James Kirkup Application
Kirkups & Clothiers
      John Kirkup was born in Kemptville, Ontario on 13 March 1855. The 1881 census for Kemptville shows parents James Kirkup (1820-1903) and Hannah Taylor Kirkup (1826-1904) with seven children ... Annie, John, Robert, George, James, William, and Elizabeth. The oldest daughter, Catherine, is usually missed in the geneology probably because James and Hannah immigrated to Canada from England in 1853 with two daughters, Catherine and Annie, and by the time the 1881 census came around Catherine was already married to Ambrose Clothier with kids of her own, and doesn't show up on the census as a Kirkup. The significance of Catherine is that she is the link between the Kirkup and Clothier families, she is the grandmother of Robert Clothier who played Relic in The Beachcombers. She is listed as Mrs. Ambrose Clothier, a surviving child, in James' obituary of 4 June 1903. The obituary makes no mention of Robert, he died working for the CPR in 1885. There is also a gravestone in the Kemptville Public Cemetary for a Bessie Kirkup with no dates, just referred to as "infant daughter of James", presumably she died at childbirth. The photo at the left shows John and Sue Kirkup with their sons Jack and Robert, and Catherine Kirkup Clothier and Ambrose Clothier on either side of John in Rossland circa 1903.

While I'm on the topic of John's siblings, I'll mention James, who was also in Rossland. The document at the left is an application by James for a job as police costable in Rossland on 27 April 1897, in which he states his current occupation as night watchman. Alfie Albo gave me this document. All other photos and documents posted here are from John Kirkup, the grandson of John and Sue. James is also mentioned in Greg Nesteroff's Blog  as an unsuccessful applicant for the job of Nelson's first firechief in 1897. In that application he claimed to have firefighting experience in New York. And in the 1 July 1899 edition of The Cascade Record there appeared this story : "James Kirkup, brother of the gold commissioner, was camped near the lake early this week with a force of men, sent to repair the Dewdney trail. Since then this end of the trail has been cut out and all windfalls removed in good shape, making it much more available for the large traffic now daily utilizing it. All the Rossland race horses, were brought over it this week".

      John apprenticed as a carriage-maker with his father, and at the age of 21 went to Winnipeg to work construction in the housing boom, as well as operating a ferry on the Red River. 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, following it east to Savona in 1884, then Farwell (Revelstoke) in 1885. In 1890 he was sent to Sproat's Landing across from Castlegar on a temporary assignment to police the construction of CPR's Columbia and Kootenay Railway. In December 1890 he took a 3 month leave of absence and went home to Kemptville, where he married home town girl Sue Kerr (born 1866) on 1 January 1891. They visited "all the places of interest in Canada" on their honeymoon, ending with a week in Victoria before returning to Revelstoke. In the end, in Revelstoke, as was the case later in Rossland, politics was his undoing. For an excellent and very thorough account of his entire career and the politics he faced in Revelstoke and in Rossland read Ronald Shearer's Essays 

Kirkup Home ca.1895
      The photo at the left shows the Kirkup home in Rossland circa 1895, on the northwest corner of Leroi Ave and Davis St. The skirting around the porch is still not quite finished and the yard is all fresh dirt. Also they always had kids in their photos and there are none here. Jack was born in November 1895, and Susan looks a little heavier than other photos of her, so I think it likely that she was pregnant with Jack in this photo.

      On 27 February 1895 a dispute erupted in Rossland over the location of a cabin in Sourdough Alley, when Hugh McLaughlin built a cabin and James Westlake considered it much too close to his. After McLaughlin laid his foundation, Westlake, that night moved it further away. The next day on the 28th, McLaughlin moved it back and the feud was on ! Westlake, who only had one good arm at the time, either pushed or hit McLaughlin. McLaughlin hit Westlake with an axe, Westlake fought back with a board. McLaughlin then attacked with a vengeance while Westlake tried to defend himself with an axe in his left hand, since his good arm, the right, was useless at the time. He lost control of the axe, released it, and McLaughlin received a serious wound in the lower leg. Westlake was charged with "unlawful wounding with intent to maim". A few days later, while the preliminary hearing was in progress, McLaughlin died of blood poisoning, and the charge was upped to "wounding with intent to murder". The jury convicted him of manslaughter and he got 11 months. Years later the Rossland Miner, in a review of Rossland History, depicted it as a bloody and cold blooded murder, and that version stuck, but a look at the evidence given at trial shows a pretty good case for self defence. In any case this incident is often given as the reason for Kirkup being sent to Rossland, since the Order In Council was dated 1 Mar 1895, but it must have been planned weeks before that with the decision that it was time for the creation of a Mining Recorders office and a constable in Rossland, as it was fast becoming the largest mining camp in the province.


