself in the same position as if he had never been a party to it?  I think not.

This stinging chastisement from the bench by the chief justice must have been a serious embarrassment to Boultbee  --  the insult accentuated by the requirement that he pay the court costs.  This judgement must have put further strain on his legal reputation and his legal practice.  


Sometime within the next year, Boultbee abandoned his Vancouver law practice and joined the flow of fortune seekers to the booming mining camp of Rossland.  However, perhaps because his legal reputation was tainted, or perhaps because he saw a better way to make his fortune, he did not establish a law practice there.  When his name first appeared in the Rossland Directory for 1897, he was listed as a broker of mining properties and stocks in the firm of Boultbee and Rankin.  It was not until several years later, after he left the magistrate’s position, that he again advertised himself as a barrister.

After several years operating as a broker, on September 13, 1899, John Boultbee, another Vancouver reject and a lawyer with a seriously checkered past, became Rossland’s second police magistrate. Unlike that of Jordan, his tenure was eventful.


Boultbee had his full share of the normal cases of a police magistrate  -- drunk and disorderly behaviour, foul and abusive language, assault, vagrancy, gambling, prostitution, etc.  --  but he was also the presiding magistrate during the strike by Rossland miners and in that context he had a number of contentious cases to deal with, including presumed threats to the maintenance of law and order in the community.  The eight hour day law was at the root of these cases.  The legislation, a section of a law concerned with the inspection of mines, was enacted in February, 1899.

Shutdown of the Mines

Unless there was a substantial increase in productivity  -  a development confidently predicted by unions who vowed that the men would do as much work in eight hours as they had previously done in ten  --  the eight-hour day would increase costs of mining, a serious concern for local mine management.  Reactions of mine operators varied.  With limited financial resources and little political or labour-market power, smaller mines on the fringe of the industry seem to have been resigned to their fate, waiting for resolution of the fight waged by the larger mines.  In the silver mining district of the Slocan, the large mining companies announced a reduction in daily wage rates commensurate with the reduction in hours, provoking serious labour unrest and British Columbia’s first strike in hard rock mining.  In Rossland, the major mines  -- the Le Roi properties of the British America Corporation and the War Eagle and Centre Star mines controlled by the Gooderham interests of Toronto  --  announced a temporary shutdown.  The stated purpose was to modernize equipment and undertake further development work, opening new shafts and tunnels to expose new ore bodies and to more effectively work the established mineral deposits.  The development work and the re-equipment of the mines did occur, although one must wonder if it was coincidence that the major mines acted simultaneously and whether the cessation of production was necessary while the work went on.  Perhaps the closure was in effect a lockout with the important re-equipment and development work a convenient public relations excuse.  The appearance of the shutdown as concerted action against the union was reinforced when the Hall mines in Nelson closed simultaneously, citing the labour situation as the reason.  While acknowledging the necessity for equipment upgrades and development work, the respected publication, TheMining Record interpreted the shutdown as “unquestionably premeditated and concerted, and has been undertaken to gain control of the labour situation.”  It succeeded.

The effects of the shutdown on shipments of ore from the mines are documented in Figure 1.  The shutdown began in early February, 1900, and shipments by the big three mining companies  --  the Le Roi, War Eagle and Centre Star --  dropped precipitously.  Production fell even more abruptly than is suggested by this chart because the Le Roi made substantial shipments of previously extracted low grade ore out of its dump.  Shipments and production from the War Eagle and Centre Star stopped completely. Production at Rossland was so dominated by the big three that when they stopped shipping, the mining industry was essentially shut down.  The nadir in shipments was reached in mid-March.

During the shutdown, some workers were still employed in development work but many were unemployed.  Some left town, seeking work elsewhere, but hundreds of unemployed workers remained in Rossland, roaming the streets, disgruntled and restless. It was in this context that the mining companies expressed anxiety about the safety of their properties. 

Thiel Detectives as Special Constables

Although there were no reports of vandalism to their properties, the big three mining companies hired the Thiel Detective Agency to provide guards to patrol the premises.  The mines in question (the Centre Star, War Eagle and Le Roi) were within city limits and hence also within Magistrate Boultbee’s jurisdiction.  At the behest of mine management, he made a very contentious and provocative decision, swearing in the Thiel detectives as special constables and permitting them to bear firearms, giving them the status of armed law enforcement officers.  He did this despite the assertion of the mayor in a letter to the Attorney General, that “Rossland was in a quiet and peaceable state, and that there was no necessity for extra police.”  The armed detectives protected mining property, but also and intimidated unemployed workers.  At least one Thiel man patrolled on horseback, a doubly threatening gesture. Needless to say, the presence of armed Thiel agents patrolling the mines of Rossland outraged the union. Boultbee’s judicial decision was a clear win for management.  


Figure 1
Shipments by Rossland Mines, Weekly, 1900

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The Contract System

The longer-term response to the eight hour day law was revealed as the major companies began preparations to reopen. They announced that henceforth many of the mining operations would be done on contract, not by day labour. That is, payment would not be made to workers on the basis of time spent in the shaft, but on the basis of the amount of work completed, e.g., distances excavated or drilled.  Workers were invited to bid for contracts, individually or in groups.  The union met and rejected the plan, saying they would not work on the contract system. However, following the shutdown-cum-lockout, the union was not prepared for a strike on the issue and an agreement was reached that spelled out the terms of contracts for production and development work and the respective responsibilities of contractors and companies. Labour peace seemed assured and the mines prepared to resume production.  Following extensive development work to improve its main shaft and open new ore bodies and the installation of new mining equipment, the Le Roi began regular shipments in early April, 1900.  Delays in the arrival of machinery resulted in longer times to re-equip the War Eagle and Centre Star properties and for them to resume shipments. Full production was not restored until October.  

The Miners’ Strike

The labour peace provided by the agreement on contracting was short lived.  Whether it was because of measures taken by the companies to put pressure on workers to increase productivity and reduce labour costs (as the union asserted) or because of the agitation of provocateurs  --  labour organizers from the violence-ridden mining camp of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho --  (as management and the Rossland Miner assertedlabour unrest was festering, culminating in the miners’ strike that began at the beginning of July, 1901.  That strike has been carefully analyzed elsewhere so there is no need to rehearse the details here.  What is important is that it was a bitter strike, involving concerted action by the major Rossland mines led by the Le Roi company and involving a related strike at that company’s Northport smelter  --  but it was unsuccessful.  The Le Roi recruited strike breakers and, although the large Gooderham properties (the War Eagle and the Centre Star) remained closed, as Figure 2 illustrates the Le Roi was able to maintain a small volume of shipments throughout and by the end of September a significant volume of production was achieved. Production at the Le Roi continued to increase so that by late October, although still short of earlier peaks, it was at a level equal to or exceeding that at the beginning of the year. Effectively, the strike was lost. The union capitulated and an agreement was signed in late January, 1902.  

The strike gave rise to two major law and order issues for Judge Boultbee.

Intimidation of a Strike Breaker: The Colistro and Beamish Cases

One day in August, 1901  --  not long after the strike began  --  the Northport train brought Joseph Horn to Rossland.  He was an 18-year-old, non-union, Polish worker from the Northport smelter who claimed that he was simply passing through the city on his way to visit family in Trail.[32]  However, when he arrived at the Rossland station he was denounced by another Northport man, Joseph Colistro, as a Northport strike breaker.  On his walk through town, Horn was followed by a group of men and children, jeering at him and calling out insults, most pointedly “scab.” There was no train until morning so he decided to walk to Trail, but when his way across the Washington Street bridge was blocked by the mob, he returned to town and sought refuge in the telephone office.  He called the Le Roi office for assistance and was rescued by a company official.  


Figure 2

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Assisted by T Mayne Daly, the Le Roi lawyer, Horn swore an affidavit that was presented to Justice of the Peace Townsend who issued a warrant for the arrest of the Northport man, Joseph Colistro.  He was charged with assault and intimidation. Later, Thomas Beamish was also taken into custody and charged with intimidation.  I know nothing about Colistro other than that he was Italian, a member of the miners’ union and a striker at the Northport smelter. Beamish was a Rosslander, described as “a prominent member of the miner’s union” and as “a well-known character.”[33]  Apparently, he had earlier attempted to prosecute some mine managers for carrying weapons, but I find no evidence that the attempted prosecutions were successful. However, there were later prosecutions of two “non-union men” found with loaded guns in their pockets. They were fined $30 and the guns were confiscated. In another case of a “non-union man” found with a gun, the weapon was confiscated but no further action taken. Carrying a weapon, particularly a loaded weapon, in the city was generally considered a very serious offence meriting harsh penalties.  With considerable justification under the tense circumstances, union men regarded the penalties in these cases as very lenient, confirming their view that the treatment of Beamish and Colistro was far out of proportion to the offences and designed to send a message from the companies to the union by way of the courts that the companies were in control.  

That aggressive harassment occurred is certain and there was physical contact between Colistro and Horn.  However, whether there was a serious physical altercation is less certain.  Horn asserted that Colistro had grabbed him by the arm as he was leaving the train and announced to all on the platform that he was a scab.  Later, apparently Colistro had taken hold of Horn’s clothing to prevent him from crossing the Washington Street bridge.  Both incidents were in some sense assaults, but hardly of a serious variety.  It seems likely that it was the context  --  the presence of an intimidating mob  --  that was the major concern of the legal authorities.  No allegations of assault were made against Beamish, but he was a member of the mob and it was alleged that he carried an intimidating weapon --  a sawed-off billiard cue.  

In the hearings in police court Colistro was represented by a prominent attorney, but Beamish defended himself.   The attorney appointed by the provincial government to prosecute these cases was T Mayne Daly, a Rossland lawyer of strong conservative views (earlier, he had been the conservative provincial government’s appointee to Rossland’s initial Police Commission, who, in conjunction with the mayor, had appointed Ingram as police chief).  Quite apart from his politics, Daly’s appointment was obviously inappropriate;  he had a clear conflict of interest.   At the time he was legal counsel for the Le Roi mining company, the leading force on the management side of the labour dispute.  Rather than a prosecutor’s concern for impartial justice, Daly had a strong interest in conviction, with severe penalties.  It was reported that his prosecution of the cases was aggressive and vindictive.  There is no evidence  --  and I found no contemporary allegations --  but I wonder if Horn, who was well known to union men as a strike breaker at Northport, was an agent provocateur,carefully selected by management for this visit to Rossland to provoke an incident, generate sympathy because of his age and secure a conviction. In any case, although he was Polish and presumably not perfectly fluent in English, Horn seems to have been an effective witness for the prosecution.  Horn’s was not the only situation of harassment of strike-breakers and potential strike-breakers, but Colistro’s and Beamish’s were the only prosecutions reported.  

It is not surprising that Magistrate Boultbee found Colistro and Beamish guilty of assault and/or intimidation.  That there had been a breach of the criminal code seems certain.  What is puzzling is the severity of the punishment.  Both men were sentenced to two months imprisonment at the Nelson gaol, at hard labour, without the alternative of a fine.  Both men appealed, but the appeals were summarily dismissed with the appeal judge in one case expressing “his disapproval of the incident in the strongest terms.”  

Adding a calculated insult to judicial injury, Police Chief Vaughan angered the labour movement by his callous treatment of Beamish. Beamish was out of custody, on bail, pending resolution of his appeal.  After his appeal failed, Vaughan arrested him at a hotel on the west side of the business district then marched him through the centre of town to the lockup, in handcuffs, for all to see.  The circumstances surrounding the handcuffing of Beamish are uncertain.  By one report Beamish “became abusive,” but by another he “offered no resistance and made no trouble … and did nothing to justify his being ironed and led along the streets like a malefactor.”  Moreover, it was reported that the evening before, someone described as an enemy of Beamish was heard to say to the chief of police

“I know a man who will put up three or four bottles of wine for you if you will bring Tom through the street with bracelets on” and the Chief replied “you will see him with cuffs on.”

