T.W. Paterson column: Intensive manhunt isn’t B.C.’s first, conclusion

The tempo picked up May 3, 1912, when ranch hand Charles Truran stumbled into the wanted men’s camp.

The intensive weeks-long search for two suspected murderers that has spread from northern B.C. to northern Manitoba recalls the year-and-half-long saga of the outlaws Moses Paul and Paul Spintlum. The second of two parts concludes out story.

PART ONE: 107-year-old news account recalls one of the greatest manhunts in B.C. history

As retired deputy Commissioner Cecil Clark of the B.C. Provincial Police noted several years ago: “…As successive generations of Cariboo lawmen will testify, it’s no easy matter to run an Indian [sic] to earth in that part of the world. Especially if he has friends to supply him with grub and fresh horses. You can couple this to the fact that no foxier pair existed than Paul and Spintlum.”

Consequently, despite the healthy rewards ($1,000 for Paul, $500 For Spintlum) offered by the authorities that October, fall and winter of 1911 passed without their capture. Then it was the spring of 1912. Previously, Const. McMillan had been replaced by Const. T. Lee of Savona who, in turn, had been replaced by “Mr. A. Kindness, late of the Vancouver Police Force [sic]” as reported by the Journal Dec. 23, 1911.

The tempo picked up on the morning of May 3, 1912, when ranch hand Charles Truran stumbled into the wanted men’s camp. Truran immediately recognized them, but pretended to be unconcerned and “managed to leave their camp without arousing their suspicion”. Then, whipping his horse about, he galloped back to his employer’s ranch to give the alarm. Alerted to the outlaws’ campsite, Const. Kindness and a five-man posse charged in pursuit.

Accompanied by Const. Forest Loring, George Carson, James Boyd, Bill Ritchie and Charles Truran, Kindness headed for the Pollard ranch, where Charles Pollard and his son John assumed the place of Truran, who’d decided to retire.

For miles, the posse stalked the outlaws “through a heavy brush country,” steadily gaining on them. After six miles, they overtook the pair’s abandoned horses and camping gear. At this development, the posse took new heart, assuming that the fugitives had heard their approach, abandoned their exhausted horses and proceeded on foot.

Const. Kindness and Loring approached the animals first, the others being just behind them on the trail. Kindness had drawn his rifle from its scabbard when a shot shattered the stillness, one of the Pauls having fired from his hiding place behind a log. The bullet slammed into Kindness’s chest; the astonished Loring reported that his colleague doubled up in his saddle and, hands clutching his chest, cried, “Oh, you beggar!”

As more shots followed, Loring whipped his horse around and retreated for cover. Moments later, as he leapt from his horse, a bullet shattered his forearm. But, upon gaining the shelter of a tree, he drew his revolver and returned the outlaws’ fire. When, upon seeing one of them jump from behind his log, he “fired at him with [his] six-shooter, pursuing him for some distance as he ran.

“The posse were scattered in the dense brush and although several shots were fired at the murderers none took effect. On returning to the place where they were ambushed they found young Kindness laying on his back, stone dead. He had been shot through the heart. It was useless to pursue the Indians in the dense foliage covering the hills, so the party divided, some staying to watch for possible signs of the murderers whilst the others came to Clinton for reinforcements.”

Not surprisingly, word of Kindness’s murder threw the town “into a great state of excitement,” the Journal reporting that the young Scotsman, who’d been assigned to Clinton but weeks before, had been “a fine specimen of manhood and deep regret is felt amongst his friends at the sudden taking off of such a promising young officer”.

A fresh posse was immediately organized and dispatched to the ambush scene but returned without accomplishing anything. In the meantime, Const. W.L. Fernie arrived from Kamloops with a special detachment of trackers who’d participated, several years before, in the hunt for the notorious American train robber Bill Miner. In Clinton, most agreed that it would take at least “30 good men” to bring the killers to bay due to the obvious fact that they’d been helped with food and ammunition by their friends, and that they were expected to fight to the death when finally cornered.

