It was 24 miles south of Golden, where the Kootenay trail shouldered Kicking Horse River, on the chill morning of Nov. 27, 1884, that our strange tale of murder and lost treasure begins.
In the half-light at dawn, three horsemen picked their way, single file, through snowdrifts which covered the narrow, winding trail. Leading was a young man named Manvel Drainard, followed by well-known Montana liquor salesman Robert McGregor Baird. Popularly known as Harold Baird, the American was returning to Missoula, Montana, with his season’s receipts for Eddy, Hammond and Co. In his bulging pocket and saddlebag was $4,500 in gold and currency.
Bringing up the rear was his packer and guide, a half-breed named Harry.
The trio continued southward at a slow but steady gait, and as they navigated a wider stretch in the trail, tragedy struck. Baud was halfway across when, without warning, a shot punctured the stillness catching Baird square in the chest, spinning him, lifeless, from the saddle. Taken completely by surprise, Drainard snapped a frightened lookback, saw Baird hit the ground, then spurred his mount. Unarmed and totally unnerved, his only thought was to get beyond range. The terrified youth charged off down the trail, leaving hapless Harry with a corpse—and a hidden killer.
Glancing wildly about, Harry spotted the sniper just as he fired again. A solid wall of white-hot pain slammed the packer as the bullet tore into his hip almost knocking him from his saddle but, regaining his balance, the courageous half-breed jerked his rifle from its scabbard, levered a shell into the breech and fired, all in the same motion.
His shot whistled harmlessly into the trees as the killer snapped off a third round, which also missed. Before either could reload, Harry had closed in on the stranger. The frightened horses collided, squealing riders savagely jousting with empty rifles. His wound forgotten in the heat of battle, Harry leaped onto the murderer, both men crashing heavily to the ground. Then, despite his shattered hip, Harry grappled with his unknown antagonist for almost 15 minutes. But bleeding badly, he was unable to land a solid blow in the wild scuffle. Making the struggle even more one-sided was the fact his opponent proved to be of extraordinary strength and stamina. Finally, it was over. Overcome by loss of blood and shock. Harry slumped to the trail, unconscious. To make sure he would be no further trouble, the exhausted assassin delivered several fierce kicks to the fallen man’s head, then staggered to his horse to catch his breath.
When Harry came to, be was alone. Carefully easing himself to his feet, he surveyed the grim scene dizzily. It took several seconds before his reeling senses cleared enough for him to observe the killer’s handiwork. Baird lay in the mud where he had fallen, almost naked. The highwayman had methodically slashed open his clothing, even removing boots and socks. Nearby, Baird’s horse grazed quietly, freed of saddlebags for these too had been slashed apart and ransacked.
But Harry was not thinking of money as he clambered into the saddle and kneed the animal toward Kicking Horse, a booming construction camp of the building Canadian Pacific Railway. It was nightfall when the battered guide reached camp. He was almost unconscious, eyes and mouth swollen shut, teeth caked In dried blood. Somehow he managed to mumble details of Baird’s murder. As someone ran for medical assistance. Harry mustered his last surge of will power to describe the killer, then passed out.
In the meantime, Drainard, panic-stricken when the killer had started blazing away from the trees, had galloped several miles down the trail before reigning his lathered horse. For long minutes, the youth debated his course of action. Should he hurry to Golden for help or return to the others? He had no gun . . . and was probably too scared to use one anyway.
Drainard wheeled his horse about and galloped back to his companions, arriving minutes after Harry had begun his painful ride to Kicking Horse. Upon seeing that Baird was dead, and not knowing what had become of Harry, Drainard hurried to Golden with the news. At Kicking Horse, the manhunt was already under way, outraged miners and construction workers eagerly volunteering to join the posses being formed by Northwest Mounted and Provincial Police officers. The angry posses fanned out from Golden and Kicking Horse, combing every ravine. every creek-bed, every goat track that might offer an escape route to the murderer.
Details of the cold-blooded killing and Harry’s description of the slayer were distributed to all law enforcement agencies. The manhunt became even more active when the Montana firm which had employed Baird offered a reward of $1,000, to which the province added $250. Police had already put a name to the description: “Bulldog” Kelly, a loud, rough American of questionable employment who had been drifting about the Kootenays for about a year.