Whether true or not, the anecdote reflects the angst surrounding the case.  When Beamish was taken to Nelson, a crowd of perhaps 500 saw him off, to rousing cheers. Beamish was a popular Rosslander; I found no report of such a celebration for the Northport man, Colistro.

Piled on top of approval of armed Thiel detectives patrolling the streets with police powers, the conviction and sentencing of Colistro and Beamish to prison terms coupled with the undignified “perp walk,” convinced labour leaders that the justice system was stacked against them. Perhaps the third incident mollified them somewhat.  

The Alien Labour Law:  The Geiser Case

At the outset of the strike, Albert Geiser of Baker City, Oregon, accepted a contract to operate the mines of the Le Roi Mining Company and to do work for the Northport Smelter.  Geiser was a friend of the manager of the Northport smelter, which was owned by the Le Roi company, and he was well known in the mining community.  As an impetuous young man he had purchased and made a fortune operating the Bonanza mine in eastern Oregon, a property that more knowledgeable authorities had written off as worthless.  He was prescient, or more likely lucky.  By1901 he was a wealthy man and a leading citizen of Baker City, engaged not only in mining but also president of the Citizens Bank and of an investment company that was involved with several mining ventures.  To fulfil his Le Roi contract, he announced his intention to hire men in Rossland at pre-strike wage rates, but it is apparent that the real agenda was to help his friends by bringing in strike breakers.  He advertised and recruited widely in the western states, collecting many men from the vicinity of his home in Baker City, but reaching as far east as Missouri.  Many strike-breakers came from that state, with the result that all American strike breakers were commonly known as “Missourians.”  His scheme was to bring gangs of men to Northport by train, perhaps briefly put them to work at the Northport Smelter (which had a strike of its own), then, to avoid violating the alien Labour Act, have the men individually make their ways to Rossland.  However, the Alien Labour Act did not require that a group of workers be imported;  recruitment was the offence.  To recruit a single foreigner to work in Canada was against the Act. 

Two of the men recruited in Baker City by Geiser, Neil Stephenson and James Andrew, rebelled when they reached Northport. They asserted that they had been assured that the labour problems at both Northport and Rossland had been resolved and that they would be going to work as ordinary miners, not as strike-breakers.  They refused to work.  Both men were persuaded by officials of the Miners’ Union to go to Rossland and testify in court that they had been recruited specifically to work in the Le Roi mine in Rossland, expenses paid by the union.   

The Alien Labour Act was enacted in 1897 as retaliation for a similar law enacted in the United States.  Indeed, the Canadian law only applied to foreign countries that had “laws or ordinances applying to Canada of a character similar to this Act”  -- which is to say, the United States. With a few exceptions,[34]the Canadian Alien Labour Act prohibited the recruitment of foreign (i.e. non-British subject) workers in the United States for employment in Canada. The penalty upon conviction was a fine of $1,000 per worker so recruited and the workers were to be deported at the expense of the employer.  

After the act was passed, on receiving a complaint the federal government investigated, decided whether an offence had occurred and, on occasion, acted to enforce the act.  To formalize the process, in August, 1900, the government appointed E Williams as “special officer to see to the carrying out of the law”. His reports on enforcement actions suggest that he was busy, particularly with cases in manufacturing industries in Ontario and Quebec.[35]  At the beginning of February, 1901, a complaint about the recruitment of “mechanics and miners” by mining firms in Rossland was investigated, but dismissed; “No violation of the Act disclosed.” However, a few days later, another case close to Rossland had a very different result.  Williams investigated a complaint and forced the deportation of sixteen workers who had been recruited in the United States and employed in maintenance work on the Red Mountain Railway between Rossland and the international border.  The penalty of $1,000 per worker was not enforced, perhaps because it was seen as extreme ($1,000 in 1901 would be the equivalent of between $27,000 and $30,000 in today’s dollars, or $432,000-$480,000 for the crew), perhaps because the enforcement procedure was too cumbersome (approval by the attorney general followed by prosecution in a County or Supreme Court).[36]  

Not long after the Red Mountain Railway case the Alien Labour Act was revised.  Among the other changes, three were important for our story.  First, the applicable fine was changed from a fixed $1,000 to a range, $50 - $1,000, giving the judge discretion.  Second, the act introduced the possibility of the complaining party initiating and conducting the prosecution of the offenders.  The federal government did not have to be involved. Third, it allowed the prosecution to occur in various levels of courts without the explicit approval of the federal Attorney General, which had been required in the original law.  This included police courts, providing the prosecution had the approval of a judge in a higher court.  

Enforcement became a political hot potato.  The revised law permitted the federal government to step out of the enforcement process, and Williams stopped printing reports on enforcement.  When the Rossland miners’ strike occurred the miners’ union notified the federal Department of Labour that strike breakers were being recruited in the US to work the Rossland mines.  The federal government refused to take the initiative in prosecutions, informing the union that under the law the union could initiate prosecutions. Similarly, the provincial government refused to get involved.  When the provincial attorney general was asked to appoint a prosecutor in the Geiser case, he refused, stating that “it is not his business to attend to such actions.”  The provincial government was obliged to prosecute cases brought under the criminal code, but the Alien Labour Law was not part of the criminal code so the provincial government had no responsibility to prosecute.  Of course, local authorities were unwilling to anger the major mining companies, the bedrock of the local economy with immense political influence.  The union stepped into the vacuum, placing an “information” before Magistrate Boultbee --  an allegation, supported by evidence, that there had been a violation of the statute.  The accused was Albert Geiser and the evidence was the testimony of Stephenson and Andrew. 

The Geiser cases (there were two cases and two trials) were tried in early September 5, 1901, and were essentially contests between the testimonies of Stephenson and Andrew on the one hand and Geiser on the other.  The reasons for his decision were not published, but clearly Boultbee preferred the testimony of the workers to that of Geiser;  he brought down a guilty verdict.  The maximum penalty prescribed by law was $1,000 and the minimum $50.  For one offence, Boultbee chose a fine in the middle, $500;  for the other, the minimum, $50.  Presumably Boultbee was attempting to please both sides in his assessment of penalties; he probably pleased neither.  The judgement was appealed, but the appeal was summarily dismissed on the technical grounds that the Geiser teams had offered a required bond for the costs of the appeal in the wrong form  --  cash instead of the required two personal sureties!

Boultbee must have been in the bad books of the mine managers after the Geiser cases and his decisions may have cost him some important support when his tenure as magistrate was in question.  However, he was about the enter an even more controversial phase of his judicial career, as discussed in Essay 7.




In 1902, Rossland, under Mayor J.R. Clute, attempted to improve the financial situation of the city by exploiting the proclivity of shiftless miners to gamble.  The result was an exciting, but essentially unresolved, corruption case involving the newspapers, the police commission, the police chief and Judge Boultbee.  Central to the case were a city alderman, Henry Daniel, and a crusading Baptist minister, J Burtt Morgan.  Rossland attempted to achieve what lotteries do for provincial governments today, but, in a very different legal environment, failed.  


The election of January, 1901, was interesting and eventful.  It became part of the political awakening of the labour movement as organized labour played a significant role in the election for the first time.  It was also an election characterized by a remarkable level of vitriol and the object of much of that vitriol was a young (32) candidate for mayor, Henry Daniel. 

Henry (Harry) Daniel was a single man with a house painting and decorating business who was disturbed about how municipal business was conducted and decided to do something about it by running for mayor. He listed all of the usual concerns --  streets, sewers, water, fire protection, etc.  --  but laid particular stress on the elimination of waste in civic administration and on fairness of treatment for all section of the city in matters like street improvements, “eliminating to a great extent ward politics.”  His promise to the electors:

… if elected I guarantee that city affairs will be conducted in an open, businesslike manner and with fairness to every person and interest.  

Daniel had no prior record of involvement in civic affairs  --  he was the quintessential outsider.  

Daniel’s opponent, Charles O. Lalonde, was ten years older and a long-time resident with a deep background in municipal affairs, including a failed campaign for mayor in the city’s first election, two terms as alderman and involvement in almost every civic project undertaken in the previous five years, including the nascent school board.  Lalonde made the usual promises about improvements to the city and careful management if the city’s finances, but essentially ran on his record of involvement in civic affairs. 

The Rossland Miner enthusiastically supported Lalonde and viciously attacked Daniel as young, inexperienced and ignorant of municipal affairs  --  “

a young man who had never sat as a member of a public body, who has had no acquaintance with municipal affairs and who has hitherto shown no interest in the camp outside of his own private business.”  

Electing Daniel would be a danger to the orderly development of the city.  He “would simply get our affairs into an inextricable muddle should he attempt to mend them.”     

For the first time, the labour movement took an active role in the election.  Several workingmen, promoted by the union, ran for alderman and Daniel was endorsed by the labour movement’s newspaper, the Industrial World, as “our candidate.”  It is not clear that the unions had induced Daniel to run. Rather, it seems likely that the Industrial Worldsaw the independent candidate as an acceptable alternative to Lalonde, a representative of the ruling elite and supported by the mining and business interests.  Of course, the Minerwas outraged that the Industrial Worldpresumed to speak for all workingmen “without having obtained their consent.”

TheMiner’scharacterizations of Daniel were very personal and very negative, but they may have added to his appeal among voters disenchanted with the rule of the insiders.  Then the campaign got nasty.  Daniel’s supporters spread the story that Lalonde was the candidate of the bankers and that the bankers had raised a fund to promote his candidacy.  The Minervigorously denied the accusation and intimated that “it will be found that it is Mr. Daniel and not Mr. Lalonde who is the candidate of a clique, ” a clique that “does not include in its numbers one workingman.”  Moreover, people will not find out about the membership of the clique until after the election “if Mr. Daniel’s ardent supporters can keep them in ignorance.”  In the next issue of the paper the Miner noted ominously that “the impression exists, whether rightly or wrongly” that Daniel was “the nominee” of a section of the population “which is looking for merely temporary advantage and which does not consider the general interests of the citizens.”  On the same page, it published an anonymous letter from a “ratepayer” that posed the question bluntly:  

… is it true that Mr. Daniel is the candidate of the liquor interest? Has a fund been raised to defray his expenses by the element which is opposed to a respectable city and which wants a wide open town? Is it true that the police force are hostile to Mr. Lalonde and are working ardently for Mr. Daniel?  Is it true that the chief of police one Saturday evening went into Mr. Lalonde’s store and abused him in the vilest manner, warning him that it was impossible for him to be elected?  Is, in short, the inference justified that Mr. Daniel is the representative in this campaign of the men who want, not a condition of things such as we have at present but a condition which would lay us open to the charge of having an immoral town?  

Ratepayer also asked if it was true that Lalonde was the candidate of the bankers and that they had raised a fund in his support, but it is clear that the focus of his concern was Daniels putative alliance with gamblers and saloon keepers.  

Daniel lost the election; C O Lalonde became Rossland’s next mayor.  However, the victory was far from overwhelming.  Daniel lost by 29 votes out of 815 ballots cast, a margin of 3.5%. He was out of city government for a year, but in 1902 he was elected as an alderman, was appointed to the police commission to replace a member who had resigned, and played a major role in the corruption scandal that erupted in late 1902 and early 1903.  He became an important, but overlooked, figure in the history of law and order in early Rossland.  


