Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Terrified Drug Addict.. (Convict Interred at Boot Hill Cemetery)

Hello Friends,

Today I bring you the case of a young Vancouver born man, who lost his way as a teenager, and could not pull himself out from the darkness.  Why, we may never understand; but then do we ever understand the choices troubled teenagers make?

This is our twenty-fourth blog about the 49+ convicts buried at the once hidden B.C. Penitentiary Cemetery, nicknamed "Boot Hill" by the inmates, in New Westminster, B.C. The cemetery was actively used between 1913-1967, as a sacred spot for deceased convicts whose families did not claim their bodies.  It has always thought to be "haunted" by the inmates of the Pen; and countless people have reported unexplained occurrences from black orbs to voices calling out, shadow figures along the tree lines, and eerie feelings while on the property.  This small acre is now accessible to the public, after a face lift replaced the old stone markers with newer ones, and a plaque describing who is lying beneath the soft sod has been displayed.

Meet Convict #9880 - Leonard McCarty
Courtesy of Find A Grave - Photo by Herbert Rickards (2007)
Grave found middle of last row on east side.

Leonard McCarty was born November 24, 1927, in Vancouver, B.C. to parents of Irish descent.
His mother, Lily Nichols, was born to Samuel (a labourer-fisherman) and Clara Nichols who lived in the Mount Pleasant area of the city on March 21, 1895. The Nichols travelled to Vancouver from Newfoundland just before 1891.
At the young age of 17, Lily married Donald Elmer McCarty, a streetcar conductor from Ontario.  Donald was 24 years old.  They were married in the city, Donald a Presbyterian and Lily a Methodist, on the 29th of June, 1911.

In 1936, on February 16, Lily McCarty passed away at Essondale (now known as Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, B.C.); the reason is unknown. She was 40 years young. Leonard was just 8 years old, the new world before him; now without his mom.

Essondale was called the "Hospital for the Mind" when it first opened in 1913, a Canadian mental health facility; but later was named in honour of Dr. Henry Esson Young, the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Education who was also responsible for managing the hospital. Lily may have stayed at East Lawn, which was the Female Chronic Unit (opened in 1930 - capacity for 675 patients).  The majority of hospital units were closed by 2012 (East Lawn closed in 2005) when the provincial government brought about change to mental health care services. Due to the Information and Protection of Privacy Act, most records are restricted.  For more information about Essondale, you can visit it's blogspot: http://essondale.blogspot.com/
Courtesy: Vancouver Sun - Province, Library Files,
photo: Arlen Redkop (2012) - East Lawn Building

Courtesy of Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun (Feb.18, 1936) pg.09
and BC Archives, Genealogy 

Donald (occupation: motorman for B.C. Hydro) was the father of eight.  He was born to Albert McCarthy and Emma Sneath, both Canadians, on March 12, 1887, in Simcoe, Ontario.  His death certificate (1969) indicated he had been in B.C. since 1909, and was a motorman until April 1, 1952.

It was not long after Lily's death that Donald Elmer McCarty remarried.  Marion Hadley (nee Armstrong), a widowed nurse, took Donald's hand in marriage on the 31st of July, 1937.

Researching Leonard's siblings, we found the following information:
Sister: Lilian - was born in 1914. What has become of her is unknown.
Sister: Rosie - unknown birth year. What has become of her is unknown.

Sister: Clara (married), born on September 9, 1911, and passed away in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. on June 22, 1953.
Brother: Wilfred - born 1917, and passed away in Vancouver, B.C. at the age of two on September 13, 1919.
Brother: Douglas Roy (single), born on March 4, 1925, passed away in Essondale on April 24, 1976, due to inflammation of the lungs, resulting from a lung infection. His death certificate also indicated a spread of cancer in both his kidneys.
Brother: Albert Elmer (married), born on January 16, 1918, died in a motor vehicle accident (he failed to stop at a stop sign, then was struck by a tanker truck) on August 13, 1986. His wife, Rose May Bish, was in the vehicle and died of multiple injuries.
Brother: Ernest Cecil, born on August 6, 1920, died due to a form of lung cancer on March 17, 1998.
Sister: Neva Irene (widowed), born on October 8, 1915, passed away in Qualicum Beach on July 20, 2006.
Leonard was the baby brother of the McCarty clan.
Courtesy City of Vancouver Archives - Kitsilano Beach,
War Time Exercises (circa 1940s)
1944 was a year in Vancouver which brought constant update in the newspapers about WW2 and D-day invasion in June. The Canadian Military were using Kitsilano Beach for their landing exercises (off limits to people taking photographs); woman still held wartime industrial jobs; and Jack Benny (famous American comedian) arrived to perform his radio show with his New York cast in tow; the city adopted Odessa, Ukraine as it's sister city; the first child care centre for children of soldiers was set up; "contact lenses" arrived; newer and tighter rationing of gasoline began; and a forest fire swept down Black Mountain (West Vancouver) and stopped 300 yards off Eagle Harbour; while North Vancouver City pulled out of receivership (started in 1933 due to Great Depression)

