Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shots Fired! (Convict Interred at Boot Hill Cemetery)

Hello Friends,

Our thirteenth blog, about the convicts interred at New Westminster's Boot Hill Cemetery, investigates a lively chase of a man who attempted to pull off a number of robberies. Join us on this journey of discovery of an event which caused a stir in the city of Vancouver, B.C. in 1917.

Meet Convict #2312 - Albert Hill
Photo by Kati - Convict #2312 (middle section)

In 1917, Vancouver was undergoing changes: Vancouver's Chief Constable, Malcolm MacLennan, had been shot and killed in March by a heavily armed drug addict. Women were permitted to vote, excluding those of First Nation or Asian descent. The Pantages Theatre (one of the best vaudeville houses in North America) opened. The Vancouver Fire Department firefighters went on strike for better pay, and became motorized, being the first in Canada to do so. The city's first woman was appointed to be a Judge in Juvenile Court. News from the front of WWI was reported daily, and prohibition in Canada began on October 1st (it ended in 1920).

On August 27, 1917 news rang out in the Vancouver Daily World about a bold robbery and chase on Main Street.
Courtesy - Vancouver Daily World (Aug.27, 1917) pg 3
The till robber, Albert Hill is caught, arrested, and several weeks later is brought before Magistrate Shaw in Vancouver's police court. After hearing testimony, the Judge reserved his sentence to review the case.
Courtesy - Vancouver Daily World (Sep.18, 1917) pg 8
Two days later, Albert Hill reappears before the court and Magistrate Shaw. He pleads guilty.
Courtesy - Daily Colonist (Sep.20, 1917)
Victoria's Daily Colonist reported that Albert would be sentenced later that day on September 20, 1917. With this news, we turned back to the Vancouver Daily World to find out the fate of the accused.
Courtesy - Vancouver Daily World (Sept.20, 1917) pg 9
Putting the story of Albert's robbery attempt together, we look at the clues from each of the newspaper articles. Albert Hill had been rooming in the Cunningham Hotel at 1038 Main Street. Not far from the Hotel was Mark Dumond's Hardware Store at 1048 Main Street. We learn that Albert wandered into the store, either the owner was at the back of the shop, or he was at the front and told to be quiet (this is debatable); he then stole money from the cash register, ran out, and hopped onto a horse drawn milk wagon which happened to be driving by. He held a gun to the driver's head ordering him to speed up the horse, and they rode south along Main Street to the bridge, where Albert hopped out and raced across the False Creek Flats with hope he'd get away. A small posse began the chase after the owner of the Hardware Store raised the alarm. Detective Scott joined in; but with the threat of being caught, Albert shot a gun several times to scare the posse. Never-the-less, Mr. Hill was caught and taken into custody.
Courtesy Vancouver Archives - Photo: W.J. Moore (Mar.10, 1917) False Creek Flats east of Main St. (Assess.No.AM54-S4-3- PAN N87) - Main St Bridge on right
Courtesy BC Archives - 1937, Milk Wagon, Access No 193501-001
Courtesy British Columbia City Directories (1860-1955)
Courtesy British Columbia City Directories (1860-1955)
Albert Hill was charged with four counts of theft (stolen articles between Aug.17th to Aug.25th) and a charge of shooting with intent to do bodily harm. The items stolen over his 9 day spree: small amount of cash from the hardware store's till, $15, two certificates, a watch, a chain, a suit of clothes, and a razor. His revolver was empty of bullets, but he had shells in his pocket. His sentence would run concurrent of 3 years for each theft charge plus 6 months for the intent to do bodily harm. Thus Mr. Hill was remanded to the B.C. Penitentiary to serve out his sentence.

In 1917, the value of $15 is $235 in today's Canadian currency. A man's suit averaged at the cost of $15-$35. A man's watch sold for $2.98 to $9.75, chains averaging at $1.00, while razors and razor sets sold for $1.00 to $7.50. We'd have to know more about the certificates in order to ascertain their value.
Courtesy - Vancouver Daily World (Nov.23, 1920)
Who was Albert Hill? The news article described him as a bold, bad man with black hair and undersized in stature. What had happened for him to resort to theft and shooting? The description of "undersized" lends us a clue that perhaps he was desperate. We turn to his death certificate to find out more information about this young man.
Courtesy - Deceased Feb.17, 1918
Our search began in the Province of Ontario. Albert Hill was born on April 06, 1882, in Port Perry, Ontario. The township was first settled in 1821 and today remains reasonably small with a population of less than 10,000 people. His father, Solomon Hill, was a farm labourer born in Ontario, and married to Elizabeth Dodds from Ireland.
Courtesy - Birth Records, April 06, 1882
The Hill family settled in Darlington, a township in Durham West county near Lake Ontario. In the late 1790's, pioneers sailed north across Lake Ontario induced by a proclamation issued by Canada's then Lieutenant Governor, that all males aged 18+ years, who settled, would be entitled to 200 acres of land. They built log shanties on the banks of the lake surrounded by wilderness, plenty of deer, and First Nations bands of the area.