The 1902 municipal election had notable echoes of the labour disputes of the previous two years.  For the first time, a working miner ran for mayor, candidate of the Municipal Labour Party, and mounted a respectable campaign.  Peter John McKichan received 46% of the vote, but the conservative lawyer, John Stillwell Clute, was elected.  McKichan returned the next year, successfully elected as an alderman.  

Mayor Clute found the city’s finances in disastrous state.  As a result of the deficits incurred by the previous regimes, there was an overdraft and other floating debts of approximately $20,000 on total revenues (excluding borrowing) in 1900 of about $70,000.  This was clearly a crisis!  Repayment of the floating debt and elimination of the deficit would be immensely difficult, but urgent. 

Francis J Walker, Police Commissioner

On Clute’s recommendation, the government appointed Charles R Hamilton and Francis (Frank) J Walker to the police and license commissions.  Hamilton was a respected lawyer who was in his third term as an alderman and Walker was a real estate broker who was known as a “sporting man,” i.e., a gambler. Walker had been very active on the management side in the recent labour disputes so it is not surprising that the Evening World was outraged at his appointment and predicted (correctly) both the reappointment of Ingram as police chief and a wide open town.  The newspaper also reported that a hurriedly organized petition against the appointment “obtained many signatures during the afternoon and evening” and many of the “very best elements” of the citizenry sent telegrams of protest to Victoria. Among the “best elements” was John Dean, who would be Clute’s successor as mayor.  He sent a telegram to the Attorney General urging that Walker’s appointment be reconsidered  --  “… you have been misinformed, indignation very pronounced.”  In his personal diary Dean wrote that the appointment of Walker to the Police Commission “is considered by many an outrage on decency.  I certainly know it is, for if ever there was a lying, unprincipled scoundrel he is one, a regular tin horn thug.”  The management newspaper, the Rossland Miner, by contrast, was not at all unhappy.  It asserted that the new police commissioners would work for “the advancement of Rossland’s best interests” and that the result would not be a crime-ridden, wide-open town, but a “tolerant town” in which a working man could have some fun (shades of Mayor Scott, who the Minerhad so bitterly opposed a few years earlier).

Resurrection of Ingram

Almost immediately, Clute and Walker took advantage of Hamilton’s temporary absence from Rossland to dismiss Police Chief Vaughan, Sergeant McPhee and another policeman, reappoint Ingram as police chief and reconstruct the police force, adding a policeman who had been one of the Thiel detectives who patrolled the War Eagle mine during the shutdown. Clute had been a member of the police commission that had dismissed Ingram a year earlier for reasons said to be substantive but not revealed.  Now he reversed himself.  The Evening World said that “Mr. Clute declared less than a year ago (the Ingram) was an impossible official for fifty different reasons, any one of which was sufficient for his removal.”  The editor marvelled at Clute’s transformation and speculated  --  not without reason  -- that Walker had the upper hand. The editor concluded that Clute was weak and easily manipulated.  The Rossland Miner, by contrast, rejoiced in Ingram’s reappointment, implying that Clute was correcting an historical wrong.  In noting the dismissal of Vaughan, the Minerdid not express widespread dissatisfaction with Vaughan as police chief.  Indeed, the editor waxed eloquent about his accomplishments.  He did express regret about the departure of McPhee who had had a distinguished career with the force.  Only a year earlier the Miner had argued that McPhee should be appointed chief, not an outsider like Vaughan.  Surprisingly, the  World did not exult in the departure of Vaughan.  The then chief had angered the labour people by his handling of the arrest of the convicted rioter, Beamish, after the failure of his appeal.  Beamish had been marched, in hand cuffs, down the main street of Rossland to the gaol.  

Gambling had always been present, relatively discreetly. Now, with a compliant police force, it burst into the open.  It was to be part of the solution to the city’s financial problem.  Gambling would be treated like prostitution;  gambling operators, like prostitutes and madams, would be arrested and pay periodic fines but otherwise be permitted to carry on business.  Several hotels bought roulette wheels and installed them along with other gambling facilities in their street-level saloons.  Then, in mid-February, fifteen “gamblers” were arrested and fined $50 each, putting a much needed $750 into the city’s treasury.  The “gamblers” would have been professionals, employees of the hotels who operated the games for the proprietors.  The fines were, in effect, license fees, the payment of which permitted them to operate for an unspecified time.  

Locating roulette wheels at street level, in very public places, for all to see --  including church goers on their way to and from Sunday services  --  proved to be a big mistake.  Local preachers  --  not just J Burtt Morgan  --  were outraged.  In early April, a delegation (probably led by Morgan) visited the Police Commission “and urged action on certain matters which it claimed affected the general welfare of the city”  -- undoubtedly gambling.  The Commissioner promised to give their concerns “due consideration” but did not promise specific action.  However, action was soon taken, but at the initiative of a private citizen rather than the authorities.  

Three weeks later, on April 24, 1902, a hotel owner appeared in police court, charged with “keeping a common gaming house contrary to the statutes.”  The charge arose from an information  --  an affirmation, with evidence, that a criminal offence had occurred  -- presented to Judge Boultbee by James Lawn, a builder and contractor.  In his information, Lawn accused five hotels and one cigar store (operating under license from another hotel) of conducting gambling in contravention of the criminal code.  Not to be outdone, the Rossland Minerthen waded in with a searing editorial on “The Gambling Vice,” of which the “evil effects reaches out and takes in a great many, mostly those who are innocent of wrong doing,” including families and impressionable young children.  The editor then expressed his pleasure that the authorities had at last stepped in to suppress “the open form of betting for money,” closing seven roulette wheels “and one or two other forms of gambling.” So much for the newspaper’s support of “some latitude.”  Apparently, Lawn’s prosecution was having an effect.  It is also notable that that was the last to be heard from the newspaper on the subject of gambling for a considerable time;  it was soon entrapped in the gambling web itself.  

The attorney prosecuting on behalf of Mr. Lawn anticipated and prepared for a preliminary hearing, with a relatively low standard of proof, leading to commitment of the offenders to the Assize Court in Nelson where a full trial would be held.  He had not counted on Boultbee’s apparent involvement in the affair. As a result, he was caught unprepared to mount a “conclusive case” when Judge Boultbee announced in court on the first day of the proceedings that he would try the case in his own court.  Was keeping the trial under his control a defensive move on Boultbee’s part?  

Although the private prosecution was in disarray, the trial proceeded.  Two cases were withdrawn and evidence was taken in the other four cases.  At the end of the second day, Judge Boultbee announced that he would deliver his verdict “in the course of a few days.” In the event, he deliberated for a month, at that time a very unusual delay for an uncomplicated case in a police court.  Three were pronounced guilty and one case was dismissed.  With the possibility of incarceration and/or a hefty fine in the offing, the ludicrous result was that the guilty establishments were fined $10 each, a nominal penalty, not even to the standard of the earlier $50 “license fee” fines.  The judge justified the light penalty because

… the counsel for the informant … stated that the prosecutions were not brought from any vindictive motive, nor with a desire to put the defendants to trouble or expense, but solely for the purpose of suppressing the gambling.

Was a $10 fine supposed to be a deterrent? However, perhaps the court case was an unnecessary distraction.  At the outset of the prosecution, wide-open gambling was suppressed by the police authorities.  Apparently, Lawn had his wish  --  but it was an illusion.  

A New Gambling Regime

The public outrage against gambling and against Walker’s appointment as Police Commissioner continued relentlessly. Sometime in April or May, Francis Walker quietly took his leave, packed up and moved to Spokane.  I have found no announcement of his resignation or explanation of the reasons.  However, at the end of May, Alderman Daniel was appointed to the Police Commission in his place.  

The financial problem of the city had not been solved.  At a public meeting called to discuss the city’s financial plight, the mayor revealed that despite significant economies effected by the council (including a reduction in the mayor’s stipend from $2,000 to $1,000) the deficit for the current year was projected to be $16,000.  The meeting canvassed various solutions to the deficit problem, generally opposing any increase in property taxes and designating a committee to consult with the council on the matter.  Not canvassed was one of the “solutions” adopted by the authorities --  a resurrection of gambling with periodic payments by the gambling operators to the city treasury.   

The new gambling regime was supposed to be unobtrusive.  To reduce its public presence, gambling, including roulette wheels, was moved from street level to the second floor in all of the hotels,.  Instead of very public appearances by gamblers in magistrate’s court, with fines assessed and the proceedings subject to reporting in newspapers, a less conspicuous method of collecting the money was required. Police Chief Ingram met with the gambling operators, told them that they would be required to make monthly payments to the city  -- payments that were referred to as fines, although they would not be levied by any court.  They were not to make payments directly to the police or the court, but to an “ambassador” whom they would designate.  The ambassador would collect the monthly assessments and pass the money along to the city authorities, quietly and without a public record.  It was to be all tidy and discreet.  Six hotels were involved.  They selected one of their own, David W. Morgan, operator of the infamous International Hotel, as ambassador.  He collected the “fines” from each of the six gambling halls, $150 each per month, and delivered the proceeds to the authorities.  In addition, each gambling operator had to make a payment to Rossland’s two newspapers, the labour paper, the Evening World,and the conservative paper, the Rossland Miner, “in the guise of advertisements,” to dissuade them from printing stories about or mounting campaigns against gambling in the again wide-open city.  

The payments to the daily newspapers were effective.  I have found no stories about gambling in either the Miner or the Evening World for the rest of 1902.  However, it was naïve to think that these arrangements would prevent the mobilization of objections to wide-open, professional gambling in Rossland. Apart from people talking to people and weekly sermons in churches, there was one newspaper that could not be restrained, The Truth,edited and published by J Burtt Morgan, pastor of the Baptist church and delivered door to door, without charge.  Morgan harangued incessantly, from the pulpit and in print, against the “moral sin” that enveloped the city.  As a result of Morgan’s campaign, the obvious presence of second-floor gambling operations and the impact of gambling losses on families, gambling became an issue in the January 1903 election campaign.  The concern was aggravated by rumours that swirled around the city that the authorities  --  the police commission, the police and the magistrate  -- were accepting bribes from the operators of gambling establishments.  

A Shooting at a Gambling Table

An incident that must have helped galvanize opposition to professional gambling occurred at the International Hotel in November, 1902.  A dispute arose at a faro game over the ownership of eight chips on the table, worth, it was reported, 12 ½ cents each, or $1.00 in total.  A man named Robert Adams was dealing and he and a player named Walter Willis both claimed the chips.  Willis, said to be a professional gambler from California who was addicted to morphine, had a long standing grievance against Adams, the nature of which was not reported.  When his claim to the chips was disputed by Adams, Willis jumped up from the table and left the room.  A few minutes later he returned with a handgun and shot Adams in the chest.  He was quickly arrested, without incident, and committed for trial at the May, 1903, Assize Court in Nelson, charged with attempted murder.  To the amazement of all concerned, including the physicians, Adams survived both the shooting and surgery to remove the bullet that had damaged internal organs and was lodged next to his spine, and was well on his way to recovery when the trial was held.  

No attorney could be found to assist Willis in his defence.  There were witnesses to the shooting and Adams did not deny that he had done it. However, he argued that he did not intend to kill Adams.  He had five more bullets in his gun and if he had intended murder he would have used them. This seems to have persuaded the jury. Willis was convicted of the lesser crime of “intent to cause grievous bodily harm.”  The use  -- indeed, the possession  --  of handguns in the city was regarded as particularly heinous offence.  Offenders were dealt with harshly.  Willis was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.  

