by Jessica Murphy
In defence of John Carmichael Haynes
I do not make a habit of commenting on the writing of others, but I do believe that Mr. Brian Wilson’s ‘history’ of Judge John Carmichael Haynes, requires a rebuttal, or, at the very least, a questioning review.
In the fourth paragraph, Mr. Wilson describes the 1861 lynching of a Colville band member. He writes: ‘Although Cox had no jurisdiction on the US side of the border the young man was retrieved and subsequently hanged without trial. The Okanagans, led by Chief Silhitza protested the lynching by the American miners, and the fact that Cox refused to charge the whites with any crime…..Judge Haynes had the power to stop the shooting and lynching but did nothing….’
Earlier in the story Mr. Wilson has stated that in 1860 Haynes was appointed to assist Cox. Difficult to see how he had the power—one short year later—to countermand Cox, who was still his superior. At this part of the bio Mr. Wilson refers to Haynes as Judge Haynes. Don’t think so. He was a customs officer. His first judgeship came a few years later and not in the Rock Creek—Osoyoos area. If the story is historically accurate.
I also have some trouble with the description of the lynching. Was the young Native Person lynched in Canada? By Americans? Or in Washington state, where Cox had no jurisdiction, by men who then presumably rode back to Canada, where they had—ostensibly—not committed a crime? I am not sure.
In any case, Chief Silhitza complained about this treatment to Governor Douglas. Douglas asked Cox about the situation, was told all was fine, but within one year fired Cox from his magisterial duties, demoting him to land agent. So, Chief Silhitza’s letter was, in fact, considered and acted upon. Did Haynes provide information to the governor to help bring about this change? I don’t know. I am not a historian. But I bet a letter to that effect exists.
Mr. Wilson refers to Haynes and his ‘fellow Irishman and gunman Constable Lowe’. Pretty prejudiced, I think. Any constable would have been armed, at that time. (Haynes probably was too. Who would not be?) In the next paragraphs Mr. Wilson depicts Haynes and Lowe as notorious acquirers of land. Was anyone cheated? Of course, who you knew was important in the 1800s; it still is today. If that was a crime we would have no politicians walking around free. (Sorry, my prejudice is showing.)
Then Haynes has to deal with Mrs. Lowe, presumably after her husband’s death. Lowe lived for ten years after the accident that removed him from policing duties in the southern interior. During all that time did he not ask his ‘partner’ for some equity? And how did an Irish constable have any money to invest, in any case? Constable Lowe might have helped Haynes acquire land, cattle, whatever in 1872. And it may not have all been legal. But, an interest in the properties Haynes had acquired? No. Perhaps Haynes genuinely wanted to see his erstwhile friend’s widow well looked after, or, more likely, she had some damning information. (Now, that would be a treasure trove of historical minutiae.) In any case, Haynes paid her out. If he was such a bad guy why not just ‘remove’ her? She no longer had the protection of her husband.
I have no doubt that through the 1870s Haynes manipulated maps, surveyors, and land agents, to acquire the lands—including reserve lands– that he wanted. But he was never charged with a crime. That sort of thing was considered okay. And he did pay for the land—or, at least, most of it. How else would he have generated a mortgage debt of $65,000.00? In 2021 dollars that amount is in excess of $2,000,000.00. So he was not land grabbing, all the time.
I feel I should defend Tom Ellis from Mr. Wilson’s suggestion that he ‘took the Haynes’ family to the cleaners.’ But that can wait for another day—after Mr. Wilson has given us a history of Mr. Ellis. Suffice it to say, that in 1895 very few men in the southern interior had the money needed to pay off Haynes’ mortgage debt. Any fewer still would have left the widow and her family with the lakeside property she continued to own and live in, for the rest of her life.
In his closing paragraph Mr. Wilson states: ‘But we need to put in perspective his (Haynes) position as a notorious colonialist and imperialist. His relationship with the local Indigenous peoples needs to live in infamy.’
The Judge’s middle son, the famous Val Haynes, married a member of the Colville Band. And after her crippling riding injury continued to care for her, in their home at Road 22. Perhaps his father had not inculcated racism against the local indigenous peoples in his son.
Would it help us to know that John Carmichael Haynes, born in 1831, was a child during the ugly years of the Great Irish Famine, from 1845 to 1849? That he might have suffered starvation, or, certainly and at the very least, seen the ravages of starvation in the faces of his fellow Irish? Seen dead emaciated bodies on the streets of Cork? We had no understanding or knowledge of PTSD only short decades ago. Can we not forgive a child who suffered through the famine, wanting to do so well in ‘the colonies’ that his family would never suffer such deprivation again?
I am not sure. But I do know I will not be casting the first stone.
Do we erase the name Haynes from our landmarks, as has been suggested?
If we bury our history in denial, we are certain to forget it.
History is not a day in the past—it is every past day.