Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Robbery with Violence! (Convict Interred at Boot Hill Cemetery)

Hello Friends,

Our fourteenth blog about the convicts interred at Boot Hill Cemetery (1913-1967, New Westminster, used by the old B.C. Penitentiary-which was razed in 1980) takes us back in history to the year 1912, on Vancouver Island, B.C. and a community of coal mining.
[Note: please see our links for previous blogs about the convicts at the end of the following account.]

Meet Convict #unknown - Phillip Hopkins
Photo by Kati (VSPI) - unknown gravemarker at Boot Hill Cemetery (April 2015)

Courtesy Cumberland Museum Archives - 1913, Mine No. 4 (C164-010)

Phillip Hopkins first entered into the news with a bang! Although information about him is difficult to find, I believe we have a much better picture of who he was and what happened to him, than what we first imagined.
Courtesy BC Historical Newspapers: The Islander, Cumberland BC (Sept.14, 1912)
The details are a bit hazy, but from what we can put together it appears a violent act was committed at the end of August 1912 in Cumberland's Chinatown district. Robbery with Violence! Two men appear to be the centre of this news, Harry Turner and Phillip Hopkins, sending four Chinese men to hospital. A telegram was sent to Nanaimo where Constable Stephenson then set out to make the arrests.

Where is this place, Cumberland BC? And what mines are they talking about?
Courtesy Google Maps - Nanaimo, Cumberland are both on Vancouver Island in B.C.
Cumberland, B.C. was a busy coal mining community (1888-1966). Below is a great description of the settlement found through the BC City Directory of 1912.
Courtesy VPL - BC City Directories 1912, Henderson's, Cumberland BC
The settlement was founded in 1888 by Robert Dunsmuir (1825-1889), a coal mine developer. His family was involved deeply in the industry in Scotland, but by the age of 7, Robert lost his father (James), mother (Elizabeth), grandmother and two sisters to the cholera epidemic. Three years later his wealthy grandfather died, leaving one third of his estate to his grandchildren. Dunsmuir was schooled locally and then went to work in coal mines. He married in 1847, and by 1850, was signed on to his aunt's husband's (Boyd Gilmore) coal finding party with the Hudson's Bay Company. Dunsmuir travelled to Vancouver Island via Cape Horn in December 1850. They landed in Fort Vancouver (now Vancouver, Washington) in July 1851, and travelled on to Fort Rupert (now Port Hardy, B.C. on Vancouver Island), arriving in August. By 1854 he found himself in Nanaimo, B.C. His uncle left the expedition due to a pay dispute and travelled back to Scotland. Dunsmuir stayed on. In 1869 he located a coal outcrop while fishing at Diver Lake, northwest of Nanaimo, near Wellington. He staked a claim and formed Dunsmuir, Diggle and Company. By 1883 it was profiting $500,000/year. Robert Dunsmuir became a cofounder of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, and in 1882, he was elected to the B.C. Legislature representing Nanaimo, and re-elected in 1886. He died 3 years later (April 12, 1889) while in office as one of the richest men in British Columbia and nicknamed "the Coal King". A castle, his family residence, in Victoria, B.C. named Craigdarroch is a popular tourist destination to this day.
Courtesy BC Archives - Accession No. 193501-001 (Robert Dunsmuir 1825-1889)
Cumberland was originally named Union, after the Union Coal Company (bought by Robert Dunsmuir), but by 1898, was changed to its present name by Robert Dunsmuir's son, James. It attracted a host of miners and entrepreneurs from across the country, the USA, Europe, China and Japan. It remained active until 1966. The town boasted one of the largest Chinese settlements in B.C., a small Black community and three Japanese settlements.
Courtesy Cumberland Museum Archives - Chinatown & No.3 Mine (C040-001)
B.C.'s Black Community began in 1858 when James Douglas, the Governor of Vancouver Island, invited African-Americans from California due to growing discriminatory laws. James was the son of an African Creole mother from the Caribbean, and a European father. Unfortunately racism was rife in the new land, and although they worked hard and supported the British territory against Americans, by 1911 Canada acted and restricted immigration of black persons stating in a policy formalised "..which race is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada".

Courtesy BC Historical Newspapers: The Islander, Cumberland BC (Sept.21, 1912)
Back to the Hopkins case: Further news is recorded the following weekend, indicating that Harry Turner was implicated in a robbery against Mow Bon Kee on the evening of August 26th. It appears the Judge gave him a choice of whether to rush the trial through or wait until the Assizes in fall.
Courtesy BC Historical Newspapers: Cumberland News (Sept.25, 1912)
The news of "Boots" Hopkins committed for trial in the fall assizes at Nanaimo was announced on September 25th, 1912. The article above indicates Hopkins confessed to aiding and abetting the assault and robbery of a Chinese person(s).
Courtesy BC Historical Newspapers: The Islander, Cumberland BC (Sept.28, 1912)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Nanaimo Daily News (Oct.01, 1912) pg04
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Nanaimo Daily News (Oct.04, 1912) pg04
Phillip "Boots" Hopkins was found guilty, convicted of "Robbery with Violence" and sent to the B.C. Penitentiary for five years "hard labor" in New Westminster, on the mainland, which carried an overflowing population of 331 prisoners in 1912. Harry "Slim" Turner received the same sentence.
Courtesy BC Archives - Nanaimo Courthouse (Access.No.193501-001, Ref Code e-01891_141)

Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Daily World (Mar.07, 1913) pg 31
One final mention of Hopkins is found on March 7, 1913, in the Vancouver Daily World. A convict named Ofip Dzizic, serving a 5 year sentence for burglary committed in 1910, attempted escape while digging the grave for Phillip Hopkins. It's a coincidence that both men were convicted and found guilty in Nanaimo for offences committed in Cumberland, B.C. Dzizic was captured and brought back to prison.

We turn to Phillip Hopkins death certificate to learn more about the man and why he died.
Courtesy FamilySearch.org - Death Certificate (deceased March 06, 1913)
According to the death certificate, Hopkins died on March 6, 1913, at 3:30 pm of Phthisis, which is an archaic name for tuberculosis. A person afflicted with tuberculosis in the early 1900s was destined to dwindle and waste away.

Phillip Hopkins death is reported in both the 1913 "Minister of Justice Report" and the 1913 "Penitentiaries of Canada Report".
Courtesy UBC Open Collections - year ending Mar.31/1913
Courtesy UBC Open Collections - year ending Mar.31/1913 (Penitentiaries Report)
Phillip was 42 years old at his death. He was originally from Keystone, West Virginia, USA, and had arrived in Canada 11 years prior. His occupation was listed as barber. Information about his family was marked as "unknown". The hunt for records at the Canadian Ancestry site discovered information which may match his family history. Of this, we cannot be certain.
The 1880 USA Census from Maryland located a family listing:
Courtesy Ancestry.ca - 1880 US Census, Baltimore, Maryland - family Hopkins
Father - Charles A Hopkins, sailor, born approximately in 1821.
Mother - Lizza Hopkins, laundress, born approximately in 1820.

Siblings - Fannie (1874), Bertha (1979) and Flora (1877).
It indicates that Phillip T Hopkins is in school at age 8 (1871-2).
The US Directories for 1880 confirms a Charles Hopkins, mariner, under the "colored persons" listing:
Courtesy Ancestry.ca - 1880 US City Directories - Charles Hopkins
Ten years earlier, Charles and Lizza (Eliza) are listed together without children.
Courtesy Ancestry.ca - 1870 US Census, Baltimore, Maryland - Hopkins
No further listings were found.
Was this Phillip's family? It may be, although they are from Maryland and not West Virginia. We took a look at the map to see how far apart these cities are.
Courtesy Google Maps - Baltimore, MD & Keystone. W.VA.
We could not find Phillip listed in any Canadian Census. Therefore, we decided to look at the distance from Baltimore to Cumberland to see how far his journey would have been.
Courtesy Google Maps - Baltimore, MD to Cumberland, B.C.
Certainly it's over 4600 kilometers (approximately 2858 miles) from east to west across our continent. That's quite the distance, no matter what mode of transportation; and we have to take into account, travelling in the early 1900s was not like it is today. Review the above map and notice the major cities north of US border on the east coast. Perhaps Phillip arrived through Toronto, Ontario; or he may have travelled southwest to San Francisco, California and eventually made his way up to Canada via ship, a popular mode of travel at the time. We cannot be certain.
His death certificate stated he had been in Canada for 11 years, so we can assume he arrived in the country in 1902. Did he travel across Canada from east to west working at different cities along the way? Perhaps. Why to Cumberland? The coal mine industry in B.C. was news around the world, and the news of Black Communities established on the Island since the 1850's may have driven his desire to travel west. We did not locate any further Canadian or American listings of Mr. Hopkins.

We end this blog with little understanding of whom Phillip Hopkins was and why he committed the crime he was convicted of. We will continue our search and update you if anything further is discovered.

Let's keep this man, and all the convicts who are buried at Boot Hill, in our thoughts. We do not fully know the reasons for any of their actions, but we can learn from them, and ensure our future is brighter than it was for those of long ago.

We invite you to read our other blogs (listed below) about the "Boot Hill" convicts, and join us in conversation on our Facebook page or email us via our Website. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
If you have any information to assist us with our research, we'd be ever so grateful for your help!

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

Til next time,
Be aware of who is interred in the cemeteries you may visit and pay respect to them. No matter who they were in life, all people deserve kindness, even if they were convicted of horrendous crimes.


Sources: Cumberland Museum Archives; BC Archives; Ancestry.ca; FamilySearch.org; BC Historical Newspapers (UBC Open Collections); Wikipedia; Google Maps; Newspapers.com; BritishColonist.ca; Historica Canada; "Four Walls in the West" - by Jack David Scott; Canadian Encyclopedia; Vancouver History.

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