Kirkup Home ca.1900s
This photo shows the Kirkup home in the 1900s

Kirkup arrived in Rossland on 19 March 1895. He was paid $110 per month, the same as he was in Revelstoke, but he was now only mining recorder and constable, no longer being the government agent overseeing public works as he had been in Revelstoke, although as the senior government official in Rossland he was still involved in day-to-day oversight. The mining claim records, originally recorded in Nelson, and then in 1891 moved to Trail Creek Landing under Colonel Topping, were so carelessly made and kept that it made court cases difficult. Kirkup was kept extremely busy putting them in order, as well as keeping up with the exploding rush of new claims. He also oversaw the day-to-day construction of the police station and lockup, opened in 1895, and the courthouse, opened in 1901 and still used today.
      As busy as he was, he still found time for his policing duties. Strict enforcement of the gambling and liquor laws was his priority, as well as expulsion of vagrants and trouble makers. His imposing size (6'3" and 300 lbs) and growing reputation with it's implied threat was usually enough to get the job done, but he could get physical if required. The one area of law that he did not enforce was prostitution ... he seems to have judged that trying to interfere with it in a mining camp full of single men would cause more law and order problems than it solved, and by just fining the prostitutes small fines the city finances would benefit and everyone would gain. In 1900, after complaints about the location of brothels on Lincoln Street, the city suggested to the brothels that they move down below town and the railway track to Kootenay Avenue along the wagon road to Trail, and this became both the Red Light district and Chinatown.

Kirkup - Miners Hall
Kirkup Postcard 1907
The photo on the left was taken in 1899 or possibly even 1898 judging by the age of the kids. Note the Miners Hall in the background, it was built in 1898, and the kids are too young for the photo to have been taken after 1899.

The postcard was sent by Sue in Vancouver, postmarked 2 AM, 28 June 1907, to "Mr Jack Kirkup" (he always went by Jack at home) in Rossland, postmarked PM, 29 June 1907, with a 1 cent stamp. Pretty good mail service !

      By June Kirkup was officially Chief of Police with Constable Hooson transferred from Victoria under him, and soon after two more constables. On 18 November 1895 their first son Jack Kirkup was born. In May 1896 he was appointed the Board of Health for the Trail Creek Mining District, with a Rossland physician under him. Soon after that he was appointed tax assessor and collector for the Rossland Electoral District, which meant he had to travel all the way west to Midway in the Boundary area to assess property, including mining claims, personal property, incomes, and then collect the taxes, and then to seize and auction any properties on which taxes weren't paid, as well as attend any court proceedings resulting. His workload kept increasing as he was appointed Government Agent in Rossland. By this time Rossland was widely regarded as a model mining camp for it"s unparalleled law and order, especially compared to American mining camps. On 23 December 1896 their second son, Robert Kerr Kirkup was born.
      As had happened in Revelstoke, Kirkup's supporters and those against him were split more or less evenly, and in 1897, when Rossland incorporated and elected their first mayor, it was his detractors that won the day. That was the end, for the most part, of his involvement in law enforcement, as the new city took over policing. Kirkup's resonsibilities steadily increased ... Collector of Votes for the Rossland Riding in May 1898, Gold Commissioner for the Trail Creek Mining District and Stipendiary Magistrate for the West Kootenay in June 1898, Police Magistrate for Rossland in August 1899 (this appointment was temporary, replacing G.A.Jordan, who was ill, until John Boultbee took over. In this capacity he presided over the intimidation and corruption trial against John Ingram, the Chief of Police who had replaced him. He also co-presided over the preliminary hearing of the Daniel-Morgan criminal libel case.)

Kirkup - Sunday Drive
Kirkups Leaving Rossland 1913
The photo on the left is the Kirkups with unknown friends out for a Sunday drive in Rossland. The photo on the right was taken in early 1913 as they were boarding the Great Northern train in a snowstorm and leaving Rossland for the last time, on their way to Alberni

      In July 1911 he once again became a policeman for the last time with a temporary posting to Tete Jaune Cache to establish law and order there. He succeeded spectacularly and returned to Rossland in January 1912. By this time diabetes was taking it's toll on him, and there was no treatment in those days, so at the beginning of 2013 he was posted to Alberni on Vancouver Island. In August 1915 he was transfered to Nanaimo. On 2 November 1916, at age 61, he died of septicemia after surgery to treat a carbuncle resulting from his diabetes. Sue died in Nanaimo in 1937 at the age of 71. They are both buried in the Nanaimo cemetary.
     
