Saskatchewan Gen Web Project - SASKATCHEWAN AND ITS PEOPLE by JOHN HAWKES Vol 1I 1924

Volume II




The Prince Albert mail stage was robbed in July, 1886. The incident has an added interest from the fact that the late ex-speaker J. F. Betts of Prince Albert was held up with the stage. On the 17th of JulY Mr. John Scott, contractor, pulled out of Qu'Appelle station and took the mail as far as Fort Qu'Appelle, about 18 miles, having two passengers, Mr. Betts and a Prince Albert farmer named Edward Fiddler. At Fort Qu'Ap- pelle he handed the outfit over to a man in his employ named Harry Tel- ford, who took it on to Salt Springs, which was about 80 miles from the railroad, where the party rested for the night. Telford passed the stage over to John Art, another employee, and the mail was away early in the morning. After driving about 20 miles, and being now about 25 miles south of Humboldt, and in a bluffy country, a voice out of the bluff shouted "stop". Art's evidence at the trial was: "I looked and saw a man on the edge of the bluff pointing a double barreled gun. The man next said "Hands up". I threw my hands up. He said "Jump off your wag~n". The two passengers jumped off, but I did not. He then said "Jump or I'll shoot". I jumped. He then ordered us away from the wagon and told us to get down on our knees. I got down, and he tied my hands with a bed cord. I saw him have a revolver in his hand. He tied Mr. Betts and made Fiddler drive the wagon. He got up on the wagon and said ~'Now driver you will save yourself some time by telling me where the box with the lock on it is". I told him I did not know of any box. When he could not find the box he cut open the mail bags, and put some of the letters in his shirt. He then said "I am done with you fellows". I said I felt a bit cheap to have one man hold up three. He said "you needn't feel cheap for I and my partner held up a bigger crowd than you this morning", meaning Swanston's party. I did not see any partner. I saw the robber at Salt Springs with haymakers on the previous evening at Skunk Bluff. I started to put up my tent. One of the haymakers helped me and while I was doing this the robber left, going north on horseback. He was sure the prisoner was the man who held up the mail. Mr. Betts' evidence was cor- roborative. When the robber told them to jump off the wagon he thought the man was joking and asked him what he was up to. The man said "Get down out of that quick or I'll soon show you what I am up to". The rob- ber asked him how much money he had and he said very little. He took witness' knife to cut the mail bags open, and also his roll of money, but he gave him his roll back, and said he didn't want his private money. There was "permit" whiskey in the wagon, and prisoner had one drink. When he was through the robber backed away and disappeared behind the bluff. Evidence was given to show that the prisoner held up a camp of four men at daylight on the previous morning and secured some money but not much. The robber was unknown and a reward of $250 was offered. Art the mailman, was on the street in Prince Albert when he recognized the prisoner and secured his arrest by the Mounted Police. An extra- ordinary part of the affair is that the prisoner, whose name was Garnett was a man of blameless reputation who ran the ferry at the South Branch of the Saskatchewan, about a hundred miles from the scene of the robbery. He left the ferry with a horse, cart and double-barreled gun on the 12th of July and hired a man to run it in his absence. He returned on the eleventh morning after he left. Witnesses for character were called at the trial, from which it appeared that he was a Canadian from Ontario. One witness said he had known him all his life; he was a married man, and his character was not only good, it was exemplary. Judge Richard- son sent him down for fourteen years.

Even after his sentence Garnett maintained that he was innocent. Of his guilt there can be no possible doubt on the evidence; and so the motive which induced this man of good character to leave his ferry, and become for the time being a bandit remains a mystery.

The reader will note that the sentence was very severe. During the early days, when most of the property in the country was practically de- fenceless, and liable to be raided by desperadoes from across the border, it was necessary to act towards offenders with severity, in the public protec- tion. Anything in the way of horse stealing, highway robbery, banditry or gun-play was invariably visited with severity by the judges. Bibliography follows:

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