The importance of the Willis case was that it involved an association between wide-open gambling and wild-west gun violence of a type that the solid citizens of Rossland abhorred.  The case for Morgan’s reforms was strengthened.  

The 1903 Municipal Election: the Suppression of Gamblingand the Dismissal of John Ingram. 

The 1903 election was between the incumbent mayor, John Stillwell Clute, and John Dean, a property owner and real estate and insurance broker, who had served two terms as alderman.  Dean campaigned on a platform of retrenchment in all aspects of the city’s government, “consistent with efficiency” and “suppression of professional gambling and alluring gambling devices, together with proper enforcement of the laws regulating the liquor trade.”  That seemed to permit friendly card games, but ruled out roulette wheels.  Dean won by a narrow margin, 29 votes in 681 cast.  

As soon as the results of the election were known, but before the new mayor and council were installed, the police commission met and announced that all professional gambling would henceforth be prohibited in Rossland.  At the same time Ingram was eased out as police chief.[37]  In pushing this reversal of his own policy, the lame-duck Mayor Clute was implicitly accepting --  undoubtedly, correctly  -- that the reason for his defeat was his policy of permitting both professional gambling and relaxed liquor enforcement.  Dean had campaigned hard on suppression of these civic vices.  He seemed to have won, but the story was not over.  

The daily newspapers could be entrapped in the web of deceit, but try as they did, the gamblers could not silence a man of deep Christian conscience, the new minister of the Baptist church, J Burtt Morgan. 

A Crusading Baptist Minister: J Burtt Morgan

J Burtt Morgan was a native of Fredericton, New Brunswick.  According to a biography published in the Rossland Miner,he must have been a smart boy, graduating from Acadia University with first class honours in Mathematics, followed by an appointment as “professor of junior mathematics” at a Baptist college in Ontario at age 20. I don’t know if this was a post-secondary college or effectively a high school.  He then studied theology and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1894. After appointments in Nova Scotia churches, where he was a successful activist in church affairs, he moved west, accepting a position at Nelson.  When the Baptist congregation shrank as Nelson experienced a period of difficulty, the church could no longer support the pastor and his family.  He resigned in January, 1902, and accepted a position at Rossland’s Baptist Church.  

He gave the city fair warning of his morality crusade.  In mid-March, 1902, not long after he settled in Rossland, J Burtt Morgan preached a stirring sermon on the topic of “civic sins,“ “holding the attention of a large congregation throughout” and attracting the interest of the editor of the Rossland Minerwho printed the substance of the sermon for all to read.  Morgan assailed the “triple alliance of vice” in Rossland:  first, “we have full three dozen places devoted to the nefarious traffic in intoxicants;”  second, “the house of ill repute and of these we have a goodly number;”  and third, “the gambling sin”  present in Rossland “from the earliest days, but only within a few weeks has it shown itself in open day.”  These are “transgressions which are a menace to the moral and material well-being of our fair Golden City.”   

In all of this, Morgan argued, the civic authorities were complicit.  Not only did they tolerate these heinous sins, they actively encouraged them.  In doing so they ignored the will of God and they defied “our civic, provincial and Dominion statutes.”  They did this in the interest of earning revenue:  license fees from saloons that the city regulated and fines from prostitutes, gamblers and gambling establishments that the city could not license because they were illegal, but could allow “some latitude”  --  for a fee.  The revenue so derived was large, but, he thundered in conclusion,

… what shall we say of the hundreds of thousands of dollars diverted from legitimate business channels and squandered in pandering to the perverted tastes and passions of hundreds of misguided devotees of vice.  Shall we accept the tempting bribe to allow our fellow-citizens to be robbed and debauched? God, forgive us if our answer is “yes” 

Earlier, as a guest preacher at the Rossland Baptist church, he had preached on a similar subject, but without a specific Rossland focus.  He asked: “What is the Duty of the Church Relative to Civic Morals?”  His conclusion:  it is the church that

… resists the encroachments of wickedness and saves society from utter reprobation. …. It is … the duty of the church to lay bare the moral needs of society. …. We must save the cities …. (and) Rossland presents a splendid field for the testing of the church’s mettle.  

Unstated, but implicit, was that the pastor had the foremost role to play, not just as the teacher of his congregation but as the agent of the church for reforming the community.  

The Truth

Morgan’s later sermons were not reported in the Mineror the Worldfor good reason;  their silence had been bought and paid for by the gambling interests.  However, I suspect the sermons contained forthright commentary on the sad state of civic morality, severe criticisms of the police and the courts for not enforcing relevant provisions of the criminal code and hints (perhaps stronger than hints) about the system of under-the-counter payments by gambling, drinking and prostitution establishments that permitted their operation contrary to the law.  Morgan was active in the 1903 municipal election.  At a long interview with Dean, Morgan thought that he had obtained the candidate’s promise to reverse the “wide-open-town” policy of the incumbent mayor and a crack-down on illicit gambling was a prominent plank in Dean’s platform.  Morgan then campaigned aggressively for Dean.  Indeed, by rallying the faithful he may have provided the margin of victory. He certainly believed that to be the case.  If his support for Dean was decisive, that would have been sufficient to afford Morgan an important place in the history of law and order in early Rossland. However, there was a second dramatic gesture that surpassed the election of Dean for importance  -- a biting editorial in the newsletter, The Truth, on March 27, 1903, that provoked a dramatic trial that in turn made public a network of corruption in the police and judicial system.  This was the climax of Morgan’s crusade against “civic sins.”

The Truth, initially a weekly and later a monthly publication, was edited and published by Morgan.  It had a very short life;  the first issue was in early May, 1902, and the last regular issue was on March 27, 1903, with an unplanned special issue on April 16, 1903.  The paper was delivered free of charge, door to door, purportedly to every household and business in Rossland.  Paradoxically, given Morgan’s rather bitter relationship with the editor, The Truthwas printed on the RosslandMiner’spresses.  It contained some religious material but also from the first issue it was Morgan’s vehicle for extending his campaign for civic virtue beyond sermons to his own congregation.  Unfortunately, apart from three issues preserved in the British Columbia Archives, I have not found any copies of the paper.  I suspect that other issues have not survived.  

It is not clear why Morgan resigned his ministry at the Rossland’s Baptist church.  Perhaps his obsession with civic morality did not please influential members of his congregation;  it certainly did not sit well with many members of the broader community, particularly those involved in gambling, liquor distribution and prostitution. Delivered free of charge, The Truthrelied upon advertising to cover its costs.  Businesses advertising in the paper were threatened with boycotts and the number of advertisers and advertising revenue tumbled.  Thirty firms advertised in the first issue;  four dropped out in the first week, and by July the number of advertisers had dropped to twelve.  The firms that continued to advertise were repeatedly threatened and harassed. Moreover, Morgan asserted that he and his family had been “laboring under a persecution unparalleled  …  in the history of this western country.”  All of this must have provided sufficient reason for him to depart.  

However, perhaps Morgan was simply seeking more financially rewarding employment to support his wife, five children and a live-in domestic servant.  In any case, he resigned his ministry in early 1903 (a new pastor was installed in March 1903, presumably Morgan resigned somewhat earlier) to take up a position as general agent in the Kootenays for the Mutual Life Assurance Company of New York, a position that was said to be “important and remunerative.” For Morgan this was a return to an occupation that he had flirted with before he became a theologian.

The list of reasons for Morgan’s departure is speculative, but one thing is certain.  Morgan did not leave the ministry because of a loss of faith. Later, he occasionally served as a guest preacher in various churches, including at least once in the Rossland Baptist church.  

The Valedictory Issue of The Truth

Before he left Rossland, Morgan published what was supposed to be the final issue of The Truth. It contained his valedictory essay,  which again addressed the question of corruption in Rossland’s police and justice system, but added the established newspapers to his list of villains and besmirched people in important offices.   He chastised the Rossland Miner and the Evening World for their “dignified indifference” to The Truth and its morality campaign and, by implication, to the culture of criminality that swirled about them.  Apparently he did not know that the newspaper had been bought off.  With respect to civic officials, although he did not identify all by name, the objects of his scorn were readily identifiable.  The Chief of Police, John Ingram (who was named) was said to be guilty of “gross official irregularities” and the new chief, Bradshaw, had been so close to Ingram as his sergeant that he had to have had “knowledge of and complicity with” Ingram’s transgressions.  Magistrate Boultbee’s “findings are largely a perversion of justice” and his “perversions of justice have become proverbial.”  The critical statement was that Police Commissioner and alderman Harry Daniel “shared largely in the proceeds of …(the) … system of police blackmail … and rake-offs that so disgraced the city of Rossland in the latter half of 1902.”  Boultbee, Ingram and Bradshaw took no action, but police commissioner Daniel immediately initiated legal action against Morgan for “defamatory libel,” a criminal offence.   

Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing of the allegation of libel was to be held in Rossland’s police court, but the resident magistrate, John Boultbee, could not preside;  he had an obvious conflict of interest.  In the place of Boultbee, John Kirkup and the long-time Justice of the Peace, W. R. Townsend, were delegated to jointly conduct the preliminary hearing. Both were men of long experience in the administration of justice, but neither was a lawyer and they were to be faced with technical, legal arguments about what was admissible as evidence in this type of legal proceeding.    

The valedictory issue of The Truthproved to be its penultimate issue.  As a final issue, in April, 1903, J Burtt Morgan left a fascinating document:  a verbatim transcript of the preliminary hearing. I don’t know who prepared the transcript of the first two days of the hearing.  It may have been William McQueen, the City Clerk (although he was also called as a witness).  The transcript of the final day was prepared and certified to be true by Richard E. Plewman, who was sworn in as court stenographer (four years later he would become the magistrate of the same police court).  In submitting it to the Attorney General, Daniel’s attorney expressed his belief that the whole document was “a correct abstract of the evidence.”  This issue of The Truth, provides the only (almost) complete record that we have of a trial in Rossland’s police court.  It aside, we must rely on brief, not always objective, newspaper accounts.

Daniel’s barrister, J Abbott (who was also the solicitor for the City of Rossland but was acting in this case in his private capacity) opened the proceedings with testimony that the March 27thissue of The Truthhad been printed at the Miner’s print shop at the request of J Burtt Morgan, that it contained the alleged libelous statement, that it had been delivered door-to-door in Rossland (paradoxically, the delivery boy was Joseph Ingram, son of the chief of police) and that the person alluded to in the offending statement was Alderman Daniel. Having established the fact of the alleged libel, Abbott rested his case.  

One of the two central figures in the case was not available to testify.  David W. Morgan, the manager of the International Hotel and the intermediary who collected the payments from the hotels and delivered them to the authorities, had departed for Butte, Montana.  The other central figure, the then chief of police, John Ingram, was called as the first defence witness.  He was permitted to state that he had been chief of police in 1902 and to give his definition of “blackmail” (“Levying on people who ought not to be levied on”), the term used in The Truthto characterize the payments made by gambling operators.  However, when asked if payments made by gambling establishments constituted blackmail and whether such payments had been made, the questions were ruled out of order.  

It was the position of the defence attorney, James A Macdonald (future member of the legislative assembly and the first chief justice of the Appeal Court), that the statement as printed in The Truth and circulated was not a libel in law if there was “justification,” that is, if the statement was true or could reasonably thought to be true and if dissemination of the information was “a public service.” In cross-examining prosecution witnesses and in questioning his own witnesses, Macdonald attempted to show justification by establishing the facts of the illicit payments by operators of gambling establishments, by showing that the payments were discussed by the police commission at meetings attended by Daniel, and by demonstrating that Daniel’s performance as a police commissioner was “a matter of public interest.” To each question touching on these issues Abbott objected, citing legal authorities that justification could only be argued at a full trial on the issue, not at a preliminary hearing.  

