by Esther Darlington MacDonald
Many colourful characters emerge from the history of the Fraser and Thompson canyons in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The pictures painted of the people and the hamlets of that era are, frankly, not terribly flattering. Today’s neat and tidy streets and avenues in Lytton, as well as Yale, might well be unsettled to know that their habitats were once, far less so. In fact, they were described as downright ‘rotten’ by the Reverend G.M. Grant in his book, Ocean to Ocean: Sandford Fleming’s Expedition Through Canada 1872.
The only exception was the Globe Hotel in Lytton, a veritable beacon of comfort and fine cuisine amid the squalor of huts, unpainted and not even white washed.
Louis Hautier was a Belgian, born in July 1822. He arrived in California in 1855, married there, and moved to Victoria in the spring of 1859, after gold was discovered on the Fraser River. He soon realized that the establishment of a hotel in Lytton might well prove a good business venture.
Leaving his pregnant wife in Victoria, he made the arduous trip to Lytton. It didn’t seem to matter to Hautier that the surrounding temporary shacks, huts and tents occupied by the gold seekers would scarcely qualify as permanent residents. But his impeccable appreciation of quality, along with a spirit that must have been indomitable, set him about having the hotel built, and built in the best possible taste.
Sandford Fleming’s Expedition Through Canada in 1872 made reference to the Globe Hotel described as a ‘hostelry’. The group stayed overnight at Cornwalls (Ashcroft Manor), and proceeded through rain, gusty winds and hillsides of rock where the only route was over narrow ledges that Simon Fraser had described as ‘death defying’ only a few years earlier. Towards the end of the day, the expedition finally approached the village at the junction of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. Though the outside of the ‘house’ (hotel) did not look at all promising, they were amazed by the change inside. In the dining room, Mr. Hautier and his pretty wife had comfortable rooms available, and the company dined sumptuously on petit gout de mouton, ‘with fixings’.
The clientele of the Hotel however, was a different proposition. ‘Dirty, drunken’ miners prevailed, calling out invitations for the guests to partake of claret, champagne, brandy, whatever their weary harts desired. They were advised to ‘Go through the form so as not to give offence’.
A very big Irish man named Patrick Kilroy, a butcher, became a thorn in the side of Hautier. One day, Hautier heard something about himself and his family attributed to Kilroy, that had the hotel man approach the big burly man, with a revolver in the pocket of his jacket. He took a strong ‘cudgel’ in hand, and approached the butcher. Kilroy was standing in the doorway of his shop. Hautier described the slanderer ‘in plain language’, and shook his stick at Kilroy to emphasize his remarks.
The butcher, more than a ‘bit of a bully’ did not appreciate the manner and the shaking stick of this puny little man who had dared to approach him. He was accustomed to saying anything he wished to say about anybody passing, however disparaging. The facts did not interest the butcher if it entertained others and made a good story.
With stick in his left hand, and his right hand on his revolver in the pocket of his jacket, Hautier tilted the revolver and fired. The bullet struck a glancing blow off Kilroy’s forehead. The over 200 pound butcher fell heavily to the ground, blood streaming from his head, and blackened by powder from the gun. The only witness to the incident was a man named Shal-lou. A number of people, attracted to the explosion of the revolver, arrived on the scene. They ran to Kilroy’s assistance and took him to a doctor. Meanwhile, the pistol remained in the pocket of Hautier’s jacket.
The butcher was known to be ‘tight fisted’ with his money and Dr. McInnes refused to treat Kilroy unless he was paid. Bill McWha, the proprietor of the Lytton Hotel, offered to pay the doctor. Knowing McWha to be a ‘man of his word’, the doctor proceeded to clean and dress the wound, which, in the end left no scar on Kilroy’s forehead. McWha was dismayed to be charged $300 by the doctor, a goodly sum in those days. Nevertheless, he paid.
Kilroy then made a complaint against Hautier, and the hotel man was committed to trial at the assizes held in Yale. Shal-lou was the star witness. Now Kilroy had had ‘many conversations with the witness’ and would give him all the meat he wanted in the belief that Shal-lou would testify to Kilroy’s credit. He hired A. Rocke Robertson to be his counsel. Judge Mathew Begbie officiated. Shal-lou told what he had seen in a straightforward manner. All the bribes and blandishments of Kilroy had failed to make him tell ‘nothing but the truth’. He told the court of the vicious attack Kilroy had made on Hautier, and that the hotel man had shot Kilroy in self defence. The fact was, that Kilroy had wrested the stick out of Hautier’s hand and had hit the hotel man with it. Judge Begbie asked Kilroy if he had done so, and the butcher hedged and would not say. Impatient with the evasions, Begbie threatened to lay a contempt of court charge against him. Kilroy was ordered to be locked up for six hours, and Hautier was acquitted.
Apparently, when Kilroy died, he left a small estate. In 1869, his brother-in-law knowing of the money held in a Philadelphia bank to the tune of $1,500 with interest accrued, made an affidavit that the butcher had died intestate in 1861. He then took the money out of the bank in his wife’s name. The bank was reluctant at first, but provided with the necessary security, finally paid the money over.
If there is a moral to this tale, it probably lies in the danger of uttering slander. Not everyone carries a revolver in his jacket pocket to avenge slander, but what goes around, eventually comes back to haunt you, as it did the Lytton butcher named Patrick Kilroy.