1944 was also the year of Leonard's first violation. He was 17 years young.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - The Province, pg02 (Dec.22, 1944)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun, pg15 (Dec.23, 1944)
Leonard was charged with two burglary counts, theft of a vehicle and retaining stolen property. His case was held over to the following month, January 1945. Standing before Judge Lennox, he was acquitted of the breaking and entering charges, yet convicted of four counts of retaining stolen goods. The Judge declared Leonard and two others as a "bad trio", and held them until January 19th for sentencing.  In the end, Leonard was sentenced to six months in Oakalla jail.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver
Sun, pg13 (Jan.13, 1945)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - The Province,
pg02 (Jan.19, 1945)
Oakalla Prison was built in 1912, and known as a working farm, with it's own livestock, vegetable gardens and dairy.  The popular view was to reform prisoners through farm work and teaching them trades. By 1950's it was overcrowded, with a population well over 1000. Over its years of operation, Oakalla was one of the most notorious prisons in Canada. It's doors were closed in 1991. During it's operation, more than 890 escapes were documented, several full scale riots occurred, and the prison carried out 44 official hangings (executions).  I would think that young offenders experienced all types of fear entering the prison for their first time.
Courtesy B.C.Government - Oakalla Prison in Burnaby, B.C.
(unknown date)
Not a year later, Leonard received charges of attempted theft of an auto.  He pled guilty, and was sentenced to another six months in jail (possibly Oakalla) of hard labour by Judge H.S. Wood.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun, pg22
(Jan.04, 1946)
It was apparent Leonard was making bad choices in his life. He had been caught with two others, as before, indicating he hadn't acted alone. Was he being led by others or was he the one doing the leading?  We will never know.  Were Leonard's actions due to the impact of losing his mother and trying to adjust to a step-mother at a young age? It's a possibility.

His address, when researched through the B.C. Directories, indicated he had been living with his father.

By September 1946, Leonard's appeal was before the courts. It was dismissed and his conviction stood. He was not quite 19 years of age.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Times Colonist, pg15 (Sep.13, 1946)
Two years later, in 1948, Leonard was sent to jail for a third occurrence; this time for vagrancy and assault of L. J. Hill.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun, pg15
(Dec.07, 1948)
Leonard now resorted to more violent acts. Assault was a serious offence. His sentences ran concurrently, and therefore we can assume he wasn't released until December 1949.  This type of action speaks to me of desperation, and possibly drug addiction. He was just 21 years young, and already aware of prison life.

I attempted to locate records of L. J. Hill and found one interesting document which indicated a Lauri John Hill (born 1898 in Dawson, Yukon) drowned in False Creek due to intoxication (level of .27) in 1961. He fell into the waters, unable to save himself, and died of suffocation. There is no proof this is the person Leonard assaulted, but it is an interesting fact. Lauri was the only L. J. Hill I could locate in provincial records.

Once Leonard was released, it is believed he lived on the streets.  This was confirmed at his next conviction, which was a few days after his release.  Leonard was back in front of a Judge.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - The Province, pg24 (Dec.24, 1949)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun, pg02 (Jan.20, 1950)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun,
pg01 (Jan.23, 1950)
Of course, the newspapers gave conflicting evidence. One stated Leonard had not lived at his father's home for some time, while the other indicated the address as his home. Regardless, we know Leonard was out on the streets and found himself in the Queens Rooms, 206 Main Street (at Powell, the building no longer exists). The Rooms were of the Queens Hotel and Cafe, which popped up in the city directories in 1910. The area, one of the busiest in Vancouver, B.C., often found in the newspapers due to the amount of illegal ongoings such as murders, thefts, drugs and so on. Today, the area is part of Chinatown and remains a neighbourhood riddled with crime.