Justice Townsend aggressively took the lead in upholding Abbott’s objections, ruling each question out of order and repeatedly expressing his opinion that the case had been made and that Morgan should be committed for trial.  Indeed, before any defence witnesses had been heard, Justice Townsend stated “I consider the evidence shows that this was a libel,” and with respect to questions attempting to get at justification “I think it is plain enough that these questions are all overruled as not being within our jurisdiction and all questions of a similar nature” (which led Macdonald to retort:  “You overrule questions before they are asked?”).  It was later suggested that Magistrate Boultbee had advised Justice Townsend to reject such evidence  --  a clear conflict of interest, whether correct in law or not  --  and that the magistrate had sat in the court room through the entire hearing, monitoring the proceedings.  

Justice Kirkup appeared to play a more passive role, but seems to have concurred in Justice Townsend’s conclusion.  However, he expressed extreme frustration as the same scene was repeated again and again, with witnesses called, their evidence refused and the two attorneys sparred over interpretations of the law and precedents. Kirkup was so exasperated by the legal circus that he proposed to expedite matters by admitting the evidence of illicit payments, with objections noted (“Let the evidence go in. Nobody should be afraid of the truth”). When the bickering went on, Kirkup exploded:

I don’t propose to stay here for a week. …. I didn’t consider it was necessary for me to come.  If there is no necessity for me being here I have other work to do. I can’t spend the time day after day

On the second day of the hearing, faced with more wrangling, Kirkup proposed that they adjourn for a week to get independent legal advice.  When the hearing resumed in the afternoon and the wrangling continued, he again exploded:

I came here for that purpose only: to adjourn

The hearing was adjourned, but only for a day. 

Earlier, Abbott had contacted the Attorney General and urged that Judge Leamy of Grand Forks be asked to come to Rossland to take over the hearing.  There were legal obstacles to Judge Leamy presiding at mid-trial, but he was brought in to advise Townsend and Kirkup.  Apparently Judge Leamy disagreed with the Boultbee-Abbott interpretation of the rules of evidence, or perhaps it was just an expedient to move things along, but when the hearing resumed, Macdonald called the ex-mayor, J Stilwell Clute, to testify and was permitted to conduct his examination, focusing on the facts of the police blackmail scheme, almost without interruption.  This made an interesting confrontation on the witness stand. Not only had Clute been the mayor and chair of the police commission during the episode, he had until recently been Macdonald’s law partner.  I don’t know the reasons for the breakdown of their partnership.  They were of opposite political persuasions (Clute a staunch conservative and Macdonald an equally staunch Liberal), but that was not new and may have been useful in attracting a wide range of clients.  Perhaps the issues were personal, but I suspect that the underlying problem was Clute’s devotion of so much time to civic politics and administration.  

The main point that stands out in Clute’s testimony was the frailty of his memory with respect to what were relatively recent and important civic affairs.  In response to simple, direct questions he was evasive, but his most common answer was some variant of “I don’t remember.”  However, Macdonald extracted from him testimony that a system of levies on gambling establishments operated in Rossland in 1902, that its purpose was to augment the city’s revenues and that not all of the funds collected went into the city’s coffers.  

I am sure the Kirkup had mixed emotions about the proceedings.  Given his attitudes to the rule of law, he must have had had sympathies with Morgan and his cause.  However, the criminal law in the case before him had to be upheld.  Macdonald had four other witnesses scheduled to testify, ex-police chief Ingram and three of the hotel people involved in the scheme. However, as soon as Clute’s testimony was completed the justices ignored it and peremptorily committed Morgan for trial at the next session of the Assize Court in Nelson.  

The end of the hearing had a slightly amusing afternote.  Apparently four potential witnesses for the defence  --  ex-police chief Ingram and three hotel operators  --  were instructed to appear before Townsend and Kirkup one day in the following week to be bound over (required) to appear at the Assize session hearing the case.  At the appointed time, the four witnesses did not appear so a warrant was sworn out for their arrest for contempt of court. They were duly arrested and brought to court, but their attorney argued that the justices no longer had jurisdiction. When Morgan was committed for trial, jurisdiction of the magistrate’s court over the potential witnesses ceased, transferred to the Supreme Court in Nelson.  The prisoners were released.  If they were to be required to testify the defence would have to subpoena them.  The exception was Ingram who, because he had already testified, was automatically required to appear at the Assize court.  He defied the court and left for Spokane and travels in the northwest United States until the trial was over.  

Lacking legal training, I am not in a position to assess the merits of the arguments advanced in the preliminary hearing by the two attorneys.  However, to a laymen’s mind, the proceedings had the character of a charade, with the decision made before the hearing began  -- perhaps on the advice of one of the protagonists, Judge Boultbee.  

The Ratepayers’ Petition and the Visit of Constable Bullock-Webster

A day or two after Burtt Morgan was charged with criminal libel, but before the preliminary hearing, the secretary of the Ratepayers Association wrote to the Attorney General requesting an official enquiry into the administration of justice in Rossland.  The secretary outlined the protection scheme for gamblers and provided a sworn affidavit from a direct participant, the operator of the Clifton Hotel.  However, he also introduced new accusations:  sworn affidavits attesting to bribes proffered to and accepted by Magistrate Boultbee to give favourable treatment in the cases of two men appearing before him charged with serious offences.  In one case it was asserted that $200 was paid to Boultbee so that a charge of indecent assault against one George Adams would be dismissed  --  and it was. In the other, it was alleged that $48 was paid to secure the discharge of one Nicola Schipano from a charge of theft --  and he was discharged.  Of course, the evidence, to which we are not privy, may have supported acquittal in each case and the allegations of bribery were never closely examined in court. Nonetheless, these affidavits introduce a new, and profoundly disturbing, element into the allegations of corruption in Rossland’s justice system. 

The Attorney general responded to the Ratepayers’ petition by sending the Chief Constable of the Nelson detachment of the provincial police, William H Bullock-Webster, to Rossland to investigate. His report was damning.  He interviewed the authors of the affidavits and concluded “I am disposed to give credence to the statements ….”  He also reported that “The feeling in Rossland against the Magistrate is very strong ...” and went on to cite two further instances of judicial abuse about which he had been told.  In the one case, when Mrs. Allen, proprietor of the Allen Hotel, for many years Rossland’s best known hotel, successfully sued Boultbee for a considerable sum of money that he owed to her, he threatened to prosecute her for bigamy if she demanded payment.  In the second case, it was alleged that $180 was paid to Boultbee to secure a light sentence for a man who had stolen copper matte from the Northport smelter and brought it to Rossland, presumably for sale.  The man was sentenced to one year in the Nelson prison, without hard labour, which was thought to be a light sentence for the offence.  Of course, without supporting evidence, these additional allegations belong under the heading of gossip, but they are consistent with the affidavits that sent Bullock-Webster to Rossland and so are deeply troubling. 

Bullock-Webster suggested that a Crown prosecutor be appointed to conduct the Daniel-Morgan trial, making it a crown prosecution rather than a private one.  This, he argued, would permit a broader range of evidence to be introduced.  A crown prosecutor would not necessarily object to questions by the defence attorney about other participants in the gambling protection scheme, questions to which a private prosecutor would almost certainly object, but answers to which would elucidate the extent of corruption in Rossland’s justice system.[38]  Perhaps this was the reason a crown prosecutor was not appointed  --  the government wanted the problem dealt with administratively and preferably quietly. 

The Trial

The trial; held in Nelson, was sensational. For the Nelson newspapers, it was a signal opportunity to subtly denigrate Rossland, Nelson’s rival for supremacy in the Kootenays.  Fortunately, for my purpose, they revelled in the details leaving a comprehensive description of the evidence and the trial.  

As at the preliminary hearing in Rossland, the facts of the allegations were not in dispute.  The words were there, on paper.  Morgan had stated in print that someone readily identifiable as Harry Daniel had “shared largely in the proceeds of (the) system of police blackmail” of gambling establishments and the statement had been widely circulated. The defence was also the same: this statement did not constitute criminal libel because there was justification:  either the statement was true or Morgan had “reasonable grounds for believing the statement to be true” and it was in the public interest that the information be made widely known.  At the trial this defence was unquestionably admissible.

The central characters in the gambling scheme, John Ingram, the ex-chief of police who orchestrated the arrangement and David W. Morgan, the bagman who collected and delivered the payments, were conveniently (for them) out of the country and not available to testify.  Despite the court order to appear at the trial in Nelson, Ingram had gone to Spokane soon after the preliminary hearing and remained in the United States, travelling, until well after the trial (when he expressed great indignation at the stains on his character as a result of gossip and the legal proceedings).  David Morgan was still in Butte, Montana.  However, the defence was able to produce first-hand witnesses who had participated in the gamblers protection scheme and who described the arrangement by which extra-legal payments were made by gambling establishments to the police authorities.  They also called ex-mayor Clute who explained the origins of the system.  Their evidence was powerful and riveting.  

The scheme originated in then-Mayor Clute’s plan to increase the city’s revenue and some part, of the proceeds went into the city’s coffers  --  but part went elsewhere.  No evidence was adduced to show that Harry Daniel profited personally.  However, there was clear evidence that he was part of the process.  For the judge and the jury that was sufficient;  a reasonable person could reasonably conclude that he did profit from the arrangement.  

From his charge to the jury it is clear that the judge believed that Morgan should be found not guilty of criminal libel. The judge instructed the jury that they were the ultimate judge of the facts of the case, but he went on to emphasize that 

“if you find what the defendant wrote was true and that he wrote it actuated by proper motives as a public duty, he performed that duty and deserves our thanks …”  

Noting that attacks of this type are often made on public officials, he went on to observe,

In this case one thing is quite certain, it was unlawful for the commissioners to enter into any arrangement with the gamblers.  Beyond all question, a system of police blackmail existed in Rossland.  

The judge also castigated the newspapers.  

One is almost ashamed to think …if the evidence is to be believed, that the two newspapers mentioned here, the Miner and the World, were bought up in order that their voices with regard to these matters under consideration here, should be muzzled.  …. (T)he people in that community will know now how to look upon such papers, which I say, are a disgrace to this community. 

Not surprisingly, the jury deliberated briefly and returned a verdict of not guilty.  Morgan was released and his bond returned and Daniel was not only faced with the embarrassment of losing the case but also was required to pay all of the costs.[39]  Morgan returned to Rossland to a triumphant reception at the train station.

The Aftermath

What is interesting about the consequences for those named in the gambling scandal during the Daniel-Morgan trial is that there were none.  Boultbee was dismissed as police magistrate several months later, but, although the incident undoubtedly added to the widespread dissatisfaction with him as magistrate, it is unlikely that the dismissal was a direct result of the Daniel-Morgan affair.  There was some question about the legitimacy of Daniel continuing as an alderman, but he rode out the controversy in belligerent style, and carried on.  Ingram returned to Rossland, unchastened and, aside from David Morgan, who had gone to Montana, the hoteliers carried on as usual.  None of the people involved, directly or indirectly, in the scheme of payoffs by gamblers faced criminal charges.  

The corruption allegations cried out for an official enquiry, either by the city or more appropriately by the province --  with the possibility of criminal charges following.  Neither government was willing to take the initiative, presumably afraid of the political repercussions of the revelations by the enquiry.  Let the public memory die quietly as the city and province moved on to other issues. However, soon after the trial, the Rossland Ratepayers’ Association  -- that shadowy organization with a fluid membership that sprang into existence whenever a contentious issue of civic policy arose  -- submitted petitions to both the city and the Attorney General urging that an official enquiry be held.  The city council wanted nothing to do with such an enquiry:  

a sum approximating $2500 or $3000 would be expended without the slightest chance of one cent being recovered and no result adequate to the outlay accomplished.   

