Monday, May 23, 2016

Sentenced to Hang! (Convict Interred at Boot Hill Cemetery)

Hello Friends,
Photo by Kati - unknown found in vicinity of Convict #2304's grave
In 1918-1919, influenza swept the world. According to Sarah Buchanan's (B.Sc., Queen's University, 2007) thesis titled "Spanish Influenza in the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, 1918-1919", in the Abstract on page iii it states: "During the last year of World War I (1918), a second deadly foe was causing mortality around the world. Spanish Influenza killed an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide, including 50,000 people in Canada during the 1918-1919 pandemic." It goes on to say "...those who were between the ages of 19 and 39... showed higher odds of dying from influenza during the epidemic." Her thesis examined the period between June 1918 to June 1919.

"Four Walls in the West, The story of the British Columbia Penitentiary" written by Jack David Scott, page 54: "In 1919 the Spanish influenza epidemic, which had hit the western world, made its appearance in the prison. Eighty-four convicts were hospitalized and five died."

Meet Convict #2304 - William Chinley: was a victim to the epidemic, and according to his death certificate, he lost the fight and passed away on January 05, 1919.

Courtesy - Chinley Death Certificate
The flip side of the Chinley's Death Certificate
So what was William's story? How did he come to serve time at the B.C. Penitentiary, and why had he been interred at Boot Hill Cemetery, the small plot of land on the hill across a ravine from the prison?

Looking through newspapers of the past can be a chore, but a pleasant one, for I often find treasures within all the noise. To begin my search I looked for Chinley's name in the "National Archives of Canada, 1994". Perhaps he had been sentenced to death? This would help me to find a date, or at least a decade in which to begin my search.

I was lucky and found this tidbit:
Courtesy National Archives of Canada, 1994
Murder! Execution! Now I had a clue of which decade to search for news stories. William Chinley, a First Nations person, committed his crime near Quesnel, B.C., with another man, Robert Walker. Their victim was Agnes, a married First Nations person. I searched archives for her genealogy records but could find none, which is not uncommon for the times. The information above also gave me the name of the Judge, execution date and more. I began my hunt of the man we came to know as Convict #2304.

The second hint as to what may have happened, came in the form of a newspaper article in the Cariboo Observer dated July 31, 1909. Below, you will find it in three parts. Click on each.
Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Jul.31'1909)
This brought about some clarity. At an inquest, it was discovered not only were Chinley and Walker involved, but also the victim's husband Tommy. Agnes' death was centred around abuse and whiskey. It went on to explain that Walker introduced whiskey into a group of First Nations persons and stayed to drink with them. What happened to Agnes was not clear; but it appeared she had been beaten to death. A preliminary hearing was set.

Quesnel, located on the Fraser River, (founded in 1861, incorporated as a village in 1928, a city in 1981) is situated between Williams Lake (in the south) and Prince George (in the north) in the Cariboo District of B.C. It sits on the main route to Northern B.C. and the Yukon Territory, along the Cariboo Wagon Road, which was the gold mining trail and became the commercial centre of the Cariboo Gold Rush.
Courtesy VPL Access.No.#67119 - Quesnel (Photo: Timms, Philip 1920's)
After having discovered the crime, I decided to follow the trail and see if I could find anything about the preliminary hearing, or any court appearance thereafter.
I found the next article in the Cariboo Observer dated August 07, 1909.

Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Aug.07/1909)
From the account we determine that a trial is set in Clinton, B.C. a village south-east of Quesnel. Agnes' husband, Tommy, was sentenced to 30 days for drunkenness and dropped from the murder charge, while Walker received two sentences for supplying the whiskey and was to appear with Chinley at a set trial. The murder case would now move forward, and closer to Vancouver.

For a brief history of Clinton click here. Once named "Junction" due to it's location where the Cariboo Trail and the Cariboo Wagon Road connected, it was renamed by Queen Victoria in 1863 to honour Lord Henry Pelham Clinton, Colonial Secretary to the British Government. The area was inhabited by the Shushwap people, and with the gold rush in the mid-1800s, a boomtown was born. Later, after gold mining had died down, ranching took hold of the area.
Courtesy - Schoolhouse (built 1892) also served as Court House
The next appearance of Chinley was in the Cariboo Observer on December 18, 1909.
Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Dec.18/1909)
It is clear, Chinley (along with Walker) were given a hearing in the new year of 1910.
Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Dec.25/1909)
On December 25, 1909, the Cariboo Observer reported the trial would be moved to Vancouver, B.C. in February of the following year. Previously reported to begin in January, the trial had been reprieved. With this news, I wondered what would happen next. From all accounts it appears the two men were "guilty" of the crime and may be sentenced to death. After all, there had been a large number of witnesses who testified, and with Agnes' words prior to her passing, what was more to be said?
Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Jan.22/1910)
I could not locate news in the Vancouver newspapers for the beginning of 1910, so I went back to the Cariboo Observer and found the small article seen above dated January 22, 1910. Again, it confirmed the reprieve to February 20, 1910.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal is the highest Appellate Court in the province. It had been established in 1909, and first sat in 1910. According to Wikipedia the Chief Justice (appointed by the Federal Government) sitting from 1909-1937 was James Alexander McDonald.

