Friday, July 5, 2013

Sproule's Saga Continues

When we left Robert Sproule, he had fatally shot his nemesis, Thomas Hammill.  His escape in a rowboat had proved unsuccessful and Sproule was now in Victoria, on trial for murder.

Here is where Theodore Davie, our future tenth premier, enters the picture. On December 2, 1885, Theodore Davie appeared in court to defend Sproule in what was regarded as one of the most high profile cases argued in a British Columbia court. To make it even more interesting, Theodore went head to head with the Attorney-General of the province and another future premier, his brother Alexander Edmund Batson Davie. (That must have been an interesting Christmas for the Davie family!)

Robert Sproule was convicted of the crime and originally sentenced to hang on January 5, 1886. Theodore didn't give up though. He continued to fight and file appeals. Theodore even went to Ottawa to see if he could get a re-trial or at least have the death sentence commuted to life.

Sadly, all the attempts failed and Robert Evan Sproule was hanged on October 29, 1886. As we know, Alexander Davie went on to become premier the following year and his brother Theodore in 1892.

There are many variations of the series of events that led to the shooting at the Bluebell Mine. And even though he was convicted of the crime, Sproule's guilt remains a controversial subject in history. Both the facts of Hammill's death and the fairness of the subsequent trial have been questioned.

The Ainsworths abandoned their claim to the Bluebell mine after Hammill's death. Dr. Hendryx began to work the mine in 1888. He used the small steamship Galena to haul the heavy ore to Bonner's Ferry where it was then taken by wagon to the nearest railroad depot. Hendryx tried to make this process more economical by building a smelter at nearby Pilot Lake. However, the smelter didn't have adequate equipment and shut down within two years.

The Bluebell mine was reopened in the early 1900s by the Paris based Canadian Metal Company. (At this time the mining site took the name Riondel. It is now a retirement community.) The mine operated until 1921 then was revived in 1952 but exhausted by 1971.
I have a few places to thank for the information relayed above. First, there is the Great Canadian Lakes website. And the Lunatic Writer for information on the trial. Finally, I rechecked the dates the two Davie men were in power through the Premiers of British Columbia page on the B.C. government website.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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