Although today it may be hard to pinpoint the exact locality. there’s still a chance that up where the Kicking Horse River flows into the Columbia near the mountain town of Golden. $4,500 is still buried under a rock.
The story started away back on a cold and snowbound November morning in the year 1884 When Harold Baird and his half-breed packer and guide, Harry the Packer, were picking their way on horseback through a rocky ravine 25 miles south of Golden. As they rounded a bend In the river-edged trail they were suddenly confronted by a mounted stranger—a stranger with a Colt .45 in his hand who ordered the travellers to throw up their hands.
Baird made a move for his gun, but was just a split second too late. A bullet from the outlaw’s gun caught him in the chest, and with a groan he slid out of the saddle. Sprawling on the ground, Baird expired at his horse’s feet.
His companion, Harry, no less bold, exchanged shots with the bandit, until he too got a bullet in the shoulder that caused him to drop his gun. Using his horse for cover, he dismounted and rushed the outlaw on foot, wrestling the gun from his hand and hauling him off his mount.
The two engaged In a clawing, gouging, foot and fist encounter, until finally the outlaw belted Harry into unconsciousness with a rock, and staggering over to Baird’s horse rifled his saddlebag of $4,500 In cash and made off. The holdup man had somewhere along the trail had buried the currency under a rock before continuing his flight.
When Harry rode down Golden’s main street that evening he could only mutter brief details of the encounter before he was taken to the hospital to recover. Of one thing Harry was sure, the description of the man who killed Baird. He was about 30. Harry said, tall and powerfully built, with reddish hair and a reddish moustache. He wore a black felt hat, dark overalls and a black sateen shirt.
With news of the holdup there was quick consultation between the town’s two provincial policemen, Stephen Redgrave and Ed Parker, and Cpl. McDonald and Const. Winters of the NWMP, and just as quickly they reached the conclusion that the outlaw they were looking for was none other than Bulldog Kelly, a big, red-haired, loud-mouthed character from the States, who had been seen up and down the Kootenays for a year and had been seen recently in Golden.
With a couple of Indian trackers, the combined police squad spread out over the trails and hills, but after a week of intense searching not a sign of him did they uncover. The only thing the police did find was Kelly’s rifle, which he had either thrown or dropped in the Kicking Horse River.
The body of Baird had been brought In to Golden and at the inquest it was disclosed that he too, was an American, a traveller for Eddy, Hammond and Co. of Missoula, Montana, a firm with connections in B.C.’s Kootenay country. He made cash collections for the company which accounted for the money he carried.
The police felt sure he would return somehow to the U.S. and the enquiries went on farther south and farther east, until months later came a lead that caused B.C. Police, Superintendent Roycraft to assign one man to the trail. He picked Const. Jack Kirkup of Revelstoke, a legendary police figure in that region.
IT WAS EIGHT MONTHS after the killing of Baird that Kirkup finally found Bulldog Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota, where a U.S. marshal promptly lent his aid in jailing the fugitive. After his brush with extradition in the St. Paul courtroom, Kelly dropped from sight and wasn’t heard of again for four years. Then came word from Colorado that he’d been lynched after rustling some cattle. It proved untrue, however, for next came the report that Bulldog was “leading a peaceful Christian life in Massachusetts.”
Another couple of years went by. Then in 1890, six years after his lucky leap from a CPR train east of Golden, fate, in the shape of another railroad, combined to have the last word in his story.
It was on an afternoon In early April, 1890, when he was working as a brakeman on the Northern Pacific running Into Helena. Montana, that Kelly happened to remark to some of the train crew that hs was making his last trip with the road. He was going to quit, he said, and go up to British Columbia where he had some business to attend to. In a veiled sort of way he hinted that he had some money cached somewhere up in the Kootenays.
A few minutes later, as the freight slowed for the yards, Kelly was seen running along the top of a string of box cars, when suddenly he stumbled and fell down between two of them. When they picked him up, away back on the track, he was still alive, but both his legs had been severed below the knees. They got him to a hospital but he only lived about an hour, and died without whispering a clue to the money he’d buried six years before, the money he tucked under a rock somewhere along the Columbia below Golden.