Friday, January 31, 2014

Crossing the Border

My mother sent me this photo of the opening of the  Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria on January 11, 1924. The bridge has recently been revamped and redone.
A reader of my blog, from Victoria, has informed me the bridge is being torn down and replaced. Many locals are unhappy with this decision.
Now I have a series of old photos taken from glass photo plates. 

Lakota Sioux Indian camp.
Chinese hose team.

When I left on Wednesday, the Vancouver Police were notified by the Bellingham police of a man in custody they might be interested in. Detective Sergeant Porteous made the trip south of the border to meet with the American investigators.

Chadwick Campbell, the prisoner in question, agreed to take a polygraph test. The test showed that Campbell lied when asked if he was present when Vaino Alto - the night watchman at Johnson's Storage - died.

Now Campbell was known to the police as not only being a braggart but also being talkative. Especially to someone who happened to shared a cell with him. On October 6 at 4:30 p.m., John McCluskey was booked into the Bellingham jail on a charge of robbery. McCluskey complained long and loud when he was placed in a cell with Campbell. The newcomer demanded a cell of his own, a request that was denied.

A deer hunting party near Deadwood in the winter of 1987 or 1988.
Deadwood Central Railway Surveryors

This is the interior of a Gold Stamp mill in Terraville, Dakota Territory on clean-up day.

The last trip of the Deadwood Stage.

Chadwick watched the exchange with interest and tried to talk to his new cell mate but McCluskey went to sleep instead. After a few hours of rest, the new prisoner woke and seemed much more interested in conversation.

Campbell offered the man a chocolate bar and then asked what he was in for. McCluskey stated he was a seaman from Scotland and the Bellingham Police arrested him as he jumped ship and tried to steal a car to drive to Vancouver. The owner of the car attempted to stop McCluskey so the would-be car thief, hit him thus making it a robbery charge.

Campbell told his cell mate that he was from Vancouver. He had been arrested in a stakeout by the Bellinghma Police. The police had found nitroglycerin and tools Campbell had hidden and waited for someone to pick them did. When Campbell did this, he was arrested.

The two then talked about the dangers of using nitro and progressed into talks about blowing safes. True to form, Campbell bragged about how many jobs he had pulled.

 Indian fighters from the US Army Infantry.
Village of Lakota Sioux Indians.
This is the only survivor of the 1876 Custer Massacre. A stallion named Comanche.
Old West stagecoach.

McCluskey was impressed and told Campbell he could make a lot of money blowing safes in Britain because safe-cracking wasn't common. Campbell said he might just do that since things were getting pretty hot in Vancouver after a watchman was killed during a safe-job. He explained that someone had tied up the watchman and blown the safe at Johnston's Storage. The men must have realized the man was dead or dying so they left.

Campbell said he was at another burglary that night but the police suspected him of the one at Johnston's.

Campbell and McCluskey talked a lot over the next few days and, on October 8, McCluskey was taken for an interview with Immigration officials. He returned to the cell and told Campbell he was being deported to Canada.

Chadwick asked John to contact a man named George Shaw and tell him to come to Bellingham and to bring a gun, crowbar and saw with him so that Shaw could break Campbell out of jail.

Captain Taylor and 70 Indian Scouts.

Cheyenne Indians

Miners panning for gold in the Dakota Territory.
Placer mining for gold.

The next day, as McCluskey was getting ready to leave, Campbell gave him a note for Shaw.  

On October 13, McCluskey was back in the Bellingham jail, looking like he had gotten the worst of a fight. Once again, he was put in the cell with Campbell. McCluskey told his cell mate he had gone to Vancouver and met with Shaw. He gave the man the message then offered to help with the jailbreak attempt. Shaw and Campbell had driven down that morning to do the job but when McCluskey stepped out of the car, he had been recognized by the police. A struggle ensued and although John had been arrested, Shaw had gotten away and was probably back in Vancouver.

Western Stagecoach.
"Hotel Minnekahta" Dakota Territory.

What a twisted tale that has now gone international! Monday I will tell you more of this true crime story as related in the book PoliceBeat, 24 Vancouver Murders by Joe Swan.

Thanks to my mother and her high school friend, Wes for the fantastic photos. They have sure held up well, wouldn't you say?

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. What a great story. Thanks for sharing. Wow!

    1. There are more twists to come! Check back Monday.

  2. Karen Magill the John McCluskey you are writing about was my father. I'd be interested in any more stories you have about him.
    Rosemary (McCluskey) White

  3. Hi Rosemary,

    There is one more entry to this story - and that is all the information I have. As you can see, I got it from the book by Joe Swann.