In any case the magistrate was under provincial jurisdiction so the responsibility for any enquiry rested with the provincial government.  When the provincial authorities received the petition, they invoked what we can call the “Boultbee evasion.”  When Boultbee was accused of corruption by the Ratepayers’ Association he denied the accusations then suggested before enquiring into Boultbee’s performance 

That you make some enquiries … as to who comprise “Rossland Ratepayers Protective Association.”  The character of the few men (who provided affidavits about bribes allegedly accepted by Boultbee) is notorious and as to the Association the men named are fair examples of the members of that body --  a lot of irresponsible ward politicians disappointed that they did not get into office at the last municipal elections.  I do not believe that you can find on their roll of members the name of oneprominent and respectable rate-payer of the City.  

In other words, enquire into the bona fides of the complainants, not those of the object of their complaints.  In the same vein, the Attorney General wrote to the city stating that

If the council advises him that the petition emanates from bona fide ratepayers and such an investigation is really desired by the ratepayers as a whole, he will proceed to investigate.

The mayor asked the city solicitor for his opinion. The solicitor said that because he had defended Alderman Daniel in the trial he was disqualified from proffering legal advice to the council on the same matter.  He advised the council to seek outside legal opinion.  I have found no evidence that such an opinion was sought, but the Council did not conduct an investigation, nor did the Attorney General. Instead of an enquiry the council voted 4-3 to ask Alderman Daniel to obtain the opinion of the voters by resigning and seeking re-election in his ward.  This, the Alderman adamantly refused to do, proposing instead that the mayor resign.  Of course, the local newspapers did not mount a campaign to have an enquiry;  it was not in their interests to do so.  

Boultbee’s Dismissal

As reviewed in Essay 6, from the day of his appointment, Boultbee’s tenure as magistrate was punctuated by controversy. His dismissal continued the pattern. 

I have found no official explanation why Boultbee was dismissed.  He made a spirited appeal to the Attorney General to know the reasons, but if there was a reply it has not survived in the records deposited in the Archives. The police magistrate was a provincial appointee for whom, apart from paying his salary (the amount of which was set by the provincial government), the city council had no formal responsibility. Nonetheless, some local consultation would have been normal.  In this case the city council as such was not consulted in advance.  It was simply informed of the dismissal in a letter from the Provincial Secretary that did not reveal the reasons for the decision --  a procedure that elicited heated discussion at a council meeting. Magistrate Boultbee was in the public gallery.  However, it is clear that the then mayor, John Dean, was consulted by the Attorney General.  The mayor teased the council, asserting that “he knew much more about the subject, but that he wouldn’t go into it further while Mr. Boultbee was present” and a feisty John Boultbee refused to leave.  Some months later, in December, 1903, James Macdonald, the new Member of the Legislative Assembly for Rossland, gave notice of his intention to introduce a motion in the Legislature calling for the publication of all correspondence between the mayor and council of Rossland and the government relating to the dismissal of Magistrate Boultbee.  This alarmed Mayor Dean.  Concerned that if his letter in support of the dismissal was released in isolation it would make him the scapegoat in the public’s eyes, he asked that if his letter was released that other letters to the same effect be made available at the same time.  He noted that “there is abundance of protests and requests for his dismissal in your Dept. … by all shades of Politics,” including a protest from MLA MacDonald.  There were enough protests “to justify the Gov’t, and to fully warrant my action.”  This Dean letter came on the heels of an earlier one requesting that Boultbee’s salary be reduced from $150 to $125 per month.  Although justified as part of a general retrenchment policy by the city council, including reductions in other salaries, Dean later noted that it would have had the incidental effect of “making the Office unacceptable to him.” It would have been, in effect, a dismissal.  The salary was reduced but Boultbee did not resign.[40]

Although lurking in the background, it seems unlikely that Boultbee’s dismissal was a direct response to the corruption allegations that emerged in the Daniel-Morgan trial.  The time lag is simply too great.  The court case was heard in Nelson in May 1903 and Boultbee was not dismissed until October 24 and the dismissal was not effective until November 30.  It is even more unlikely that the dismissal was because of his decisions in the Geiser case.  That case had been tried in 1901.  

Boultbee’s own assessment was:  “Of course it is a political matter,” to which he blithely added “It could be nothing else in the world.”  His allegation of politics at work may have merit.  Boultbee was well known as a Liberal whose appointment by a short-lived Liberal government was sharply contested in the press and in public; he was dismissed by a resurgent and vengeful Conservative government under Richard McBride.  However, there may also have been a significant personal element in the dismissal.  The then mayor of Rossland, A.S. Goodeve, disagreed with Boultbee’s assessment of the situation in Rossland at the outset of the 1900 shutdown of the mines and wrote to the Attorney General advising that the appointment of a force of special constables was not necessary.  The then Attorney General, the radical Liberal Joseph Martin, was also outraged at the magistrate’s action, demanded an explanation, but did nothing and was soon replaced by a more conservative minister.  Boultbee carried on.  Soon after, Goodeve again wrote to the Attorney General recommending that Boultbee be replaced.  Apparently his favourite candidate was another conservative Rossland lawyer, John S Clute, who was an alderman in both of Goodeve’s terms as mayor (1899 and 1900) and would himself later serve two terms as mayor (1902 and 1904).  Again, nothing happened.  However, when Clute became mayor in 1902 he carried on the campaign against Boultbee and also wrote to the Attorney General urging that he be replaced.  

A provincial election occurred in 1903. The Conservative candidate in the Rossland riding was A.S. Goodeve and, given his earlier successes in municipal politics, the Conservative government expected him to win easily.  In anticipation, he was appointed to the cabinet as Provincial Secretary and Minister of Education.  A couple of days later the Rossland Miner in a bold headline asked “Is Goodeve Pledged to Clute?” The newspaper reported a rumour that when (not if) Goodeve was elected Boultbee would be replaced as magistrate by Clute.  Goodeve refused to comment, but the Miner regarded it as significant that Clute rushed to Victoria to engage in “matters political” and returned to Rossland in company with Goodeve, for whom he then campaigned vigorously (“doing stunts in Mr. Goodeve’s interests”). Things happened quickly.  Soon after Goodeve’s appointment and before the election Boultbee was dismissed, although Clute was not appointed (eventually another popular Rossland lawyer, William J Nelson, received the appointment). As was standard procedure, the dismissal letter was signed by the Provincial Secretary  --  A. S. Goodeve.  He had his revenge.  The Conservative government of Richard McBride won the election, but, paradoxically, Goodeve was not elected;  his Liberal opponent, J A Macdonald, won quite handily.  Goodeve hoped to retain his ministerial appointment by inducing a Conservative member from a safe Conservative seat to resign so he could seek a seat in a safe by-election, but that did not happen.  A successor was soon appointed and Goodeve resigned.  The dismissal of Boultbee may have been his most notable achievement in his short term as Provincial Secretary.  


After his tenure as magistrate ended, Boultbee established a legal practice in Rossland, again advertising himself as a barrister, presumably riding on his status in Manitoba because he still had not been appointed to the British Columbia bar.  There is no evidence about how successful his practice was.  As a last gesture, the federal Liberal government appointed him returning officer for the Kootenays in October, 1904, a patronage position at which he seems to have worked assiduously.  

John Boultbee’s wife died of pneumonia in December, 1903, shortly after he was dismissed as magistrate, and he died in Rossland on August 23, 1906 of Bright’s disease, a serious kidney ailment. 




Nellie Lake, who grew up in a life of luxury, was almost 40 when she arrived in Rossland in April, 1902, to meet her fiancé, Wilfred Graham.  She had come all the way from England, intending to spend the rest of her life with him, but Graham was not at the station to meet her. She checked into a room that he had rented for her at a boarding house, but he did not appear.  She enquired about him at the post office where she was told that, although he received letters regularly, the clerks had never seen Graham.  His letters were always retrieved by a man named Collins, Graham’s close friend. Where was her fiancé, the elusive Wilfred Graham?  Was he at work?  Had he left Rossland?  Had something drastic happened to him?  


The story begins in Truro, the commercial and administrative capital of the county of Cornwall, England, where, at the turn of the century, Ellen (Nellie) Lake lived with her aged father and mother (in 1901 he was 82 and she was 77).  John Lake had been a miller and flour merchant --  president of John Lake and Son, a business that he had founded many years earlier.  His son, Nellie’s considerably older brother, Thomas Harry Lake, was general manager. For many years the company prospered and in the 1870s and 1880s a wealthy John Lake was a very important person in Truro.  He was very active in the Methodist Church and had donated both money and land for the establishment of a Methodist school;  he was an officer in agricultural societies; a founder and trustee of a local building society;  a co-owner (with his son) of a publishing house; and an active politician as an officer of the local Liberal party and for many years as a member of the city council. He was prosperous, well respected and influential, living in a large house with live-in servants.  

Then disaster struck!  In 1891 what had been a highly successful private partnership between John Lake and his son had been converted into a limited liability corporation, with just under half the shares sold outside the family.  By 1893 the company began to incur losses, which it blamed on “market conditions.”  The losses were so serious that by 1895 the shareholders contemplated selling the company. Despite making small profits in some subsequent years, by 1898 John Lake and Son was in such bad financial condition that it was unable to satisfy all of the demands of creditors.  Sometime along the way, the manager, John’s son, Harry Lake, desperate to turn the business around, made some unfortunate business decisions, entering into speculative transactions that the company’s auditor regarded as inappropriate, if not suspicious.  Despite a spirited attempt to explain his actions, Lake was forced to resign. Soon, one creditor took steps to force the company into bankruptcy and then an avalanche of potential suits by creditors threatened.  To forestall the expense and intrusive investigation involved in bankruptcy proceedings, the shareholders voted to liquidate the company voluntarily.  

The liquidator’s task was to find the means to satisfy the claims of creditors insofar as that was possible.  One source of funds was the sale of the company and its physical assets, which was done in June, 1900.  However, there was another important source of funds.  When John Lake and Son had been incorporated as a limited liability company in 1891, the paid-up value of shares was set at £5.  However, of this, only £3 10s was paid in,[41]leaving the shareholders with an obligation to pay a further £1 10s per share if called for.  The liquidator issued such a call.  The liquidator estimated that creditors would receive a bit more than 10s on the pound;  the shareholders would get nothing.  For major shareholders like John Lake and his son, this was a serious financial shock. In addition to losing their main sources of income as shareholders and officers of the company, they had to dip into their capital to answer the call.  For the son, the required payment forced him to seek refuge in bankruptcy.[42]  The impact on John Lake is not documented, but, although not as disastrous as bankruptcy, it must also have been severe.    

John Lake was part owner of at least one other business, Lake and Lake, publishers and stationers.  I don’t know how profitable it was, but its sale in 1903 must have provided some funds for his retirement  -- although it was too late to provide help to Nellie.  He may also have had other sources of income, but it is clear that his personal finances were severely diminished, as was his status in the community.  Perhaps the clearest and most pitiable indicator of the family’s new financial situation was that at age 38 or 39, Nellie had taken a position as a “lady help”  --  a domestic servant  --  in the home of an elderly man, William J Paxton, in Croydon, a suburb of London. For some reason his much younger wife was not present when the census was taken, but she was a draper  --  a dealer in fabric and clothing  --  and ran her business out of the family home.[43]  Paxton had five offspring living with him, ranging in age from 25 to 14, the youngest ones at school and the others working at home in their mother’s business. Nellie had to manage the family's domestic affairs.  The position of “lady help” represented a dramatic come-down in affluence and social status for Nellie.    

