Saturday, December 10, 2016

Escape From A Moving Train! (Convict Interred at Boot Hill Cemetery)

Hello Friends,
We are back with another episode to our continued investigation into the convicts buried at the Boot Hill Cemetery (1913-1968) in New Westminster, BC (used for the BC Penitentiary. "The Pen" was decommissioned in 1980).

Again we have excitement brewing as we follow the path of our newest convict profiled.

Meet Convict #2516 - Daniel Henrick Urick
Photo by Kati - Convict #2516 (middle section)

So who is this young man and what was his crime? I found a copy of his Death Certificate:
Courtesy - Dan Urick (deceased Nov.14, 1920)
The certificate reveals quite a bit of information. Let's examine it:
Age - 25 years old

Married - Yes
Racial Origin - White
Former Occupation - Labourer Railroad

At Place of Death - 3 days (this gives us a time line to search for newspaper articles explaining what he was doing in the Penitentiary)
Date of Death - Nov.14, 1920
Date of Burial - Nov.17, 1920
Cause of Death - (this is important) Gun shot wound of high severity, femoral artery (large artery in the thigh, which supplies blood to the lower limb), with hemorrhage and infection // Contributory - shock and infection.

Where Contracted - Wenatchee, Washington (USA)
Did an Operation Precede Death - Yes, Nov.11 & Nov.14, 1920.

It is now know there must have been some sort of shooting to gain custody of the young man; and the Certificate confirms Urick was only in "the Pen" and/or hospital for 3 days! Very interesting. Armed with this I could now pursue the hunt for news on why this fellow had such a violent end to his life.

A search of Daniel's name proved to be difficult; so I decided to enter the cause of death and luckily I came across an article that provided insight into what may have happened.:

On August 10th, 1920 a newspaper article announced a crime I had not expected.
Courtesy - Vancouver Daily World (Aug.12, 1920) pg 12
Daniel (note how the article does not refer to his last name - thus making our hunt that much more difficult), with a friend, Peter Lazuk, was captured and arrested for a hold up of a lumber camp. A third man fled the area. What? I needed to know more.

From "" I learned that $325.00 CAD in 1920 is worth $3,620.61 CAD in today's currency. WOW! Now that's quite a bit of money to rob from lumberjacks at a camp. I am gathering the men were paid in "cheque" rather than in cash.
Note: in Canada we spell it "cheques", not "checks" as in the USA.

So now we have an idea of what was going on. There is that elusive third man (described as: Russian, 5'4" & 135 lbs, wearing dark clothes) who seems to have gotten away, with a suitcase (not sure what is in it) and two revolvers.

Crow's Nest Pass is an area that stretches from southeastern BC, across the Rocky Mountain Range, and into the southwest corner of Alberta. We'll provide a map later on to help you understand the adventure that was yet to come.

The next point of information came in a well documented article from the Cranbrook Herald. If you've been following our blogs, you'll see that I recently travelled the Crowsnest Highway BC#3 with my wife. We visited Cranbrook, a hubbub of the southeastern pocket of BC, and the area. It's a trip worth taking! Check out our Blog.
Courtesy UBC Open Collection - Cranbrook Herald (Aug.12, 1920)
The above article explains what actually happened through the preliminary hearing witness statements. So let's examine the evidence:
1) Three men held up a poker game in a lumber camp,
2) Dan's last name is written as Quirick. Another reason for making it difficult to hunt down details.. but we did it!
3) Trotzky - the nickname in the 1920's meant: [sic] "an old lady with a moustache and chin whiskers",
4) The hold up took place on Saturday, July 31, 1920,
5) Preliminary hearing began Wednesday, August 11, 1920 in Cranbrook BC, after their capture on August 10th (as described in the Vancouver Daily World clipping),
6) A Russian interpreter was present, which leads us to believe the accused were not fluent in English and may be of Russian decent,
7) Peter Lazuk - wore a green mosquito bar for a mask, which is a netting, made of material similar to the mosquito tents we have today,
8) Dan Urick (or "Quirick") was the look out man at the door,
9) A witness reported the incident to the police, later met Lazuk on the street (this tells us the accused didn't flee the area after the hold up, possibly comfortable that no one would recognize them), was invited to have a drink with him but refused, and shortly after the police arrested Peter,
10) Witness indicated the theft happened in a bunkhouse where men were engaged in a poker game. The accused burst open the door with guns in their hands (armed robbery),
11) The accused searched the men for items to steal,
12) Mike Dilly was asleep in a bunk, was woken, dragged out of bed and had his trousers removed in search of cash,
13) Using an interpreter slowed the preliminary trial,
14) Lazuk and Urick were described as men who didn't care,
15) Solicitor for the accused was Mr. A.B. MacDonald, KC (King's Council),
16) Chief Dunwoody, Provincial Police, was the prosecutor,
17) The third suspect is believed to have fled across the border into the US.
Courtesy Cranbrook Archives - Cranbrook Court House
The men were then moved to Fernie, BC for their trial, and on Monday, October 11, 1920, Peter Lazuk and Dan Urick were sentenced to 5 years each in the BC Penitentiary (known as "the Pen").
Courtesy UBC Open Collection - Cranbrook Herald (Oct.14, 1920)
Several days after the Trial, the convicts were ready to be moved to New Westminster, BC (near Vancouver, BC) to serve out their 5 year sentence at the BC Penitentiary. To get them there, they were handcuffed together and escorted by two BC Provincial Policemen, one named Spiller (of Fernie, BC). However, this was not the end of the road for the two convicts. We next learn about their escape!
Courtesy UBC Open Collections - Cranbrook Herald (Oct.21, 1920)
I am a bit shocked. Two convicts, handcuffed together, escape the custody of two officers. What? Alright, so the above article explains it was 2 am in the morning. But for me, that's not quite enough.
I searched for the one name we have, Provincial Policeman Spiller of Fernie, and found the Death Certificate of a William Vincent Ernest Spiller; a retired Inspector of the BCPP, born Aug.24, 1877 (in England) and passed away on June 10, 1948 (Langley, BC). It goes on to explain that Spiller retired in 1938 after 30 years service (at the age of 61). He was single, and had just moved to the Langley area, rooming at the Texas Hotel. His cause of death was due to chronic bronchitis and heart failure. He had been suffering from the bronchitis for 15 years. William was 43 years old at the time of Lazuk and Urick's escape.

