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Man Found in Fraser River Was Identified By His Boots in 1874

October 20, 2016

In the spring of 1874, a dead man found floating in the Fraser River was identified by his boots, which had been repaired by Alexander McCrimmon,  bootmaker at Granville, Burrard Inlet (early Vancouver).

On the 8th of April, 1874, two Tsawwassen men saw the body passing down the Fraser River at the entrance to Canoe Pass, near Ladner’s, and using sticks,  towed the body to shore and dragged it up the beach, just far enough that its feet were out of the water.

Two nearby residents, summoned to view the body, found a comb and a whetstone lying on the sand, about a foot away from a pocket from which protruded the stem of a pipe.

Turning the body over they saw it was that of a white-man described as “tall stout and well built” with dark hair and whiskers, slightly greying.  Blood was oozing from the nose. His vest and pants were open.

Beneath the body they found a paper with writing on it, which one of the men washed off in the river.  It was an address:

1874-john-powers-inquest-address-paper“Mr John McCardell, Senterwell, Snonomish, Whatcom County, Washington Territory, in care of George Coyt (or Croyt).”

The paper was taken to Mr Ladner, Justice of the Peace,  and from that moment events moved swiftly.

The Coroner at New Westminster, Dr Trew, was notified, and the body was brought up to the city and placed in a shed on the wharf, for the public to view, in the hope of identifying the unfortunate deceased.

Dr Trew empanelled a jury of the following citizens to inquire into the circumstances of this death:

JT Scott (foreman), SW Herring,  H Hogan, Wm. Johnston, Geo. Odin and T Walsh.

Having examined the body the Coroner could discern no marks of violence.

One member of the public who came down to view the body stated he knew the man by the boots he was wearing.

James Alexander McLean, an employee at Lewis’ Stables,  identified the body as that of John Powers, with whom he had worked at a logging camp on Burrard Inlet, last fall.

wr-lewis-stage-line-oro-restaurant-to-burrard-inletHe was familiar with Powers’ boots because last October he had taken them to  bootmaker Alex McCrimmon’s at Granville,  to be repaired.

McLean had last seen Powers at New Westminster in February.  Powers was boarding there, but kept his belongings at Deighton’s Hotel, Granville.

The place where Powers was staying was Lewis’ hotel (Oro Restaurant).  This was the city terminus for the Stage Line Lewis ran to Burrard Inlet. At the time, Powers was the only guest in the house.

WR Lewis testified he heard Powers go out one morning – he could not remember which – and he never saw him again.

McLean went on to say that Powers was a lumberman, originally from Michigan he believed, but had spent time in San Francisco and at Puget Sound.

Powers carried with him a cheque for $25,000, sewn up inside his vest, and at the time of his disappearance was carrying 400 or $500 cash with which to buy a wagon.

The incident was reported in San Francisco as:

“Suspected Foul Play on Fraser River – Probable Robbery and Murder.”

The jury at New Westminster returned an open verdict —  “Found Drowned” — unable to make any determination as to the circumstances surrounding the death of John Powers.

Compare:  Vanished from the Surrey ferry–The mysterious disappearance of John Wesley Pickard

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