As she contemplated her future after the 1898 failure of the family business, Nellie must have had an acute sense of desperation.  She was in her late 30s, well beyond the usual age for marriage, with no man in her life and the family fortune largely dissipated.  She was looking forward to a lonely life of aging spinsterhood on the edge of poverty.  Her parents were old, likely with not many years left, and using what remained of the family assets to support themselves and a servant.  John was then 83 and Mary 78[44].  Nothing in her earlier life had prepared Nellie for an independent, self-sustaining existence.  There is no evidence that she had any practical training, and occupations for unskilled, middle-aged women were limited.  With the collapse of the family business, if she had to make her own way in life, it would be as a domestic servant, possibly far away from friends and family.  


The timing is uncertain, but one day  -- probably in 1898, possibly in early 1899 --  Nellie received a letter from someone she did not know, a Wilfred Graham, who said that he had been admiring her from a distance for some time and wanted to meet.  Wilfred did not want to go to her house (he did not want to meet her father) and for her to go to his house would have been seriously improper (and, as it turned out, seriously embarrassing).  They met at a corner of a public park, a tryst that they repeated many times --  under circumstances, she admitted, that “could not be construed as being strictly proper.”  Eventually, Wilfred asked her to marry him, but first he was going to Canada to make his fortune in the gold fields.  When he was settled, he would send for her.  For Nellie this must have appeared as a solution to her personal crisis. Here was a man who said that he loved her, who would provide companionship as they both aged and who would support her financially.  She accepted his proposal.  

What Nellie did not know was that Wilfred Graham was actually Walter Collins. The reason that he did not want to meet her father was probably that the father, John Lake, would have recognized him.  As Graham, Collins claimed to work in the mines around Truro, but according to the 1881 census he was an apprentice grocer and in 1891 he was employed by a grocer in Truro.  John Lake was a flour merchant who must have supplied local grocery stores with flour. He would have recognized Collins as a grocery store clerk and known that he was a married man with six children, hardly a possible match for his daughter.  He would have ended the liaison quickly and forcefully.  

Graham To Rossland

Graham left for Canada in September, 1899, sailing from Liverpool for Montreal on the steam ship Scotsman.  He then made his way to Rossland.  The couple kept up an amatory correspondence and Nellie, then a domestic servant in Croydon, prepared to depart for Canada.  Then she received a sad letter from a Donald McFail, who said he was a fishing guide, informing her that Graham had been seriously injured in an accidental shooting while on a fishing trip.  This was followed by a cable that Graham had died.  Distraught and desperate, Nellie wrote to McFail seeking more information about the shooting and the fate of Graham, but received no reply. She then wrote to the Rossland Miner asking if it had any information about the incident and about Graham.  The Miner placed a note in the paper asking if anyone had relevant information.  Graham replied, visited the Miner office to claim Nellie’s letter and again wrote to Nellie explaining that McFail was a nasty person who liked to play tricks on people.  Of course, McFail was a fiction;  it was Graham who was playing tricks.  Apparently he had decided to end the relationship in a dramatic and conclusive way, and then changed his mind.  He apologized for McFail’s deceit (but not for his own) and the long distance romance was renewed.  

Nellie To Rossland

In late 1901 or early 1902, ending an affectionate letter with the single word “come,” Graham invited Nellie to join him in Rossland where they would settle down to a married life together.  Nellie’s father agreed to pay her way to Canada, but, given his financial situation, he could not provide for expenses beyond that.  When she arrived in Rossland she had little money and Graham was not waiting for her at the train station.  She took a room at a boarding house that he had arranged beforehand  --  but he did not show up.  The next day she began to search for him, finally enquiring at the post office. The clerk informed her that Graham had received letters regularly (presumably hers), but the staff had never seen him.  His mail was always collected by his good friend, Collins, but recently, on Collins instructions, it had been placed in the postal box of Morrison and Bryenton, a grocery shop on Columbia Avenue that Collins frequented.  The clerk advised Nellie to talk to the grocers.  

At Morrison and Bryenton’s she discovered that they did not know Graham, but they were well acquainted with Collins who was then in Greenwood, perhaps working in a mine, perhaps working in the smelter, perhaps unemployed.  The shop keepers were very kind to her and insisted that she stay in a nearby cottage that they had available.  She made telephone contact with Collins and immediately recognized that Collins was Graham  --  or rather, that Graham was Collins.  He agreed to return to Rossland to meet with her.


Collins was described as:  

… a middle-aged man, brown and tanned from exposure to the sun of many climes, slouchy and ungainly in manner and walk, round shouldered from years of toil in the mines, with sunken cheeks and furtive eyes.

He was well known in some circles in Rossland and Trail  --  “highly respected” and “regarded as a model of virtue.”  He was a member of the local militia detachment, the Rocky Mountain Rangers, and an officer of the Baptist Church, where he occasionally filled in for the preacher on Sundays. Apparently, he had developed a strong attachment to the city.  When a well-known Cornish labour agitator was returning to Cornwall with stories of riot and disorder in Rossland, Collins jumped to the defence of his adopted city. He wrote to the Cornwall Royal Gazette warning that the man’s allegations of were gross calumnies.  Instead, he said,

It would be difficult to find a quieter of more law abiding mining camp anywhere than this City of Rossland, which would lose little if anything by comparison with some of the mining towns at home. 

Residents of Cornwall who had relatives at Rossland should not be alarmed at this man’s stories of the dangers lurking there.  

Nellie’s allegations of lies and deceit must have come as a great surprise to Collins’ friends.  

Arrest and Trial

The police became interested in the situation.  Rossland police officers met the train on which Collins was supposed to arrive, but, in spite of one of the officers (who claimed to know him) boarding the train at its first stop at the water tower in the south side of the city, they missed him.  However, acting on information somehow obtained, he was arrested at 2:30 in the morning at the cottage that Morrison and Bryenton had provided to Nellie Lake. When the police entered the room, Collins was kneeling by her bed, pleading for forgiveness and asking her to accompany him to Greenwood.  At that time, she said, she was “on the point of yielding.”  He had persuasion down to a fine art  --  or she was overcome with desperation.  

Collins was arrested and taken into custody on several charges of forgery. A preliminary hearing was held a few days later, presided over by Magistrate Boultbee. The main witness was Nellie herself. She identified Collins as the man she knew as Graham, gave straightforward testimony about the affair and her decision to come to Rossland and produced documentary evidence in the form of a packet of letters from Graham.  The defence attorney, J. A. Macdonald attempted to prove that Nellie knew that Collins/Graham was married, that she had met his wife and that despite all that she was determined to come out to Rossland even though he had attempted to discourage her.  Nellie acknowledged that a Mrs. Collins had contacted her stating that she had found a letter from Graham addressed to Nellie in Collins’ coat pocket after he had left for Canada.  Neither woman knew how the letter got there and Nellie did not associate Graham with Collins.  She also acknowledged that Collins had told her that there was a “barrier” to their marriage without disclosing the nature of the barrier.  She testified that she was later assured that the barrier had been removed.  She assumed that it was a prior marriage and that his first wife had died.  The testimony made her seem like a desperate, naïve woman.

Despite Macdonald’s argument that the case would be laughed out of court, Magistrate Boultbee concluded that there was sufficient evidence on two of the four charges to bind Collins over for trial before a higher court.  The other two charges were dismissed.

An application for bail was granted by a county court judge, with a bond of $500, half on Collins’ own recognizance and half by other persons.  Apparently, Collins’ friends had turned against him. No one could be found to pledge the required $250, so he remained in custody.  Rather than wait for the next session of the assize court in Nelson, Collins elected a speedy trial, by judge alone, in county court.  However, when the case appeared before Judge Forin, he wondered if this was not properly a private prosecution rather than a criminal case and adjourned the hearing to obtain a statement from the Attorney General whether he wanted to pursue the prosecution.  Perhaps because he doubted whether this was really a criminal case, the judge altered the bail conditions, allowing the full $500 to be on Collins’ own recognizance.  

The Escape

Upon his release from custody, Collins went to Grand Forks to work.  When, a week later, word was received from Victoria that the prosecution should continue, Collins could not be found.  He had fled the jurisdiction, presumably to the United States and most likely to Spokane.  Collins’ bond was forfeit, but, because the bond was simply a claim against him, unless he returned to the district, the forfeiture was an academic matter.  Nellie Lake was not to receive the satisfaction of seeing her erstwhile lover put on trial for his deceptions.  Impoverished and woefully unhappy, she remained in Rossland, trying to make a living working at one of the few respectable jobs available to an unattached woman  --  as a household servant.  As at Croydon, this represented a complete reversal of status for her, and apparently it did not work well.  She had difficulty holding a position, possibly because she was accustomed to being the employer of servants rather than the servant, perhaps because of an alleged drug habit.  Eventually she announced that she was going to Spokane for medical treatment.  She did not return to Rossland.

That is the sad story of Nellie Lake.  But was it really so sad?  Perhaps because of the circumstances under which Collins was apprehended, the rumour spread that Nellie did not go to Spokane for medical attention, but to join the ever-persuasive Collins.  It was further alleged that she was addicted to laudanum  --  opium in an alcohol solution  --  and that her habit was very heavy. The Miner also noted that Collins was also addicted to the opiate and suggested that “this was the mutual ground upon which they first met.”  There is, of course, no way to verify the drug allegations.  They may be malicious gossip  --  but who knows?  Opium was legal and readily available in Rossland at the time.  

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any trace of either Collins or Lake after her departure for Spokane.  Did they go their own ways?  Did they change their names and settle down to a new life together in Spokane or somewhere else?  Was Nellie’s story of lies and deceit simply a shaggy dog tale, designed to cover up an affair with a married man?  Was there a happy ending? Or, did the whole affair end in tragedy?



[a]Kingsmill’s biographical sketch of Kirkup’s early life is probably authoritative.  It is part of his First History of Rossland,published in 1897 when Kirkup was still active in Rossland {Kingsmill, 1897 #76}.  It must have been based on an interview with Kirkup.  Barlee’s biography was written much later as an issue of his unique, popular history magazine, Canada West {Barlee, 1974 #74}.Its sources are not named, but it clearly draws on Kingsmill, augmented by other (unnamed) sources.  I cannot judge its authoritativeness.  Whittaker relates tales of Kirkup’s policing of Rossland, probably based on well-known legends but perhaps drawing on newspaper records (Whittaker was editor of the Rossland Miner) {Whittaker, 1949 #75, pp. 21-22}. Stonier-Newman’s history of the Provincial Police devotes several pages to Kirkup at Yale, but tells us surprisingly little about his later activities {Stonier-Newman, 1991 #4}.  The most recent biographical sketch by Kenning is based on previous published works {Kenning, 2011a #61}.  

[b]Kirkup’s application was succinct:

The Attorney General:  Sir

I have the honour to make application for the appointment to the position lately vacated by Superintendent Roycraft.

I have the honor to be, Sir

Your obdt. Servant

J Kirkup


If there was any supporting documentation, it has not survived, but there is nothing about the letter to suggest that any was submitted. Other letters of application included a brief summary of the applicant’s career and some included reference letters.

[c]That Kirkup had been a professional “house builder” was not forgotten. While posted at Sproat, he was briefly recalled to Revelstoke to repair the house owned by the government, putting on “a roof of modern shingles and otherwise improving the Government residence.”  

