Kirkup Family In Rossland 1905
Kirkup Family Leaving Rossland 1913
      John Kirkup was born in Kemptville, Ontario in 1855. He apprenticed as a carriage-maker and at the age of 21 went to Winnipeg to work construction in the housing boom. The next year he went to Victoria to return to his trade, but soon joined the Victoria Police. In 1881 he joined the BC Provincial Police and went to Yale for the construction of the CPR until 1886 and then went to a desk job. On 1 January 1891 he married Margaret Susan Kerr (born 1866). By 1894 his disdain for local politicians had so angered the business community all the way from Revelstoke to Nelson that their lobbying forced his resignation. However in 1896 he was rehired and appointed to Rossland as Chief Constable and Recorder (there is some confusion about the date - either he was rehired in 1895 or he was already in Rossland when he was rehired, since he had a son born in Rossland in November 1895).
      In 1896 Rossland was a pretty wild place, inhabited largely by American miners. The culmination of a feud in Sourdough Alley resulted in Jimmy Westgate brutally and bloodily killing Hugh MacLaughlin with an axe. After trial in Nelson, Westgate was sentenced to only 11 months in prison. Worried that Rossland was becoming as lawless as mining camps south of the border, Victoria sent Kirkup to clean up the camp. And clean it up he did! Contrary to popular myth, before coming to Rossland Kirkup always carried a Colt 44 sidearm, though he seldom ever shot it. During his time in Rossland he abandoned his sidearm and instead carried a lead weighted walking stick.
      When Rossland incorporated in 1897, he was relieved of police duties, but remained as Gold Commissioner and Government Agent. At that point he settled down and faded into the background, living in a house on the corner of LeRoi Ave. and Davis St. They had two sons born in Rossland - Jack Kirkup, born 18 November 1895 and Robert Kerr Kirkup, born 23 December 1896.
      Either late in 1912 or early in 1913 he left Rossland and went to Alberni as Government Agent for three years and then went to Nanaimo in the same capacity. He died in Nanaimo on 2 November 1916 as a result of diabetes. Margaret died in Nanaimo in 1937 at the age of 71. They are both buried in the Nanaimo Cemetery.
      The first picture shows the Kirkup family in 1905 and the second picture shows them boarding the Great Northern train during a snowstorm on the day they left Rossland. They were given to me by John Kirkup, son of Jack and grandson of John.
      "Big John Kirkup", at six foot three and 300 pounds, was a big man and very strong. He was notorious for using his fists instead of his gun. If he did use his gun, it was usually as a club, rather than shooting it, but more often he would use his walking stick for a club if his fists wouldn't do. One of his classic methods for handling two opponents was to bang their heads together. A famous story from his 16 months as the law in Rossland was the time he intercepted Jack Lucy, an infamous gunman from Idaho, coming into town. Placing his hand on his shoulder and looking him straight in the eye he said pleasantly: "That is a very steep hill. It would be a shame to go all the way down there when you will just have to turn around and come right back up." As Kirkup's grip on his shoulder tightened, Lucy finally agreed and headed back to Northport. Kirkup preferred to settle matters out of court. When a squatter insisted on building next to the creek in Sourdough Alley (a practice not considered proper by common understanding) and refused to take Kirkup's advice to move it, Kirkup simply put his shoulder to it and pushed it into the creek.
      As it had after the CPR years, his dislike of politicians again put an end to his tenure as a lawman. In 1897 when Rossland incorporated, the newly elected mayor, Col. Robert Scott, elected to replace Kirkup with Jack Ingram. His remaining years in Rossland were relatively quiet and stories about him from those years usually involved his sense of humour. One such story involved a letter which appeared in the Phoenix Pioneer in the nearby mining town of Phoenix on 26 May 1900 which was published as follows:
A solicitor in this riding, acting on behalf of the estate of a man who has been dead for some time, has received the following communication addressed to the deceased by the well known Rossland law officer, John Kirkup. "Dear Sir - I am to inform you that objection has been taken to your name remaining on the voters' list for the Rossland Riding of West Kootenay, upon the ground that you have been dead for some time. You will kindly let me know by return mail whether you are dead or not. If you are dead let me know, and I will strike your name off, but if not, of course your name will remain as it is."
      There is a famous story from 1890 about the time he chased a fugitive into the US. According to a former owner of Kirkup's papers and photos (Bernie of Antiquarius Books), this story is documented in his warrant. He chased the man into the US and across eight states, capturing him near Chicago. He put him in Chicago's jail for holding, came back to Canada for extradition papers, then went back and got him and brought him back to BC, where he was hung. Frederic Remington, the western artist spent six days with him on this trip and made a sketch each day. One of these , entitled Big Jack the Mountain Sheriff was published in Harper's Monthly in 1891. Five of these are in the Remington Museum; it's not known what happened to the sixth.
      It is said that John Wayne used Kirkup as one of two models in creating himself. He is said to have taken his distinctive walk from Hollywood stunt man Yakima Kanut, and several other of his signature traits from Kirkup, including his habit of using his gun as a club.
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