Several years ago, I visited the Royal BC Museum Archives to harvest the valuable information regarding the trial of Joseph Keane. Mathew Roderick was killed by Keane as he was returning to recover the two gold bars he stashed in the forest at the time of the robbery in August of 1896. The shooting occurred in late October and the trial, in part due to pressure from Mary Roderick’s legal team in Seattle, took place the following June in Vernon.
The testimonies of all involved in the trial proved to be a veritable gold mine of information for easy recovery. That single source became one of the best allowing for facts to be confirmed or rejected. But errors still happened. The most glaring one to me was the use of wrong numbers in the total amount of gold stolen. Figures listed by the police did not equal what the mine officials stated had been stolen.
While in the archives I checked other sources of information that included letters between Police Chief Hussey in Victoria and William McMynn in Midway. Besides hand written letters in graceful script, the police also used coded telegraph messages for sensitive information. Police forces in Canada and the US used Barnard’s Universal Criminal Cipher Code. Banking and shipping used similar codes for secrecy.
The information uncovered included Frank Fleming’s 1962 recording of the rugged Dewdney Trail. Many portions still existed one hundred years after construction although mountain weather and improved highways absorbed much. The video shows a long abandonded cabin and also the grave of one of the Royal Engineers who died during construction.
Best of all for my purposes, Fleming had captured the last shift at the Cariboo-Amelia mine where the last ore car came into the light of day seven decades later. Had Fleming merely stumbled upon the scene at Camp McKinney or did he plan the entire video recording around the event? No matter, I appreciated the opportunity to be able to post it here. You just never know what little gems might be available when researching such a great facility as the Royal.
Good treasure hunts start in the library and end in the courtroom. In between are days of reality in the great outdoors, frustration, realization and hopefully success.
Over my decade search for the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney, the question of ownership has come up often. The first consideration for a treasure hunter is to know that BC has many ‘no dig zones’, culturally sensitive areas that cannot be ignored.
Finders are not keepers in Canada. The law deals with each situation according to the facts that affect the case. In the case of stolen property, including gold bars from 1896, the province is the rightful owner. However, I have learned through the BC Law Courts library that if the finder can prove the province had no plans to find the object themselves, the finder then has a better claim to the property.
Finding the gold bars is only the beginning of the next step. And it’s worth following due to the potential value of gold bullion from the historic camp. They are BC history and need to be turned over to the government for that very reason. But the finder would have a claim to at least a portion of the treasure that could be considerable. The roughly fifty pounds of gold bullion are sixty-two percent pure according to James Monaghan’s personal diaries in the Museum of the NorthWest in Spokane, Washington. That could potentially be thirty pounds of pure gold at twelve troy ounces to the pound. Let’s say that comes to about three hundred and fifty troy ounces. Multiply that number by todays gold value and join the club of hopeful adventurers. And why not? Beats scratching lottery tickets at the mall.
Mathew Roderick’s spirit relayed to me that the bars are cursed so searchers should bear that in mind. Above all, do not expect to turn over a rock or old tree trunk and find the bars waiting for you. Not going to happen. They won’t be found with an expensive metal detector either due to the high percentage of volcanic, iron rich rock in the area. GPR won’t help either.
Ten years of research, planning, and searching have taught me some hard lessons. I believe the intervening one hundred and twenty-five years have seperated the bars. One is over here, and the other is over there. The X may be difficult to see. Two hundred plus days and nights have proven these details to me. Others may have opinions but this is my reality. The book is shaping up and I hope to include as many glossy pictures as possible. No gray scale allowed. Nothing worse than a good treasure story with poor quality photos.
Well hell, I suddenly wish I was camping in the forest.
When WR Gay worked in partnership with Brady, he aided Mary Roderick as she struggled in the aftermath of Mathew’s shooting death near Camp McKinney in October of 1896. Wilson sent an investigator to the mining camp to learn what they could about the death. Unfortunately the investigator had no proof of the many unsubstantiated claims he made.
But the investigation convinced Wilson to write a letter to the officials in British Columbia imploring them to fully investigate the shooting by Joseph Keane. Keane had fallen under suspicion of the BC Provincial Police allowing for a thorough inquest to be held at Vernon, BC the following June.