The 1901 Census of Canada indicates that Solomon and Elizabeth Hill had 8 children: Austin A, born in 1878; Wallace W, born in 1880; Albert, born in 1882; Mary L, born in 1883; Norman, born in 1889; Earnest, born in 1893; Ethel M, born in 1894; and Viola, born in 1897.
Solomon worked on a farm earning $400 a year, while his sons Austin and Albert joined in the work earning $230 a year. Wallace found work as a teamster, earning $300 a year.

In the 1891 Canada Census we found 2 other children listed, but by 1901 they disappeared off the records. Alfred, born in 1879; and Laura, born 1884.

The next reference to Albert Hill found is the death of a one month old baby named Austin Albert Hill recorded in Ontario records of 1910. Listed as father is Albert Hill of Port Perry, Ontario and Mary Williams of England. The cause was due to a non-closure of a small opening between two upper chambers of the heart, which normally closes after birth. With this information we look for a marriage announcement.
Courtesy Ontario Genealogy - Death record of Austin Albert Hill (1910)
We then learn that Albert married Mary Williams on March 04th, 1913, two and one half years after baby Austin passed away. We assume the baby was that of our Albert and Mary, although we cannot be certain.
Courtesy Ontario Genealogy - Marriage record 1913
Albert moved to Fort William in Thunder Bay county, Ontario, northwest of his home town. On both his marriage and death certificates, Albert's occupation is listed as Iron Moulder.
Through a search in Ancestry we learn that Mary later married Leonard Ernest Wallis, on March 16, 1920; therefore we assume she was made aware of Albert's death. Mary lived with her new husband in Wayne, Michigan and remained there until her death in 1968. No children were named.

What happened between 1913 and 1917, to bring Albert Hill to Vancouver without his wife?

Courtesy Google Maps - the townships in the Province of Ontario
Fort William is situated in Northern Ontario, which in 1970 amalgamated with Port Arthur, Neebing and McIntyre forming the city of Thunder Bay, and became the largest city in Northwestern Ontario. The Fort was an important fur trading post on the Kaministiquia River on land acquired from the Objibwe, which has the 2nd largest First Nations population in Canada. It was named after William McGillivary, chief director of the North West Company (1804-1821), in 1807. In 1821 when the Company united with the Hudson's Bay Company, it shifted into a minor fur trading post giving attention to another settlement, York Factory. Development of the Canadian Pacific Railway railroad tracks in 1880 enveloped the area, and later consolidated all its operations at Fort William. The Grand Trunk Pacific and Canadian Northern railroads soon put up repair shops in the area. Fort William became a city in 1907. Industry for the city included flour mills, machine shops, stove works, ship building, brickyards and grain elevators by the 1920s.
Courtesy  Library and Archives Canada - Fort William PA-066880 (Unknown Date & Photographer)
In the early 1900's employment as an Iron Moulder (a skilled handicrafts man) meant getting up at 5:30am, arriving at the workshops/foundries by 7am, and working through the day until 7:30pm. The work was hard, hot and filthy; and artisans would come home depressed and worn out. By 1914, the metal trade was challenged with steam-powered machinery, and many managers streamlined their operations with an obsession of efficiency. Although Moulders were unionized and held several strikes in the early years, by 1913-1914 the job was threatened with unemployment. These skilled men could not be reduced to machine-tenders. A Moulder lived in the working-class neighbourhoods and received a pay of approximately $22/weekly; but with the industrial revolution, employment for the skilled men was lacking.

Perhaps Albert Hill became one of the many unemployed artisans and travelled west in hopes for work, leaving his wife behind in Ontario. However, the lack of work for skilled Iron Moulders was also felt in Vancouver, B.C.
Courtesy VPL - 1917 Vancouver's Main Street view south from Hastings St, Access.No.88549
After serving only 5 months of his sentence in the B.C. Penitentiary, Albert Hill, aged 31 years young, succumbed to uremia poisoning and died at 12:30am on February 17, 1918.

The syndrome is a serious complication of chronic kidney disease, causing nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anorexia, weight loss and muscle cramps. It occurs when the urea and other waste products build up in the body because the kidneys are unable to eliminate them.

Albert Hill was laid to rest the following day, on February 18th at 2pm in the Boot Hill Cemetery by the B.C. Penitentiary officials.
Courtesy New Westminster Archives - 1978 Boot Hill Cemetery, Item No. IHP10001-2083
We thank you for joining us on this journey and hope that you have learned something valuable about our past.
With changes being made at the "haunted" cemetery, we wonder what the City has planned for the acreage that overlooks the Fraser River surrounded by new high rises, townhouses, with a ravine to its east. The latest news is the convict stone markers have been removed, the land was levelled and seeded, and a little sign has been placed on the chain link fence announcing it as the "B.C. Penitentiary Cemetery" heritage site. We will keep you updated with further developments.

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

Don't forget to visit our Facebook Page, leave a comment, express your thoughts and share experiences. We'd love to hear from you!
If you have any information to assist us in our research of the convicts laid to rest in the cemetery, please contact us via our Website.

Until next time,
be safe & happy haunting!

Sources:; Wikipedia;;; UBC Open Collections; Vancouver Public Library;; The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver - Chuck Davis; Vancouver Archives;; Library & Archives Canada; City of Thunder Bay; lltjournal-Toronto Metal Workers; Four Walls in the West - Jack David Scott; Vancouver - Eric Nicol; New Westminster Archives; BC Directories; BC Archives

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