Were both police officers tired at that late hour? How well were the men guarded? Here the trail leads us into the United States of America, to Washington State,
Courtesy - Vancouver Daily World (Nov.06,1920) pg 1
On the first page of the Vancouver Daily World news comes of the capture. This is where we learn they had jumped out of a moving train, while handcuffed together. Oh boy! That must have been a difficult move to make. I wonder if the train was just pulling into Grand Forks, BC and therefore it was easier to flee.

I present you with a map I put together, with thanks to Google.
Courtesy Google Maps - the Journey of the Convicts
The next article provides more detail about their capture.
Courtesy UBC Open Collection - Cranbrook Herald (Nov.11,1920)
We know now that the men made it as far as Wenatchee, Washington (famous for it's apples). That's a fair distance. The shortest route is approximately 308 kilometres (191 miles), whereas the longest is 331 kilometres (205 miles). We must remember this journey is through a mountainous region. Did they walk? Get rides? Jump railroads? Then there is the question of how they released themselves from the handcuffs? Also, remember on Daniel's Death Certificate, it states he suffered of a shot gun wound. Neither article above tells us about any shooting. It leads me to believe there must have been a bulletin sent through the police wires, they were seen and may have had a shoot out to capture them, or perhaps they were running when the Sheriff and his team shot them. We cannot determine this as we find ourselves at the end of the newspaper articles. We know the men were safely delivered to "the Pen", where Dan then went directly to the Royal Columbian Hospital (nearby the prison).
Courtesy - Wenatchee postcard circa 1920's
Daniel Henrick Urick, Prisoner #2516, died on Sunday, November 14, 1920 from the infection, hemorrhage and shock of the gun shot wound. He was laid to rest in the Boot Hill Cemetery, a small acre across a ravine from where "the Pen" once stood, on Wednesday, November 17, 1920. His stone marker is found in the middle section close to the ravine (north), peeking out from among the wild grasses and brambles, surrounded by tall trees, with crows squawking at anyone who enters the grave site. His view is of the Fraser River below the new housing complex built along the edges of the cemetery.

According to the news articles, Daniel had stated he would not enter "the Pen" alive. He got his wish.

An interesting item I discovered:
Courtesy BC Archives - Expenditures paid to Brockman + Wegener 1920-1921
In the 1920's, the BC Provincial Police were just establishing a Criminal Investigations Department. Prior to this, the BCPP would hire private detective agencies. The names on the above Provincial accounting document indicates two men were rewarded for their services in the capture of the convicts. $50 to H.H. Brockman, and $150 to M.J. Wegener.

And so we end another blog about a convict who is interred in a small unmarked acre of land called the Boot Hill Cemetery.
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

Thank you for visiting our blog and allowing us to take you on a journey filled with all sorts of emotions. Please, do not hesitate to contact us, comment, share your thoughts, or join us at our Facebook page. We love hearing from our friends.. that's You!

We leave you with our Holiday Greeting.. Wishing you and your family the best of Joy and Fun!

From the entire VSPI Team to you!
Until next time,

Sources:;; UBC Open Collection of BC Historical Newspapers; Cranbrook Archives & Cranbrook History Centre;;; "Four Walls in the West" - Jack David Scott; BC Archives; The Inditer - BC Provincial Police; Wikipedia,


  1. Fantastic work! Thanks for your efforts.

    1. Thank you Jim. We appreciate the positive comment, and enjoy investigating who the Boot Hill convicts were in life. We are preparing another one for publication shortly. Enjoy! Let us know if you come across any information that is helpful to our research.
      Sincerely, Kati