Mary Roderick went through a troubled time during which her children were under the care of another. Wilson helped her to acquire the propertires held in Matt’s name; a town lot in Ellensburg, three lots in Port Angeles and a mining claim on the Coleville Reservation owned with a partner as well as the house and possessions.
Wilson later partnered with a lawyer named Griffin in the Alaska Building constructed in 1904. The fourteen story building was the tallest in Washington State for a decade. He went on to become a Superior Court Judge and once again had contact with Mary Roderick. She had become a bailiff and occasionally worked in Wilson’s courtroom.
WR Gay was a member of the New Thought movement flourishing at that time. Also known as the Altrurian Society, the movement believed in one God and stressed healing, happiness and opulence. The judge died suddenly at home on November 19, 1920. His wife Lillian bore one daughter who was married by that time.
The Faux-Victorian house was built in King County, Seattle in 1892. Matt and Mary probably bought the home that same year due to rapid growth in the city’s population. The photo, taken by the city for tax purposes, is from 1937 and shows the house still retaining all the decor meant to mimic the Victorian style. A later photo from 1956 shows all those decorative pieces removed, the ravages of the winter rains had taken a toll. At some point, a large addition was made, doubling the home’s interior floor space. Though very unrecognizable today, the home still stands. The address changed soon after the build to 427 – 25th Avenue South.
After a decade in the Dakota Territories, the house must’ve felt like heaven with fireplaces on both floors and an indoor privy. But tragedy followed the couple. Floyd Mathew Roderick was born in early January of ’96 but died from infant cholera on August 7th that year. Mary wrote a letter to Matt at the camp telling him of their loss. I have little doubt the news urged Matt to pull off the robbery he had spoken of for months. Less than ninety days after Floyd’s passing, Matt was killed near Camp McKinney, BC in a botched attempt to follow him and recover the stolen gold hidden in the forest. Mary suffered a breakdown and for several years, the children were cared for by others. Raymond died of diptheria before he was a teenager. Only Trophy Leona survived to a senior age and cared for her mother, never marrying. They shared the same apartment roughly two miles north of the house, as listed in a Federal census.
Trophy Leona Roderick did not go to the Klondike as some suspect. Newspaper accounts of a Trophy Roderick can be found in period newspapers but she had a differnt middle name. To further confuse research, she attended school in Washington State and can be found in news items relating to her good school marks. Our Mary and Trophy Leona Roderick never left King County, Seattle. Mary recovered and went on to become the first female federal court bailiff, court room number eight. She often worked near Judge Brady W Gay, the one-time lawyer who guided Mary through the months following Matt’s death. The legal team urged the BC government to conduct a full and proper inquiry into the shooting death which was done. The BC Provincial Police also had suspicions about Joseph P Keane and wanted to thoroughly investigate all that happened. The inquest details have been a great revelation of facts concerning the movements of the key players in 1896. Trophy Leona became a stenographer and operated a very complex adding machine, the comptometer, that looks like an old adding machine on steroids.
Near the end of June, I will be seventy years old. I would complain except not everyone gets to reach the milestone. It’s with very mixed emotions that I continue to grow ever older. For me, the worst part of ageing is how the days, months and years continue to pass ever faster. At present, that’s a plus as I will seemingly get to summer much quicker. I miss the forest adventure even though I live it almost daily as I continue to write and edit. But nothing beats being on site where Mathew Roderick hid his accessories and two gold bars.
I have enjoyed some of my best sleep in the solitude of the forest. If I were lucky enough to wake, a million stars lit the night sky in a display enjoyed by our ancestors for thousands of years. The beauty of the heavens is my biggest loss from country living, well, that and silence. We get accustomed to noise pollution, all pollution too easily. But the transit to electric powered vehicles should be a great step especially where large cities don’t have the needed pollution controls on all vehicles..
Imagine a city where cars, truck, busses, even Harleys, are electric. The sounds of tires on ashphalt and music might be the few causes of noise. But as much as the scenario is great, where will the source for all the power be from? While windmills and solar panels will be a great part, will nuclear energy have to expand? I am unable to understand how a power source such as nuclear reactors are used when a byproduct includes waste that we are unable to deal with. Burying waste deep underground to ease our fears doesn’t seem right. Is that our legacy for future generations?