Leonard had resorted to violence in the robbery.  It certainly showed a new trend of survival in his life. Was he not fit to find a job? Was he lazy or unable to clear his mind enough to make an effort to go straight? The news articles do not tell us of his demeanour or reasons for his crimes.
The victim, a man from China, had travelled to Canada in 1915 (most likely to work and send money home), worked as a millworker (34 years old) who was visiting the city on a break from his employment at Youbou, B.C. (a small logging town on Vancouver Island).  Lung Yung Shung, unfortunately, passed away in 1962 due to a lung infection and congestive heart failure. He had been 70 years old, married, and had become a Canadian citizen years ago.
Courtesy City of Vancouver Archives - photo no. 1513 (1940)
View of clearcut in Youbou, B.C.
With Leonard's conviction we learn he was sentenced to serve his time at the B.C. Penitentiary, also known as "The Pen".  He had arrived at the "big time".  The men of "The Pen" were serious hardened criminals and Leonard would have to be careful if he wanted to make it through his term.

Directly after his release from prison, in November 1951, Leonard being no stranger to crime and trouble, was sentenced on drug offences. Little did he know he was being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (aka RCMP).
Records from the RCMP, April 1951-March 1952, indicate that in B.C. alone over 593 cases were investigated, and nationwide led to 411 convictions. B.C. was leading the charge with the number of cases, which may be largely due to the opium epidemic of the times.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver News-Herald,
pg03 (Nov.10, 1951)
Drug use in the late 1940's to late 1950's was heavily monitored by the RCMP narcotics division. It was almost impossible to go unnoticed. Minimum sentences of six months were handed out to first time users, with two year sentences to repeat offenders.  Steady users often spent more time in jail than out of it.  A thesis written in 2000, by a University student (PhD Graduate, Catherine Carstairs), stated most users were of broken homes, violent backgrounds, limited opportunities and poverty. It goes on to state that young people were attracted to the "street culture" because of heroin and it's "powerful and exciting act of definances as well as a way of forging community, forgetting problems and creating identity".

Leonard received a sentence of six months, plus two months or $200 fine.  This landed him in jail at least until the summer of 1952. It makes sense to what was going on in his previous convictions, using theft and violence to find a way to live.  We may assume he'd become addicted to drugs earlier on, at first finding it euphoric and fun, until he was caught. Then it became a habit he could not get out of.

It is noted, in a newspaper report from 1960, that on September 28, 1954, Leonard was sentenced to two years for "retaining stolen goods". I could not locate any article or document confirming this conviction; however, there was an article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper dated September 13, 1954, which indicated three men were charged with the crime. There had been an increase of breaking and entering cases accompanied by an impressive arrest record. Certainly, as we know Leonard had been convicted of stolen goods previously (1945), we can make the assumption that McCarty may have been caught and sentenced.  We have to consider his drug use and time on the streets, as well as people he associated himself with.

The conviction would put Leonard in prison until mid-1956, when news once again centered around the young man.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver News-Herald, pg03
(Jul.20, 1956)
The surprising fact about this news article describes Leonard as a logger.  Had he finally found himself work?  Had he tried to clean up and go straight?  Or was this just an occupation he gave himself?  When did he have time to become a logger, as the records showed convictions after conviction without much time in between?

The address provided at 615 Alexander Street, is now a cement building housing small businesses; however, back in the 1950's it was a rooming house.

Due to his previous drug conviction, the RCMP were sure to have kept tabs on him.  I could not find an article announcing the ruling of a sentence; however, according to the thesis, a conviction could run from six months to two years.  I would say the latter, two years, is what Leonard would have received, which put his release around August 1958.

It's not surprising that in 1959, Leonard narrowly escaped charges of possessing a dangerous weapon (sawed-off shotgun), yet is found guilty of drug charges.
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun, pg14
(Apr.04, 1959)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - Vancouver Sun, pg06
(Apr.14, 1959)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - The Province, pg21
(Apr.14, 1959)
Leonard McCarty was sentenced to serve two years in the B.C. Penitentiary.