As the government increased the rewards to $3,000 for both men ($1,500 each, Spintlum now enjoying equal billing with Paul), Const. Fernie’s first move was to arrest all relatives and friends of the fugitives, thereby reducing their hopes of securing provisions. (Need it be said that this tactic would never work today?—TW)

Then Fernie’s squad of veteran trackers hit the trail. For three wearying weeks they dogged the outlaws’ movements. Paul and Spintlum exhausted every trick in the book to throw them off but, slowly, the posse gained on the murderers who were forced to abandon much of their equipment and supplies to make better time.

Despite such tactics as the outlaws separating, utilizing the tracks of wild horses, and reversing the shoes of their ponies, the posse held on with the tenacity of bloodhounds. When the two Pauls reached Bonaparte Creek, Fernie and company were right behind them. But, at Kelly Lake, they reached harder ground and their trail petered out. For all of their efforts, the police trackers couldn’t follow them any farther and Fernie had to turn back.

By then it was again autumn, the manhunt having passed the year mark, with the outlaws still loose after two further killings. As 1912 neared its close, the authorities, desperate, decided to enlist the support of the region’s tribal chieftains. To this end, in mid-November, T.J. Cummiskey, Inspector of Indian Agencies at Vernon, “summoned together three Indian chiefs at Clinton”.

Writing of the meeting some six months after, Cummiskey termed the gathering “one of the most important events in the year’s work,” recalling how he’d appealed to the chieftains “through a sense of justice and to their consistent belief in Christianity which I knew was implanted in their hearts by their missionary priests”. After considerable discussion, much of it heated, and after noting that “It is not good policy in dealing with Indians to make a display of physical force and to fail — moral suasion is a better weapon,” he convinced them to surrender the wanted men.

Thus, on Dec. 28, 1912, after a year-and a-half of intense pursuit and one of the greatest manhunts in provincial history, Moses Paul and Paul Spintlum were taken into custody without firing another shot. After all the searching through wilderness and in the worst of weather, their capture was anti-climactic.

The Journal reported that Indian Agent Cummiskey had employed something more than the “moral suasion” he’d mentioned; according to the Ashcroft newspaper, Cummiskey had given the chieftains’ the ultimatum that, if Paul and Spintlum were not handed over to the police by year’s end, their “official dignities as chiefs would be cancelled”. (Another outstanding example of how times have changed.—TW).

Brought to Ashcroft, Paul and Spintlum were said to be “somewhat emaciated [but] not in such a deplorable condition as might be expected from long exposure and hardships, and as they quietly smoked their cigars in the waiting room of the Ashcroft Hotel they did not seem like the desperate criminals which they really are. The captives left Ashcroft on the 4:30 train for Kamloops, where they will in all probability await trail at the spring assizes.”

Their lawyer, Stuart Henderson (known as “Canada’s Clarence Darrow”), had the venue changed to Vernon. However, despite extensive testimony by the members of the posse on the day Const. Kindness was shot, and more circumstantial testimony, such as that of James Robinson who said that he’d sold cartridges to Spintlum on the day that Paul broke jail, the jury disagreed and a new trial was ordered for the June Assizes at New Westminster.

This time the Crown offered overwhelming evidence and, on June 27, 1913, despite Henderson’s “brilliant plea to the jury,” Paul Spintlum was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang; he went to the gallows at Kamloops on Dec. 12, 1913.

Ironically, Moses Paul, the man responsible for setting the epic tragedy in motion, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He’d been convicted on the lesser charge of accessory after the fact! As it turned out, he might just as well have been hanged, too, as he didn’t last long in prison, succumbing to tuberculosis. Many attributed his illness to the 18-month-long ordeal under trying conditions in the bush.

As a footnote to the tragedy, the provincial government struck silver medals for presentation to the chieftains who’d reluctantly been instrumental in surrendering the wanted men to justice. They resolutely refused to accept the “honour” and, but for an argument with Agent Cummiskey as to the original terms of their agreement to turn in the fugitives, the amazing saga of the outlaws Moses Paul and Paul Spintlum was officially closed.

www.twpaterson.com

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