Searching the Daily Colonist (from Victoria), I found an interesting article.
Courtesy - Daily Colonist (Jan.27/1910)
This posed some interesting information, confirming a new trial had been granted, and the execution would not go forward as planned.
What is a "klootchman"? I found out it means "an Indian woman of northwestern North America".
The article indicated she had been murdered near Salmon Arm, and not Quesnel as indicated in previous articles found. The city is east of Kamloops (southeast of Clinton) located on Shuswap Lake, and in 1890 it boasted approximately 200 citizens.
A new trial was granted because of a witness being a wife of one of the accused (was this Chinley's wife?), and the evidence of blood stained clothes presented in the Attorney General's opening remarks. The witness was excused, due to her relation with one of the accused, therefore the evidence was no longer confirmed. So what now? I would look for news of the new trial.

The next article found was also from the Daily Colonist dated March 12, 1910:
Courtesy - Daily Colonist (Mar.12/1910)
The article simply confirms the trial date of May 3rd in Clinton, B.C. and that Stuart Henderson would again sit as Chinley's lawyer. Continuing my search, another piece of information from the Cariboo Observer dated April 02, 1910 was discovered:

Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Apr.02/1910)
Once again, it confirms the new trial date. I wanted to find out what happened after the trial.. so my search continued.
Courtesy - Daily Colonist (May 05, 1910)
The above article was found a few days after the new trial began, and it is confirmed the blood stained clothing and the witness had been removed from evidence. We now jump forward to October 26, 1910.
Courtesy - Daily Colonist (Oct.26/1910)
The above article, found in the Daily Colonist out of Victoria, B.C., explains that after four trials, the second of which convicted Chinley and Walker to a date of execution; Stuart Henderson won the case for his clients, and the jury in Vernon B.C. found them "not guilty". This is confirmed by an article found through in the Chilliwack Progress, November 02, 1910:
Courtesy - Chilliwack Progress (Nov.02/1910)
So now what? This doesn't answer how Chinley came to be in the B.C. Penitentiary, nor buried at Boot Hill Cemetery. Nor did it answer how the trial had moved to Vernon, B.C. a city incorporated in December 1892, southeast of Clinton, in the Okanagan Valley. An interesting account of Vernon's history is found here.

Let's summarize to understand what had happened from June 1909 to October 1910:
1) June 1909 - Agnes is murdered
2) July 1909 - Inquest to murder is held and decision for trial is set to go forward.
3) August 1909 - A preliminary hearing is heard and a trial is set.
4) October 1909 - At trial, Chinley and Walker are found guilty and sentenced to hang December 20, 1909.
5) December 1909 - Chinley's lawyer wins a reprieve into the new year.
6) January 1910 - Appeal is heard and decision goes forward for a new trial.
7) January 1910 - End of the month a new trial is granted for later in May, and circumstantial evidence may be thrown out.
8) March 1910 - They prep for a new trial date of early May.
9) May 1910 - The Court of Appeal agrees to throw out evidence/witness and a trial goes forward.
10) October 1910 - At the trial, both Chinley and Walker are found "not guilty".

I thought I'd share a map to get a better understanding of the area:
Courtesy - map of the area-Quesnel to Victoria, B.C.
Before I resumed my search, I wanted to learn about Chinley's lawyer, Stuart Henderson. He fought hard and won the case, saving Chinley's and Walker from execution:

Stuart Alexander Henderson was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on September 19, 1863. According to records found in, he immigrated to Canada in 1872 with his father, at a young age.
Stuart attended school in Ottawa, Toronto University, and Osgoode Hall. While in the Province of Ontario, he served as a lieutenant in the militia, and an Alderman in Ottawa, arriving in British Columbia in 1897 where he began to practice law.
Stuart married Mary Anne Jane Lusk (from Alymer, Quebec, born March 15, 1881, the eldest of five children) on December 29, 1904 in Vancouver, B.C. Stuart and Mary had 4 children (2 sons and 2 daughters), lived in Ashcroft (& the area), B.C. for several years (btwn 1905-1909) and then moved to Victoria, B.C. in June 1921.
The death of their eldest son, William (born 1906, died 1939), must have been shocking. A porter at the Empress Hotel, his death certificate indicates he died from a bacterial infection on the cells lining his heart. It was reported that he had chronic heart disease.
Stuart passed away six years later, on February 17, 1945 from congestive heart failure due to retained fluid or fluid overload at the age of 81. His death certificate indicated his profession was Barrister and Solicitor.
Through research I found he was considered one of the best criminal defence lawyers in B.C. He was most known for his successful defence of Simon Gunanoot (a legendary figure in Canada for his 13 year survival in the B.C. wilderness hiding out) for the murders of Alex McIntosh, a dock worker in Hazelton, B.C., and Max Leclair, a packer and hunting guide.
Stuart Henderson had also been involved in Provincial politics and represented Yale Provincial Electoral District from 1903 to 1909; however was defeated in 1909 and 1912 when he ran for re-election.
I could not find any photographs.

The search began once more, this time using dates after 1910 to find out why Chinley was sent to prison. He had been acquitted of murder, but what was next in his life? Who was this man? What crime did he commit that he could not get away with? The newspapers are the best place to continue. I knew William had passed on in 1919, so something must have happened between 1910 and 1919. Alas, I found an article that may resolve my questions:
Courtesy Quesnel Museum - Cariboo Observer (Jun.16/1917)
Accused twice of murder, this time William Chinley was found guilty in 1917. The ruling is two years before his death. I decided to search the Canadian Archives to find out what happened, but the well of information was running dry. I did find this piece of information to assist me. He had not acted alone:
Library and Archives Canada - Chinley & Mother charged with Murder 1917
Unfortunately I do not have access to the court documents, but the above information tells me Chinley's mother was involved. Without her name, I could not locate further information about her. However, I decided the Daily Colonist had been so very good to me, and therefore continued my search for his trial in June 1917. Below is the article I found:
Courtesy - Daily Colonist (Jun.17/1917)
Here we are, an understanding that once again William Chinley found himself in the Clinton, B.C. court, but this time was found guilty of murdering his wife. Was she the one who stood as witness for the prosecution in his previous trials of 1909-1910? Perhaps they never saw eye to eye, but did this action deserve a punishment of death? William Chinley, I decided, was not a good man. He chose to walk a path of violence. For this he had to pay, and pay he did. One and half years later, while in B.C. Penitentiary, he died from the influenza. Boot Hill Cemetery is a place of rest for those prisoners whose families did not claimed their bodies. Chinley was not claimed, and therefore was placed to rest in the little cemetery on the hill overlooking the Fraser River in New Westminster, B.C.

Thank you: I hope you've enjoyed learning about this convict through the journey that took several weeks of investigation. As for Walker? What happened to him? There were so many Robert Walker's when performing historical research that I could not determine what had happened to him, or if he committed crimes to land him in prison. We do know that he's not buried at Boot Hill.

If you have not read any of our previous accounts, please check them out. Each convicts' story is filled with interesting facts, incredible adventures and emotional effect.
01) Meet Convict 1548 - Thompson
02) Meet Convict 2370 - Walsh
03) Meet Convict 2304 - Chinley
04) Meet Convict 1774 - Hinds
05) Meet Convicts 1628 - Herman Wilson + Unknown# - Joseph Smith
06) Meet Convict 1659 - Y. Yoshie
07) Meet Convict 1884 - Moses Paul
08) Meet Convict 2516 - Daniel Henrick Urick
09) Meet Convict 1948 - Unknown Gim
10) Meet Convict 2938 - Reginald John Colpitts
11) Meet Convict 5603 - Stephen Poole
12) Meet Convict 3130 - Harry Davis
13) Meet Convict 2312 - Albert Hill
14) Meet Convict Unknown# - Phillip Hopkins
15) Meet Convict #9720 - Norman Donald Bottineau
16) Meet Convict #2225 - Louie Num
17) Meet Convict #3237 - Harold Gordon McMaster
18) Meet Convict #4234 - Herbert Ross

With this I say "talk soon!" It's time for me to begin a search of another interred convict of Boot Hill Cemetery. Please join our conversation at our Facebook Page, or comment below. If you have any information concerning the convicts of the cemetery, please contact VSPI.

Thank you!

Research Sources: National Archives of Canada, Quesnel & District Museum and Archives (website) , Cariboo Observer,,, Vancouver Public Library (website), (website), Village of Clinton (website),, City of Vernon (website), Library and Archives Canada (website), British Colonist (website), (website).

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