The Legends

      Let's take a look at some of the legends surrounding Kirkup. One story showing his sense of humour 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."

Killy Warrant of Recpias
Killy Extradition
Remington Sketch
      There is a famous story from 1890 about the time he chased a fugitive into the US. According to a former owner of some 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. This is the picture at the left. Five of these are in the Remington Museum; it's not known what happened to the sixth.
      Sorting this out involves three generations of John Kirkups, so to avoid confusion I'll identify them as follows : the original John Kirkup I'll call Sheriff John, His son born in 1895 I'll call Son Jack, and the grandson (Son Jack's son) I'll call Grandson John. According to Grandson John, who is in touch with the Remington Museum, they only know of one Remington sketch, the Mountain Sheriff water colour wash, they know nothing of five others, and they know nothing of where it was done. They told him about a request from Harpers to Kirkup asking for changes to the Mountain Sheriff water color wash...He did not want to make any changes but had no choice since he was commissioned by Harpers to do the sketch. In 1950 when the RCMP took over the BC Police, Son Jack who was a seargent for the BC Police was demoted to constable. Grandson John's recollection from what his father told him and from what Gordon S Wismer, who was BC Attorney General in 1950, told him is that it was payback for Sheriff John having put two Northwest Mounted Police members in jail who had been sent to Rossland to get Edward Killy, who was wanted in Saskatchewan for murder and who Sheriff John had in Jail but was holding him for Pinkertons. The story was that he held the two NWMP members in jail until Pinkertons came for their man and then let them go. Apparently Killy had fled across the border from Saskatchewan after committing the murder. This would seem to bolster the story about Sheriff John going to the US to get his man. Except why would Sheriff John be holding Killy for Pinkertons if the crime was committed in Canada ? In 2004 Grandson John was working as Commissionaire for the RCMP at Little Mountain, Vancouver. The historian there told him that Son Jack's demotion had nothing to do with payback, only with the amalgamation of the two police forces. The Extradition Requisition, shown here, addressed to John Kirkup, Provincial Constable, City Of Victoria states that Edward Killy murdered Robert Baird in Kootenay District, British Columbia on or about 27 November 1884. The Warrant of Recipias, also shown here, is dated 6 March 1886, and addressed to John Kirkup re Edward Killy. So I think we can rule out the story about the NWMP, unless it was related to an entirely different crime. In March 1886 we know that Sheriff John was extremely busy in Rossland and it seems very unlikely that he would even have time for a manhunt to Chicago, let alone a second trip to go back with the papers. It's curious that the extradition papers are addressed to Kirkup in Victoria but perhaps that's just because that's where the BC Police were based. Also why does the Remmington Museum have no record of more than one sketch ? In any case he did extradite Killy back from somewhere in the US.

      "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 (his supporters in Revelstoke had presented him with a gold topped walking stick as a token of "the estimation and appreciation in which you are held for the fair and impartial manner in which you have discharged your onerous duties and obligations"). One of his classic methods for handling two opponents was to bang their heads together. A famous story from his short time 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.

      It is said that John Wayne used Kirkup as one of two models in creating his persona. 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. This could likely be true as Harper's Magazine published a story of an incident at Donald, BC from Kirkup's time policing CPR construction when he forcibly persuaded a belligerent and reluctant gambler, who was armed, to leave town ... at least once he had carried the inert body back to the jail, cleaned the blood off him, then walked him to the train, at which point they parted on good terms, after which Kirkup commented "I had to get a little rough". The story was picked up by many newspapers across the US. Ronald Shearer in his essay lists six newspapers from California to Texas and says it's just a partial list. So the Kirkup legend was known far and wide, and if the stories are to be believed, even three men were no match for him, it was only a question of how much violence he would be forced to employ, and the fact that violence was always his last resort only added to his legend.

Jack with Princess Elizabeth
John Kirkup Commissionaire


      The photo at the far left shows Jack Kirkup (18 November 1898 - 19 December 1970) with Princess Elizabeth at the DVA (Department of Veteran's Affairs) Shaughnessy Hospital on 20 Oct 1951. Three and a half months later, while she was in Africa, on 6 February 1952 her father died, and at that moment she became queen.

      The photo on the right is John Kirkup (the grandson - 1936 to present) as a Commissionaire for the RCMP in 2004. Originally an accountant by trade, he was responsible for costing on the CBC show The Beachcombers, and had no idea he was related to Robert Clothier (Relic) until one of the producers told him. Later he was responsible for setting up the movie contracts for CBC BC, purchasing and scheduling syndicated programming for telecast. His most recent claim to fame is as the character in the YouTube series of short films called Robert's Minute. My heartfelt thanks to him for the photos and documents shown here.









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