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Thompson River First Nations

Letters Written by and about "Captain" P.B. Whannell

letters compiled by F.W. Howay

(Source: The Early History of Fraser River Mines. compiled by F.W.Howay. Published by John Forsyth, British Columbia Provincial Archives, Victoria 1926. Accession no.: NW 971.3 5F H853 c.6)

FORT YALE,31st December, 1858.(89)

His Excellency James Douglas, Esquire, Governor, etc., British Columbia.

Sir--I have the honor to inform your Excellency that on the 24th inst. one William Foster, a notorious character and gambler, shot one Bernard Rice, a miner, in open daylight and has absconded. I have used every precaution and exerted every possible means in my power to capture the criminal, but to no purpose as yet. He has been hidden by his associates here as well as on Hill's Bar, among whom is that notorious villain, Edward McGowan.

I have closed up all the Gambling Saloons, appointed three men on the Police Forse, and taken on several special constables on pay, as I could not arrange otherwise, and a large force is absolutely necessary here at the present crisis.

I have also to inform your Excellency that Edward McGowan came up this day to this town at the head of a lawless band of ruffians; broke open the jail and liberated a Prisoner, in the person of Hickson, Constable at Hill's Bar, whom I conunitted this day for contempt of Court and insubordination.

Mr. Perrier, justice of the peace at Hill's Bar, issued a Warrant for my arrest for the above act and dispatched a band of Sworn in special constables composed of the most notorious characters in that locality, and of which number was McGowan.

I pronounce Mr. Perrier totally unfit to serve in any capacity under Her Majesty's Govermnent.

This town and district are in a state bordering on anarchy; my own and the lives of the citizens are in imminent peril. I beg your Excellency will afford us prompt aid. I have applied to Captain Grant for assistance already, as troops can easily be billeted in this town.

An effective blow must at once be struck on the operations of these outlaws, else I tremble for the welfare of this Colony.

In conclusion, I beg to report to your Excellency that at the present time, owing to Mr. Perrier's act this day, my authority is set at defiance and I am, as it were, a mere cipher.

With due deference to your Excellency, I must state that should an armed force not be convenient to be sent up here at once, I shall be under the necessity of tendering my resignation.

To Mr. G. Tennent, the bearer of this, I beg to refer your Excellency, as he is aware of all that occurred here from the date of the murder of Bernard Rice.

Before concluding I must state that the whole of these disturbances at Fort Yale have originated in the acts of Mr. Richard Hicks, whom I do not hesitate to denounce as an unprincipled and corrupt Public Officer and a disgrace to the Government under which he has served.

I have dismissed Hickson, the Constable at Hill's Bar, but the justice there has put him on again; that man is also in league with McGowan's party.

I have the honor to be,
Your Excellency's Most Obedient Servant,(Sgd.)
P. B. Whannel
Justice of the Peace, District of Fort Yale.

P.S. - I beg to report that Mr. Williarn Kirby, late of the Police force here, refused to be sworn in or to act as a Special Constable when occasion.-P. B. W.

(89) This is the historic letter that " set the heather on fire." It has never before been published.

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Last updated 31 August 1998.
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