The number of convicts in the B.C. Penitentiary had nearly doubled from 365 in March 1946, to 692 in March 1956; and by 1956, two more dormitories had been completed to house 50 inmates each. Fred Cummins became the new warden in 1955, and was looking for innovative ways to improve the old prison; but within a few years, the numbers continued to increase and soon outgrew the additional accommodations.  An overcrowded prison was not a safe place. Although the prison transferred convicts to other penitentiaries across Canada, the numbers kept increasing.  In 1958, a pre-release system was tried out, where long term prisoners were given day passes hoping they'd return each evening. This program was deemed a success, and if it continued would lead to their ultimate release.  Then in 1959, two convicts were witnessed near the farm piggery, and after a couple of rounds were shot off by a prison guard, they escaped. This led to the discovery of how convicts would get drugs into the grounds. They'd agree on a spot where drugs would be thrown over the high walls by someone on the outside, and later, would go pick them up.
For example, a guard found a baseball in the exercise yard, which had been hollowed out and replaced with small packages of drugs labeled for certain inmates. Once the inmates were released into the yard, they would search for items that contained the contraband. Of course this led to a "spring cleaning" project of the complex. Inmates were smart, but prison guards were always keeping an eye on them and their not so ingenious ways to smuggle drugs in.
Courtesy New Westminster Archives - Aerial of B.C. Penitentiary (1982)
Item no. IHP9391, ID-45971 

On July 3, 1960, Leonard was found hanging by a bedsheet in his cell.  He left a suicide note in his shirt pocket addressed to a "Bill" (we do not know who that is):
"Look Bill, before I leave this world, I'm going to tell it to you straight. Go ahead and laugh, but I'm quite sure I'm no stoolie. I know, I'm just about out of my head. And I also know that when I first went to the hole, I was sick. And I do like Dor. I always have, but I am sort of embarrassed to sit with Dor or anyone else on account of myself, nobody else. So now you have a fair idea why I started staying by myself. You have had an opportunity to stand beside me. I guess it wasn't very pleasant. Well, Bill, you know what the rest of it is. So tell Dor that I am very sorry for any embarrassment I have caused her, and she did have guts to help me. And furthermore I guess I have just about embarrassed the whole place. .. Hay (PS) - When I gave Dor that weed I didn't know that there was anything wrong with it. I like Dor."

An inquest ruled his death "asphyxia brought on by strangulation".  It had been suspected that Leonard was ostracized by a group of drug addicted prisoners, and at his own request was sent to solitary confinement for nine months (began September 1959) out of fear for his safety.
On June 24th he asked the Warden to be returned to the general population.
On July 3rd a prison guard testified to have found Leonard McCarty hanging dead in his cell at 8pm. Just an hour prior, Leonard had asked for something to help him sleep and was provided a "triple bromide" from the prison hospital. The drug was a combination of ammonium, potassium and sodium bromides (historically used to control epilepsy), and was once used as an anticonvulsant and sedative.

Courtesy Newspapers.com - The Province, pg02 (Jul.07, 1960)
Courtesy Newspapers.com - The Vancouver Sun, pg12 (Jul.07, 1960)
On July 7, 1960, Leonard McCarty (age 32 and described as the 'friendliest addict' although 'terrified') was laid to rest in the B.C. Penitentiary Cemetery, which is situated west of the prison walls and across a ravine.  Family did not claim his remains.  His stone, with the number 9880 carved into it, can be found in the middle of the last row on the east side of the small acre.

Leonard's father, Donald, died nine years later in October 1969, of a heart attack.
Photo by Kati - View north east. B.C. Penitentiary (aka Boot Hill) Cemetery
(Aug.29, 2018)
This concludes the story of our convict. Remember, when visiting the cemetery to please respect those interred no matter of their crime(s).

You can comment on our Facebook Page, or send an email using our Website to connect with us. Know anything to help support this effort in finding out who the B.C. Penitentiary Convicts were? Contact us! We'd love to hear from you.

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

Until next time,

Sources: newspapers.com; BC Archives - Genealogy; British Colonist; Ancestry.ca; Google Maps; BC City Directories - VPL; VPL.ca; City of Vancouver Archives; RCMP Archives; National Library of Canada; CollectionsCanada.gc.ca (thesis by Catherine Carstairs - 'Hop Head' and 'Hypes': Drug Use, Regulation and Resistance in Canada, 1920-1961); RCMP Reports; UBC Open Sessions; "Four Walls in the West" - by Jack David Scott; BC Government-Corrections; Essondale Blogspot; "The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver" - by Chuck Davis.

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