Regional Topics > Chinook Country

"Big John" Kirkup,(1855-1916) Legendary Rossland Lawman


Papou Carlos has asked me to post this Facebook topic here ... my technical know-how is limited to a cut and paste of the text, plus saving the images and posting them here also ...

Bill Kellett Gold Trails and Ghost Towns
July 12 at 3:54 PM  ยท

"Big John" Kirkup,(1855-1916) Legendary Rossland Lawman

Through the history of the US "Wild West," stories of legendary lawmen abound. Names like Wtatt Earp, Bat Masterson, are but two such names that come to mind. In Canada, we have also known legendary, no-nonsense, larger than life figures whose job it was to uphold the law. One such figure was John Kirkup.  Kirkup was born in Kemptville, Ontario, and apprenticed as a carriage builder. However, at age 21, he moved to Winnipeg, to work in construction during that city's building boom.

Shortly thereafter he travelled to Victoria, B.C., where he again worked briefly at his trade of carriage building. In 1881, he joined tve British Columbia Provincial Police, and was posted at Yale, B.C., during the building of The CPR. In 1886 he had accepted a desk job.  In 1891 he married Margaret Kerr, and the couple settled briefly in Revelstoke. While residing in Revelstoke, Kirkup angered numerous politicians and prominant business people, who he felt were corrupt!
It was this no-nonsence attitude, as well as his imposing height of 6 ft  3 in.and weighing 300 lbs., that landed him the position of 'Chief Constable & Recorder for the community of Rossland.

During the early 1890s Rossland, was pretty wide open, lawlessness was on the increase, due to the large influx of rowdy American miners.  Kirkup cleaned up much of the lawlessness, without ever firing a shot. While he was known to carry a Colt 44 sidearm, he seldom ever fired it. Instead his weapon of  choice was a lead weighted walking stick which he wielded with abandon!

His tactics included banging wrong-doers heads together, or by using his cane!

He was known to tie drunken adversaries to trees until an amicable solution to their conflicts could be reached. He replaced "Miners'Law with Kirkup's Law," and brought stability to Rossland!

Word of Kirkup's success, through these unconventional means, reached well known American, painter Frederic Remington, who travelled to Rossland to meet and paint Kirkup.

Articles were printed about him in  popular American publications , such as"Harper's Weekly," and he became the subject of Western Dime Novels, thereby cementing his reputation as a  Legendary Western Lawman.

It is said that screen legend John Wayne, patterned his laconic walk and idiomatic speach mannerisms after John Kirkup!
While residing in Rossland John & Margaret Kirkup had two sons, and and the family lived in a house on the corner of LeRoi Ave. & Davis St.

After Rossland incoroprated in 1897, Big John Kirkup's services were no longer required. In 1912 John Kirkup accepted a post as Government Agent in Alberni, and three years later in Nanaimo, where he passed away from Diabetes in 1916. This larger than life figure, has definately earned a place in the frontier history of British Columbia.

There were five images attached to the original Facebook post, but since this forum only allows fiur attachments in each post, here is the fifth image -

That fifth image is the 1890 Remington sketch, titles: "Big Jack, the Mountain Sheriff"  ... of which I was able to find a considerably better-quality version -

amzn_assoc_placement = "adunit0"; amzn_assoc_search_bar = "true"; amzn_assoc_tracking_id = "cascityinassociw"; amzn_assoc_ad_mode = "manual"; amzn_assoc_ad_type = "smart"; amzn_assoc_marketplace = "amazon"; amzn_assoc_region = "US"; amzn_assoc_title = "Our Amazon Picks"; amzn_assoc_asins = "B0B7KYRF9P,B091TN9KHR,B007TNX9ZE,1736672797"; amzn_assoc_linkid = "31edaebe6beeb11dcf546b0d77934168";

Sir Charles deMouton-Black:
Thanks for posting this for me. A 'bang-up job".

I have a book; Policing a Pioneer Province, The BC Provincial Police, 1858-1950, 1991, Lynne Stonier-Newman. It has two long sections on Cst. john Kirkup. He was the sole peace officer in Yale during chaotic times. In Revelstoke in 1884, he became involved in a jurisdictional dispute between the province that had jurisdiction over liquor & licencing while the Dominion Police and NWMP claimed juricdiction over railways which were being built through the Rockies. The federal rule was prohibition for anywhere around the railroad. The Dominion Police seized licensed alcohol from a vendor off railroad property. During the dispute two Privincials were in jail and two Mounties were charged with obstruction and assaulting peace officers. As well a commissioner of the Dominion police and three of his constables were under arrest. Two magistrates, one of them Col McLeod late of the NWMP, settled the matter with minor fines, thus averting an outright "Battle" between the opposing police forces

At 300 lbs, gotta feel a little sympathy for his horse.  :)


[0] Message Index

Go to full version
Powered by SMFPacks Ads Manager Mod
Powered by SMFPacks Likes Pro Mod
Powered by SMFPacks Menu Editor Mod