Missing: Has anyone seen Dutch Harry or Barber Jack?

Well-known as a hunter and trapper, Dutch Harry had been armed with a Springfield rifle and six bullets and had 30 hard biscuits.

Well-known as a hunter and trapper, Dutch Harry had been armed with a Springfield rifle and six bullets and had 30 hard biscuits in his pack when he set out.

Police had their hands full, 129 years ago, looking for Dutch Harry and Barber Jack. Harry Kemper had gone missing while hunting at “Haslam’s Creek,” and John Holt had bolted from the city chain gang.

The latter, sentenced five weeks earlier to seven months with hard labour for an offence against the Indian Act, had been under the tender care of Chief Const. and Gaoler William Stewart at the time of his unauthorized departure. It wasn’t Jack’s first offence, he having previously served time in the provincial jail in Victoria.

Stewart later testified before Magistrate J.P. Planta that he was in Chemainus when he received notice by telegram from his assistant jailer that Jack had slipped free of his leg-iron, apparently by removing a rivet, and decamped.

Stewart then “took steps that would have secured his capture if he had arrived anywhere in the neighbourhood of Oyster Harbour, Chemainus or Cowichan”.

W. Beveridge, jailer, deposed that Jack was working with the chain gang on May 26, 1886, removing stumps on Selby Street, between Fitzwilliam and Wentworth streets, when acting convict guard Richard Williams permitted Jack to relieve himself in a nearby clump of trees. When Beveridge thought “he had been rather long away,” he ordered Williams to check on Jack.

“I went myself and looked around but could not see anything of him. I then ordered the gang into the gaol, and informed [Government Agent Bray], who dispatched telegrams along the [E&N Railway] line, and appointed a Special Constable, and otherwise arranged for pursuit of [the] prisoner.”

Jack was wearing prison clothing prominently marked with the government broad arrow and N.P. although he was no longer wearing his leg-iron, this having been found near the site of his escape.

However Jack had managed to extract the rivet that secured the shackle to his leg, he didn’t get far. He was heading south along the E&N, and had just crossed the Nanaimo River at 4 o’clock in the morning, when Special Const. P. Nile, acting upon instruction from Chief Stewart, accosted him.

Despite the incongruity of the time and place of their encounter, and his likely disappointment at being so soon recaptured, Jack greeted him civilly with, “Good morning.”

“I laid my hand upon him,” Nile testified, “and said, ‘I think you are the man I’ve been looking for,’ and lifted his long cotton flannel shirt to look at his jumper… When I started to take up the shirt he got mad at me, and threw a handkerchief bundle containing bread and beer into the middle of the track. On lifting up his shirt I saw the letters N.P. on his jumper. He then said, ‘I must go, I suppose.’”

With that, Nile handcuffed him. As they walked along the railway track, Jack said, “I’ll kill some one of them yet.”

He didn’t identify the objects of his animosity to Nile but did say that he considered Chief Stewart to be “a good man, I’ve nothing against him.” As for himself, he didn’t care whether he lived or died and, had he known that he was about to be re-arrested, he’d have thrown himself into the Nanaimo River.

For Barber Jack, more hard time. For the missing hunter Dutch Harry Kemper, an unsolved mystery. Searchers found only some footprints. Well-known as a hunter and trapper, he’d been armed with a Springfield rifle and six bullets and had 30 hard biscuits in his pack when he set out.

His son feared that he’d accidentally shot himself while climbing over a log, his rifle having accidentally discharged on at least three previous occasions.


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