Police received a report that Bulldog was in Golden but a thorough search of the town and vicinity failed to yield a sign of the wanted man. Kootenay Gold Commissioner Vowel dispatched two more constables to assist the investigation at Kicking Horse.
Days later, the search had slowed to a frustrating crawl. It looked like Bulldog had made good his escape to the American side. Then, whether acting on a hunch or on information, one of the officers leading the investigation decided to have the Winnipeg-bound train searched. Firing off a telegram to a water stop ahead of the train, he asked the crew to check the passengers for Kelly, without, if possible, arousing his suspicions if he was aboard.
Ironically, among the passengers aboard were none other than Col. A. G, Irvine and a Col. McLeod of the NWMP. Colonels Irvine and McLeod decided it was good time to stretch their legs and separated. Irvine spotted him first. Dressed in the rough garb of a railway worker, the red-haired suspect was watching the vast prairie land sweep by his dust-streaked window. Irvine strolled through the car, seemingly preoccupied with his own thoughts, passed the stranger, then paused at the end of the car. This was Kelly, he was sure. Without glancing back, he decided to arrest him then and there, rather than wait for McLeod.
When Irvine turned, the man was gone. The alarmed officer strode to the door, yanked it open and stepped onto the platform between the cars. He almost collided with Kelly, who was leaning against the railing. Just as Irvine put out his hand to arrest him … the man leaped from the train. He was not injured, and the moment he regained his feet he ran for dear-life across the plains. Irvine instantly yanked the emergency cord, and the train screeched to a halt moments later. But of Kelly there was not a sign. Irvine had no choice but to return to the train and telegraph the news to all detachments from the next station.
Days, weeks … months passed, without another clue as to Kelly’s whereabouts. Baird had been buried almost eight months when provincial constable Jack Kirkup of Revelstoke found Kelly. Working on special orders from Victoria, with permission of Minnesota authorities, Kirkup finally traced the wily suspect to St. Paul. Once he had found Kelly, it was an easy matter to have him arrested by local marshals.
However, Mr. Kelly, It seems, was not just an ordinary desperado for he had important friends. And when they were through pulling strings and creating smokescreens, B.C. authorities were sorry they had ever heard of the leering Irishman. Despite the determined efforts of Deputy Attorney-General Paulus Aemilius Irving, assisted by Const. W. McNeill, provincial authorities were stalled at every turn by Kelly’s influential allies. It took seven bitter, aggravating months for the Canadians to even bring Kelly before Commissioner Spencer. Mr. Irving, used to the more straight forward, business-like ways of British justice, could not understand the Americans’ lack of co-operation and sympathy.
Commissioner Spencer ordered Kelly surrendered to the Canadians. Undaunted, Kelly’s lawyer, “Big Tim” Ryan caught the next train to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard. Eight more months passed, Ryan’s deft manoeuvring stalling every move the Canadians made. Finally Washington gave action; the extradition order was quashed.
Then came the final disaster for B.C. Ryan returned from a second visit to Washington with a final decision—from President Grover Cleveland himself. It was a long story of backroom politics but apparently Ryan had told the president of Kelly’s past good work for the Minnesota Democratic Party. Not to mention the fact he was as Irish as “the Blarney Stone.”
At that time the Emerald Isle population of the U.S had a loud, strong voice election-wise. And they backed compatriot Kelly. They might not have been so loyal had they known he was born Edward Loughlin in Illinois! Whatever, Kelly was now a free man.
Six years later, Kelly was working as a brakeman on the North Pacific. As the freight slowed to enter Helena, Kelly ran along the cars to his post Suddenly. with a scream, he tripped and fell between two cars. When his comrades rushed back to him, he was alive but beyond help. Both legs had been crushed and he died hours later on the operating table. The end had come for Bulldog Kelly, one-time terror of the Kootenays.
And the $4,500? Just minutes before the accident, Kelly had been chatting with the train crew in the caboose. He had mentioned his retirement and this was to be his last trip. After Helena, he was heading to British Columbia. Seems he would come into some money there and he winked knowingly at the others. Which meant he must have cached the loot under a log or rock in the Kootenays six years before. And there it must be today, waiting for some lucky treasure hunter. But as the police had grimly noted when chasing Kelly back in 1884: It’s a big country, and rugged.