[d]The “county” was a geographical area designated for the administration of law, not for other civil purposes.  The province was divided into seven counties, each of which had its County Court. Kootenay, east and west, was one of the counties.   

[e]Some damage must have been done in any case.  Despite Hussey’s “private and confidential” note on the letter to Flewin, word of the impending transfer leaked out.  At least two newspapers reported that John Kirkup was to be transferred to Port Simpson.  

[f]In October, 1895, a curious prospector drove his pick into a rock at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Spokane Street.  The broken rock revealed a promising showing of ore.  There was a rush to stake claims, but it turned out that the rock was part of the pre-existing Alice claim.  As was so often the case, the promise of the initial find was not borne out by further exploration.  The integrity of Rossland’s main commercial street was preserved.  One of the early public works undertaken by the new city was to blast away the nearby bluffs that partially blocked the western end of the street, but rich mineralization was not found in the process.  The Alice never developed into a producing mine.

[g]The story was originally published in Harper’s Magazine but was reprinted in many newspapers throughout the United States, creating the enduring legend of John Kirkup.  Among the papers that I have noted as carrying the story are the Los Angeles Herald, the Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California), Cambridge City Tribune (Cambridge City, Indiana), Laredo Times (Laredo, Texas), Davenport Morning Tribune (Davenport, Iowa) and Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kansas).  The list goes on {Chronicling America, 2013 #265}.  

[h]The relative, Edward Hooson, was born in Wales about 1844, also part of a farming family.  I have not attempted to trace the connections between the Hoosons in Berkshire and those in Wales, but the names suggest a family link. For example, there was another John Edward Hooson in Wales, a school inspector in Cardiff.  There was at least one other Hooson family in British Columbia at that time, with a quarry business on Saturna Island.  This family may have been an offshoot of Edward Hooson.

[i]Kirkup had been on the police force in Victoria hence his identification as a Victoria man.  The Consul was incorrect in saying no one had been killed yet.  The McLaughlin incident had occurred several months earlier.  He went to Rossland before the railway was in and to get there had ridden in a lumber wagon over seven miles of rough, mountain trail.  

[j]  Like the American consul, the reporter described the difficulty of getting to Rossland.  It involved 

A climb of 2,000 feet and a walk of seven miles from the Columbia River….

The road winds along Trail Creek, or clings to the steep hillside sloping down to that stream.  Leaving the Columbia it plunges into the deep, cool recesses of a cedar swamp. One can ride the seven miles upon an ore wagon, but of those who choose that mean of transportation, few linger to the end of the journey,  The wagons creep along over this swampy, corduroyed road, and the jolting is so thorough that most travellers prefer to walk, even though the climb is steep and continuous. 


[11]The citizenship requirement caused some consternation, but not because it was felt that American citizens should be allowed to vote.  Many of the residents of Rossland were British subjects who had migrated to mining camps in the United States before coming to Rossland.  American mining laws required them to make a good-faith declaration of intention to take out American citizenship when they became eligible as a condition of obtaining a mining license.  There was concern that making such a declaration in effect abrogated their British citizenship.  However, legal opinion held that they remained British subjects unless they had actually taken out American citizenship.  That was an alienating act and they were no longer British subjects. 

[12]A popular candidate was C.H. Macintosh, then Governor of the Northwest Territories and recently arrived in Rossland as local agent for the British American Corporation.  He was ineligible because of the residency requirement.  Other people with considerable support were  Dr. Bowes, a physician who operated a private hospital and was very active in the community, and Ross Thompson, the pioneer Rosslander who had pre-empted the old townsite that was the heart of the city and after whom the city was named. 

[13]Since his arrival in the city in 1895, Lalonde had operated a highly successful boot and shoe store on the main commercial street of Rossland.  He was chair of the three-person committee that was a nascent school board and a member of the Ratepayers Association and was one of the organizers of the famous winter carnival.  He was also an organizer of the popular snowshoe club, led some of its evening tramps to sites around the city and helped organize the popular “storm the fort” spectacle during the carnival.  He had paid for equipment for the fire department out of his own pocket. He was a thoroughly responsible citizen --  a human asset in any community.

[14]The committee nominated nine candidates for alderman, as permitted by the relevant legislation and recommended by the incorporation committee.  However, the Letters Patent permitted only six aldermen.  

[15]The Record lost its monopoly when management had a bitter dispute with the Typographical Workers Union.  However, when the dispute was settled the monopoly was restored.  

[16]Each city was required to have a licensing commission consisting of the mayor, at first the police magistrate but later an alderman and a provincial government appointee.  It was charged with reviewing all applications for bar licenses, determine whether the applicants and facilities were suitable and then granting or refusing the license.  As was common practice at the time, in Rossland the Police Commission and the Licensing Commission were identical.

[17]The criminal code defined a common gaming house as any place “kept by a person for gain to which persons resort for the purpose of playing at any game of chance,” including any game “in which a bank is kept by one or more of the players … or any game is played the chances of which are not alike favourable to all players.”  A friendly game of poker in a private residence was legal; the objective was to prohibit the professional gambler who could systematically separate a miner or other worker from his hard earned wages in a game in which the odds were systematically against him.  The legislation did not explicitly mention slot machines, leaving a grey area that was of some importance in a court case in Rossland involving allegations of police misconduct. 

[18]This was not the bluff that constricted the west end of Columbia Avenue.  Some rock was removed from the bluff at this time, but its complete removal occurred a few of years later.  The rock pile in question was at the eastern end of Columbia Avenue and was 10 feet high and 100 x 80 feet in area.

[19]One 1890 City Directory lists him among the barristers in Vancouver.  That was clearly an error.  Another City Directory correctly identifies him as a law clerk in the office of John Boultbee.  

[20]It was also reported that city council recommended John Kirkup for the position of police magistrate.  If true, this is puzzling, partly because it seems unlikely that the city would nominate two people for the same position and partly because it would be completely out of character given the mayor's social agenda as discussed in Essay 2.  Did they make this recommendation as a gesture, knowing that it would not be implemented?   

[21]There is evidence that the local lockup was being misused.  Thus, in late April, 1897, it was reported that there were 17 prisoners in the lockup; it was designed for four.  

[22]The law had changed so that the Police Commission comprised the mayor and two commissioners appointed by the provincial government.  

[23]There may have been several editions, but only one seems to have survived.  It was originally published in1888 and has been reprinted by the British Museum as part of its series “General Historical Collections.”  

[24]The reference to “Balkis” is to a mining company whose directorate Bellairs was attempting to unseat.  

[25].  The meeting in question was of the Balkis company, which had mining properties in South Africa.  Bellairs was spokesman for a group of dissident shareholders who were attempting to replace the management of the company.  Although Bellairs’ oratory may have been sparkling, management was in firm control of the company and the motion of censure was defeated.    

[26]I have been unable to find any information about Andrea Woodford.  I wonder if this name was a pseudonym. The liner that arrived at St. John late in December was the Beaver Line ship Lake Huron.  Unless they were travelling under assumed names, Bellairs and Woodford were not among the passengers in first or second class.  The passenger list for the Lake Huron is not available in the Archives Canada collection.  The list published in the St. John Sun shows first (saloon) and second (intermediate) class passengers by name, but also notes that there were “thirty-three steerage passenger.”  Bellairs and Woodford were not listed among the first and second class passengers. If they travelled steerage, it would have been a major come-down for Bellairs who was used to first class treatment. 

[27]The Premier sent the letter to the Attorney General who wrote to Bellairs.  The letter to Bellairs and his reply, if any, are not in the files. Apparently the British Prime Minister asked the consul at San Francisco to investigate.  I don’t know what he did.  

[28]In the censuses of 1881 and 1891 the twins were recorded as simple Sybil and Irene.  However, when the Weekly Bulletin Financial Agency was incorporated in 1894 two of the initial shareholders were Sybil Constance and Irene Erica Bellairs, both “spinsters.”  

[29]To be registered on the list of voters a person had to be male, at British subject, at least 21 years of age, resident in British Columbia for 6 previous months and resident in the riding for the previous month.  He could not be Asian or Native Indian.  

[30]The family historian is incorrect in another minor detail.  He or she says that Boultbee was the police magistrate.  The office did not exist until the city was incorporated. Boultbee became police magistrate in May, 1886.

[31]As a footnote to the end of his career as police magistrate in Vancouver, after he resigned as magistrate and just before the election for the new magistrate-solicitor, he was asked to work with the city solicitor to advise a committee preparing amendments to the charter of the city.  He was to be paid $25 for his services.  After the amendments were drafted he was retained at $20 per day to carry the proposed amendments to Victoria and present them to the government.  This may add credence to the story that he originally drafted the Vancouver charter.  

[32]In a sworn affidavit Horn testified that he had immigrated from Poland in July, 1898.  Initially he lived with a sister in Medicine Hat, then he worked in Cranbrook, then on the railway at Grand Forks and Trail and then at the Trail smelter and the Le Roi mine before going to Northport to work in the smelter as a strike breaker.  

[33]After he had been convicted of intimidation and before his appeal had been heard, Beamish charged a local liveryman with assault.  The nature of the assault was not reported.  The case was heard by Justice of the Peace Townsend.  Beamish prosecuted the case himself, apparently in a most entertaining fashion.  It was reported that

… a great trial ensued.  Finally the judge declared that he would fine Linberg $5 and costs for not licking Beamish when he had a chance of doing so.  The case attracted a large audience and created much amusement.  

[34]Private secretaries, servants or domestics of foreigners resident in Canada, skilled workmen who “cannot otherwise be obtained,” professional actors, artists lecturers or singers and personal or domestic servants.  

[35]Following the appointment of the enforcement office, the Labour Gazette,official publication of the federal Department of Labour, regularly printed tables of “Alleged Violations of the Alien Labour Act,” that summarized the government’s actions when a violation was confirmed. Publication of this table ceased when the new act was passed in May, 1901.  

[36]British Columbian courts inferior to the Supreme Court were rated according to the maximum penalty that could be enforced.  For County Courts the limit was $1,000;  for police magistrate’s courts, $200.  Under the original Alien Labour Act cases could not be prosecuted in a police court. 

[37]Ingram again went to work in the mining industry.  In 1905 he was in charge if the powder house for the War Eagle Mine and was killed in a mysterious explosion that rocked the city.  

[38]Bullock Webster’s words were:


Mr. J. A. Macdonald of Rossland is defending, and if sufficient latitude is permitted to him in introducing evidence tending to substantiate this defence (of justification), there will necessarily be elicited facts which will bear on the charges made against all the officials. If, however, the parties interested are represented by private counsel, instead of the proceeding being a Crown prosecution, any evidence not affecting Daniels will be excluded upon objection being made.   


[39]Following the preliminary hearing, Daniel’s attorney wrote to the Deputy Attorney General arguing that because the events had occurred while Daniels was acting in his capacity as a member of the police commission, a body appointed by the provincial government, the government should bear the costs of his legal actions.  I have no evidence that the argument was accepted in Victoria. 

[40]The provincial government must have been puzzled.  Only a few months earlier, the previous council had supported an increase in Boultbee’s salary from $125 to $150 a month. 

[41]A pound was 20 shillings.  £3 10s was 3 ½ pounds

[42]His bankruptcy was not approved, but suspended for two years, leaving him at the mercy of his creditors. 

[43]Why she was not captured in the 1901 census is unclear.  She was alive and was reported in the 1911 census, still living in Croydon and engaged in the same business with some of her children.  William had died in 1902, but Anne survived until 1922.

[44]In fact they defied the probabilities, John living to the age of 90 in 1909 and Mary to the age of 86 in 1910.