Upcoming book: 1914 Union Bank robbery

dead robber
(left) Dead bank robber in the back of a cart, Hazelton, British Columbia, 1914
“Image B-01393 courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives”

On April 7, 1914, the Union Bank in New Hazelton, British Columbia was held up by seven Russian robbers. The robbers, some of whom were hardened criminals and some of whom were just desperately unemployed, had timed the robbery carefully. Because on that same April day, the last spike of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was being hammered in 300 kilometres to the east in Fort Fraser. It was likely that the ringleader expected the Union Bank to hold the final payroll for the workers on the railway.

Within minutes of the robbery, citizens had opened fire and with an hour or so more than 500 rounds had been shot, and two bank robbers were dead on the boardwalk. One more bank robber was taken to hospital, where he later died of his wounds. The ringleader took off and headed into the bush and was never found. The three remaining robbers were tried and sent to jail.

This book traces the history of the robbers from their origins in the Caucasus mountains in South Ossetia, Russia, to their immigration to Canada as labourers, and finally, to their fateful trip to Hazelton, and then to either their deaths or to jail.

Using archival sources, historical newspapers, and numerous first-hand accounts of the robbery, this book presents a new and in-depth look at an intriguing historical story.

I’m pleased to say I have a first draft of the book done, and I’m doing the first read-through edit now. I had such an exciting find last week when doing some research. The oldest of the robbers, Adeku Smaijloff, left a small note in his medical file with the name and address of his brother. The note was handwritten in Russian and I finally got around to getting it translated. In my next blog post I’ll tell you what I found!


New book coming April 2020 Cataline: The Life of BC’s Legendary Packer

Cataline ashcroft

Jean Caux, Cataline. Famed mule-train packer of British Columbia. Image A-02038 courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives

From his early days in British Columbia during the Fraser Gold Rush of 1858, to his more than 50 years as a packer, to his final days in Hazelton, Cataline was a memorable figure.

Jean-Jacques Caux—Cataline—was born in about 1835 in Bearn, Southern France. He came to British Columbia to work in the gold rush but soon found that transporting goods for the miners was more lucrative that being a miner himself. Because of his occupation as a mule train packer, he was constantly on the move throughout the province.

Through his eyes we see events such as Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858, the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1862, Canada’s Confederation in 1867, BC joining Canada in 1871, the coming of the railway to Ashcroft in 1886 and the Grand Trunk Pacific to Hazelton in 1912.

Not only did he witness and participate in many of the historical events that shaped our province, he was a unique and memorable character in his own right. He knew such personalities as Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, the famed anthropologist James Teit, and well-known basketmaker Amelia Paul (later York), the daughter of Chief Kowpelst (Telxkn) of the Nlaka’pamux people of Spuzzum with whom he had two children.

Cataline’s way of life that has gone for ever. But the legend and life of the man has been remembered in the words of his friends, his family and those who chronicled his times. British Columbia will not see another like him.

The book

I am thrilled that my co-author of this book is Irene Bjerky.

Irene Bjerky, C’eyxkn, has been interested in Jean Caux (Cataline) for a long time, while researching her genealogical connection to him. Irene is a member of the Yale First Nation and her great-great-grandmother was Amelia York, C’eyxkn, a well-known basketmaker and mother to two of Cataline’s children. Irene is a boilermaker, a former commercial fisher, and is interested in her family’s and community’s history. She makes her home in Yale, British Columbia.

Buy the book

You can order the book directly from the Caitlin Press, or from your local independent bookstore.

If you are in Canada, you can order it from Amazon here.

In the US? Order it from 

Taking a bite’ Quesnel Museum and Archives, WP2000-010-473