My apologies for skipping from the beauty of the night sky to the horrors of the age. I have been too long from the mental reset given by nature. I stand in my imaginary support group and admit that I suffer from nature deficet disorder. Some benefit is gained from the city greenspaces but it’s not the same with the endless sound of traffic and the occasional siren included.
This is a great time to be writing a memoir; hell it’s a good time to be writing anything. The memoir portion is relatively easy as I have lived the story and kept detailed records through it all. After telling my backstory to set the stage, I alternate chapters with the storyline from the 1800s to bring the main characters to life for the reader. Through that process, I have realized how similar we are even more than a century later.
All the modern tools are at my disposal. Research is easier now than ever before although I do still write the occasional letter to a source for some material. The internet is an incredible resource, especially with access to pre-1900 newspapers. In those bygone days, reporters were desperate for news to print, or at least seem to be on occasion. That has helped me to trace the characters’ actions and piece together much of their stories. Once in a while, a minor detail sparks a further investigation that yields more details. People have surprised me with their assistance as well. Libraries are always a great source and again the internet allows for quick and easy contact.
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Mathew Roderick by mine employee Joe Keane near Camp McKinney, the Calgary Herald ran a story. The writer reported that Matt’s brother John ambushed Joe Keane on the same trail and shot him dead off his horse. When I first read the report, I thought there was a good angle for a writer to appreciate and expand on. But my investigation found Joe Keane continued to work in the mining industry in Idaho for years after. I found John still living in South Dakota and seemingly not hiding from the law.
Another headline grabbed my attention when I read that Roderick had shot and killed his mother in New York City. Our Roderick did hail from NYC but this was a different one. Apparently a Mr. Roderick was argueing with a drunk on the street. The interaction escalated to the point of Roderick drawing a pistol to shoot the offender dead. But mom stepped in to stop the fight and did so, by taking the bullet. She died on the scene. That could have added some drama but alas it was of no use to me.
And that is also the problem with the internet; it’s too easy to get side-tracked and lose one’s direction. I had to drop my tv cable for the very same reason; too much interesting material to watch. My tv is limited to library movies and documentaries and minor internet browsing. There are simply not enough hours in the day even with a pandemic keeping me inside.
But life is what we make it. There is a great story about the gold bar theft and I will do my best to make it an enjoyable read. And leave the fiction out.
Some say life is like a roll of toilet paper… the closer we get to the end, the quicker it goes. At sixty-nine years of age, I’m spiralling towards the end at a fair clip. If I’m lucky, family genetics and our great BC medical care might drag my carcass across the ninety year line. Hopefully, unless I can’t walk or talk, see or hear anything, then a different outcome might arise.
Not only has covid continued to cause havoc around the world, but some days my healthy body, depending what lump of life you compare me to, doesn’t feel at its best. I still walk an average of three kilometers a day to keep burning all the calories I consume, and feel good doing so. Even up numerous flights of stairs. But more and more, my trusty old hands give me trouble. And I love writing cursive so that’s a concern for me. Still, as long as I can walk and as long as I know who I am or why I walked into the other room, life has to be considered good.
My writing stalled dramatically when I battled the unseen forces of corruption on my laptops. I inadvertently spread the problem from one to the other and often my misunderstanding of how the technology works compounded the issue. However, I kept my old guy cool, and have learned from my errors. I’m back writing and looking forward to building a story that most might enjoy reading. Found a writing app to help me craft as good as I can and a fair price on a new Chromebook. No outside corruption allowed.
I miss the remote forest a great deal. Can hardly wait to return. And the nightly star display. And silence, absolute silence. Maybe a distant raven telling a story. The rapid vibration of humminbird wings as a Rufous checks out my red bandana. I grew up in the country, if indeed I grew up at all, and need more open spaces and nature in my life. But for now, I appreciate living in close proximity to my children and grandchildren. And health care. Yet I know I will search again for lost gold in the rugged forest.
Years ago I read a quote saying gold waits for the right person to find it. I say, if you believe it, you can make it happen. As I enter my tenth year of this incredible adventure, I look forward to the only conclusion I ever thought possible, a successful one.
While operating a small, mixed irrigated farm in southern Alberta, I noticed this small miracle. The four birds only roosted in that manner for that one night. Similar accounts have been recorded over the years, something unlikely to happen in an industrial setting.